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Authors: Kate Walker

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BOOK: The Duke’s Secret Wife
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Querida… Mi mujer
…’

All his English deserted him. He could manage only his native Spanish, the words rough and incoherent, muttered in a voice that was thick and raw with need.


Amada…amada
…’

His voice thick with passion, his eyes blazing, a wash of
dark colour marking the sculpted lines of his cheekbones, he pushed her legs apart and inserted his long body between them.

Isabelle lifted her hips to meet the force of his invasion, opening to him, welcoming him, drawing him as deeply into her as she could manage, and she heard his wild cry of satisfaction as the hot silk of her closed about him.

For a second, simply lying there was enough. Simply knowing he was with her, inside her, filling her, was satisfaction after all the long, lonely days, months, years, of being without him. But in the space of a heavy, thudding heartbeat that satisfaction changed into a new desire, desire into demand, and she began to move underneath him.

‘Isabella,’ he choked. ‘
Mi mujer
…’

Hard hands clamped down on her shoulders, holding her still, as he took charge of their lovemaking, slowly at first, then faster, harder, stronger. His passion-lit gaze burned down into hers, his head thrown back, his jaw tight, as he lost control. The hot, fierce thrusts grew wilder, more forceful, taking both of them higher and higher until at last, with a harsh cry, he put his arms around her, gathering her up to him, and his lips crushed hers as they lost all connection with reality and the world splintered around them.

It was the start of a long, hot night. When eventually Isabelle focused again, she just lay, letting her breathing slow, her heart stop racing to the point of bursting. Beside her, she heard Luis stir, sigh with weary satisfaction and stretch lazily.

‘You okay?’ he questioned softly, his accent very pronounced, his voice husky.

‘More than okay,’ Isabelle answered dreamily. ‘Much more than okay.’

At that point she must have drifted into sleep because the next time she opened her eyes it was as Luis slid from the bed and padded silently across the thick carpet heading for the bathroom.

As Isabelle lay in drowsy contentment, she heard the sound of the shower being turned on, water splashing onto the tiles. The next moment Luis was back, easing the quilt from her lazy body, lifting her in his arms.

‘Hey…what are you doing?’

It was a feeble attempt at a protest because the truth was she didn’t care. As long as he was there, with her, with the warm satin of his body against hers, the strength of his arms enclosing her, the scent of his skin in her nostrils, he could do anything he liked and she wouldn’t complain.

‘Don’t panic,’ he murmured, shouldering open the glass door and carrying her inside the cubicle. ‘I just thought you’d like a shower.’

Hiding a smile against the strength of his shoulder, Isabelle injected a mock protest into her voice.

‘Do I have to? It sounds rather over-energetic to me.’

His laughter was low, full of genuine amusement, sounding deep inside the powerful chest against which her cheek rested.

‘Trust me,
mi angel
, you won’t have to do a thing. Just leave everything up to me.’

He was as good as his word. From the moment that he lowered her feet to the floor so that she was under the flow of the heated water, he took charge of everything. Isabelle didn’t even have to find the strength to stand upright as he supported her on one muscular arm, lathering scented shower gel all over her acquiescent body with his free hand.

‘Mmm, that feels good.’

Eyes closed, she edged round until she was leaning back against him, the soft hairs on his chest brushing the sensitive skin between her shoulder blades, her buttocks fitting snugly against his pelvis. With two hands available now, the pleasure of his massage more than doubled, long, caressing sweeps of his firm fingers alternating with gentler, deliberately lingering strokes over her breasts and dipping down between her legs.

‘Don’t stop,’ she begged. ‘Please don’t stop.’

She didn’t know at what stage simple pleasure turned to hunger, at what point hunger became desire. She only knew that the firm pressure of Luis’s fingers sliding all over her skin was a delicious torment that woke every one of her senses and set them clamouring all over again.

And it was only too obvious that Luis felt the same. The heated pressure of his aroused body against hers was the last straw, driving all thought of restraint from her mind. Twisting round again, she pressed herself close to him, lacing her arms around his neck.

‘I want you now,’ she whispered in his ear, her words half drowned by the rushing water. ‘Right here. Right now.’

His sigh was both a sound of delight and surrender to a force that was stronger than either of them.

‘Your wish is my command,
querida
…’

The next moment she was lifted off her feet, her legs encircling his narrow waist, her back against the steam-damp tiled wall. He thrust into her with a guttural sound deep in his throat, his mouth closing over hers, his tongue echoing the more intimate invasion of her body.

It was hard and hot and fast and gloriously fulfilling. The water pounded down on their heads, its heat and pressure adding to the tumult of sensations ricocheting through Isabelle’s wildly excited body. She had never climaxed so fast, so fiercely, never been so totally out of control. And when it was over both of them sagged against the walls of the cubicle, struggling for the return of some sort of reality.

