Seduced, Page 10Melody Anne
It was time to find out.
Stripping off her clothes, Ari let them fall to the ground, her panties billowing out as they floated on top of her skirt and blouse. Leaving them there, she turned the shower on, making it steaming hot, almost to the point of scalding her, then climbed in and used a generous amount of the shampoo and body wash that Rafe had provided.
By the time she’d climbed from the shower, her skin was red and his bathroom was filled with her scent. She applied lotion generously to herself, and even placed a touch of it behind the faucets to make his bathroom really smell like her, then she put on the clothes he’d left out.
With only a glance at her discarded clothes, she walked from the room and entered his living room. She wished she could sit down and pore over the pages of the journal once more, but she didn’t want to take a chance that he might show up early. With a longing look at the old leather cover, she walked out his front door.
Let the games begin.
* * * * *
Should he call or shouldn’t he? He could email. No. He’d said the ball was in her court. He’d left her a nice message, clothes, her favorite bathroom products, even food. It was only fair that she call and thank him.
Yes. Anyone would say thank you. He’d been considerate and kind — not demanding anything of her. Holy hell, he should receive a giant gold medallion for not touching her the night before. He’d certainly earned it. She wasn’t easy to resist, but he’d walked from the room.
He wanted a damn award!
Rafe continued gazing at his phone as if his will would make the electronic device ring. This was ridiculous. He paced his office, irritated that he was allowing this woman to affect him so much — to completely throw him from his normal cool, composed self.
“Mr. Palazzo, you have a call on line three. ”
Rafe’s heart sped up as he gazed at the phone. He’d given her his cell number, not his business line. Not that his cell had changed in the last two years, but he didn’t trust that she still had it on her. He was sure that was the first thing she’d deleted from her phone when she’d walked away from him.
Maybe she had called him on the office phone.
“For criminy’s sake!” Rafe grumbled as he walked to his desk and picked up the phone. “Rafe Palazzo,” he snapped.
It wasn’t Ari. It was his business manager and Rafe leaned back as he prepared himself for an hour-long call. Work. This was good. This was the distraction he needed.
His cell phone shook against his desk and he glanced at it briefly without thinking much about it. Suddenly, he did a double take, because there was a message and it was from Ari. Heart thundering, not hearing a word his manager was saying to him, Rafe picked up his cell and opened the message.
Love the panties. Teal has always flattered my skin complexion. Wearing them now. Thanks.
Rafe hit mute on his end of the line as his manager droned on. What did this mean? Was she saying thank you? What did it mean?
“Steve, I have to go!” Rafe said as he unmuted the phone, quickly hung up on his manager halfway through a sentence, then called his secretary into the room. Since she’d been with him for more than ten years, she was used to his unorthodox questions. She was like a second mother, or at least an aunt. He could trust her.
“Yes, Mr. Palazzo?”
For the first time he could ever remember in his life, Rafe felt his cheeks heat. He was actually embarrassed. When he stared at her at a total loss for words, Nina looked at him as if he’d grown a second head.
“Is everything OK, Mr. Palazzo?”
Great. Now she looked ready to call an ambulance. Did he look so far gone that she didn’t know whether he was having a heart attack or some other affliction? She was turning to make the call, or so he feared, when he finally gained his voice.
“No. No! I’m fine,” he called, and she turned and raised an eyebrow.
“OK…” she said, drawing out the word as if she didn’t believe him.
“I just need some advice from you,” he muttered, then shook his head. Rafe didn’t mutter. He wasn’t indecisive in the way he spoke. He was a man who made a decision and then went through with it no matter what. Not knowing how Ari felt about him was changing who he was, and he didn’t like that at all.
“What advice?” He could understand her confusion.
“I got this text message from Ari, and I don’t know how to interpret it. ” He spoke firmly, hoping to convey confidence, but from the knowing look in Nina’s eyes, he had a feeling she wasn’t being fooled.
“I would be happy to give it a look,” she said as she strolled over to his desk; he handed over the phone.
She was looking at the message for so long that Rafe began to feel a need to yank his phone back, but he’d asked for her advice, so he would see it through. Finally, she looked up; the corners of her eyes were crinkled with laughter.
“She is flirting with you,” Nina told him.
“Flirting?” He said the word as if it were a foreign concept.
“Yes. Flirting. You need to flirt back. ”
Nina had been there when his wife cheated on him and walked out the door. And she’d also been there as he’d conducted his relationships like business transactions. She understood him more than most. He knew she’d been disappointed in him, but he hadn’t cared. It was his life, and he was the one who was living it. If she didn’t like it, she knew where the door was.
However, she had liked Ari. Everyone liked Ari, including his parents and sisters. Ari just had a way about her.
“Well, what do I say?”
“Are you kidding me, Rafe? You don’t know how to flirt?” she said with exasperation. In her surprise, she called him by his first name, something she never did. Nina was always professional — to a tee.
“Of course I know how to flirt! Hell, I can have just about any woman I want. One look and they’re mine,” he said almost with a smirk. Ari seemed to be the exception, and though they both knew this, neither of them said it.
