Never Underestimate a Caffarelli
Has this Caffarelli finally met his match?
Millionaire playboy Raoul Caffarelli has always lived life in the fast lane. But when an accident confines him to a wheelchair—and to the care of a woman whose beauty taunts him—he’s consumed with rage and frustration.
Used to difficult patients, physical therapist Lily Archer won’t be cowed by Raoul’s arrogance or distracted by his Adonis-like physique. Carrying her own scars from the past, Lily has vowed never to relinquish her power to a man again.
Both underestimate the power of the shared passion between them. Their physical scars may heal, but some wounds run much deeper….
An Excerpt from Never Underestimate a Caffarelli
‘But I never work with male clients,’ Lily said to her boss at the South London physical therapies rehabilitation clinic. ‘You know that.’
‘I know but this is such an amazing opportunity,’ Valerie said. ‘Raoul Caffarelli is from Serious Money. This four week live-in post in Normandy in France will be worth a year’s work to you. I can’t send anyone else. Anyway, his brother absolutely insisted on you.’
Lily frowned. ‘His brother?’
Valerie gave her eyes a little roll. ‘Yes, well, apparently Raoul isn’t too keen on working with anyone just now. He’s become a bit reclusive since coming out of hospital. His older brother Rafe read about your work with Sheik Kaseem Al- Balawi’s daughter. Rafe wants you to help his brother. He’s willing to pay you very handsomely. I got the impression from him when he called that you could just about name your price.’
Lily chewed at her lower lip. The money was certainly attractive, especially given her mother’s desperate circumstances right now after yet another failed relationship that had drained her bank account dry. But a live-in post with a man – even one currently confined to a wheelchair – was the stuff of her nightmares.
She hadn’t been anywhere near a man in five years.
‘I’m not doing it,’ Lily said turning to put another patient’s file away. ‘It’s out of the question. You’ll have to find someone else.’
‘I don’t think saying no is a going to be an option,’ Valerie said. ‘The Caffarelli brothers are known for their ruthless determination. Rafe wants Raoul to be his best man at his wedding in September. He believes you’re the best person to get his brother back on his feet.’
Lily closed the file drawer and turned and looked at her boss. ‘What does he think I am, a miracle worker or something? His brother might never get back on his feet, let alone in a matter of weeks.’
‘I know, but the least you could do is agree to work with him to see if it’s possible,’ Valerie said. ‘It’s a dream job – all expenses paid while you get to stay in a centuries old chateau in rural Normandy. Do it, Lily. You’ll be doing me a huge favour. It will really lift the profile of the clinic. This is exactly what we need right now to build on the work you did with the sheik’s daughter. We’ll be known as the holistic clinic for the rich and famous. Everyone will want to come here.’
Lily swallowed a tight knot of panic in her throat. Her heart was thumping such a rapid and jerky tattoo it felt as if she had just run up a skyscraper’s flight of stairs. Her skin was clammy and her head felt tight as a vice were pressing against her temples. She tried to think of an escape route but each time she thought of one it was immediately road blocked by her need to help her mother and her loyalty to her employer.
Could she do it?
‘I’ll need to see Mr Caffarelli’s scans and reports from his doctors. I might not be able to do much at all for him. It would be wrong to give him or his brother false hope.’
Valerie clicked on the mouse at her computer. ‘I have the scans and reports here. Rafe emailed them to me. I’ll forward them to you.’
Lily looked at the reports a short time later in her office. Raoul Caffarelli had a spinal injury from a water skiing accident that had damaged his spinal cord. He had also sustained a badly broken right arm although that was apparently healing. He had some feeling in his legs, but he was unable to stand upright without aid and at this point in time he could not walk. The neurosurgical opinion was that he would be was unlikely to regain full use of his legs, although they expected him to have some minor improvement in his current mobility. But Lily had read similar reports before and tried not to let them influence her when dealing with a client.
Spinal injuries could be devastatingly permanent, others relatively minor, and then there was everything in between. So much depended on the type of injury as well as a client’s attitude and general state of health.
