‘Such arrogance,’ she said, trying to mask her breathlessness. But he was right. She was melting. ‘You’re risking another knock-back.’
She was used to soldiers coming on to her. And civilian men she passed when in full uniform. But in those cases it wasn’t that they wanted her. It was about the power play—they thought she was tough and that she presented them with a challenge. Most of them only did it in an attempt to make her feel uncomfortable.
Eduardo De Santis didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable, or even to challenge her. This was basic attraction—raw and real and undeniable. Even she, as lacking in intimate experience as she was, recognised that this was a fireflash and it wouldn’t easily be doused.
‘You want to fight with me?’ he asked softly.
Intuition told her there was more to his meaning, and the thought of physically sparring with him sent that slick of something hot and charged to her lower belly. She felt him adjusting his hold on her, as if he were assessing her strength.
‘You ready for another black eye?’ she parried.
‘As long as you kiss me better everywhere you bruise me.’
Was he even aware he was holding her more firmly? More closely? She gazed into his hyper-alert brilliant blue eyes.
Of course he was aware.
‘Naturally I would reciprocate,’ he added.
‘I don’t bruise,’ she lied.
‘But you do.’ He lifted his hand to her face again. ‘I see them here. Bruises in your eyes. That’s why I came in after you.’
She’d been so focused on getting to the water and cooling off she hadn’t even seen him. She’d thought the bay was empty and she was alone.
Now she was alone with him. The most handsome man on the planet. The most provocative. And the only one to whom she’d had this kind of reaction.
She felt his body tauten, and hers softened as his erection pressed against her. But then to her intense disappointment he relaxed his hold, fractionally pulling away from her body in a polite action that made her grit her teeth. She wanted to feel his attraction to her. She wanted to know that she wasn’t the only one bitten by this madness. Raw need snaked its way up her spine and clawed into every limb. She didn’t want him to let her go. Not yet.
‘I thought you were putting yourself in danger?’ His voice had gone husky.
She was in danger right now. But she couldn’t tear her glance away from his. ‘I’m fine.’
But she wasn’t entirely. She wanted him closer again.
‘You’ve ruined your suit.’
‘And my shoes. And my phone. Indeed, the damage you’ve caused is significant.’
The desire to flirt, to play, to entice him as much as he was her, overruled her usual restraint. ‘Are you going to throw me in a dungeon?’
‘I’m giving the matter serious consideration.’ He smiled, but watched her closely. ‘This is called Pirates’ Cove for a reason. Those rocks in the sea provide a thorny path to hidden caves once full of treasure... Not to mention the rumours of a secret tunnel connecting this cove to the island over there.’ He nodded in the direction just behind her, to the small island reserved solely for the Princes’ use.
He thought she was a tourist. Not surprising when her accent was not as strong as his. She’d spent too many years overseas at boarding school, banished from her home.
‘Isn’t that your private island? Where you keep your women?’ Teasing him was irresistible. She could be a tourist for a moment, couldn’t she? Not a soldier who’d promised to serve his family.
‘Bound to the beds—that’s right.’ Laughter lit his eyes—and so did sensual promise.
He would, she realised, do just that. And, more appallingly, she would let him. She touched the tip of her tongue to her dreadfully dry lips.
‘So you are a pirate prince? Is that why you’re here—stealing treasure?’
Stealing hearts. He was scooping hers up without a second thought. And so easily he wasn’t even aware of it.
‘Who’s the pirate really?’ he challenged, gently shaking her. ‘The mysterious woman in black? Strong, agile. Thief of thoughts.’
‘Thoughts?’ she queried.
‘Si. I can think of nothing but you,’ he admitted in a low tumble of words. ‘I no longer care about what I should be doing. That I ought to be moving. All I can think about is...’
‘Is...?’ she prompted, melting.