Authors: Stephanie Julian
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Erotica, #Paranormal, #General, #Science Fiction; Fantasy & Horror
An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication
Seduced and Ensnared
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Seduced and Ensnared Copyright © 2008 Stephanie Julian.
Edited by Carole Genz.
Photography and cover art by Les Byerley.
Electronic book Publication September 2008
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Seduced and Ensnared
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
: FremantleMedia North America, Inc.
BMW M6: Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft
Chucks: Converse Inc.
: Chrysler Corporation
Fortune 100: Time Inc. Corporation
Google: Google Inc.
Hugo Boss: Hugo Boss A.G.
Jack Daniel’s: Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc.
Microsoft: Microsoft Corporation
Oldsmobile: General Motors Corporation.
The Daily Show
: Comedy Partners
The Lord of the Rings
: Saul Zaentz Company DBA Tolkien Enterprises
The Wall Street Journal
: Dow Jones, L.P. Corporation
: Time Inc. Corporation
In the contemporary world, magic holds no sway. But looks can be deceiving.
Old gods remain. Old ways continue.
Mythical creatures live among us…if you know where to look.
The Etruscans were a mysterious civilization that came to prominence in what is now northern Italy. The ancient Greeks feared them. The ancient Romans revered them.
Their culture was powerful and sophisticated on the surface. But what they kept hidden was much more interesting… Magic!
The magical descendants of the ancient Etruscan race still walk the Earth. They comprise two groups. The
are of human descent, the
are spirits of the forests, water and air. Both have the ability to control the elements with the
, the magic in their blood.
For centuries, the Etruscans have maintained their culture, practicing their rituals and their way of life in the shadows, behind closed doors.
But they live among us. And they’re more powerful than you’ll ever know.
The woman was all clean lines and smooth motion, flowing through the crowd with the ease of long practice.
From his spot along the wall, Camillus de Feo watched Stella Palmer smile, shake hands, talk for a few minutes then repeat the process until she’d greeted nearly everyone in the luxurious meeting room at BD Enterprises.
Except for him, and that was through careful planning on his part. He had already decided that when she reached
, she wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while. A good long while.
As he took a sip of ginger ale, Cam’s eyes narrowed, watching Stella try to extricate herself from the older man holding on to her hand.
Her smile never wavered but the guy wasn’t letting go. In fact, he pulled her closer. Cam could tell from across the room that she didn’t want him to be any closer.
Gods be damned, he really didn’t want to have to rescue her and risk blowing his cover. She was thirty-one years old. She should be able to take care of herself. Especially considering her family tree.
Still, her pale green eyes looked…fragile.
But that shouldn’t matter.
The old guy had managed to pull her a little closer still and Stella’s arctic cool was starting to melt. As much as he’d like to see what she looked like with a little heat in her pale cheeks, Cam was getting seriously pissed off by that guy.
He straightened, ready to walk over, but then—finally—Stella managed to retrieve her hand without messing one platinum blonde hair in that fancy twist. The guy put his arm around her shoulders, bared by the pale pink sheath that showed off her body to perfection.
Stella Palmer was thin but had a nice rack. Her breasts weren’t big but high and tight. He was pretty sure she wasn’t wearing a bra under that dress and she really didn’t need one.
The old guy must have thought so too, because he couldn’t seem to stop staring at her chest. She turned, trying to get away from the asshole now attempting to get his arm around her waist, and Cam took notice—not for the first time—of her sleek ass.
He typically wasn’t attracted to short skinny green-eyed blondes with sharp little features. She had to have some
in her background somewhere. He saw it in the pointed nose and uptilted green eyes… Eyes that were starting to show her fatigue.
That bastard with the fake smile just would
leave her alone. If his hand got any closer to her ass, Cam was going to—
Pushing away from the wall, he took a few steps but stopped short when Stella finally put some space between her and the guy, who didn’t look happy about it. In fact, he lifted his hand as if to grab her wrist, as if he had some claim to her. Obviously she didn’t think so, because her mouth pursed, her full bottom lip jutting out even more. Damn, he wanted to kiss her. Which wasn’t a problem—as long as he remembered he wasn’t here for pleasure.
Stella Palmer was a means to an end. Nothing more.
But if that guy didn’t leave her the
alone soon, he’d have to walk over there and punch him in the face—and
would definitely screw his cover.
Tonight he was passing as human. No one here knew what he was. He’d had to use every ounce of his magic to make sure no one realized he was
, a descendant of an ancient Etruscan magical race.
