Raffaele: Taming His Tempestuous Virgin(8)

By: Sandra Marton

The woman had a faint mark on her jaw where he’d slugged her. He’d never hit a woman in his life and it bothered him. For all he knew, she needed medical care. He didn’t think so, not from the way she was acting, but he felt some responsibility toward her, even if he’d only done what he had to do to protect himself.

He could just see telling that to a local judge: “Well, you see, sir, she came at me. And I hit her in self-defense.”

It was the absolute truth but it would probably just give the locals a laugh. He was six foot three; he weighed a tight 240 pounds. She was, what, five-six? And probably weighed 120 pounds less than he did.

Okay. He’d drive the duo home. Maybe what had happened had taught them a lesson.

Rafe cleared his throat. “Where do you and Gramps live?”

She stared at him, chin raised in defiance.

“Ah, dove θ—dove θ your house? Your casa?”

The woman jerked her hand free. She glared at him. He glared back.

“I’m willing to drive you and Grandpa home. You got that? No cops. No charges. Just don’t push your luck.”

She laughed. It was the kind of laugh that made Rafe’s eyes narrow. Who in hell did she think she was? And what was there for her to laugh about? She’d come at him, yes, but she was the one who’d lost the fight. Now she was out here in the middle of nowhere, at the mercy of a man twice her size.

A man who was angry as hell.

It would take him less than a heartbeat to show her who was in charge, that she was at his mercy, that he had only to cup that perfect, beautiful face in his hands, put his mouth to hers and she’d stop looking at him with such disdain, such coldness, such rage.

A kiss, just one, and her mouth would soften. The rigidity of her muscles would give way to silken compliancy. Her lips would part, she’d loop her arms around his neck and whisper to him and he’d understand that whisper because a man and a woman didn’t need to speak the same language to know desire, to turn anger to something hotter and wilder…

Rafe shot to his feet. “Stand up,” he growled.

She didn’t move. He gestured with his hand.

“I said, stand up. And you, old man, get in the back of the car.”

The old man didn’t move. Nobody did. Rafe leaned toward the woman.

“He’s old,” he said softly, “and I really have no desire to rough him up, so why don’t you just tell him to do what I said.”

She understood him. He could see it in her face.

Rafe shrugged. “Okay, we’ll do it the hard way.”

Her violet eyes flashed. She got to her feet, rattled off a string of words, and the old man nodded, walked to the car and climbed into the back.

Rafe jerked his thumb toward the car. “Now you.”

One last glare. Then she turned away, marched to the car and started to climb in beside the old guy.

“The passenger seat,” Rafe snapped. “Up front.”

She said something. It was something women didn’t say, not even on the streets of his youth.

“Anatomically impossible,” he said coldly.

Color rose in her face. Good. She did understand English, at least a little. That would make things easier. She got into the car. He slammed the door after her, went around to the driver’s side and climbed behind the wheel.

“How far up the mountain do you live?”

She folded her arms.

Rafe ground his teeth together, started the car, carefully backed away from the sheer drop and continued up the road in silence. Minutes passed, as did miles. And just when he’d pretty much given up hope he’d ever see civilization again, a town appeared. A wooden signpost that looked as if it had been here forever announced its name.

San Giuseppe.

He stopped the car and took in his first sight of the Sicily of his father.

Houses overhung a narrow, cobblestoned street that wound its steep way up the mountain.

Washing hung on clotheslines strung across rickety-looking balconies. The steeple of a church pierced a cloudless sky that overlooked a line of donkeys plodding after a small boy.

Cesare had insisted on showing him a couple of grainy snapshots of the town, taken more than fifty years ago. Nothing had changed, including the castle that loomed over it all.

Castello Cordiano.

Rafe put the car in gear. The woman beside him shook her head and reached for the door.

“You want to get out here?”

An arrogant lift of her chin brought into prominence the bruise he’d inflicted. Guilt racked him and he took a deep breath.

“Listen,” he said. “About your jaw…”

Another flash of those violet eyes as she swung toward him.

“Yeah, I know. Believe me, the feeling’s mutual. All I’m trying to say is that you should put some ice on that bruise. It’ll keep the swelling down. And take some aspirin. You know what aspirin is? As-pi-rin,” he said, knowing how idiotic he must sound but not knowing any other way to get his message through.

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