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Download Free "michelle Reid" Epub Ebooks For, The De Santis Marriage (mills & Boon D-Day Landing Beaches: The Guide by Editions Heimdal Free PDF. Italian tycoon Luciano De Santis is breathtaking in every way: he has dark good- looks The De Santis Marriage ePub (Adobe DRM) download by Michelle Reid . The De Santis Marriage book. Read 58 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. Italian tycoon Luciano De Santis is breathtaking in every wa.

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Italian tycoon Luciano De Santis is breathtaking in every way: he has power, success--and a devastating effect on women. Now Luc needs a bride--and he's. Italian tycoon Luciano De Santis is breathtaking in every way: he has power, success - and a devastating effect on women. Now Luc needs a bride - and he's. MICHELLE REID CHAPTER ONE THE WHOLE pre-wedding party thing was revving up like a gigantic engine and Lizzy had never felt less like.

And it was absolutely there in that dizzily irresistible brush you allowed your lips and the tender moist tip of your tongue to make against my throat. He said nothing, just held her eyes with one of his disconcertingly steady looks and lifted up a hand to her cheek with a crazily disturbing gentle touch. But the protest glowed in her eyes as she came back downstairs dressed in a soft green wraparound dress that clung lovingly to her figure and swirled around her knees. I loved this book. La Scala waited for no man, not even the higher echelons of Italian society she was about to mingle with, she mocked as she slid her feet into a pair of high slender heeled silver mules, then turned to apply a coating of clear gloss to her lips.

With an OverDrive account, you can save your favorite libraries for at-a-glance information about availability. Find out more about OverDrive accounts. Michelle Reid grew up on the southern edges of Manchester, the youngest in a family of five lively children. Now she lives in the beautiful county of Cheshire, with her busy executive husband and two grown-up daughters.

She loves reading, the ball We want your feedback! Click here. He was too much of everything. Too big and tall, too lean and dark, too sexy and handsome—too crushingly cool and terrifyingly enigmatic, she decided as she hooked up her little silver beaded evening bag and headed for the door.

Luc had come as such a shock to Lizzy that she had not been able to stop her eyes from constantly drifting in his direction because he was so far away from her idea of the kind of man her friend liked. Happy—in love again—high as a kite.

Yet she still had not been able to stop the next quiver from making its strike. It had been the moment when his hand arrived at the base of her spine to politely usher her out of the lift that the next quiver had struck, shooting down her front like a flaming arrow and making her jerk away from him like a scalded cat, only to feel really foolish for doing it.

Now here she was waiting to ride the same lift down to the mezzanine floor of the hotel where they were all gathering for drinks before they left. The party was too small, the reserved boxes at La Scala too intimate. Her only hope was to manage to wangle it so she sat in a different box from him. There was a mirror hanging on the wall by the lift and she diverted her attention to it to push the stray curl off her brow. It flopped back down again like a renegade.

But giving in and letting her hair hang down around her shoulders in a tumble of loose glossy corkscrews had only made her face look paler and her grey-green eyes look too big. Like a frightened rabbit, she likened, wrinkling her nose as she gave the errant curl a teasing tug and watched it spring back into place again.

It had to be that precise moment that the lift doors slid open to reveal none other than the great man himself. Their eyes clashed for a startled second. Brief amusement lit the unusual gold colour of his eyes.

Coming in—heck, she thought, letting her eyes run over him. And the idea of stepping into a lift with him again did strange things to the nerves in her legs as she made them move. Finding a tense smile to flick his way, she then turned her back on him to watch as the doors closed them in. Silence hummed as they waited. She could feel his eyes on her. Tension made her bite into the soft tissue of her inner lip. Lizzy had to fight down an inner wince.

She knew what she looked like and she knew what he was seeing—the poor best friend decked out in the dress his betrothed had worn a couple of months ago at the party in London. As she went to step out that hand arrived at the base of her spine again and this time she froze where she stood.

Lizzy made herself walk forward, stingingly aware how his hand remained exactly where it was this time—as if he was taunting her silly reaction to him. Sofia Moreno went pale. The car glided through them and on through extensive gardens to pull to a smooth halt beneath a covered portico to the side of the house. But glancing towards the lake now as Luc helped her alight from the car, she was stunned to see that it was no longer there!

