Seduced, Page 2Melody Anne
Hunger was good — she would admit to that. But with Rafe, it wasn’t just hunger, it was an all-consuming passion that took over your mind, body and soul. That wasn’t healthy. It couldn’t possibly be good for you.
When they reached her car, he put his hand on the door, preventing her from opening it. Her will was wearing thin, and she needed to remove herself from his presence, immediately.
“I’ve had a long day, Rafe. Please let me leave. ” Her voice was firm, except for only the slightest shake, but she felt like a cornered animal, and instinct had her wanting to lash out by kicking his leg. That might have made him move.
“I want to talk to you. I think you owe me that much,” he said.
She looked at him incredulously. She owed him? Oh, she didn’t think so.
“That is the most ridiculous thing I think I’ve ever heard you say, Rafe. I owe you nothing,” she snapped as she thought about reaching for the scissors she knew were in her bag and poking them into the offending hand that was keeping her door closed.
“You owe it to us to listen to what I have to say,” he said.
“I owe it to myself to do what makes me happy. ”
“Fine,” he replied, that easy smile back.
Her suspicions rose as she looked at him. He still hadn’t removed his hand. With a bow, he stepped away and as she opened her door, thinking she’d actually gotten off quite easily, he spoke again.
“I’ll be back on Wednesday — and Monday — and Wednesday — and when are your office hours again?”
“Fine!” she interrupted. “What will it take to make you go away?”
“Dinner and a conversation. ”
Simple and to the point. Now that was the Rafe she remembered well.
“I guess you’ll be enjoying history, then. Have a nice night, Rafe. ” As she slid swiftly into her car, she couldn’t help but glance back. Instead of seeing anger or frustration on his face, she saw a huge grin.
That couldn’t be a good sign.
“Are you kidding me?!” Lia slapped her arm as another bug landed on her, hell-bent on doing horrendous things to her tender flesh. What in the world was she doing in this tiny cabin in the middle of nowhere?
Once the resort was finished, this area would be breathtaking, with carefully designed spa retreats, luxury cabins, and private getaways for couples wanting exclusivity, romance, and the ultimate in indulgence.
Right now, it was hard to picture what the resort would become, because the area was untouched. Some found this beautiful just as it was, and many thought it a shame Rafe’s company was building the Gli Amanti Cove, but she was a firm believer in the project.
She’d witnessed first hand what Shane and Rafe could do. There was a reason the two of them were so successful. They didn’t just throw buildings together. They made dreams come to reality, and they had a line of customers anxious to enter their next paradise.
Never before had she really thought of herself as spoiled, but as she swatted another bug trying to land on her, she admitted that she was used to nice things. That didn’t make her shallow or unfeeling; it made her sensible. Had she been born in a different time, then she’d expect…less. She’d heard of people who shunned air conditioning, but she had no interest in meeting crazy people.
Speaking of crazy people… Her entire body tensed as she heard the laughter of his rich voice. She turned slowly, and there was Shane, only ten feet away, leaning casually on the rickety railing of her steps.
Even knowing she’d be seeing quite a bit of him didn’t lessen the reaction her body was having at the sight of the man. Though she wanted this project to succeed, since it was her first one with the company owned by her brother, Rafe, she’d been relieved by the delays, needing that time to build up her armor against Shane.
She’d wanted him for so long that she couldn’t remember a time she hadn’t. Then he’d had to go and ruin it all. Now, she couldn’t even remember why she was so angry with him, but she felt justified in accepting that he was the enemy. It was a girl’s prerogative to be irrational, wasn’t it?
But of course that wasn’t true. She remembered quite well, and she’d ended her incredibly brief affair with him for a good reason. She’d made a simple request — that he not tell her brother about their new relationship. True, it hadn’t been simple to Shane. He always told Rafe everything, and he felt he had to tell him about the two of them.
In short, Rafe meant more to Shane than she did. And Shane’s own feelings mattered more to him than hers did. No, they hadn’t discussed marriage — hell, they’d just been to bed once. But what Shane had done didn’t follow her rule book. It didn’t count as forsaking all others. It counted as thinking that men in general mattered more than women, and in particular that everyone he knew with testicles mattered more than she did.
Here’s what really pissed her off — Shane hadn’t had enough respect for her and her brain to wait and consider carefully what she’d asked. No, he’d run off and squealed to her brother while the sheets were still warm.
She didn’t need another man like that, another man who dismissed her, thought of her only as a nice, warm body, useful at night, but not a friend and a confidante. Maybe she couldn’t do better; maybe all guys were insensitive louts. Just look at Rafe. But she could try, and she could hope to find a man who really knew how to treat a woman, really knew how to love her.
She didn’t think it was too much to ask to be put first.
“No troubles at all, Shane. Why are you here so early?”
“I couldn’t let you have all the fun on your own, could I?” As he spoke, he took a step toward her, and it took all her willpower not to retreat. She couldn’t back down even an inch, or he’d pounce. That was who Shane was.