Lily liked to use a mix of therapies, the traditional things such as structured exercise and strength training and massage, and some which were considered a little more on the alternative side, such as aromatherapy, dietary supplements and visualisation techniques.
The Sheik’s daughter Halimah Al- Balawi was one of her star clients. The young woman had been told by three neurosurgeons that she would never walk again. Lily had worked with her for three months and the improvement had been painstakingly slow at first, but finally Halimah had taken her first steps with the aid of parallel bars and she had continued to improve until now she was able to walk unaided.
Lily sat back in her chair and chewed at a ragged end on her pinkie nail. For anyone else it would be a dream job to take on a man as rich and famous as Raoul Caffarelli. To spend a month in the lap of luxury working closely with a man every single woman on the planet would give ten years of their life to have one day or night with, let another thirty-one of them. They would grab it with both hands and relish every minute of it.
But for her it would be a form of torture.
Her stomach recoiled at the thought of putting her hands on a hard male body. Working with a client as a physical therapist meant physical contact. Close physical contact. Hands on flesh. Hands on muscles and tendons, stroking and massaging… touching.
Her mobile rang from where it was sitting on her desk. She saw her mother’s face come up on the screen and pressed the answer button. ‘Hi Mum. Are you OK?’
‘Darling, I hate to bother you when you’re at work but the bank’s been on the phone to me again. They’re going to foreclose on the house if I don’t come up with the last three months mortgage payments. I tried to explain that it was Martin that siphoned off my account but they wouldn’t listen.’
Lily felt her blood boil at how her mother had been scammed by a man she had met in an online dating service. Never a great judge of character at the best of times –although she was hardly one to talk given what had happened to her on the night of her twenty-first birthday– her mother had foolishly trusted her new partner and was now paying heavily for it. That low life pond scum had hacked into her mother’s accounts and stolen her life savings.
Was fate twisting Lily’s arm? How could she knock back this job when her mother was in such desperate need of financial support? Her mother had stalwartly stood by her during her lowest point. Those terrible dark days after her twenty-first birthday had almost sent her to the edge of sanity. Her mother had stood by her, putting her own life on hold to help Lily come out of that black hole of despair and self-loathing. Didn’t she owe this to her mother?
It was only for a month.
It would feel like a lifetime.
‘It’s all right, Mum.’ She took a scratchy little breath. ‘I’m taking on a new client. It’ll mean I’ll be away in France for the whole of August but I’ll ask them to pay me up front. That will sort out the bank. You’re not going to lose the house. Not if I can help it.’
Raoul scowled at his brother. ‘I thought I told you I want to be left alone.’
Rafe blew out a breath of frustration. ‘You can’t spend the rest of your life holed up here like a recluse. What is wrong with you? Can’t you see this is your best chance –maybe your only chance – of a recovery?’
Raoul wheeled his chair with his one good arm so he didn’t have to face his brother. He knew Rafe meant well but the thought of having some young Englishwoman fussing over him with her snake oil remedies was anathema to him right now. ‘The best doctors in Italy said this is as good as it’s going to get. I don’t need to have this Archer woman wasting my time and your money pretending it’s going to be otherwise.’
‘Look, I know you’re still smarting about Clarissa breaking off your engagement but you can’t hold it against all women just because she – ’
‘This has nothing to do with Clarissa,’ Raoul snapped as he wheeled back around.
Rafe gave him a look that spoke volumes. ‘You weren’t even in love with her. You just thought she ticked all the boxes. The accident showed you her true colours. The way I see it – and Poppy says the same- you had a very lucky escape.’
Raoul’s left hand gripped the chair so tightly he thought his knuckles were going to explode through his skin. ‘You think I’ve been lucky? Look at me, Rafe. I’m stuck in this freaking chair! I can’t even dress myself. Don’t insult me by saying I’m lucky.’
Rafe rubbed a hand over the top of his head. ‘Sorry, bad choice of words.’ He dropped his hand back by his side. ‘Will you at least meet her? Give her a trial run for a week or even a couple of days. If it doesn’t work out then you can call it quits. You’ll be the one in control of whether she stays or goes.’