She was only vaguely aware of the moment Luis finally reached up a hand and switched off the shower. Of him wrapping her in a thick, soft towel and taking her with him back into the bedroom. Drying her tenderly as a mother, he carried her to the bed, laid her down and pulled the downy quilt up over her exhausted form.

The faintly cool touch of the covers roused her slightly and she caught at his hand when he would have eased away.

‘Don’t go! Don’t leave me.’

‘Leave,
amada
? Never. This is just the start of things. We’ve only just begun.’

Already sleep was claiming her, rolling through her mind like mist coming in from the sea, but she knew the moment he joined her in the bed, felt the heat of his long, powerful body,
the strength of the arm that came round her waist, pulling her close up against him.

‘Sleep for now,
querida
,’ he murmured, pressing a swift, soft kiss on her cheek. ‘And when you wake I’ll still be here. I’ll always be here. I’m never going to let you go again.’

Another kiss, more lingering this time, landed on her hair, and the arm that held her tightened.

‘Now you know
exactly
why I want you back. You’re mine. We belong together. Tonight has proved that.’

‘We belong together.’ The words gave her hope. Hope that if she spent more time with Luis, if she went back to living as his wife, they might just have a future together. ‘There was no way I could let you go,’ he had said.

It was enough. When she had believed that he would never want her anywhere near him again, it was more than enough. It was a beginning. Something to build the possibility of a future on. They had a long way to go, but they had taken the first steps.

In the darkness Luis stretched lazily, lying on his back, with one hand behind his head, staring up at the ceiling as he let the tides of sleep wash over him.

His body ached with a bone-deep satisfaction, his clamouring senses stilled for a while at least. At his side Isabelle lay, deeply asleep, her slim body softly curved towards his. He would let her sleep for now. There would be plenty of time to talk—and more—in the morning.

A wide grin spread across his expressive mouth and he stretched again, sighing in deep, luxurious contentment. Things might work out after all. Whatever had happened in the past was the past. Isabelle was here, with him now—and surely she couldn’t have responded to him as she had tonight if there was anyone else in her life?

But one way or another, he was determined there was no going back. Isabelle was his wife, and she was here to stay.

Turning over on his side, he draped a possessive arm around his wife’s still form, closed his eyes, and fell deeply asleep.

CHAPTER FOUR

T
HE
weather in Andalucia was totally different from the cool winds and miserable, drizzling rain they had left behind in Yorkshire. As Isabelle alighted from the powerful car that had taken them on the last stage of their journey she stepped out into warm, bright sunshine and only the gentlest of delicate breezes.

But somehow the warmth didn’t seem to reach inside her. It brushed over her skin, the breeze tangled in her hair, but it didn’t touch her heart, which remained as fearful and uncertain as ever.

Should she really be here? Was she doing the right thing?

Last night she had been so sure. She had been so confident that a new beginning was possible. But were the feelings that she had experienced in the heat of their lovemaking and its aftermath enough to carry them through into that new beginning?

What was it that people said about the cold light of dawn?

She had woken that morning to find that Luis was already up and dressed, bending over her to place a brief kiss on her sleepy face.

‘What? Where are you going?’

‘To get my things; check out of the hotel. Then I’ll be back.’

‘So you are coming back?’ Her heart jolted in a mixture of uncertainty and delight.

‘Do you doubt it? Oh, yes,
querida
. I’m coming back. I think last night rather proved a point.’

‘What point?’ She couldn’t get her sleep-clouded mind to focus and frowned in confusion.

‘“Why don’t you kiss me and we’ll see?”’ he quoted, his tone laced with a dark humour. ‘“If that compatibility is still there, then maybe I will agree to your terms.”’

Eyes gleaming with appreciation raked the length of her slim body from the tousled golden hair, down over the pale skin of her face and neck, still marked red in places by the demanding force of his kisses.

‘Made up your mind, then, have you, sweetheart? Because if you haven’t, then I certainly have.’

Bending suddenly, taking her totally by surprise, he pressed his lips to hers once more, and she could feel his smile against her mouth as she was unable to control her instant, passionate response.

‘I think we’d both agree that that
compatibility
is still there,
querida
. So you don’t have to say another word. I’ll take that as a yes.’

Her tongue seemed too swollen, too clumsy to answer him, but he clearly didn’t need her to say a single thing. Snatching up his jacket, he slung it over his shoulder and headed for the door.

‘I’ll give you an hour or so to pack,’ he tossed at her, not even sparing a backward glance. ‘I’ll be here to pick you up on my way to the airport.’

She had packed as she’d been commanded to do, but all the time her body had been tight with tension, never knowing quite whether to believe that Luis would come back or not. And so she had jumped like a startled cat when the sound of his hard fist hitting the scuffed and faded wood of the front door had had her hurrying to let him in before he splintered the lock.

