A Spanish Inheritance

By: Susan Stephens

CHAPTER ONE




‘THIS is a private beach.’

The deep Latin voice with its hint of censure brought the slender young woman scrambling to her feet. Struggling to fasten the top half of her bikini with eyes narrowed against the sun’s glare, Annalisa drew herself up to her full height, only to find herself steering her gaze into the naked chest of a powerfully built man.

‘I’m sorry,’ she said automatically. So where was the notice saying this stretch of Menorcan sand was reserved for the use of arrogant Spanish males? ‘I was just—’

‘I gathered what you were doing,’ he cut in.

‘There’s nothing to say this area is restricted,’ Annalisa said, fighting to keep her gaze in check. She judged him to be in his mid-thirties. Black bathing shorts still wet from the sea clung to well-muscled thighs, while drops of water glistened on his bronzed, toned body. Her heart gave a jolt as she lifted her chin to take a proper look at his face. He had the most amazing eyes… Not just the colour, the shape, or even the fact that twin crescents of thick black lashes cast deep shadows across his chiselled cheekbones; they were simply the most expressive—

‘Do you have signs in your garden back home?’ he demanded, reclaiming her attention.

He spoke with all the quiet confidence of a man accustomed to respect, Annalisa thought as she took stock of her adversary.

‘No, but my garden has a hedge around it…and a gate.’

To her surprise he almost smiled. ‘Touché, Miss—?’

‘Wilson. Annalisa Wilson,’ Annalisa told him, feeling the need to cross her arms over her chest. It wasn’t that his gaze ever left her face, and he certainly didn’t try to crowd her like most men. But even standing a good few feet away he made her extremely nervous.

And now he smiled. But, instead of making her feel better, the flash of strong white teeth against his improbably handsome face made her feel more awkward than ever. Maybe it had more to do with the look in his eyes that suggested he knew a lot more than she did.

‘Pleased to meet you, Annalisa. That is a beautiful and unusual name.’

‘Thank you. My father was Spanish.’

‘Really?’

Why that should amuse him she had no idea.

‘Ramon di Crianza Perez,’ he said, extending his hand in formal greeting.

As they connected she felt the strength in his fingers close around her, and instinctively snatched her hand away. ‘I’m sorry if I’m trespassing. I’ll go—’

‘Go?’ he queried sharply. ‘How do you propose to do that?’

‘I’ll swim back the way I came…around the point,’ she said, nodding towards a spine of rocks that divided the two beaches.

‘The point!’

His incredulity stung her. ‘Why not?’

‘It’s far too dangerous!’

‘I think I can be the judge—’ She held back the rest of the retort. Why on earth was she attempting to justify her actions to a complete stranger?

‘You do?’ His voice, like a whiplash, lacked all suggestion of Mediterranean charm, but his eyes still possessed the same infuriating sparkle that had captured her attention in the first place… It betrayed an interest that went far beyond a natural desire to protect his boundaries.

Staring back at him, Annalisa knew the fact she felt hot and edgy had nothing to do with the sun. ‘Well, you swam here from that yacht,’ she argued, glancing towards an impressive cruiser moored offshore. When his sardonic gaze licked over her she felt hotter still.

‘You must consider yourself an exceptional athlete.’

‘I swam for my school—’

‘In a swimming pool?’

‘Well, yes. But—’

‘The Mediterranean is not a swimming pool, Annalisa.’

Was it really necessary to drawl her name like that? she wondered, conscious of the inadequate scraps of material struggling to contain her figure.

‘These waters can be very dangerous,’ he went on. ‘The current by those rocks—’

‘A strong swimmer—’

‘Should have more respect for the ocean,’ he countered evenly.

‘I got here in one piece,’ Annalisa muttered. But her defiance was being steadily eroded by this man’s determined campaign of control.

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