Authors: Catherine Mann
Tags: #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Adult, #Mistresses, #Man Of The Month, #Princes
He was going to make things right with her. She deserved to be treated like a princess, and he had the resources to follow through. His mind leaped ahead to all the ways he could romance her back on the mainland now that he understood her better—once he fulfilled the remaining weeks he’d promised his father.
A kink started in his neck.
Squeezing his hand lightly, she followed him along the rocky path, the mansion smaller on the horizon. Few trees stood between them and the glass building ahead. Early on, Enrique had cleared away foliage for security purposes.
“Where are we going?”
“You’ll see soon.”
Farther from shore, a sprawling oak had been saved. The mammoth trunk declared it well over a hundred years old. As a kid, he’d begged to keep this one for climbing. His father had gruffly agreed. The memory kicked over him, itchy and ill timed.
He brushed aside a branch, releasing a flock of butterflies soaring toward the conservatory, complete with two wings branching off the main structure. “This is the greenhouse I told you about. It also has a café style room.”
Enrique had done his damnedest to give his sons a “normal” childhood, as much as he could while never letting them off the island. Tony had undergone some serious culture shock after he’d left. At least working on a shrimper had given him time to absorb the mainland in small bites. Back then, he’d even opted to rent a sailboat for a home rather than an apartment.
As they walked past a glass gazebo, Shannon tipped her face to his. Sunlight streaked through the trees, bathing her face. “Is that why the movie room has more of a theater feel?”
Nodding, he continued, “There’s a deli at the ferry station and an ice cream parlor at the creamery. I thought we could take Kolby there.”
He hoped she heard his intent to try with her son as well, to give this relationship a real chance at working.
“Kolby likes strawberry flavored best,” she said simply.
“I’ll remember that,” he assured her. And he meant it. “We also have a small dental clinic. And of course there’s the chapel.”
“They’ve thought of everything.” Her mouth oohed over a birdbath with doves drinking along the edge.
“My father always said a monarch’s job was to see to the needs of his people. This island became his minikingdom. Because of the isolation, he needed to make accommodations, try to create a sense of normalcy.” Clouds whispered overhead and Tony guided her faster through the garden. “He’s started a new round of renovations. A number of his staff members have died of old age. That presents a new set of challenges as he replaces them with employees who aren’t on the run, people who have options.”
“Exactly,” he said, just as the skies opened up with an afternoon shower. “Now, may I take you to lunch? I know this great little out-of-the-way place with kick-ass fresh flowers.”
“Lead on.” Shannon tugged up the hood on her cover-up and raced alongside him.
As the rain pelted faster, he charged up the stone steps leading to the conservatory entrance. Tony threw open the double doors, startling a sparrow into flight around the high glass ceiling in the otherwise deserted building. A quick glance around assured him that yes, everything was exactly as he’d ordered.
Flipping the hood from her head, she plunged deeper into the spacious greenhouse where a riot of scents and colors waited. Classical music piped lowly from hidden speakers. Ferns dangled overhead. Unlike crowded nurseries she’d visited in the past, this space sprawled more like an indoor floral park.
An Italian marble fountain trickled below a skylight, water spilling softly from a carved snake’s mouth as it curled around some reclining Roman god. Wrought iron screens sported hydrangeas and morning glories twining throughout, benches in front for reading or meditation. Potted palms and cacti added height to the interior landscape. Tiered racks of florist’s buckets with cut flowers stretched along a far wall. She spun under the skylight, immersing herself in the thick perfume, sunbeams and Debussy’s
While she could understand Tony’s point about not wanting to be isolated here indefinitely, she appreciated the allure of the magical retreat Enrique had created. Even the rain
tap, tap, tapping
overhead offered nature’s lyrical accent to the soft music.
Slowing her spin, she found Tony staring at her with undeniable arousal. Tony, and only Tony because the space appeared otherwise deserted. Her skin prickled with awareness at the muscular display of him in nothing but board shorts and deck shoes.
“Are we alone?” she asked.
