His ability to wait shredded, he grabbed her hips and their lovemaking turned—as it had from the beginning—into a storm of passion that sated him at the same time it made him hungry for more.

After that night, the unspoken connection between her and Michael grew stronger. When she was apart from Michael, she sometimes wondered if she imagined the tie, but when she was with him, there was no doubt. It still wasn’t love, she told herself. It was passion and power, but it wasn’t the sweet, comforting love she’d known with Stephen.Progress on the spa took place swiftly. It was all Bella could do to keep her aunt from working twenty-four hours a day. Getting a second chance with the spa seemed to have given Aunt Charlotte twice as much energy. Unfortunately, Charlotte wasn’t budging from her so-called mission to get Bella back in action.

So far, she’d arranged for four men to stop by to meet Bella. Two of them had asked her out, but she’d demurred.

This morning, she put away inventory that had arrived in the mail and double-checked the postcards advertising the opening. Charlotte bustled around, tinkering with the decor to accommodate the new sports grooming package for men.

A knock sounded on the glass door and Bella glanced up to spot a nice-looking man in his upper twenties. A familiar dread tugged at her. Not again.

Charlotte rushed to the door and gave a little squeal. “Gabriel, it’s so good to see you. Come on in. Bella, please fix Gabriel some coffee. His mother is one of my longtime clients.”

“It’s good to see you,” Gabriel said to Charlotte while Bella dutifully poured and served his coffee. “My mother insisted that I stop by.”

“Cream or sugar?” Bella asked.

He shook his head. “No, thanks. Black is fine. Is Bella your daughter?”

“In every way that counts,” Charlotte said. “Gabriel is a lawyer, Bella. Isn’t that impressive? I bet he might want to use some of our new services for men.”

“What services?” he asked, his expression wary.

“Sports manicure and pedicure. Massage,” Charlotte said. “You look like you work out.”

Bella tried not to roll her eyes at her aunt’s obvious flattery.

“Some,” he said. “I like to run.”

Charlotte nodded then frowned. “Bella, I just realized you never took lunch. Maybe you and Gabriel could—”

The door swung open and Michael walked in. Bella felt her gut twist at the sight of him. This could get interesting, she thought.

“Michael, what a nice surprise,” Charlotte said. “Michael is our new business partner. If it weren’t for him, the spa wouldn’t exist. Michael Medici, this is Gabriel Long. He’s a lawyer—his office is down the street.”

Michael nodded and shook Gabriel’s hand. “Gabriel,” he said.

“Michael Medici. I’ve heard your name mentioned often by my business clients.”

“I was just saying that maybe Bella and Gabriel could go grab a bite,” Charlotte interjected.

Michael paused a second and shot Bella a glance that seemed to say we did it your way, now we’re doing it my way.

“I hate to interrupt, but I had planned to ask Bella to join me for dinner tonight,” Michael said in a charming voice that almost concealed the steel underneath.

Charlotte dropped her jaw and stared at Michael then at Bella. “Oh, I didn’t know you two were—”

“We’re not,” Bella quickly said, inwardly wincing at the lie. She glared at Michael. “I’m just as surprised as you are by the invitation.”

Cool as ever, he dipped his head. “If you’re hungry, then…”

An awkward silence followed where Bella refused to give up her mutinous stance.

“Of course she is,” Charlotte rushed to say, then glanced at Gabriel as if she didn’t know what to do with him. “I will give you a special coupon for our sports treatments,” she added as she walked him to the door. “Now, you be sure and tell your mother I said hello…”

“You agreed,” Bella whispered tersely to Michael.

“It was necessary. This is becoming ridiculous. Things will be easier now. Trust me,” he said in a low voice.

“You don’t under—” She cut herself off as Charlotte returned.

“Michael, I’m so glad to see you,” Charlotte said. “I wanted to show you some of my ideas. Bella, would you help me get some things from the inventory closet?”

Upset by the latest turn of events, Bella nodded and followed her aunt to the walk-in supply closet. Charlotte immediately turned to her. “What’s your problem? Michael Medici is gorgeous.”

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