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Authors: C. C. MacKenzie

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BOOK: Reckless Nights in Rome
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“What time do
you want to eat?” She asked, immediately telling herself she was a
fool.

He didn’t
attempt to hide how pleased he was to have won. The smile
transformed his face showcasing dimples and Bronte’s hormones did a
little shimmy through her system. She’d always been a sucker for
dimples. Obviously she’d lost her tiny mind because there was no
way she could possibly resist him when he looked at her like
that.

“Eight thirty.”
He placed a hand on her arm as she moved away. “What made you
change your mind?”

She turned,
sent him a small smile.

“You said,
please.”

 

 

CHAPTER
SEVEN

“You must wear the ivory silk,” Rosie
advised her.

She was
sprawled on Bronte’s monster of a bed built of solid mahogany.
Glossy black curls cascaded down the back of her silk bustier in a
vivid fire engine red the exact shade of her lipstick.

“According to
an expert on weddings, my mother,” Bronte said seriously, “you
should never wear white or cream to a wedding if you are a guest.”
She eyed her friend with sheer envy. “I hate you. I do. Look at
those breasts.”

Rosie stood,
stuck out her breasts and gazed with pride at perfect creamy
globes.

“Chicken
fillets, honey. Plus I’m boned, lifted and separated.”

Bronte stood in
white lacy panties and peered wistfully down the neck of her
T-shirt, remembering her ex-fiancé’s withering comments on her lack
of ‘a rack.’

“Mine look like
fried eggs.”

Rosie grinned
and held up a black floaty number in pure silk. “Your boobs are
pert, they don’t sag. I could never wear a sexy backless number
like this, but then you’d look good in a bin liner. Bitch.”

Used to her
friend’s thought processes, Rosie always wanted what she didn’t
have, namely poker straight hair, five more inches and to be lean
and mean.

Bronte ignored
the comment and ran a critical eye over the dress.

“The problem
with that one is underwear. Even a thong leaves a line.” She took
it from Rosie, frowned into the mirror and held it up against her.
It was gorgeous, an impulse buy, never worn.

Rosie lifted
the flowing skirt of Bronte’s dress.

“It’s lined and
floor length. Don’t wear panties. Who’s to know?”

Stripping off
her T-shirt, Bronte stepped into the cool silk. From the front it
wasn’t particularly revealing. A spaghetti strap hooked over each
shoulder leaving her back naked. It was a dress made for sin. She
had no idea what she’d been thinking when she bought it. Shimmying
out of tiny panties she checked out the back in the full length
mirror. The dress sat snugly above her buttocks.

“I don’t know.”
She bit down hard on her bottom lip. “I feel naked.”

Worse, she felt
vulnerable, torn between adoring the dress and being scared to
death. Dinner with Nico wearing this was asking for trouble.
Especially after the way he’d been looking at her this afternoon.
And yet was she going to deny herself the chance to flirt with a
man who set her hormones on fire?

Rosie lifted a
brow and shook her head, hands on her hips.

“You know, I
don’t get you at times.”

Bronte met her
friend’s eyes in the mirror and raised a brow.

“You
don’t?”

Rosie’s
expression was quizzical. “It’s been almost two years since you’ve
had activity of a sexual nature.”

Here we go
again; Bronte suppressed a long suffering sigh. Keen to avoid a
debate about her lack of a love life, she released newly shampooed
hair and rubbed her scalp.

Then she picked
up a hair brush and turned to Rosie who’d plonked herself on the
bed.

“You’re
obsessed with sex. And your point is?”

“I’m only
obsessed with sex because I’m not getting any,” Rosie muttered,
then added before Bronte could interrupt, “Anyway, I’m not talking
about me. My point is an incredible man looked as if he could
swallow you whole this morning. And you lost the ability to
remember your name.”

Bronte sat on
the bed with a bump. Perhaps the whole dinner thing was a bad
idea.

Even though the
physical attraction couldn’t be denied, she didn’t need all these
conflicting emotions or the complications a man like Nico would
bring into her life. She rummaged around her small clutch bag and
found her Blackberry.

“I’ll tell him
I’m ill, a migraine.” Bronte rose, paced back and forth as her
friend watched her with big eyes and an even bigger grin. “No, I’ll
leave a message with Alexander to tell him I’m unwell and I can’t
make it.”