Raoul wheeled back over to the window to look at the view over the fields where some of his most prized thoroughbreds were grazing. He couldn’t even go out to them and stroke their velvet noses. He couldn’t walk over the soft springy grass. He was trapped in this chair, trapped in his own body, in the body that for the last thirty-four years had defined him as a person – as a man. The doctors had told him he was luckier than most. He still had feeling in his legs and full bladder and bowel function. He supposedly still had sexual function, but what woman would want him now?
Hadn’t Clarissa made that starkly clear?
He wanted his body back. He wanted his life back.
Who was to say this Archer woman was the miracle worker Rafe suggested? She could be the biggest charlatan out there. He didn’t want to be taken for a ride, to be given false hopes only to have them dashed in the end. He was slowly coming to terms with his situation. He needed this time at the chateau to get his head around how life was going to be from now on. He wasn’t ready to face the world just yet. The thought of the paparazzi tailing him to get the best pity shot made him sick to his stomach.
He just wanted to be left alone.
‘One month, Raoul,’ Rafe said into the silence. ‘Please. Just give it a try.’
Raoul knew both of his brothers were worried about him. Remy, his younger brother had been there the day before, doing his best to jolly him along like a male version of Pollyanna. His grandfather Vittorio had been less supportive, but Raoul had come to expect that from him. Vittorio was not the sort of man to offer sympathy or support. His speciality was to blame and to castigate.
‘I’d like a week or two to think about it.’
There was a loaded silence.
Raoul turned his chair around again, suspicion crawling up his damaged spine like sticky spider’s legs as he met his brother’s sheepish dark brown gaze. ‘You haven’t.’
‘She’s waiting in the morning room,’ Rafe said.
Raoul let out a string of colourful obscenities in French, Italian and English. Rage raced through his body like a fast acting poison. He had never felt so powerless, so damned impotent in his life. What did his brother think he was, a little child that couldn’t make a sensible decision?
This was his sanctuary.
No one came here unless he invited them.
‘Cool it,’ Rafe said in an undertone. ‘She’ll hear you.’
‘I don’t care if she hears me! What the effing hell are you playing at?’
‘I’m trying to help you since you don’t seem to want to help yourself,’ Rafe said. ‘I can’t stand seeing you like this. Sitting around brooding, snapping everyone’s head off if they so much as glance at you. You won’t even go outside, for pity’s sake. It’s as if you’ve given up. You can’t give up. You have to work through this.’
Raoul glared at his brother. ‘I’ll go outside when I can get out there under my own power. You had no right to bring that woman here without my permission. This is my house. Get her out of it.’
‘She’s staying,’ Rafe said. ‘I paid her up front and I can’t get a refund. It was part of her stipulation in accepting the post.’
Raoul flicked his eyes upwards in derision. ‘Doesn’t that tell you what sort of women she is? For God’s sake, Rafe, I thought you of all people would’ve had more sense. This is just a money grab. You wait and see. She’ll walk out after a couple of days over something I said or did and do a happy dance all the way to the bank.’
‘Miss Archer comes on very good recommendation,’ Rafe said. ‘She’s highly trained and very experienced.’
Raoul gave a scoffing grunt. ‘I just bet she is.’
‘I’m going to leave you to get acquainted with her. I need to get back to Poppy. We have a wedding to organise. I want you there, Raoul, chair or no chair. Do you understand?’
Raoul let out a hissing breath. ‘I’m not going to sit up there in front of everybody like some sort of bloody freak show. Get Remy to be your best man.’
‘You know what Remy is like. He’ll fail to show up because something far more interesting has come across his radar. I want you to do it and so does Poppy and I don’t want her disappointed.’ Rafe moved to the door, holding it open as he added, ‘I’ll call you in a couple of weeks to see how you’re doing. Ciao.’
Lily gripped her handbag on her lap with fingers that were ice-cold in spite of the summer temperature. She’d heard shouting and although she wasn’t fluent in French or Italian she understood enough to know Raoul Caffarelli was not happy about her being here. Which was ironic since she wasn’t all that happy about being here, either. But with the money safely in her mother’s mortgage account at least that was one worry that had been shelved.
