Seduced, Page 19Melody Anne
Sandra was doing amazingly well now; she’d been dating the same man for more than two years, a man who treated her like a queen, and her floral business was thriving. Rafe had switched all his business orders over to her. He would have switched his personal ones, too, but he hadn’t had anyone to order flowers for.
He would have to have a large bouquet delivered to Ari’s apartment this week.
“I’m sitting with you, where I’ll be safest,” Lia said, wrapping one arm through Ari’s, then the other arm through Rachel’s. Rafe stood next to Shane as the three women made their way toward the awaiting limo.
“Are you really OK, Shane?”
Shane hesitated as he looked across the lot as the girls laughed together, their voices easily carrying back to the two men.
“Yeah, I’m good, Rafe. I lost my yacht, but it was worth it. Lia had no choice but to hear me out, and I think we’re going to make it through all of this. I would have preferred for us not to get stranded on an island in the middle of nowhere, but it ended up being…well, not to sound too corny, but kind of magical. ”
“Magical? Really?” Rafe asked with a raised eyebrow. His lip twitched, but he restrained his snort.
“Yeah, whatever. You can shut up at any time,” Shane said, his cheeks heating with embarrassment.
“You know I’m just razzing you,” Rafe told him.
“Yeah, well, at least I did get Lia to myself. That’s worth any razzing you can dish out,” Shane said smugly.
“You didn’t do this on purpose, did you?” Rafe gasped as his expression changed and he looked at his best friend with worry. Rafe knew he’d go pretty far himself to win Ari, but not risk her life. He didn’t think Shane would either.
“No! You should know better than to even ask that, Rafe,” said Shane, glossing over the truth of the matter only a little. “I wasn’t paying attention to the weather and things got out of hand quickly. I’m just saying that being stranded on a deserted island with Lia for several days turned out to be pretty spectacular. ”
“I don’t need details,” Rafe said, deciding it was time to change the subject. “I am happy for you, though,” he added.
“What about you and Ari? I notice she’s here. That’s a great sign. ”
“Yeah. She’s here because of Lia, not me. However, I’m a little closer than I was a week ago. She’s beginning to thaw. ”
Just then, the girls turned around and looked at them questioningly, wondering what they were discussing.
“She doesn’t look like she’s thawed all that much,” Shane goaded him.
“Yeah, what do you know? You can’t even keep a boat afloat,” Rafe replied.
“That was low, man, really low,” Shane said, holding his hand up to his chest as if he were mortally wounded.
“We’d better hurry. They might just decide to leave us here,” Rafe said as the women started climbing into the vehicle.
“I know Lia would leave me behind. That girl has fire,” Shane said with admiration.
“Yeah, you’re a brave, brave man, Shane. I will give you props,” Rafe said while slapping Shane on the back.
“I need more than props when dealing with your sister, but I’ll take what I can get. ”
The two men were still chuckling as they got into the limo and it pulled away from the heliport. What could have been a tragic day had turned to something miraculous and special in the blink of an eye. They would celebrate.
“We are never leaving again!”
“Mom, you don’t need to be so extreme. Shane and I are just fine. As a matter of fact, we enjoyed ourselves on the island. The food was plentiful and there was even a spectacular cove of water,” Lia said. She sent a wink toward Shane, who actually and unbelievably blushed. She knew exactly what he was thinking about.
Mmm, that was a great cove of water!
“I was so worried about the both of you. Your father and I couldn’t get here fast enough,” her mother said as she clung to Lia and then Shane and then back to Lia again.
“Let’s all just be grateful they are fine and we found them. Now, we need to enjoy our dinner,” Rafe said as he stepped in to try to help his sister. She looked over and mouthed thank you to him.
Their parents finally allowed them all to sit down at the beautifully set table for pre-dinner drinks, and Lia’s shoulders relaxed.
“How have you been, Ari? I’ve been worried about you,” Rosabella said as she focused her attention on Ari, who was quiet as the family spoke in a mixture of English and Italian. She knew a few Italian phrases, but was pretty much lost when they spoke in the other language.
“I’m doing wonderfully, Mrs. Palazzo. Thank you. ”
“I guess it has been too long if you are reverting to calling me by my last name again,” Rosabella said with a raised brow.
“I’m sorry,” Ari replied.
“No need to apologize, la mia piccola cara. We’ll just have to go out together — no men, just women — so you are comfortable around me again. ”
“That sounds like a great idea, Mom. Let’s do it tomorrow before you all head out again,” said Rachel, obviously excited to have them all there, even though she’d been away from her family for only a couple of weeks.
“Your father and I have decided to stay in America for a while. I’m done with the boat ride,” Rosabella replied.
“It’s not a boat, darling. She is far too beautiful for such a simple title,” Martin said with a smile.
“Yes, dear. But, still, we are done cruising the seas. I like to have my feet on solid ground. ”
“I know what you mean, Mama. I think avoiding the water would be a good idea for a while,” Lia said with a laugh.
“I’m so sorry, my sweet daughter. Here I am complaining about being out on the water after all that you just went through,” Rosabella said with a gasp.
“I really am fine, Mom. You need to quit worrying,” Lia assured her.
