He was gone almost instantly, his retreat swift and silent. He took her bag with him. And her passport.
Stella paused, unwilling to take the fateful step inside. She knew that Prince Eduardo De Santis would be waiting for her in that room. The piratical playboy Prince, the handsome patron of all things adventurous and glamorous in San Felipe. Capricious, spontaneous, spoiled.
Everything she wasn’t.
Yet he was her one spectacular mistake. Her one tryst. The one thing her supremely disciplined self had been unable to resist that afternoon. And it seemed she was going to pay a fearsome price for her moment of Prince Eduardo’s kind of fun. So now she was more than wary. But, despite the time she’d had to prepare herself, she felt utterly unready to face him. She had no uniform to hide behind, no tactical plan to ensure she won this battle.
And it was going to be a battle—against herself as much as against him.
‘Don’t stand out there all day.’ His voice carried through the open door. ‘Strange things sometimes happen if you stay in the sun too long.’
It was part command, part dry warning, part pointed reminder. And just his voice had her reacting in ways she didn’t want to. Memories flickered at the edge of her mind. Teasing and tempting.
She couldn’t let herself remember. Couldn’t let herself fall again. She’d lost too much already.
Prince Eduardo De Santis wasn’t so much a ruthlessly wicked rake as a seductive buccaneer. He didn’t leave masses of broken hearts in his wake, more soft-eyed smiles and ‘if only he would’ sighs. But he never ‘would’—Eduardo was too much of a freedom loving soul ever to be caught fast.
For many, that was part of his allure.
No one had a bad word to say about him, but he was most definitely not all good. He did as he pleased, and pleased as he did. A lover of action and adventure, he was a princely poster boy for all San Felipe’s outdoor amusements.
And didn’t she know that fact intimately?
Steeling herself, she walked into the room, blinking to hasten the adjustment her eyes needed to make from the brilliant sunshine to this dim interior. Despite the spots dancing in front of her eyes she saw him immediately. And quelled her quiver. He was as devastating as ever.
Tall, with thick black hair worn slightly too long, adding to his air of unruliness. His muscled body was clad in a black tee shirt and black jeans. He looked like a special ops assassin—only his feet were bare, in that arrogantly easy way that was so uniquely him. He leaned against the closed door, watching her with eyes that shone remarkably blue. The exact intense hue of the lapis lazuli the islands were famed for.
That burning sensation curled within her. Her cells smoked at the mere sight of him. And her heart thundered, sending yet more heat around her body.
Always she’d thought him handsome. Any woman with eyes would. But the pictures online and in the papers and magazines never did him justice. In real life Eduardo was even more impressive. And the utter, skin-tingling thrill of being held captive in his sight...
Stella also knew the reality of his perfectly sculpted body. The glorious size of him. The force. The skill.
She halted her mind again. She had to regain some control over this situation. Over herself.
Her pulse skittered. Her palms dampened as nerves choked her. She couldn’t control that slick softening deep within her.
How could a man just stand there silently, yet exert such power over her treacherous body? How could he, with just one look, render her mute and immobile? How could she still want?
Pull it together.
Because if that medical report was accurate there was something far more serious to worry about. Someone other than herself she had to protect. And Stella had been trained to protect and defend what was most precious. Freedom—of a nation and its people. Including its future people.
So she paused just inside the door and looked back at him. Keeping her distance. And her cool.
The long silence built even more of a barrier between them.
Her nerves stretched as each second ticked on. As he regarded her so steadily with those captivating, all-seeing eyes. As he waited.
‘You can’t just kidnap civilians on a whim.’ She finally spoke, making a stand for independence.
‘You’re not a civilian.’ His voice held condemnation.
He’d been so angry when he’d found out who she was.
‘I am now,’ she countered, every bit as pointedly.
Something shifted in his eyes, but he didn’t answer. Didn’t acknowledge what had been taken from her or that he’d been instrumental in that loss.