Taking a deep breath and another sip of ginger ale, he figured it was time—time to get this seduction under way.
Stella realized the guy she’d been eyeing all night was finally making his way toward her, a hard look on his strangely handsome face.
Earlier in the evening, she’d thought he was avoiding her. He’d managed to stay halfway across the room at all times, no matter where she wandered.
She hadn’t seen him talking to anyone. Usually he was holding up a wall with what looked like a tumbler of whiskey in his hand. She couldn’t tell for sure but he must have been nursing that one glass all night. She hadn’t seen him near the bar.
Obviously she’d been watching him
too much. But there was something about him that drew her attention, something in the intensity of his eyes…
He didn’t look like a man she’d typically date. For one thing, his hair was too long. Not shaggy or unkempt, just too long. Well below the collar of his ridiculously expensive suit—she recognized a Hugo Boss when she saw one—and almost to his shoulders. It was curly, not just wavy. He had natural curls a woman would kill for. She was surprised they didn’t make him look feminine.
Hell, the curls didn’t even soften the harsh lines of his face. Not that he wasn’t handsome. He was. But he was handsome in the way a bull was a beautiful animal. You could almost see the power he held beneath his skin. Contained. Leashed.
Boy, wouldn’t she love to see what he could do with all of that—
She definitely shouldn’t be thinking about sex when he was only feet away from her. That would only lead to problems. And she had enough on her plate at the moment.
When he was close enough to touch, the man stopped, locked his gaze with hers and held it captive. She tried to smile politely but for some reason, she couldn’t. Or rather he wouldn’t let her, because polite just wasn’t a word he appeared to be acquainted with.
Heat curled low in her body, radiating into the warm hidden place between her legs, and every synapse in her body fired with lust.
Be careful, you fool. You don’t have time for an affair—especially with this guy.
He’d burn her to a crisp. But she’d go with a smile on her face.
Holding out her hand, she forced a cool, pleasant smile. “Hello. I’m Stella Palmer.”
He didn’t take her hand right away. He made her wait for it. Arrogant bast—
He took her hand then, his palm warm against hers, his grip loose, nonintimidating—except for the way it made her lungs contract as if she were suffocating.
She was definitely losing it.
“Hello, Stella. I’m Cam de Feo.”
Whoa, nice voice.
It was deep, a little raspy and a whole lot sexy. “Nice to meet you, Cam.”
“Is that short for Cameron?”
“No. Are you having a good time, Stella?”
Her smile faltered for a brief second but she held on to it through sheer force of will. He sounded as if he knew just how much fun she
having. And she thought she’d been hiding it so well. Obviously not, if a stranger had seen through her. “Yes, I am. I hope that doesn’t mean you’re not.”
“I am now, yes.”
He’d said that without a trace of sarcasm. And his eyes… Boy, those eyes were something else—so dark they looked almost black. But they weren’t flat or lifeless. They shone with the same intensity that radiated from his body. In this group of high-powered men and women, that was saying something.
“So what firm are you with, Mr. de Feo?” She didn’t recognize his name but she didn’t know everyone here. Her uncle’s secretary had put together the guest list.
His gaze never shifted but she detected the tiniest increase in his body heat through their still-linked hands. He was about to lie to her. “I’m an independent contractor.”
That didn’t sound like a lie. “And what service do you provide?”
As far as she knew, Uncle Daniel wasn’t looking for a new security firm. They had their own security detail, handpicked by her uncle. “Are you thinking about joining our staff, Mr. de Feo?”
“Call me Cam, please. And no, I’m not looking for a job.”
Well, that was…unusual. Nearly everyone who came to Uncle Daniel’s mixers was here to get a job or court favor with the man who ran the company
had called the Microsoft for the new millennium. Not that their company dealt in computers. They were more diversified than that.
Still, the analogy was apt. BD Enterprises was poised to crack the Fortune 100 list after only five years in business.
“So why are you here, Cam?”
“To meet you.”
She blinked, unsure she’d heard him correctly. “I’m sorry, what—”
“Please, don’t be frightened.” His lips quirked in a self-deprecating grin that sent a shaft of heat straight between her legs. God, the man was gorgeous when he smiled. “I’m not a stalker. I was invited and I’m not here to cause trouble. I’ve heard a lot about you, Stella Palmer. I wanted to meet you in person.”
The heat spread inward and up. It made her stomach clench and her nipples tighten. Her lips parted to draw in more air, because she surely wasn’t getting enough. What the hell was going on?