“Completely,” he answered, gesturing toward a little round table set for two, with wine and finger foods. “Help yourself. There are stuffed mussels, fried squid, vegetable skewers, cold olives and cheese.”
She strode past him, without touching but so close a magnetic field seemed to activate, urging her to seal her body to his.
“It’s been so wonderful here indulging in grown-up food after so many meals of chicken nuggets and pizza.” She broke off a corner of ripe white cheese and popped it in her mouth.
“Then you’re going to love the beverage selection.” Tony scooped up a bottle from the middle of the table. “Red wine from Basque country or sherry from southern Spain?”
“Red, please. But can we wait a moment on the food? I want to see everything here first.”
“I was hoping you would say that.” He passed her a crystal glass, half full.
She sipped, staring at him over the rim. “Perfect.”
“And there’s still more.” His fingers linked with hers, he led her past an iron screen to a secluded corner.
Vines grew tangled and dense over the windows, the sun through the glass roof muted by rivulets of rain. A chaise longue was tucked in a corner. Flower petals speckled the furniture and floor. Everything was so perfect, so beautiful, it brought tears to her eyes. God, it still scared her how much she wanted to trust her feelings, trust the signals coming from Tony.
To hide her eyes until she could regain control, she rushed to the crystal vase of mixed flowers on the end table and buried her face in the bouquet. “What a unique blend of fragrances.”
“It’s a specially ordered arrangement. Each flower was selected for you because of its meaning.”
Touched by the detailed thought he’d put into the encounter, she pivoted to face him. “You told me once you wanted to wrap me in flowers.”
“That’s the idea here.” His arms banded around her waist. “And I was careful to make sure there will be no thorns. Only pleasure.”
If only life could be that simple. With their time here running out, she couldn’t resist.
“You’re sure we won’t be interrupted?” She set her wine glass on the end table and linked her fingers behind his neck. “No surveillance cameras or telephoto lenses?”
“Completely certain. There are security cameras outside, but none inside. I’ve given the staff the afternoon off and our guards are not Peeping Toms. We are totally and completely alone.” He anchored her against him, the rigid length of his arousal pressing into her stomach with a hefty promise.
“You prepared for this.” And she wanted this, wanted him. But… “I’m not sure I like being so predictable.”
“You are anything but predictable. I’ve never met a more confusing person in my life.” He tugged a damp lock of her hair. “Any more questions?”
She inhaled deeply, letting the scents fill her with courage. “Who can take off faster the other person’s clothes?”
“Now there’s a challenge I can’t resist.” He bunched her cover-up in his hands and peeled the soft cotton over her head.
Shaking her hair free, she leaned into him just as he slanted his mouth over hers. His fingers made fast work of the ties to her bathing suit top. The crocheted triangles fell away, baring her to the steamy greenhouse air.
She nipped his ear where a single dot-shaped scar stayed from a healed-over piercing. A teenage rebellion, he’d told her once. She could envision him on a Spanish galleon, a swarthy and buffed pirate king.
For a moment, for
moment, she let herself indulge in foolish fantasies, no fears. She would allow the experience to sweep her away as smoothly as she brushed off his board shorts. She pushed aside the sterner responsible voice inside her that insisted she remember past mistakes and tread cautiously.
“It’s been too damn long.” He thumbed off her swimsuit bottom.
“Uh, hello?” She kicked the last fabric barrier away and prayed other barriers could be as easily discarded. “It’s been less than eight hours since you left my room.”
She played her fingers along the cut of his sculpted chest, down the flat plane of his washboard stomach. Pressing her lips to his shoulder, she kissed her way toward his arm until she grazed the different texture of his tattooed flesh—inked with a black nautical compass. “I’ve always wanted to ask why you chose this particular tattoo.”
His muscles bunched and twitched. “It symbolizes being able to find my way home.”
“There’s still so much I don’t know about you.” Concerns trickled through her like the rain trying to find its way inside.
“Hey, we’re here to escape. All that can wait.” He slipped her glasses from her face and placed them on the end table.