All view of the lake had been totally blanked out by a wall of sturdy white canvas that had been erected along the cliff edge—she assumed to frustrate greedy camera lenses from taking pictures of the wedding celebration about to take place. The whole celebrity-style over-the-top show intimidated her from that moment onward. If Bianca had been here Lizzy would have taken it all in her stride with a dose of healthy humour to help her along.

But then if Bianca had been here, she would have been the bride at this wedding and taking the sparkling centre of attention as her due, with Lizzy happy to fade into the background, as she liked to do.

She had to stand beside her new husband and welcome their guests in from the church. His guests, she reminded herself. His wedding day. None of her friends had been invited, just her father, whose disapproval still showed when he arrived and gave her a stiff hug. Her eyes pleaded with him for understanding, but all he saw when he looked at her was a woman like her mother, and there was no forgiveness in him at all. It was like being deserted by her only ally and she found she had to fight back the tears as she watched him turn his back on her and walk away.

But Lizzy just gave a silent shake of her head and blinked the tears away. In all the years since her mother had left them, Lizzy had tried her best to show none of her wayward traits. The endless stream of elegant guests kept on coming. She smiled, she endured the looks of cool interest, the polite comments and the sometimes not so polite.

Hurt clung heavily to her chest while her face maintained its placid composure and Luc kept her close to him, with his arm strapped at an angle across her back so his hand could rest in the indentation of her waist. Eventually they began to circulate. No one got to speak to either of them individually. His hand remained a firm clamp at her waist. He was showing a united front and no amount of teasing from his closer friends about his possessive attitude to his bride could budge him from her side.

Nothing touched him, she noticed.

The man had nerves of steel and no emotion at all. Yet she knew by the changing grip of his fingers on her waist that sometimes something violent erupted inside him, especially when they caught the edges of hushed conversations discussing Bianca and the fact that the poor jilted bride seemed to have slipped off the face of the earth. Was his response due to anger or pain? When she glanced up at his face, it, of course, revealed nothing.

The afternoon wore on with agonising slowness until she began to really feel the strain of maintaining her smile. Carla the giggly maid was waiting for her when she reached her bedroom. She provided the answers as she helped her out of her wedding dress. But the protest glowed in her eyes as she came back downstairs dressed in a soft green wraparound dress that clung lovingly to her figure and swirled around her knees.

Luc was already waiting at the bottom of the stairs for her. He had changed too, into a soft coffee-coloured linen suit and a simple tee shirt that made him look cool and casual and superbly stylish and just too darn sexy to be fair. He looked up at her and something flared in his eyes that made her steps falter as her heart gave a fluttering stir. Then the expression was gone and he was holding out a hand in a silent command for her to continue down the rest of the stairs.

When she came close enough, he took hold of her hand and drew her towards him. His lips arrived at her temple; she felt the heat from his body warm against hers. He just sounded sardonic to her. In the process of gently releasing her hair from inside the jacket, Luc paused to look down at her, a strange expression swirling around in his dark golden eyes.

Lizzy stepped a little closer to him, her voice a hurried confiding whisper aimed at the taut solid skin at his throat. One second he was smoothing the jacket across her shoulders, the next his long fingers crushing the slender bones, and with a controlled strength he pulled her tight up against his chest and the rest of her argument was being thoroughly crushed by the kind of kiss that locked the breath in her throat. Pleasure flared out from its edges, sending her hands up to press hard against his chest in an attempt to push him away.

But he was going nowhere and neither was the kiss, the heated force of it sending her body into a straining arch against him. The so carefully draped jacket slithered from her shoulders to land on the ground by her feet and his arms folded her even closer—someone murmured something mocking, someone else uttered a dry laugh. Luc eased the pressure on her mouth by slow degrees and with tender stroking caresses.

Too shaken up by the whole public reminder, Lizzy just swallowed tensely and nodded. Then the slow-rolling swell of applause took off around the gathering as Luc was stepping back.

Stooping down to recover her fallen jacket, he tossed it casually over his shoulder as he straightened again, then turned to offer their audience a wry mocking bow. Laughter joined in with the clapping. Lizzy kept her eyes lowered and hated the wild blush that burned her cheeks. He tensed beside her. The sense of rejection was so total she just stared blindly at Luc as the colour slowly drained from her face.

