The only noise in the cavernous dining hall was the distant murmured conversation of the bodyguards sitting at the far end of the table, the clink of silverware against china, the thunk of wineglasses against the wood.

Alejandro leaned forward, his elbow against the long oak table, bringing his face very close to mine. It was almost painful to be that close to so much masculine beauty. Unwillingly, my eyes traced the hard slant of his cheekbones, the rough edge of his jawline. His darkly intent eyes.

And his sensual mouth. That most of all. I watched, unable to look away, as his lips moved to shape a single word.


I swallowed, sweeping my hand to indicate the elaborate decorations and luncheon spread down the long table.

“She loves you. And you love her.” I shook my head and blurted out, “All this time I’ve been moaning about my family in London. I feel so stupid for complaining about my childhood—while all the time, you yourself—”

He put his hand on my cheek. “It doesn’t matter now.”

Our eyes locked. I caught my breath, feeling the warmth of his fingertips brushing my skin. Feeling how much, deep inside, I wanted him to touch me. On my cheek. Down my neck. Everywhere. Unwillingly, I licked my lips.

But I couldn’t give in. I couldn’t surrender. If I ever gave him my body, as I’d done the year before, my heart would follow. And I didn’t think my shattered heart could survive when he betrayed me as he inevitably would—hadn’t he told me as much himself?

Is there anything you’re not good at?

Keeping promises.

I pulled back, suddenly desperate to get away from the dangerous energy sizzling between us.

“You love each other. You’re a family.” My voice trembled, betraying me. “I want you to be happy.”

He suddenly leaned forward, his eyes dark.

“What would make me happy,” he said huskily, “is having you in my bed. Right now.”

I sucked in my breath. My body trembled.

“No,” I whispered.

His dark eyes met mine. “We both know how this will end.”

He was right. He was right.

“Thank Maurine for me....” Setting down my silverware, I stumbled to my feet, tossing my napkin over my half-empty plate. “I’m done....”

And I ran.

Tears blurred my eyes as I fled the dining hall, into the shadowy hallway. I dodged antique chests and an old suit of armor, only to run straight into Maurine.

“My dear, whatever is the matter?” she said, looking astonished.

“I just need some—some fresh air,” I choked out.

“Of course.” Looking bewildered, with my baby still smiling and happy in her arms, she pointed to a door down the hall. “That leads to the gardens....”

I ran down the dark hallway, beneath the cool, thick stone walls of the castillo. Flinging open the door, I found myself beneath the bright, hot Spanish sun and the softly waving palm trees. I kept going, almost blindly—wanting only to be away from the castle. From the man who owned it.

Just as he now owned me.

But he would not own my heart, I vowed to myself, wiping my eyes. Not my heart and not my matter how he might tempt me otherwise. I couldn’t give in. I couldn’t....

I ran down the stone path, past green hedges and huge oak trees with soft, full greenery, past a pond and a picturesque gazebo in an English-style garden, past something that looked like a hedge maze straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Choking out a sob, I abruptly stopped. I found myself in a rose garden, surrounded by a profusion of colorful blooms, gentle yellow, soft pink, innocent white and a blaze of red like heart’s blood.


His voice was low behind me. Shocked, I whirled around.

“How did you...?”

Alejandro stood in front of me, dark and tall and powerful. Colorful roses and the primal green of the garden hemmed us in on every side, like a riotous jungle. “I know this garden. It’s been my home since I was a child.”

The sun left a frost of golden light against his dark hair, like a halo, tracing down the length of his body, his tanned, olive-toned skin, his sharp cheekbones, his hard-muscled body that moved with such sensual grace.

“I won’t sleep with you,” I breathed. “I won’t!”