‘Do you think you could make a little more noise?’ she’d demanded, hiding her private feelings behind a mask of annoyance. ‘There are people still asleep in the house, you know.’

‘At this time?’

His brief, impatient glance at his watch expressed irritated disapproval without a word having to be spoken.

‘Some of the guys who live here work shifts. We don’t all have the luxury of being able to come and go as we please. Some of us have to earn our livings.’

‘In Spain I would have put in a couple of hours’ work at the vineyard already.’

Luis dismissed her protest with an arrogant flick of his hand.

‘I prefer to be out and busy before the heat of the day sets in.’

‘Which is fine in Spain, but not exactly appropriate here,’ Isabelle retorted with a reluctant glance out at the rain-soaked street. ‘We don’t get a chance to take a siesta and rest for half the afternoon.’

She realised her mistake as soon as the words had left her mouth, anything else she might have been about to say disappearing in a tangle of confusion as she saw the wicked, glinting glance he shot her from behind dark lashes.

‘As I recall, we didn’t exactly use the time for
resting
,’ he drawled sardonically, the gleam in his eyes growing as he watched the hot colour race up her neck and into her face, until she was almost exactly the same bright pink as the cotton jumper and cardigan she wore with loose oatmeal trousers for comfort in travelling.

‘No—like every man, you only had one thing on your mind,’ she retorted tartly, too knocked off balance mentally to care that that was exactly the wrong thing to say, giving Luis an opening that he would be unable to resist.

He didn’t disappoint her.

‘Every man?’ His tone had sharpened perceptibly. ‘Am I to take it you’re talking about Rob Michaels here?’

There, his name was out in the open. The thing that had come between them, broken them apart, had been acknowledged at last.

‘You can take it that I’m talking about whoever you want,
whatever you want! But seeing as last night you were the one who was so insistent that I never mention that man’s name again so that we could let the memory fade, don’t you think it’s rather hypocritical of you to bring him into the conversation again at the first opportunity?’

His answer was a fierce, savage glare, one that turned his eyes molten gold with fury, but she told herself to ignore it.

‘After all, you were the one who invited your ex-mistress along on what was supposed to be a private party in that hotel.’

‘Catalina invited herself along,’ Luis snapped. ‘What did you expect me to do? Tell the hotel she wasn’t allowed to book in? I thought she’d be company for you.’

‘And I wouldn’t have needed company if you’d not taken yourself off to London. I was miserable. I had a cold and it was my birthday.’

She wasn’t going to admit how much the presence of the lovely Catalina had disturbed her. Beside the Spanish woman’s sultry beauty, she had felt pale, wan and insignificant.

‘So you made my life hell as a result. Tell me, do you enjoy dragging up the worst moments of our past together? Are you determined to drive me away all over again?’

‘On the contrary, I think that you’d better make your mind up, Luis. Either you want to talk this out, or you want to keep quiet. You can’t have it both ways. The next few days are going to be difficult enough…’

‘The next few days…’ Luis echoed, pouncing on the words like a hunter on its prey. ‘Does that mean that you’re coming with me?’

Had he actually doubted it? Isabelle found that hard to believe. But there was a rough edge to his voice, a disturbing shadow in his eyes that spoke of something very different from the unshakeable self-confidence and arrogant authority he usually displayed.

‘Did you give me any choice?’ she parried, green eyes flashing defiance as she met that predator’s stare head-on. ‘I thought it was a royal command and I had no chance of doing anything else.’

Abruptly his expression changed, the shadow in his eyes growing darker, deeper.

‘Not a command,
querida
,’ he said gruffly. ‘A request. One you could grant or refuse as it pleased you. If you come, I want you willing. I want you by my side as my wife…’

‘And this will be the real marriage you promised me?’

She could hardly get the words out, they meant so much to her.

‘How could it be anything else?’ He looked astonished that she should even ask the question. ‘You will share my life and my bed. We will be husband and wife in every sense of the word.’

Isabelle’s face broke into a wide, brilliant smile of delight, her eyes glowing like emerald fire.

‘Then, in that case, I’ll come with you,’ she said, and when he held out his hand she put hers into it without hesitation.

That smile was in Luis’s mind now as he watched her face at the moment that she took in her first sight of his family home. It was one thing knowing that he lived in a castle, quite another being faced by this magnificent hill-top building, parts of which dated back to the sixteenth century.

Built in a warm honey-coloured stone, the castle was approached through gardens of orange groves, oleander and olive trees, beyond which stretched meadows and woodlands. And close by the main courtyard was an aromatic herb garden that scented the air softly.

Luis had stopped the car at the foot of the drive, suggested that they get out and walk from here, sending the chauffeur on ahead with their luggage.

‘It’s the best way to see the castle,’ he told Isabelle. ‘And besides, I need to talk to you. There are some things you need to know.’