With a soft curse, he drew her across the lawn and bundled her into the helicopter. A few minutes later and they were rising up above the temporary wall of white canvas and swinging round to face the lake where a whole armada of different sailing crafts clustered a short way out from the jetty, with their army of little media people scrambling, no doubt to get a picture of them leaving.

Beside her Luc made a tense, restless movement with his body. After that they finished the journey to the accompanying sizzle of his frowning impatience and her numbed silence. Lizzy stared out of the window as they skimmed over the top of the glistening blue lake. An hour later they were crossing the tarmac at Linate Airport to a private jet wearing the De Santis logo on its shiny white fuselage.

The interior was a luxurious statement to corporate living. Luc saw her seated, said something to a hovering steward, then strode off to check with his pilot. Two minutes later he was back, and the engines were running. He took the chair next to Lizzy and clipped home his seat belt, instructing her to do the same thing.

Today had been the worst day of her life and right now she felt like a traffic accident, one of the walking wounded that functioned by sheer instinct and nothing else. He was lounging in the seat beside her, the absolute epitome of casual nonchalance, but Lizzy saw the tension around his mouth.

Lizzy threw him a look of burning dislike. So she told him about her mother in a cool, flat, dignified voice, unaware that he watched every fleeting expression that passed across her face because she refused to look at him as she talked. The steward arrived then with coffee and sandwiches, bringing a halt to the conversation while he transferred everything from a tray to the low table in front of them. Luc waved the steward away when he went to pour out the coffee and leant forward to do it himself.

Sitting back in his seat, he took a sip from his own cup. But she felt it make its old strike at her solar plexus and frowned as to why it had.

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Opening her mouth to argue with him, she closed it again, because she realised he was probably right. For some unknown reason her mood lightened.

She even ate a couple of sandwiches and felt herself begin to relax. Expression as bland as he could make it, he waited for her nervous glance towards the door set into the bulkhead, then silently offered her a glass.

It was the for now that made her feel edgy, but it was the lazy challenge in his tone that made her take the brandy from him and defiantly toss it to the back of her throat. The brandy went straight to her head. She lasted a full long hard-fought-for hour before she succumbed to the need to lie down and close her dizzy eyes.

Luc offered to help her down the cabin. She refused with a stiff dignity that cost her plenty to make it all the way into the small bedroom without stumbling over her own feet. A few minutes later, wearing only her bra and panties, she was curling up beneath a soft duvet covered in the smoothest linen, and dropping into a muzzy sleep with what felt like the world playing drumbeats on her head.

She was hungry too, but the idea of getting up out of the comfortable bed and getting dressed to go out there and face Luc had her turning over in the bed with the intention of staying right where she—.

Shock froze the air in her body when she saw him. He was lying on his front right beside her with his dark head resting on the pillow next to her pillow and his wide naked shoulders glowing bronze in the soft light coming from the lamp on his side of the bed. From being completely relaxed to the point of a wonderful bonelessness, she was already in the process of tensing up when she realised he was asleep and she let the tension seep away again on an inner swirl of tingling relief.

Held by a curiosity she knew she should not be giving in to, Lizzy let her eyes roam over his arms, thrown up against the pillow, the width of his shoulders and long bronzed back exposed because the duvet had slipped down so low.

Her fingers scrambled at her own part of the duvet, inching it carefully over her shoulder because his nakedness reminded her about her own near nakedness. Was he naked—as in completely naked? The intimacy of the situation struck like a feather being drawn across the surface of her skin.

Her nostrils flared and she picked up the warm scent of him, clean yet so irresistibly male it sent the moist tip of her tongue sliding on a slow circuit of her warm lips for a reason she refused to examine. And the skin covering the muscles she could see shaping his body wore a sheen that made her think of suntan oil, though she knew the effect was due to his own natural oils conditioning his skin while he slept.

Her husband, she thought, trying the title out to see how it felt, and still found the concept as alien to her as having the two of them lying here together in this bed. Lizzy started, her eyes leaping up to his face.

He was awake. She tensed, her fingers gripping the duvet.

The De Santis Marriage

I would love to know why that is. Her voice trailed away, teeth pressing into her bottom lip when she realised what she had been about to say next.

