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The Italian's Christmas Child(9)

By:Lynne Graham

And Holly thought about saying no and heading down to the sofa. After all, she had broken her own rules and just because she had done that once didn’t mean she had an automatic excuse to keep on doing it. Indeed, if having sex with Vito had been a mistake, she was honour-bound to choose the sofa over him.

But sleeping alone wasn’t what she wanted and needed right then. She wanted to be with Vito. She wanted to make the most of the time they had together. She was even feeling sensible enough to know that it was fortunate that she wouldn’t be with Vito for much longer, for she reckoned that given the opportunity she would fall for him like a ton of bricks. That, of course, would be totally, unforgivably stupid. And she might be a little sentimental, but stupid she was not.

She looked at Vito, even though she knew she really shouldn’t, but there he was, etched in her head in an image that would burn for all time, she thought dizzily. He was beautiful, drop-dead beautiful and tonight...tonight he was all hers...


AT DAWN, HOLLY sneaked out of bed and crept into the bathroom to freshen up. She grimaced at her reflection. Her hair was a mess. Her face reddened in places by Vito’s stubble. Her mouth was very swollen and pink. And when she stepped into the shower she swallowed a groan because every muscle she possessed complained as if she had overdone it in a workout.

But no workout, she thought dizzily, could possibly have been more demanding than the stamina required for a night in bed with Vito Sorrentino. He was insatiable and he had made her the same way, she conceded in stupefaction. She felt as though she had changed dramatically in less than twelve hours. She had learned so much about herself and even more about sex. Her body ached in intimate places and a bemused smile tilted her lips as she emerged from the en-suite again.

Vito was sprawled across the bed, a glorious display of bronzed perfection. Luxuriant black lashes flickered as he focused on her. ‘I wondered where you were,’ he muttered.

‘Bathroom,’ she whispered, barely breathing as she slid back under the duvet.

Vito reached for her with a sleepy hand and pulled her back against him. She shivered in contact with the raw heat and scent of him. ‘Go back to sleep,’ he told her thickly.

He wanted her again. What the hell was wrong with him? How could he want her again when he had already had her so many times? She had to be sore too, he reminded himself in exasperation. He was being a selfish bastard. As soon as he heard the deep, even tenor of her breathing sink into sleep, he eased out of the bed, went for a cold shower and got dressed.

Nothing in Vito’s mental rule book covered what had happened the night before. He hadn’t had a one-night stand in many years and none had been extraordinary on any level. Sex was sex, a temporary release and pleasure. He was practical about sex, cool about sex. His desire had never controlled him and he would never let it do so. But then he had never ever been intimate with a woman he wanted over and over again, and his voracious hunger for Holly even after having her downright unnerved him. What was wrong with him? Was he in some weird frame of mind after the trying ordeal of the publicity fallout he had endured over the past week? In his opinion it certainly wasn’t normal to want a woman that much. It smacked of unbalance, of unhealthy obsession. It was fortunate that their time together had a built-in closing date, he told himself grimly.

Even so, it was Christmas Day as well as being Holly’s birthday and it bothered him that he had nothing to give her. Vito was so accustomed to gift-giving and other people’s high expectations of his gifts that he felt very uncomfortable in that situation. In an effort to make the day special for Holly he decided to make her breakfast in bed. He couldn’t cook but how difficult could it be to make breakfast? He could manage orange juice and toast, couldn’t he?

Holly was stunned when she blinked into drowsy wakefulness because Vito was sliding a tray of food on to her lap. She stared down in wonderment at the charred toast. ‘You made me breakfast?’

‘It’s your birthday. It’s not much but it’s the best I can do.’

Holly tried not to look at him as though he were the eighth wonder of the world but that was certainly how he struck her at that moment because nobody had ever given Holly breakfast in bed before, no, not even when she was ill. It was a luxury she could barely even imagine and that Vito should have gone to that much effort to spoil her thrilled her. So, she didn’t make a sound when her first sip of tea gave her a mouthful of the teabag that had not been removed and she munched through the charred toast without complaint. It was the thought that counted, after all, and that Vito had thought touched her heart. In addition, the effect of having Vito carelessly sprawled at the foot of the same bed sent her pulse rate rocketing. She remembered all the things they had done and tried desperately to feel guilty about them. But it didn’t work. One look into those inky-black-lashed dark golden eyes of his and she was shot off to another planet.