“Bronte Ludlow,
you’re running scared. Talk to me,” Rosie ordered.

She kept
pacing. “My skin feels too tight for my body.”

Rosie scowled.
“You mean he creeps you out?”

Bronte shook
her head, her brows knitted as she tapped the phone on the palm of
her hand.

“No, just the
opposite. There’s a strong connection. Too strong. I don’t like how
it makes me feel.”

“For goodness
sake, woman, get a grip. It’s only dinner with the man. It’s not as
if Nico Ferranti is in the market for a wife. He’s the king of love
them and leave them. He’s never been engaged and he’s never been
married.”

Bronte simply
stared at her.

“And how do you
know all this?”

“Google is my
friend,” Rosie said, without embarrassment or shame.

“You searched
him on the internet?”

“Of course. My
best friend is being chased by a lovely Latin. I want to know all
about him.”

“You need to
stop sniffing out men for me, I mean it.”

“I do not sniff
out men for you.” Ignoring Bronte’s snort, Rosie continued, “Well,
okay, I’ll admit to keeping a weather eye open for a likely
candidate. But you snagged this one on your own. Go, Bronte!”

“You watch too
many American sitcoms.”

“They’re the
best. You would’ve done the same for me.” Rosie told her, and then
thought for a moment. “Or maybe not. You have nothing to worry
about, my dear Bronte. Nico is not a keeper. He’s perfect for
you.”

“I’m not sure.
He only wants one thing.”

She sank onto
the bed.

Rosie held up
her hands in a ‘whatever’ sign.

“Yeah. Trust me
on this. It’s not only bricks and mortar.” Rosie caught her hand
and looked into her eyes. “You deserve to have fun, remember all
work and no play makes you a dull girl. I put good money on it Nico
is a fully paid up member of the screaming orgasm club. You could
do with a couple of those to exorcise that low life scumbag,
Jonathan.” She leaned back, raised her eyebrows. “What’s with the
face?”

Bronte wrinkled
her nose.

“We’re getting
ahead of ourselves, my dear Rosie. It’s the idea that I deserve
him.”

Her friend
blinked. “You don’t deserve to be happy or have fun?”

“I am happy.
I’m a single healthy female who is mature enough to have a physical
relationship when she feels like it,” she said in a prim tone that
made her friend grin.

As soon as the
words were uttered, she knew they were a lie. She’d never been able
to detach her emotions from any form of intimacy.

But it was time
for her to get real. Jonathan’s words came back to haunt her. She
needed to be more responsive to a man instead of just lying there,
he’d told her. How was it his fault if she couldn’t satisfy him and
Annabel could? But what had thrown her completely was the fact she
hadn’t been as upset as she should have been when he dumped
her.

Honesty made
her wonder if she’d agreed to marry him just to keep her parents
happy, and if true, how pathetic was that? They’d adored the
Honourable Jonathan Whitfield. Since he was from the ‘right’
background he’d been perfect for her, they’d said. But she was not
the right lineage or pedigree for him now, was she?

Bitterness
grabbed her by the throat and squeezed her lungs. She was a cuckoo
placed through lies and deceit into the wrong nest. With stubborn
determination, she decided not to think about it now.

Avoiding her
fears went against her nature, but her whole world had tilted on
its axis and until she found her feet again she refused to think
about the truth she had another father in the world. A man, she’d
learned of in the cruellest way, with no idea he had a
daughter.

Her eyes stung,
what on earth was she worrying about? Nico was a playboy and she
was acting like a simpering virgin. Perhaps she should take a leaf
out of her dead mother’s book and toss her knickers in his lap.

Rosie frowned,
dark eyes scanning her face. “I’ve upset you, haven’t I?”

“No, I hear
what you’re saying.” She blinked, resting her head on Rosie’s
shoulder. “I’m living life the way I want to these days.”

After all, it
wasn’t as if she was promiscuous, she’d only ever known one man.
And at twenty-six wasn’t that simply pitiful?

Rosie leaned
back on the bed and took a long hard look at her. “You’re still
struggling with what that bastard Jonathan did to you, aren’t
you?”

