‘I will escort you there now,’ he said.
‘Have you been waiting here all this time?’
He nodded and turned in the direction of the apartment.
‘You don’t need to—’ She started to argue but realised the poor man was only following orders. She was better to save her fight for facing Antonio. She started walking, pretending not to care that Matteo remained a half pace behind her the entire way. Clearly he was used to doing this kind of errand for his boss.
Fury pushed her faster.
At the apartment building the security guard wordlessly opened the door, not looking Bella in the eye. Matteo stepped in front and led her to the elevator.
Yeah, he’d definitely done this many times before.
He entered the lift only long enough to punch in a code at the keypad. It whooshed up swiftly, leaving her feeling as if her stomach were still on the ground. Ruefully she reckoned her brain was back at her club.
When the elevator stopped on the top floor she stepped out. The heavy door on the small landing was open. Antonio stood, resting a shoulder against the frame, staring at her. He still wore the jet-black tux, the jacket immaculate and tie neatly fastened; only the hint of shadow on his chiselled jaw gave away the passage of time—that and his glare. Serious, handsome, smouldering, he said so much in silence.
Too bad. She lifted her chin, because his rejection still hurt. ‘You summoned. I came.’
She walked past him into the apartment, commanding the centre space.
‘What do you want from me?’ Years of training stood her in good stead; she knew how to fake confidence ’til she made it.
* * *
Antonio quietly closed the door, taking a moment to temper his response. She’d kept him waiting, he’d had zero sleep, and he didn’t have the patience for endless debating. This was one situation in which action would speak louder than words.
But he needed the words because they meant he’d retain control. Of himself, of what was to happen, of how this would end.
And he wanted to hear her speak too. He liked her challenging edge, as if she wasn’t going to agree to everything he had to say. At least, not immediately.
‘Would you like to sit down?’ He gestured to the plush armchair rather than the wide sofa. Enforcing social niceties at this moment would help keep him civilised.
‘I’m not going to jump just because you said to.’
Her reply shredded the remnants of all polite pretence, exposing the sensual tension. Combustion was a breath away.
He gave up on civility and crossed the room to tower over her. ‘And yet here you are.’
He’d known sending Matteo had been a mistake. His brother Eduardo had relied on Matteo for his discretion and reliability. Antonio had never had cause to before and should’ve known it would be better to do a job himself. He should’ve waited until later and gone to her club alone. Yet he liked this look in her eyes—baleful anger bubbling over sensual awareness.
‘What do you want from me?’ she repeated unevenly. ‘You want me to dance for you?’ She rolled her shoulders and took a half-step to the side.
It was barely a dance, more a suggestive movement, but Antonio was unable to answer. Another emotion entered her eye—determination, then calculation.
She moved ever so slightly while her gaze remained locked on his. There wasn’t the freedom he’d seen when she’d not known he was watching her alone in the club. She looked every bit as beautiful, but he saw her self-awareness, her moves made for their intended effect on her audience.
‘No,’ he snapped.
Instantly she stopped. Her sultry mask fell, revealing her anger in full, making her all the more stunning.
‘Not like that,’ he added. ‘I don’t want to watch. I don’t want a performance from you.’
‘Then what do you want?’ she flared. ‘To humiliate me again?’
‘Humiliate you?’ His own anger ignited. He’d never intended to do that and he was furious he had. He grabbed her hips and hauled her against him. ‘I want what we had. I want the real thing.’
He crushed her mouth under his, unable to contain himself a second longer. Energy radiated from her—resistance, anger, but most of all desire. In the next moment she melted, opening, pressing closer. Then she kissed him back—hard.