“This is my idea, not yours. I was a bookworm in school. I believe in lessons and study, and now I want to study…sex!”
“Don’t be ridiculous!”
As the wind whipped her hair, he slowly brought his long, tapered fingers to her cheek. “Go back inside before you’re blown into this pool, and I’ll forget we ever had this idiotic conversation.”
“Why shouldn’t we?” She circled his waist with his arm and pulled him to her. “You want Château Serene, and I want you. Or rather, what you can teach me.”
When she stood on tiptoe and leaned toward him, he took a quick breath. With a shaking hand she stroked his cheek and then his lips. He stiffened. For a moment longer he stood motionless. Then as if drawn by an irresistible force, he slowly bent his head and kissed her, sending wild shards of sensation to every nerve ending in her body.
“You’re good,” she whispered breathlessly, pressing herself against him. “The best. That’s why I’m choosing you.”
“It’s called chemistry. It’s because I like you and you like me. But you’re the last woman I’d ever choose as my mistress.”
“I meant that as a compliment. Trust me. It would be more dangerous for you than you think. You’ve read about the women I’ve hurt. Women always want more than I can give. I always walk. I’m not capable of the kind of love and commitment people like you need. I was abandoned young, so I can be cruel.”
“I don’t care. All I’m asking for is a few more lessons in bed.”
“Dammit, you’ll get hurt.”
“How, if I have no illusions about how bad you are? How, if I could never love someone as low-down as you? Besides, a sexy bad guy has to sleep with someone. Why not me? Especially since you’ll get Château Serene for your trouble. If you’re cruel, why do you care?”
A bolt of lightning crashed near the pool, the stark, white blaze lighting the grounds and his scowling face.
“Do we have a deal or not?” she asked softly.
“Who else will you make this offer to if I don’t accept? I should call your mother,” he said in a low, seething tone. “And tell her you need somebody to watch over you while you’re here.”
“Why can’t that be you?”
His dark eyes stared straight into hers. Then he went still, and she saw something of his real desire.
“Go! Run!” he growled.
“All right. Have it your way.”
He scooped her into his arms, and his mouth came down hard on her lips, her throat, her breasts, causing her blood to heat and her heart to pulse like a drum. Then he hauled her into the house.
Once they were in the kitchen, he wrapped her in his arms. Glancing up at her aunt’s calendar on the wall, she said, “In one month, at this hour, I’ll sign your contract.” Pushing loose from his tight embrace, she grabbed a red pencil and circled the date.
“As if I give a damn right now,” he said. “The important thing is that after one month with me you’ll be so sure you’re sexy, you’ll never question yourself again.”
“You swear? On a hundred Bibles?”
“This isn’t a child’s game.” Leaning down, he caught her bottom lip with his teeth and tugged gently. Then his tongue invaded her mouth.
A long time later he said, “Who’s making up our first lesson plan?”
“You! You’re the teacher, mon amour.”
He pulled his mobile phone out of his pocket and turned it off. Then he kissed her very slowly until his heart was thudding and his breath was rough.
“Strip,” he said, his voice hoarse and low as he let her go.
“While you just stand there and watch me…like I’m some woman you’re appraising in a brothel?” Startled, she backed away from him an inch or two.
“You’re my mistress. I want to see you naked. It’s your job to satisfy my wishes.”
“You think I’ll be too scared and shy to do it, don’t you? You think I’ll just sell the vineyard without…you having to live up to our bargain?”
“If you have a grain of sense, dammit, yes!”
“Then I guess it’s up to me to show you once and for all that I’m dead serious about being a satisfactory mistress.”
Her hands went to her ears and she plucked her pearl earrings off, one by one. Next she removed her pearl necklace. Then she began to unbutton her gauzy white dress, touching herself and sighing as she did so.
When the soft fabric slid down her erect nipples and thighs and pooled at her feet, she felt feverishly warm, even though she wore nothing but the transparent white thong panties he’d watched her blushingly buy at Camden.