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An Italian Job excerpt

Jack’s planned return journey from Iceland to Corfu involved an overnight stop in Hamburg he wasn’t looking forward to. No hardship to cancel it and book himself onto the same Gatwick flight as Ginger … Gina. No, he couldn’t think of her as anything other than Ginger. His Ginger. The Gina Gianellis of this world were too far out of reach. And he knew he had reached her … on some level at least.

Despite her blasé invitation, the right questions evaded him. It wasn’t until the ‘Fasten Seatbelts’ sign had been switched on and they were taxiing for their take-off slot on the barren runway that she glanced pointedly at her watch. “Get on with it, Jack. You’ve got two hours fifty-five to ask me everything you want to know.”

“OK … the obvious. Where did you meet him?”

“Ah, starting with the easy ones. OK. London Boat Show. Earl’s Court.”

“So, this was after you’d set up your company?”

She shook her head. “Before. I’d begun to disengage from the army. My twelve was coming up and the Powers That Be knew I wasn’t going to sign on again so they loaned me out to a defence contractor for a six-month stint. Oh God, was I bored. I took stock of my assets—which boiled down to a first-rate knowledge of satellite guidance systems. Decided to see what kind of practical application that knowledge had in civvy street—one that didn’t involve blowing the shit out of anyone.”

“You were checking out the competition.”

“I sweet-talked my way onto the biggest, most expensive floating gin-palaces on offer and fluttered my eyelashes at the salesmen while I scoped out their equipment.”

“Poor bastards. Bet they never stood a chance.”

“Not a hope in hell,” she agreed cheerfully.

“Even Franco Gianelli?”

She took a sip of her miniature G&T. Delaying tactic or Dutch courage? He wasn’t sure.

“Frank was different. He was on one of the Italian motor yachts, looking very much at home. Nobody does style quite like the Italians. Beautiful craft. Initially I thought he was an owner—a satisfied customer the company brought along to lure others into the net. He was perfect for it. Gucci loafers and a Bulgari watch with a designer shirt and old jeans. It takes a lot of money to look that casual. Right from the start I knew he was dangerous. To me on a personal level, I mean. He was attractive without being at all handsome, courteous, charming … and didn’t give a hint of being remotely interested in me.”

“Was he dead from the neck down?”

She smiled. “There was something about the way he behaved around women. He gave the overwhelming impression that he actually liked women—unlike most men. He didn’t view them as an alien species to be tricked out of their knickers at the first available opportunity. He seemed to know what made them tick—and what ticked them off.” She leaned her head back against her seat as the engine-whine built and the jet began its lumbering take-off run.

Only once they were in the air and the wheels had thudded up into the belly of the fuselage did she continue. “Frank made you feel you were the focus of all his attention. Poured his whole personality into it. But at the same time he never came on too strong. If he’d groped my bum I would have punched his lights out, but he never did. He was tactile without being touchy-feely. It was as if he was … waiting for my permission to be seduced. And at the same time with every glance, every word, every touch, he was letting me know how much I was going to enjoy it when I gave in.”

“Sounds the ideal man.”

“Don’t be petulant, Jack. It doesn’t suit you. You asked, I’m telling—as honestly and objectively as I can.”

Jack gestured her on with his glass, drained the contents and wished wholeheartedly for more.

“It took him three months to get me into bed. Not because I was playing hard to get. Trust me, by that time I was utterly hooked. It was like the world’s longest foreplay. I would have fucked him blind in a box at the opera if he’d let me.”

The flight attendant, reaching for Jack’s empty glass, flicked him a look that was both sympathetic and intensely curious. He waited until she’d worked her way several rows further back before he asked, against his better judgement: “Was it worth the wait?”

“How could it not be, after all that? Stimulation for a woman is so much more psychological than physical. We have to be both in the mood and in the moment, as well you know, Jack. As it was, I was halfway there before he laid a finger on me.”

Her matter-of-factness was exactly what he’d asked for … and the last thing he’d wanted.

“What changed?”

“In the end … I did.”

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