Proof of Their Sin(5)

By: Dani Collins

Vittorio flicked him a speculative glance. Paolo ignored it, admitting to nothing. Everyone had wanted to know what had happened when he had stolen Lauren from the Bradley household and taken her to his penthouse on top of the Donatelli Bank Tower in Charleston.

Nothing, he’d lied.

He never lied, especially to family. Lauren had brought him to this level of disgrace and now she had the nerve to turn up at the grandest event his family sponsored. To gloat? To push him a few rungs lower than he already stood in his own estimation? Where did she find the audacity to dress like royalty and parade herself into public barely three months into mourning a man regarded by the nation as a saint?

Her searching gaze found him, causing an unwanted zing of electric excitement to pierce him. Instantly he was transported to the darkened bedroom and the rumpled bed. He felt again the ever-expanding brush of skin on skin as they struggled to peel away each other’s clothing, neither willing to break the kiss or stop touching the other. His blood heated and a weighted sensation tugged in his groin. Everything he’d suppressed and forced himself to forget rushed back with renewed power, exalting him with a conqueror’s strength and spirit even as it sickened him to want her like this.

Unceasingly. Uncontrollably.

While on her side, her plumped breasts rose as she caught and held her breath. Her shiny lips parted. She was a precocious little Bambi, wide-eyed and pinned by what looked like apprehension, so damned defenseless-looking, but it was an act. A trick to trip him up and bring him to heel. She wanted something and he wouldn’t like it, that he was sure of.

They moved toward each other like drifting flotsam pushed by a tide then halted. He was able to see the subtle things now. The uncertainty trembling in her thick lashes, the way she forced her chin up because facing him wasn’t easy. Good. She ought to be burning in self-hatred the way he had been doing since betraying his personal code and his closest friend.

She lifted a hand in a way he’d surreptitiously watched her do a hundred times, but there was no tendril to tuck behind her ear. Dio! He should have noticed it first, not last.

“What the hell have you done to your hair?” he growled.

* * *

Lauren self-consciously touched the fine wisps Enrique had left against her neck, habitually about to apologize for daring to think she had the right to cut her own hair.

Fortunately she was too dazzled by the sight of Paolo to speak at all. He was not a man who needed a white tuxedo to impress, but the one he wore added elegance and power to an already gorgeous man. His hair was on the darker side of brown, thick and threatening to curl. His olive skin held the remnants of a warm, summer tan. Beneath it, his face was carved in lines of supreme masculine grace, handsome without being pretty, strong to the point of ruggedness, but polished to urbane sophistication. He’d mastered aloof detachment but had every ounce of the seductively expressive eyes of his heritage.

Those eyes had been flipping her heart since the first time she’d seen them watching her from across that upscale bar five years ago, but he was Italian. He did that to women. It wasn’t personal.

But there had been something deeply personal between them for a few hours in his penthouse. She could feel the same magnetic draw he had exerted on her while he’d slept and fought not to shiver under the memory of giving in to that pull, pretending it was a dream to justify losing herself in her long-repressed physical desire for this man.

As if he read the direction of her thoughts, he sharply averted his gaze then brought a cold glare back to rake it down her dress. She knew it to be flawless yet still sensed she was criticized and found wanting.

Was that her own baggage of insecurity or a genuinely harsh judgment on his part? After all, she was a grieving widow. What business did she have wearing something pretty, in snow white of all colors, showing up at his extravagant party?

Wrenching nausea, the kind that had nothing to do with physical illness and everything to do with anguished emotions, clenched in her stomach. She’d had months to sort through it all. She’d owned up to her part in this conception. Paolo only needed to be informed because it was the right thing to do. She hadn’t come here looking for love and devotion even if a tiny part of her had hoped...

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