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Her Italian hero...her new husband!
Midwife Tammy has always had a weakness for tall, dark Italians, but now her priority must be her little boy. Dr. Leon Bonmarito arrives in Lyrebird Lake, brooding and cynical. However, one glimpse of the beautiful Tammy and he's hooked! Now Leonwith his scorchingly sexy smilewill do anything to win over the single mom!
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
As a reluctant best man, Leonardo Durante Bonmarito caught the unashamed adoration on the groom's face as he circled the room with his new bride, and knew his own earlier arrival in Australia would have made no difference.
Leon's intention of stopping this wedding had faltered at the first sight of Gianni at the airport because nothing would have prevented his brother from marrying this woman.
Such happiness made Leon's chest hurt and he'd never liked wedding feasts. It was even harder when he felt insulated from the joy and gaiety around him by the fact he still hadn't had a chance to talk to Gianni properly since arriving.
'Not a big fan of weddings?' The words were mild enough but the tone held a hint of quiet rebuke. Tammy Moore, chief bridesmaid and for tonight his partner, spoke at his shoulder and Leon returned to the present with a jolt. She went on, 'We're supposed to join them on the floor now.'
'SI. Of course. My apologies.' Automatically he glanced around and down and unexpectedly his vision was filled with the delightful valley between her breasts.
He swept his eyes upwards and her dark brows tilted at the flicker of a smile he couldn't help.
It was a problem but what was a man to do with a bodice just under eye level? It would be strange dancing with a woman willow-slim in body and almost as tall as himself. She felt twice the height of his late wife.
He wondered if others might think they looked good together. Little did observers know their rapport had been anything but cordial, because he feared he hadn't endeared himself to her.
Leon repressed a sigh. He'd barely talked, in fact, it seemed he'd forgotten how to be at ease with a young woman, but in his defence, his mind had been torn between the recent danger to Paulo and when he could discuss it with his brother.
Tammy tapped her foot with the music, surely not with impatience, as she waited for them to join the bride and groom on the floor and he'd best concentrate. He hoped it would not be too much of a disaster because his heart wasn't in it. 'You are very good to remind me,' he said by way of apology, but she didn't comment, just held out one slender hand for him to take so the guests could join in after the official party was on the floor.
The music wheezed around them with great gusto if not great skill, like a jolly asthmatic between inhaler puffs, and Leon took her fingers in his and held them. Her hand lay small and slim, and somehow vulnerable, in his clasp, and suddenly he wasn't thinking of much except the way she unexpectedly fitted perfectly into his arms, her small breasts soft against his chest, and her hair smooth against his face.
In fact, her hip swung against his in seamless timing as if they'd danced together to a breathless piano accordion since birth.
Such precision and magical cadence took him from this placeand his swirling, painful thoughtsto a strange mist of curative tranquillity he'd craved since not just yesterday but from the haze of time in his youth.
Where was the awkwardness that'd always seemed to dog him and his late wife whenever they'd danced? The concept deepened the guilt in his heart and also the frown across his brows.
'You sway like a reed in my arms.' He tilted his head in reluctant approval. 'You must dance often.'
He thought he heard, 'Nearly as often as you frown, you great thundercloud.' The unexpected words were quiet, spoken to his feet, and he must have heard wrong because she followed that with, 'Yes, we love dancing here.'
He decided he was mistaken, but the humility in her expression had a certain facade of mock innocence, and made his suspicions deepen with amused insight. Then he caught his son's eye as they swept past, and Leon raised his eyebrows at the flower girl standing beside him.
Paulo glanced at the young girl and then back at his father, nodded and took her hand to lead her into the dance. Tammy followed his gaze and smiled stiffly, something, he realised guiltily, she'd been doing for a couple of hours now.
She slanted a glance at him. 'Does your son dance as well as his father?'
They both turned their heads to watch the children waltz and Leon felt the warmth of pride. Paulo did well and it had not been an easy few days for him. 'I hope so. He has been taught. A man must be able to lead.'
'Emma's daughter can hold her own,' she murmured, and he bent his head closer to catch her words. Did the woman talk to him or to herself? An elusive scent, perfectly heated by the satin skin of her ridiculously long neck, curled around his senses with an unexpectedly potent assault. Without thought he closed his eyes and inhaled more deeply. This scent was a siren's weapon, yet she portrayed none of the siren's tricks.
He realised with delay that she'd continued the conversation. 'We have a bring-a-plate country dance once a month in the old hall. The children enjoy it as much as the adults.'
Leon eased back, he hoped unobtrusively, to clear the opulent fog from his mind but his voice came out deeper than he expecteddeeper, lower, almost a caress. 'So dance nights are common in Australia?' What was happening? His brain seemed to have slowed to half speed as if he'd been drugged. Perhaps she did have tricks he was unaware of.
He lifted his head higher and sought out his son. The most important reason he needed his wits about him. Whatever spell she'd cast over him, he did not want it.
No doubt she'd sensed the change in him. He could only hope he'd left her as confused as she'd left him. 'To hold a dance is not unusual in a country town.' Her dark brows drew together in a glower such as she'd accused him of.
'Of course.' Thankfully, this time, his voice emerged normally, though he wondered if she could hear the ironic twist under the words. 'My brother is full of the virtues of your Lyrebird Lake.' And its incredibly fertile qualities, but he wouldn't go there.
She lifted her chin high and stared into his eyes as if suspicious of his tone and the implication he might disparage her hometown. Her irises were a startling blue and reminded him of the glorious sea on the Amalfi Coast, disturbingly attractive, yet with little waves of tempest not quite concealed and a danger that could not be underestimated. He knew all about that.
