Nia whimpered against his mouth as her nipples tingled and hardened against his smooth palm. He molded her breasts with skillful fingers, causing an intense yearning in her belly that quickly spread to the core of her throbbing sex. Moisture collected in her panties. She squeezed her thighs together to combat the pleasure, but quickly relaxed them when she realized it only intensified the ache.
Yielding to Massimo’s seductions was against the rules. Her body and her mind had betrayed her. All she could count on now was her heart. It had to remain impassive to him. And she didn’t think she could trust it.
“Do you still think I can’t satisfy you, Nia?” he asked against her lips. He kept his hand on the heaving mound of one breast and continued caressing the hard nipple between his thumb and forefinger. “Do you find me inadequate?”
Nia squeezed her lids shut, refusing to answer. She couldn’t talk. Shouldn’t talk. Or she might foolishly ask him not to stop. As much as she loathed him, she had to admit that she’d been dreaming of kissing Massimo for six long years. She’d heard that sexual fantasies were a lot better than the real thing. Massimo Andretti just blew that theory out the steamed-up windows of his SUV. Her fantasies about him were prayer vigils compared to his kiss and his touch.
“You’re a very desirable woman, Nia Sylk. It will be extremely difficult keeping my hands off you for a week.” He reluctantly released her breasts, pulled his hand from under her sweater and moved back to his side of the vehicle.
Nia’s eyes slowly opened to encounter the passionate fire glowing in the sentient depths of his. She wanted to look away, break the spell, but it seemed some invisible cord held her transfixed. She was bewitched. She licked her burning, trembling lips.
“You have the most incredible brown eyes. They set my heart on fire each time I gaze into them,” he said in a husky voice. “And when you lick your lips and stare at me like that…” He growled deep in his throat and shook his head, his black wavy hair brushing his shoulders. “You have to help me live up to our agreement, Nia. You have to stop being so damn sexy or I will not be held responsible for breaching our ‘no sex for one week’ agreement.”
Help him? She couldn’t even help herself, and she wasn’t trying to be sexy.
With her heart pounding erratically, Nia scurried to her corner and pulled the lace back up over her breasts. It was just like Massimo not to clean up his own mess. She’d known that at some point they would kiss. It was what lovers do. What she didn’t know was that a mere kiss would leave her this breathless, this weak.
She wasn’t ready for this. For him. Thank God they would be sleeping in separate rooms. If she had to share a bed with this master-at-getting-what-he-wanted, she knew her resistance would be futile. She had to stay strong, get the money, then escape from Massimo’s lair of seduction before it was too late.
As they continued up the mountain, another gate opened up, and two bulging, armed security guards in an expansive gatehouse waved them through. Yep, escaping from this prison would be much more difficult than it would have been from his lakeside villa. But she’d come with a will to escape Masimo Andretti, and where there was a will, there was always a way. She just had to be a little more creative in far less time than she’d originally anticipated.
They rounded a bend and the sprawling Andretti Estate popped into view—acres and acres of evergreen terrain with buildings of varying sizes and shapes scattered about. The main house, a white and blue limestone structure that comprised of three sections—a three-story center flanked by two-story wings on either side—dominated all the other buildings on the estate. A combination of evergreen and deciduous snow-dusted trees surrounded the intricate architecture, creating the picture of a stunning Italian citadel set in the middle of an arctic jungle.
Nia looked on breathlessly at the serendipitous surrounding as Massimo stopped in the courtyard—an extension of the middle section that expanded into a wide covered portico.
It was a fortress where the public was never allowed. One entered these grounds by invitation only. Electric fences, treacherous ravines, and armed guards kept the paparazzi at a distance. The few photographs Nia had seen in several issues of Granite Falls People News didn’t do the estate the slightest bit of justice.
The earlier Andrettis were reportedly not social at all. After his father died, many thought that Massimo, the modern-day playboy, would open up his home and allow the public inside, but the world was still waiting with bated breath. It was as if they were guarding some dark family secret. Were there bodies buried on the grounds or trapped behind walls and stairwells?