“The first two weeks here is a lot of surveying, and you could have been relaxing on the beach while we do this part. Don’t worry, though. It’s not too late. Why don’t you hop into your boat and go flirt with the locals across the channel?”
The thought of him doing just that had her stomach turning, but there was no possible way she’d admit it. Eventually she would will herself to get over her extreme lust and infatuation with her brother’s best friend.
Shane wasn’t fazed. “I would rather stay right where I am and flirt with you. ”
Why had he decided too late to say everything she’d always wanted him to say? Men! They never did what they were supposed to.
“You’re wasting your time, Grayson. Go find something to do. I’m going for a walk. ” Lia brushed past him and bounded down the steps. There was little hope that he would listen to her and disappear, but she had to give it a try.
“Good. I was in the mood for an evening stroll. Where are we off to?”
Lia sighed and made her way in a leisurely manner along the trails she knew so well. She’d been across the entire island and back again so many times, she could probably map it out. That’s what it had taken to place the resort in just the right location. There was so much more involved, too, such as not disturbing the natural appeal of the island while still making the resort a place that big spenders would be willing to come to.
“I don’t recall inviting you, Shane. ” Though she knew he wouldn’t listen to her protests, she had to give it a valiant effort. If she didn’t, she would soon be falling into his arms, and that would only lead to disaster, as she’d so quickly discovered while in Las Vegas. Falling into his bed had obviously been a mistake.
What the two of them had shared had been nobody’s business but theirs. Even after over two years, her blood boiled at the thought of what he’d done immediately afterward.
“The invitation was in your eyes,” he said with a grin. It took her a moment to realize he meant an invitation for h
im to walk with her, which she hadn’t issued, and not an invitation to her bed, which she didn’t want, either. “Besides, someone has to protect you,” he continued. He grabbed her arm and wound it through his. She tugged for a moment, then gave up, unwilling to show him that he was, in fact, affecting her.
“Believe what you will. I just want to finish this job and get back to the real world. ”
“How can you turn your nose up at such natural beauty? Besides, we’re going to be here for a good six months…at least,” he said.
The excitement in his tone had her pulse racing.
Lia had no doubt that Shane expected them to pick up where they’d left off in Vegas. For so long she’d chased him, trying to prove she wasn’t the little girl he’d first met when her brother had brought him home on a break from college.
But Shane was no different from any other boyfriend she’d had. He was intimidated by her brother, or worse, he cared more about her brother than he did about her. She was the odd woman out in a cozy bromance. Whatever the reason, he hadn’t been willing to be with her without Rafe’s permission — he hadn’t even listened to her objections. Shane had just run off to Rafe, even though she’d told him what that meant. That just pissed her off all over again every time she thought about it.
“I spoke with the designer last week and we’re on schedule. I don’t expect you to be here the whole time,” she said. She really hoped that was the case. Nobody could ever describe Lia as weak, but when it came to Shane, she didn’t trust herself to keep holding out against him, especially if he decided to be charming. She’d seen the man in action through the years, and he was good at making women trail after him. She didn’t want to be another in his long line of heartbreaks.
“Yes, the project is on schedule, and we have a wonderful crew to run it. Yet the problem is that I don’t trust anyone to see it through. I’ve decided this task needs me here until the end,” he said, stopping so he could turn her to face him.
The light in his eyes left no doubt that he was more than happy about their situation. Her stomach clenched as she fought her rising hormones. As Shane lifted his hand and removed a piece of hair that was clinging to her cheek, she knew she was in trouble.
Her breath quickened, and she was hot and hungry. She hadn’t been with another man since Shane in Vegas, and her body was going through withdrawal. It wasn’t easy to keep her distance, but she cared about herself enough to do so.
“Shane…” She attempted to warn him off, but there wasn’t much heat behind her words.
Oh, the man knew how to seduce, knew exactly the power he had over her. She’d just have to be that much stronger.
Lifting her hand as if she were going to caress him, she saw triumph flash in his eyes. When she slapped his forehead instead, his shocked expression made a giggle escape her previously pursed lips.
“You had a mosquito about to attack. ” With that, she pulled from him and turned back toward her small cabin. She felt victory at resisting him, even knowing she had a long way to go.
“This is only the first day, Lia,” Shane called out to her, making her shoulders stiffen. Yes, it was only the first day.
So he’d snatched away some of her victory. She certainly wouldn’t let him get another piece of it, or her, by sticking around. Not slowing her pace, she made it back to her cabin in record time, and she locked herself safely inside.
Yes, it was only their first day, but she’d still congratulate herself. If she took it only one day at a time, she might get through this unscathed. Might being the key word.
Rafe moved toward his waiting car with a wide grin spread across his face. Had Ari been cold, distant, or uninterested, there wouldn’t have been any hope.
But she was none of those things. There was heat in her eyes, and a quiver in her body. She still loved him — she just didn’t want to fess up to it. Well, too bad. He wanted her, and he would win her back. He meant what he’d said: he was there to win her love this time, not force it, which wasn’t an easy task for him.
His time in South America had shifted something deep inside of him. He didn’t think he’d ever be the same man again. He’d let go of the demons that had held on to him for too many years. Was he a whole new man? Well, no. But he certainly was a better person — or at least, he thought so.