Taking a step back, she realized he still held her hand…and
was reluctant to let go.
She’d never been one to flirt. She was attractive but no beauty. When her parents had been alive, she’d lived in the shadow of her gorgeous, vivacious, unstable mother. After their deaths, she’d moved in with Uncle Daniel and withdrawn into a tight little shell that was upheld by her uncle’s overzealous security measures.
She’d finished her final year of high school with a tutor then attended Albright College in Reading, only twenty minutes from her uncle’s well-fortified home in the country. She’d attended every class with a bodyguard, though the few friends she made in college thought he was just another student.
After college, she’d taken up her position at BD Enterprises. A few men at work had been brave enough to ask her out but they’d wanted to use her to get close to her uncle. It’d been easy to say no. The only men she’d dated in the past five years were men her uncle had introduced to her. Older men with a lot of money who’d needed an escort more than anything—and who didn’t expect much more than an evening’s companionship.
Oh, she’d slept with some of them. It’d been good sometimes. Just not great.
Stella wondered what Cam would be like in bed.
Probably pretty damn good, if that body was any indication. He filled out his suit to perfection. Broad shoulders and chest, thin waist, muscular legs. He was built like a wrestler.
She had no idea if he had money, though the suit and his attitude suggested he didn’t have to pinch his pennies.
So what was it about Cam de Feo that made her take notice? She looked at their clasped hands then back into his eyes. “What do you want, Mr. de Feo?”
His smile took on a wicked edge. “You mean you don’t know?”
Oh, she was beginning to get the picture. She released his hand—with no resistance from him…which pissed her off.
“I’m quite sure I don’t know what you mean.”
She hoped that hadn’t sounded as stuck-up to him as it had to her.
to be short for something—didn’t bat an eye. “Your company’s an impressive operation, Miss Palmer. I’m interested in how you manage to keep such a large staff satisfied. I understand you’re in charge of human relations.”
Now why did that sound suggestive? Just the motion of his lips when he’d said the words “satisfied” and “human relations” put images in her head.
Damn, he had a beautiful mouth, almost too pretty for a guy. It was the only soft feature in his face. Everything else was a hard angle or sharp line.
She shook her head and concentrated on answering his questions. She decided she had to get away as fast as propriety allowed. He really unnerved her.
“Yes, I’m vice president of human relations. Is your firm very large?”
Oh God, now she was starting to sound like a bad porn film actress. Large firm indeed! Why didn’t she just ask the guy if he had a huge cock?
Cam didn’t blink an eyelash. “I have a staff of about fifty, spread across the United States. Nothing on your scope but enough to keep me busy. I was hoping to pick your brain tonight.”
Of course this was about business. What else would he want with her? Still, those eyes kept unnerving her…
An hour later they still stood in the same positions. Their conversation had ranged from business to music to television to politics. The party moved around them but no one intruded. She hadn’t realized they’d spent so much time together until she caught Cam glancing at his watch.
She hadn’t worn hers tonight, on the off-chance she’d do exactly what he’d done and insult someone by implying she was bored. She wasn’t insulted though, more shocked she’d ignored the rest of the guests and focused all her attention on this one man. Not such a bad way to spend an hour really. But still, it wasn’t what she was here for.
She let her gaze drift around the room that was beginning to empty. Uncle Daniel held court by the door, saying good night. He was probably wondering why she wasn’t standing by his side as always.
For once she didn’t want to be there.
She wanted to be here—talking to Cam. Wanting to do more than talk.
“I’d like to continue our conversation, Stella, but the party seems to be wrapping up…” He paused, staring straight into her eyes. “Would you come back to my home for a nightcap?”
Luckily she didn’t embarrass herself by saying that aloud. But yes, she really wanted to go back to his home—for more than a drink, if it was up to her.
She wanted to go home with him and have sex until morning. She wanted to drown herself in the carnality of the act. He was pure alpha male. Dominant and strong. Exactly how she liked them.
“Yes, I will.”
Holy hell. She’d said yes.
Cam couldn’t believe it’d been that easy. Stella had looked him straight in the eyes and agreed.
A blast of heat shot from his chest to his groin and he told himself his body was reacting more to the success of his mission than the strong sexual attraction he’d been fighting all night.
But he couldn’t lie to himself that much.
He extended his hand and found himself holding his breath until she took it. Damn, this really wasn’t good. This was a job for fuck’s sake, not a date.
Breathe, damn it.
He tried to remain focused but the feel of her warm hand in his elevated his blood pressure, making his cock throb and his lungs contract.