Page 74 of The Amalfi Bride

“Christening?”

“My sister’s twin boys.”

He forced his attention from the painting. “So, how is Italy as a tourist destination?”

“Perfect.” She swallowed. “I took an entire smart card full of pictures.”

“Perfect. And soon to get better,” he murmured, sliding a finger against the light switch, dimming the lights. “Good thing you can’t take any more pictures.”

“Oh, I have another smart card.”

When she lingered by the French doors for a few more seconds, he regretted dimming the lights.

She was losing her nerve. He stepped soundlessly across the tile floor to her.

Her hesitation appealed to him. Aggressive women often annoyed him.

With the lights low, the room with its painted ceiling and gilt furniture was full of shadows. The last of the sunlight came from behind her, so he couldn’t see her face clearly.

He didn’t touch her at first, and neither of them spoke. But her dark eyes burned him and made him aware of the tension in his own body. He needed to take her to bed and make love to her as soon as possible.

Her eyes widened, and she scanned the room, as if seeking an avenue of escape. Afraid she might run, he gathered her into his arms.

“Mistake,” she whispered, struggling to pull away. “This could be a huge mistake.”

She was right. Especially for him.

What if she threatened to sell her story tomorrow about her night with the prince? He’d been blackmailed before. Not that the family hadn’t hired people to deal with such matters.

“There’s always a risk to everything, isn’t there?” he asked, holding her tightly.

“I suppose. I’m not usually one for risks…with men.”

“You miss a lot of good things, if you never take chances,” he said, lowering his mouth to her cheek. When his lips nuzzled her hairline, she jumped as if his kiss shocked her.

“That’s easy for you to say. The risk is mostly mine though. You do this all the time. With all kinds of women probably. It’s what you do.”

He tensed, not liking the reminder that she knew who he was and had had designs on him.

“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.”

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