Dante's Honour-bound Husband(3)

By: Day Leclaire

Constantine Romano entered the room as though he owned the place. But then, he possessed the sort of presence bred into the very essence of the man. The sort of presence that went with his aristocratic name and stunning bone structure and taut, muscular body. He wore his hair longer than before, the ebony curls and fierce black eyes summoning images of dangerous pirates and ferocious duels of honor. Beneath that elegant exterior smoldered a man of action, who would risk everything, dare all and take whatever he wanted.

And he wanted her.

Gianna Dante shuddered, struggling to gather up her self-control. She’d have to face him and soon. Since their first meeting, over a year and a half ago, a lot had changed. Though she now doubted Constantine had experienced The Inferno during that unforgettable weekend they’d shared, The Inferno had given him an uncanny knack for sensing her presence. That much she remembered. Any second he’d hone in on her and she’d darn well better be prepared.

“Gianna? Would you care to check the display?”

It took her a moment to switch gears and focus on work. Tomorrow marked Dantes’ Midsummer Night’s gala and a million details remained, each requiring her immediate attention. As Dantes’ event coordinator, she took care of everything from the catering to the decorations to the displays to the invitations. Fortunately she had an excellent assistant who was every bit as detail-oriented as she was herself.

“Thank you, Tara. I’ll be right there.”

Considering that Constantine stood between her and the display in question, she might as well get the coming confrontation over with. She took a deep breath. No big deal, she tried to tell herself. The feelings she’d experienced that long-ago weekend had faded over the ensuing months, months which had ticked by with excruciating slowness. The legendary Dante Inferno, that amazing sensation of volcanic fire that erupted when he’d taken her hand in his had quieted, drifting into dormancy. She could handle this.

She’d simply make it clear to him that she’d moved on.

Gianna started across Dantes’ ballroom toward him, thankful that by some blessing of fate she’d chosen to wear one of her “killer” outfits. The vibrant red jacket and tight, short skirt showed off her figure to its best advantage, and the mile-high open-toe heels were the perfect showcase for the gorgeous legs she’d inherited from her equally gorgeous mother. Her hair was longer than the last time she’d seen him, flowing in heavy, layered curls to the middle of her back.

Let him look. Let him want. And let him regret.

She hadn’t traversed more than a half dozen steps before Constantine stilled with abrupt predatory awareness. His head turned in her direction and his ink-dark eyes glittered with unmistakable intent. He came for her, moving with a focused grace that almost sent her fleeing in the opposite direction. To her shock, he didn’t stop when he reached her, but kept coming. He invaded her space and swept her into his arms. Then, with her name on his lips and a smothered protest on hers, he kissed her.

He devoured her, the kiss one of blatant possession, branding her with a mark of ownership that in any other situation she’d have fought with every ounce of her strength. Instead all thought of resistance melted beneath the blazing heat and she sank inward, opening herself to him. He tasted like ambrosia combined with a hint of spice and topped with a hard, masculine kick. It utterly devastated her senses, along with every scrap of practicality.

It had been so incredibly long since they last touched—nineteen months, five days, eight hours and a handful of minutes. Desire in the form of The Inferno had exploded between them at that first touch. Then after a single weekend of bliss, he’d left her.

Despair vied with an incandescent joy. His coming now, after all this time was too little, too late. Why now? Why, when she’d finally come to terms with the impossibility of knowing the sort of Inferno love affair that everyone else in her family possessed, had Constantine chosen this moment to return?

It wasn’t fair.

“Stop,” she managed to protest. “This is wrong.”

How could she tell him? How could she say the words that threatened to break her heart? She’d moved on. She’d found someone else.

He finally picked up on her signals and pulled back a few precious inches. “Stop?” He captivated her with a single smile. “What are you talking about, piccola? After all this time, we’re together again. How could something so incredibly right possibly be wrong?”

She slipped free of his embrace and tugged at the bottom of her jacket to straighten it. Somehow the first two buttons had come undone revealing a tantalizing flash of black lace. She did her best to neaten all the various bits and pieces he’d rumpled. She moistened her lips, aware he’d kissed every bit of lipstick from them.

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