Authors: D.M. Mortier
Mari sighed in exasperation. Who was she kidding? She knew she had to do the right thing. And the right thing was no lies, no secrets!
She had a long night to prepare herself for his presence and the impossible task that lay ahead.
Mari was running
late. With the knowledge of her pregnancy, it was as if her body decided it was time for the unpleasant symptoms to set in.
. Intense, acute morning sickness. Mari woke up at six as usual, but spent the first hour vomiting. Barely grinding through her exercise regimen, she forced down a light breakfast of dry toast and tea, and dressed meticulously in a form-fitting suit, determined to enjoy her still-slim figure for as long as it lasted, and then took more than an hour to navigate the London commute from her flat at Hyde Park Gate to Canary Wharf.
Upon entering the executive floor, she sensed the air was thick with nervous tension. Everyone ran around silently, intent on their tasks. It was obvious that Nico must be in a formidable mood. The staff always reacted so when he got like that. Mari ran into her office grabbed her documents and jump drive and sprinted to the conference room. She stopped at the closed door and took a deep breath before opening the door and walking into the room, head held high.
“My apologies.” Jarrod was in the middle of his presentation at the monitor. Mari nodded and smiled at him first, and then she acknowledged every other member of the team, before making eye contact with Nico. She had anticipated the zing to her system, but nothing like the debilitating jolt she felt upon being ensnared by those intense blue orbs.
Her breath stopped.
“Mari. You are well?” Nico came toward her and held her hands. He kissed her cheeks in greeting.
Mari was stunned.
Not because he hadn’t greeted her like this before. In fact, it would have looked odd if he hadn’t. As the only female member of the team, she was often treated to male chivalry. No, what stunned her was the total destruction of all the defenses she had meticulously built the night before. She was drowning fast. Her senses tingled as she was assaulted by his devastating masculine fragrance, potent and intoxicating. He had always been able to do this to her, but now it seemed more alluring. Given the knowledge of the pleasure she’d derived from him months ago, her body responded even more amorously to his proximity. Her nipples throbbed with sexual awareness. Mari was grateful she was still wearing her blazer, which would mask her embarrassing state of arousal.
Nico obviously didn’t share her fascination. He turned away from her and ensured she was aware of his irritation. “Where the hell were you? I have a company to run here. I don’t have time for bullshit!”
Okay, now she understood why everyone was walking around on eggshells. They were dealing with volatile, impossible-to-please, moody Niccolo Darian!
Not waiting for or expecting a response, he continued. “We have a very busy day, and can’t afford any more delays!” He fixed her with an impatient glare, in total contrast to the gentle kiss of a moment ago. Typical Nico, but it helped her to achieve some semblance of equilibrium. She was grateful to the return of the status quo, Nico in his unreasonable moods.
Mari took quick little breaths to get oxygen to her brain as fast as possible. Taking her seat, she tried to calm down.
Nico sat listening to the reports of the members on the team and was only half paying attention. His total focus was on the woman two chairs down from him. He had noticed her nipples through the gaping jacket she wore and his body responded lustfully in instant arousal. He wanted to take her out of there and just bury himself in her. His erection pressed hard against his tailored dress slacks. He was grateful he was safely hidden by the huge, mahogany conference table. Otherwise, the tent in his pants would be visible to all. It was difficult to stay away from her as long as he had, and for as long as he would have to.
In addition to Celina making his life a living hell in recent months, he’d been unable to release his pent-up frustration via sex. Having had a taste of this dark beauty, his dick refused to perform for any other woman. In fact, his boy shied away, almost withdrawing back into his balls in retreat, whenever he tried taking another woman to his bed.
He wasn’t ready for the serious relationship Mari would want from him. And she deserved to have that. But the bitterness and poison invading his heart from the duplicity of Celina wouldn’t allow him to deal honestly with any woman.
Celina was hell-bent on making their divorce as unpleasant as possible. And he intended to fight her every step of the way; she didn’t deserve any consideration. At the moment, she refused to move out of his ancestral home. His parents had temporarily moved to his mother’s estates in Florence, Italy, to get away for the hostile atmosphere at the vineyard. Unfortunately, his sisters and brother were not so lucky. They had to live with the situation in order to continue running the winery.
