Page 75 of The Amalfi Bride

“Me, too.”

“And quite traditional.”

“We have that in common, too,” he whispered.

She smiled. “Are…are most of your women…regulars?”

“Regulars?” He didn’t want to talk about other women.

“Women who are used to doing this sort of thing? Or are they like me? First-timers?”

“Why do you want to talk about other women?”

“Because I’m afraid,” she admitted.

Suddenly, she seemed almost as shy and uncertain as Simonetta.

“Don’t be.”

“Let me go,” she said suddenly.

He stroked her cheek, her throat, coaxing her with his lips and touch to stay in his arms. “As if I could—now. Cara…Cara…. Tesorina. Ciccina.”

Then he kissed her again, long and slowly, until she moaned.

Reluctantly, she pulled away. “So, do I get to be in charge? Do I get to tell you exactly what I want…if I decide to really do this?”

“What?”

What was going on here? One moment, she was as shy as a young doe. The next, she was the aggressor.

American women. They were taught to be so damned independent. Celebrity hound or not, he decided to humor her.

“I’m yours,” he said in a light, teasing tone. “I’ll do whatever you want.”

“For how long?”

“All night,” he said.

“What if I want you tomorrow, too?”

He thought about his mother and Viola. He could always say no to Cara tomorrow.

“That could be arranged.”

“And the next day, too?”

He nodded even though he felt a strange, new tension building between them that he didn’t understand.

“And the next? Both nights, too, of course?”

He was too hot for her to argue.

“I can pretty much clear my calendar. I might have to make a few phone calls though,” he said, thinking of his mother. “Business obligations.”

She blushed and grew thoughtful as her gaze raked him almost possessively. “I understand. Okay.” The word came out like a small sigh, as if she’d been holding her breath. “It’s a deal. And we’ll stay in here for the most part, so people won’t see us. I could see in the bar that you’re well-known locally.”

Not just locally, as surely she knew. “Whatever you want,” he agreed.

“Then I’ll do it. I can’t believe I’m saying this!” Her coffee-colored gaze was intense. “Three nights. And two days. Then I fly home. So, we’re settled on that?”

Again, he nodded, although he felt impatient with all this talk and ridiculous negotiating, not to mention a little concerned about how he would deal with his mother.

“And you’ll really move in here, with me?”

“As I said—whatever you want.”

“You’re being most agreeable. I appreciate that.”

“I try to please.”

“I’m sure you do. I’m beginning to think I should have done something like this for myself a long time ago. I mean, most men are thinking about how a woman can please them…instead of the other way around.”

Some painful emotion flickered in the depths of her dark eyes. She waited, as if she expected something more from him.

“How much?” she finally whispered.

He stared at her.

“I really would think you’d want to get that settled up front.”

“How much what?” he asked, puzzled.

“Don’t get me wrong. You are so sweet, so understanding about how difficult this is for me. And…and I like that. I like it a lot that you’re so discreet and polite and you aren’t pushy about the money. I mean, it’s really sweet of you, especially since I’m a first-timer, and it makes me feel special or like we’re almost friends or this is a real date or something sort of normal…instead of…what it really is. I mean, this is just one more thing about you that makes me feel so…so hot. In fact, I’ve never felt—” She stopped herself. “I’m sorry. I talk too much sometimes…when I’m nervous.”

He’d never been so drawn to a woman, either. Why else was he being so patient with this endless, ridiculous, unfathomable conversation?

His lips barely moved. “Can’t we talk later? If you feel hot and I feel hot, shouldn’t we begin—”

“No. I really do have to know what you charge.”

“Charge?”

For a moment longer he remained baffled, completely so, and then before she said anything else, the true meaning of her words slammed into him.

His grip on her waist tightened. “You think I’m a gigolo,” he said softly.

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