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The sex was good.
With a growl Rafe gave himself up to the inevitable and hauled her naked body against his own, drinking deeply of the sleepy scent of her skin, enjoying the way the last remnants of her perfume mingled with the lingering muskiness of passion, and feeling a corresponding tightening in his loins. He'd barely dozed but again he was ready for her and he wasn't about to waste a minute of their first night together. Not after it taking the best part of a week to get her into his bed.
He couldn't remember the last time that had happened.
Through the filmy curtains of his apartment the lights of Paris still glowed, even as the night sky slowly peeled away and the soft light of dawn turned her skin lustrous. He pressed his lips to her neck and suckled at the tender flesh below her ear, and was instantly rewarded with a sound like a purr. His lips curled into a smile on her skin. There was a price for making him wait so long and he'd enjoyed every last minute of exacting his payment.
She stirred into life then, rolling towards him and reaching out, a low sigh vibrating through her as her Titian hair moved across her pillow like a curtain rising on the next act.
How appropriate, he thought, already anticipating it. He raised himself over her, settling between her legs. A week it had taken to get her here. A week they had wasted. He wasn't wasting a moment more.
He lowered his head and captured one ripe nipple between his lips, drawing it in deep, circling the tightening bud with his tongue. She arched under him, made another of those little mewing sounds and clung on, her fingers tangling in his hair.
He loved her breasts, loved their shape and the feel of them in his hands, and he loved the contrast in textures, from their satin-soft skin to their pebbled circles to their bullet-like peaks when she was aroused. Loved making them so. She tasted of woman and salt and sex and he couldn't get enough. And when she lifted her hips and teased her curls against the throbbing length of him, he couldn't see the point of waiting any longer.
Rearing up, he grabbed a packet from the side table, jammed it between his teeth and reefed off the top.
'Let me,' she said, a raw huskiness edging her voice, and a hunger in her hazel eyes that reflected his own desperate need fed into it and ramped it up tenfold. He allowed himself a smile as she took it from him, lifting herself higher on the bed and applying it almost reverentially. He raised his eyes to the ceiling at that first, delicate touch. So much for the woman who just last night had seemed almost nervous about sex. The prospect of the next few weeks was looking better all the time.
And then anticipation turned to agony, his smile morphing into a grimace when she took her own sweet time rolling the damn thing on. He grabbed her hand, finished the job and pushed her down in one fell movement, her gasp of surprise changing to one of delight as he plunged deep into her exquisite depths.
The act of fusion shorted his thought processes, until there was room for just one spark of awareness, barely a thought, more an acknowledgement that seeped through his sex-fogged senses. Not just good.
The sex was perfect.
That couldn't be her face in the mirror. Sienna Wainwright stopped dead in her tracks and looked hard. The stranger stared back at her, wide-eyed despite the lack of sleep, her lips plump and pink from his attention, and her usually restrained hair coiled and wild with abandon. She looked wanton, thoroughly ravished and a million miles away from who Sienna Wainwright was supposed to be.
Until last night. Until the final unravelling of her defences.
Tentatively, almost experimentally, she put the fingers of one hand to her lips, felt their still tender flesh, traced the now blurred line where they melded into the rest of her face.
Rafe had touched her like this, the pads of his fingers tender on her skin, tracing every line and curve of her lips, almost as if worshipping them, before he'd dipped his mouth and kissed her. Kissed her so sweetly it had taken her breath away. Kissed her so passionately it had made her forget all about the insanity of letting him have his way with her.
And before she'd let him have his way with her all over again.
She squeezed her eyes shut and dragged in a breath, her breathing coming in short bursts with the fresh memories of his amazing lovemaking still sparking off thrills in her body like tiny aftershocks.
Rafe Lombardi, international financier and self-made billionaire, and no wonder, given his knack for pulling back businesses from the brink of failure and turning them into global success storiesonly the most marriageable and least-attainable man on earth, if you believed what gossip rags worldwide suggested. Sienna had had no reason to disbelieve them or the reports of the long list of one-time partners left shipwrecked in his wake. It was half the reason she'd wanted to keep her distance, if not run a mile in the opposite direction.
She wasn't in Rafe's league and she knew it, economically, socially or sexually, her experience with men up until now limited and frankly disappointing in the bedroom department.
Whereas Rafe Lombardi moved in the highest circles, mixing with the cr me de la cr me of society, power brokers and tycoons and with the designer women who clung to them like accessories. What would a man like him see in her, a woman who had to work for her living and so far down the social scale as not to register, other than just another chance encounter, another notch in his belt?
So she'd tried to hold him off as long as she could, thinking he'd give up and move on to greener pastures. Expecting he would as soon as she'd told him no the first time.
But he hadn't. Instead of abandoning the chase, he'd pursued her with a single-minded determination that had simultaneously terrified and secretly thrilled her.
Rafe Lombardi was clearly a man used to getting his own way.
She turned on the shower and adjusted the temperature, stepping in and turning her face into the spray, eyes closed as the liquid massage worked its magic on her newly sensitised skin, caressing places where just so recently Rafe had worked his own unique brand of magic and where he no doubt would again as soon as he kept his promise to join her in the shower.
Her body hummed in anticipation. Rafe, that body and water. That would make for one lethal combination.
A bubble of laughter welled up unexpectedly. She'd turned him down how many times these last few days? She must have been mad. For it was clear after just one night with him that any woman in her right senses would take Rafe Lombardi and whatever he offered and hang onto him as long as she possibly could, and to hell with the consequences.
