Authors: Elizabeth Lennox
The coordinator turned and nodded in their direction, silently indicating that it was their turn to walk down the aisle. Clarissa put her shaking hand in her father’s arm, took a deep breath and stepped forward with her father. The music swelled and her heart rate increased as panic took over. Her eyes were wide with the terror she was feeling, something inside her telling her to run, hide and never come out.
The congregation rose to their feet and Clarissa moved closer to her father, every muscle in her body telling her to get out as fast as she could, that this was exactly what she’d never wanted for herself. How could a man truly dedicate himself to a marriage when he could so easily cheat on her? She’d never know it either since Max traveled all over the world almost constantly. His business interests were worldwide and amazingly varied. Besides, why would he want to marry someone like her? She was too shy and didn’t have the blazing beauty of several women standing in this small church? He’d never said he loved her, only that he wanted her. So why? Why on earth would he want someone like her?
The panic was starting to choke her and her feet were numb as her father led her forward. The smell of the flowers was almost overwhelming. There were white roses and lilies everywhere. The pews were filled with them as were the alters and windows. In addition to the flowers, there was the cloying smell of the women’s perfume. Was it hot in the church? Her panicked eyes looked around and she noticed that all the people in attendance were wearing sweaters and some even hats. No one else appeared to be overheated at all.
Clarissa focused, forcing her breathing to slow down and her mind to clear. She took a deep breath and this time, the flowers weren’t so powerful. She even felt a small draft of cool air from the air conditioning. The cool air helped and she was able to look up once again, see the smiling faces and the path to the alter.
Then she saw him. His eyes were looking directly back at her and the desire and pride she saw in his eyes helped her take the last few steps. When her father placed her hand in Max’s large, warm, comforting hand, she took a deep breath. It would be okay, she told herself over and over. Max wasn’t like the other men she’d known. She could trust him. Of all the men she’d known, she trusted him more than any other. He wasn’t in this relationship for any business reasons, she told herself. What could he possibly gain from marrying her? He was much wealthier than her father and he seemed to desire her. Hadn’t he ignored several women’s advances at various functions, turned to her and smiled each time they tried to divert his attention?
They were at the front of the church and her father lifted the veil and kissed her gently on the cheek before handing Clarissa’s cold, shaking hand to Max who took it firmly, pulling her gently forward so she was standing next to him, facing the priest.
“Are you okay?” he whispered as the kind priest started the ceremony.
Clarissa looked up at him, saw the reassuring look and relaxed. “Yes,” she finally said, as much as for herself as for him.
“Good,” he replied. He then turned to the minister but pulled her hand more securely through his arm, placing his other hand on hers as if to reassure her.
The minister went through the ceremony but Clarissa only grasped half of it since it was in Italian. When the vows came though, the priest switched to English and, for the first time today, Clarissa was amused. Obviously, the man wanted to make sure she understood exactly what she was promising. “I do,” she finally replied in Italian, basking in the look of admiration in Max’s eyes when she did so.
Moments later, the priest declared them husband and wife and if Max hadn’t swooped in and kissed her passionately, she was sure the panic would have come back. As it was, he kissed her so thoroughly, the congregation was actually chuckling and clapping when it was over.
Max was un-phased by the applause but he escorted a red-faced Clarissa quickly down the aisle and out the door. She was surprised when she saw that the rest of the village had all turned out to see them leave the church. Everyone was dressed in their finest and tossing petals over their head as Max ushered Clarissa into a white, open carriage led by two beautiful white horses.
Everyone was invited to the villa for the reception which had tables overflowing with food and wine. The villagers were genuinely proud of who Max was and his success and they all wanted to greet his bride, show him how much they accepted her and, more specifically, tell Clarissa how lucky she was.
Clarissa didn’t feel lucky. She felt overwhelmed. Standing next to Max in his formal morning clothes and her in a silk, beaded gown, she felt as if everything were happening outside of her. She clung to Max’s side, unable to deal with all the people and her wedding vows at the same time. Max seemed to understand and hugged her close, sending people off to get her food, which she barely touched and wine, which she drank a little too much of.
After what felt like hours, it was finally time to leave and Clarissa couldn’t help but sigh heavily with relief. “I’ll go get changed,” she said as Sophia nodded in their direction.
She changed quickly into a white suit and headed down the stairs again. As many people as possible were crowded into the foyer, mostly women who were waiting for her to toss the bouquet. She was surprised as she looked out onto about fifty female faces, all of whom were eagerly waiting for her to toss the bouquet, hopefully in their direction. She looked down at the flowers with derision, and caught Max’s amused look as he stood at the doorway waiting for her. He knew exactly what she was thinking, Clarissa realized.
With a shrug, she turned around and tossed the flowers over her shoulder, laughing at the screams of excitement from the women who were frantically trying to grab for the flowers. She couldn’t believe that so many women were eager to enter into the marriage state, a state she had tried so hard to avoid.
Max walked over to the stairs and took her hand, leading her down the remaining steps. He thanked everyone for attending their wedding and all their good wishes but he was just as eager to leave as she was. The flower petals showered down as Max led her through the crowd and into the back of a limousine.
Clarissa dove in ahead of him, then sighed happily when the door was closed by one of his body guards. The car pulled away from the house but the progress was slow since there were so many people waving along the drive.
Finally, they were away and Clarissa could relax. She leaned against the soft leather seats and closed her eyes and breathing deeply.
“You survived,” he said, laughter in his voice. “How does it feel to be married?” he asked.
Clarissa opened her eyes and looked at him. Shrugging, she said, “I’m not exactly sure yet. I don’t think anything has sunk in.”
