A Scandal in the Headlines(10)

By: Caitlin Crews

He looked amused again, which only made the ferocity he wore like a shield around him seem that much more pronounced.

“Access,” he said easily. “Though I should warn you now, my computers require several layers of security, and if I catch you anywhere near them or near me when I’m having a private conversation, I’ll lock you in a closet. Believe that, Elena, if nothing else.”

He said that so casually, almost offhandedly, that smile playing around his gorgeous, battered mouth—but she believed him.

“You’ve clearly given my imaginary career in espionage a great deal of thought,” she said carefully, as if she was appeasing a raving lunatic. “But ask yourself, why would I risk this? Or imagine you’d let me?”

His expression of amusement edged over into something else, something voracious and dark, and her pulse jumped beneath her skin.

“Your fiancé was not blind, all those months ago,” he said softly. She felt him everywhere, again, as if he was touching her the way she knew he wanted to do. The way she couldn’t help but wish he would. “Nor was I.”

For a moment, she forgot herself. His dark green eyes were so fierce on hers then, searing into her. Challenging her. The world fell away and there was nothing but him and all the things she couldn’t—wouldn’t—tell him. All the things she shouldn’t want.

And despite herself, she remembered.

Six months ago …

“Tell me your name,” he demanded, sweeping her into his arms without even asking her if she’d like to dance with him.

Elena had seen the way he looked at her. She’d felt it, like a brand, a claim, from halfway across the room. She told herself that Niccolo, who had gone to fetch her a drink, wouldn’t mind one dance. They were in full view of half of Rome. It was all perfectly innocent.

She knew she was lying. And yet, somehow, she didn’t care.

He was stunning. Overwhelmingly masculine, impossibly attractive and, she thought with a kind of dazed amazement, hers. Somehow hers. He looked at her and set her alight. He touched her, and her whole body burst into a hectic storm of sensation, like being dropped headfirst into freezing cold water at the height of summer.

“Your name,” he urged her. His hands were on her, hard and hot, making her shiver uncontrollably. His dark head was bent to hers, putting that mesmerizing mouth of his much too close. Tempting her almost past endurance.

“Elena,” she whispered. “Elena Calderon.”

He repeated it, and made it into something else. A kind of song. It swelled in her, changing her. It hung there between them, like a vow.

“I am Alessandro,” he said, and then they’d danced.

He swept her along, every step perfect, his attention on Elena as if she was the only woman in the room. The only woman alive. Lightning struck everywhere they touched, and everywhere they did not, and some shameless, heedless part of her gloried in it, as if she’d been made for this. For only this. For him.

She felt him in the treacherous ache of her breasts, the unmistakable hunger low in her belly and the glazed heat that held her in its relentless grip as surely as he did. She felt him—and understood that what she was doing was wrong. Utterly, indisputably wrong.

She understood that she would have to live with this. That this was a defining moment. That her life would be divided into before and after this scorching hot dance, and that she would never again be the person she’d believed she was before this stranger pulled her against him. But his eyes were locked to hers, filled with wonder and fire, and she didn’t pull away. She didn’t even try—and she understood she’d have to live with that, too.

And then he made it all so much worse.

“You cannot marry him,” he said, those dark green eyes so fierce, his face so hard.

It took her longer than it should have to clear her head, to hear him. To hear an insult no engaged woman should tolerate. It was that part that penetrated, finally. That made her fully comprehend the depths of her betrayal.

“Who are you?” she demanded. But she still let him hold her in his arms, like she was something precious to him. Or like she wished she was. “What makes you think you can say something like that to me?”

“I am Alessandro Corretti,” he bit out. She stiffened, and his voice dropped to an urgent, insistent growl. “And you know why I can say that. You feel this, too.”

“Corretti …” she breathed, the reality of what she was doing, the scope of her treachery, like concrete blocks falling through her one after the next.

He saw it, reading her too easily. His dark eyes flashed.

“You cannot marry him,” he said again, some kind of desperation beneath the autocratic demand in his voice. As if he knew her. As if he had the right. “He’ll ruin you.”

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