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Authors: Elizabeth Lennox

The Italian's Bedroom Deal (2 page)

BOOK: The Italian's Bedroom Deal
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Stepping out of the shadows and onto the patio, Clarissa pasted a bright smile on her face and searched out her father. Him, she’d seen a few minutes ago so she knew exactly where to find him. Heading for one of the bars, she found James Montgomery in a small group of people who were all laughing uproariously at some joke. Clarissa stood on the outskirts for a moment, waiting for the laughter to die down slightly before she worked her way through he crowd to greet her father.

 

Taking a deep breath, she stepped forward, only to be knocked back slightly when a woman pushed carelessly in an attempt to steady herself. Clarissa studied the crowd for all of five seconds before turning around, getting ready to leave. She’d tried in good faith, she told herself. If her father wanted to be surrounded by all these sycophants then let him but she wanted no part of it. She turned on her heel, prepared to slowly walk through the crowd back to the oasis of her cottage when she was suddenly faced with a very large, very masculine chest. She looked up, then up again. And up some more since Maximillian Diantes was only inches from her.

 

“You’re not leaving so soon, are you, cara?” his deep voice said, his amused eyes traveling over her delicate features.

 

Clarissa saw his eyes move from her face down her figure and was only a little disappointed when his eyes changed from amused to shocked when he took in her low cut dress. She ignored his expression, too excited to see him after accepting that he was going to be a no-show tonight. As her joy washed over her at the sight of him, her whole body started quivering with excitement. “Signor Diantes!” she gasped, unable to hide her pleasure. Oh how she loved the soft lilt of his words, his Italian accent softly floating through the air, making all of his words sound as if they were a caress.

 

“I thought we agreed you would call me Max,” he said, tucking her hand into the bend of his elbow and turning her around. “Were you trying to greet your father?” he asked gallantly, weaving his way through the crowd that seemed to melt away for him.

 

Clarissa glanced down, wanting to tug her dress higher, suddenly self-conscious with his sexy, dark eyes looking down at her. She felt small and silly dressed like this. Kind of like a school girl trying to impress her older brother’s friends, which was painfully gauche, she knew.

 

Her hand lightly held onto his arm, her fingers discovering muscles underneath the perfectly tailored tuxedo jacket. “I was trying but gave up, unable to squeeze through the crowd surrounding him,” she said softly, wishing she could put more force behind her words.

 

By that time, Max had maneuvered them to the center of the group and her father spotted her. “Clarissa!” she heard her father’s booming voice greet her. “And Max! Good to see you!”

 

Clarissa stepped back slightly, knowing that her father was more interested in Max than in her. But Max was having none of it and while James Montgomery tried to pump Max’s hand in greeting, Max pulled her forward, blocking out the crowds and creating a small group of just the three of them. “You’re lovely daughter,” he said, indicating Clarissa, “was about to be swallowed up by the crowds,” he explained. “I saved her from escape,” he joked.

 

James looked over at her as if he’d just realized she was there. Perking up and doing exactly as he knew he should, he smiled. “Clarissa, Dear! Are you having a good time?” he asked. “What do you think of the music?” he suggested, talking to her as if she were three years old and the musicians were playing “Old McDonald”. Clarissa cringed, wishing he could see her as an adult instead of his child. But what could she expect? He probably didn’t know she was twenty five, so how was he expected to treat her that way? The man had attended possibly four of her birthdays over the years. And that attendance lasted for a cumulative total of perhaps thirty minutes, assuming that the staff would ensure that her birthday parties progressed properly.

 

Sighing, Clarissa leaned forward, giving her father the regulatory kiss on the cheek. “Happy birthday, father,” she said automatically. “It’s a lovely party.”

 

James looked around proudly. “I think so. I’m flattered everyone’s here to celebrate an old man getting one year older.” The crowd around them heard and did the obvious and expected. They cheered, raising their glasses in salute, some even wishing him a happy twenty-first birthday. Such was the life of a billionaire, she thought sadly. How could her father ever know if someone was sincere? The people milling about certainly didn’t appear to be overly concerned with their host’s health. They were more likely to cause a stink if the champagne or excellent hor’s d’ouevres ran out.