Her fingers let go of the duvet so she could use them to push him back again, but it came as a tingling shock to her racing senses to feel the solid heat of his muscled body and the crisp warmth of his chest hair prickle against her palms. The whole situation was a tingling shock, she decided, snared by the living warmth of his leg weighing heavy on hers and the expression in his eyes as he continued to look down at her, tender and soft and still sleepy enough to make those shadowing eyelashes diffuse the hunter-like gleam from the gold.

She could even feel the steady beat of his heart where he pressed against her arm. He leant down and kissed her, not passionately or anything, just light and gently, yet she still jerked her head back, feeling besieged by his heat and his strength and his close proximity. He was expecting her to kiss him? No way, she thought, and gave him her response with a shake of her head. She let him taste her with a sensual slowness, her breath trapped in her chest.

By the time he pulled away again her heart was thumping heavily and her lips trembled in protest at the loss of his. You missed our first dinner together as man and wife and left me alone to contemplate the folly in urging my temperate bride to knock back brandy like a fully-fledged alcoholic. Her voice faded into nothing at the slow shake of his head. His mouth claimed her mouth with deep, sweet, sensual male hunger, and he pressed her back into the pillows with the weight of his body, driving the breath from her lungs.

Heat poured into every skin cell, the taste and the scent of him and the ravishing passion making her lose her death grip on the duvet so her hands could clutch at him for dear life. She barely noticed when he stripped the duvet away altogether; she just writhed with pleasure when she felt his hand stroke the length of her pale naked thigh.

Dragging his mouth from hers, he burned a dark golden look into her eyes. Then he made her groan when he reclaimed the kiss, his hand stroking upwards over the thin line of her panties to the flat of her stomach, the warmth of his skin against her oversensitised skin making her quiver and cling as he blazed a trail of burning possession over her taut, slender ribcage to the rounded thrust of her breasts.

Panic arrived in a self-conscious rush from her exposed thighs to her throat as he gently cupped his fingers around the firm, rounded fullness of her breast barely covered by the green flimsy mesh of her bra. She tried to push his hand away, but he caught hold of her wrist with his other hand, making the flurrying sound of her breath shiver from her body as he gently lifted her hand out of the way so he could sear a path of warm, moist kisses down the arching column of her throat and over the hectic pant of her other breast.

She cried out and went wild beneath him as the sensual lap of his tongue located her nipple, sending a clamouring shock of heat piercing sensation screaming through her head. With a softly uttered tense expletive he came back to her mouth, his hand sliding beneath her to draw her up against him. The next thing she knew the clasp of her bra had sprung free and he was lying her back against the pillows again and the scrappy bit of mesh was being trailed away.

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Then he was taking her mouth once again, crushing the pulsing hot softness of her lips and dipping deep and hungrily with his tongue at the same time that his hand closed around her breast again, naked now and so alive to his touch she cried out in half protest, half sense spinning pleasure, and grabbed blindly at his head, her fingers clawing into the glossy thickness of his hair. He kneaded and shaped and kissed her breathless. She could feel the tremors attacking him, feel the fevered flush of his body and the tension in him, trapped his groan with her tongue when he pressed the distended tightness of her nipple against his palm.

She should have known that if you arched and writhed and quivered against a man you were going to tip him over the edge. But she liked what he was making her feel, too much, and was much too greedy for more. And his hands were gliding everywhere now, caressing and learning what made her cry out and what made her writhe in shimmering pleasure. And his skin was like hot satin against her anxiously restless palms. She had never felt so totally out of control of her body and senses.

She was panting and whimpering against his mouth and he was breathing fast and unevenly. Reality should have arrived with the burgeoning thrust of his powerful erection pushing against her thigh at the same moment as he slid his hand between her legs and made that final intimate claim—but reality was nowhere. She was lost in a storm of heated pleasure.

Nothing prepared her for the power of this heated intrusion. There was just no way she could control her response. She arched and squirmed and found her mouth locking onto his as if it were the only way she was going to survive what was racing through her blood. Then he moved to strip the panties from her body and it was the rasping curse he uttered that brought her crashing back down to earth. Panic erupted from her like a heaving monster, and she pushed him away from her with the agonised strength helped by the stinging shot of adrenalin singing through her blood.

