His laugh grew harder as he tossed her a look that could melt a mile-thick Siberian iceberg. “Oh, cara, you will bring me to my knees. One way or the other, I will kneel before you. I can’t wait to show you just how hot I can make your virgin engine hum. You might even blow a few gaskets.”
“You still have to wait a week to find out, Massimo” Nia said, even as she squeezed her thighs together to combat the bolts of electricity that zinged between them.
“You’re truly naïve when it comes to men, aren’t you, Nia? We enjoy the chase, the anticipation of the kill almost as much as we enjoy the prey once we catch it. Believe me when I tell you that I’m already enjoying every second of this chase. I can wait, Nia. Question is, will you be able to?”
Turning her face toward the window, Nia smiled at the thought that by Saturday evening, she and two million of his dollars would be long gone. Her smile deepened as she envisioned him combing New York from one end to the other, looking for her when she wouldn’t even be in the country.
Now that the threat to her and Aaron’s lives might be gone, Nia settled into her seat and allowed powerful relief to fill her. For the first time in five years, she would be able to live without looking over her shoulder, and live well at that. There was so much she could do with a million dollars.
In a few days Massimo’s promises, his threats and taunts would be a blur on the horizon of her mind. In the meantime, she had to play the role of a besotted lover to reduce his suspicions about her. “You’re right,” she said, turning her head to give him a seductive smile. “I can’t wait to make love with you, Massimo, but like I said, I need it to be special.”
“Oh, it will be special, Nia. Images of you quivering beneath me are already fueling my desire and determination to have you.”
From the lustful gleam in his eyes, Nia imagined that he probably intended to start ravishing her at a second past midnight next Monday, then at dawn Tuesday morning, he’d place her and her suitcase by the side of the road, lick his lips, and get back on his Casanovian journey as if she never even crossed his path.
Did she really think he was that gullible? Massimo thought as he navigated the SUV along a slippery country road. He knew she had no intentions of surrendering her virginity—willingly, that is. And he knew he’d have no trouble convincing her to spread her legs for him if he so desired. He wasn’t yet sure if she was worth the trouble.
She claimed she’d never offered herself to a man before. It’s possible she was telling the truth. Judging from her extravagant outfit, it was also possible that this virgin act was her MO to riches. And her little speech about Hotel Andreas bleeding her bank account, yeah right. How many wealthy idiots had she conned before? How many were out there scratching their heads wondering where she and their millions had disappeared to?
Again, his thoughts went to his half brother. After the shock of learning that he had a sibling had dissolved, Massimo had begun digging into the boy’s background. Galen Carmichael was under the impression that his father died before he was born. He had no idea he was the progeny of one of the richest and most powerful men in the world. Having no interest in forming a relationship with him, Massimo had not contacted him.
Massimo assumed that a ‘nondisclosure of paternity’ was one of the deals his father had made with his whore, Judith Carmichael, when she disappeared from Granite Falls twenty-odd years ago with Galen already planted in her belly. Luciano had supported Galen financially and had provided him with as excellent an education as he’d provided Massimo, but the old man had left absolutely nothing for his bastard son.
Massimo gritted his teeth at the memory of walking into his father’s office and finding him on the couch with Judith. He was only nine years old, and although he couldn’t understand what he’d witnessed, he’d known that it was wrong. It was the beginning of his estranged relationship with his father. Massimo never told his mother about the affair between his father and his secretary, but he was certain she knew. Women had a way of sensing these things.
Massimo wondered if Judith had revealed the identity of his father to her son before her death, late last year. If that were the case, then he could understand Galen’s interest in the vast empire their father had left behind. But then again, he thought as he stopped at a four-way stop, neither Galen nor Judith would have had knowledge of the contents of Luciano’s last will and testament.
But if his assumptions were correct about the boy learning that Luciano was his father, and that he might have hired Nia—not to stop Massimo from gaining control of his inheritance, but so Galen could gain inside information about Andretti business—Massimo swore he’d bury both of them alive.