“If you can have any woman you want, how do you get them?”
Rafe was at a complete loss for words. He didn’t know the answer to that question. It had never taken him any effort to get a woman. Women were just naturally drawn to him.
“I’m just a likable guy,” he said with a cocky grin.
“Please!” she snapped, then pursed her lips.
“I am,” he insisted as he leaned back in his chair and glared at her.
“Fine. Then it looks like you don’t need my assistance,” she said, then turned and began walking from the office.
“Nina, I’m sorry,” he called, not exactly admitting that he needed her help again, but hoping she wouldn’t leave him in the lurch.
She turned, but she didn’t look to be in the most helpful of moods. She crossed her arms against her chest and waited with one eyebrow slightly raised.
“How should I reply?” he asked.
Her irritated expression evaporated. “Rafe Palazzo, I will not help you snowball this woman. I actually like Ari. If you can figure it out and win her back, you will be a better man for it. ”
With those words, she walked from the room. Rafe listened to the quiet click of the door shutting, then stared down at his phone.
Flirting. OK. He could do this. She wanted romance; she wanted words. Well, he was a master at that.
All I could picture was stripping that bit of lace off of you when I bought them. And, yes, I personally picked them out, ran my fingers across the fabric, and closed my eyes, imagining how you would look wearing them…and nothing else. Come see me tonight and I’ll undress you slowly as I run my fingers over every delectable inch of your skin.
There. That was good. Surely she didn’t want any mushy stuff. Of course not. So he leaned ba
ck as he waited, all thoughts of work forgotten. His phone rang, and he quickly clicked the button, rerouting the call, and then shut it down. His sole focus right now was this new game that Ari wanted to play.
I thought you agreed to no touching.
That was only for one night, Ari. I plan on touching every inch of your body — again and again and again…
Rafe’s body hardened as he closed his eyes, recalling the smooth curve of her br**sts, the sweet angle of her backside, her defined legs. She was a vision, and he had to have her soon. Several heartbeats passed before his phone beeped again.
Thanks for the gifts, but I have a date tonight. Maybe some other time…
Immense jealousy wrenched Rafe’s gut. His first instinct was to demand she break the date right now. She belonged to him, and no other man was allowed to touch her. He would pound anyone who tried to a bloody pulp.
He began typing exactly that, but he came to his senses before he hit send. If he said those words, he would surely lose her all over again.
No. If Ari wanted to play games, he’d just have to prove that he was always the winner. Instead of sending a response, he picked up his other phone and made a call.
His plans for the evening had just changed.
The rain wasn’t just coming down; it felt as if the heavens had opened up and God was unleashing his fury on the small island. Lia could see only a couple of feet in front of her as she staggered through the bushes and trees, fear starting to escalate.
What if she was completely lost? What if she broke through the bushes just as a tidal wave was surging from the ocean and it carried her back out to sea, where she’d never be found again?
Her temper was going to end up causing her untimely death. There was a point when stubbornness was just plain stupid, and she’d crossed that line, and then redrawn all new boundaries.
Staggering along, hoping she was headed in the right direction, Lia prayed to make it through this somehow. As another horrendously loud clap of thunder sounded right above her head, she felt as if she’d gotten a big fat no in answer to her prayers.
* * * * *
Shane had sulked long enough. Emerging from the surprisingly deep cave, he came up out of the water and immediately searched for Lia. Looking up at the sky, he grew worried. It was going to pour at any moment. He’d stayed inside the small cavern for far too long, a couple of hours, perhaps. Maybe more.
He couldn’t see her anywhere. There was no way she’d be so irresponsible as to wander off alone — not with a storm brewing. But what if she’d gone off far earlier, after their tiff, perhaps to get food? After all, that had been a major point of this expedition, and he’d blown off thinking about what had to be done because he was pissed off. All in all, this was a disaster ultimately of his own making.
Shane quickly climbed from the water and grabbed the bag, rushing it over to the cave behind the waterfall so it would be safe.
Then he hurried back and dressed, his temper flaring when he realized that she had indeed wandered off. Part of it was her fault, her stubbornness, but he couldn’t absolve himself of all blame. She could be anywhere and the sky was about to unleash its wrath. He hoped Lia hadn’t gone back to the beach. He had no idea what the swells would be doing right now.
As the wind picked up, he made his way through the brush, shouting her name every minute or so. Suddenly, the rain came down, and it wasn’t showing the least bit of mercy as thunder boomed and lightning slashed across the sky. He had to find her and get back to the safety of the cave.
Passing a fruit tree, he almost didn’t stop, but knew they could be stuck for a while. He took less than thirty seconds and filled his pockets, then continued his search.
As the torrential rain poured down, Shane pushed ahead, feeling the sting on his face as the brush and low tree branches whipped past him in his fervent pursuit. Not giving the sting a second thought, he continued on. Unsure how he was going to find her, but knowing there was no way he’d give up, he continued calling for her as the light faded.
