Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!
Today we have a smooch from Contract for Marriage by Barbara DeLeo, but first ...
the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Jo Fereday!
Congratulations, Jo! Can you please contact Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org
and she'll send you a copy of Bella's Impossible Boss.
And now for today's Sunday Smooch from
Pregnant and alone after her ex lover’s death, magazine editor RUBY FLEMING’s not about to give up her home to the man who broke her heart—until she discovers her mother left half of the estate to somebody else, and realizes she’s trapped.
Property tycoon CHRISTO MANTAZIS wants the one thing his riches can’t buy—the villa where his mother has lived and worked as housekeeper for forty years. That it’s the same house he was banished from after being caught making love to the owner’s irresistible daughter stirs up old memories and sweetens his desire.
When Christo offers a marriage of convenience to break the deadlock, Ruby knows it’s the only way for them to get what they want. Ruby needs her baby to have the link to its past, Christo needs his mother to retain her home, and for him to have the child he could never father.
But it’s another need—to have Christo again—that Ruby must resist at all costs.
Set up: After much agonising, Ruby has agreed to a marriage of convenience with Christo. They've just attended a charity ball held in Christo's name and are leaving the crowded venue via a private elevator. A pregnant Ruby is feeling a little sick in the lift.
“Oh,” she said, as her mouth dried. She pressed against the far wall, but the ground seemed to suddenly drop away, and her heart was in her throat.
Christo took a step closer. “Are you okay?”
She pulled her tongue across her lips as the dropping sensation intensified.
When he next spoke his voice was closer, a whisper against her cheek, and as she lifted her lashes, he was centimeters away. “It’s the nature of the mechanism,” he murmured. “It makes everything swifter, less steady.”
The second she shut her eyes, the dropping sensation stopped. When she blinked open, Christo had his hand pressed against the stop button. “We’re between floors now. Not much longer. Are you okay?” Concern gathered at the corner of his eyes. “Maybe you’re more sensitive to motion now that you’re pregnant.”
She pulled in a calming breath and smoothed damp palms down her dress. “Thank you.” She managed a dry whisper. “I’ll be okay in a minute.”
“It’s a strange feeling. Like being out of control.” His voice was a low, comforting rumble. “That’s something you and I always had in common, neither wanting to feel out of control.”
The skin across her breasts heated and she could feel it crawl up her neck. “True.” She’d been in this situation before with Christo, when the pull of his body had caused her to lose focus, forget what was important.
He shifted his weight so he was a fraction closer, and all air seemed to siphon from the cell-like space. “Do you feel out of control now, Ruby?” Desire flashed bright across his features, from the set of his shoulders to his look of certain promise.
The tips of her breasts pearled tight and she lifted her chin. He could’ve been speaking about her reaction to this lift or her body’s reaction to him. Every part of her hungered for him to move closer.
“Say the word and I’ll start the elevator again.”
In the smallest of movements she shook her head and, as she did, he brushed his knuckles down her cheek. When she reached up to place her hand on his, he dipped his face and claimed her lips.
His warm, solid mouth met hers and Ruby couldn’t help herself. Obeying only her body, she pulled him closer, reveling in the strength and surety of him inside the tiny space. As he opened his mouth and his tongue slipped between her lips, she dug her hands into his hair.
His fresh, ocean scent ignited the adrenaline already shooting through her veins, and when he walked her back to the solidity of the lift wall it was as if nothing could ever frighten her again.
Every sound around them—her breath in short, sharp bursts, the slide of her dress silk against his fine suit—echoed around and around.
“Christo.” She tried to catch her breath as his fingers found the shoestring straps at her shoulders and slipped beneath. “Who are you?” The steely man at the pool when she’d first arrived, the protective son, the charity founder—they all seemed so different, but were all wrapped in the skin that lay so close to her now.
For a moment he said nothing, just drifted his fingers across her inch by inch as his gaze bored into hers. “A man who needs to taste a woman.” He growled the words, pushing the straps down so the swell of her breast was exposed and he reached down to kiss her there.
Her mind swirling in confusion and need, Ruby dragged his face back to hers and kissed him, long and deep again. Searching the warm cave of his mouth with her tongue, every part of her body cried out to be closer.
He returned the depth of her kiss, and his hands slipped in unison down her quivering sides, past her rising breasts, her body aching for his touch beneath. As his hands traveled lower, she let her own fingers trail the lengths of his arms, from the tight biceps only a gym trainer could own to forearms, then to hands she imagined pinning her to a bed. His kiss, the intensity of him, took her breath away.
Looking up she was startled by the image in the mirrored wall opposite. She had a view of his jacketed back, her fingers buried in his hair, his hands traveling down her body and a delicious shiver ran across her skin.
As his fingers curled into the fabric of her dress, she arched her neck, inviting the ribbon of kisses he trailed hot and damp. Burrowing her hands under his suit jacket, she slid them across crisp cotton, searching across the rigid stomach muscles—an instrument she could play.
And then, despite her racing heart, her fingers froze.
The only place for her hand to go was under his shirt, to the heated flesh she could feel beneath. And then what? Move her touch to his trousers? The buckle at the front? Everything—the marriage going ahead, securing the house for her child, being unaffected by Christo’s presence in her life—depended on her not taking this further. She’d surrendered to him once before. It wouldn’t happen again. If she lost perspective and everything came crashing down, they’d all suffer.
She stiffened and he pulled away.
Reaching for the straps that had slipped from her shoulders, she righted herself then brushed away hair that had fallen across her face. “Christo...” She caught her breath. “Could you start the lift again, please?”
He didn’t move, the fiery imprint of his palms on her thighs constant. “You don’t feel out of control anymore?” His breath was warm against her hair.
Her answer scraped the back of her throat. “I think we should go.”
He stepped away, and his warming shroud was replaced by cool distance. She busied herself with smoothing her dress and tucking loose strands of hair behind her ears.
“I’m sorry,” she said. He stood facing her, back to the doors. “I don’t know what came over me.”
“Motion sickness?” His lips turned up in a perfect crescent.
As she spoke, his head moved in acknowledgement but the understanding in his face spoke to her. This was about him convincing her that she should give her whole self to him. When he had her in his bed she’d be fulfilling his every need, just as she had when they’d been teenagers.
It wouldn’t happen. She’d lost all judgment when it came to Christo Mantazis’s manipulation once. For her own sake, and for that of her baby, she needed to keep that part of herself out of his reach.
“Thank you for coming tonight,” he said. “I think it was a successful evening all around.”
With a sudden jolt, the elevator came to a halt. Ruby tugged in a breath as Christo pulled back the door of the shiny black cage, stood aside, and let her walk out first. Of course it was successful. He knew exactly where her weak spot for him was, and she needed to keep it guarded. To keep her baby’s family stable, she had to never let him see that vulnerable part of her again.
What she did need to do was negotiate the limousine ride home, endless nights with Christo under the same roof, and the burning understanding that she still wanted him—only much, much more than before.
And now he knew it, too.
To be in the draw to win a e-copy of Contract for Marriage, just tell me about your most interesting/scary/funny elevator/car journey!
Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from Anna Campbell will be posted!