Authors: Sally Clements
Isola dei Fiori was just as he’d remembered. Beautiful, unspoiled, and totally underdeveloped. He breathed in and felt peace infuse, settling the restless itch which normally plagued him. Maybe it was the memories of the stolen weeks spent here, avoiding the harsh realities of a life in tatters. He’d found peace, for a while, before he’d had to return to the unfamiliar rented house filled with grieving women. The last thing he expected was to rediscover that peace, twelve years later.
His eyes snapped open as his ears registered the purring of an engine. An elegant, slate grey Mercedes pulled up in front of the hotel, and the door opened. From his vantage point under the trees, Cade watched a woman alight. One long, smooth, tanned leg emerged, clad in incredibly high heels, then the other. She was wearing a short, dark blue dress, which showcased every dangerous curve, and he pulled in a deep breath as she leaned back into the car to retrieve her bag, revealing the smooth curve of her bottom. If he’d been Italian, he would have whistled, but that wasn’t Cade’s style.
She straightened. Long chestnut hair shot with caramel lights was piled up on top of her head. A couple of tendrils had escaped to dust against the smooth, tanned skin of her cheek. Large sunglasses covered her eyes, and her full mouth formed a perfect bow. She locked the car and sashayed into the hotel, hips swaying in the tight blue cotton sheath. Cade breathed out the breath he’d been holding, shaken by the surge of arousal the mere sight of the woman had awakened. It had been too long since he’d had a female in his arms. It must be, if the mere look of a gorgeous woman had him this hot and bothered.
She must be meeting her lover. Women didn’t dress like that unless they were meeting a man. Cade glanced at his watch, wondering if he’d have to rescue Adam from the hotel’s owner, just as Adam arrived with a plateful of antipasti. He wasn’t alone. The bombshell with the killer curves walked next to him, right up to the table. Cade pushed back the chair and stood up.
“Hey, Cade. Our ride is here. I’ve persuaded her to join us for a drink and a snack before we go back to the house.” Adam eyed him carefully. “You remember Melo?”
Cade rubbed a hand over his unshaven jaw.
She slipped off her glasses, and stowed them in her bag.
Could this really be Rosa’s sister?
The tall, boyish tomboy he’d spent the summer with, so many years ago? She’d been gangly, awkward. Barely in her teens. The woman who stood in front of him bore no comparison.
, Cade.” Her low voice caressed his name. Her eyes rose to his and jolted him with a bolt of blue.
It was Melo, all right. He’d know those eyes anywhere.
She leaned toward him, proffering her cheek for the customary kiss.
Cade’s lips grazed the smooth skin of her cheek, and his nostrils filled with the intoxicating scent of her perfume. His fingers smoothed over her upper arms, feeling the shiver snaking through her. She had a tiny mole above the outer curve of her mouth, something else he remembered from the Melo of old.
He stepped back, needing distance.
“Hi, Melo. You look great.” The scratchy croak was just about all he could manage. Rosa’s sister had blossomed into the most stunning woman he’d ever seen. Twelve years ago, the gangly tomboy had been the perfect companion for a boy on holiday. They’d done everything together. Well,
everything. Now he was tongue-tied around her, and
“So do you.” She grinned, revealing white even teeth. Long fingers reached up and smoothed over his jaw line.
Cade held himself in check, resisting the urge to rub against her like a lonely cat.
“Are you growing a beard?” Her tone was deep, sexy, teasing.
Cade struggled through the sensuous fog that descended as her fingers touched his skin. Melo’d always teased. “Maybe. Do you like it?” Her eyes were no ordinary blue, but deep sapphire.
She dropped her hand quickly. “I love it. But Rosa won’t. She’ll probably ask you to shave.”
Adam pulled out a chair, and Melo sank into it.
Cade took his seat again, and helped himself to an olive-topped crostini. Melo picked an olive from the platter and popped it into her mouth. The cherry gleam of her lips was impossible to ignore.
Adam poured her a glass of wine. “So, how’s my Rosa?”
