Authors: Eve Montelibano
A walking dream. Or a nightmare.
He just compromised her in front of the Australian press!
He stepped onto the platform.
Still in shock, Valenna managed to stand up and faced him, ready to put him in his place. How dare he crash her press conference and undermine her decision?! The nerve and the sheer arrogance of this sneaky piece of...of rock candy...on a stick!
But before she could open her mouth, he reached out, snaked his arm around her waist and dragged her toward him.
His hand cupped the back of her head as his face descended on hers.
She froze. Totally blindsided.
Oh my god!
Her mind screamed in helpless panic.
Is this really happening?!
She couldn’t believe what was happening but the feel of his lips on hers was nothing but real.
Masterful. Wonderful. Scandalous!
She didn’t know how long it lasted, only that when she got a fraction of her wits back, the entire room was a madhouse.
The camera flashes were blinding and everyone was shouting, asking her questions. Or was it him they were asking? She couldn’t make out a thing they were saying. She felt numb and yet exhilarated. The rush of blood in her ears drowned all the noise around her. Her heart was banging against her chest so hard she feared she might keel over any second.
Despite the rush of adrenaline in her system, everything seemed to be moving in slow motion.
His arm was still around her waist, anchoring her firmly to his side.
“Say yes,” he said in her ear, the hotness of his breath giving her goose bumps.
She looked up at him, still dazed. “Huh..?”
“Smile at them and say yes.”
She blinked fast, not comprehending.
“Say yes or I’m going to ram my tongue down your throat.”
Her eyes widened. He bent his neck again.
She turned to the press and gave them a huge, toothy smile and uttered a shaky “yes”. She had no idea what she’d just affirmed.
The crowd went crazier.
Like hungry beasts, they advanced toward the makeshift platform, their lenses practically right in front of their faces now, their video recorders rolling.
Instinctively, she moved closer to Giane’s side, seeking protection.
Giane glanced behind them. “Baba, Titus, cover us.”
Then he jumped down and bodily hauled her from the platform. Baba and Titus barricaded the now unruly press from reaching them.
Giane dragged her to the back door. People shouted after them, calling their names.
Before she knew it, they were in the hallway. He was walking way too fast she had difficulty keeping up with him in her high heels. “Wait…!” she managed to say as her wits finally rushed back into her momentarily useless brain cells.
“Let’s talk in the car.”
She stopped in her tracks and dug in her heels. “Let me go,” she said sharply, fully regaining her common sense now.
He stopped walking and turned to her.
Their eyes clashed. His, determined. Hers, defiant.
“You’re manhandling me!” She looked pointedly at his hand gripping her arm.
His hold loosened but didn’t let go.
Adrenaline rushed back into her system. “What you did back there…”
Fully realizing the possible repercussions of his behavior back in the press room, she glared at him. “Why the hell did you do that?!”
He had the gall to act innocent. “What did I do?”
“You kissed me in front of the press! That’s gonna go viral in a few minutes! Like Ebola!”
His lips pulled up in a triumphant smile. “Good.”
She covered her face with her palm. “Arrrrgh! What on earth did you do that for?!”
He let go of her arm. “I’m the winner.”
She dropped her hand to her side with a slap on her upper thigh, the sound echoing in the hallway. “No, you’re not!” she practically growled at him.
“No? You told me so last night. You have my money now.”
“I’ll return everything! Now! Right now! I’ll call my bank to return the money to your bank!”
He shook his head. “We had a deal.”
“I have every right to back out on it! Didn’t you read the rules?!”
Baba and Titus were approaching them now. Behind them were members of her staff. Giane raised his hand to tell them to stay back. She did not contradict him.
She walked farther away as she didn’t want this delicate conversation to be overheard by her people. He was right behind her.
Angrily, she faced him again. “You go back there and take back what you said!” she commanded him in a hushed voice.
“Because I changed my mind! I’m not choosing you anymore.”
“And why is that?”
“After choosing me last night, you changed your mind? Just like that?”
“I don’t need to explain myself to you!”
“Yes, you do. You put yourself out there and started a bidding war. I won fair and square. You chose me. Now, why are you backing out on me? Is there a better choice?”
Damn, the man was impossibly tenacious! And she didn’t want to answer any of his questions. It was too embarrassing and too revealing. “No…”
“Then I demand to know why. Is there something I did last night that you didn’t like?’
“You didn’t like the way I kissed you?”
That was the problem. She liked it too much! “No…Yes, I did...”
“Damon sent you my most recent complete medical records today. It was administered by official testers. Is there anything there that made you doubt my health?”
“I’m not married. You want proof of that?”
“It’s not that!”
“Then why? Tell me why.”
“Because…” She raised her hands in a helpless gesture. “Why did you bid, for Christ’s sake?”
He looked taken aback by her question. “I wasn’t aware my reason would matter in your decision.”
“Yes. Yes, it would. I would ask the others the same question.”
He looked away and was silent for a few beats. When he looked at her again, his eyes had gone soft. The irises turned deep blue. Even with artificial lighting, his eyes were so mesmerizing. “Because I was feeling like a loser yesterday. I lost my race at Albert Park in a very humiliating manner. I’m in a losing streak. Four times in a row now. I was...I’m very disappointed with myself.”
