Page 12 of The Amalfi Bride

“You can’t believe everything you read,” he said, assuming she was referring to the tabloids. “My reputation has been wildly exaggerated.”

She went still against him, and he was very aware of how her hips fit his, how the tips of her breasts touched his chest.

“Then you advertise…like an ordinary businessman?”

“Advertise?”

She squeezed her eyes shut and her hands were shaking. “I’m babbling. I do that when I’m nervous.”

Clearly she was starstruck. He’d dealt with that before.

He needed to put her at ease. “I’m not really so different from you,” he said. That wasn’t entirely true, of course. A centuries-old lineage of privilege had a dulling effect on the human spirit. He was not allowed to surrender to his feelings all that often.

“But…”

He didn’t want to argue. “I’m just man, and you’re a woman. We find each other attractive.” He feathered a kiss that was meant to reassure against her brow.

She jumped again.

“What could be more basic or more elemental or honest than a man and a woman and a night like this?” He kissed the tip of her nose, and she gasped.

“You know it’s more complicated than that,” she whispered.

He really didn’t want to argue. Not when she was skittish and rigid in his arms.

He wanted to make love to her badly. She’d chased him and flirted with him for two evenings in a row. He’d thought about her last night for hours. He had to do something, so he kissed her full on the mouth.

She let out a sigh and then a harsh, uneven breath. Funny, how one taste of her was such a shock to his system.

When he deepened the kiss, she began to tremble, as if she were needy and ready, too. Good, she wasn’t immune.

Still, after a kiss or two, she put her fists against his shoulders, and for a moment, he was afraid she intended to push him away. His mouth nibbled hers persuasively and she finally melted against him.

Slowly, ever so slowly, she relaxed her fingers and raised her arms around his neck. He felt wild with relief, and desire filled him when her mouth opened wider.

His tongue explored inside, teasing the tip of hers with his. When she let out another little sigh, sounding like a purr, he shuddered.

His heart sped up. She tasted sweet, and her skin was hot and soft, so hot he was mad, mad to have her. Had he ever been this mad for a woman? Still, remembering how nervous she was, he forced himself to hold her gently and to kiss her softly, lingeringly.

Her fingertips brushed the hair at his neck. “I’ve never done anything like this. I really don’t know what’s come over me. You see, I’m a planner.”

“Me, too.”

“And quite traditional.”

“We have that in common, too,” he whispered.

She smiled. “Are…are most of your women…regulars?”

“Regulars?” He didn’t want to talk about other women.

“Women who are used to doing this sort of thing? Or are they like me? First-timers?”

“Why do you want to talk about other women?”

“Because I’m afraid,” she admitted.

Suddenly, she seemed almost as shy and uncertain as Simonetta.

“Don’t be.”

“Let me go,” she said suddenly.

He stroked her cheek, her throat, coaxing her with his lips and touch to stay in his arms. “As if I could—now. Cara…Cara…. Tesorina. Ciccina.”

Then he kissed her again, long and slowly, until she moaned.

Reluctantly, she pulled away. “So, do I get to be in charge? Do I get to tell you exactly what I want…if I decide to really do this?”

“What?”

What was going on here? One moment, she was as shy as a young doe. The next, she was the aggressor.

American women. They were taught to be so damned independent. Celebrity hound or not, he decided to humor her.

“I’m yours,” he said in a light, teasing tone. “I’ll do whatever you want.”

“For how long?”

“All night,” he said.

“What if I want you tomorrow, too?”

He thought about his mother and Viola. He could always say no to Cara tomorrow.

“That could be arranged.”

“And the next day, too?”

He nodded even though he felt a strange, new tension building between them that he didn’t understand.

“And the next? Both nights, too, of course?”

He was too hot for her to argue.

“I can pretty much clear my calendar. I might have to make a few phone calls though,” he said, thinking of his mother. “Business obligations.”

She blushed and grew thoughtful as her gaze raked him almost possessively. “I understand. Okay.” The word came out like a small sigh, as if she’d been holding her breath. “It’s a deal. And we’ll stay in here for the most part, so people won’t see us. I could see in the bar that you’re well-known locally.”

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