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Are You Lonesome Tonight?
By Wendy Etherington
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Ches, hand me a power cord."
Francesca D'Arcy eyed the jeans-clad lower half of her best friend and business partner, Anthony Galini. Not a bad way to start a Tuesday morning, truth be told. The man did have an amazing body, and he was presently defenselessly flat on his back beneath his desk.
She could envision dropping beside him, pulling his snug black T-shirt from his jeans, rolling up the soft cotton to reveal the sprinkling of jet-black hair against his olive-toned skin, his washboard abs, his broad chest -
Tony nudged her with his bare foot. "Ches!"
"What? Oh, the cord." She rummaged through the box of computer supplies sitting on the desk. "Uh - which one would be the power cord?"
"The one with three prongs that you'd plug into the wall," Tony said dryly.
"Cooking's my forte, not computers," she muttered, yanking out cord after cord in search of the proper one.
"Somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning."
"At least I got in bed before this morning."
It seemed even Tony's commitment to the resort and winery they were about to open together couldn't compete with his goal of dating every gorgeous blonde in New York before he turned thirty. She'd lain awake until two-fifteen this morning - when she'd heard Tony enter his room at the resort, the one right next to hers.
"Which svelte blonde was it this time? Bambi? Or maybe it was Bunny?"
"I'll have you know I've never gone out with anyone named Bambi or Bunny." He paused. "But if you want to introduce me ..."
As she finally pulled the right cord out of the box, she dropped it on him. Well, more accurately, she threw it on him.
"Ow! What is with you today?"
It was ridiculous, she knew, but her resentment at being relegated to "good ole dependable Ches" was especially sharp this morning. She hadn't realized her proximity to Tony over the last several months would bring her semi-dormant lust for him roaring to the surface. Lust she planned to do nothing about, of course. With a friendship that had begun in Mrs. Galloway's fourth-grade class, she'd had nearly twenty years to tell him about her attraction, and now, in the most important month of their lives, when the professional and personal pressure was the greatest, she was going to attempt to jump his bones?
Think again, sister.
Think business. All business.
She'd sunk every spare penny she had in Bella Luna, the newest brainchild of Tony's uncle Joe, the patriarch of the Galini family. The Galinis had tended to grapevines in Europe for over a hundred years, and fifteen years ago Joe had bought the eighty acres here on the North Fork of Long Island and built a successful winery in America. With all the new resorts and spas popping up in the area, Joe had recently decided to jump into a new venture and build his own resort. Unfortunately for Joe, two of his own sons were busy running the vineyard in Italy, and most of Tony's other cousins were fairly worthless in the ambition department. They were all content living off their trust funds, playing tennis at their country clubs, skiing in the Alps, and clubbing in New York.
In truth, Tony had spent a good many years indulging in the same pursuits. Then suddenly, six months ago, he'd called Francesca and asked her if she wanted to run the resort. With construction already underway, he'd sent her building and business plans, estimated costs and profit potential. With her degree in hotel and restaurant management, as well as certification from culinary school, Francesca had been completely unfulfilled working in convention planning at the New York Hilton, and after seeing Tony's ideas for the resort, she saw the possibility of her dream coming true - owning her own business. She convinced Tony and his uncle to let her buy into the project, and though she could only afford ten percent ownership, she was on her way.
Now they were two weeks away from the grand opening. It was all really happening.
No way was she letting her needy hormones muck it up.
Tony scooted out from under the desk and rose to his full height of six-foot-two. The scent of his sexy, spicy aftershave washed over her. "Let's turn it on."
She swallowed, knowing if he pushed any more of her buttons, she'd melt into a puddle at his feet. She managed to find her usual aplomb and propped her hand on her hip - a nice hip, too, in her estimation. Not that he'd ever noticed. "Where would that button be?"
Tony kissed the tip of her nose. "Cute, Franny."
"You're really trying to get on my nerves, aren't you?" Francesca stepped back, rubbing her nose as if she was trying to rid herself of his chaste kiss. In truth, she was tingling from her nose all the way to her toes. Ridiculous. Embarrassing. Useless.
Tony punched the power button on the computer and propped his butt - a magnificent specimen - against the desk. His velvety brown eyes danced. "Can you believe it's been almost twenty years since you slugged me in the lunchroom and demanded I come up with a cooler nickname than 'Franny'?"
"And got two days of after-school detention from Principal Duncan for my efforts."
"Hey, didn't I pull the fire alarm to get you released?"
"I'll never understand how you didn't get caught."
"I have an innocent smile," he said, then grinned.
Even at ten, he'd known how to drive women wild with his charm. Of course, she'd been unmoved. At least until the night, eight years later, when she'd accidentally walked in on him as he was getting out of the shower ...
Yikes. Bad train of thought.
To distract herself, she glanced around the opulent room they'd converted to their office suite, complete with full bar and sunken living room, decorated to give an impression of class and wealth. She sighed as her gaze fell on the windowed wall to her left, beyond which lay the blossoming vineyards. She still bemoaned this valuable space Tony had commandeered on the third floor. She'd even called Joe when Tony insisted he couldn't work in an office off the lobby. But surprisingly Joe - a practical, hardworking businessman to the core - had sided with his nephew. They could use the suite to entertain potential clients and guests, he'd pronounced.
That Prince of the Universe upbringing of his would be their undoing.
The computer chimed as Windows loaded. He turned around and leaned over the desk. "Looks great, huh?"
With her gaze once again dropping to his lower half - this time catching an excellent, close-up view of that great backside of his - she nodded enthusiastically. "Oh, yeah."
"Go check your computer. I want to see if they're networked right." He tapped on the keyboard. "I'm sending you an interoffice email."
"Yeah?" she said, turning her head sideways, still staring at his butt, not really interested in technology at the moment.
Excerpted from Are You Lonesome Tonight? by Wendy Etherington Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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