I am growing more indebted to Matteo by the minute, and though I know it’s not rational—though he hasn’t made a single demand on me—it makes the grapes that are just out of reach lose some of their appeal.
“Before you make up another reason that you should go, perhaps you will think rationally about how you are feeling.” He places his glass on the table, looks me over with those rum colored eyes. They’re fringed by dark lashes that any woman would kill for. “Tell me. And don’t lie. I will know.”
As I meet his stare, I feel a jolt of heat pass through me. I think that I’m imagining it—though he is everything that I’d ever daydreamed of for a wild Italian fling—the sober set of his face makes me think that maybe, just maybe, I’m not.
“Tell me.” The intensity in his eyes, on his face, tells me that I don’t actually have any choice but to do as he says... this is not a man who will be refused. I part my lips to answer, and his gaze tracks the movement, making me feel like he’s the lion and I’m the lamb... and that I’m about to become his dinner.
In a sexy kinda way.
“I... my shoulder hurts.” I hate admitting the weakness, but I’m not entirely sure what he’d do if I lied.
As it is, he nods, seeming satisfied with my answer. “That’s what happens when you jump in front of a knife.”
“Hey.” My brow furrows as I glare at him. “How dare—”
“Can I have anything brought to you?” He continues on as though I haven’t said a word, and I stare at him, astonished. His choice of words hasn’t escaped me either... not can I bring you anything, but can I have anything brought to you.
Matteo Benenati is clearly a man who is used to having whatever he wants, just as he seems like he’s incapable of accepting the word no. It’s so different from my existence that I literally cannot fathom living that way.
My spine stiffens; the stitches in my shoulder pull my skin tight and I wince.
In an instant Matteo leans forward in his chair, his expression concerned.
“Drink.” Unceremoniously he shoves his snifter in my face, moving so quickly that I have no choice but to take it.
The liquid pretty, a dark brownish gold. Warily I sniff at it, then wrinkle my nose.
“It stinks.” No way I’m drinking this. “It smells like iodine.”
“That’s the peat.” Raising an eyebrow at me, he sits back in his chair, the lord at his leisure. In contrast I feel... plebeian. Like a servant girl, unused to the riches that surround me.
I don’t care for that feeling at all, and as if arguing with it, I press the chilled glass to my lips and take a tiny sip, letting the liquid spread out over my tongue.
It’s a mistake. Once the medicinal flavor passes, flowing down my throat, I taste a hint of something warm, salty and sweet. Him, his imprint left behind on the glass.
My eyes meet his over the edge of the glass, and once again I get the sensation that I am prey.
“You’re quite beautiful, you know.” Damn that sexy accent. I should be used to hearing the lovely lilt and flow of the Italian tongue by now... but when uttered in a dark, dangerous tone, it seems that I’m done for.
He shifts in his chair, and his scent again reaches me. My hormones stand up and pay attention, even as warning bells start to clang in my head.
Danger, Will Robinson.
But even though I know I’m at a distinct disadvantage—I’m half naked, injured, in a strange place—I find myself leaning toward him, a magnet pulling me closer.
“Yes, quite beautiful. And am I correct in assuming that you are also broke?”
“What?” I rear back as though he’s slapped me. My mind reels. “Where the hell did you get that idea?”
He merely raises an eyebrow, and I can feel my temper begin to lick along my skin.
“Whatever you’re getting at, it’s not happening.” Damn it, I’m seriously pissed at him, but at the same time, my body is not at all pleased with this pronouncement. “I told you I didn’t want medical attention, or any of this, and you did it anyway. I don’t owe you anything.” I flap my hand in the general direction of the room, so he knows what I’m referring to.
And the bastard simply smiles at my anger, which only serves to infuriate me more. “I’m not asking you to have sex with me.”
I wonder if the girl has any idea how appealing she looks right now, all wide eyes and flushed cheeks. I’m not usually drawn to ingénue types, but there’s something about this one that pulls at me.
For one brief moment, the voice of reason sounds in my head, warning me that I might be about to jump in over my head.
But what choice do I have?
None. Thanks to my late father, I have no choice, and it infuriates me.
“I do not pay for sex,” I say sternly. The girl shifts on the bed, and I can see that I’ve unsettled her.
Good. I won’t stand to be the only one who is feeling as though his life has just spun out of control.
“What the hell are you getting at, then?”
I haven’t known her for long, but I’ve already come to see that when Miss Riley Tremaine is uncomfortable, she gets defensive. I watch, not feeling nearly as removed as I’d like to, as she crosses her arms over her chest and glares at me.
Instead of intimidating, she just looks damn sexy. And all that innocence just screams complications.
But I’ve never been very good at turning down the things that I want—I’ve never had to. And that creamy skin, utterly devoid of makeup and fresh in a way that the women I know never are, is calling to me to touch it. Those lips, the color of rose petals even without that goop that women slather on, look as sweet as the fruit that is sitting untouched on the bedside table.
For no reason other than to please myself, I pick up a round red grape, press it to equally plump lips. She eyes me suspiciously, but I push it past the seam of her lips anyway. Her eyes spark with irritation, but she slowly chews, swallows, wipes a drip of juice from her lips with the tip of a finger.
I can barely hold back my groan, and press another grape to her mouth. This time, though, she catches my hand before I can press the fruit to her lips, plucking the grape from my fingers.
“You were saying?” She prompts me. I think she means to be chastising, but the faint pink flush that has spread across her cheeks tells me that she’s no more immune to me than I am to her.
“I have a story to tell you.” I lean back in the chair while I tell her the highlights of the meeting that I had this afternoon. I skip over a lot of details, partly because I don’t think she’ll care, and mostly because it’s just not in my nature to be forthcoming.