Out of the limelight…
Domenico Volpe has been a paparazzi target for years with his rugged Roman looks, glamorous lifestyle and, most recently, a family tragedy. Now that the woman at the center of it all is released from prison, he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her quiet.
And into the fire!
Domenico ensures that Lucy Knight “accepts” his offer of refuge on his well-guarded offshore estate. While the media furor abates on the mainland, things are heating up on the island! Domenico is beginning to doubt Lucy’s guilt as he uncovers the innocent, sensual woman behind the tough facade….
“Annie West…deliver[s] a most satisfying happily ever after that leaves her readers sighing with enchantment.” ~ Donna Zapf, CataRomance, 4.5 stars
“Readers will enjoy West’s passionate star-crossed romance, set in picturesque Italian splendor, with a couple facing almost insurmountable obstacles – except in the bedroom.” ~ Debbie Haupt, Romantic Times, 4 stars
“Captive in the Spotlight by Annie West is an intensely compelling romance… had it all – intrigue, drama passion -all the making of a great read. I would definitely recommend this book.” ~ 4.5 Hearts from Sara at Harlequin Junkie
“Another top class read by the amazing Annie West. 5 bright and shiny stars!’ ~ Tash at Romance Book Haven
“Filled with strong characters, snappy and witty dialogue, it also has tender sweet and exciting moments. Author Annie West has written a warm, engrossing and fascinating romance story that kept my interest riveted from beginning to end.” ~ Nas Dean at Romance Book Haven
The camera crews parted. There, striding towards her was the man she’d expected never to see again: Domenico Volpe, shouldering through the rabble, eyes locked on her. He seemed oblivious to the snapping shutters as the cameras went into overdrive and newsmen gabbled into microphones.
He wore a grey suit with the slightest sheen, as if it were woven from black pearls. His shirt was pure white, his tie perfection in dark silk.
He looked the epitome of Italian wealth and breeding. Not a wrinkle marred his clothes or the elegant lines of his face. Only his eyes, boring into hers, spoke of something less than cool control.
A spike of heat plunged right through her belly as she held his eyes.
He stopped before her and Lucy had to force herself not to crane her head to look up at him. Instead she focused on the hand he held out to her.
The paper crackled as she took it.
Come with me. The words were in slashing black ink on a page from a pocketbook. I can get you away from this. You’ll be safe.
Her head jerked up.
‘Safe?’ With him?
He nodded. ‘Yes.’
Around them journalists craned to hear. One tried to snatch the note from Lucy’s hand. She crumpled it in her fist.
It was mad. Bizarre. He couldn’t want to help her. Yet she wasn’t fool enough to think she could stay here. Trouble was brewing and she’d be at the centre of it.
Still she hesitated. This close, Lucy was aware of the strength in those broad shoulders, in that tall frame and his square olive-skinned hands. Once that blatant male power had left her breathless. Now it threatened.
But if he’d wanted to harm her physically he’d have found a way long before this.
He leaned forward. She stiffened as his whispered words caressed her cheek. ‘Word of a Volpe.’
He withdrew, but only far enough to look her in the eye. He stood in her personal space, his lean body warming her and sending ripples of a tension through her.
She knew he was proud. Haughty. Loyal. A powerful man. A dangerously clever one. But everything she’d read, and she’d read plenty, indicated he was a man of his word. He wouldn’t sully his ancient family name or his pride by lying.
Jerkily she nodded.
‘Va bene.’ He eased the case from her white-knuckled grip and turned, propelling her through the crowd with his palm at her back, its heat searing through her clothes.
Questions rang out but Domenico Volpe ignored them. With his support Lucy rallied and managed not to stumble. Then suddenly there was blissful space, a cordon of security men, the open limousine door.
This time Lucy needed no urging. She scrambled in and settled herself on the far side of the wide rear seat.
The door shut behind him and the car accelerated away before she’d gathered herself.
‘It’s in the boot. Quite safe.’
Safe. There it was again. The word she’d never associated with Domenico Volpe.
Slowly Lucy turned. She was exhausted, weary beyond imagining after less than an hour at the mercy of the paparazzi, but she couldn’t relax, even in this decadently luxurious vehicle.