But he wasn’t an entirely new man. That would be impossible. It was difficult for him to ask instead of demand, or chase instead of capture. Only one woman could make him change the way he viewed the world, and for her he would do whatever it took.
His life would never be complete without Ari. That realization had come to him when he still wasn’t over her after an entire year had passed. She was his other half — the person who made him whole. It was corny, especially in his own cynical, unromantic head, but he didn’t care. His arms ached to hold her, his body needed to possess her, and his heart felt empty without her. She was his — he just had to convince her of that.
Rafe hadn’t felt this good in a long, long time. He climbed into the back of the car and found himself whistling.
“I take it that your meeting with Ms. Harlow went well. ”
“Exceedingly well, Mario,” he replied happily.
“Then why didn’t she join you?”
Leave it to his long-time assistant to dampen the mood.
“She will need some convincing, but I’m not worried. ” And he wasn’t.
“Where to, then, Mr. Palazzo?”
“Home, Mario. I have some studying to do. ” At the puzzled look on his assistant’s face, Rafe laughed aloud. If he was going to win her back, he certainly couldn’t sit in her classroom and ignore what she was trying to teach. Try that, and she’d really hand him his ass backwards.
His grin grew as he pictured her in front of that class. She’d been so nervous. Though she tried to cover it up, he knew her too well to miss a thing. Her hands had trembled slightly as she wrote on the projector, and she’d tucked her hair behind her ears over and over. Teaching was a new experience for her, and she was doing excellently, but she was definitely uncomfortable.
Rafe was sure it would be a bit worse for her now that she knew he was there. As much as he wanted her in his arms again, lying na**d beneath him, he enjoyed this chase with Ari. Before her, if a girl had made him chase her, she’d have been sorely out of luck. He would just move on to the next candidate.
Even with his ex-wife, he hadn’t had to put forth any effort. She’d been the one chasing him. It wasn’t something he’d ever thought about until Ari entered his life. His looks had developed at a young age, and with his money on top of that, he’d never had a problem in the dating department. Only once had he ever pursued a woman — and that woman had been Ari.
She was worth pursuing twice. Hell, she was worth pursuing a thousand times. He wouldn’t give up on the two of them unless he knew, finally and absolutely, that she wasn’t interested anymore. And that could never happen. Fire burned through both of them, and a blaze that hot didn’t die down — not ever.
Arriving home, Rafe walked into his empty living room, on the one hand wishing she were there with him, but on the other, looking forward to their next encounter. Rafe knew for certain that his life was never boring when he was in Ari’s company.
Doing what he’d told Mario he would, he pulled out the textbook he’d picked up the week before just so he could know a little of what she was teaching. He’d never planned to actually learn anything. It was really quite comical if he thought about it.
Two hours later, he wondered whether he’d really be able to keep this up. Rafe liked science and numbers, things that made sense. He couldn’t care less about history. Yes, he had respect for the fallen soldiers, and he knew when and where the past wars had happened
, but to study the Civil War for almost three months…that was almost the definition of torture for him.
Shutting the book with a long sigh, he went to his liquor cabinet and poured himself a double shot of whiskey.
For Ari, he’d do whatever it took.
Sitting back down, he opened the book again, his pen and paper next to him as he searched for answers to the questions she expected to be turned in on Wednesday. This was going to be a very long night. He was just grateful his sisters weren’t around to tease him endlessly about trying to be the teacher’s pet.
Oh, yeah, he’d like to be the teacher’s favorite — he would make sure he was the only one for Ms. Arianna Harlow.
When his phone rang, he practically leapt from his chair to answer it. Normally in the evening, he answered calls only from his assistant. If there was an emergency, he would take care of it, but if it was a minor issue, he paid people well to handle it. That he’d reached for the phone without even checking the caller ID showed how desperate he was to end his impromptu study session.
“Your sister is a pain in my ass!”
Rafe laughed instantly, knowing just how his best friend felt.
“You are just discovering this now, Shane?”
“I have no idea what to do. I’ve been here for a week and she won’t answer her door when I come calling on her, speaks to me like I’m nothing but a passing acquaintance, and has made it more than clear that she’d rather I was anywhere else in the world than with her on a secluded island. Hell, Rafe, we’re in freaking paradise — the ultimate romantic destination — and she won’t even look at me, let alone allow me to kiss her. ”
“First off, I really don’t want to hear about you kissing my sister. You’re lucky as hell I caved and backed off,” Rafe said. “Secondly, did you think it would be easy? She’s a Palazzo. Stubborn is her middle name. If you truly care about her, and I think that you do, you’ll just have to step up your game. But I absolutely do not want to hear any of the details. ”
The thought of his little sister being romanced was enough to make his teeth grind themselves into stubs. He knew she was an adult, and he knew Shane was in love with her, just as Lia was in love with Shane, if only she’d admit it. None of that mattered, though, when he thought of her turning into a woman. He wanted both her and Rachel to stay toddlers forever — never grow up and get married.