But her biggest worry lay ahead.
Being left alone in this huge old chateau with a man she had never met before was like something out of a horror movie. Her pulse was racing and her heart was hammering. She could feel the stickiness of perspiration between her shoulder blades and on her palms. The floor of her stomach was crawling with prickly feet of panic and she had to press her knees together to stop them from knocking against each other.
The morning room door opened and Rafe Caffarelli came in with a grim look on his face. ‘He’s in the library. Try not to be put off by his surly attitude. Hopefully he’ll improve a little on acquaintance. He’s just frustrated and angry about his situation.’
Lily rose to her feet, still clutching her handbag like a shield. ‘It’s fine…’ She moistened her paper-dry mouth. ‘It must be very difficult for him…’
‘It’s a nightmare, for him and for me. I don’t know how to reach him. He’s locked everyone out.’ He rubbed a hand over his face in a weary manner. ‘He refuses to cooperate. I’ve never seen him like this. I knew he could be stubborn but this is taking it to a whole new level.’
‘It’s still early days,’ Lily said. ‘Some people take months to accept what’s happened to them. Others never accept it.’
‘I want him at my wedding,’ Rafe said with an implacable look. ‘I don’t care if we have to drag him or push him there kicking and screaming. I want him there.’
‘I’ll see what I can do,’ Lily said. ‘But I can’t make any promises.’
‘The housekeeper Dominique will assist you with anything you need,’ he said. ‘She will show you to your suite once you meet Raoul. There’s a young guy called Sebastien who comes in each morning to help my brother shower and dress. Have you any questions?’
Hundreds, but they could wait. ‘No, I think I’ve got it all under control.’
He gave her a brief nod and held the door open for her. ‘I’ll show you the way to the library but I think it’s best if I leave you to it.’ He twisted his mouth ruefully and added, ‘I’m not my brother’s favourite person right now.’
The library was on the same floor in the centuries old chateau, but the sombre dark setting was in sharp contrast to the bright morning room where the sunlight had streamed in through a bank of windows that overlooked the rolling verdant fields of the Normandy countryside. The library had only one window that let in limited light, and there were three walls of floor to ceiling books that dominated the room, as well as a large leather-topped desk and an old world globe positioned beside it. The smell of parchment and paper, leather and furniture polish gave Lily a sense of stepping back in time.
But her gaze was immediately drawn like a magnet to the silent figure seated in a wheelchair behind the desk. Raoul Caffarelli had the same breath-snatching good looks of his older brother, with glossy black hair and olive toned skin and a rather stubborn, uncompromising looking jaw, but his eyes were a green-flecked hazel instead of dark brown, and right now they were glittering at her in blistering anger.
‘You’ll forgive me for not rising.’ His tone was clipped and unfriendly, his expression stony.
‘I… Of course.’
‘Unless you are hard of hearing or a complete and utter fool you must realise by now I don’t want you here.’
She lifted her chin, determined not to show him how intimidated she felt. ‘I’m neither hard of hearing or a fool.’
He measured her with his gaze for a long pulsing moment. Lily could see his French-Italian heritage in his features and in his bearing. There was a hint of the proud aristocrat in him; it was there in the broad set of his shoulders and the way he held himself in spite of being confined to a chair. He was taller than average, she estimated two or three inches over six feet and was obviously a man who had been intensely physically active prior to his accident. She could see the well-formed muscles of his chest and arms through the fine cotton of the shirt he was wearing. His right arm was still in a plaster cast but his hands looked strong and capable. His face was cleanly shaven but the shadow of regrowth was evident, suggesting potent male hormones. His nose was a little more Roman than his brother’s and there were lines about his mouth that gave him a slightly drawn look as if he had lost weight recently. His mouth was set in an intractable line, flattened by his mood and temper and she wondered what it would look like if he smiled.
Lily pulled back from her thoughts with a little start. She was not here to make him smile. She was here to see if she could make him walk and the sooner she got on with the job, the sooner she could leave.