“Desperate to see you.” Melo’s mouth curved in a smile. “If she knew you’d arrived she’d be here to fetch you herself.” Her shoulders lifted and her open palms tilted upwards. “We’re under time pressure, so I didn’t tell her.”
Cade swallowed his wine and tried not to look at the siren Melo had become. Since the Alison fiasco, he’d been careful to keep his relationships casual. He’d thought he and Alison had an equal relationship, based on trust and mutual desires. He cared about her, had given her a platinum credit card, which she promptly proceeded to melt. It had taken mere days to track down her addictions. Roulette, haute couture, and cocaine. Cade had financed the most expensive rehab possible, but Alison’s bland statement she didn’t want to get better, she wanted to “have fun,” had sent a steely javelin of ice through him, severing their connection irrevocably. He’d been a blind fool, but no more.
The world was full of beautiful women happy to share his bed, women who understood his aversion to forever. Melo was in a different category. They’d shared dreams and confidences when they were teenagers, and he’d never really thought of her as a
And she was going to be Adam’s family—totally off limits. But that didn’t stop his hungry gaze roaming over the curve of her lips, or his body’s ardent reaction.
“How’s your papa?” Adam’s tone was full of concern.
“Not as good as we hoped, but they brought him back from the hospital today with a doctor and nurse in attendance to monitor him. They recommend he takes it easy.” She shrugged her shoulders, looked toward the heavens, then, as if it might hurt, smiled. “Papa, of course, is determined to walk Rosa down the aisle. And Rosa wants him to.”
Cade nodded. Rosa always got what she wanted.
A couple of fat bumblebees hovered over the purple flowers of the rosemary bushes under planting the plane trees where they sat. Their slumberous buzzing was soothing in the perfumed heat. Cade breathed in, then slowly let the breath escape in a long puff. Isola dei Fiori was weaving its spell around him, and it felt damn good.
Melo bit into a marinated artichoke heart, and a small drizzle of olive oil dampened her bottom lip. She wiped it away with a napkin, grinned and lifted her shoulders. “It’s impossible to eat these elegantly.” Her gaze met his and held.
A flash of electricity shot between them, and his heart thumped and kicked. She was aware of him. More than aware, attracted.
Her eyes widened slightly, and her lips parted a miniscule amount. Her skin was perfect, soft and tanned without the addition of make-up. The curve of her neck led down to a tantalizing glimpse of cleavage.
Maybe this wedding wouldn’t be such a chore after all.
Melo swallowed and climbed into the driver’s seat. She’d been sure of her mission when she started out, but now, with the adult Cade in the seat next to her, her heart was doing the cha-cha, and she wasn’t sure she had the nerve to carry it out. He’d changed. His hair was long, brushing his shoulders, parted slightly off-centre, and long at the front too, pushed away from his face. He was as dark as ever, though. And his unshaven jaw was unbelievably sexy. He hadn’t needed to shave the last time she’d seen him. Her fingers still tingled with the memory of touching his stubble. What would it feel like under her tongue? Her nipples tightened into hard nubs under the lace of her bra.
He was taller, too. A good couple of inches taller than Adam, who easily topped six-two. When his warm lips had brushed her cheek, her eyes were just about level with his mouth. His shoulders too were wider, lean and muscled under the black shirt open at the neck, showcasing a faint dusting of dark hair. The last time he’d been on Isola dei Fiori they’d swum together in the sea every day. Swimming with him now would be a completely different experience. At the mere thought of an almost naked Cade, heat swept through her.
“Buckle up.” She spun the Mercedes in a spray of gravel, and sped away from The Fiori Hotel down the road to the villa.
Silver sparkles reflected off the turquoise surface of the sea and a breeze blew in from the open window. On her left, serried ranks of Bellucci vines marched up the hillside and Melo breathed in deeply.
It was wonderful being on Isola dei Fiori again. The island was part of her heritage, part of her blood. Living in Florence, she visited often, but the island, in all its unspoiled beauty, was where she belonged. One day, she’d build her home on the perfect little plot of land her grandmother had left her. And one day when she’d made her father see she deserved a place in the family winery, even if she
“So, how are all the arrangements going?”
