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Authors: Nikki Winter

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BOOK: The Beauty and the Brawler
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Something boiled inside her. “
My
insecurities? Oh, fuck you, Luc. You have no idea—”

He waved a hand toward the hallway to her bedroom. “Those tears didn’t come out of the clear blue sky. I’m smart enough to recognize relief when I see it. It was written on my mother’s face the first time I returned home after running away for a few hours. On my dad’s face when I showed him my acceptance letter into college and on my brother’s face when I finally decided I’d let the Sultanas adopt me.” Leaning forward, he completed in a quiet voice, “You cried because you thought I’d be either resentful or angry with you. That’s not what you got from me, and the moment the realization hit that I called our baby
mine,
all that pent-up emotion you’ve been walking around with exploded. I may be an athlete, an asshole, sometimes irresponsible, but I’m. Not. Stupid.”

Standing, he began to clean up. “You didn’t tell me the moment you found out because you were afraid of what my reaction would be—thought I’d disappear and you’d never see me again.” Turning toward her, he lifted his hands and motioned them as if to outline something. “Breaking news, Sammie. I’m here. Get the fuck over it.”

“You don’t have the right—”

“I have
every
right,” he interrupted in a soft tone. “I had the right the very second you got over whatever it was that kept you from sleeping with me all these years and made your way to my bed.” Folding his arms across his chest, Luciano gave her a hard stare. “The moment you let me touch you, taste you,
know you—
you gave me the right, sweetheart. Don’t you ever forget that. You want me to be angry about something? Fine. I’m angry about the fact that you seemed to have so little faith in my character. That you just assumed—”

“Exactly what was I supposed to do?” She’d stood so quickly that her chair fell backwards, advancing on him. “I left you and—”


Right.
You left me. Not the other way around.” He stepped toe-to-toe with her. “Did I run screaming into the night the moment I knew you were asleep? Did I completely ignore you for days after I woke up to find your side of the bed empty and cold? No. I fucking sat and wondered if you regretted the fact that you lowered yourself just long enough to see what my dick looked like.”

“You calling me stuck up?”

“I’m calling you scared
.”
His brows lowered. “We spent so much time playing cat and mouse because
you
want a certain kind of guy, Sammie.”

Her brows winged. “Oh do I, now?”

He nodded. “Yes. You never let me get anywhere near this.” Running his finger over where her heart lay, Luciano continued. “Because I frighten
you.”

“Oh this I just
have
to
hear.” She motioned for him to finish, and he walked forward until he had her backed against the counter.

“I frighten you because I’m not average
.
I’m not small-minded, weak-willed or easily controlled. I won’t let you run all over me, intimidate me. I won’t give you your way just because you bat your lashes and pout your lips in my direction.” He smirked. “I may want
to but I won’t. You want a man who’s going to bend;who’ll fold like a house of cards, who’ll be at your beck and call when you snap your fingers.”

Luciano leaned in and placed his mouth against the shell of her ear. “A man who’ll be forgettable, replaceable
.
Who won’t get in the way of your career. You don’t want a man who’ll make an impact because you know those shoes will be too big to get refilled should it ever be needed. You’re content with the lights being off and the missionary position coming into play. You’re content
with rolling over and getting your eight hours of sleep, any orgasm you’ve had already pushed to the back of your head. See, you don’t want me
because I can make you smolder on the spot with just one look. You don’t want
me
because when I kiss you—I mean
really
kiss you—everything else fails in comparison.”

She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stay still, kept shifting from one foot to the other, trying to focus on anything but his voice, his scent.

“You don’t want
me
because eventually we’ll get to the point where just my leaving the room for five minutes will leave you anxious. You don’t want
me
because I will have you in the middle of your interviews and meetings, wondering and questioning how quickly you can leave so I can be beside you again, making you smile, teasing you, listening
to you and actually giving a damn about what you have to say. You don’t want
me
because you’re already halfway through everything I’ve said and it scares the ever-living shit out of you.” He kissed her temple and completed with, “But guess what? You may not want me but I want
you.
I’ll never have to push or force myself on you. You’ll come willingly
.
And I’ll have you. Over and over and over and over again. Until your voice is hoarse and your body’s sore. Until you get swollen enough with our child that every time
he or she
hears my voice they’ll kick and push, acknowledging, just like the rest of you, that they know who I am.”

Luciano finally backed away, and she found herself desperately trying to figure out how she’d spend the next eighteen years of her life avoiding the feelings this man brought to the surface.

He cocked his head. “You have a road trip in the morning and more sleep to catch up on. I’m going to run you a bath. Finish your pancakes.” With a slight tap on her ass, he walked away...whistling.

Samara felt someone watching her and blinked over to her right to find Manfred standing there, staring.

He mewled. His obvious thoughts along the lines of, “Bitches be in trouble...”

She was really starting to hate her own cat...

***

          He could feel her watching him from the doorway. Just standing there...silent. That scared him. Why? Because if Samara was silent for too long it usually meant she was thinking back to the last place she’d dug a shallow grave and sizing you up to make sure you’d fit. Luciano chanced a glance over his shoulder and repressed the urge to call on the good Lord for protection. Yup. There she stood. Just staring.

