Page 14 of The Amalfi Bride

“I see,” he said. The Scotch burned his throat and set his stomach on fire. “And do you do this often—travel alone and hire gigolos?”

His gaze must have hardened, because she looked away. “No. I told you. Never. Never before! And probably never again! That’s why I don’t really know how to do this.”

“Have you slept with other men in Italy? Men you met in your hotel or at restaurants?”

“No! I told you—you’re the first.”

The Scotch worked swiftly. He felt the beginnings of a much needed buzz. “So, you haven’t read about me? You don’t know who I…”

She studied him, her pretty face charmingly quizzical. “Maybe you do look a little familiar. Maybe I did see one of your ads or something, but magazines and papers are full of ads. I just look at the pictures in Italian magazines. Are you a really famous gigolo or something?”

He nearly choked on his Scotch. “You might be surprised at just how famous.” He couldn’t resist teasing her. “A gigolo to the stars.”

God help him for what he was about to do, but he couldn’t help himself.

“Then we definitely stay in my hotel.”

“I could wear a disguise. I’m quite good at them, you know.”

“I’m sure you have to be…in your line of work.” She laughed nervously.

He smiled. He didn’t want to play games, but this was obviously her fantasy and he wanted her more than ever. Maybe it was the Scotch, but her fantasy was beginning to turn him on, too. A gigolo? A professional who indulged a woman’s secret desires?

“How much?” she said.

His lips tightened. Sober, he wouldn’t have been able to endure this money talk or the fact that she thought he was a gigolo. But the liquor had mellowed him. Not to mention, he was hotter for her than ever.

“How much?”

“You are nothing if not persistent.”

“I’m a lawyer.”

He had a law degree and a business degree. “I know a thing or two about lawyers.” They were pushy and bossy, traits he had not desired in his women—until her.

“Since it’s so important to you, you decide,” he said.

“I keep forgetting. You’re the professional.”

“Right.” He eyed another little Scotch bottle and considered a third shot.

“Since you have all the experience, how could I possibly know what you’re worth?”

“For you,” he began, his voice deliberately husky as he stared into her eyes, “I’ll make a special, one-time deal. Just for you. Pay whatever you feel like. The amount doesn’t matter.”

“Now? Or later?”

“Later. How will you know what I’m worth before you’ve sampled the merchandise?”

“You really are the sweetest gigolo ever.”

“We are trained to please.”

“You went to gigolo school?”

“Stop!” He really did have to have another drink to continue this idiotic conversation.

This time he threw ice cubes into his glass. Then he opened a third little bottle, poured the shot and downed it in a single gulp.

“One more thing—”

Hell. “What now?”

“I’m sort of a health nut…”

“You want me to use a condom? No problem.”

“No…I…don’t know how to say this.”

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

“I…I was wondering about Italy’s health guidelines. I mean, for gigolos.”

Oh, God.

Afraid he’d give himself away, he glanced out the window. “You may be assured…er…that I am extremely discerning about my women…er…I mean, my clients. Extremely discerning. I always use a condom. The very best grade, naturally. Then I go to the doctor every sixty days for a thorough examination. Blood tests. The works. I would go more often, if I thought it was necessary. My client list is extremely exclusive.”

He set his glass down, determined to end this ridiculous conversation. “Do you need documents, or are you satisfied?”

“Not quite yet.” She lowered her lashes and tried not to look at the bed. “But I’m sure I will be soon, now that we have all these obnoxious little business details out of the way.”

“I’ve never had a complaint,” he murmured drily.

Finally. He set down his glass and pulled her into his arms again.

She closed her eyes.

Finally.

Four

N ico liked the way a faint tremor passed through Regina’s body when his arm circled her shoulders and he cradled her close. He liked the way her pulse began to beat madly when he slipped his hand beneath her hair and pressed his mouth to her throat.


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