Nia knew it was a lame excuse, but he’d put her on the spot. “Well, I’m staying at a hotel and I’m committed for the week. I wouldn’t get my money back if I left early. It’s their policy.”
“I guess you’re staying at Hotel Andreas.”
He’d be, Nia thought. Hotel Andreas was the most expensive hotel in the area. It was costing her upwards of three hundred and fifty dollars a night and she’d been there for four nights already. But when you’re planning to solicit the attention of one of the richest playboys in the universe, you want to look as impressive as possible. His cousin, Adam, with whom he shared a close relationship, owned the hotel, and when she’d set her plan in motion, Nia had taken that fact into consideration.
While familiarizing herself with the pattern of his daily life, she’d discovered that when Massimo was between affairs, he spent a great deal of time at his mountain estate and hardly ate out during that period. She’d also learned that he visited the bar at his cousin’s hotel quite frequently—probably where he picked up most of his one-night stands. Since he was presently unattached, Nia had predicted that it’d be easy to meet him, and so had booked her stay at his cousin’s hotel with the hopes of increasing her chances of running into him at the bar.
For the past four nights, Nia had dolled up and planted herself in a darkened corner of the bar that gave her a vantage point to observe without being observed. Unfortunately for her, last night was the first time Massimo had dropped in since she’d come to town. And doubly unfortunately, he was not alone.
“You travel in style,” Massimo stated on a mild chuckle, not missing a step. “How do you like Hotel Andreas?”
“It’s bleeding the life out of my bank account, but you’re worth it, Massimo.”
He laughed again. “I like a woman who speaks her mind. Don’t worry about the bill. I’ll pay it when we swing by the hotel to retrieve your belongings. Hopefully that’ll stop the bleeding.”
“I drove a rental here, so—um—” Nia fumbled for another excuse to stay her execution.
“I’ll have the rental company pick up the car and I’ll pay that bill, too. By Friday night, you’ll have two million dollars in cash, a credit card, a new wardrobe, and a brand new car—any make or model of your choice.” He stopped and turned suddenly causing her to bump full front into the brick wall he called a body.
Nia swore she’d broken a rib in the collision. He placed his free hand on her shoulder to keep her from falling at his feet.
Too close. He was too close. He smelled of man sweat and pristine snow. Earthy and inviting. Nia’s breath caught in her throat.
“I have a reputation for taking care of all my women’s needs. So tell me, Nia Sylk, did I forget anything?” he said, his gaze bold and stimulating as he peered down at her.
Nia shook her head, too winded to talk. It’s a good thing she was breathless or she might have screwed herself by stating that she didn’t need a car or a credit card since she wouldn’t be around to use either of them. She’d definitely take the new wardrobe, though. She’d be stupid not to.
His eyes narrowed into blue slits. “How did you know I’d be here today? I don’t usually ski on this deserted mountain and definitely not in the middle of the week or the day. I came here to escape and think. The last thing I expected was…well… your proposal to sell me your virginity.”
Nia bit into her bottom lip as his words amplified the humiliation she was already experiencing from making the proposal in the first place. What must he be thinking of her? Like she should care. She swallowed her pride and stared right back at him. “I’ve been dressing up for the past four nights and waiting for you to make an appearance at the hotel bar, Massimo. You finally came by last night, but alas you weren’t alone. I overheard you tell the man you were with that you would be skiing on this mountain today.”
“So you’ve been stalking me, Nia Sylk?”
“Like I said, I’ve wanted to meet you for a long time.”
“You could have stopped by Andretti Industries. That’s how people usually gain an audience with me.”
Nia tried hard to ignore the burning of her skin under his hand that was still firmly clasped on her shoulder. The cold March wind was no match for the heat Massimo’s touch was causing inside her. She shuddered on a deep breath and pulled her parka tighter about her body. “I doubt I would have gotten past your security since I had no relevant business with you,” she said. “I thought the bar was the best place to attract your attention.” It’s where you pick up women. She wished she had the courage to voice that thought.
“And now that you’ve attracted my attention, cara mia, I hope you understand what that means.” A faint light seemed to flash in the depth of his eyes.
Nia’s nerves tensed. As simple as his statement was, it felt like a threat. She dropped her gaze, fearing he would be able to detect her plan to con him out of his money.
“If you want to change your mind, do it now,” he said softly, his hot breath misting the cold space between them, wrapping around her cold lips, warming them. “But be warned, Nia, it’s the only chance you’ll have to renege on this agreement. Once we get off this mountain, there’s no turning back. I will hold you to your promise and claim everything you’ve offered me, right down to your last breathless moan of surrender.”
Common sense told Nia to back down and run. But the thought of one of Eddie’s goons jumping Aaron in an alley and beating him to death in front of her, filled her with the will to stay the course. She would do just about anything to keep Aaron safe, even play house with the devil if it came to that. She took a deep breath of the cold air and met Massimo’s gaze again. “I’ll stay.”
A smirk played at the corner of his mouth. “You won’t be disappointed.” He released her, pulled his car fob from his pocket and pushed a button. He turned and began walking again, his head high, his body erect, his snow-dusted wavy hair dancing about his head in the breeze.
Nia stumbled to keep up with him, her mind spinning in a crazy mixture of hope, fear, and fury. How had he done it, huh? How had he taken her proposition and made it his? How had he turned her bargain into his own? If she weren’t careful, he would carry out his threat to claim her body, then he’d walk away as if she had merely offered him a slice of chocolate cake with a cherry on top.
Even though she would have the money to pay off Eddie and enough to start new lives for her and Aaron, it would be a humiliating defeat if she fell victim to Massimo’s sex appeal and surrendered the booty she’d offered him.
This was her game, damn it! She had made up all the rules and plotted the end results. She would not allow Massimo Andretti to bully her, sabotage her plan, and rewrite the outcome of her scheme.
When they reached the parking lot, Massimo called the rental company while she got her personal items from the car. That task completed, she followed him to his ride, a Mercedes-Benz G550. When he held the door for her, Nia glided on to the warm leather seat. She watched with anxiety as he walked around the front and climbed behind the steering wheel, immediately sucking up the air and space inside the vehicle. Every breath she took was saturated with the smell of leather and man. The sexual magnetism that made him so irresistible threatened to undo her.
Again, she pushed it aside, determined to stay focused on her mission, especially since she only had a week to see her plan through. When she’d ventured out on this mission, Nia wasn’t certain Massimo would accept her offer. But whether or not he had, she’d known she couldn’t return to her life in New York where—number one, he could track her down, and number two, where Eddie would be waiting for her. She needed time to finalize her plan of escape and wipe all traces of Nia Sylk off the face of the earth.
But Massimo had only given her one week.
“Why are you so quiet?” Massimo asked as they pulled onto the road. “I thought you’d be showering me with questions by now, trying to get to know me better as you so ardently put it.”
“I’m just thinking.”
“Oh, my new wardrobe, new car, and my four million dollars.”
He chuckled heartily. “You know, I’ve always preferred experienced women in my bed. I find innocence and inexperience boring. But,” he added, nodding his head assuredly, “I think I may enjoy breaking you in. When I’m done with you, Miss Nia Sylk, you’ll be so spoiled, you’ll never want any other man to touch you.”
Even though she knew he was taunting her, his words caused a tingling in the pit of Nia’s stomach. “You’re so sure of your sexual prowess, aren’t you, Massimo? You may not have what it takes to satisfy me or keep up with me for that matter. I may just be the woman who brings you to your knees,” she taunted right back.