Inadvertently, his gaze shot to the tall brunette standing high above him on her belvedere.
Guarda, che bella!
She was nothing like his shy, innocent Simonetta. Still, Cara was incredibly exciting. When Grand-mère, naughty Grand-mère, had dropped him off at the beach yesterday afternoon so he could take the tender out to his yacht, Simonetta, to brood, she’d pointed out the girl reading on the bench under the lemon trees. The instant Nico had seen Cara in that short sundress, she’d made him forget his grief. He’d changed his mind about going straight to his yacht.
Simonetta had been small and blond. Cara was tall, dark, more mature and self-assured. Or, at least, he’d thought so at first when she’d set down her book and taken off her glasses to study him.
He’d liked the way Cara’s rich brown hair fell in glossy waves down her slim back. He’d liked the way her coffee-colored eyes burned him, even at a distance. The gardenia in her dark hair was more beautiful than a jewel.
She’d looked excited, as if she were mesmerized by him, too. Simonetta had been so shy in the beginning, so virginal in his bed that he’d found her sometimes childlike. Never had she looked at him with desire as blatant as Cara had shown, even in that first moment. Something told him he wouldn’t have to waste time wooing this woman, that she was already his.
He’d imagined Cara had found out he was staying aboard Simonetta and had been waiting for him. He was used to being chased by celebrity hounds and aggressive fortune hunters, who were after his title and money and a few seconds of fame. Usually he avoided such women.
But Cara had made him forget, so he’d made an exception and had followed her into the bar when she’d run. He’d known he was right about her because she’d left her book on the bench for him to find and return, which he’d done. Then, much to his surprise, after smiling at him and blushing and taking her book, she’d run and vanished into thin air.
Now that he’d found her again, he was in no mood to dwell on his family responsibilities regarding Viola. He wanted to forget Simonetta and Viola. At least for tonight.
“Mother, I’ll call you tomorrow,” he said, aware that his voice lacked warmth.
“You won’t forget to call Viola?”
“Ciao,” he whispered, refusing to promise. He told her he loved her and hung up, even though he knew she would not be satisfied with that response.
Before she could call him back, he turned off his cell phone, slid it into his pocket and looked up at Cara again.
Her bright eyes touched his, lingering, her visual caress making him grow hot and hard. Even in her bulky robe, she looked full bosomed and slender hipped. Her dark hair swirled about her face. He’d always preferred blondes, but her rosy cheeks and the ripe lushness of her youthful, dark beauty made her look both innocent and as alluring to him as a siren singing from the fabled rocks.
Was she his siren? After all, this part of the coast was where Homer had placed the sirens whose songs lured men and made them forget their reason.
Was Cara naked underneath the robe? He guessed that she probably was. He looked at her and then looked some more. It was time to strip her of that bulky, unflattering garment and find out.
As he loped toward the elevator, Nico felt a wild stirring of desire. It alarmed him only a little that he was more powerfully attracted to her than he’d ever been to any other woman.
He was a prince. The blood of warriors who’d conquered lands, seizing anything and anyone they wanted, especially women, flowed in his veins. His ancestors had a history of discarding such prizes when they tired of them.
He wanted her. He would use her to forget the past and its sorrows, to forget the future, as well.
Tomorrow he would call his mother and promise to woo and wed the beautiful Viola.
Tonight belonged to Cara.
N ico had a key, but he knocked before letting himself in. “Cara?”
His deep voice echoed in the tall-ceilinged bedroom. Then she ran in from the belvedere.
“Sorry about the call,” he said, smiling because she was so lovely.
Cara hung back in the doorway. She was holding a rectangular frame, a painting, it appeared, which she set down on a chest. Flushing, she lashed the tie around her waist so that the robe fit more snugly.
“It’s fine,” she said. “I had a couple of calls to make, too.” She pushed a long strand of brown hair behind her ear.
Oh, how adorable she was.
“I was out sightseeing all day and couldn’t call my family earlier. I missed a christening.”
When he saw the painting, his grandmother’s painting, his painting, his brows shot together. Not for the first time, his grandmother had gone too far. With great effort he kept his face neutral.