He pulled her into his arms, his hands settling against her slim waist. “What do you think will make the reality of our marriage sink in?” he asked, his voice husky and his eyes lighting with that special devilment that always made Clarissa shiver with excitement.
She smiled softly and looked at his lips, unknowingly licking her suddenly dry lips and shifting on his lap. “I don’t know. Maybe our honeymoon will convince me,” she said and couldn’t believe the breathless quality to her voice. She sounded exactly like she felt, eager, terrified, excited and all those other lovely feelings. “You’re not going to make me wait any longer, are you?”
Max laughed and pulled her closer. “I don’t think I could even if I wanted to, which I don’t. I want you with an intensity I’ve never felt before,” he explained as his hand traveled slowly down her hip and along her thigh.
And when his head bent to touch her lips, Clarissa thought she might have died and gone to heaven.
It took two hours, a plane ride and helicopter journey which landed directly on top of a large building, before they entered Max’s Rome penthouse. It was lovely with cool tiles and a staggering view of the city through the large windows on almost all sides. But Clarissa didn’t care about the view. As soon as they entered, she walked into his arms. “Now you owe me,” she said, her eyes alight with excitement.
Max threw back his head and laughed, delighted with his bride’s eagerness for their bed. “Yes, cara. Now I owe you. And I promise you won’t be disappointed.” He kissed her passionately, all the while lifting her into his arms and carrying her into the bedroom.
He lowered her feet slowly to the floor, his kisses turning slow and seductive. Although Clarissa was nervous about the experience, she was so turned on at the idea of finally making love with Max, she didn’t want him to go slowly.
Shoving his jacket off of his shoulders with shaking fingers, she bit her lip so he couldn’t see her trembling. He wasn’t fooled though.
His thumb gently touched her lip, releasing the skin from her teeth. “Don’t be nervous, Clarissa. I promised you something recently. Do you remember?”
She frantically searched her mind but it wasn’t working very well. “Not really,” she replied with a large dose of distraction.
“I promised you’d be screaming with pleasure. Trust me,” he said as his head bent to kiss her neck, her ears. His hands deftly unbuttoned the back of her dress, pushing the material off her shoulders and letting it pool around her feet. He stepped back and looked at her, seeing the sexy white bustier which had supported her breasts during the past several hours. She wore white lace underwear and stockings suspended by a lace garter. Seeing his eyes flare with heat, Clarissa was glad she’d taken so much time to pull the ensemble together.
“You’re lovely,” he said, his voice husky with the desire snaking through him.
“Max,” she started to say something but stopped nervously. “Never mind,” she replied and waited with her hands at her sides for him to continue.
“What is it?” he asked, seeing the anxiety in her eyes.
“Nothing, really,” she said, feeling self-conscious standing in front of him only in her underwear while he still had all his clothes on.
He pulled her hands to his chest and settled his own on her waist, the skin under his fingers almost driving him insane with its softness. “If this is going to work, you’re going to have to be honest with me. Tell me what you want.”
She looked at his cravat and felt her face heat up as she thought about what she wanted to do to him. “I’ve never felt a man’s chest. I just wanted to take off your shirt and see what you feel like. But I can wait.”
In response, he lifted her hands to the buttons on his shirt. “Be my guest,” he said.
Clarissa looked up into his face, trying to determine if he was only being polite. But he looked like he was in pain. The skin was tight across his cheeks and she noted the flames burning in his eyes. If he was feeling even a fraction of what she was feeling, then she was thrilled.
She didn’t hesitate after that though. He’d given her permission to satisfy her curiosity and she was going to take advantage of that. Her fingers were clumsy with eagerness and nerves but she finally finished the task, pushing the fabric away from his broad shoulders and muscular chest. She touched, amazed at how different he felt. The light coating of hair on his chest was fascinating. Her fingers touched everywhere, smoothing over the tanned, skin, enjoying the way the muscles underneath flinched wherever she touched. When a finger accidentally moved over his nipple, she heard his harsh intake of breath and looked up, pulling her fingers quickly away. The look on his face didn’t seem like she’d hurt him and she put her fingers back, experimenting. When she received the same reaction, she moved to his other side and heard his groan. A moment later, her hands were pulled away. “No more, cara. Perhaps later,” he said and lifted her into his arms. He placed her gently in the middle of the bed and looked down at her as he finished undressing.
Clarissa watched in amazement as he slowly revealed all to her eager gaze. She was no longer worried, only interested, fascinated, eager to experience what his body had promised hers for the past several weeks.
When he was completely naked, he came down on the bed, his muscular arms holding him over her. “You’re turn,” he said.
But instead of undressing her, his mouth came down on her breast, not touching the nipple as he caressed her, teased her until her hands came up and grabbed his head. Her body, so inflamed from the weeks of torment, didn’t have the patience to wait any longer. Her hands guided him from the swells of her breasts, to the nipple that was already hard and eager for his touch. When the heat of his mouth captured the hard peak, she cried out, the desire making her body arch in response and she pulled his head away quickly. She hadn’t been anticipating that kind of heat and so she wasn’t ready for it, unable to handle it. The feeling terrified her.
One of his hand came off the bed and he held both of hers in his, lifting them over her head so he was free to do as he wanted. His mouth immediately returned to her breast, lathing it with his tongue, nipping it with his teeth then soothing it once again with his tongue. When she was writhing underneath him, he moved to the other breast, doing the same to the nipple.
“I can’t take it, Max!” she cried out, her hands trying to break free but he wouldn’t release them, continuing to torment her. “Please,” she begged and was relieved when he moved his mouth lower. As soon as his mouth touched her stomach, his tongue teasing her tender flesh, she was no longer happy about it.
She felt his hand on her thigh and her body instantly opened for him, her mind no longer in control. She was only feeling. Thinking was a convenience of the past at this moment in time.