Wife By Force

By: Caro LaFever

No gaggle of women cooed a welcome.

Everything was quite quiet. Except for the rhythmic splash of water.

From the man in the pool.

For one stolen moment, she let herself look. Look at the wet, gleaming muscles as they bunched and moved under his skin. Look at the long, strong arms as they arched over his head.

His powerful body cut through the water, all elegance and masculinity.

Whatever his faults, Dante Casartelli was a man who demanded attention. She had to admit, if only to herself, he demanded her womanly attention. Her body told the story. Beneath her bikini top, her nipples tingled. Between her legs, lust burned.

Her anger burned even hotter, however. The anger she’d held onto for these last two days whenever she remembered. Remembered the kiss. Remembered his mouth and his lips and his heat. Remembered how she’d said no and he hadn’t listened.

Typical of Dante Casartelli not to pay any attention to what she wanted.

Typical of men in general.

She’d learned that well with Gerry, too.

She hated this man. Even more than her dead husband. Because even though she’d said no with her mouth, she’d said yes as well. She hated that somehow this man, this man she hated, awakened a desire deep inside her she’d never felt for any other man.

But she was a woman with a brain, not only a body.

After a long sleepless night, she’d forgiven herself. Her slip had only lasted a moment and wouldn’t be repeated. She only needed to stay far away from the man she hated and the attraction she rejected.

Yet here she was.

Right back in his vicinity. Right back into lust.

There must have been some mix-up with the invitation. Maybe she was supposed to be here tomorrow. Come to think of it, what was he doing here in the middle of the day? The man worked constantly, or so his sisters said. He should be at his headquarters in Florence, telling people what to do.

Not here, swimming. Half-naked.

Causing a flutter of lust in her abdomen.

She turned to walk back to her car. Taking a few steps down the path, she didn’t quite run, but...

“Running away?” A deep silky voice slid around her.

The accusation stopped her cold. She never ran away now. Never. Turning, she met his gaze. “No.”

He’d put both of his arms on the edge of the pool and the action highlighted the bulge of his shoulder muscles. A trace of dark hair covered his pectorals.

Lara forced herself to stare at the surrounding gardens.

“It looked like you were leaving.”

“You’re mistaken.” Why couldn’t she have slipped away before he saw her? Now she was stuck. Her pride demanded she not run away.

“Good.” He lifted his long body out of the water, drawing her gaze once more. Pacing to one of the many lounge chairs lining the tiled patio, he picked up a towel and slid it over his hair, his torso lengthening, his skin glowing in the sun.

Her nipples tightened. She gave thanks for the extra covering of her pool dress.

“Vene.” He lowered the towel, gesturing to a chair right next to his. “Join me.”

“Where is everybody?” She stayed right where she was.

A black brow arched. “Everybody?”

“Your sisters.” Her hand waved pathetically in the air. “Their kids.”

“They were not invited.”

“But…but…” she sputtered. “Your housekeeper—”

“Invited you.”

He eased down on the lounge and closed his eyes. Relief spread through her, knowing his dark gaze was no longer fastened on her. Irritation quickly followed. “You tricked me.”

One eye opened at her accusation. “How did I do that?”

“You knew I wouldn’t come—”

“Yet, here you are.” His eye closed. He took a deep breath in and the play of his muscles rippled under his skin.

The heat between her legs surged. “I have to leave.”

“You mean…run away.”

The challenge zapped steel up her spine. “I don’t run away.”

“You never did as a child,” he said, a soft slur to his words as if he were falling asleep. “I wouldn’t expect you to do it at present.”

She suddenly had the feeling she stood before two paths. Two roads leading to two very different conclusions. Which was absurd. This was nothing except an afternoon swim, with someone she despised instead of with a group of women she adored. He’d tricked her, and the resulting annoyance churning inside her would help her get through this miserable interlude without letting her libido go wild.

She walked to a chair one removed from his, laid out her towel, and eased her body down. Heat lapped up from the white tiles, warming the tension from her limbs. The breeze whispered along her face and legs, providing a bit of coolness.

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