As I bid Emilia goodbye and leave the house, heading for the car where my bride is waiting for me to take her to our wedding night, I wonder...
I wonder if I’ve made a terrible mistake.
SOMETHING HAS CHANGED.
Before we left the Benenati estate, Matteo was... well... the husband of my dreams. No one looking at our wedding would ever have guessed that it was a sham... not even myself. Though we could easily enough have had a civil service, he had clearly gone to not a little trouble to make sure that the day held pleasant memories for me.
When he’d carried me off of the dance floor, I had felt feelings stirring for him that I’d never felt before. Since we’d known each other for such a short amount of time, I guess I would have to say that I had a crush. Yes, a crush... on my husband.
Which is just too weird for words.
I hadn’t known what to expect, exactly, while we drove to wherever he was taking me. But after our flirtation, and the fact that we’d both admitted how much we wanted each other, I had thought... I don’t know. That there would have been some kissing. Maybe even more... and I wanted it. Was even anticipating it.
But when Matteo slid into the car after me, something had changed. He’d gone from playful, full of sensual promise, to withdrawn. Tense.
I’d tried to tease him back to the way he’d been, flirting as best as I knew how. When my hand had brushed his leg, he’d jumped as though I’d burned him and retreated to the far side of the car.
It was a long ride to our destination... a massive, stunning white yacht. By this point I wasn’t surprised to discover that it belonged to Matteo.
But now I’m sitting alone in the room that he showed me to... a room separate from his own! He bid me goodnight, then shut the door in my face.
“Damn it.” This kind of turnaround doesn’t happen without a catalyst. I sit on the bed, worrying the silken duvet between my fingers as I turn things over in my mind. Though my kneejerk reaction is to feel rejected, when I think about the look in his eyes, the way he kissed me before I went out to the car...
Someone said something to him to make him wary. And though I didn’t see her there, I’d bet money that I don’t have that it was Emilia.
My irritation is a palpable thing as I pace, sort through the contents of the bag that Alberta, one of the maids, packed for me—everything is brand new—and try to figure out what to do.
The only reason that the idea of this marriage is tolerable to me is because it’s an excuse for me to be a bit wild, to explore the connection between Matteo and I that is apparent every time we’re in the same room.
I’m dying to explore that connection... to explore it all the way.
And, I think as I come across a little white nightie, I’ll be damned if that bitch Emilia is going to ruin my honeymoon with my sexy Italian fake husband.
My heart begins to hammer, pounding against my ribcage as I struggle to unzip the back fastening of my wedding dress. After it falls to the floor, I pick it up, hang it neatly in the closet.
I’m left in the strapless bra, bikini panties, thigh high stockings and heels that consist of the rest of my wedding day ensemble. I wonder who selected them... the wedding planners, or Matteo?
The thought of him deliberating, selecting these very garments for me to wear has my blood pumping through my veins, hot and fast. Slowly I remove the heels, the stockings, then the rest. The nightgown slides over my head easily, settling into place like it was made for me... and for all I know, it was.
Swallowing thickly, I turn to look at myself in the mirror, and almost swallow my tongue.
I’d worried that I wouldn’t look like myself today... that I would be primped and polished until nothing of Riley remained. And while I was certainly pampered with a haircut, a massage, a pedicure, I still look like me. Just... more expensive.
The nightgown doesn’t alter this. The pretty braids, the soft makeup... I look like a blushing bride. A virgin one, waiting for her husband in a little white nightgown that screams both innocence and sex appeal.
You are attractive, Riley. You can do this. You can seduce your... husband.
“Hoo boy.” Before I lose my nerve, I light the scented candles that are strewn about the room, note the vase full of white roses and the empty ice bucket.
It reinforces the notion that at some point Matteo’s plans were right in line with my own. And now I’m going to go coax them back into that line.
I hurry to the door of the room that Matteo has told me is mine, before I can lose my nerve. The corridor is dark, quiet—Matteo assured me that it is private, off limits to the crew.
At the end of the hall, I can make out the soft glow of a lamp. Exhaling heavily, I force myself to pad along the hardwood in my bare feet.
The room is a den of sorts... a very exquisite, expensive man cave. A chair and a sofa upholstered in hunter green leather are bolted to the floor, and teak bookshelves line the walls.
He has music playing... Coldplay, I realize after listening for a second. The selection surprises me... Matteo seems steeped in the traditions of his family, his culture. I don’t know why that means I thought he’d be listening to a tarantella or something.
It reminds me that there is much I don’t know about my husband. And, I think as my eyes search the room and find him silhouetted against the railing on the deck outside, much that I would like to.
I enter the room silently; the smell of his scotch hangs heavily in the air. My heart leaps into my throat as I take a moment to study him, the way the moonlight outside plays over the strong features of his ridiculously handsome face... a profile that holds more than a hint of melancholy.
I want him, for however long I can have him.
I could watch him like this forever. But as though that connection between us is a tangible thing, he stills, like a wolf scenting his prey.
He turns, and my pulse skitters.
“Riley. What are you doing here?” Slowly, as though he is being moved against his will, his gaze moves from my face, down my neck, my breasts, my belly and legs and back up. I burn everywhere he looks, his stare awakening something in me that I’ve never felt before.
I shift, nervous, and when his eyes widen I realize that the movement has made my braless breasts sway beneath the very thin silk.
“You know why I’m here.” My voice doesn’t sound like my own brash one, full of nerves as it is. Catching the hem of my little nightgown in nervous fingers, I twist it, all the while drinking in my new husband.
His shirt has been untucked from his slacks, and is unbuttoned, revealing golden skin stretched tight over... oh my. Over one hell of a stomach. Clearly when he’s not cooped up in the office, Matteo Benenati works out.