“Perhaps you should drink fewer espressos so late at night, cara.”
Antonella whirled to find Cristiano emerging onto the deck. Her heart thumped, though not from fright. Why did he disconcert her so? “What are you talking about?”
He tipped his chin to her. “Pacing. Less caffeine would help.”
Antonella closed her eyes and counted to five. He knew he irritated her. Worse, he seemed to take great pleasure in it. She must not allow him to do so any longer. She could control her reactions. Would control them.
“I had one espresso, grazie. Your concern is touching.”
He came over and leaned against the rail, watching her. His eyes dipped to her chest, back up. Typical. Half the time, men talked exclusively to her breasts. She’d grown quite accustomed to it.
“You are dying to know what we talked about, aren’t you?”
Antonella shrugged. “You are mistaken if you think I care. I’m not here for business.”
He laughed. “So you have said. But what do they call it now, if not the oldest business in the world?”
She would not react. Would not. Had Raúl told him what they’d discussed, that she’d offered herself in exchange for the mills? Or was he simply baiting her?
“Is that what it’s called when you sleep around, Cristiano?” she said very coolly, her heart throbbing with hurt and anger and the urge to deny she’d ever slept with any man. He’d never believe her, of course. Nor did he deserve an explanation.
Why did men have a double standard when it came to sex? He could bed countless women and it only added to his allure. Let her do the same, and she was a slut.
“Not at all. I simply don’t like you. Or your hypocrisy.”
“I’m hurt.” His teeth flashed in a grin.
She wished he’d jump off the side of the yacht and leave her alone. “Where is Raúl?” she demanded.
“I’m not your social secretary, Princess. If you want him, go find him.” The words were said mildly, almost mockingly. And with a hint of steel beneath the velvet. “And what makes you think I’m a hypocrite? I quite like that you’ve had lovers. It means you know your way around a man’s body. It means we will not need to waste time once we are naked.”
Perhaps she’d had too much caffeine after all. Her pulse raced like a bullet fired from a gun. “I’m not sleeping with you, Cristiano.”
“Don’t be too sure,” he said, his voice a sensual growl that scraped over her nerve endings and left her shivering.
“I know my own mind, and I know what I don’t want. I don’t want you.”
Cristiano reached for her hand, slipped his fingers between hers and brought them to his mouth. She tried to pull away, but he held her firm. “And do you know your body, Antonella? Often, our mind and our body are at war. Did you not know that?”
Before she could formulate an answer from her scattered thoughts, he touched the tip of his tongue to the center of her palm.
Antonella sucked in a breath as rivers of sensation spilled down her spine, through her limbs, into her feminine core. Why? Why? Men had been trying to get her into bed for as long as she could remember and she’d yet to feel anything remotely as exciting as what she felt when Cristiano touched her.
Too bad he was the wrong man. She needed to pull her hand away forcefully, needed to put distance between them and never allow herself to be alone with him again.
But she couldn’t. She was trapped, as trapped as if he’d bound her to him with iron shackles.
“Stop,” she forced out, her voice little more than a tortured whisper.
“Are you quite certain?” he murmured. “Your body says otherwise.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Si, I do. You are flushed…”
Cristiano laughed low in his throat, kissed her fingers and settled her hand on his shoulder before he tugged her closer. His broad fingers splayed over her hip. “And it’s about to get hotter. Why deny this attraction, hmm? We will be good together.”
A shadow passed over them and then a voice said, “I beg your pardon.”
Antonella jerked out of Cristiano’s grip just in time to see Raúl turn around and slip back inside. Oh God! Furious tears pressed against the back of her eyes but she refused to let them fall. She would have to go after him, would have to try and repair the damage. She’d just offered to marry him, for God’s sake. What would he think of her now?
She could repair the damage. Surely she could. She had to. For Monteverde’s future.
But not before she turned and gave the arrogant bastard who’d caused her so much trouble in such a short time a piece of her mind.
“You did that on purpose!” She should have listened to the voice telling her to get away from him. Because she hadn’t, because she’d been riveted by his handsome face and sizzling touch, she’d risked the future of her entire nation. And for what? A kiss? A kiss from a man she despised?
He wasn’t insane; she was.
“What makes you think so, Principessa?” he asked coolly, his expression both smug and devilish at once.
Antonella’s hands clenched into impotent fists as her heartbeat thundered in her ears. She was a fool, a hopeless fool, still looking for some spark of feeling with a man. And he was the enemy, plain and simple. He hadn’t forgotten it for one moment, even if she had.
“Because you’re selfish, that’s why. You don’t care who you hurt or what you have to destroy to get your way.”
One corner of his mouth curled, but it could hardly be called a smile. “It seems as if we are kindred spirits, then.”
“No. I care about people’s feelings. And now I’m going to apologize to Raúl.”
“There is no need.”
“Of course there is.”
“Afraid not, Antonella. You were part of the deal.”