If they were indeed coconspirators, what was Nia’s role in the plot? Was she just for hire or was she Galen’s woman whom he’d pawned out? Had he seen her in a picture with Galen, maybe in the background of a photo his surveillance crew had sent him? Is that why her eyes seemed so familiar to him?
He had so many questions, and only two days to put this sexy Sylk puzzle together. By Friday… Damn!
Massimo applied the brakes as he came up on another intersection. Dafne, his fiancée, was arriving from Bellagio on Friday to sign the contracts on their marriage arrangement and settle in before they exchanged vows on Monday. His original plan was to fly to Italy tomorrow and finalize the deal there, but at his attorney’s insistence that the contract be signed on U.S. soil, he’d arranged for her to come here. He would have to inform Dafne of the change in plans as soon as he got the chance. He couldn’t very well have his potential lover and his potential wife sleeping under the same roof, could he?
Massimo took a deep breath as he released the gas pedal and gassed the SUV forward.
Desperation had pushed him into this marital agreement with Dafne Bellini, the daughter of a maid who worked at the Andretti home in Bellagio. He and Dafne had been friends since they were both five years old. She knew all his secrets. Even though their relationship had suffered some enormous strains over the years, she remained one of the four people in the world he trusted with his life.
So it was natural that he would turn to her after his breakup with Gabrielle had left him in a panic. Massimo had been astonished when Dafne offered to marry him as long as he did not make their engagement public. Except for that one encounter in their very distant past, neither of them had shown any sexual interest in each other. Their friendship was far more important than sex, and to keep it that way, Dafne had specified that she would produce his heir through nonsexual means only. Massimo could only hope that she would change her mind. He could not live without sex for the next three years of his life. No way in hell was that going to happen.
The fact that Dafne knew why he had to marry gave her a lot of power over him. Who knows what was going on in her mind now that she had him cornered up a tree like a leopard fleeing from a lion? Massimo knew firsthand how power could change a person. He hated being in this position, but he would be an idiot to surrender a company he’d spent most of his life building to a bastard half brother he despised. He wanted nothing to do with the offspring of Judith Carmichael, the woman he blamed for his own mother’s untimely death.
Immediately following the reading of his father’s will, Massimo had begun building his own empire. The product was La Banca di Bianchi, a chain of European banks he’d established in his mother’s maiden name. In addition, he owned several companies, and was a major shareholder in numerous financial corporations throughout the globe. To guarantee that his interests were free and clear of Andretti Industries, he’d borrowed the investment funds from his friend, Bryce Fontaine, all of which he’d paid back with interest within two years. He really didn’t need Andretti Industries, but he wasn’t about to walk away from a conglomeration whose success he’d been contributing to since he was eleven years old, and there was no way in hell he was going to give up the house where he was born and raised, and where the fondest memories of his mother still lingered.
No Carmichael would ever set foot inside that house.
That fact was the deciding element in his agreement to marry Dafne. Nobody else but his lawyer, his two best friends, Bryce and Erik, and his cousin Adam knew he had to be married on or before next Saturday, but they were unaware of the deal between Dafne and him. Just last night, Bryce had commended him for sticking it to his father by letting his inheritance go. He was already a self-made billionaire, so why saddle himself with a wife—the one possession he’d sworn never ever to own?
But being controlled for three years was a more palatable toxin than ultimate defeat, Massimo decided as he pulled off Route 80 onto Andreas Way in downtown Granite Falls and headed toward the hotel.
Having Nia and Dafne under the same roof would leave room for questions, slipups, and revelations—revelations he preferred to keep from his half brother until he was unhappily married and holding the next generation of Andrettis in his arms. Until he knew exactly what Nia wanted with him, it was best he kept the women apart. It was a good thing Dafne wanted to keep their arrangement a secret. It would be difficult to explain the presence of one young woman in his house when he was engaged to marry another. To the world, he was still a bachelor, and he would remain thus for the next few days when he eventually announced the news of his marriage.