Isabelle agreed without hesitation. The whole place was so unlike anything she had ever seen in her life that she needed time to adjust, to take in the reality of it. Perhaps if she walked up to it slowly, then she might be able to believe it.


This
is where you live?’ She looked positively awestruck.

‘It’s where my parents live. I have my own villa some miles
south of here. But my mother and father would never forgive me if I didn’t bring you to the family home for their first meeting with you.’

If he was honest, he had never really thought that this day would ever actually happen. Even as he’d knocked on the door of her flat this morning, he had wondered if she would refuse to come with him. He hadn’t known if she would welcome him or shut the door right in his face.

And the worrying thing had been how much that had disturbed him. He had found his pulse rate quickening as he’d approached her flat. The hand that he had raised to knock had been unnervingly unsteady.

Seeing her again last night had revived all the hunger, the passion he had once felt for Isabelle, and he had known that he had to have her back in his life, whatever it took. He didn’t care if she felt anything for him or not. She was the only woman who had ever made him feel this way, and right now that was enough.

‘What was it you wanted to talk to me about?’

From the way his face changed in response to her question, Isabelle knew that she wasn’t going to like what he had to say to her.

‘Luis—what is it?’

The bronze eyes had darkened swiftly, his jaw tightening, and he stopped walking abruptly, turning to face her.

‘I haven’t told you everything,’ he said sombrely. ‘Haven’t told you exactly why you’re here.’

Isabelle felt as if a cruel hand had suddenly closed over her throat, making it difficult to breathe properly.

‘I know why I’m here,’ she managed unevenly. ‘You asked me to come. To travel to Spain with you—as your wife.’

Why did he hesitate? Why had he suddenly hooded his eyes, shaking his dark head?

‘Not exactly,’ he said stiffly.

‘Not exactly?’ Isabelle echoed in confusion. ‘Why? What do you mean? What else is there?’

Luis drew in his breath again harshly, raking one hand through the raven darkness of his hair. And that sigh went straight to Isabelle’s insides, twisting all her nerves in fearful apprehension.

‘Luis! Tell me.’

At last his amber-coloured eyes met hers, fixing her with an intent and unwavering stare.

‘I wanted you to come to Spain with me, yes,’ he said roughly, clearly reluctantly. ‘But not as my wife. I need you to come as my fiancée. To be here as my prospective bride.’

‘Your
prospective
bride? What is this?’

Isabelle couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She could only stare at him in blank bewilderment, struggling to see his expression clearly in the glare of the sun.

‘You have to be joking!’

‘It seems clear enough to me.’

Luis moved into the shade of a nearby tree, leaning back against the width of its trunk, and folded his arms across his chest.

‘My family don’t know I’m married. They don’t even know that you exist. If I turn up with you and say that you’re my wife, that we’ve been married for two years already, it will involve us in a lot of complicated, awkward explanations…’

‘And why would that matter?’

‘My father is ill—seriously ill. He’s supposed to avoid all stress or shock.’

‘Oh, Luis!’

That drew her shocked green eyes to his carefully shuttered face, one hand going out to touch his arm.

‘I’m sorry!’


Gracias
.’

It was swift, dismissive. He didn’t look as if her sympathy had touched him at all.

‘What…?’

‘Prostate cancer. He’s in remission at the moment, but his time is limited.’

He drew in his breath in a sharp hiss between sharp white teeth.

‘I want to make what time he does have happy. That’s why you’re here. My father wants to see me married—not to find out it’s already happened. And Mother has always dreamed of organising a family wedding. Having the service in the cathedral, the reception in the castle. She had hoped to do so for Diegeo, but…’

‘I heard about the speedboat accident,’ Isabelle inserted quietly when he broke off, his eyes suddenly unfocused. ‘That must have been hard on you all.’

‘Then you will see why I want to present you to them as my new fiancée.’

‘And go through another wedding ceremony? Pretend it’s all happening for the first time—lie through my teeth! I think not!’

‘That’s the way it has to be.’

He was back in aristocratic mode once again. Pure arrogant
conquistador
from his head to his toes.

‘The way I want it.’

‘The way you want it!’ Isabelle echoed bitterly. ‘And what do you think is going to happen? That you’ll just snap your fingers and I’ll jump to do your bidding like some lowly serf you have honoured to notice. I’m a free woman, Luis! I don’t let anyone else just run my life.’

‘As I’ve learned to my cost,’ he returned sardonically. ‘You made sure the word “obey” was omitted from the wedding service, as I recall. And what I
thought
was going to happen was that you were prepared to consider the idea. I thought you’d understand my father’s position, the way he feels…’

‘I do! Believe me, I do. But even though I understand—and sympathise—that doesn’t just mean I’m going to fall in with your plans without question.’

‘Would it be so terrible, Isabella?’

BOOK: The Duke’s Secret Wife
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