“Where are my clothes?” I blurt out, clutching the sheet tightly to my chest. I’m not a prude or anything... but this is the closest I’ve ever come to being naked with a member of the opposite sex. It’s like by taking my clothes, he’s taken away my carefully constructed defenses.
He laughs again, low in his throat. The sound sends a shiver skating over my skin, and the sensation isn’t entirely unpleasant.
Oh, who am I kidding? I haven’t even heard him speak yet, but his voice, with its mocking edge, still makes my girly parts sit up and pay attention. Combine that with the way his stare rakes over my body, which is one hundred percent naked under this thin silk sheet—the way he looks at me isn’t lecherous, but more like he has the absolute right to look, like he knows I’ll let him.
The feminist in me wants to be affronted. But the rest of me is undeniably affected by the heat in his eyes.
If I were a different kind of girl, I would be able to answer that heat with some kind of flirtation, some sexual undertones. But I’m not... I’m the kind of girl who buys her clothes from flea markets, who considers it a treat to be able to afford some salumi to the cheap bread that is available everywhere in Italy.
The kind of girl who knows only too well what this kind of man might demand as payment for the favors—the unwanted favors—that he has bestowed upon me.
“What’s going on?” I despise the shakiness in my voice. I’m stronger than that. But I’ve also been through a lot in the last... however many hours it’s been.
The thought of being unconscious, of being in the care of stranger’s hands, makes me very, very nervous. I’ve fended off enough of my mom’s sleazeball “boyfriends” to know exactly what kind of trouble can be found if a girl doesn’t have her wits about her at all times.
It was stupid, chasing down that guy in the airport. But what the hell else was I supposed to do? Somebody had to do something.
The look that this guy gives me as he leans casually against the doorframe tells me that his thoughts haven’t strayed all that far from my own. Yeah, I just bet that the women he knows wouldn’t be crazy enough to chase after a knife wielding druggie in an airport. It would wreck their Louboutins.
“What do you remember?” His lips curl upward in a smirk, the expression both arrogant and freaking hot—hot enough to that I’m momentarily distracted from his accent.
Here in Italy, I’m the one with the accent, and I’ve grown accustomed to the seductive flow of the romantic language. But hearing English, my native tongue, coming from that sexy mouth reminds of why so many women are such suckers for accents.
It’s not helping the heat that’s gathering in my nether regions, and when I shift in an attempt to get myself under control, that smirk only grows wider.
He knows—he knows just what effect he’s having on me. I bet there’s not a woman alive who is immune to that smile, that voice.
In defense, I clutch the sheet tighter to my chest. The silk is cool against my breasts, and when I feel the tips pucker, I want to groan.
He clears his throat, pulling me out of my inner monologue. I can feel my skin flush with embarrassment.
I am so out of my league here.
“You were telling me what you remember?” Pushing away from the doorframe, he crosses the room. Moving a heavy leather chair up to the side of the bed, he takes a seat, rests his elbows on his knees. My nostrils flare as his scent drifts to my nose—some kind of expensive cologne, and beneath it, a male musk that sends my hormones into overdrive.
Not that they need the encouragement.
“Ahem?” The sound is meant as a gentle prod—no, I correct myself. Gentle isn’t a word I would apply to him.
There’s nothing gentle about him. And yet, even as my instincts scream intruder as he leans forward beside the bed, invading my space, I’m pretty sure that he won’t hurt me.
It takes a certain kind of person to throw themselves into a situation like we were in at the airport. And even though he hesitated, he nonetheless did it.
And he took care of me after. So much so that I’m pretty sure we’re in his house.
And that’s a good reminder to start talking.
“I remember everything that happened at the airport.” I start slowly. My throat feels like I’ve swallowed a handful of gravel, and I wince.
He reaches into what I assumed was a bedside table but turns out to be a cleverly disguised mini-fridge. Removing a bottle of water, he unscrews the cap, then hands it to me.
“Thanks.” I drink greedily, the frigid water soothing the ache in my throat. Some of the clear liquid rolls down my chin, falls onto the sheet clutched over my naked breasts, and I can feel myself turning redder still.
But he doesn’t seem disturbed. No, instead he looks... intrigued.
Just wait for it, buddy. Or rather, don’t. You’re the most interesting thing that’s happened in my entire life.
“He was on drugs. The man who stole the purse.” I remember seeing the tremor in his hand as he whirled on me with the knife. Rubbing a hand over my wound, I grimace, even as pity washes over me.
I’m all too familiar with how drugs can make a person change—make them become someone else entirely.
This man, the one in front of me, scowls. “What, precisely, were you planning to do once you caught him?”
I blink, startled. This isn’t what I expected him to ask.
“I did what I planned to do,” I retorted, setting the now empty plastic bottle on the bedside table. He’d poked right at a soft spot—my tendency to act before thinking things through. “I got the purse back.”
He huffs out an exasperated breath. “You were stabbed while doing it. It could have been worse. What are you—five foot two? One hundred twenty pounds?”
One fifty, my inner voice corrects. Thanks to the local gelato. But no need to tell him that.
“What does my size have to do with anything?” Once again, his eyes take a leisurely stroll down the length of my body.
I’m the kind of girl who always has something to say—in less polite terms, I have a big mouth. And yet when that stare of his reaches my face, I find that my command of the English language has disappeared entirely.
“You are a small woman.” Damn it, that voice. Like whiskey on ice, hot and cold at the same time. “You could have been hurt much worse. You should leave things like that to men.”