Besides, she'd been working hard these few months, getting herself established back in Europe, with a new home and a new job. She deserved a bit of rest and recreation.
There would be consequences, nothing surer, but for now she hugged the knowledge that he'd asked to see her again like a secret treasure.
She spun around, letting the water pound the back of her neck as she soaped her hair, half a mind anticipating his arrival, the other half employed on working out what it was that made him so different to every other man she'd ever met. His tall, dark good looks, the designer stubble and thick wavy hair that coiled at his collar just a shade too long to be considered conservative were enough in themselves to set him apart from the crowd.
But he was so much more than the superficial. There was a confidence in the way he carried himself and in the masterful way he handled people and situations. He wore power as easily as he wore the clothes on his hard-wired body, and it had terrified her to feel that power, and to know it had been directed one hundred per cent towards her.
She shivered despite the warm torrent, remembering how vulnerable he'd made her feel with just one heated glance, one seemingly innocent brush of skin against skin. He had the gift of making a woman feel so desirable, of making her feel she was the centre of his existence and he'd used that gift mercilessly to flatter her during his pursuit, while his eyes had held a look that somehow seemed to burn its way into her soul and beyond.
And then he'd used that gift to wield her to his purpose in his bed.
She directed her face into the spray on a sigh. No, Rafe Lombardi was like no man she'd ever met before. Little wonder he'd left a trail of broken hearts in his wake, because if a woman wasn't careful, he was everything that a woman could so easily fall in love with
She snapped off the tap and yanked the towel from the rail with a determined flick, angry with herself for letting her thoughts drift so far. Remembering how he'd made her feel, recalling the hungry look in his eye while he remained poised over her in that exquisite moment before their union, that was one thing. But building some fairy tale happy ending that could never happen
Living in Paris must be going to her head. She'd just landed the job of her dreams. An affair was good. An affair was welcome. She wasn't looking for anything more.
Sienna wrapped herself in a towel, half aware that now the shower was turned off she could hear the sound of the news channel drifting in from the room outside. Rafe had turned it on to check the global money market report before joining her. Which he hadn't. Proof, if she'd really needed it, that she was nothing more to him than a distraction from his high-powered life.
Albeit a distraction he wanted to see again, just a few short hours away. Right now that was enough.
Her hair wrapped turban style under a towel and wearing one of the plush robes she'd found hanging behind the bathroom door, she emerged from the fog-filled en suite. There was a trolley in the room that hadn't been there before from which emanated the tantalising scent of fresh coffee and warm pastries, but Rafe was still standing near the storm-tossed bed where she'd left him, though at some stage he'd pulled on a pair of jeans that hung low on his hips, zipped but with the top button still undone. The sight was nearly enough to bring her undone, until she caught the scowl turning his face to thunder as he listened intently to the stream of frenzied Italian issuing from the television.
She moved closer, and, for the first time since they'd been together, he didn't turn towards her, didn't greet her with that soul-deep smile. After enjoying his almost instinctive reaction to her presence for the past week, she missed it more than she'd expected.
'What is it?' she asked, coming alongside, trying to follow the torrent of Italian delivered too fast for her scant knowledge of the spoken language and, at the same time, unable to resist touching one hand to the small of his back. 'What's going on?'
He silenced her with a hiss, shrugging away from the gesture, away from her, and she sensed distance opening up between them where once there had been none. She heard a nameMontvelatterecognising it as a tiny principality strategically perched in the territorial waters between France and Italy, and saw a reporter against a shifting backdrop what looked like a fairy-tale palace lit up against the night sky, then the line of famous casinos fringing the harbour and a picture of the former Prince Eduardo. The reporter continued talking animatedly, accompanying footage of an army of maroon-jacketed gendarmes frogmarching the young Prince and his brother into cars before being driven away from the palace. She frowned, trying to make sense of it all. Clearly something was very wrong in Montvelatte.
The reporter ended his report with a scowl and an emphatic slash of one hand accompanying the words'"Montvelatte, finito!"'
The news programme crossed back to their studio before moving on to their next story. Rafe hit the remote, the screen went black and he turned his back on both the screen and her, raking his fingers through his hair.
She loosened the towel at her hair, began rubbing it in cautious circles, sensing that something major had transpired and knowing she was missing more than what had been reported in the sensational yet indecipherable television coverage.
'What's happening? It looked like the police were carting away the entire royal family.'
He spun round, his ruggedly beautiful face reduced to a mask of tightly drawn flesh over bones suddenly lying too close to the surface, his eyes both wild and filled with something that looked like grief.
'It's over,' he said, in a voice that turned her cold. Then his eyes glazed even colder. 'It's over.'
An inexplicable fear zipped down her spine. Finally he'd acknowledged her presence and yet she doubted he'd even seen her. Right now it was more as if he was looking right through her.
'What's over? What is it that's happened?'
For a minute she wasn't even sure he'd even heard her, his only movement the rapid rise and fall of his chest, but then his chin jerked up and his eyes took on a predatory gleam, finding a focus that had been lacking before.
'Justice,' he said cryptically, crossing the carpet silently in his bare feet until he stood before her, his turmoil-filled eyes holding hers hostage, his naked chest so close it took her breath away. And before she could ask him what he meant, before she could ask what any of it meant, he reached over and took the damp towel from her hands, tossing it purposefully to one side.
Sienna trembled, her pulse quickening as it always did when she had one hundred per cent of his attention, his scent and his aura wrapping around her and pulling her in.
'Tell me,' she whispered in spite of it, refusing to give herself up to his power, knowing that once he touched her, she'd be lost. 'What does it mean?'