The Passion Bargain (Harlequin Presents #2404) [NOOK Book]

The Passion Bargain (Harlequin Presents #2404)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426872525
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 8/23/2010
  • Series: Foreign Affairs Series , #2404
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 180,213
  • File size: 369 KB

Read an Excerpt

The Passion Bargain


By Michelle Reid

Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.

Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-373-12404-X


Chapter One

FRANCESCA used gentle pressure on the brake pedal to bring the Vespa to a smooth stop at a set of red traffic lights then stretched out a long golden leg and placed a strappysandalled foot on the ground to maintain the motor scooter's balance while she waited for the lights to change.

It was a gorgeous morning, still early enough for the traffic on the Corso to be so light that she actually seemed to have the road almost entirely to herself.

A rare occurrence in this mad, bad, traffic-clogged city, she mused with a smile as she tossed back her head to send her tawny brown hair streaming down her back then closed her warm hazel eyes and lifted her face up to the sun to enjoy the feel of its silky warmth caressing her skin.

The air was exquisite today, clear and sharp and drenched in that unique golden light that gave Italy its famous sensual glow.

Her smile widened, her smooth rather generous mouth stretching to enhance the sheen of clear lip-gloss that along with a quick flick of mascara was the only make-up she wore.

Life, she decided, could not be more perfect. For here she was, living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and only days away from becoming formally betrothed to the most wonderful man in the world. One very shortmonth from now she and Angelo would be exchanging their marriage vows in a sweet little church overlooking Lake Alba before taking off for Venice to honeymoon in the most romantic city in the world.

And she was happy, happy, happy. She even sighed that happiness up at the sun while she waited for the lights to change, too engrossed in the warmth of her own sublime contentment to be aware of the sleek red sports car drawing up at her side. It was only when the driver decided to send the car's convertible top floating into its neat rear housing and the sultry sound of Puccini suddenly filled the air that she took note of his presence.

Then immediately wished that she hadn't when she took a glance sideways and saw why the driver had sent the car hood floating back. Her skin gave a sharp warning prickle, her soft hazel eyes quickly lost their smile - none of which had anything to do with the way she was being thoroughly scrutinised from the tips of her extended toes to the shiny flow of her freshly washed hair. Heck, it was almost obligatory for any warm-blooded Italian male to check out the female form when presented with the opportunity. No, her prickling response was due to the fact that she knew this particular Italian male. Or, to be more accurate, she had made his acquaintance once or twice when they had been thrown into the same company.

"Buon giorno, Signorina Bernard," he greeted, the beautifully polite tones of this supremely cultured male completely belying the lazy sweep his dark eyes had just enjoyed.

"Signor," she returned with a small acknowledging dip of her head.

If he noticed the chill she was giving off then he chose to ignore it, preferring to divert his attention away from her to guide one of his long-fingered hands out towards the car dashboard. Puccini died into a slumberous murmur. As he moved, sunlight shot across the raven's-wing quality of his satiny black hair. Signor Carlo Carlucci was a man that most people would describe as truly handsome, Francesca acknowledged with a complicated pinch of her stomach muscles that forced her to twitch restlessly. Skin the shade of ripened dark olives hugged the most superbly balanced bone structure she had ever seen on a man. Every one of his lean features quite simply fitted, even the nose that was so Roman you could not mistake his heritage. His jaw-line was square, his chin cleft, his cheekbones ever so slightly chiselled, and the firmly moulded shape of his slender mouth was - well - perfect, she admitted with yet another restless twitch.

Dark brown eyes were set beneath a pair of almost straight, satiny black eyebrows and were shaded by eyelashes that were almost a sin they were so long, and silky black. And as he shifted his long lean torso in the seat so he could give her his full attention Francesca would have had to be immune to the whole male species to resist noticing the leashed power in his muscles as they flexed beneath the bright white cloth of his shirt.

He oozed class and style and an unyielding self-possession. Everything about him was polished and smooth. He disturbed her when he shouldn't. He antagonised her when she knew she shouldn't let him.

Even the strictly polite smile he offered her set her nerve-ends singing as he remarked pleasantly, "You were looking the essence of happiness as I drove up. I suppose credit for this must go to the fine weather we are enjoying today."

If it was, now it's gone, Francesca thought resentfully. And wished she understood why she always suffered this itchy suspicion that he was taunting her whenever he spoke to her. He had been making her feel like this from the first time they'd been introduced at a party given by Angelo's parents. Even the way he had of looking at her always gave her the uncomfortable impression that he knew things about her that she did not and was amused by that.

He was doing it now, holding her gaze with his velvet dark eyes that pretended to be friendly but really were not. He mocked her - he did.

"Summer has arrived at last," she agreed, willing to play the weather game that was what it took to keep this unwanted interlude neutralised long enough for the lights to change.

"Which is why you are out and about so early," He nodded gravely, mocking her - again?

"I'm out and about early, as you put it, because this is my day off and I have things to do before I can hit the shops before the crowds arrive."

"Ah," He nodded. "Now I understand the happy essence. Shopping has to be the preferred option to herding weary tourists through the Sistine Chapel or encouraging them to squat upon the Spanish Steps."

He really had this taunting stuff down to a fine art, Francesca acknowledged as he put her right on the defensive. She had been guiding British tourists round the historical sites of Rome for months now and had learned early on that, though the city's economy might enjoy the healthy fruits of its tourist industry, the true residents of Rome did not always treat this point with the respect it deserved. They despaired of tourists, could be gruff and curt and sometimes downright rude. Especially in the high season, when they couldn't walk anywhere without bumping into camera-toting groups.

"You should be proud of your heritage," she censured stiffly.

"Oh, I am - very proud. Why should you think that I am not? I simply object to sharing," he said. "It is not in my nature."

"Which sounds very selfish."

"Not selfish but possessive of what I believe belongs to me."

"That still adds up to being selfish," she insisted.

"You think so?" He took a second or two to contemplate that declaration. As he did so he shifted his body again, drawing her gaze to the white-shirted arm he lifted to rest across the black leather back of his seat. Long brown fingers with blunted fingernails uncoiled from a loose clench then rose upwards, tugging her trapped gaze with them as he brought them to rest against the smooth golden sheen of his freshly shaved cheek. He was gorgeous. Her mouth ran dry. Her tummy muscles pinched again and she became suddenly very aware of the Vespa's little engine vibrating between her spread thighs.

"No, I cannot agreed with you, cara," He began speaking again, making her eyelashes flicker as her attention shifted to his moving lips. "When I am involved in a deeply serious relationship with someone, would you still think it selfish of me to expect my lover to remain completely faithful only to me?"

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Passion Bargain by Michelle Reid Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2013

    Great

    This book is a really great read. I have it archived and have read it several times. Michelle Reid is a very talanted author. I have only read one or maybe two of her books that I was not happy with and only have three left I still have not read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2013

    Wow this is a good story

    Recommend

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