He was determine to get her out of his life, while giving her as little of his fortune as possible. Not because he couldn’t afford it, but because she was a scheming, amoral bitch!
Given the recent revelation about his inability to father a child, he was even more pissed. He grimaced at the black thoughts and strengthened his resolve to stay away from Mari. His bitterness would only hurt her.
The meeting went on for the remainder of the day, with lunch delivered late in the afternoon. It was the hardest meeting of Mari’s life. She couldn’t believe how hyper-sensitive she was to Nico’s presence. Just looking at him made her throb in places that had no business throbbing in this professional setting. Her underwear suffered the most, a testament to her lustful thoughts and irrepressible need. Totally incapable of controlling her body’s instant responses, she drowned in his domineering aura, his voice, his occasional sardonic laugh. Her clean-up visits to the restroom were frequent throughout the day. Thank God she carried replacement panty shields, allowing her to destroy the incriminating evidence of the inappropriate responses.
The team finally concluded at eight, with the agreement to purchase the bank and have a select management team put in place early to bring the operation quickly in line with the company’s standard business practices.
A celebratory dinner was held at Luciano’s as usual, with the team in a jovial mood. For a while, the occasion felt like any other dinner they’d had together. It was fun and everyone got on well, with a lot of ribbing going back and forth among them. But not once did Mari address Nico directly. Nor did he engage her in one-on-one conversation. What she felt was too raw, too intense. One glance or touch could, in an instant, shatter the entire illusion she projected for the other team members.
Everyone was on a high from a successful meeting, and no one wanted to end the day after dinner. Nico took the team to a club owned by a friend of his. It was noisy, dark, and crowded. Exactly the cover he wanted and needed. He had long since given up on his ability to walk away from Mari again. He had to get her in his arms before the night was out—to hell with the consequences.
Yeah, he’d already acknowledged that. He felt the need to reaffirm his manhood. And since his dick refused to perform for other women, Mari had just run out of luck. He had to have her again. He was going to have her!
They were given a table in a private corner of the club. Nico opened a tab for drinks for them. Too bad Mari was the only member of the team who never drank alcohol. He would have enjoyed watching her lose some of her cool.
He watched her moodily for almost an hour, impatiently imbibing the vodka in his never-ending glass. She loved to dance and was unreservedly enjoying her four male teammates partnering her through various fast-paced songs. Nico held out for as long as he could, until he’d had enough of seeing her in the arms of other men.
As soon as she finished her set with Richard and returned to the table, he held out his hand to her. Mari stared at him for an endless minute, seemingly uncertain whether to chance the contact.
Nico smiled in triumph when she reluctantly capitulated. He felt her immediate tremor as their fingers made contact and his big, coarse hand engulfed her smaller, softer one.
Mari was acutely aware of the strength in his hold on her.
They moved slowly toward the dance floor. The lights were suddenly dimmed even more, and the dance music switched to a slow ballad. She looked toward the DJ, wanting to admonish him for wrecking her hard-fought, cool façade. Richard, the sneaky bastard, was standing next to the DJ with a shit-ass grin on his face.
She was mortified.
One of her favorite songs by Jesse Powell began. Whenever she felt particularly lonely or unable to hide how she felt about Nico, she’d played this song. She’d listened to this song so much over the past few years. Richard must have heard her play it on her computer.
This was dangerous. She was in no way ready to confess the depth of her feelings for Nico. The song reflected everything she was feeling and every word she wanted to say to Nico. How could she fight this?
Racked with involuntary shivers, she melted into solid planes of his warm body. His embrace represented everything she’d longed for: comfort, strength and love.
Oh God, he smells simply divine and feels incredible against me!
Her breathing became choppy with panic as violent need clawed at her. She felt tearful, acutely emotional from the poignancy of the moment as Jesse Powell’s “You” crooned throughout the room.
