Raffaele: Taming His Tempestuous Virgin(10)

By: Sandra Marton

What a disaster this day had been!

Yes, she’d gotten farther from the castle than ever before, but so what? The plan to frighten the American and send him running had been a miserable failure. Worse than a failure because instead of frightening him, she’d infuriated him.

Angering a man like that was never a good idea.

Chiara touched the tip of her finger to her lip. Was his blood on her? It was not but she could still feel the imprint of his mouth, could still taste him. The warm, firm flesh. The quick slide of his tongue. The terrifying sense of invasion…

And then, without warning, that sensation low in her belly. As if something were slowly pulsing deep inside.

She blinked, dragged air into her lungs. Never mind going over what had happened. What mattered was what would happen next.

She had badly underestimated the American.

Where was the short, stocky, cigar-chomping pig she’d envisioned? Not that he wasn’t a pig. He was, absolutely. The difference was that she could not have walked into a room and picked him out as one of the goons who did the work of men like her father.

He was too tall. Too leanly built. But it was more than looks that separated him from the men she knew. It was…What? His clothes? The gray, pinstriped suit that had surely been custom-made?

The gold Rolex she’d glimpsed on his tanned, hair-dusted wrist?

Maybe it was his air of sophistication.

Or his self-assurance.

Smug self-assurance, even when Enzo had pointed a pistol at him. Even when she’d flung herself on his back. Even when she’d sunk her teeth into his lip to end that vile stamp of I’m-in-charge here male domination.

That hot, possessive kiss.

Chiara jerked away from the door. She had to work quickly. Dio, if her father saw her now…

She almost laughed as she stripped off the ancient black suit and white, collarless shirt Enzo had found for her. Thinking about Enzo was enough to stop her laughter. What humiliation he had suffered today. And if her father ever learned what he had done…

He would pay a terrible price, and all because of her. She should not have run to him for help, but who else was there to turn to?

Enzo had listened to her story. Then he’d taken her hand in his.

“I can scare him off,” he’d said. “Remember, he is not truly Sicilian. He is American, not one of us, and they are not the same. They are weak. You will see, child. We will catch him by surprise.

And while he is still immobilized, I will show him my pistol and tell him to go away. And he will be gone.”

When she protested that it was too dangerous, Enzo had suddenly looked fierce and said he had done things of this sort in the past.

It was hard to imagine.

The old man was her dearest friend. Her only friend. He’d been her father’s driver when she was little and he’d been kind to her, kinder than anyone, even her mother, but her mother had not been made for this world. Chiara had only vague memories of her, a thin figure in black, always kneeling in the old chapel or sitting in a straight-backed parlor chair bent over her Bible, never speaking, not even to Chiara, except to whisper warnings about what life held in store.

About men, and what they all wanted.

“Men are animals, mia figlia,” she’d hissed. “They want only two things. Power over others. And to perform acts of depravity upon a woman’s body.”

Chiara kicked the telltale clothing into the back of her closet, then hurried into the old-fashioned bathroom and turned on the taps over the bathtub.

What her mother had told her was the truth.

Her father ruled his men and his town with an iron fist. As for the rest…she’d overheard the coarse jokes of his men. She’d felt their eyes sliding over her. One in particular looked at her in a way that made her feel ill.

Giglio, her father’s second in command. He was an enormous blob of flesh. He had wet-looking red lips and his face was always sweaty. But it was his eyes that made her shudder. They were small. Close set. Filled with malice, like the eyes of a wild boar that had once confronted her on the mountain.

Giglio had taken to watching her with a boldness that was terrifying.

The other day, walking past her, his hand had brushed her buttocks and seemed to linger. She had gasped and shrunk from him; her father had been in the room. Hadn’t he seen what had happened? Then why hadn’t he reacted?

Chiara blanked her mind to the memory as she sank deep into the tub of hot water. She had more important things to worry about right now.

She and Enzo had failed. The American would keep his appointment with her father. The question was, would he recognize her? Enzo could keep out of his way but she couldn’t. She was, after all, the reason for the American’s visit.

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