‘I suppose my brother has given you all the gory details of my condition?’ he said still pinning her with that intimidating gaze.
‘I’ve seen your scans and read the doctors’ and physiotherapist’s reports.’
A dark brow lifted above his left eye, almost accusingly. ‘And?’
She rolled her lips together to moisten them, trying to ignore the annoying jackhammer beat of her heart. ‘I think it’s worth trying some of my methods. I’ve had some success with clients with similar injuries to yours.’
‘So, what are some of your methods?’ His top lip curled mockingly. ‘Waving incense around? Chanting mantras? Reading auras? Laying on of hands?’
Lily felt a little spurt of anger shoot through her blood. She was used to people rubbishing her holistic approach but somehow his sarcastic tone got under her skin. But he would be laughing on the other side of his face if she got him back on his feet. The challenge to do so was suddenly rather more attractive than it had been before. ‘I use a combination of traditional therapies as well as some complementary ones. It depends.’
‘On the client. I take into consideration their diet and lifestyle, their sleeping habits, their mental state and – ’
‘Let me guess – you read their tarot cards or give them a zodiac reading.’
Lily pursed her mouth to stop herself from issuing a stinging riposte. He was quite possibly the rudest man she’d ever met. Arrogant too, but she supposed that came from his privileged background. He was a spoilt, over indulged playboy who had been handed everything on a silver platter. His surly, poor-me attitude was just typical of someone who’d never had to work for anything in his life. He had it so good compared to some of her clients. At least he had the money to set himself up. He had people to wait on him, to take care of him. He had a family who refused to give up on him. Didn’t he realise that while he was in his luxury chateau feeling sorry for himself there were people out in the world who were homeless or starving with no one to care what happened to them from one day to the next?
‘I’m a Taurus in case you’re wondering,’ he said.
She gave him an arch look. ‘That explains the bull headedness.’
‘I can be very stubborn,’ he gave her another measuring look, ‘but I suspect so can you.’
‘I like to call it persistence,’ Lily said. ‘I don’t believe in giving up on something until I’ve put in a decent effort.’
He drummed the fingers of his left hand on the armrest of his wheelchair, an almost absentminded movement that seemed overly loud in the silence.
Lily felt the slow assessing sweep of his gaze again. Was he comparing her to all the women he had dated? If so, he would find her sadly lacking. She didn’t dress to impress. She didn’t wear makeup as rule and she wore plain Jane clothes that hid her figure and her past.
‘I’m not sure what to do with you.’ He glared at her darkly. ‘It’s not like I can physically throw you out.’
Lily sent him a warning in her gaze. ‘I can assure you, Monsieur Caffarelli, I would put up a spectacular fight if you laid even a single finger on me.’
One of his brows went up in an arc. ‘Well, well, well, the seemingly demure Miss Archer has a sting in her tail. Scorpio?’
She ground her teeth. ‘Virgo.’
‘Detailed. Nit-picking. Pedantic.’
‘I prefer to think of it as thorough.’
A ghost of a smile tilted the edge of his mouth. It totally transformed his features and Lily had to remind herself to breathe.
But the half smile was gone almost as soon as it had appeared. His expression darkened again and his gaze singed hers. ‘I’ve had weeks of physical therapy, Miss Archer, and none of it has worked, as you can see. I can’t see how you could succeed where others more qualified than you have failed.’
‘It’s still early days,’ Lily said. ‘The body can take months, if not years to recover from trauma.’
Cynicism made his eyes glitter. ‘You’re not offering your services for years though, are you, Miss Archer? My prediction is you’ll last one or two days, three at the most, and then you’ll be off with a nice fat little wad of cash in your bank account. I’ve met your type before. You exploit people who are desperate. You’ve got nothing to offer me and we both know it.’
‘On the contrary, I think I can help you,’ Lily said. ‘You’re at a critical stage in your recovery. You should be supervised while exercising – ’
‘Supervised?’ He barked the word at her. ‘I’m not a child who needs supervising while playing on the monkey bars.’