 

“Well, go ahead and have some fun,” her father dismissed her. “And don’t leave too early,” he admonished. “I know Kelly scheduled a couple more rock singers.”

 

Clarissa smiled stiffly and stepped away, glad that she’d done her duty and her father considered her mission accomplished. The other guests had seen her greet him, he’d been enthusiastic and fatherly, and now they could go their separate ways.

 

Sighing, she stepped away and walked over to one of the bars. “Club soda, please,” she ordered, unaware that Max had followed her.

 

“Bourbon,” he said right beside her, leaning against the bar to watch her carefully.

 

They picked up their drinks and walked away, Clarissa moving to a more secluded, quieter spot than the center of the party where her father continued to reign as king.

 

“I take it you’re not a big fan of rock music?” he asked softly, his deep voice soothing over her frazzled nerves.

 

Clarissa shook her head and looked down at the tiles of the patio. “No. I’m not really a rock fan,” she said softly. Then looked up at him shyly. “But please don’t let me hold you back if you’re interested in the music. I know there’s dancing over by the pool,” she suggested.

 

Max smiled enigmatically. “I don’t think I’d feel comfortable leaving you in that dress, cara. What did your father say when he saw you?”

 

Clarissa wasn’t sure how, but she had forgotten about the sexy dress until his admonishment. She shouldn’t have been surprised at his comment, especially when the dress had been purchased solely to lure him, wasn’t what she was hoping for. She shook her head in frustration. A femme fatale, she wasn’t. “I doubt my father even realized what color my dress is,” she said as she looked back at the party and took a seat on the bench behind her.

 

“Ah, well, I’ll have to inform him that it is a very pretty pink with small roses across the back and a very….feminine cut.”

 

Clarissa perked up. He’d noticed? She turned her soft blue eyes to his, searching his features hopefully as he looked down at her. The man was too gorgeous for words, she thought. And if only she could figure out how to entice him, her evening would be perfect. He was so tall, she thought. And muscular! Her heart skipped a beat as his sexy, bedroom eyes smiled down at her. Her eyes moved lower, looking at the lips she longed to kiss, wondering if he would be a demanding lover or a soft, affectionate one. She shivered at the idea, knowing that anyone as overwhelmingly male as Max would be demanding. The man positively oozed sex appeal, she thought.

 

Unfortunately, instead of some witty, seductive remark that would encourage him in some not-so-subtle way, all she could manage was a pathetic, “Thank you,” in response.

 

“You’re welcome. Would you dance with me?” he asked with supreme confidence that she would accept. The music had changed from a hard thumping rock beat to a softer, jazzier tempo.

 

And of course, she did. She slid her hand through his arm, allowing him to guide her through the throngs of people and onto the hardwood dance floor that had been specially built for tonight’s party.

 

Sliding into his arms, feeling his large, warm hand close over hers, she became even more determined than ever to finish this evening out as she’d planned. It had taken her a month to find the perfect dress and even then, she hadn’t known if he would be attending. So now that he was here and she was wearing what was undeniably a sexy dress, she had to figure out how to make this night end with the hoped for result.

 

Seeing all the space he maintained between their bodies, she became slightly discouraged but no less determined. Unfortunately, she wasn’t exactly sure how to close the gap between their bodies. Sighing, she wondered why men treated her as if she were made of glass. Max was no different, she thought with frustration and a large mix of irritation that he would treat her just as other men did. Why was he being so nice? She read the papers, for goodness sake! She knew that other women threw themselves at him and, according to the gossip columns; he was finicky but generally always had some woman warming his bed. Why not her? Tonight!

 

Knowing that her wayward thoughts wouldn’t get her goal accomplished, she focused on the man, figuring she should get to know him better so she could find a way to get him to move closer to her. “Why were you delayed?” she asked, trying desperately for a topic of conversation.