She leaned her back on the wall. The way he said “loser”, his eyes vulnerable and honest, made her knees weak.
“And then I saw the auction on TV and I thought, that would be fun. I wanted to forget.”
“You wanted to forget your loss in the damn race track for fifty million dollars?” she sneered at him. “I’m sure you could have found other worthwhile entertainment for twenty thousand dollars.”
“No. I googled you. I saw your pictures. I wanted you right away. I wanted to feel good about myself again. I wanted to win. I wanted to be first, to feel like number one. I badly wanted to win that bidding. I want to be your first lover, Valenna.”
“Are my reasons not good enough?”
“But…” She bowed her head and couldn’t continue, too embarrassed.
?” he asked her softly.
What the heck! He just gave her honesty. He deserved hers. “You dated Brigitte Harlowe,” she said, almost in a girlish whine. Her cheeks were now twin hot plates of embarrassment.
He gave her a clueless look.
“Why would you want me when you’ve dated HER?” she spat in an almost accusing tone.
His jaw went slack, the look on his face, comical. “Brigitte?” he repeated, as if he didn’t understand her question.
“Yes! That cougar Barbie!”
“What…what has Brigitte gotta do with us?”
“She’s so froshing beautiful, that’s what! Why would you even look at me when you’ve had her?!”
He stared at her, then burst into a chuckle.
Damn, his laughter could sell a million records. “What’s funny?” she demanded, even as her insides were fluttering like a million butterflies. When he laughed, his face transformed from gorgeous to illegal. She could write a song about his laughter alone.
Oh God, why was the thought Brigitte having experienced this man intimately killing her? She didn’t really know him. They had no association before last night. He was still very much a stranger. But she felt so possessive of him she’d rather not touch him than be tortured with thoughts of other women, especially that bitch touching him in places she longed to discover with her own hands and lips and…
Was it still her injured ego getting in the way here? Or something else?
She didn’t want to examine that something else right now. Too dangerous. AND foolish. More foolish than her Brigitte shit.
He leaned on the wall, too, his eyes still aglow with amusement. “Is this what I think it is?”
She glared at him even more. “It’s not funny.”
He shook his head. “Ah,
“Don’t call me that or anything Italian. We’re not going to have anything to do with each other. Deal’s off. You go back there and tell them— ”
“Brigitte and I are just friends.”
“I don’t believe you!”
“Haven’t you seen the Zoldatti TV commercial we did for the American market?”
She paused to think about that. She vaguely remembered a TV commercial starring Brigitte years ago. Yes, she was riding with a handsome model in the magnificent two-seater Zoldatti Z-8 while he drove the car across the Golden Gate. In fact, that ad made her buy the next model of Zoldatti that came out the following year, the Z-10.
“That was you?” He was wearing shades in the ad and his face was mostly in a profile angle so she didn’t recognize him now as the same guy in the commercial.
“Yes. I met her only during the shooting of that ad. We never dated. But we’re friends. Sort of. Maybe. I don’t know if she even remembers me. I’d certainly say hi when I see her again. But it’s been years since we last saw each other.”
“But Titus said…” her voice trailed off.
“Titus is a big fan of hers.”
She winced. “So is Baba.”
“I guess it’s them dreaming they’ve dated her.”
She stared at him, trying to draw out the truth from his eyes. He stared back at her, unblinking.
This frustrated her. He must know about what happened to her and Brigitte. It was the talk of the rags for months all over America and the internet! But his eyes indicated nothing. In fact, he seemed clueless of the connection.
“This is important to me. I want the truth,” she said between gritted teeth.
“I’m telling the truth.”
A seed of hope was traitorously blossoming inside her but she didn’t want to be disappointed. Maybe he was telling the truth?
“What do you want me to swear on?” he asked, a smile hovering on his too-sexy lips. Lips she longed to kiss again. Just thinking of tasting him again made her core clench with delicious ache. Her nipples were sensitive against her lace bra.
“God?” she challenged, trying not to get distracted by his sexual magnetism.
“That’s too easy. I’m Catholic. My God easily forgives the murderers, more so the liars.”
This was becoming really awkward. She stared at the floor, unsure now. Confusion and misgivings warred with her endorphins, the latter winning. Just looking at him made her feel a thousand arrows of regret piercing her body, reminding her of what she was letting go.
“Brigitte is really not my type,” he commented quietly.
Her head lifted to meet his eyes again. “Not your type? How can she be not your type? She’s every man’s type!” That came out more churlish than she wanted to. Just the sound of that woman’s name on his lips made her blood boil.
“Not me. I have better…taste.”
Oh God, she wished that bitch could hear this conversation now. Or maybe she was talking to a consummate player. A player who had billions. That made him infinitely more dangerous to play with.
“And what is your taste?”
Dammit, bitch, fishing?!
His eyes now smoldered with inner fire. “You.”
She wanted to roll her eyes but couldn’t. His intense gaze held her captive and she couldn’t look away. It was either he was a consummate liar or telling the truth. But then again, what did it matter to him if he’d slept with that woman or not? If she didn’t choose him, it was more her loss than his. That was the bald truth. Passing up on the highest bid who also happened to come from the only man who had truly awakened her sensuality with just a few kisses was kind of…ironic. No, tragic.
All because she was jealous of that cradle-snatching cougar.