Back in the Brazilian's Bed

By: Susan Stephens

CHAPTER ONE

‘YOU VOLUNTEERED ME to do what?’

Shielding her eyes against the bright morning sun, Karina Marcelos stared at her brother in disbelief. They were standing on the balcony of Luc’s eyrie on the penthouse floor of his magnificent cream marble flagship hotel with Rio de Janeiro laid out in front of them. Luc was one crazy polo player—he could be dictatorial when he was in ruling his business empire mode, but he was always considerate of her feelings.

Her brother looked at her with surprise. ‘Why the fuss? You’re the obvious choice. The job of events organiser for the polo cup couldn’t be awarded to anyone better than my highly qualified sister.’ With a shrug he left her clenching and unclenching suddenly clammy fists.

She followed him in. ‘You’ll have to un-volunteer me,’ she said firmly.

Luc scowled as he sat heavily at his desk. He wasn’t used to being denied anything, unless his beloved wife Emma was in the picture.

‘I mean it, Luc,’ Karina insisted. ‘My schedule’s packed. I could only give the project a couple of weeks and it’s going to need a lot more time than that.’

She could make the time. She could make the event fly, but that wasn’t the reason she was shying away from this plum of a job.

‘Too late,’ Luc said flatly. ‘The posters have gone out and your name’s on them. I didn’t expect you to kick up a fuss. When I put your name forward to the team, they nearly bit my hand off.’

By team, Luc meant Team Thunderbolt, the world’s most infamous gaucho polo players. Luc was a mainstay of the team and so was Dante Baracca, Karina’s nemesis. This year it was Dante’s turn to host the Gaucho Cup.

‘What’s wrong now?’ her brother demanded, glancing up impatiently from his paperwork.

Where to begin? She didn’t want to arouse Luc’s suspicions, and finding a plausible excuse not to work with Dante wouldn’t be easy. Nor would handling the whisper of awareness that skittered over her skin at the thought of being close to Dante again.

‘I need you to do this for me, Karina.’

‘I do know what this event means to you, but there are other events organisers.’

‘None as good as you,’ Luc insisted. ‘There’s no one who understands the world we work in better than you.’

Karina’s glance landed on the cabinet where Luc kept his trophies. He’d left a space for this year’s prize. Right next to it, in a pointed reminder that it would be hard, if not impossible to get out of this, there was a trophy belonging to Karina. The International Association of Events Planners had awarded it to her for exceptional merit, and Luc was as proud of that trophy as he was of his own gleaming cups.

‘I need you to give me an answer, Karina,’ Luc pressed.

‘And I need time to think,’ she countered.

‘What’s there to think about?’ Settling back in his chair, Luc pushed his papers to one side. ‘Planning the polo cup is easily the most prestigious work you’ve ever been asked to do, so what’s your real problem, Karina?’

She loved her brother dearly, but Luc had no idea what he was asking. She had avoided face-to-face confrontations with Dante for a very good reason—the man was a hundred per cent ice-cold arrogance. She’d avoided him at polo matches, had been forced into his company when Luc and Emma had got together, but apart from that she was always careful to keep her distance from him. If she accepted this commission her avoidance tactics where Dante Baracca was concerned would be shot to hell.

‘You should at least have consulted me before you went ahead with this.’

‘My apologies,’ Luc mocked, gesturing widely to express his frustration. ‘I can’t imagine why I thought you’d be thrilled. You’re the go-to events organiser in Rio, Karina,’ he reminded her tensely. ‘Who else am I going to ask?’

Her brother was right in that arranging the fixture would be an exciting challenge. It was just the man she had to deal with that was the problem.

‘Dante Baracca is an arrogant, humourless dictator,’ she murmured, speaking her thoughts out loud.

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