I blinked, bewildered. “This is why Maurine wanted us to dress for dinner...?” Then Alejandro gave me a sensual smile, and it all clicked into place. “You arranged this,” I breathed.

He shrugged. “I spoke with her before we left this morning, and she agreed newlyweds need time alone.”

“But what about dinner for everyone else?”

“They already ate.” He came closer, his dark eyes intent. “And I’m glad,” he said huskily. “I want you to myself.”

I stared at him, still conflicted about the way he’d coldly cut off my earlier question. Going to the table, he poured us each a glass of red wine that sparkled like a ruby in the firelight.

“Manzanilla wine. From my vineyard.”

As we sat next to each other at the end of the long table, near the fire, I felt my anger starting to be melted by his nearness. The dinner was probably delicious, but I ate mechanically, barely tasting it. Alejandro moved his chair closer. He did not try to touch me. He started asking me questions, asking what I thought of Spain, how I liked the estate, how I liked the baby’s nursery. He asked me how I’d first started painting.

“My father taught me,” I said softly. “He always wanted to be an artist. But once he got married and had a family, he had to try to earn a living....” I gave a rueful laugh. “He was never good at earning money. But we loved him, just as he was.”

Alejandro leaned forward, his elbow on the table, his chin resting on his hand, listening to every word. He focused his attention on me, as if nothing and no one else existed.

I knew how this worked. I’d seen it before. And yet I still could not resist. With every breath I felt him seducing me, drawing me in closer. Against my will, my heart started to warm.

The enormous banqueting hall, usually chilly inside the castle even on a hot summer day, was growing increasingly hot. I found myself leaning forward, asking him questions in my turn, and all the while wishing he would kiss me, and hating myself for wanting it. Finally, I could bear it no longer.

“Why can’t you tell me your secret?”

“Put it from your mind,” he said harshly. “Or go.”

“Fine,” I said tearfully. I stood, turning away.

He grabbed me by the wrist.

Slowly, Alejandro rose from the chair, his body grazing mine as he fully stood, towering over me. My head tilted back to look at his face. He was bigger than me, stronger by far. But it wasn’t his strength that overwhelmed me, but the stark vulnerability I suddenly saw in his hard, handsome face.

“This is all you need to know,” he whispered.

He pushed me against the edge of the stone fireplace, holding my wrists above me, kissing my lips, my throat. Closing my eyes, I tilted back my head as waves of desire crashed over me.

“I want you, Lena,” he whispered, his voice husky, his lips brushing my earlobe. “Te deseo.”

I shivered. Then remembered why I was mad at him and tried to pull away. “I—I am dusty and sweaty from the road.” I gave a casual laugh that no one would believe, least of all me. “I rushed downstairs because I didn’t want to be late.” He continued to kiss my face, and I closed my eyes, breathing, “But I should...really...go take a bath....”

“Bien,” he purred. “I’ll join you.”

My eyes flew open. “A shower, I mean, not a bath,” I stammered. “There’s not much room in the shower for two....”

He ran his hands down my back, holding me against him. “Just enough.”

He kissed me, and beneath the sensuality of his embrace, I sighed, and my lips parted. My body melted into his, my soft curves pressing into his hard angles as if his body had been made for mine.

Lifting me into his arms as if I weighed nothing at all, he carried me upstairs to our private, luxurious bathroom, where he gently set me on my feet. His dark eyes never left mine as he slowly pulled off my dress, then my bra, then my panties.

When I was completely naked in front of him, he wrenched me hard against him and kissed me deeply, hungrily. I desperately began to unbutton his shirt, then his trousers, until he, too, was naked.

Pulling away, he turned on the water in the shower. I glanced back longingly at the bed, but it was in the next room and seemed a million miles away. He kissed me again, and I gasped against his lips, his naked body hard against mine. Steam lifted from the hot water of the shower, making the luxurious bathroom of white marble and silver a magical, otherworldly place of ice and snow.

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