Making her way down the winding staircase, she headed for the kitchen. The house was in darkness but for the dim glow of night lights that were strategically placed throughout.
She switched on the main light of the kitchen, blinking several times as her eyes adjusted to the brightness.
It felt strange being in there, in a kitchen as large as the house she’d grown up in, feeling as if she were an intruder. She had no idea where anything was but found the fridge easily enough—seeing as it was a whopping American-style fridge large enough to use in a mortuary, it would have been hard to miss.
What she really wanted was some warm milk. Grace’s mother, Billie, would make it for them when she went for one of her frequent sleepovers there. It was comforting. Now, if only she knew where to even begin searching for a saucepan...
The whisper of movement froze her to the spot. Her hand gripped the plastic milk carton.
‘You’re up late, cucciola mia,’ a deep Sicilian drawl said from behind her.
She spun around to find Pepe striding languorously towards her. ‘You scared the life out of me,’ she snapped. Or, at least she tried to snap, but her mini-fright had left her a little breathless. Seeing all six feet plus of semi-naked Pepe also did something to her pulse-rate, but there he was, muscle-bound and gorgeous, and wearing nothing but a pair of low-slung jeans that perfectly accentuated his snake hips and showed his taut, olive chest to perfection. The silky hair that ran from his chest and down in a thin line over his toned stomach, thickened where the buttons of his jeans were undone...
His hair was tousled, black stubble breaking out along his jawline, almost as thick as his trimmed goatee.
Sin. That was what he looked like. A walking, talking advertisement for sin. And temptation.
‘I didn’t mean to scare you,’ he said, not looking the least apologetic. ‘I heard noise and came to investigate.’
‘I couldn’t sleep.’
His deep blue eyes held hers, meaning swirling in them. ‘Nor could I.’
She broke the lock first, aware of warmth suffusing more than just her face.
‘What brings you out of hiding?’ he asked, standing a little closer than she would have liked.
She took a step back. ‘I’ve not been in hiding.’
‘You’ve barely left your room in three days. Monique says you’ve been no further than the dining room.’
‘This isn’t my home. I don’t feel comfortable roaming around as if I belong here.’ She felt especially uncomfortable now, but in an entirely different way, in a ‘sexy half-naked man in front of me’ kind of way.
She must be delirious. Sleep deprivation could do that.
‘You do belong here. While you are under my roof, this is your home. You are free to treat it as you wish.’
‘Except leave it.’
‘You are always free to leave.’
She bit back the comment that wanted to break free. What was the point? It would only be a rehash of all their other arguments regarding her freedom.
‘I was after some warm milk,’ she muttered. ‘I thought it would help me sleep.’
‘I thought I heard you thrashing about in your bed.’ At her quizzical expression, he added, ‘My room is next to yours.’
‘You didn’t know?’ His lips quirked into a smirk.
‘No. I didn’t.’ It shouldn’t matter where Pepe slept. He could sleep in a shed for all she cared. But the room next to hers...?
Why the thought should heat her veins, she had no idea.
The playful, sensuous expression in his eyes softened a touch. ‘I make a mean hot chocolate.’
It took a moment for her to realise he was offering to make her some. ‘Thank you.’
He started busying himself, opening doors and rifling through drawers.
She suppressed a snigger and hoicked herself up on the kitchen table. ‘You don’t know your way around your kitchen any better than I do.’
‘Guilty as charged.’ He knelt down and leaned into a cupboard, giving her an excellent view of his tight buttocks straining against the denim. ‘I employ housekeepers so I don’t have to know my way around my kitchens. When I’m home alone, take-out is my best friend.’
Oh, the blasé way he pluralised kitchen! Cara thought of the poky galley kitchen she shared—had shared—with three other women. It would probably fit in Pepe’s fridge.
When he reappeared he had a milk pan in his hand. ‘It would be quicker to microwave it but my mother always taught me it was sacrilege to make a hot chocolate like that.’
‘I thought you had a fleet of staff when you were growing up?’