“Mother, I’ll call you tomorrow,” he said, aware that his voice lacked warmth.
“You won’t forget to call Viola?”
“Ciao,” he whispered, refusing to promise. He told her he loved her and hung up, even though he knew she would not be satisfied with that response.
Before she could call him back, he turned off his cell phone, slid it into his pocket and looked up at Cara again.
Her bright eyes touched his, lingering, her visual caress making him grow hot and hard. Even in her bulky robe, she looked full bosomed and slender hipped. Her dark hair swirled about her face. He’d always preferred blondes, but her rosy cheeks and the ripe lushness of her youthful, dark beauty made her look both innocent and as alluring to him as a siren singing from the fabled rocks.
Was she his siren? After all, this part of the coast was where Homer had placed the sirens whose songs lured men and made them forget their reason.
Was Cara naked underneath the robe? He guessed that she probably was. He looked at her and then looked some more. It was time to strip her of that bulky, unflattering garment and find out.
As he loped toward the elevator, Nico felt a wild stirring of desire. It alarmed him only a little that he was more powerfully attracted to her than he’d ever been to any other woman.
He was a prince. The blood of warriors who’d conquered lands, seizing anything and anyone they wanted, especially women, flowed in his veins. His ancestors had a history of discarding such prizes when they tired of them.
He wanted her. He would use her to forget the past and its sorrows, to forget the future, as well.
Tomorrow he would call his mother and promise to woo and wed the beautiful Viola.
Tonight belonged to Cara.
N ico had a key, but he knocked before letting himself in. “Cara?”
His deep voice echoed in the tall-ceilinged bedroom. Then she ran in from the belvedere.
“Sorry about the call,” he said, smiling because she was so lovely.
Cara hung back in the doorway. She was holding a rectangular frame, a painting, it appeared, which she set down on a chest. Flushing, she lashed the tie around her waist so that the robe fit more snugly.
“It’s fine,” she said. “I had a couple of calls to make, too.” She pushed a long strand of brown hair behind her ear.
Oh, how adorable she was.
“I was out sightseeing all day and couldn’t call my family earlier. I missed a christening.”
When he saw the painting, his grandmother’s painting, his painting, his brows shot together. Not for the first time, his grandmother had gone too far. With great effort he kept his face neutral.
“My sister’s twin boys.”
He forced his attention from the painting. “So, how is Italy as a tourist destination?”
“Perfect.” She swallowed. “I took an entire smart card full of pictures.”
“Perfect. And soon to get better,” he murmured, sliding a finger against the light switch, dimming the lights. “Good thing you can’t take any more pictures.”
“Oh, I have another smart card.”
When she lingered by the French doors for a few more seconds, he regretted dimming the lights.
She was losing her nerve. He stepped soundlessly across the tile floor to her.
Her hesitation appealed to him. Aggressive women often annoyed him.
With the lights low, the room with its painted ceiling and gilt furniture was full of shadows. The last of the sunlight came from behind her, so he couldn’t see her face clearly.
He didn’t touch her at first, and neither of them spoke. But her dark eyes burned him and made him aware of the tension in his own body. He needed to take her to bed and make love to her as soon as possible.
Her eyes widened, and she scanned the room, as if seeking an avenue of escape. Afraid she might run, he gathered her into his arms.
“Mistake,” she whispered, struggling to pull away. “This could be a huge mistake.”
She was right. Especially for him.
What if she threatened to sell her story tomorrow about her night with the prince? He’d been blackmailed before. Not that the family hadn’t hired people to deal with such matters.
“There’s always a risk to everything, isn’t there?” he asked, holding her tightly.
“I suppose. I’m not usually one for risks…with men.”
“You miss a lot of good things, if you never take chances,” he said, lowering his mouth to her cheek. When his lips nuzzled her hairline, she jumped as if his kiss shocked her.
“That’s easy for you to say. The risk is mostly mine though. You do this all the time. With all kinds of women probably. It’s what you do.”
He tensed, not liking the reminder that she knew who he was and had had designs on him.