The Surprise Conti Child

BOOK: The Surprise Conti Child
3.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“I have a daughter...she's yours.”

After nearly losing her life, Alexis Sharpe determines to tell Leandro Conti about their child. It's been seven years, but for her daughter she'll face him and hope her heart remains intact…

Known as the Conti Saint, Leandro's passionate encounter with Alexis is his guilty secret. Following the death of his wife he forbade himself the indulgence of a woman, but Alexis remains the one irresistible temptation.

He regrets how he treated Alexis, but now that she's back and the mother of his child, Leandro will claim
everything
that's his!

“Her name is Isabella. She's six years old and she's beautiful and precious and she...she's yours.

“Non”
fell from Leandro's lips, a snarling whisper in the quiet room. “That can't be.”

Lips quivering, Alexis's chest rose and fell, but she held his gaze over the distance. “A DNA test will prove I'm right,” she said, as if she'd prepared the response. But it was the absolute purpose in her voice that held him mute.

A daughter...

His skin felt chilly as if all warmth had been leached away from the world around him.

And yet the crystal chandeliers in the room glowed bright, the fire crackled in the marble fireplace and the moon hung jewel-bright in the sky outside.

The world continued spinning whereas all the control he prided himself on deserted him, leaving him shaken to the core.

He shook his head, gasping for breath.

Alexis stood composed amid the curious and accusing glares aimed at her, her shoulders ramrod straight.

Alexis whose eyes gleamed with pride and love as she claimed that he was a father. Of her little girl.

His child...something Rosa had wanted so desperately for years.

Now this woman, whom he'd tried to forget, claimed her daughter was his
...that his one moment of weakness had led to such a consequence.

The Legendary Conti Brothers

The Sinner and the Saint meet their match!

Known throughout the world as the Conti Sinner and the Conti Saint, these legendary Italian brothers have been the focused goal of many a gold digger.

But hands off, ladies—that's now finally at an end!

For rumors are Leandro the Conti Saint has a seven-year secret...and Luca the Conti Sinner is engaged!

Don't miss the chance to get your hands on this fabulous new duet by Tara Pammi!

The Surprise Conti Child
June 2016

The Unwanted Conti Bride
July 2016

TARA PAMMI

The Surprise Conti Child

Tara Pammi
can't remember a moment when she wasn't lost in a book—especially a romance, which was much more exciting than a mathematics textbook at school. Years later, Tara's wild imagination and love for the written word revealed what she really wanted to do. Now she pairs alpha males who think they know everything with strong women who knock that theory
and
them off their feet!

Books by Tara Pammi

Harlequin Presents

The Sheikh's Pregnant Prisoner
The Man to Be Reckoned With
A Deal with Demakis

Greek Tycoons Tamed

Claimed for His Duty
Bought for Her Innocence

Society Weddings

The Sicilian's Surprise Wife

A Dynasty of Sand and Scandal

The Last Prince of Dahaar
The True King of Dahaar

The Sensational Stanton Sisters

A Hint of Scandal
A Touch of Temptation

Visit the Author Profile page at
Harlequin.com
for more titles.

Get rewarded every time you buy a Harlequin ebook!
Click here to Join Harlequin My Rewards
http://www.harlequin.com/myrewards.html?mt=loyalty&cmpid=EBOOBPBPA201602010002

PROLOGUE

L
EANDRO
C
ONTI
.

The name floated, almost reverently, on the lips of the sweaty, gyrating crowd, bringing Alexis Sharpe to a sudden halt in the middle of the dance floor in an exclusive Milanese nightclub she'd only been allowed into because of her new friend, Valentina Conti.

Their friendship had been instantaneous when Alex, backpacking through Italy, had somehow found herself facing the attentions of an enamored but harmless Italian waiter. Tina had interfered and instantly decided that she liked Alex.