Shane stood up and held his hand out to Lia. “Dance with me,” he said.
“I would love to,” Lia replied. She was grateful for the soft music coming from the string quartet in the next room. Melting into Shane’s arms was the perfect relief after being grilled repeatedly by her family. She certainly didn’t want to share everything with them about her time on the island with Shane.
That was for her and her alone. Of course, she loved her family, but she’d begun to build something real with Shane and she wanted selfishly to hold it tight against her chest, and not allow anyone else into their bubble. At least not right now.
The two of them moved away from the table, and Lia sighed and fell into Shane’s arms, her stress evaporating in an instant.
“They mean well, you know. ”
“Yes, I know, Shane, but after our small slice of paradise, it’s hard to come back to the real world. I want you all to myself, where I can peel off your clothes and have my wicked way with you,” she said as her hand circled his neck, her fingernails lightly grazing his skin.
“If you keep talking like that, I will have to drag you out of here and shock your family,” he warned her.
“Promises, promises,” she answered.
“You are perfect in every way, Lia. There is nothing I don’t adore about you,” he said, his eyes becoming glazed with passion as he leaned down and gently kissed her.
“Even my stubbornness?” she questioned.
“Especially your stubbornness. I wouldn’t change a thing about you, Lia. I love how alive you are, how independent, how loving. I honestly can’t imagine my life without you by my side,” he said with reverence.
“Don’t you think this is moving too quickly, Shane?”
Fear clawed her insides. This was too good to be true, so the bubble would have
to burst at some point, wouldn’t it? Nothing this amazing could last for all time.
“I would say that wanting you forever but thinking you were off limits and fighting that attraction can be called moving at a snail’s pace,” he countered.
“You could have had me five years ago,” she reminded him.
“The time wasn’t right. You will always be my best friend’s sister. But I now see you also as a woman, a beautiful, talented, kind woman. I see myself as spending the rest of my life with you. ”
Lia felt her heart swell. She wanted to grasp his words and clutch them to her heart, but a small part of her felt that it was too soon, rather as if they were still dealing with the honeymoon stage of being stranded together. What if he changed his mind in a week? They needed more time before making any big decisions.
“Is that a marriage proposal, Shane?” she teased.
“Not yet, Lia. I would never show you such disrespect by proposing on the spur of the moment. You are a queen and deserve to be treated like one,” he said, no hint of teasing in his tone.
“I love you, Shane. I wasn’t going to say that, I wasn’t going to let my heart run away with my mouth, but I love you. I have since I was a young teenager, and though it was infatuation then, it has grown into a strong and complete emotion now, and it has overtaken my soul. Thank you for being good to me. ”
Shane slowly spun them in a slow circle, never breaking eye contact with her. The smell of his subtle cologne drifted around her, weakening her knees and making her shiver, and certainly surprising her that he still had such an overwhelming effect on her.
“Lia, there is no other woman for me. There is nothing I don’t love about you. I think fate put us together long ago, and though I was a fool for years, I won’t make that mistake any longer. The light in your eyes guides me, the rhythm of your heart keeps mine beating, and the touch of your hand awes me. I love you more than words could ever express, and I would die without you. ”
Lia felt as if she couldn’t breathe. While they moved in time to the slow sound of the string band, Shane’s hand gently caressed her back, his fingers moving beneath her camisole top and scorching her skin as he rubbed the sensitive spot that dipped in before her h*ps flared out.
As he pulled her against him, she felt his clear arousal pushing against her, showing her all too clearly that he was turned on, something he always seemed to be when they touched — which made her feel womanly and seductive.
She loved him because he was a wonderful man, but even more so because he made her feel special. He made her feel priceless. Yes, her family loved her and always encouraged her, but there was a difference.
To be loved by a man, truly loved, made a woman feel as if she could burst. Of course, Lia was strong and could face the world on her own, but it involved a deeper strength, she felt, to give yourself to another. To trust someone with your heart was a gift, and it was a gift she wanted to give Shane. It was a gift that he had earned.
Shane twirled Lia again, making her giggle. Instead of letting her complete the turn on the dance floor, he pulled her to him with her back facing his front. His arousal pushed into the soft curve of her behind as his arms wrapped around her middle, holding her tightly against him.
“Ah, Lia, what you do to me…” he whispered in her ear before he kissed her neck, his tongue trailing over her skin. “You smell and taste so good. Who needs food when I have you to taste?”
“We can always leave,” she moaned as his fingers splayed across her stomach. She wanted to turn and devour his mouth, but she also loved exactly where he had her, with all of his hardness pressed into her curves.
“Please don’t tempt me. Your family would kill us, and it’s taking all I have not to drag you from here, caveman style. ”
Lia’s mind instantly filled with images of him carrying her away, tossing her to a bed, and ravishing her over and over again. She couldn’t wait to get him alone.
Shane released her, swinging her out wide, making her laugh with delight as her skirt flared. She felt pure enjoyment in their dance.
As he pulled her up tight against his chest and bent down, his eyes searing her with their desire, her laughter evaporated. Pure sexual hunger radiated through her. She pushed into his arousal, taking delight in the anguished gasp escaping his lips.
