His Ultimate Prize(3)

By: Maya Blake

Another dark chuckle. ‘Or what, you’ll put me over your knee? Or will you just pray that I be struck down by lightning if I blaspheme?’

‘I’m not rising to your baits, Rafael.’ Mostly because she had an inkling of how hard this morning would be for him. According to Rafael’s housekeeper, it was the first time he’d interacted with his family since his return to León from his private hospital in Barcelona. ‘You can try to rile me all you want. I’m not going anywhere.’

‘A martyr to the last?’

‘A physiotherapist who knows how grumpy patients can be when they don’t get their way.’

‘What makes you think I’m not getting exactly what I want?’ he rasped lazily.

‘I overheard your phone call to Marco this morning...twice...to try and get out of your godfather duties. Since you’re here now, I’m guessing he refused to let you?’

A tic in his jaw and a raised brow was her only answer.

‘Like I said, I know a grumpy patient when I see one.’ She hurried forward and opened the large heavy door.

To her relief, he didn’t answer back. She hoped it was because they were within the hallowed walls of his family’s chapel because she was close enough to feel his tension increase the closer they got to the altar.

De Cervantes family members and the few close friends who’d managed to gain an invitation to the christening of Sasha and Marco de Cervantes’s firstborn turned to watch their slow progress up the aisle.

‘Shame you’re not wearing a white gown,’ Rafael quipped from the side of his mouth, taking her elbow even as he smiled and winked at a well-known Spanish supermodel. But, this close, Raven could see the stress lines that faintly bracketed his mouth and the pulse throbbing at his temple. Rafael really did not want to be here.

‘White gown?’

‘Think how frenzied their imagination would be running right about now. It would almost warrant a two-page spread in X1 Magazine.’

‘Even if I were dressed in bridal white with a crown on my head and stars in my eyes, no one would believe you would actually go through with anything as anathema to you as a wedding, Rafael. These poor people would probably drop dead at the very thought of linking you with the word commitment.’

His grip tightened for a minuscule moment before that lazy smile returned. ‘For once, you’re right. Weddings bore me rigid and the word marriage should have a picture of a noose next to it in the dictionary.’

They were a few steps away from the front pew, where his brother and sister-in-law sat gazing down adoringly at their infant son. The sight of their utter devotion and contentment made her insides tighten another notch.

‘I don’t think that’s how your brother and his wife see it.’

Rafael’s jaw tightened before he shrugged. ‘I’m prepared to accede that for some the Halley’s Comet effect does happen. But we’ll wait and see if it’s a mirage or the real thing, shall we?’

Her breath caught at the wealth of cynicism in his tone. She couldn’t respond because an usher was signalling the priest that it was time to start.

The ceremony was conducted in Spanish with English translations printed out on embossed gold-edged paper.

As the minutes ticked by, she noted Rafael’s profile growing even tenser. Glancing down at the sheet, she realised the moment was approaching for him to take his godson for the anointing. Despite her caution to remain unmoved, her heart softened at his obvious discomfort.

‘Relax. Babies are more resilient than we give them credit for. Trust me, it takes a complete idiot to drop a baby.’

She was unprepared for the icy blue eyes that sliced into her. ‘Your flattery is touching but the last thing I’m thinking of is dropping my nephew.’

‘You don’t need to hide it, Rafael. Your tension is so thick it’s suffocating.’

His eyes grew colder. ‘Remember when I said weddings bore me?’

She nodded warily.

‘Christenings bore me even more. Besides, I’ve never been good in churches. All that piety.’ He gave a mock shudder. ‘My abuela used to smack my hand because I could never sit still.’

‘Well, I’m not your grandmother so you’re spared the smacking. Besides, you’re a grown man now so act like one and suck it up.’

Too late, she remembered certain words were like a naked invitation to Rafael. She was completely stunned when he didn’t make the obvious remark. Or maybe it was a testament to just how deeply the whole ceremony was affecting him.

‘I just want this to be over and done with so I can resume more interesting subjects.’ Without due warning, his gaze dropped to the cleavage of her simple, sleeveless orange knee-length chiffon dress. The bold, heated caress resonated through her body, leaving a trail of fire that singed in delicate places. ‘Like how delicious you look in that dress. Or how you’ll look out of it.’

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