‘Thanks,’ she said even though it took great effort to locate her voice.

‘I’m not great in the kitchen. If it had only been for me I would have cooked one of the ready meals,’ he admitted.

‘It was very thoughtful of you.’ Holly was registering how very lucky she was not to be facing roast meat for breakfast and she gratefully drank her orange juice, which was so cold it froze her teeth. As she drained the glass she pushed the tray away and he swept it up and put it on the floor.

He came back to the bed and moved towards her with the sinuous grace of a stalking cat and her mouth ran dry, her heartbeat racing. ‘I was going to get up, organise lunch,’ she framed shakily.

‘Way too early for that, bellezza mia,’ Vito husked, up close, his breath fanning her cheek and his luxuriant black hair brushing her chin as he bent his head to press his mouth to the pulse point below her ear.

And her whole body went into free fall as though he had hit a button. Breath fled her parted lips as she sank back into the pillows and gazed up at him with luminous blue eyes. ‘Vito—’

He closed her mouth with the onslaught of his own. ‘No, we don’t talk,’ he told her after kissing her breathless. ‘We already know all we need to know about each other.’

‘I don’t even know what you do,’ she began.

‘I’m in business...and you?’

‘Waitress...well, waitress with aspirations,’ she adjusted jerkily when he tensed against her. ‘I want to be an interior designer but it’s more a dream than reality.’

‘It takes work to turn dreams into reality.’

Holly smiled up at him. ‘Vito...I’ve had to work hard for everything in life but sometimes getting a break relates more to resources and luck than slaving away.’

‘This is getting way too serious,’ Vito objected when he found himself on the brink of offering her advice.

Holly let her fingers drift up to brush his black hair off his brow, her attention locked to his lean, darkly handsome features even as her heart had sunk because she was scarily well attuned to his body language. ‘Agreed. Let’s stay away from the real world.’

His long, lean body relaxed against hers again and tears stung her eyes as she blinked against his shoulder. The news that she was a waitress had been too sharp a stab of reality for Vito, highlighting as it did the difference in their statuses. His clothing, even the variety and expense of the food in the refrigerator, not to mention the stylish opulence of her surroundings all told Holly that Vito inhabited a rather more privileged place in society than she did. And while here at the cottage without other people around, that difference didn’t really matter. She knew it would matter very much outside these walls.

‘I still want you,’ Vito confided thickly, running the tip of his tongue along her collarbone.

Her tummy flipped, her feminine core clenched and she stiffened. Reality was intruding whether she wanted it to or not because she was too tender to engage again in the kind of intimacy he was probably envisaging. ‘I can’t,’ she whispered tightly, a small hand smoothing down a denim-clad thigh, feeling the ripple of his muscles tightening in response.

‘Maybe later,’ Vito murmured sibilantly, fingers spearing into her hair to lift her mouth to his. ‘But in the short term there are other things we can do, gioia mia.’

Holly laughed and buried her face in his shoulder. ‘You’re so shameless.’

‘Why wouldn’t I be? You’ve been brilliant. I can’t understand why you were still untouched.’

‘It was a promise I made to myself when I was very young...to wait. It just seemed sensible to wait until I was an adult and then...’ Holly sighed. ‘Somewhere along the line it became a burden, a tripwire in relationships that held me back from who I could be.’

Vito gazed down at her with a frown of incomprehension. ‘But why me? Why did you choose me?’

‘Maybe it was because you let me put my Christmas tree up,’ she teased, because there were all too many reasons why she had chosen him and very few she was prepared to share. There was no safe way to tell a man that he had been her fantasy without him getting the wrong idea and assuming that she was feeling more than she was supposed to feel in terms of attachment.