He groaned inwardly as his eyes feasted on the slender brown-skinned kitten gazing up at him through brown, almond-shaped eyes. She was wearing black leather boots, a red cashmere sweater that accentuated her jutting breast, and body-hugging jeans that seductively emphasized her narrow waist, just-right hips, and a firm round derriere that would fit nicely in his palms. She clearly hadn’t come to the mountain to ski.
He forced his gaze back to her pear-shaped face and full rosy lips, structuring a mouth so wide, visions of her kissing specific erogenous parts of his body sent a licentious need coursing through him. She was sinfully sexy in an unsettling innocent way. He hadn’t been with a woman in weeks, and just looking at her was pushing him close to the edge of his restraint.
As he continued to gaze into her eyes, a disturbing familiarity washed over Massimo. He’d seen those eyes before—sweet and radiant, with a bright rim around the pupils and a combination of gold and lighter brown shades within the irises. She was definitely not a one-night fling—even in his most inebriated state, he would have remembered enjoying such an enticing creature.
So, where had he seen those eyes before? “Do I know you? Have we met?” he asked, pulling his mittens from his hands and pushing them into his pockets.
She dropped her gaze and shook her head. “No, but I’ve wanted to meet you for a long time, Mr. Andretti. What woman doesn’t?” She chuckled softly and tucked a handful of hair behind her ears with slender French-tipped fingers.
That mundane gesture and the way her lips unfolded like a rose glistering with morning dew caused a deep burning in the lowest regions of Massimo’s belly. “I’m flattered, Miss—”
“Sylk. Nia Sylk.”
As Massimo took the delicate hand she extended, he quivered at the thought of all that dark, fine, silk wrapped around him. “A very apropos name. Silk happens to be my favorite fabric. So soft and smooth and slick to the touch,” he murmured, slowly caressing the back of her hand with his fingers.
“This Sylk is spelled with a Y,” she said, pulling away from his grasp.
“Just as a rose by any other name is still a rose, silk is silk, whether it’s spelled with an I or a Y.”
Noting the flash of embarrassment that shrouded her face, Massimo knew he was right about her innocence. No sexually experienced woman would blush like that at such a mild overtone. Enough with the games, he thought with a hint of irritation. No need to toy with the prey since he couldn’t gobble her up once he caught her. “To what do I owe the honor of your beautiful acquaintance, Miss Sylk?”
Nia’s skin prickled with warm sensations that had nothing to do with the heat from the fire, but from his touch, his voice, and his overwhelming proximity. No wonder women willingly succumbed to him. The man was potent. Lethal. He knew his debilitating effect on the opposite sex and he took great satisfaction in exercising it.
She looked anxiously around the cabin. The two teenage boys who’d been trying on boots a few minutes ago had left, and the woman behind the rental counter was still engrossed in her sweater-knitting project. The place was deserted, not the kind of ski lodge that attracted many people. Luckily for her, it was the right time and place to cast her bait into the lake. Imposing an iron control on her nerves, Nia said in a low, steady voice, “I want to be your lover.”
His eyes deepened to a cobalt blue. “You’re definitely not shy, Miss Sylk. A properly raised woman would wait for a man to pursue her.”
“Being properly raised doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go after what you want.”
“Bold and beautiful. An intriguing combination.” His eyes flinched like indigo lightning across a lake. “And what makes you think I would want you, Miss Sylk? Women who go around offering themselves to strange men don’t interest me. I chase the women I want, not the other way around. You’re taking all the fun out of the game,” he added with a mocking downward turn of his mouth.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” Nia said, determined not to let his lack of interest deter her. Or was he just pretending? After all, he was a hound, and hounds never passed up opportunities.
“And I’m supposed to believe you because—”
“I’m a virgin.”