‘I didn’t say that. I just meant that you have to – ’
‘I will do it my way,’ he said with indomitable force. ‘I don’t want your help. I didn’t ask for it. And I didn’t pay for it. I know what I have to do and I’m doing it and I prefer to do it alone. Do us both a favour and catch the next flight back to London.’
Lily stared him down even though it took an enormous effort to hold that diamond hard gaze. His anger was coming off him in waves that sent crackles of electricity through the air. She could even feel her skin tightening all over her body as if those invisible currents were flowing over and through her. She could even feel her blood heating. It was pounding through her veins as if she had taken a shot of adrenalin. ‘You do realise if I leave now your brother will lose a considerable amount of money? There’s a no refund clause in my contract.’
His mouth thinned in disdain. ‘Let him lose it. It’s no skin off my nose.’
Lily was shocked. Was he really prepared to forfeit an amount most people didn’t even earn in a year? And it wasn’t even his money. His assumption she would take the money and go made her all the more determined to stay. Her conscience wouldn’t allow her to take the money for nothing. He would think she was an unscrupulous gold digger, and given how high profile the Caffarelli name was, it would quite possibly tarnish the reputation of the clinic if word got out that she’d left without doing a day’s work.
Besides, she was a little intrigued by his resistance to rehabilitation. Didn’t he want to improve his mobility or had he simply given up? Some clients found it very hard to adjust to the smallest of limitations put on them and yet others coped remarkably well in spite of far worse injuries.
He was in good physical health, which was always a bonus in hoping for a positive outcome in rehabilitation, but his state of mind suggested he had not yet come to terms with what had happened to him. He reminded her of an alpha wolf who had secluded himself away to lick at his wounds while no one was watching.
But then, hadn’t she done the very same thing five years ago?
Lily held his steely gaze. ‘I have no way of getting to the airport now your brother has left.’
‘Then I’ll get one of the stable boys to drive you.’
‘I’m not leaving.’
A muscle worked in his jaw. ‘I don’t want you here.’
‘You’ve made that more than obvious,’ Lily said huffily. ‘I didn’t expect a red carpet to be rolled out or anything but the least you could’ve done is be civil. Or does being filthy rich mean you can act like a total jerk and get away with it?’
His gaze warred with hers for a throbbing moment. ‘My brother had no right to bring you here without my permission.’
‘So you take it out on me?’ Lily tossed back. ‘How is that fair? I’ve travelled for hours and hours and I’m tired and hungry and as soon as I set foot in the place I get my head bitten off by a boorish man who has a massive chip on his shoulder because he can’t do some of the things he used to do. At least you’ve got a roof over your head and a family who love you, not to mention loads and loads of money.’ She put a hand over her heart theatrically. ‘Oh, how my heart bleeds for you.’
His eyes were glacial as they hit hers. ‘I want you out of here by lunchtime tomorrow. Do you understand?’
Lily felt strangely exhilarated by their verbal stoush. The atmosphere was electric, the tension palpable. ‘Your loss, my gain. Well, I suppose it’s your brother’s loss really, but still. Easy come, easy go as they say.’
His gave her a glowering look before he turned to press an intercom button on his desk and spoke in French to his housekeeper. A fine shiver lifted the hairs on the back of Lily’s neck as she listened to the deep timbre of his voice in that most musical of languages. She wondered what his voice would sound like when he wasn’t angry. She wondered what his laugh sounded like. He was such a compelling man to look at, so dark and intense and bristling with barely suppressed emotion.
‘Dominique will show you to a guest suite,’ he said. ‘I will arrange to have you driven to the airport first thing tomorrow.’
The housekeeper appeared at the door of the library and escorted Lily to a guest suite on the third floor of the chateau along a long wide corridor that was lined with priceless works of art and marble statues that seemed to follow her progress with their eyes.
‘Monsieur Raoul’s suite is that one there.’ Dominique pointed to a double door suite they walked past. ‘He is not a good sleeper so I did not like to put you too close to him.’ She gave Lily a pained look. ‘He wasn’t like that before the accident. I blame that fiancée of his.’
