She had to—
Bella froze, every part of her immobilised as Gabriel Danti raised one of his long elegant hands that so capably handled the wheel of a racing car travelling at unimaginable speeds, and cupped her chin, the soft pad of his thumb caressing lightly across her bottom lip. The tingling warmth that ensued travelled down her throat and spine to pool hotly between her thighs.
Dark brown eyes held her own captive. ‘You have the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.’ His voice was low, husky, as if he were aware that anything else would break the spell that surrounded them.
‘So do you,’ Bella breathed, her chest rising and falling sharply with the effort it took to breathe at all.
His throaty laugh was a soft rumble beneath her fingertips before it faded; the darkness of his gaze suddenly became intense, searching. ‘Did you come here with someone?’
Bella blinked, trying to think through the slow insidiousness of his seduction. ‘I—I’m here with a group of friends, Mr Danti.’ She gave a self-conscious shake of her head as his eyes compelled her answer. ‘Sean is the nephew of one of your mechanics.’
It didn’t surprise Gabriel that this beautiful young woman knew who he was. Even if she hadn’t recognised him from the photographs of him that appeared almost daily in the newspapers at the moment, the fact that this was his house and he had been sitting in the study where several framed photographs of him winning races also adorned the walls would have given him away.
‘Sean is your boyfriend?’ There was a slight edge to his voice that hadn’t been there seconds earlier.
‘Heavens, no!’ she denied with a smile, her long hair falling forward across her breasts as she shook her head. ‘We’re just at university together. I hope you don’t mind that Sean brought some friends with him, Mr Danti?’ She was frowning now, her eyes almost purple. ‘His uncle said—’
‘I do not mind,’ Gabriel cut in reassuringly. ‘And please call me Gabriel.’
A slight flush darkened her cheeks. ‘And I’m Bella,’ she invited huskily.
‘Isabella.’ She grimaced. ‘But everyone just calls me Bella.’
Gabriel wasn’t sure he wanted to be grouped with ‘everyone’ where this fascinating woman was concerned. He raised one dark brow. ‘You are Italian?’
‘No,’ she laughed softly, her teeth small and white against the fullness of her lips. ‘My mother allowed my father, who’s a doctor, to choose my own and my younger sister’s names, so he named us after two of his favourite models and actresses: Isabella and Claudia. When my brother was born six years ago my mother had the choice of names. She chose Liam. After the actor. A tall Irishman, with what my mother describes as “very sexy blue eyes”—’
‘I know him,’ Gabriel admitted.
‘You know of him or you know him?’ Bella was aware that she was talking too much. About things that could be of absolutely no interest to a man like Gabriel Danti. It was nerves, that was what it was. That and the fact that she couldn’t think straight with Gabriel’s fingers still curled possessively around the softness of her chin!
The Italian smiled. ‘I know him. I cannot confirm the sexiness of his blue eyes, of course, but—’
‘You’re mocking me now,’ Bella reproved self-con-sciously.
‘Only a little,’ Gabriel murmured, his gaze once more intense on hers. ‘You said you are at university?’
‘Was,’ Bella corrected ruefully. ‘I left last month.’
Telling Gabriel that Bella was probably aged twenty-one or twenty-two to his twenty-eight. ‘What subject did you study?’
‘Art and History,’ she supplied.
‘With a view to teaching, perhaps?’
‘I’m really not sure yet. I’m hoping something that involves both subjects.’ She shrugged slender shoulders, the movement giving Gabriel, with his superior height, a delicious glimpse of the fullness of her breasts.
Gabriel could never remember being so instantly attracted to a woman before. So attracted that he was sure her appraisal of him earlier had raised his body temperature by several degrees, at the same time making him totally aware of every muscle and sinew of his own body as well as hers. Rousing a need, a hunger, inside him that demanded the slender curves of Bella’s body be placed against his much harder ones. Intimately. Preferably with no clothing between them.
Bella gave a slightly nervous laugh as she saw the way the Italian’s eyes had suddenly darkened. ‘If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll just go and find the bathroom—’
‘The bathroom is the room next to this on the right,’ Gabriel interrupted, his fingers firming against her chin. ‘While you are gone, I suggest I find a bottle of champagne and some glasses and then we can find somewhere more comfortable in which to continue this conversation, hmm?’
What conversation? Bella wondered, slightly bemused. She was pretty sure that Gabriel Danti didn’t want to hear more about her degree in art and history or her family! ‘Shouldn’t you be returning to your guests?’ She frowned.
His laugh was slightly wicked. ‘Does it sound as if they are missing me?’
Well…no, the party outside sounded noisier and more out of control than ever. Which was some feat considering several of the guests had already thrown off their clothes and jumped into the pool naked before Bella had left to go in search of the bathroom. Which had hastened her need to go in search of the bathroom, if she was honest; the party looked in danger of disintegrating in a way Bella wasn’t at all comfortable with.
It had sounded like a fun thing to do when Sean Davies had invited several of his fellow ex-students to the party being given at the Surrey home of Gabriel Danti. A chance to mix with the rich and the famous.
The fact that most of those ‘rich and famous’ were behaving in a way Bella would never have imagined if she hadn’t seen it with her own eyes had come as something of a shock to her. It wasn’t that she was a prude, it was just a little disconcerting to have a man she had last seen reading the evening news, a respected middle-aged man, jumping stark naked into Gabriel Danti’s swimming pool. Admittedly it was a warm summer’s evening, but even so!
‘Come, Bella.’ Gabriel removed his hand from her chin only to place it about her waist, his arm warm and spine-tingling as it rested against the slenderness of her back. ‘Do you have any preference in champagne?’
‘Preference?’ she echoed. Champagne was champagne, wasn’t it?
‘White or pink?’ he elaborated.
‘Er—pink will be fine.’ As a student, the only preference Bella had when it came to wines was that it not cost a lot of money! ‘Are you sure you wouldn’t rather just rejoin your guests?’ Bella hesitated in the hallway, rather confused that this gorgeous man, a man any of his female guests would scratch another woman’s eyes out in order to spend time alone with, appeared to want to spend that time with her…
‘I am very sure, Bella.’ Gabriel turned her in the curve of his arm so that she now faced him, his hands resting lightly against her waist. ‘But perhaps you would rather return to your friends…?’
Bella swallowed hard as Gabriel made no effort to hide the hot sensuality burning in his eyes. ‘No, I—’ She stopped as she realised her voice was several octaves higher than normal. She cleared her throat before trying again. ‘No, I think I would enjoy drinking champagne with you more.’
Those dark eyes gleamed with satisfaction as he raised his hands to cup either side of her face before slowly lowering his head to take possession of her mouth. Sipping, tasting, his tongue was a warm sweep against her lips as he tacitly asked her permission to enter. Then he claimed her mouth, groaning low in his throat as Bella gave in to temptation, parting her lips and inviting his tongue to surge inside.
His mouth was hot against hers now, Bella feeling slightly dizzy from the warm rush