Valentina, vivacious, sophisticated and rich, was as different from Alex as Milan was from Brooklyn, but Alex hadn't been able to resist Tina's generous heart. The differences hadn't bothered her either until she had met Tina's older brother.

Leandro Conti... CEO of Conti Luxury Goods.

Gorgeous, sophisticated Italian magnate.

Brooding. Forbidding. Almost godlike in the way he surveyed the rest of them. As if he existed on a different sphere.

For a twenty-year-old from Brooklyn, and for one who blended into average and dull on a daily basis, that felt very true.

That he was at the nightclub in Milan was as rare as a UFO sighting. Suddenly, even the most raucous party girls pushed their hair back, adjusting dresses poured over hourglass figures.

They were hoping to catch his attention, Alexis realized, with a dawning sense of defeat.

Still, she chanced a glance.

The central glass dance floor suspended above water and the interplay of light created an illusion of a vast space. Yet the edgy elegance faded against the darkly stunning man.

That same hungry, fluttery feeling uncoiled in the pit of Alex's stomach.

Clad in a black dress shirt and dark blue jeans, the chiseled angles of his face tightly stark, he came to a standstill at the edge of the dance floor. That slate-gray gaze searched, and dismissed each face in turn.

How she longed to make sure he noticed that she, Alexis Sharpe, was a woman. That she couldn't be dismissed so easily...a compulsion she'd never felt before.

She faced every day that she lacked any special talent, that she'd been overlooked, even by her parents. This vacation to Milan had been a desperate escape she'd grabbed after being rejected at another high-flying Manhattan firm for a job. When she'd realized she wasn't equipped for a big career like some of her friends, that a menial job at her dad's health food store comprised her future.

A summer in Italy because you've been turned down at another job
, her mom had said in that resigned tone of hers.
Rewarding failure, are we now?

As if she hadn't expected anything different of Alex. The words had rankled but Alex needed this. A small rebellion in a life that had made her less than mediocre and thoroughly without merit.

And yet, when it came to Leandro Conti, she felt a reckless freedom, a vicious urge to stand out to him.

Like that time two weeks ago when he had arrived at the dinner with Valentina, their brother, Luca, and their friends on the veranda overlooking the lake.

A soft breeze had rolled in from the lake and Valentina had whipped up a batch of margaritas. Alex had had just one sip and instantly put it down.

Leandro had dragged a chair out next to her, inquired over Valentina's twisted ankle, and then he'd turned that dark gray gaze on her.

“Other than chiding Tina that she is a big baby,” he mimicked her tone, and Alex cursed herself for losing patience with Valentina that evening a few weeks ago, “how are you enjoying your trip, Ms. Sharpe?”

That accent of his had sent a shiver curling through her spine even as it stiffened at his condescending tone.

Shock that he'd sat down next to her had stolen speech from her. While his gaze had traversed over her messy, high ponytail, her forehead, her nose and, then briefly, her mouth.

A bare five seconds, maybe but Alex had felt the perusal like a caress.

Heat had clamped her cheeks and she gritted her teeth. “Alex, my name is Alex. Why do you refuse to say it?”

His greeting to her had always been unflinchingly polite, as if he was determined to deny her even that small satisfaction.

Valentina, both shrewd and kind, had warned Alex that her older brother wasn't someone to set her sights on.

Perversely, that warning had only intensified Alex's attraction to the man.

“Why do you shorten it to a man's name like that?” And then he had flitted that intractable gaze over the rest of her, her small breasts in her worn-out community college T-shirt, her midriff and her long legs in worn-out capris and her favorite sneakers. Moved up again. Four weeks amid Valentina and her friends dressed at the height of sophistication and it was the first time Alex wished she'd dressed up.

His thinly sculpted upper lip curled and Alex clenched tight inside. “Do you assume you are successful at hiding everything you are?” A taunt that no one else at the table could hear.

Shock buffeted her in waves as she looked inward.

Had she done that? Had she dressed to minimize herself, to willingly lay down in defeat before she could actually be rejected anyway by the world?