Parting through the floral arrangement to the middle, he slipped out an orchid and pinched off the flower. He trailed the bloom along her nose, her cheekbones and jaw in a silky scented swirl. “For magnificence.”
Her knees went wobbly and she sat on the edge of the chaise, tapestry fabric rough on the backs on her thighs, rose-petal smooth. He tucked the orchid behind her ear, easing her back until she reclined.
Returning to the vase, he tugged free a long stalk with indigo buds and explored the length of her arm, then one finger at a time. Then over her stomach to her other hand and back up again in a shivery path that left her breathless.
“Blue salvia,” he said, “because I think of you night and day.”
His words stirred her as much as the glide of the flower over her shoulder. Then he placed it on the tiny pillow under her head.
A pearly calla lily chosen next, he traced her collarbone before lightly dipping between her breasts.
“Shannon,” he declared hoarsely, “I chose this lily because you are a majestic beauty.”
Detouring, he sketched the underside of her breast and looped round again and again, each circle smaller until he teased the dusky tip. Her body pulled tight and tingly. Her back arched into the sweet sensation and he transferred his attention to her other breast, repeating the delicious pattern.
Reaching for him, she clutched his shoulders, aching to urge him closer. “Tony…”
Gently, he clasped her wrists and tucked them at her sides. “No touching or I’ll stop.”
“Probably not, because I can’t resist you.” He left the lily in her open palm. “But how about you play along anyway? I guarantee you’ll like the results.”
Dark eyes glinting with an inner light, Tony eased free…“A coral rose for passion.”
His words raspy, his face intense, he skimmed the bud across her stomach, lower. Lower still. Her head fell back, her eyes closed as she wondered just how far he would dare go.
The silky teasing continued from her hip inward, daring more and even more. A husky moan escaped between her clenched lips.
Still, he continued until the rose caressed…oh my. Her knee draped to the side giving him, giving the flower, fuller access as he teased her. Gooseflesh sprinkled her skin. Her body focused on the feelings and perfumes stoking desire higher.
A warm breath steamed over her stomach with only a second’s warning before his mouth replaced the flower. Her fingers twitched into a fist, crushing the lily and releasing a fresh burst of perfume. A flick of his tongue, alternated with gentle suckles, caressed and coaxed her toward completion.
Her head thrashed as she chased her release. He took her to the brink, then retreated, drawing out the pleasure until the pressure inside her swelled and throbbed…
A cry of pleasure burst free and she didn’t bother holding it back. She rode the sensation, gasping in floral-tinged breaths.
His bold hands stroked upward as he slid over her, blanketing her with his hard, honed body. She hooked a languid leg over his hip. Her arm draped his shoulders as she drew him toward her, encouraging him to press inside.
The smell of crushed flowers clung to his skin as she kissed her way along his chest, back up his neck. He filled her, stretched her, moved inside her. She was surprised to feel desire rising again to a fevered pitch. Writhing, she lost herself in the barrage of sensations. The bristle of his chest hair against her breasts. The silky softness of flower petals against her back.
And the scents—she gasped in the perfect blend of musk and sex and earthy greenhouse. She raked his back, broad and strong and yet so surprisingly gentle, too.
He was working his way not only into her body but into her heart. When had she ever stood a chance at resisting him? As much as she tried to tell herself it was only physical, only an affair, she knew this man had come to mean so much more to her. He reached her in ways no one ever had before.
She grappled at the hard planes of his back, completion so close all over again.
“Let go and I’ll catch you,” he vowed against her ear and she believed him.
For the first time in so long, she totally trusted.
The magnitude exploded inside her, blasting through barriers. Pleasure filled every niche. Muscles knotted in Tony’s back as he tensed over her and growled his own hoarse completion against her ear.
Staring up at the rain-splattered skylight, tears burning her eyes again, she held Tony close. She felt utterly bare and unable to hide any longer. She’d trusted him with her body.
Now the time had come to trust him with her secrets.