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‘You understand that this is just sex, right, Maya?’ He’d never slept with a woman where the warning had been needed, because they’d always understood the game; he’d never needed to hear the words to give himself permission to continue, either. It was just sex, he reiterated to himself, panic bolting through him as he imagined her saying no to his question, because she wanted more from him. Because he couldn’t give her more.

The more she totally deserves, taunted the voice of guilt pricking at his conscience.

His eyes were dark and smoky, his skin when she placed a hand flat on his chest was hot too... This was not a rejection, she understood that; it was just him laying out the rules before they started.

As she had never had sex before, she doubted she would notice the difference between that and...anything more.Just sex,he’d called it. But it wasn’t as though she’d asked him for more, was it?

Not as if she deserved more!

Not as if she deserved love.

No wonder your biological mother rejected you...

‘What is it?’he asked, watching the expressions flicker across her lovely face and feeling a rush of protective emotion that was so intense he felt as though someone had reached inside his chest and squeezed his heart.

She shook her head and smiled, feeling suddenly liberated. She wouldnotallow Edward to spoil this moment or any other moment for her. She was not a child any longer with no self-esteem and Samuele was not trying to diminish her, he was only being honest.

‘I was just remembering something someone used to say to me.’

Her stepfather had been so clever at locating a weak spot and exploiting it. He’d clawed at the one tiny shadow inside her heart that still grieved because she’d been abandoned by her own mother, and by the time he’d finished with her, she had carried an echo of that fear into adulthood. It had prevented her having any intimate relationships because she was afraid of being rejected, for being made to feel like that little girl who didn’t deserve love.

‘I will make you forget him,cara.’

She smiled. ‘I’ve already forgotten. I want you, Samuele, you are exactly what I need right now.’

A low growl was released from his throat as the last shreds of control he had placed himself under snapped.

It felt as though she were being swept away by a fast-flowing river as his mouth came crashing down on hers; his grip on her waist tightened as he lifted her up against his tense, hard length. Not thinking through her actions, because she was deep in instinct territory now, she wound her arms around his neck, sinking her fingers into the hair on his nape and kissing him back hard as her legs wrapped tightly around his waist to hold herself there.

He broke off the kiss long enough to give a fierce grin as he slid his hands beneath her bottom and they stumbled the few steps to the stone building.

On the receiving end of Samuele’s deep, drugging, sense-shredding kisses, she barely registered him kicking the door closed behind them, but she knew that they were alone and common sense, along with the rest of the world, was locked outside.

Samuele pushed aside all the plump scatter cushions on the day bed with one sweep of his hand. He sat down on the upholstered edge and Maya, with her legs still around his waist, landed sitting on his lap.

Her head had slid to his shoulder and he hooked a thumb beneath her chin and tilted her face up to his. He could see that her eyes were big and unfocused, the velvety pansy-brown glazed with passion.

With an almost feral groan he kissed her hard, lowering her back onto the day bed, which was wide enough to accommodate them both side by side, but he fell on top of her, a knee braced either side of her body. He pulled himself up just far enough to free his shirt from his jeans and fumbled with the belt. Clenching his teeth with frustration at the delay, he tore at the buttons on his shirt, before tugging at his zip, giving only partial relief from the painful constriction.

Maya placed her hand flat against the ridges of his belly. Simultaneously shocked and excited by the hardness and heat of his skin, she grabbed the loose ends of his belt and tugged. He resisted, drawing a cry of protest from her aching throat that faded into a whimper as he took the edges of the long-sleeved T-shirt she wore and pulled it over her head.

She didn’t have the strength or the will to move her hands, so they still lay splayed above her head in an attitude of submission. Her breath, coming as a series of uneven shallow gasps, snagged on a moan as he slid the straps of her bra over her shoulders, massaging and kissing the skin stretched across the angle of her collarbones before he traced a moist path down the valley between her breasts with his tongue.

He lifted himself off her just enough to fight his way clear of his shirt, and she came up on her knees to help him, kissing his chest as it was revealed, tasting the salt in his sweat as she slid her hands over his golden skin.

Her bra of tartan satin followed his abandoned shirt, sailing somewhere over her head as he threw it away.


The peaks of her breasts hardened and tingled under his scrutiny. She arched at the first touch of his hand and fell back onto the day bed, gasping, at this, their first intimate, skin-to-skin contact. She twisted and squirmed against him as her small hands went to the half-open zip of his jeans. She struggled with it until he rolled away and, lifting his hips off the bed, peeled the jeans off along with his boxers. He snatched his wallet from his jeans pocket, before kicking his clothes away until they fell with a thud and clatter on the other side of the room.

Maya swung her legs over the side of the bed and unfastened her cotton pedal pushers. She stood up for a moment to pull them down over her hips and step out of them.

Turning, she reached up to find Samuele’s hands curling around her upper arms, knowing as he found his eyes on her, devouring the abandoned look of her, that it was an image that would stay with him for ever. Her skin was like silk, her body as beautiful as her face, and he knew she was a perfect fit for him.

Shewasperfect and utterly oblivious to the fact, too. There was nothing feigned about her natural sensuality that made her every move provoking and exciting to Samuele.

She made him feel utterly insatiable... He drew her to him, greedy to touch her everywhere, feel her, explore the smooth softness of her slender, toned body, unable to imagine ever having enough of her.

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