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At the Count’s Bidding
“It’s the surrender. It’s all about the surrender.”
Paige Fielding has waited ten years for Giancarlo Alessi to walk back into her life. But the man she was once forced to betray isn’t interested in asking questions, or hearing apologies…
Shocked to discover Paige working as his mother’s PA, Giancarlo sees his thirst for vengeance reignite. So he lures her to Tuscany, where she will bow to his every pleasurable command.
But the lines between payback and passion quickly blur. And when Giancarlo discovers Paige is pregnant he must ask himself: Is it really revenge he so desperately craves—or her?
At the Count’s Bidding
By the morning of the fourth day she was a mess.
“Sleep well?” he asked in that taunting way of his, his dark brows rising high when he met her on the back steps on her way into the big house to start her day. Violet took her breakfast and the trades on a tray in her room each morning and she expected to see Paige there, too, before she was finished.
Giancarlo stood on the wide steps that led up to the terrace, not precisely blocking her, but Paige didn’t rate her chances for slipping past him, either. Had she not been lost in her own scorching world of regret and too many vivid memories as she’d walked up the hill from her cottage, she’d have seen him here, lying in wait. She’d have avoided him.
Would you? that sly voice inside her asked.
A smart woman would have left Los Angeles ten years ago, never to return to the scene of so much pain and betrayal and heartache. A smart woman certainly wouldn’t have gotten herself tangled up with her ex-lover’s mother, and even if she had, she would have rejected Giancarlo’s devil’s bargain outright. So Paige supposed that ship had sailed a long time ago.
“I slept like a baby,” she replied, because her memories were her business.
“I take it you mean that in the literal sense,” he said dryly. “Up every two hours wailing down the walls and making life a misery, then?”
Paige gritted her teeth. He, of course, glowed with health and that irritating masculine vigor of his. He wore an athletic t-shirt in a technical fabric and a pair of running shorts, and was clearly headed out to get himself into even better shape on the surrounding trails that scored the mountains, if that were even possible. No wonder he maintained that lean, rangy body of his that appeared to scoff at the very notion of fat. She wished she could hate him. She wished that pounding thing in her chest, and much lower, was hate.
“I’ve never slept better in my life,” she said staunchly.
Her mistake was that she’d drifted too close to him as she said it, as if he was a magnet and she was powerless to resist the pull. She remembered that, too. It had been like a tractor beam, that terrible compulsion. Like they were drawn together no matter what. Across the cavernous warehouse where she’d met him on that shoot. Across rooms, beds, showers. Wherever, whenever.
Ten years ago she’d thought that meant they were made for each other. She knew better now. Yet she still felt that draw.
Paige only flinched a little bit when he reached over and ran one of his elegant fingers in a soft crescent shape beneath her eye. It was such a gentle touch it made her head spin, especially when it was at such odds with that harsh look on his face, that ever-present gleam of furious gold in his gaze.
It took her one shaky breath, then another, to realize he’d traced the dark circle beneath her eye. That it wasn’t a caress at all.
It was an accusation.
“Liar,” he murmured, like he was reciting an old poem, and there was no reason it should feel like a sharp blade stuck hard beneath her ribs. “But I expect nothing else from you.”
Bite your tongue, she ordered herself when she started to reply. Because she might have got herself into this mess, twice, but that didn’t mean she had to make it worse. She poured her feelings into the way she looked at him, and one corner of that hard, uncompromising mouth of his kicked up. Resignation, she thought. If they’d been different people she might have called it a kind of rueful admiration.
But this was Giancarlo, who despised her.
“Be ready at eight,” he told her gruffly.
“That could cover a multitude of sins.” So much for her vow of silence. Paige smiled thinly when his brows edged higher. “Be ready for what?”
Giancarlo moved slightly then on the wide marble step, making her acutely aware of him. Of the width of his muscled shoulders, the long sweep of his chiseled torso. Of his strength, his heat. Reminding her how deadly he was, how skilled. How he’d been the only man she’d ever met, before or since, who had known exactly what buttons to push to turn her to jelly, and had. Again and again. He’d simply looked at her, everything else had disappeared, and he’d known.
He still knew. She could see it in that heat that made his dark eyes gleam. She could feel it the way her body prickled with that same lick of fire, the way the worst of the flames tangled together deep in her belly.
She felt her breath desert her and she thought she saw the man she remembered in his dark gaze, the man as lost in this as she always had been, but it was gone almost at once as if it had never been. As if that had been nothing but wishful thinking on her part.
“Wear something I can get my hands under,” he told her, and there was a cruel cast to his desperately sensual mouth then that should have made her want to cry—but that wasn’t the sensation that tripped through her blood, making her feel dizzy with something she’d die before she’d call excitement.
And as if he knew that too, he smiled.
Then he left her there—trying to sort out all the conflicting sensations inside of her right there in the glare of another California summer morning, trying not to fall apart when she suspected that was what he wanted her to do—without a backward glance.
End of excerpt
At the Count’s Bidding
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