Wife By Force(5)

By: Caro LaFever

A grim silence settled between them.

She made a move to rise, to escape, but he had moved too close. For some reason, she couldn’t take the chance of actually touching him. Not even a whisper of a touch.

She wiggled back onto the hard stone.

The silence continued. The man made no attempt to cut into it with light chatter or pleasant commentary.

In desperation, she struggled to find a neutral subject. “I can’t believe all five of your sisters are married, or almost. It seems like only a few years ago we were just kids.”

“You married too.” His voice matched his body language. Cool and composed. “Even after my advice against it.”

“Was that advice?” Every thought of keeping things neutral fled. “I took it as a threat.”

“Either way, you ignored it.”

His reaction astounded her. Although he was putting on a good front, his words were filled with fury. His tone was crisp, yet she heard it, the burn beneath the words. All these years and he was still angry she hadn’t immediately fallen in line with his instructions. He had the gall to be mad after a decade of silence between them because she hadn’t run home to Italy when he demanded it. “Unlike the rest of your world, I don’t have to follow your commands.”

“You’ve developed a sharp tongue.”

“Which isn’t to your liking, is it?”

“Sarcasm. Delightful.”

His rejoinder ripped at the last remnant of her determination to stay distant. “Clearly, we don’t like each other.”

“Another conclusion. You make them so quickly, I am impressed.”

“You do sarcasm well yourself,” she countered.

His black stare pinned her to the stone seat. “Tell me about your husband.”

His change of subject shook her. Gerry was the last thing she wanted to talk about. Especially with him. “What is this? Why should you care?”

“I care.” The two words slipped from his mouth, dark and almost desperate.

A shiver of something, something astonishing or horrifying slid down her spine. Desperate? This man didn’t do desperate.

He stepped back. Cleared his throat. “I am merely trying to have a conversation.”

His voice had returned to calm, cool. Not an iota of anything that spelled out emotion or feeling or caring. Her shiver stopped, turning into a block of ice at the bottom of her gut. Obviously, she’d read his tone all wrong. This man’s idea of caring for people was ordering them around. She, better than anyone, knew that.

However, he had given her one thing she wanted. He’d given her enough space to leave without touching him in any way.

“I’m not interested in conversation with you.” With an abrupt jerk, she came to her feet.

“There it is again.” His stare was sharp, assessing. “The anger. At me.”

She couldn’t take any more. She would admit this only to herself. He was too much for her. Bloody hell, she didn’t have to take anything from this man. Ever again. “I’m going to return to the party.”

“Un momento.” His hand encircled her elbow and brought her to a halt right beside him.

Staring down at the broad male hand, a shot of pure heat zipped through her bloodstream, making her mouth turn dry. “Let me go.”

“Not until I experience something I have been contemplating for quite some time.”

Resentment surged at his high-handedness. The emotion gave her enough courage to meet his calculating gaze. “I’m not interested in experiencing anything with you.”

“I am afraid we will have to disagree then.” With a twist, she found herself in his embrace.

His overwhelming presence hit her with stark clarity. The warmth of his body enwrapped her. The strength of his arms stilled her involuntary struggle. “Are you crazy?”

“I might well be,” he said.

And his mouth came down on hers.

This kiss was nothing like before. Nothing like her fevered memories. Before, she'd searched desperately for a reaction from him, for some slight response that would tell her he felt what she felt. But there’d been nothing.

Now? Now was completely different.

His kiss didn’t match what she knew him to be. Instead of controlled and cool and in command, it was passionate and hot and—desperate.