At Adam’s question, Melo’s head started to throb. As sister of the bride, and the only responsible member of the family, organizing the whole, three-day wedding extravaganza was her department. There was still so much to do.
“Well, all your guests are booked in to the hotel, and we’ve driven them up to the villa.”
With a team of drivers, she’d spent most of the morning ferrying the eighty guests around. In between stringing up the fairy lights leading from the villa to the beach in preparation for the evening barbeque. And crawling under a table with her screwdriver to fix a wobble. She was so tired she could barely see straight.
“What’s Rosa doing?” Adam asked from the back seat.
“She’s having her dress taken in. You’ll have to wait to see her, I’m afraid.”
Melo had snuck out to collect Adam and Cade at her mother’s insistence, and hadn’t even told Rosa she was going. It had taken all her powers of persuasion to talk the designer, Eliza Moretti, onto a helicopter to make the alterations. Rosa had lost weight, fretting about their father, and there was no way her sister would settle for Eliza’s assistant. The one proviso was Eliza would be in the air on the way back to Florence by mid-afternoon.
Melo’d promised. Now all she had to do was make sure Rosa stuck with the program.
“How are you holding up?”
Cade’s deep rumble vibrated to her core. God, she was as aware of him as ever. She moistened her dry lips with the tip of her tongue, and her hands tightened convulsively on the steering wheel.
“Not too bad.” She drew the words out slowly, carefully. “Although we could have done without Papa’s heart attack in the middle of everything.”
That was putting it mildly. Melo’s mother had taken her husband’s medical crisis as carte blanche to fall to pieces.
Melo still had to see to the caterers, and make sure the musicians had arrived. And her father wanted to talk to her too, before the evening’s festivities got underway. Her shoulders slumped. Getting through the next three days would be a nightmare.
“If there’s anything I can do to help, I’m here.” Cade reinforced the sincerity in his tone by reaching out to pat her shoulder.
The feel of his hand through the thin cotton arced electricity through her.
“Thanks.” She flicked her gaze to his briefly, registering his solemn expression.
“I mean it, you know. I’m just kicking around until the wedding day.” His mouth curved.
Her heart thudded faster. The Cade effect was as powerful as ever. “I know you mean it. You were always helpful.”
Cade threw back his head and laughed. “Yeah, well, I’ll do more than carry the picnic basket this time.”
“You did more than that,” Melo replied. He’d listened to her endless talk about how she’d improve the winery. Had sympathized when she’d moaned about how her parents were indifferent to her ambitions, wanting instead for her to only become a wife and mother.
“I was obnoxious, a lot of the time. We’d just lost the ranch.”
“And your father…” Melo cleared her throat. “You were only sixteen, you were entitled.” She clenched her teeth together and concentrated on the road.
“I must have been a complete pain, moaning about everything.” Cade’s voice deepened intimately. “I meant what I said. I’m happy to help out, just tell me what you want me to do.”
Run your hands through my hair and kiss me senseless?
Melo’s lips twitched.
In mere moments they arrived. She drove the car around in a lazy circle and stopped outside the villa. The crazy thing was he’d never realized she’d fallen in love with him. Had dreamed of one day making him hers. When she heard of his engagement, her heart had almost broken, and she’d been disgustingly happy to hear the news it was all off.
She’d let her fear of rejection stop her from contacting him after he’d left twelve years ago, and had almost missed her chance. In the years since, she’d kissed a few frogs, had a couple of flings, but nothing to write home about. The fact of the matter was Melo’d fantasized about kissing Cade since she was a teenager. Maybe it was just a fantasy. Maybe when they finally kissed, it’d be nothing special. Maybe it’d be everything she’d dreamed it’d be—there was only one way to find out.
Melo squared her shoulders, and turned to flash Cade a look-at-me smile. Before the wedding festivities were over, Cade West would know her true feelings. She pushed open the door and stepped out. It was time for a cold drink, before she combusted.
Marrying Cade is available
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