The pulsing silence that followed held the small cabin in a death grip except for the sound of her broken breathing. Her eyes felt so big and dark and glazed she was barely even able to see him through them.

Lizzy blinked, her eyes daring to focus on him still lying there with his long body so magnificently naked to his long brown feet.

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He had covered his eyes with an arm and the mouth beneath it was closed and tight. Unable to stop her eyes from raking over him, she stared at the potent evidence of his desire thrusting up from a thick cluster of virile dark hair.

Shocked by the blinding rush of heat that burned through her, she turned dizzily away with absolutely no idea what she was going to do next.

Jump on him, a wicked voice inside her suggested. Feeling the sting of total embarrassment, Lizzy reached behind her to hook the green mesh back into its rightful place. She shook her head and wished she still had her bra on, because she just might have found the courage to turn around and spit something vile at him. He was angry. It hit Lizzy like a blow that arched her aching spine some more.

She heard movement behind her to say he was getting off the bed, and like a wild thing she snatched up the only thing she had available—her wraparound top, which she dragged on. He too was pulling his clothes on; she could hear the rustle as she wrapped the top around her and tied it in an angry, tight, finger—trembling knot. Snatching up her skirt and shimmying into it, she finally felt brave enough to turn around. He was standing on the other side of the bed, with the bulkhead almost touching his broad shoulders.

And he was still so boldly naked she wished her ravished senses would just curl up and die. The soft light from the bedside lamp played across the flexing muscles in his shoulders as he pulled on his trousers, the taut clench of stomach and his hair-roughened chest.

Dragging her eyes away from him, she missed the way he lowered his own eyes to the burgeoning fullness of her breasts moulded by fine knit fabric so the tight peaks of her nipples pushed against the cloth.

He hooded his eyes, the old cold cynicism back with a vengeance. Bending down towards the bed, he picked up something. With that ruthless cut into her bravery, he pulled the black tee shirt on over his head, then strode towards the door. Then she looked down at the bra she now held in her fingers, glanced at her body and blushed to the roots of her hair. They finished the rest of the journey in a state of cool withdrawal from each other scattered with super-polite snatches of conversation now and then.

Eventually he produced a bulging briefcase and settled into his chair to concentrate—Lizzy wished she had something similar so that she could do the same thing. And to be quiet when the rich husband was concentrating, because the look on his stern profile told her that was what he expected her to do. Eventually she dozed again, curled into her seat with her shoes slipped off and her feet tucked beneath her and her head resting against the corner of the chair.

When she awoke it was to find herself covered with a soft blanket and Luc was still sitting beside her working away. She watched him for a while, sleepy eyes following the sudden flick on his pen when he scrawled something on the document he was reading, long fingers deft and supple and precise in their link with his brain.

The pen stopped and lifted. He turned to look at her, golden eyes not angry any more, just coolly detached. Lizzy nodded, still curled beneath the blanket. Lizzy glanced at his face. Which meant that either he was too confident for his own good, or she had made a mistake. Uncurling her feet from beneath her, she pushed aside the blanket and reached out and took the page from his lap.

She read it carefully, then handed it back to him without uttering a single word. IF LIZZY said it to shock Luc out of his cool composure, then she certainly succeeded, she saw, as burning dark colour swept across his high golden cheekbones and he launched to his feet sending paperwork scattering as he accidentally knocked against the table. Grabbing the back of his neck, he spun away from her.

Lizzy huddled in her seat. She left me. Lizzy swallowed thickly because she just had no defence to that. She had wanted him for so long the guilty feeling still creased her insides. Instead she sat down, fastened her seat belt and occupied her trembling fingers by folding up the blanket. The time is—twenty-one thirty-three. Luc closed the drinks cabinet with a telling snap, then came to sit down himself.

His hand still made that possessive anchor to her spine, though, when they left the plane, and the tense little quiver still made its strike down her front. Formalities were swift and efficient. The night air was hot and heavy with the seductive aroma of spice.

The car was a sturdy four-wheel drive with plenty of room to stack their luggage in the boot. It was death to any vague hope Lizzy might have had that they could return to some kind of normality after the ugly scene on the plane.

Pressing her lips together, she said nothing else, just stared at the shadowy shapes of an alien landscape sweeping past her window. Stop playing this pathetic torment with yourself. The house itself looked as if it had been transported here right off the set of a period movie.