Bronte shook
her head. “I’m struggling with the fact I wasn’t honest with myself
or with him. I would have settled for a relationship that was
fundamentally flawed and I just can’t get past it. What the hell
was I thinking?” She gave a sad smile as Rosie continued to
stare.

“Hmm, but you
didn’t marry him. I don’t understand why you keep beating yourself
up over it.” Rosie’s anxious eyes stayed on hers. “What’s going
on?”

“I don’t feel
like me these days.”

Rosie rolled to
her side and leaned on her elbow, her dark head rested on her
hand.

“Okay, I get
that. Life’s certainly been throwing you a few curves recently. You
want for yourself what your parents had. I don’t know how many
times I’ve heard you say it.”

Bronte avoided
her friend’s eye and plucked at her dress. “My parents lived a lie.
I trusted them, I believed in them and they lied to me.” Her eyes
met Rosie’s and by her expression of disbelief, she wasn’t getting
through to her.

Her friend
shook her head, her dark eyes full of worry and concern.

“Your parents
adored you. I was there too and I saw how much they loved each
other. Every marriage has its ups and downs, Bronte. Whatever
happened nearly twenty-eight years ago, they got past it. You need
to get past it too.”

She stabbed a
finger at Rosie. “You see, that’s just it. I can’t get past it. So
I’m living in the moment, rather than living in the past or the
future.” She gave Rosie’s fingers a squeeze. “And it’s working for
me, I’m happy living here.” She lifted her chin as Rosie chuckled.
“And if Nico is as attracted to me as you seem to think and wants a
no strings fling then that’s fine with me.”

“How long did
you practise that little speech?”

“All day.”

Rosie slung an
arm around her. Her brown eyes filled with love and affection.

“Why don’t you
wait and see what happens. Go with the flow. And,” she added with a
truly wicked chuckle, “you have a plentiful supply of condoms,
since I’ve put a box in your evening bag.”

“You’re a
disgrace.”

“No, we were
girl guides, always be prepared, dib dib dib.”

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

Nico knew the precise
moment Bronte entered the room.

He stood in a
quiet corner, where he could keep an eye on the quality of service.
He couldn’t see her, but he knew with every fibre of his being she
had arrived.

If he’d been a
romantic he would have said there was a change in the air, a
frisson of energy, a connection between them through time and
space. Since he knew for certain he didn’t have a romantic bone in
his body, Nico went with his instincts and his entirely physical
reaction.

Blood pooled
low in his belly. The music from the live band vibrated through the
floor and connected with the hot rhythm of the blood coursing
through his veins.

Again, Nico
wondered what it was about this woman that affected him on such a
visceral level. He struggled to understand it. It was as though
common sense had deserted him.

He’d had more
than his fair share of incredible women. Along with Alexander,
they’d cut a swathe through the capitals of Europe on a search and
destroy mission to see who could bed the most promising beauties.
He wasn’t embarrassed about it, no-one and nothing could touch them
and they did no harm. Naturally, he took care of the business end
of sex personally. No little surprises for him. Ahh, those were the
days. But tonight the memories almost embarrassed him.

Nico didn’t
view Bronte in the same way. He didn’t see her as a conquest. If
anyone had asked him how he saw her he would be hard pressed to
answer. Logic did not play any part in his feelings. With Bronte,
there was a connection he’d never experienced. Amused with himself
and not a little irritated, he wondered if he wasn’t going too far
too fast.

But then he saw
her.

His breath
caught in his throat.

Lei e cosi
bella.

She was
beautiful.

The black silk
gown clung to small breasts and narrow hips. As she swung the
silver curtain of her hair to one side, she turned and he got a
full view of her back, naked and as smooth-as-silk.

His tongue felt
thick in his mouth.

A young man,
his colour high, dragged Bronte laughing and protesting onto the
dance floor. He spun her around, held her back against him
thrusting his pelvis in time to the hot beat of the music. The up
lights shone through her dress.

Nico couldn’t
believe what he was seeing. Good God, she was naked. What the hell
was she thinking? Eyes narrowing, his mouth a tight line, he
stalked towards her. By the time he reached her, three things
struck him.

BOOK: Reckless Nights in Rome
8.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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