 

“I had meetings that lasted until about a half hour ago. But my intention was always to come here tonight,” he replied, swinging her out of the way of a couple that had imbibed too liberally of the flowing champagne. “And what have you been up to since I last saw you? I think you mentioned something about a French work you were translating.”

 

She smiled, delighted that he remembered their conversation. “I finished that. It was fascinating. Unfortunately, I’m translating a very dry, very tedious users’ manual for a software product now,” she explained. “Definitely not as interesting as the French mystery.”

 

“How many languages do you speak?” he asked, twirling her under his arm gracefully.

 

Clarissa’s heartbeat increased. How could such a large man be so wonderful of a dancer? He should be clumsy and awkward but he managed to lead her through all the steps as if he were born on the dance floor.

 

“I speak three, not including English but my forte is French.”

 

“Italian?” he suggested, speaking of his mother tongue.

 

She smiled brightly. “Not yet but I’m going to learn it.”

 

“Belissimo,” he replied, his voice coming over her skin like a piece of rich satin. His eyes were looking at her as if she’d accomplished something magnificent instead of only language translations. She didn’t understand this man, but that only made her more determined. He was the one, she thought to herself.

 

Max stared down at the incredibly soft beauty in his arms and almost had to grit his teeth. Did she have any idea how lovely she looked when she smiled? Her full, pink lips were any man’s dream. He’d had many fantasies about them and he had to stop. That kind of thinking would be bad. It wasn’t appropriate to think of this delicate woman like that. She should be protected and cared for. Not lusted after.

 

“I saw that the merger with Lexor is about to be finalized. I’m impressed. How did you get them to agree to your offer?” she asked, her soft, pretty blue eyes encouraging him to talk.

 

This woman continued to surprise him. No other woman of his acquaintance would follow the business news except to ensure that he was still rated number one on the richest men in the world list. Yet this tiny, delicate beauty knew of his recent acquisition. He had to resist her lures. She was not the type to dally and he had too much respect for her to even think along those lines.

 

“The merger is now final. That was one of the reasons I was late. The news will be in the papers tomorrow morning,” he said softly, unable to stop himself when he pulled her closer. There were still several inches between them, but he justified his actions by looking around and seeing other couples that were not as considerate, bumping into others. No one would harm this woman, he thought to himself.

 

She laughed softly. “You bought them out, didn’t you?”

 

His eyes smiled down at her. “Why do you say that?”

 

“Because a year ago, Lexor Pharmaceuticals vowed they would never be bought out. The CEO swore that they had enough cash to handle any hostile takeovers. And here you are,” she said proudly, “the new owner of a multi-billion dollar corporation. And yet, this holding represents only a small portion of your current empire. How did you do it so quickly?” she asked, genuinely curious.

 

Max shrugged and spun her around. “Some would say luck.”

 

Clarissa stared up at this handsome, dynamic man for a long moment. Then shook her head, her long, brown curls teasing his hand on her back unknowingly. “No. You’re brilliant,” she countered. “I don’t think luck has much to do with anything you touch.”

 

He grinned down at her. “Luck, my lady, has everything to do with business.”

 

She laughed and shook her head. “No. Luck implies a gamble.”

 

“You don’t think business is a little like gambling?”

 

She laughed softly but lifted her shoulder dismissively. “Oh, sure. For the rest of us ordinary people I’m sure it has a lot to do with gambling.”

 

He raised a dark eyebrow at that comment. “But you think my success is based on something more.”

 

Clarissa smiled brightly, her decision to make him her first lover was reinforced by his lack of bragging about his business endeavors. “If you want to call it gambling, then I believe you’re stacking the deck in your favor.”

 

Max laughed openly, delighted with her wit. “How would I stack the deck?”

 

“You know too much about everything and everyone,” she replied. “The Lexor acquisition, for instance,” she prompted. She noticed his eyebrows rise in question. “That was completed only when the competition declared they would lower their prices.”

BOOK: The Italian's Bedroom Deal
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