Massimo bounced that unexpected bit of information around in his head. He’d had one virgin in his lifetime, and the experience had been so horrible, he’d sworn off them. But as he gazed into the seductive eyes of Miss Nia Sylk, the very thought of deflowering her, exploring the untouched landscape of her enticing little body made his cock throb. He was much more skillful now, and he was sure the experience would be pleasurable for both of them.
But he was getting married in five days.
Massimo stroked his lower lip with the pad of his thumb as he felt the familiar ache in his groin. If she glanced down, Miss Sylk would know exactly what he wished to do with her. He was never one to hide his desire for a woman. He wasn’t into playing games. Games were for the inexperienced, the uncertain, and the cunning. And something told him that this inexperienced little kitten had a cunning game all plotted out with a trap at the end of her ball of yarn—just for him.
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Well, she wasn’t an enemy, yet, but she just might become one when she found herself tangled up in her own ball of yarn. He’d be a fool to walk away without knowing why she’d approached him with such an indelicate offer.
For all he knew, Nia could be a Trojan horse his bastard half brother, Galen, had sent to keep him from fulfilling the requirements in his father’s will. Damn his father for putting him in this situation!
It was just payback for his refusing to marry the innocent, young girl his father thought was a suitable match, ten years ago. Massimo had informed his father that he had no intentions of ever marrying any woman. He had no desire to break an innocent girl’s heart like his father had broken his mother’s—like all Andretti men were destined to do.
Luciano had gotten his revenge by stating in his will that if Massimo wanted to inherit Andretti Industries, he must marry on or before his thirty-fourth birthday and produce an heir within a year. Moreover, he had to remain faithfully married for three years or Andretti Industries would go to Galen. The old geezer couldn’t control Massimo from his desk, so he figured he’d do it from his grave.
Massimo had had no idea of Galen’s existence until the reading of his father’s will, six years ago. The shocking information had sent Massimo into a psychological decline and begun a series of incidents that had almost cost him his life. But he’d recovered, and he was ready to fight anyone who got in the way of his goal.
And ‘anyone’ included Miss Nia Sylk, no matter how alluring she was.
Massimo shook off the odious memories and surveyed the uninvited intrusion into his world. “So, you’re a virgin. What’s the big deal about virgins?”
What’s the big deal? Nia balked at his cavalier response. He’d probably had more than his fair share of virgins. “I thought virgins were every man’s fantasy, Mr. Andretti. I’ve heard that the pleasure of a virginal conquest for a man is equivalent to breaking in a wild horse. Merely a matter of triumph.”
His thick eyebrows arched. “And where specifically did you hear that?”
I have no idea, Nia thought of the lame analogy. Seriously? Momentarily speechless, Nia could do nothing but stare at him. His apparent enjoyment of her inability to deliver a witty response grated on her already sensitive nerves. You’re doing this for Aaron. You have to play along. There’s no room for failure. She took a deliberate step backward, hoping her desperation wasn’t too obvious. “Since you’re not interested, I’ll just—”
“How old are you, Miss Sylk?”
“Old enough to know what I want. I’m ready to be a woman in every sense of the word and I want you—a real man, to teach me, Mr. Andretti.”
“Let me see some ID.”
“You don’t believe me?”
“Since I don’t know you, I can’t very well answer that question fairly. Your hesitation suggests you may have something to hide. Perhaps your name isn’t even Nia Sylk.” He turned and headed toward the door.
Crap. She couldn’t let him leave now that she’d gotten his attention. She’d been waiting all week for this opportunity. Nia pulled her wallet from her purse, yanked out her driver’s license, and rushed after him. “Here.” She shoved it into his hands.
He studied the thin plastic. “So you’re twenty-three, and from Brooklyn.” He handed it back.
“I’m not that easily satisfied, Miss Sylk.”
The cynical twist of his lips and his suggestive gaze ignited fires inside her Nia had never experienced before. She didn’t know exactly what she was supposed to feel when a man like Massimo Andretti looked at her that way. Since her father’s death, she’d been too busy working to support herself and Aaron and stay under the radar of the law. She’d never had time for boyfriends.