Page 76 of The Amalfi Bride

“And, naturally, I want to know how much you charge for the sex?” Her whisper was raw, her face purple before she lowered her eyes.

She bit her lip savagely. “Do you charge by the hour?” She was fiddling with the sash of her thick robe like someone who was afraid she was in some sort of trouble. “Or do you charge for services? Do you take VISA or cash? I don’t have all that much cash, so maybe we could go to an ATM later.”

She was so embarrassed she couldn’t meet his eyes, but when he couldn’t think of any way to answer her, she continued fiddling with the sash. “I’m a lawyer, and I like to know what I’m getting into…I mean, when it comes to business.”

An ATM!

“So the hell do I.”

He let her go and then jerked away as if she’d slapped him. He strode to the minibar where he opened a little bottle and poured himself a Scotch and water. Studying the golden liquor in the lambent light, he opened a second bottle and splashed more Scotch into his glass. He didn’t bother with ice.

She was watching him, shaken, her dark eyes wide and frightened.

“I didn’t mean to insult you,” she whispered. “I thought you’d want to talk about this.”

“How exactly did you figure out…er…what I do for a living?”

“By watching you with those two older women. The ones who dropped you off. The way they kissed you.”

His mother? His grandmother? His glance flew to the painting his grandmother had done of him when he’d been a child, visiting her for the first time. It was on the tip of his tongue to explain who the women actually were and who he was, when she went on.

“The Ferrari. The Maserati. Really, they gave it away. Not to mention the blonde’s diamonds. I mean, her ring, it must be nine carats.”

Ten. It had been in the family three hundred years.

He swirled the Scotch in his glass.

“The way they kissed you…like they adored you.”

Did she know nothing about the Italian maternal instinct? He had always been his mother’s favorite. His older sister had been pretty sweet about accepting that, most of the time. After all, he was her favorite, too.

“Your ragged clothes compared to hers.”

He loved old, soft, worn clothes. They made him feel free, almost ordinary, not so burdened with who and what he was and all that was expected of him. Naturally, his mother wanted him in Armani.

“I see,” he said. The Scotch burned his throat and set his stomach on fire. “And do you do this often—travel alone and hire gigolos?”

His gaze must have hardened, because she looked away. “No. I told you. Never. Never before! And probably never again! That’s why I don’t really know how to do this.”

“Have you slept with other men in Italy? Men you met in your hotel or at restaurants?”

“No! I told you—you’re the first.”

The Scotch worked swiftly. He felt the beginnings of a much needed buzz. “So, you haven’t read about me? You don’t know who I…”

She studied him, her pretty face charmingly quizzical. “Maybe you do look a little familiar. Maybe I did see one of your ads or something, but magazines and papers are full of ads. I just look at the pictures in Italian magazines. Are you a really famous gigolo or something?”

He nearly choked on his Scotch. “You might be surprised at just how famous.” He couldn’t resist teasing her. “A gigolo to the stars.”

God help him for what he was about to do, but he couldn’t help himself.

“Then we definitely stay in my hotel.”

“I could wear a disguise. I’m quite good at them, you know.”

“I’m sure you have to be…in your line of work.” She laughed nervously.

He smiled. He didn’t want to play games, but this was obviously her fantasy and he wanted her more than ever. Maybe it was the Scotch, but her fantasy was beginning to turn him on, too. A gigolo? A professional who indulged a woman’s secret desires?

“How much?” she said.

His lips tightened. Sober, he wouldn’t have been able to endure this money talk or the fact that she thought he was a gigolo. But the liquor had mellowed him. Not to mention, he was hotter for her than ever.

“How much?”

“You are nothing if not persistent.”

“I’m a lawyer.”

He had a law degree and a business degree. “I know a thing or two about lawyers.” They were pushy and bossy, traits he had not desired in his women—until her.

“Since it’s so important to you, you decide,” he said.

“I keep forgetting. You’re the professional.”

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