She went on in that confident voice of hers that managed to raise the dominant side of him like hairs on his neck. 'Lyrebird Lake has everything I need,' she stated, almost a dare to contradict.
He bit back the bitter laugh he felt churn in his chest. A fortunate woman. 'To have everything you want is a rarity. You are to be congratulated. Even if it seems a little unrealistic for such a young woman with no husband.'
Tammy smiled between gritted teeth. This man had created havoc in her usual calm state since the first moment she'd seen him. Too tall, too darkly handsome with sensually heavy features and so arrogant, so sure of his international power. Fancifully she'd decided he'd surveyed them all as if they were bush flies under an empty Vegemite jar.
One more dance and she was done. She felt like tapping her foot impatiently as she waited for the music to start again now the guests and not just the wedding party filled the floor.
It had been as if he'd barely got time for this frivolity of weddings, such an imposition to him, but she'd stayed civil because of Emma, and Gianni, obviously the much nicer brother of the two. But soon this last dance would be over, then everyone else would not notice her slip away. The official responsibilities she'd held would be complete apart from helping the bride to change.
No more being nice to Leonardo Bonmarito.
Though Tammy did feel sorry for Paulo Bonmarito, a handsome but quiet and no doubt downtrodden child, and she'd asked her own son to look after him. Nobody could call her Jack downtrodden.
As if conjured by the thought, eight-year-old Jack Moore, another young man resplendent in his miniature wedding tuxedo, walked up to Paulo. They looked almost like brothers, both dark-haired, olive-skinned boys with the occasional awkwardness of prepubescence. Then Jack tapped the young Italian boy on the shoulder as he and Grace waited to begin again. 'My dance now, I think.'
That wasn't what she'd envisaged when she'd said watch out for Paulo. Leon's back was to the children and Tammy frowned as she strained to hear as they stood waiting.
'You said you weren't dancing,' she heard Grace say, and the girl looked unimpressed with swapping for a boy she always danced with.
Jack shrugged as he waited for Paulo to relinquish his partner. 'Changed my mind.'
Without looking at Jack, Paulo bowed over Grace's hand, kissed her fingers in the continental way with practised ease and shrugged. Non importo. Grazie' he said, and turned with head high and walked away.
The music started and the dance floor shifted like a sleepy animal awakening. Leon's son leaned with seeming nonchalance against a flower-decked pole and watched Grace being swung around easily by Jack. Like his father, his face remained expressionless and Tammy wondered if Paulo was used to disappointment.
When the dance was over, Tammy eased her hand out of Leon's firm grip as unobtrusively as she could and stepped back. She only just prevented herself from wiping her hand down the side of her bridesmaid dress to try and diffuse the stupid buzz of connection she could still feel.
The contact hadn't been what she expected and the dancing had increased her need to distance herself from this haughty stranger even more. It had been ridiculous the way they'd danced together as if they'd spent years, not seconds, training to synchronise. Not a common occurrence with her local partners but maybe she was imagining it just because he was taller and stronger, and decidedly more masterful, than most men she danced with.
Or maybe the strength of her disquiet about him had made her more aware. Either way she wasn't interested and needed to get away from him to her friends.
'Thank you.' She didn't meet his eyes and instead glanced around at the crowded dance floor. 'Everyone seems to be up now. If you'll excuse me?'
Leon raised one sardonic eyebrow at her apparent haste. 'You have somewhere you need to run off to?'
She opened her mouth to fabricate an excuse when the glowing bride, her best friend, Emma, dragged her smiling new husband across to his brother. 'Tammy! You and Leon dance wonderfully together.' She beamed at her husband, and the look that passed between them made Tammy glance away with a twist of ridiculous wistfulness.
'Almost as good as us,' Emma went on. 'Isn't my wedding beautiful?'
'Truly magnificent,' Leon said, and glanced at Gianni. 'Your organisational skills exceed even what I expected.'
'Nothing is too perfect for my wife.' Gianni, tall and solid like his brother, stroked Emma's cheek, and then looked across at Tammy. He smiled. 'And your partner for tonight?' He kissed his fingers. 'Bellissimo. You, too, are blessed, brother. Tammy is another of the midwives here. Has she told you?'
'We've had little time for discussion.' Leon leaned forward and unexpectedly took Tammy's hand in his large one again. He held it firmly and the wicked glint in his eyes when he looked at her said he knew she wouldn't quibble in front of her friend. 'I was just going to find us a drink and sit down for a chat.'
Dear Emma looked so delighted Tammy didn't have the heart to snatch her fingers free, so she smiled, ignored the restart of the buzz in her fingers and wondered bitterly if her teeth would ache tonight from all the clenching she'd done today.
The music started and Gianni held out his hand to his wife. Emma nodded. 'I'll see you back at the bridal table, Tammy, after this dance. I want to tell you something.' Then Emma smiled blithely at them, sighed into her husband's arms and danced away.
Tammy looked around for escape but there was none. Trapped by her friend. Great. Leon held firmly on to her hand and steered her off the floor towards the official table. Unobtrusively Tammy tugged at her fingers and finally he let her hand free. She leaned towards him with a grim smile and, barely moving her lips, let him have it. 'Don't ever do that again or you will get more than you bargained for.'
'Tut. Temper.' He glanced down at her, amused rather than chastened by her warning, which made her more cross.
She grimaced a smile again and muttered, 'You have no idea,' as he pulled her chair out. She slipped into the chair and shifted it slightly so that it faced towards the dance floor and her shoulder tilted away from him.
When he returned with two tiny champagne flutes Leon was fairly sure she didn't realise the angle she gave him lent a delightful view of her long neck and the cleft below the hollow of her throat and there was that incredible drift of scent again.
He controlled his urge to move closer.