Page 20 of The Amalfi Bride

“Why are you so ashamed of it when you’re so good at it?”

“Who wouldn’t be?” he lashed. His eyes were hard and cold now.

“If you don’t like it, why don’t you stop? Do something else?”

“Believe me, I’m going to,” he muttered. “The first chance I get.”

“I could be your last customer.”

“Believe me, you will be.” He shot her a look filled with selfcontempt. Then he knelt and began throwing things into his backpack. “Are you finished eating?”

She tried to swallow the last of her wine, but there was a painful lump in her throat. Was she so disgusting to him? Had he been acting last night? She remembered his passion, his tenderness. Closing her eyes, she fought tears.

For her, last night had been too wonderful to believe. Never had she felt so cherished or so special. Had it been awful for him? It must have been, and she couldn’t bear the thought.

Obviously, gigolos had to be skilled actors to play the parts in whatever fantasy their clients demanded. If he’d been disgusted, his performance deserved an Oscar.

“I’m sorry if it was awful for you,” she said in a broken whisper.

“Awful? What the hell are you talking about now?”

“Last night.” She couldn’t bear to look at him, so she was unaware of his expression. Pain cut her like a knife. “You found me disgusting.”

Suddenly she felt his arms, tight and hard, pulling her against his muscular chest.

“Cara, Cara.” His deep voice was infinitely soothing, his hands gentle now as he stroked her. His lips pressed lightly against her temple. “Disgusting? Last night was wonderful. I’m sorry I lost my temper. The last thing I ever want to do is make you unhappy.”

“I feel the same way, even though you are a gigolo and I know you can’t care about me as much as you act like you do.”

“God!” He mashed her against his chest. “I hate this.” He stroked her hair thoughtfully. “Cara, I…I’m afraid I haven’t been entirely honest with you.”

“How could you be? You were doing your job. But if your work is so repugnant, I relieve you from all obligations that we contracted for. I’ll even pay you now for tonight, too, and for tomorrow, as well.”

“I don’t want your damn money.”

“I refuse to take advantage of your generous—”

“Stop it, okay?”

For another long moment he held her close, his hands stroking her hair. He seemed to be struggling with something while she clung to him. Hating his anxiety and afraid of what he would say, she held on to him in a state of stupefied tension.

“I’m not a gigolo,” he finally whispered, his low tone edgy.

She shook loose of his embrace and looked up at him. “You’re not?”

“No. There. Now you know.”

“You lied to me?”

“Yes. No!” He ran his hands through his hair. “Hell, I played along.”

“Then who are you really?”

“NicoRomano.”

“And your profession?”

“I’m…an international businessman.”

“And those older women, who kissed you?”

He hesitated. “Relatives.”

“That’s it? You’re telling the truth? The whole truth.”

That muscle in his jawline quivered. He flushed. “Last night, I wanted you so much I think I would have said anything or done anything to have you. And nothing’s changed. I still want you, maybe even more, if such a thing is possible.”

“Me, too. Oh, me, too.”

If she had an ounce of pride she would never have admitted her feelings to him so freely. Instead, she should have asked him about those older women in the fancy cars. Who exactly were they?

She’d slept with him. She had about a million questions, but when her gaze met his, his eyes burned with so much emotion she forgot everything except the simple joy of being with him now that she knew he hadn’t been acting.

He hadn’t been acting! She wasn’t disgusting to him!

His arms tightened around her, and he buried his face in her hair. Soon she was lost, utterly lost to all reality. She wanted only this moment with him. Even before his lips claimed hers, she was aware of a wildly thrilling happiness.

When he began kissing her, the sinfully delicious chips and their sandwiches and wine were forgotten. Such passion could have only one ending. In the space of two kisses, they were both breathless.

“Farmhouse,” he muttered on a ragged note.

She nodded as he began gathering their things, slinging them into his backpack, not caring that their sandwiches would be hopelessly crushed. Then he seized her hand. Together they ran stumbling, laughing back down the trail to the last deserted farmhouse.


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