She met his gaze with a boldness she didn't know she had, this man who saw her so clearly. “I have no idea what you mean.”

He sat at a perfectly respectable distance, yet fire uncoiled in every nerve. His warm breath feathered over the rim of her ear. “Little advice from your friend's brother, Ms. Sharpe. Stop looking at men like that.” Then he looked at her again and those gray irises widened. “Unless you're fully aware of the weapon you wield.”

He'd left then, without a backward glance.

Leaving Alex seething with humiliation and embarrassment and anger. Only then had she realized that he knew.

He knew that she was attracted to him.

And he had rejected her. Very thoroughly.

But she hadn't even retorted because it was as if her brain was incapable of higher functions when he was close.

Like now.

The din of the nightclub, the slow jazzy tune that had men and women around her gyrating sensuously, the sweaty crush of the crowd and the heated scent of pheromones...everything faded as she studied him.

He stood about two feet from her, and yet, she was aware of every inch of that hard, lean body, could feel herself gravitate toward him.

As if he was a black hole and she was being sucked toward him.

Hasn't he made a fool of you enough already
, some tiny self-preservation instinct asked.

Alex clutched it like a lifeline, forced her legs to turn away from him.

She didn't need an arrogant Italian to ruin her hard-won holiday this summer. To make her feel as if somehow she came up short.

She already lived with that feeling every day.

This trip to Italy, this whole summer was supposed to be about escaping, about being someone other than the Alexis who failed at everything, the Alexis who was nothing but a mere shadow of everything her genius brother Adrian had been. About living before she returned to being a disappointment to her parents.

Anxious to get away, she tripped in her four-inch stilettos. A leanly muscled forearm wrapped around her waist, steadying her.

Held tightly against a hard, male chest, her breath knocked out.


Grazie mille
,” she managed one of the two phrases she knew, breathless against the press of the corded muscles just below her breasts.

“You can barely stand in those stilettos. Just because Valentina offers a free pair of Contis doesn't mean you should wear them.”

Her head jerked up, the gravelly voice tugging at her nerves.

Leandro Conti stared down that aquiline bridge of his nose. Neon blue lighting from the strobes cast blue shadows on his narrow, angular face, teasing her with flashes of his thin-lipped mouth.

The scowl on his brow straightened her spine. “Are you implying that I'm not good enough to wear your exalted designer shoes?”

“I do not imply.”

“You're a jerk, Mr. Conti.”

His gaze flitted down over her neck, and her body tightly encased in a sheath dress she'd borrowed from Valentina. Even the stretchy fabric couldn't make much of her nonexistent curves.

But under his stare, Alex felt scorched, marked.

“And you...are playing hard at being a grown-up. Unsuccessfully, I might say.”

“Damned if I do, and if I don't, with you. At least three men wanted to take me home tonight,” she taunted recklessly, even as hurt pierced her, “so I say take your unwanted, stuffy opinion—”

His fingers tightened over her waist, but never hurting. Though his expression remained coolly remote. Alex wondered if his grip told more truth about him than his words. “Ah... I didn't realize your goal was so low.

“Did my fashion-genius brother not advise you that those sturdy jeans and neon pink sneakers suit that innocent, American girl-next-door image of yours to perfection? It is the perfect lure.”

His infuriating attitude scraped. But the thing that her juvenile mind focused on was that he remembered her neon pink sneakers.

“Of all the faults I attributed to you, being a snob wasn't one.”

“What did you attribute to me then?”

“Arrogance. Cynicism. As much feeling as a rock.”

He let her go then, almost shoving her away from him. As if she'd hurt him.

Alex tottered again on the heels. Her ankle throbbed.

His arm shot out again, accompanied by pithy Italian she was glad she couldn't understand. Her body felt ragged, as if someone else controlled her limbs.

“Should you be drinking when you're among strangers in a foreign country?”

