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Her eyes widened, and she stood there visibly trembling as he reached out again. She stayed statue-still, her eyes connected with his, swaying slightly as his fingers pushed into her hair, lightly grazing her scalp.

He felt her shiver and watched the pupils of her eyes dilate, the longing in her eyes... It was hard to not see danger when it was literally staring you in the face.

It was just seeing her here safe and sound, the relief, the elation after the not knowing, the nightmare scenarios that had been going through his head while,Madre di Dios, he’d been trapped up a tree until that damned boar had finally given up the hunt.

They were all good reasons for the way he was feeling but not excuses... Control...he needed control.

‘Got it! Did you leave any forest out there?’ he asked, opening his hand to reveal the twig he’d gently pulled out of her hair before he dropped it and ground it underfoot, his eyelashes lowering to hide the burning desire in his eyes.

The anticlimax was as shocking as a slap, and the subsequent mood change as dramatic as it was intense. She wanted to cry again, and she could actually feel the tears pressing at the backs of her eyes. You’re in shock, she told herself, glad to put a name to the roller coaster of emotions and her heightened mood.

‘You found it, then.’

He was looking past her, and she turned her head, not even pretending an interest as her glance moved through the open doors of the observatory to the interior. She was seeing the cedar-lined walls within for the first time, hung round with bookcases and with a sumptuous day bed just to the right of the spiral staircase. From where they stood, she could see just make out the glass dome above the telescope set in a mezzanine observation platform.

‘My grandfather was a stargazer. Actually, he was quite a well-respected amateur astronomer, so he restored the observatory and—’

‘You enjoyed it, didn’t you?’ Maya interrupted ruthlessly. She could feel the emotions building up inside her, feel the pounding in her temples like a hammer hitting a crumbling wall...each thud destroying more of the mortar and her self-control.

He recognised the antagonism shining in her eyes, but he didn’t really understand it. He hadn’t exactly enjoyed the heart-pumping run here, seeing as every step had been burdened by thenot knowing, the fear eating away at him that she might have been hurt. Every second he’d had to spend up that damn tree not knowing if she was all right had felt like a century, so when he’d seen her standing there unharmed it had felt like... He actually had nothing to compare the feeling to, it was way more complex than anything he could imagine, but perhaps akin to the sheer elation you felt when you emerged from the icy water after wild swimming.

‘Well, it’s always good to get the better of a boar,’ he responded calmly, sticking to facts, not feelings. ‘The thing to remember is you can’t outrun them, so don’t try. Your best bet is to climb a tree. I did,’ he admitted, working on the theory that while he was talking he couldn’t be kissing her, and he wanted to, he really wanted to... He needed to taste her, and the greedy need was hampering his ability to frame coherent sentences. ‘They are incredibly destructive beasts. They cause total havoc. Last year they took over a thousand gallons of grapes and it’s virtually impossible to keep them out. We put down miles of electric fences around the vineyards but they just jump them, and I’d take the tusks of a male over the protective instincts of a female any day.’

‘You think I want a natural history lesson?’

He bent in, struggling to catch her quiet words, but a second later he was leaning back out again, because he had no problem hearing the next thing she said—they probably heard her in the village five miles away.

‘You were enjoying yourself beating the piglets in some macho game while I,’ she shouted, stabbing a straight finger hard into his chest, ‘I,’ she repeated with another stab into his muscular chest, ‘I thought you were dead!’ she shrieked. ‘And it was my fault.’

The fight left her without warning; her legs sagged and she would have slid to the floor had the arm wrapped around her ribs not taken the weight. She looked up at him through the overflow of luminous tears that started to seep out from the corners of her eyes.

‘You’re crying...’ Samuele really didn’t know how to deal with the protective surge he felt as he watched the tears silently slide down her cheeks.

‘No, I’m not,’ she denied fiercely, as though he had insulted her by caring.

Fine, he thought, adopting a heart-of-stone expression, although it was incredibly hard when she looked so sexy. ‘You’re in shock.’

Maya wanted to lash back and tell him he had no idea what she was feeling, only neither did she.

The beginnings of a bewildered frown froze in place as he reached out and cupped her face, his fingers cool on her skin. His expression was fierce his concentration total as he followed the path of his thumb as he slid it across the red mark that stood out against the smooth skin of her cheek.

‘Sorry,’ he said, clearly misinterpreting her shiver. ‘You were very stupid—’

She could not in all honesty deny this.

‘And very, very brave...’ He brought his face in close, his nose grazing hers, his breath warm on her cheek. ‘You are driving me totally crazy, you know,’ he rasped, ignoring the voice in his head that told him he was finally losing control of the situation, losing control of himself.

Why bother fighting?said that wicked voice of temptation in his head.Just relax, enjoy it while you can...

His face was so close Maya couldn’t focus, so she closed her eyes and felt his lips against her eyelids.

‘Look at me!’

She responded to the fierce command at the same moment he settled his mouth on hers, the sensuous pressure drawing a whimper from her throat, then, when his tongue slid across the outline of her lips, she grabbed hold of his shirt in handfuls just to stop from sliding to the ground. His lips were cool but she could feel the primal heat coming off him in waves, smell the musky scent of arousal.

Shocked by the fist of need in her belly and the surge of desire that was tangled in with a mess of emotions, she reached up instinctively, her arms curling around his neck, pulling him down to her while arching upwards, wanting...wanting more... Reacting with a fierce little gasp of shock to the very explicit proof of his arousal as she felt the imprint of his erection grinding into her belly.

She was plastered against him, but then with no warning at all the sensual connection was broken and the heat was gone as he physically put her away from him, the only warmth his big hands that still spanned her waist.

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