But those hesitations were beginning to speak volumes. Her silly confession about her lack of sexual experience had given him the biggest turn-off of his life.

Now a wall was up and the detached cool was back, and it showed in the way he walked and the way he spoke so smoothly and quietly to the milling staff. Inside the house was just as beautiful as his Lake Como villa, but decorated differently in cool pastel shades. A huge fan hung from the ceiling gently humming away and disturbing her hair as she spun slowly on the heels of her shoes.

Swinging to face Luc, she found him standing with his eyes carefully hooded and his face like a blank golden space. Her own eyes flickered slightly as she moved them sideways to where a tiny creature with beautiful dark brown skin stood smiling shyly at her. Still Lizzy managed an adequate reply while sensing the tension that hit the man standing at her side. The bedroom suite was beautiful, a soothing melody of pale blues and ivory and soft eau-de-Nil.

Two maids were busy unpacking their bags for them. Another fan spun quietly above a huge mahogany four-poster bed, and yet another one hummed across the room above the French windows in front of which a table and two chairs stood, already set for two. You want to settle in. Well, that was one way of putting it, Lizzy supposed as she kept her smile fixed until all three had left the room.

Then she wilted like a dying flower into a chair, shoulders sinking, face paling, eyes feeling suddenly very empty as she stared at the huge four-poster bed with its drapes of fine white silk. One huge bed, two large dark mahogany wardrobes—her gaze drifted over to them next—and two sets of fancy luggage standing half unpacked in front of each.

Plus one wilting bride sitting here and a reluctant groom out there somewhere, probably downing brandy by the glassful while grimly ruing his lot. Getting up, she walked over to the suitcases to check which set belonged to her. She recognised nothing either in the cases or from what was hanging already in the wardrobe. Bending down, she flicked through a stack of soft designer lingerie. Sexy, every single set—purchased to seduce—plus bikinis in different styles and colours but no modest one-piece.

Then there were the clothes that shrieked designer at her—bright, modern, chic and sassy to reflect current fashion trends. Sighing, she turned and headed for the bathroom, then stood looking around it. One wickedly decadent deep plunge bath with optional whirlpool, two big shower cubicles, one toilet bowl and two white porcelain basins standing side by side above which hung mirrors and several glass shelves filled with bottles and tubes and jars of every beauty aid a woman could wish for.

On impulse she tried the handle and found that the window was unlocked. Pushing it open showed her a bleach-boarded veranda with white slatted rails. The wood was warm beneath her bare feet as she stepped onto it, the heat of the night kind of soothing, and she stood leaning lightly against the rail and rubbing her hair while she tried to make out what the view in front of her was like.

It was truly pitch-dark out there but she caught the frothing white roll of a wave as it came into shore. And as her eyes grew more used to the darkness she managed to make out the shape of a white-painted gazebo not far from the beach. He was standing beside the gazebo, nothing more than a shadowy bulk. This was crazy. Lizzy sighed. He arrived through the bedroom door as she was fastening her damp hair back with pins. Pushing a wide shoulder against the door frame, he slid his hands into his trouser pockets.

Tall, dark, handsome—sexy. Lizzy wanted to take her eyes off him but the flair that was happening in the pit of her stomach was stopping her from looking away. I was juggling weddings and brides and fathers-in-law and the media. Luc just grimaced, as sombre as hell now. Would you prefer to eat here or downstairs? End of subject, Lizzy recognised, her gaze drifting over to the romantic table set for two. He just nodded and straightened up from the door.

Five minutes later she walked down the stairs to find Nina waiting for her. He was sitting at a round dining table idly pinching prawns from a steaming bowl of pasta while he waited for her to arrive.

Another red hibiscus flower stood in a tiny white vase in the centre of the table and the candlelight came from several sources, flickering across the white tablecloth and against fine crystal wineglasses and his lean dark face. Nerve-ends fluttered in response to his sombre scrutiny, and Lizzy hated the self-conscious bloom she felt warm her cheeks.

Oh, I really needed to know that, Lizzy thought helplessly and muttered a husky thanks when he politely held her chair for her. Lizzy nodded. So, on a deep breath that pulled in a bit shaky, she reached out for the bowl of pasta and spooned a few helpings onto his plate, then did the same for her own. Luc produced a bottle of champagne from an ice bucket set by his chair and popped the cork. He just sent her a brief smile as he poured frothing foam into two crystal flutes.

