The Playboy's Proposition - Page 41

Her quarrel with him grew less important with his hard body beneath hers. “Well, it’s difficult for me to imagine…”

Sliding his hand behind the nape of her neck, he pulled her mouth against his. “No need to imagine,” he said. “I’m here now and so are you.”

He seduced her with his sure, magic hands and seductive velvet voice, making her forget her reservations, making her forget that she wanted more than his passion and his body. He took her up and over the top, again and again, and somewhere in that dark night, something changed in her heart….

The next morning, Gary prepared a splendid breakfast and the Medicis enjoyed a rare sunny morning in a private neighborhood park. The three Medici men played ball with Joel, carrying the little boy like a football and making him laugh until he was weak.Michael lifted his nephew onto his shoulders and carried him around so he could be taller than anyone else.

“That’s good father material,” Nicole hinted broadly.

The comment made her stomach feel as if she were going up on the down elevator. “I’m sure he’ll be a great father when he’s ready,” Bella said, then tried to change the subject. “When did you say your due date is?”

Soon enough, Rafe checked his watch and announced that it was time to leave. “This has been fun, but some of us have to work tomorrow,” he announced.

“And I need a round of pool with Rafe,” Damien said. “He’s been impossible since I let him beat me.”

“Let me?” Rafe said. “You wish.”

“We’ll see,” Damien said.

“Sounds like a challenge to me,” Michael said with a secret smile.

“If you came down to South Beach, you could put yourself in the running.”

“I’m busy with more important things than billiards at the moment.”

“Afraid of getting beat?” Rafe asked.

“You can’t goad me,” Michael said. “I really do have better things to do.”

“Damn.” Rafe turned serious. “Are you talking about Leo? You shouldn’t let this eat at you so much.”

Bella’s heart stopped and she stared at Michael.

Michael’s gaze turned hard. “I can handle it.”

Rafe lifted his brow and shook his head. “Okay.” He glanced at Bella. “It was nice meeting you, Bella. Good luck dealing with my brother. He can be ornery as hell, but underneath, way underneath, he’s a good guy.”

The next day, Michael arrived home at dinnertime. Bella was working late, so he went through the mail. When he saw a package from Italy, his gut clenched. Curious if this was from his mysterious Aunt Emilia, he quickly opened it. Photographs spilled out.He held them up and was taken back in time to his childhood. He saw the four wide-eyed faces of him and his brothers dressed in their Sunday best. His gaze wandered to Leo’s face and he felt the sting of loss. He wondered how long a person could mourn. Forever, it seemed.

He looked at another photo of a baby held in his father’s arms like a football while a toddler craned to see the infant. He turned the photo over and saw a notation scrawled on it. Baby Michael with brother Leonardo.

Less than a year younger than Leo, he’d tormented his brother by following him everywhere. He’d been so excited to join his father to ride the train to the baseball game. It would have been his first. He’d even rubbed it in a little to Leo because Leo wanted to go so badly. But Leo had already attended a game with Dad, so it was Michael’s turn to go. Until he’d raided the cookie jar before dinner and his parents had decided his discipline would be not going to the game.

To this day, he couldn’t eat a cookie without feeling sick to his stomach. His father had died in the train crash and his brother had been missing forever.

His stomach twisting with a guilt that wouldn’t pass, he found a short note behind the photos. Dear Michael, I wanted you to have these photographs your father sent me so many years ago. I am so glad that you and your brothers have found each other and are keeping your family bond alive. Do not ever give up on each other. Love Emilia.

Michael stared at the note and photos, fighting a warring combination of sweet memories and nauseating loss. A day didn’t pass when he failed to think of Leo, but seeing this underscored his need for resolution.

Unwilling to discuss this with his brothers, Michael called his investigator. “Have you made any progress?” he asked, not bothering to keep the impatience from his voice.

“These things take time,” the investigator said.

“You’ve been saying that for months,” Michael said.