Page 5 of The Amalfi Bride

Instantly, he uncoiled his long body and strode across the bar, causing a ripple of conversation, as well as bursts of giggles from the girls near the bar. When he pulled out a plastic chair at Regina’s table, Regina gulped the last of her champagne.

“Do you mind if I sit down?” His voice was deep and dark, faintly accented, surprisingly cultured. It was as perfect as the rest of him.

A well-educated gigolo?

“I—I should say yes. I should go…really….”

“Probably you are right.” He smiled. “But you’re following a dangerous impulse.” He paused. “Just as I am.”

Her heart thundered.

Up close, his dense lashes seemed even longer and darker.

Why did God give guys eyelashes like those? It wasn’t fair. But then, life wasn’t fair, was it? Or she would be married and have children, and her father would still love her best.

Adonis’s gorgeous, broad-shouldered body towered over Regina, making her feel even more vulnerable.

If you were to have a daughter by him, the lucky child would surely be movie-star beautiful, whispered her sex-starved hormones.

“I will go, if you want me to,” he said.

When he turned, a savage pain tore her heart. “No.”

Her throat went even drier. Her acute need threw her off balance. She licked her lips but could say no more.

He sank down beside her and signaled the waiter. Without asking, he ordered more champagne.

Did he expect her to pay? Was that part of the contract?

When the champagne came, she gulped it again, which seemed to amuse him. “Do I scare you?”

“I scare me. I’ve never done anything like this before.”

“Good. That’s reassuring.” He laughed. “You’re perfectly safe,” he said. “I promise, we won’t do anything you don’t want to do.”

Far too many needs and emotions were on fire inside her for such a comment to reassure her.

He held up his hand to order another drink, but she put her fingers over his. And instantly, at that light touch of fingertip to fingertip, a surge of syrupy heat flooded her. When the waiter looked over, she shook her head wildly.

Her admirer turned her fingers over and brushed the back of her hand with a callused fingertip. His touch was gentle; lighting hot sparks along every nerve in her body.

She felt weak, sexual, sizzling. All he’d done was caress her hand. When he fingered the cross at her throat, she pulled back, afraid he’d sense the rapid pulse that pounded beneath it.

She’d never experimented with drugs, because addiction hadn’t been part of her plan for success. But now she suddenly understood the concept of mindless addiction at a profound level.

He was lethal.

No. He was just a professional. He knew what he was doing. That was all. He was good at his job. This was what he got paid for. Everything was under control. He wouldn’t do anything unless she decided to hire him. He was after money. Billable hours. Like Bobby. That she understood. Too well.

It wasn’t as if he felt what she felt. She was in no danger. She was in control.

She felt hot, and the cool breezes gusting up from the sparkling gulf did little to cool her.

“I’m Nico. NicoRomano,” he whispered against her ear, stroking her hand with that seductive fingertip.

The way he said his name warmed her blood almost as much as his touch.

But was it his real name? Did gigolos have stage names as actors did or pseudonyms as writers did?

“But then you probably know who I am…or at least what I am,” he said, his expression almost apologetic.

So she was right—he was a gigolo.

She blushed, liking his discretion about avoiding the G-word.

“Yes.” She glanced away.

“There’s no reason to let it bother you. I’m a man, just an ordinary man.”

“If you say so.” She felt shy, unsure, out of her depth.

“And you are?” he continued.

“Carina,” she said in a rush, choosing her middle name for protection, to put distance between them. “My mother calls me Cara. Everybody else calls me—” She stopped, realizing she was about to start babbling, something she did when she was nervous.

“Cara,” he breathed. “In our country your name means beloved. It suits you.”

The air between them seemed to grow even hotter, if that were possible. Or maybe it was only she who was ablaze.

He was good. But how much did someone of his caliber cost? Not in the mood to ask and discover his price excessive, she put the all-important question off.

“Are you hungry?” he murmured. “Or would you prefer to go straight to your hotel?”

Did having dinner with him cost more? And what would the staff of her palazzo think when they saw her with him in the restaurant? Did he go there often?

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