Feeling a chill rush up her spine, Nia pulled her parka tightly about her shoulders as Massimo open the door of the Mercedes. He helped her down to the stone cut floor of the covered portico, then up a flight of steps toward the front door.
“My luggage,” she said looking back.
“It’ll be taken care of.”
A teenage boy with curly blond hair emerged from a door on the side of the mansion. “Buonasera, Signor Andretti,” he called out to Massimo.
Massimo responded in a rush of Italian sentences. The boy nodded and gave Nia a shy smile before he climbed into the vehicle and drove off behind the house.
As the cold dry air swirled around her, Nia shivered. She wanted to go home, but when she remembered that she had no home to go to, and that she would never again have one if she backed out of this deal with Massimo, she swallowed the sob in her throat.
Massimo tried the knob on the front door and cursed under his breath when it didn’t turn. He pushed a button on the wall.
A few minutes later, the heavy oak door opened and a robust woman greeted them. “Jambo, Massimo. You forgit you key agin,” she said in a thick accent Nia thought sounded African.
“I didn’t forget my key, Azi. You insist on locking my door when I’ve repeatedly asked you to leave it unlocked.”
She placed a hand over her heart and pretended to be affronted. “You’re in a gooood mooood tonight, I see, Mr. Massimo. Goood t’ing I made one of your favorite disheees to soothe your grumpy mooood, eh?” Her eyes widened as they settled on Nia. “And I see you have brought company. A lady friend, eh? Will she be stayin’ fer dinna?” Her big white teeth glittered in the light from the ceiling.
Nia was suddenly overwhelmed with shame. She felt… soiled. This woman knew why she was here. With so many affairs to his credit, she was sure she was not the first woman Massimo had brought to his home. Why would this gentle-faced woman think she was any different from all the others who’d willingly given themselves to her boss? Good heavens, she was worse. She’d sold herself to him. If she walked through that door…
Just as she turned to bolt down the steps, Massimo’s arm closed around her waist. He pushed her through the door into a spacious domed foyer that extended into a long hallway.
Nia glanced around the foyer with its vaulted brightly colored Italian Renaissance ceilings and walls. The interior architecture was just as magnificent as the exterior, but she thought the decoration and furniture could use a makeover to bring them into the modern sophistication of the twenty-first century.
“Yes, Azi, I have company.” Massimo shrugged out of his parka, slid Nia’s from her shoulders, and shoved them into Azi’s hands. “Nia will be my guest for a few days.” He turned to Nia. “My housekeeper, Azi. She will make your visit very comfortable.”
Nia stared at Azi who seemed to enjoy teasing Massimo, and who was acting more like a grandmother than a housekeeper. She wondered at the true nature of their relationship.
“I’ll prepare one of the guest rooms.” Azi said.
“That won’t be necessary. Nia will be sleeping in the master suit,” Massimo said.
Nia’s head snapped around. “We’re not sharing a bedroom, Massimo. That was not the deal. Remember?”
Ignoring the hint of panic in her voice, Massimo sniffed the air. “Is that lobster I smell, Azi?”
“Yeees. One of your favorite dishes.”
He noted the perturbed glance Azi cast in Nia’s direction. He understood Azi’s confusion and surprise. She was privy to his arrangement with Dafne, and was probably wondering what the hell he was doing bringing a strange young girl to the mansion just days before his nuptial. Hell, he was still puzzled as to why he’d brought Nia here instead of taking her to Crystal Lake where he housed his women.
Explaining the situation to Azi was inevitable, and he had no doubt that she would have a few spiteful laughs over it. In the meantime, he had to assert some kind of control over his household even if he had none over his life. He glanced at the Rolex on his wrist. “When will dinner be ready?”
“In about two hours. The stew has been standing for four, so far. Don’t be late. It has to be eaten at jeeest the right moment.”
“Excellent. We’ll be on time. And we’ll take dinner in the formal dining room.”