About the Author
CAROLE MORTIMER was born in England, the youngest of three children. She began writing in 1978 and has now written over one hundred and eighty books for Mills & Boon. Carole has six sons, Matthew, Joshua, Timothy, Michael, David and Peter. She says, ‘I’m happily married to Peter senior; we’re best friends as well as lovers, which is probably the best recipe for a successful relationship. We live in a lovely part of England.’
Tall, Dark Collection
Tall, Dark & Handsome
The Infamous Italian’s Secret Baby
Pregnant by the Millionaire
Liam’s Secret Son
Tall, Dark & Notorious
The Duke’s Cinderella Bride
The Rake’s Wicked Proposal
Tall, Dark & Gorgeous
To Marry McKenzie
To Marry McCloud
To Marry McAllister
Tall, Dark & Irresistible
The Rogue’s Disgraced Lady
Lady Arabella’s Scandalous Marriage
Tall, Dark & Rich
His Christmas Virgin
Married by Christmas
A Yuletide Seduction
Tall, Dark & Scandalous
Jordan St Claire: Dark and Dangerous
The Reluctant Duke
Taming the Last St Claire
‘THE party is outside by the pool.’
Bella froze in the doorway, searching the shadows of the unlit room she had entered by mistake, a study or den if the book-lined walls and desk were any indication. Her hand tightened about the door-handle as she finally saw the outline of the large, imposing figure seated behind that desk.
The man was totally unmoving, and yet his very stillness was an implied danger, an echo of the challenge in his tone. By the light from the hallway behind her, Bella was just able to make out the fall of long dark hair that grew onto a pair of wide shoulders, those shoulders and a powerful chest encased in a dark top of some kind.
She swallowed hard before speaking. ‘I was looking for the bathroom…’
‘As you can see, this is not it,’ he responded, his amused voice slightly accented. As he spoke some of the tension left his upper torso and he relaxed back in the high-backed chair, head tilted slightly sideways as the glitter of his gaze moved slowly over Bella standing silhouetted in the doorway. ‘Or perhaps you cannot see…’
Bella barely had time to realise that the husky voice sounded vaguely familiar before there was the click of a switch and a light illuminated the desk in a soft warm glow. And the man seated behind it. Bella recognised him instantly.
Bella felt her heart plummet in her chest as she looked at the wickedly handsome man in front of her. His thick dark hair and chocolate-brown eyes were almost black in their intensity. His olive-skinned face boasted a perfectly straight aristocratic nose, high cheekbones, a mouth that was full and sensual, and a square, arrogant chin, softened only by the slight cleft in its centre.
It was the face that thousands, no, millions of women all over the world sighed over. Daydreamed over. Drooled over!
Italian by birth, Gabriel Danti was, at the age of twenty-eight, the defending champion of the Formula One racing car championship currently in its fifth month. This man was the darling of the rich and the famous on both sides of the Atlantic—and, as if that weren’t enough, he was also the only son and heir of Cristo Danti, head of the Danti business and wine empire, with vineyards in both Italy and America.
Even while she registered all those things about him Bella was also aware of the fact that this house in the Surrey countryside was Gabriel Danti’s English home, and that he was actually the host of the noisy party taking place outside by the pool. So what was he doing sitting up here alone in the dark?
She moistened suddenly dry lips. ‘I’m terribly sorry for disturbing you. I really was looking for the bathroom.’ She gave a small self-conscious grimace. How awful that the first and probably only time she had the opportunity to speak to Gabriel Danti it was because she needed to find the bathroom!
Gabriel made a lazy study of the tiny, dark-haired woman who stood in the doorway of his study. A young woman totally unlike the tall, leggy blondes that he usually escorted—and totally unlike the traitorous Janine, he acknowledged grimly to himself.
She had very long, straight hair, as black as ebony and falling soft and silky about her shoulders. A dark fringe of that same silky softness lay on her forehead, and her small, heart-shaped face was pale and smooth as alabaster—and totally dominated by a pair of the most unusual violet-coloured eyes Gabriel had ever seen. Her gently pouting lips were unknowingly sensuous and inviting.
His gaze dropped lower, to the soft woollen top she wore, which was the same violet colour of her eyes. The top two buttons were undone to reveal surprisingly full breasts—completely naked breasts beneath the thinness of her sweater, if Gabriel wasn’t mistaken, which made her slender waist look even more so in comparison. Her narrow hips and legs were clearly defined in figure-hugging jeans.
That long, leisurely glance told Gabriel that he didn’t know her.
But he wanted to!
Bella took an involuntary step back as Gabriel Danti stood up from behind the desk, revealing that the top he wore was in fact a black silk shirt that rippled as he stood before resettling softly against the muscled hardness of his shoulders and chest. The sleeves were turned back to just below his elbows, revealing muscled forearms lightly dusted with dark hair.
At least a foot taller than her own five feet two inches, Gabriel Danti at once dominated the space around him. And she, Bella realised in some alarm as she found herself rooted to the spot, was totally unable to move as the tall Italian sauntered across the room in long feline strides to stand mere inches in front of her. The raucous noise of the party outside instantly became muted as all Bella could see or hear was him.
She had been wrong, Bella mused as she found herself in a daze, unable to look away from the dark beauty of his face. Gabriel Danti wasn’t handsome. He was stunningly gorgeous.
Bella could feel the heat radiating from his body, could smell his tangy aftershave, the male scent of him that invaded and claimed the senses, filling her with a warm lethargy, a need to move closer to all that heady maleness.
A need Bella was unable to resist as she felt herself swaying towards him. She made an effort at the last moment not to do so, lifting a hand to stop herself from curving her body along the length of his. Instead she found the palm of her hand against the black silk of his shirt, her fingers curling against the warm hardness of the chest beneath as she felt the hot, heady thrum of his heart against her fingertips.
What was happening to her?
She never reacted to men like this. At least, she never