Lily stopped in her tracks and frowned. ‘I didn’t realise he was engaged.’
Dominique gave her a cynical look. ‘He’s not. She broke it off while he was in hospital.’
‘Oh, but that’s awful!’
The housekeeper gave a Gallic sniff of disdain. ‘I didn’t like her from the moment I met her. But then I haven’t liked any of his mistresses. His brother’s fiancée is another story. Poppy Silverton is the nicest young woman you’ll ever meet. She’s the best thing that ever happened to Monsieur Rafe. I just hope Monsieur Raoul meets someone just like her.’
No wonder he was so bitter and angry, Lily thought. How heartless of his ex-fiancée to end their relationship in such a way. It was such a cruel thing to do. Surely she hadn’t truly loved him? How could she? Loving someone meant being there for them in the good times and the bad. How could his fiancée live with the fact she’d abandoned him when he was at his lowest point? It explained so much about his attitude. It was no wonder he was so prickly and unfriendly. He was hurting in the worst possible way.
Lily followed the housekeeper into the suite that was decorated in a classical French style. The queen-sized bed was made up in snowy white linen with a fine gold trim that matched the gilt-edged paintwork of the suite. An antique dressing table with a tapestry-covered stool was positioned in front of an ornately framed mirror, and there was a chest of drawers on cabriole legs and a discreetly hidden built in wardrobe lined another wall. The heavily festooned windows overlooked the formal gardens of the estate where neatly clipped hedges and sun-drenched paved terraces and a large bubbling fountain were situated.
‘I hope you’ll be comfortable,’ Dominique said. ‘Dinner will be served at eight. I’m not sure if Monsieur Raoul will join you. He’s not very sociable these days. He spends most of his time in his study or in his room.’
‘How does Monsieur Raoul get up and down the stairs?’ Lily asked. ‘I didn’t see a stair climber on the staircase.’
‘There is a proper lift in on the ground floor that goes to all four levels,’ Dominique said. ‘Monsieur Raoul had it installed a few months ago when his grandfather came for a visit after he had a stroke. Not that he got a word of thanks for his effort, mind you. Vittorio Caffarelli is not the nicest person to have around. He spoke to me as if I was the dust under his feet. I had to bite my tongue the whole time he was here.’
Lily was starting to suspect there was a lot more to the Caffarelli dynasty than she had first realised. She had read a bit online about the family, how they had made their wealth in property and a variety of timely and rather clever investments, and how Raoul’s parents had been killed in a speedboat accident on the French Rivera when he and his brothers were young. The three boys had been raised by their grandfather but had spent most of their school years at boarding school in England.
Raoul had been born to wealth but brought up with tragedy. And now he had yet another blow to deal with. Not that she had read anything of his injuries in the press, which made her wonder what sort of power the Caffarellis had at their fingertips. But how long would it be before some unscrupulous journalist would come hunting for a story? It was certainly a juicy one: A rich man rejected by his fiancée after a freak accident that left him in a wheelchair.
In spite of her dislike of the man, Lily couldn’t help feeling Raoul had been badly treated. Rejection was always hard, but to be cast aside because of injury went against everything she believed in.
What sort of money would be exchanged for a photograph of him now? Was that why he didn’t want anyone he didn’t know here at the chateau?
‘It is a pity you aren’t staying the month,’ Dominique said. ‘Even without the physical therapy you offer, I think the company would have been good for Monsieur Raoul. He spends too much time on his own.’
Lily found it ironic that she wanted to stay when only days ago she had been hunting for excuses not to come. ‘I can’t force him to let me stay. It’s his call. If he wants to work with me then I’ll be happy to do it. But he seemed pretty adamant he wanted me out of here.’
‘He might change his mind, oui?’ Dominique said. ‘You took him by surprise. Perhaps he will have a change of heart overnight.’
Lily walked over to the windows once the housekeeper had left and looked at the view over the estate. It was certainly a picturesque setting with its beautiful gardens and lush, seemingly unending fields beyond.
But the brooding man downstairs, who so resented her being here, reminded her that in any paradise there was always the potential for trouble and temptation.