          He didn’t know what reaction he’d expected to his monologue in the kitchen, but this was definitely not it. Luciano could read her facial expressions, even her body. Her thoughts? No. That was the one thing Samara had the power to withhold from him. Bravado. He was good at it—had built a career around it. Yet he wasn’t feeling like super champion Luciano “The Philly Brawler” Antonelli. Nah. At the moment he was feeling like that rejected kid sitting on the stairs of Trenton on adoption day, watching kids he’d grown up with wave goodbye as they were taken away by their new families.

          He felt like that rejected kid who stood on the sidelines at every school function watching other students with the slight hope that
someone
would come talk to him. He felt like that rejected kid who couldn’t get a girl to look past the messy hair and kicked-up sneakers to see he was just like any other guy—simply poor with a desire to be liked. He felt like that same rejected kid who recoiled the moment he realized Samara had snuck out of his bed like she was ashamed she’d ever laid down with him.

          Luciano didn’t know why, but her opinion of him mattered. Her hiding the fact she was pregnant danced on the edge of a lifetime of insecurities he’d managed to hide with a flashy smile, smart mouth, and large, powerful hands. But to tell her that would be to trust her with something he’d never trusted
anyone
with...including Sansone. He didn’t want to be rejected again, so he’d keep his mouth shut and do what was right.

          “I planned on telling you this weekend, you know.”

          He stiffened at the sound of her voice, expecting a
but
to follow. Instead of turning around, he found one of the expensive bath oils she kept in her bathroom cabinet and poured some into the tub, watching bubbles sprout up as he asked, “Is that right?”

          “You can take the disbelief out of your tone, Luc. I have the plane ticket to prove it.” She paused. “I wanted to announce it face-to-face. Saying it over the phone—”

          “—didn’t seem right,” he finished for her.

          “Yes.” Luciano could hear her pad closer on the tiled floor. “I wasn’t hiding it, but I wasn’t exactly ready to scream it from the rooftops, either. I needed it to sink in first, but you should know that I’d never purposely keep something like this from you. That’s not who I am. No matter the circumstances of our
relationship, I wouldn’t take your right to be here away. I didn’t find out for sure until Saturday.” Samara sighed. “But part of what you said was right. I
was
afraid of how you’d react. Even if I was prepared to deal with the fallout. I just don’t want you believing I’m ashamed about anything that happened between us here. And I’m damn sure  not ashamed of this baby.”

          His hands had clenched so hard that the oil was spilling over the side of the bottle. She’d said everything he needed to hear, yet there was something missing from her little confession. “Do you want me?” He turned to see her eyes widen.

          “What?”

          “I asked if you want me.”

          Samara took a step backward. “What does that have to do with—”

          “Yes or no question, sweetheart.”

          “Luci—”

          “Still not getting an answer.” He’d backed her up into a corner like he’d done before, staring down at her. “I want an answer.”

          She looked over his shoulder, a muscle ticcing in her jaw. “You’re pushing me, Luc. I don’t like to be pushed.”

          “Excuse me while I play the world’s smallest violin and cry for Argentina,” he said dryly. “You don’t like to be pushed, and I don’t like dragonflies. Are we gonna keep stating useless facts, or are you going to answer my question?”

          Something sparked in her gaze when she turned it back to his own. “What do you
want
from me?”

          “You,” he answered simply. “All I want is you.”

          Her face softened a fraction. Her next question was whisper soft. “Why?”

          “Why not?” Luciano set down the bath oil and reached for the bottom of her T-shirt, tugging it gently. She let him, either too hypnotized by this moment like he was or too confused to protest. He lifted it above her head and tossed it toward the hallway before kneeling before her.

He’d never say the words that’d bare everything, but he could let her in a little, right? Placing his cheek to her belly, he rested there, didn’t make a move. Then he spoke softly. “I could never regret this. I
won’t
ever regret this.” Luciano wasn’t sure if the words were for her or the baby…maybe both. Wasn’t like she was far enough along for the kid to actually hear him but he needed to say it anyway. He pressed a kiss just beneath her belly button, heard her suck in a huge breath as his palms ran down her sides, skimming just underneath the waistband of her shorts so he could push them down her thighs and off her legs completely. She kicked out of them as he traced the butterfly on her hip with his mouth.

He let his lips linger there for a few seconds before rising and picking her up by the waist. Gently, he set her down in the scented water then backed away.

Samara’s brows lowered. “You’re not getting in?”

Luciano’s cock said, “Yes!” but his mouth said, “Nope. You soak. I’ll be back to check on you in a bit.” Then he turned and ran as fast as he could, as far away as he could because he needed Samara to understand that this wasn’t about what she did to him physically. No, they were in a whole other ballpark now. One where soon she’d figure out
she
was calling the shots. God help him when she did...

Chapter Eight

 

         
“Do you want me?”

         
Samara wasn’t sleeping. Not anytime soon, at least. Not with Luciano’s words ringing in her head, the phantom sensation of his lips on her skin, and the knowledge he was just a few short feet outside of her door keeping her more than just alert. Every inch of her was aroused…some parts more than others. Parts that hadn’t been touched in way too long. Parts that remembered the feel of him all too well. Parts that wanted a repeat performance.

BOOK: The Beauty and the Brawler
11.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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