It offended him. Nor did he always recognise a tease. The supper continued in near silence after that, his withdrawal from the sparring arena as obvious as the stern expression he wore on his face. The pale blue curtains had been drawn across the window and the intimate table for two had been cleared. The bed had been turned down and the lights in the room had been reduced to a misty glow either side of the bed. As she stared at the bed Lizzy hugged herself and shivered as if she were standing in the coldest place on earth.

She just crawled between the cool linen sheets, punched the pillow with a clenched fist, then laid her head on it and willed herself to go to sleep. It took hours—hours of lying there willing and wishing, and replaying the events of the day through a revolving door of spinning images and arguments and…waiting.

At some point she must have accepted that her wedding night was going to be the same sterile event her wedding day had been because she finally managed to relax and drop into a deep, dark sleep. She was warm and relaxed and beautifully comfortable dreaming about gentle waves rolling into a soft sandy shore, when the feel of a set of long fingers gently massaging the silk covering her stomach brought her awake.

She opened her eyes, felt the lazy moist warmth of a pair of lips taste the sensitive hollow by her ear—and tensed. He kissed the words away, sealing his lips to her lips and gently teasing the tiny tremor with his tongue.

And she could feel the heat of him as he leant over her, feel that the full length of his body pressing intimately against hers was naked and aroused. She closed her eyes and parted her lips for him, felt his sigh as he took the invitation and sank his tongue into her mouth, gently at first, then with deepening passion as she responded, catching the increasingly erotic rhythm of his tongue stroking against hers.

Her hands lifted up to clutch at him, her fingernails digging into the muscles braced like stretched satin in his arms, her body arching upwards in a compulsive need to press against that massaging hand.

As if the telling movement triggered something inside him, he slid the hand lower, skimming over her hips and her thighs to reach for the edge of her nightgown, then with a smooth, swift, experienced efficiency stripped it all the way up to her throat.

The loss of his mouth and the slick, lithe way he removed the scrap of silk over her head set her shivering and gasping, then the kiss was deep and hungry again, the massaging hand gliding now, over her newly exposed flesh. He stroked her thighs, the gentle contours of her hip and the indentation of her waist.

When she whispered something into his mouth, he rose up and looked down her length to watch as his fingers moved on over the flat of her stomach to skim across the top of one pale rounded breast. Lizzy closed her eyes when she felt the possessive claim that hand made and was ready this time for the burning wave of pleasure that drenched her as he stroked, then cupped, then grazed the aching tip with the pad of his thumb.

Her nipples sprang out in a blatant leap and she squirmed in embarrassment. He just used his long fingers to shape the quivering globe in preparation to take that tight dark rosebud into his mouth. A piercing hot sting struck from the centre of her nipple and shot all the way down to her thighs, bending her body like a wand.

Once again he lifted his dark head and looked at her, then strung a gentle line of slow, tender kisses along the line of her jaw. Lizzy closed her eyes and endured until at last he stopped teasing and gave her what she wanted—the warm, seductive pressure of his mouth on her own. She floated on a sexual high. When he tried to calm her, she ran her fingernails into his hair and scored them down his back.

And she wanted to feel every sensual sensation she knew was still waiting for her to experience. So the tense curse that left his chest meant nothing to her until he used the superior strength in his arms to bring her tumbling halfway back down to earth.

Her own wild senses were ruling her actions; the sweet, tight pulse of desire was controlling the pace. The fingers she sent spearing into his neck so she could bring his mouth back to hers were fierce and urgent.

His kiss-heated lips twisted into a grim smile. Once again her tongue had outpaced her common sense. Lizzy knew it the moment the cutting accusation was out. Her breathing disappeared, her eyelashes flickering as she took in the look that had frozen his face.

Teeth burying themselves into her full bottom lip, she waited, heart pounding, her foolish stubbornness refusing to let her take the words back before it was too late. And she knew she should have done—his complete stillness told her that she should. It was just there in the pulsating silence, in the way she was suddenly feeling the difference in their age and experience, and in the tiny quivers stinging her muscles in places they should not be doing at a tense moment like this.

