Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!
Today we have a smooch from Captive in the Spotlight, but first ...
the winner of the Sunday Smooch Giveaway two weeks ago (with apologies for the lateness of this announcement!) is -- Linda Hills
Can you please contact lee Christine at leechristine59 (at) gmail (dot) com to receive your copy of In Safe Hands
And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Captive in the Spotlight.
Domenico has spirited Lucy away from Rome and unwanted paparazzi attention. As the young and pretty woman convicted of killing his brother, one of Italy's richest men, every move she makes is newsworthy. Desperate to escape the press, Lucy accepts the offer of sanctuary, only to discover she's not alone. Domenico, the man she'd once almost fallen for, and who believes he has every reason to hate her, is staying there too and there's unfinished business between them.Note: this is an almost-kiss!
As if sensing him, she turned her head. 'You! What are you doing here?' She spun to face him, legs planted wide and hands clenched at her sides, a model of aggressive challenge.
Except for the robe’s gaping neckline and the flutter of cotton around bare thighs that highlighted her femininity.
Domenico reminded himself he liked his women accommodating. Soft and pliant. Warrior queens with lofty chins and defiance in every sinew held no appeal.
His body’s wayward response angered him and guilt pricked. This woman had destroyed Sandro.
‘This is my property. Or had you forgotten?’
‘You implied I’d be here alone.’
‘Did I? Are you sure?’ Of course she wasn’t. He’d chosen his words carefully. Even to his enemies, Domenico didn’t lie. Seeing her skittishness he’d deliberately neglected to mention he’d arrive here today. ‘I fail to see what my travel plans have to do with you.’
He waited for her to splutter her indignation. But she merely surveyed him through slitted eyes. He sensed she drew her defences tight, preparing for battle.
Was she like this with everyone or just him?
‘You came to make sure I don’t steal the silver.’ The sarcastic jibe almost hid her curiously flat tone. Yet he heard that hint of suppressed emotion, as if she was genuinely disappointed.
As if what he thought mattered.
Domenico frowned, instinct and intellect warring. He knew what she was, yet when he looked at her he felt…
Abruptly she pulled her robe in tight, as if only now realising the loose front revealed the shadow of her cleavage. Methodically she knotted the belt, all the while holding his gaze. Why did it feel like she was putting on armour, rather than merely covering herself?
Did she know with the light behind her, the wrap revealed rather than concealed her curves? Was it a deliberate ploy to distract him?
His voice was harsh. ‘I leave it to my security staff to watch for thieves.’
Did she flinch? He remembered her rosy flush in court when evidence had been presented about the jewellery she’d been given by or stolen from Sandro.
No sign of a blush now.
‘What do you want?’ Her insolence made his hackles rise.
It was on the tip of his tongue to deny he wanted anything but pragmatism beat pride. He was here for one reason only and the sooner he fixed it the sooner he could put Lucy Knight firmly in the past.
‘I do have some business to discuss with you but-’
‘Ha! I knew it!’ She folded her arms and Domenico had to force his gaze above the plump swell of her breasts, accentuated by the gesture.
‘Knew what?’ To his chagrin he’d missed something. He who never missed a nuance of any business negotiation.
‘That it was too good to be true.’ Her lip curled. ‘No one gives anything for nothing. Especially you.’ Her gaze flicked him from head to toe as if she read his body’s charged response to her. His skin drew tight. Fury spilled and pooled. At her dismissive tone. At himself for the spark of arousal he couldn’t douse.
‘You’re here, aren’t you? Safe from the media?’
‘But at what price?’ She stepped close, eyes flaring wide as if she felt it too, the simmer of charged awareness, palpable as a caress against overheated flesh. ‘There are strings attached to this deal, aren’t there? A price I have to pay?’
Domenico looked down his nose with all the hauteur six centuries of aristocratic breeding could provide. No one doubted his honour. Ever.
‘I’m a man of my word.’ He let that sink in. ‘I offered you sanctuary and you have it. There are no strings.’
Yet if she hadn’t been so stressed yesterday she’d have made sure of that before agreeing to his offer.
Domenico muffled a sliver of guilt that he’d taken advantage of her vulnerability. The stakes were too high, the trouble she could cause too severe for him to have second thoughts.
Her perfectly arched eyebrows rose. ‘I’m free to leave?’
Domenico stepped back and gestured to boats moored in the bay. ‘I will even provide the transport.’
He wished she’d take him up on the offer. Yes, he wanted more from her but instinct warned him to be rid of her. He didn’t relish the discordant tumble of his reactions to her. There was nothing logical or ordered about them. She made him feel…things he thought long dead.
Her eyes bored into his, as if she sought the very heart of him. ‘But you want me out of the limelight.’
‘Of course.’ He shrugged. ‘But I’m not keeping you prisoner. There are laws in this country.’
Her breath hissed and she stiffened, reading his implication. That one of them at least was honest and law-abiding.
Her mouth tightened but otherwise her face was blank. So much for vulnerability. Lucy Knight was tough as nails.
‘If you’re staying…’ He looked at her expectantly but she said nothing. ‘We can discuss business when you’re dressed.’ He glanced at his watch. Eleven o’clock. ‘Shall we say midday?’
‘Why delay? I’d rather know what you want.’
She spoke as if he hid something painful from her. He almost laughed at the idea. Once he made his offer she’d be eager enough.
‘You’re hardly dressed for business.’
She stuck her hands on her hips, her pose challenging and provocative. ‘You’d be more comfortable if I wore a suit? Why can’t you tell me now?’ Again those delicate eyebrows rose, as if she silently laughed at him.
Something snapped inside.
He stalked across till he stood close enough to inhale the scent of soap and fragrant female flesh. Close enough to hook an arm round her and haul her flush against him if he chose. Instead he kept his hands clenched at his sides.
She refused to shift. Even though she had to tip her head back to look at him, exposing her slim throat. Heat twisted in his belly, part unwilling admiration at her nerve, part implacable fury.
His gaze held hers as his pulse thumped once, twice, three times. The artery at her throat flickered rapidly and she swallowed. Yet she didn’t look away.
Charged seconds ticked by. Her pupils dilated. His senses stirred. Did he imagine that hint of musky arousal in his nostrils? The quiver of anticipation in the air?
Her breasts rose with her rapid breathing, almost but not quite brushing against him. The woman staring back defiantly was no modest, unprotected innocent.
The thought pulled him up. He’d almost forgotten this was about her, not him.
She wasn’t as unaffected as she pretended. He saw the fine tremor running under her skin. Her tongue flicked out to swipe her lips and he bit back a smile. For it wasn’t a consciously slow, seductive movement but sure evidence her mouth had dried. Nerves or arousal?
Domenico leaned close, letting the heat of her body drench him. Her lashes flickered and her trembling pulse accelerated. His quickened too.
Holding her gaze, he reached out and snagged her belt. Instantly she stiffened, but she didn’t retreat.
Was that a challenge in her eyes?
Her breath was a warm, sweet sigh against his chin as he tugged the bow undone, loosening the fabric around her.
Domenico bent his head and her pursed lips softened. Her eyes widened and something flickered there. Fear or anticipation?
‘My office in an hour. You’ll be less easily distracted if you’re fully dressed.’
He straightened, spun on his heel and left her.
Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from Robyn Grady's latest release with Entangled will be posted!