“We should go back now,” he said. But his hands had other ideas. They were resting on her hips, but soon began climbing up her waist, slowly, reaching the side of her br**sts, where his fingers briefly grazed the mounds before moving to her back and outlining her shoulder blades, pulling her tightly into him, making her beaded ni**les ache as they rubbed against his solid chest.
Lia had all but forgotten her family sitting in the next room. Luckily, the other couples on the dance floor seemed just as entranced with each other as the two of them were, or the two of them would be making quite a spectacle of themselves.
The dimly lit dance floor was tucked into a corner of the restaurant, the perfect place for couples to work up anticipation for a night of scorching romance. Shane had built her desire into a frenzy, and she no longer wanted to be at the stiflingly decorous restaurant.
She wanted a bed!
The song “ Fever” began to play; a vocalist had joined the string quartet, and her sexy voice only added to the throbbing in Lia’s overheated body. The sultry rhythm automatically made Lia grind her h*ps against Shane’s. She moved them in time to the music as her arms wrapped tightly around his neck.
“Later tonight, I’m going to push you down on the bed, unbutton your pants, set that beautiful arousal free, and take you deep into my mouth,” she whispered, delighting when he shook in her arms.
“Lia…” he warned.
“Then I plan on stripping all my clothes off while you watch… After that, I’m going to climb up on top of you, and sink down on that thick staff of yours and ride you until the sun begins to rise. ”
“Let’s go!” he said as his hands flew to her backside and he pulled her against him. If possible, he’d grown even harder at her words.
“Sounds good to me,” she said, feeling triumphant. Her family would forgive her — she hoped.
They turned the corner and Lia ran right into a body, excusing herself until she looked up and saw the laughing expression on Ari’s face.
“I didn’t interrupt anything, did I?” Ari asked, not even trying to hide the mischievous expression on her face.
“Um…no…we…uh…” Lia couldn’t complete a sentence; her brain was occupied with trying to figure out how to get around Ari so that she and Shane could complete what they’d started.
“Oh, you must be so warm after dancing for such a long time,” Ari said, slipping between the two of them, making Lia want to groan in frustration.
She could take Ari out — no problem. Horrified at her own thoughts, Lia sent a pleading look over to Shane, who looked about as miserable as she felt as Ari looped her arms around both Lia and Shane and began leading them back toward the table.
“I have to use the bathroom,” Lia said. Inspiration!
She knew Shane would take the hint and follow.
“Great. Me too. We’ll meet you back at the table, Shane,” Ari said, pointedly locking her arm in Lia’s, letting the wanton young woman know she wouldn’t be allowed to get away.
“Fine,” Shane mumbled as he walked away, shifting his body, obviously more than a little uncomfortable.
“Ari, I’m trying to get some time alone with Shane,” Lia pleaded as she looked at her friend.
“Lia Palazzo, you have had plenty of time alone with Shane for almost a week. Your parents have been worried sick about you. Rachel, Rafe and I were terrified, too. I know you want to rip each other’s clothes off, but you can’t treat your family with such a lack of respect by rushing out. Your mother would be crushed. Family always comes first,” Ari lectured
her. “However, anticipation is half the fun. You could always see how much you can make Shane sweat through dinner,” she added with a wink.
“Oh, that does sound like fun,” Lia said as they slipped into the restroom. Hiding in a stall, she slipped off her panties and put them in her pocket.
She and Ari walked back to the table, where Shane’s eyes drank her in as she sat next to him, scooting her chair just a little bit closer.
“When we get out of here, I’m going to release you from your tight pants and run my tongue all over your beautiful shaft,” she whispered in his ear as her finger trailed over his arousal beneath the tablecloth.
Shane jumped in his seat, his knee slamming into the table, making the conversation stop as all eyes turned toward him.
“Is everything OK, Shane?” Rafe asked, looking at his friend with concern.
“Fine,” Shane squeaked, then cleared his throat. “Sorry, thought I saw a mouse,” he added.
Rafe looked at him as if he’d lost his mind. “A mouse?” he asked doubtfully.
“Um…yeah, don’t know what I was thinking,” Shane said, sending a glare Lia’s way as her fingers rubbed over him again, making his brow break out in a sweat.
“You’re all flushed, dear. Maybe you picked up an illness on that island,” Rosabella said, her face a mask of concern.
Shane felt like a heel.
He gripped Lia’s hand, trapping it against his leg, the safest place he could think of with the eyes of all her family members on him.
“It’s just a bit warm in here. I’m fine,” he said. He picked up his glass of wine and downed it, not even tasting the exquisite liquid, just praying for a buzz so he could get through this agonizing night.
The family seemed unsure, but finally the conversation began again, and Shane turned toward Lia with a pleading look in his eyes. “Behave,” he muttered as he let go of her hand and turned to speak to Rafe.
Less than a minute had passed when he felt Lia’s fingers on his hand, then felt something in his palm. He turned it, trying to figure out what it was. Pulling it up on his lap, he’d barely managed to stop himself from lifting it to table height before he looked down and noticed the scrap of lace and satin in his hand. It was her panties!