He moved then, like a man who had just come to a grim decision. She actually felt her eyes turn black. Yet he still just continued to look down at her, into her huge wary eyes and the silken tumble of chestnut curls rippling the pillow around her delicately featured very pale face.

What he did was to spear his long fingers into her hair, then curve them around the back of her neck. As she gasped he tilted her head back so it arched her slender white throat, then lowered his dark head and buried his mouth in her taut, smooth flesh.

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Nothing in her meagre experience with men helped to warn her as to what was coming. It was seduction at its most deep and determined level.

It was the man of experience making no concessions for her foolishly defiant innocence. He made love to her with a grim and silent precision; he dragged each and every sensually erotic sensation to the stinging surface of her pale, smooth, receptive skin.

He moved his mouth in hot, sensual glides until he reached her parted, trembling mouth, then he kissed her long and deep and without mercy until she was dizzy with it, throbbing and drunk. The quiet command of his voice worked her like a puppet. She was trapped, enslaved by the string-pulling power of his knowledge and her own desire to feel whatever he decided to bestow on her too-responsive flesh.

He caressed each curve and hollow and soft warm crevice of her body; he drew her taut with exquisite sensation with his hands and his mouth and his teeth. He kneaded the rounded, swollen fullness of her breasts and sent her teeth into his satin, taut shoulder when he teased and sucked their eager tips.

She even felt him tremble once or twice when her restless, untutored fingers scraped across his flesh. And when the downward glide of his trailing fingers finally took control of the pulsing ache between her legs she flailed in a morass of hot feeling, lost to reality because her own heady consciousness had locked onto the will of her body and the way he slowly, relentlessly brought her climbing and crawling and panting and needing to a whimpering, pleading peak.

No single part of her did not know what it was like to be caressed by him—no nerve-end, no muscle, no velvet dark place of intimacy, until she pulsed and throbbed and breathed out his name in a helpless, breathless, sensual chant. But as she felt his weight easing down on top of her and her thighs being urged apart her eyelids lifted, her eyes making deep, deep contact with the heavy gold darkness in his.

Everything about him was heavy gold darkness, the breadth of his shoulders blocking out most of the lamplight, the long, hard-muscled torso pressing down on her with his hips. She felt the presence and the power of his erection nudge against her carefully prepared warm and wet and swollen flesh. His mouth was still somber, but it was tender when he took her mouth in yet another deep, drugging kiss. Then it was there. His hands cupped her bottom to lift her and he made that first smooth, blinding thrust with his hips.

Her body throbbed and stretched to accommodate him; she felt him like a burning shaft of fire in the innocence of her sheath. Her breath caught, her fingers dug into his shoulders and sensation poured in a swirling wave of fear and anticipation down the pulsing length of where they had joined.

The point surely was—did he want it? Lizzy nodded, her mouth just a breath away from his mouth, her eyes clinging dark and vulnerable and helplessly needy to his. It was his eyes that closed when he made that final invasion, his mouth that quivered tautly as she tried to choke back a cry of pain. It was his hands that trembled as he pushed the hair away from her face, then kissed it, kissed it in soft, soothing touches until he felt the tension slowly seep out of her. Then she felt him go deeper, felt the singing dance of her nerve-ends clamour to his probing force.

His hands were gliding down the silken thighs to her calves then, and lifting them until her legs circled his waist. The action sent him even deeper, he shuddered and whispered something in Italian she did not catch, then he was folding her into the strong embrace of his arms and moving—moving, feeding them both into a sensuously searing rhythm that throbbed like a living entity inside her.

Her fingers clung to his back as he increased the pace with each hot, pleasurable thrust. She whimpered anxiously against his mouth. He caught hold of her hair again to push her head backwards.

Then, like that, he made it happen for her, made her body quicken and finally surrender to the bright and sizzling accelerated rush. Seduction, she acknowledged long minutes later when she finally drifted back to earth again. She became aware that her legs were still wrapped around him, though their bodies were no longer intimately joined. Still, she knew the image of the two of them like this was going to live with her for the rest of her life.

Releasing the still trembling tension out of her limbs, she slid them away from him. As if her movement made him also decide to move, he levered himself up onto a forearm, reached out and switched off the light. It was so abrupt, so stunningly final. It was as if now it was over he was expecting them both to just fall asleep.