The sharp, almost caustic tone of his words,
fortunately
, canceled out the sensuous web she fell into.

Oh, he made her so mad. And bold. And hot. As if every inch of her skin was on fire, hungry, desperate to be quenched with his touch.

“I had one...
one
glass of wine.” But since she'd barely eaten anything all day, it had gone straight to her head. “Not that I need to explain myself to you. Back off.”

One eyebrow rose in that imperious face. Arrogance dripped from the man even when he didn't understand her. “Back off?”

His palm was a heated brand on her lower back while he was a fortress of wiry strength in front. Men she'd met at college were boys compared to Leandro Conti. Ergo, her utter lack of sophistication in handling him. “Leave me alone. You're not my keeper, something in that vein.”

“So do you have a keeper, back home? I don't think they're doing a good job of looking after you.”

“What is this? The sixteenth century?” she quipped.

He wasn't particularly amused but there was a gleam in those gray depths. An infinitesimal softening of that mouth. “You're not quite the lost little waif I thought, are you?”

She forced a laugh to cover up the tingling she felt all over. He smelled so good, like the most decadent dark chocolate with a bitter edge to it. The one that clung to the senses long after it was consumed. The one you glutted on knowing it was going to settle into your thighs and hips. “Is it impossible for you to speak without being insulting?”

“You will not get sweet words from me, Ms. Sharpe. Barely eighteen and roaming a foreign country, staying with strangers. You might as well hang a Take Me
sign around your neck. I'd never let Valentina—”

The barb landing sharp, Alex spoke through gritted teeth. “I'm twenty and I'm not Valentina.”

She'd die before she admitted that, since that first night that Valentina had brought her to the Conti Villa, all she had thought of was him. That it was his dismissive look that'd had her borrowing Valentina's dress.

That it was his attention, his gaze that she had sought from day one. That the thought of leaving, of going back to her dull existence without knowing his kiss, his touch, haunted her.

“And Valentina and Luca are my friends, even if—”

“If you consider my brother a friend, if you mistake his intent toward you,” he said, as his nostrils flared, and she wondered if he was disgusted or angry or both, “you're more foolish than I assumed. I should have never let Valentina bring you to the villa.”

“You find my presence so objectionable that you're avoiding the villa, aren't you?”

She hadn't meant to betray that she'd noticed his absence. But he didn't deny her claim either.

Hurt was a thorn nestled deep into her skin.

“Luca and I...we understand each other perfectly,” she added defiantly.

Although he was right.

A day after she had arrived at their villa, Luca had cornered her twice, teased her, kissed her. Made it clear within an hour that he'd love to make it more. Alex had a feeling Luca would take any woman to bury whatever lingered under that easy charm. And just as easily discard her the next morning.

But she hadn't been tempted,
at all
. Alex felt nothing even as she admitted that Luca was sex on legs.

The man in front of her however...he made her feel naked and languid and achy all over, with just one look from those gray depths. For all his grating politeness, he made her feel as if he saw her, the Alexis that wanted to pack a lifetime of adventure into one short summer.

Why, she'd no idea.

“Have you already slept with him then?”

If she'd been a violent person, if the amused glint in his eyes hadn't lulled her, Alex would've slapped him then. Instead, she slowly but firmly pushed his hand away and threw him a disgusted look. “Is this your job then? Follow around the women Luca tangles with and silence them with a dirty payoff—”

“I didn't intend to offend you,” he offered roughly, and Alexis almost believed that he hadn't meant to. That it was curiosity rather than judgment in his tone.

BOOK: The Surprise Conti Child
3.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Memoirs of a beatnik by Di Prima, Diane
The Missing Person by Alix Ohlin
Stronger than You Know by Jolene Perry
Don't Call Me Hero by Eliza Lentzski
Every Time a Rainbow Dies by Rita Williams-Garcia
Lobos by Donato Carrisi
Home from the Hill by William Humphrey