Deep-set grey eyes met hers. This time they looked stormy rather than glacial. Lucy was under no illusions he wanted her here, with him. Despite the nonchalant stretch of his long legs, crossed at the ankles, there was tightness in his shoulders and jaw.
‘What do you want?’
‘To rescue you from the press.’
Lucy shook her head. ‘No.’
‘No?’ One dark eyebrow shot up towards his hairline. ‘You call me a liar?’
‘If you’d been interested in rescuing me you’d have done it years ago when it mattered. But you dropped me like a hot potato.’
Her words sucked the oxygen from the limousine, leaving a heavy, clogging atmosphere of raw emotion. Lucy drew a deep breath, uncaring that he noted the agitated rise and fall of her breasts as she struggled for air.
‘You’re talking about two different things.’ His tone was cool.
‘You think?’ She paused. ‘You’re playing semantics. The last thing you want is to rescue me.’
‘Then let us say merely that your interests and mine coincide this time.’
‘How?’ She leaned forward, as if a closer view would reveal the secrets he kept behind that patrician façade of calm. ‘I can’t see what we have in common.’
He shook his head, turning more fully. Lucy became intensely aware of the strength hidden behind that tailored suit as his shoulders blocked her view of the street.
A jitter of curious sensation sped down her backbone and curled deep within. It disturbed her.
‘Then you have an enviably short memory, Ms Knight. Even you can’t deny we’re linked by a tie that binds us forever, however much I wish it otherwise.’
‘In the past?’ His lip curled in a travesty of a smile. ‘Yet it’s a truth I live with every day.’ His eyes glowed, luminous with emotions she’d once thought him too cold to feel. His voice deepened to a low, bone-melting hum. ‘Nothing will ever take away the fact that you killed my brother
I was all set to write a completely different story early in 2012. With different characters, set on a completely different continent. Until my editor mentioned she might be interested in a story about a couple involved in some very public scandal. Not what I was planning, but sometimes just a few words can spark an idea that just grows and grows. In this case the idea sparked and grew so fast I knew within 24 hours I had to write it.
I began by thinking of what sort of scandals might dog someone with a high public profile. Sex scandals, mistresses and generally bad behaviour seemed likely. Too likely. What else? Misappropriation of funds? Fraud? I didn’t really want a hero who’d been stealing other people’s money. Long lost family members? None of them grabbed me – not for this particular story.
So I came at it another way. Which two people might be subject to the most press scrutiny if their romance became known? I had a passing thought for a royal story but as I had one of those half planned for later I put that aside. I wanted something different. How about a heroine who’d been convicted of killing the hero’s brother?
‘Yess!’ said that little voice that leads me on to investigate ‘what if’ when planning new stories. If it was a celebrated case, and if the hero was newsworthy in his own right, wouldn’t they be in the spotlight just by spending time together? Imagine the emotions that poor heroine would experience, falling for that particular hero. Imagine how he’d feel. There’d be guilt and regret and very possibly hatred to overcome, which meant their attraction would have to be incredibly strong. They would have to be incredibly strong.
As soon as I knew that I was hooked. My next step was to think of how the story would open. Why not on her first day out of prison? Too harsh? I love making life difficult for my heroines – that way when they find their happy ending I feel they’ve deserved it. What would she be feeling on that first day? What would she feel about the hero and why would he feel compelled to see her on her release?
The questions came thick and fast, and, to my relief, so did the answers. The story ideas poured out once I had my premise and my characters. Lucy, a naïve girl at the time of her trial, is now outwardly tough and untrusting. It takes a special man to break through to the needy woman inside. Domenico, born to one of Italy’s most prestigious families and used to wielding enormous power, is forced to learn he can’t have everything he wants – at least not immediately. Compromise is needed by both, and trust to match the flare of attraction that threatens everything they hold precious.
As for the setting – let me just say I immersed myself in research on the south of Italy. I felt I was basking in warm Mediterranean sunshine as I wrote. What better place for two unlikely lovers to escape the press and discover the meaning of true love?
CAPTIVE IN THE SPOTLIGHT is a very special book for me with unforgettable characters that took me on a rollercoaster trip through loss and love and into new beginnings. I hope you enjoy Lucy and Domenico’s story too.