He held her low at the waist and pulled her flush against him. His arms tightened almost brutally as the lyrics swirled around them. He didn’t speak, but his body spoke volumes.
Mari couldn’t ignore his pulsing hardness buried against her stomach. The air was thick with their mutual arousal. She couldn’t stop shaking. Closing her eyes tightly, she made an effort to quell the aching need to confess her love. Wanting to shout out “I just want to be yours,” she bit sharply down on her lower lip to prevent such an outburst.
The enforced restraint made her dizzy and unsteady on her legs. She placed her head on his shoulder and barely swayed to the music, sensually rolling her hips in involuntary rhythm with his.
“Do you really?” Nico whispered close to her ear as the song came to an end and another came on, his warm breath on her skin reigniting an already inflamed passion.
“What?” Mari spoke into his chest, not wanting to meet his eyes, already regretting the brazenness of her dancing. He had to know, had to have felt, how much she loved him. She was terrified he would take advantage of it.
“The song? Do you want to be mine?”
“Nico…” she protested, not willing to answer his question.
With her breathy response, she felt him harden even further. He held her so tight, it was impossible to move, or continue dancing, if you could have called what they were doing dancing.
“I must tell you I’m not doing too well here. It has become a major issue.”
Mari stiffened in his arms at his husky admission. She was almost afraid to breathe.
“Why is that?” She could barely move her lips. Her mouth was dry and coherent thought was proving challenging. Bees buzzed in her stomach. Her skin tingled, and her core wept with merciless need.
Lord, please help me!
Nico’s hands gently stroked her, and roving up and down her lower back, finally settling in a possessive grip on the swell of her bottom. “I want you. It is probably unfair to ask but I need you,
,” he murmured close to her ear.
Mari gathered as much strength as she could. Desire was not going to rule her actions again. She had to remember the baby—and Nico. This wasn’t good for any of them. She shook her head sadly, “Nico, I can’t.”
He went to interrupt, but Mari placed a finger to his lips to silence him.
“We had this discussion last month and my stance hasn’t changed. I can’t be less than who I am and settle for an affair with a guy who thinks he can pick me up when he wants to play and put me down when he is too busy or otherwise occupied. I won’t be your mistress, Nico,” Mari whispered adamantly.
“I’m not asking for an affair or for a mistress. In fact, I’m not asking you for any relationship. I simply want you, this minute, tonight.” Nico put some space between them, forcing her to meet his gaze. “I’m not asking for more than that.”
His request floored her.
“No promises, no relationship, no future. I want you and you want me. There’s no need to make this any more complicated than that.” His molten gaze never wavered from hers.
“There’s no point to this, Nico,” she reasoned. “It doesn’t matter what either of us want. There’s nothing in it for any of us. You’re not offering me anything I can’t get from any other guy here tonight.” Mari was firm and emphatic. She was proud of how in control she sounded, when in fact she was anything but.
“But you don’t just wanna be theirs, do you? You want to be mine.” Nico smirked.
“You bastard!” Mari hissed in disbelief, but without any real anger.
Yes, I know I am a bastard for doing this to her.
But he stubbornly refused to let her reject him. His masculinity had suffered significant blows in the past few months.
Fuck no, not tonight!
She wasn’t walking away from him, and he would use whatever weapon he had at his disposal. If she wanted to pretty this up with love, then so be it.
“Don’t deny me tonight, baby. I need you,” he whispered huskily in her hair.
Nico felt her struggle, the violent shivers of her body. He was through trying to reason with her. Drowning in unrelenting lust, he was blind to any objection, risk, or obstacle. Logic was no longer a possibility. He’d never felt this raw desire to possess a woman, to own her, lose himself in her. He pulled her even closer to him, ensuring she felt the pulsing steel her proximity elicited. Nico fought for control, but the feelings clamoring through him were wild, unprincipled, refusing to be suppressed. He placed one hand on her bottom, and the other crept inside her blouse. He reached under her bra and palmed her naked, firm breast.
She wavered unsteadily in his arms. He tightened his hands around her, holding her upright.