Just when he thought he would be wandering the woods in the thick of night, he spotted a flash of pink ahead. It had to be her shirt. His heart stalled as he made his way in that direction. Please, he prayed.
It had to be her. When he got closer, he found Lia hunched down on the ground. Terror gripped him at her stillness, but then he saw her move and his temper flared. How dare she frighten him so badly!
“What in the hell were you thinking?” he shouted.
Lia’s body jerked as she turned to look at him. Defiance shone in her eyes — she wasn’t going to back down an inch.
“I was thinking about getting away from you, you overgrown pig,” she replied, her words slightly garbled as the pouring rain dripped into her mouth.
“We need to go now. This storm is only getting worse,” he said as he gripped her arm and lifted her to her feet. They could fight once they were in the safety of the cave.
Shane was astonished when she dug in her heels. “I would rather stay out here in the rain than have you dictate to me, Shane Grayson!”
This was pure insanity. Maybe she’d eaten some of the inedible plants and was having a reaction. It was the only thing that made any sense to him. Whatever it was, this was ending now.
“Lia, I’m giving you to the count of three…”
“And what exactly are you going to do then?” she snapped as a streak of lightning flashed far too close for his comfort.
“Try me and find out. One, two… Screw this,” he snapped as he grabbed her by the waist and threw her over his shoulder, her head hanging down his back and her ass high in the air.
“Shane Grayson, you put me down this instant,” she demanded as he began quickly moving back the way he’d come. All he could think about was the dryness of the cave and getting food in his stomach. Well, that was all he could think about until he noticed her tight rear end so close to his face. His temper was evaporating as lust began to fill him again.
“I’m not putting you down, so just shut up and enjoy the ride,” he said.
“Ah, baby, your thrashing around is only turning me on more,” he called, his mood changing as he carried her through the woods, walking down the path he’d forged earlier. He felt a bit like a caveman who had just claimed his prize. Thunder boomed, and he picked up his pace.
When he turned the corner and saw the path down to the water and the cave, he breathed a sigh of relief. Shelter was needed. Even though he knew that the moment he set Lia down, she would fly at him with her claws extended, it was worth it.
She was light as a feather, and he’d enjoyed feeling the warmth of her body as he carried her through the storm. It was all leading up to one hell of an explosive night. Having had a couple of hours to think on it, he would take her any way he could get. She’d soon be begging him — he didn’t need her to make the first move this time.
Shane reached the cave, and he could have gone around the waterfall, but they were already soaked, and that was the quickest way in. So, without warning, Shane stepped down into the waist-deep pool and walked through the thick stream of pouring water.
Lia’s shouts turned to a gurgle as she inhaled a little of the sweet water. Setting her down on her feet, he backed up quickly, hoping to get enough time to brace for impact.
“I’m going to bloody you,” she snapped as she flew at him.
With her eyes flashing in the fading light that was seeping through the veil of water, and her T-shirt molded to her heaving br**sts, Shane was more than ready to play.
He easily caught her in his arms and didn’t give her a chance to slap him. Spinning them around, he pushed her up against the smooth cave walls, and captured her mouth, stopping her words as he plunge
d his tongue inside, demanding a response from her.
Holding her hands firmly against her sides, he deepened the kiss, not giving her a chance to retreat, not giving her a single moment to think. They both needed this. It was the only way to move forward. What they had together was unstoppable, and the sooner she realized that, the better off both of them would be.
“Shane,” she cried as her rage quickly turned to passion. She might have thought that she despised him, but her body was telling him something entirely different.
“Are you going to behave?” he asked as he pulled back.
Her hand quickly escaped his hold and he felt the sting of her slap across his cheek. He might have deserved that. He really shouldn’t have been mocking her. In fact, when this night was over, he owed her several apologies for his behavior during the day. He’d been less than a gentleman from start to finish. But he just couldn’t seem to help himself when in her presence. She elicited emotions in him unlike any other woman he’d ever met. He certainly couldn’t help himself now.
“Not ever in this lifetime,” she said through gritted teeth. Her heaving chest was still brushing his as he leaned in closer.
“Oh, Lia, darling, we are going to make our own thunder tonight,” he promised her as he lifted a hand and rubbed his jaw. She’d really put some effort into that hit.
“You are so full of yourself, Shane. The only thunder you’ll be hearing is outside of these walls,” she said, but the tremor in her voice let him know that she was very aware of where this was going.
They were quickly losing their light, so Shane released her, moved to the bag and pulled out their tent — the tent they’d be making love in all night long. His body hardened in anticipation. Just a little bit longer, he thought.
Shane, ever the romantic, threw Lia a bag of beef jerky as he quickly set up their Home Sweet Home. She’d need her strength.
“What’s the point of a tent? We’re in a cave,” Lia said.
“You can sleep outside it if you want, but I prefer not to have spiders crawling all over me,” he said with a grin that was difficult for her to see.
Lia shut up as she looked around and began scratching her arms. Shane felt the slightest bit of guilt, but he was so worked up right now, his hands were trembling as he put the tent together.