The Sicilian's Surprise Wife(9)

By: Tara Pammi

Because now, she knew Stefan wouldn’t let her leave. Now, if she could just find the strength to say what she had come to say without betraying herself...

Every doubt she was harboring ground to a halt as he moved into the lounge with a lithe grace that she followed as if she was mesmerized.

A plush white towel wrapped around his narrow hips contrasted sharply against a tanned chest. Droplets of water clung to chest hair that covered ropes of well-defined muscles. His freshly shaved jawline glinted with that trademark arrogance of his while his olive green gaze pinned her to the spot.

Awareness sliced through Clio like a physical shove to her senses and she swayed where she stood. It was like a deluge of flood over drought-ridden land.

“Clio, is everything all right?” he said, tossing a white towel over his nape that fell onto his chest.

Clio came back to the earth with a thump. Suddenly, asking Stefan for help felt like the most absurd idea she had ever thought of.

Before she could blink, he covered the distance between them. The scent of him, raw and masculine, was like a whiplash that slammed her breath in her throat.

Shaking her head, she pushed her hair back. “I’m fine. Can I have something to drink?”

For a few seconds, he stood there staring at her.

Tall, impossibly wide, six feet three inches of prime Sicilian male, and all his focus was on her. His eyes perused her with a leisurely intensity that made her feel exposed, raw.

Not that she trusted her body’s response.

Finally, he moved to the glittering bar that covered one side of the lounge. “What would you like to drink?”

“Just some water, please.” There was a false comfort in talking about something so mundane. Maybe because it reminded her that the world did not fall away even through the earthquake in her life. “Alcohol gives me—”

“A migraine, I know. Are they still as bad as they used to be?”

He had remembered. Clio squashed the spurt of warmth that bloomed in her chest with ruthless will. So one of the youngest millionaires in the world had a good memory. Not a big surprise. “I never found anything to help me. So I don’t touch it,” she said, shrugging.

The sound of the refrigerator opening, the soft clink of the ice cubes against the glass punctured the silence that swathed them with awkwardness.

She hadn’t even told him why she was here. And he hadn’t asked.

Yet, it felt as if there was something in the air, an imbalance of power, a swirl of currents eddying around them, caging them together in the cavernous lounge. And she recoiled at adding to it by telling him what had happened tonight.

Would he laugh at her stupidity that she hadn’t even seen through Jackson’s facade for so long?

She grabbed the glass from him, and took a greedy gulp. All the while, he stood there like a dark specter, watching her, assessing her. And somehow she had a feeling, he found her wanting.

She had fallen in her own eyes. Did it matter if she did in his? a rebellious part of her mocked.

The answer had to be no because she didn’t have a single feeling to spare for him. There was nothing but cold will to keep her going.

“I’m sorry about intruding on you unannounced,” she said, once the cold water brought feeling back into her throat. “I didn’t even realize I had started walking toward...”

Catching the gleam of mockery in his green gaze, she faltered.

He took the glass from her shaking fingers. “Clio Norwood—epitome of good manners and decorum, even as she’s falling apart.”

“I’m not falling apart.”

His blunt-tipped fingers landed on her jaw and tilted her face up.

Panic chasing her stringent awareness of him, she caught his wrist to push it away. The pressure of his fingers increased.

“Then why are you so jumpy?”

There was no sympathy in his voice and for that she was a thousand times grateful. One kind word from him would break the small thread that was holding her together.

Falling apart, in front of him, was not a choice.

“I’m not. I just...” A ball of tears tightened her throat.

“Tell me what’s going on, Clio.”

The inherent command in his tone somehow grounded her.

Instead of jerking away from his touch, she slowly pushed it back. But the rasp of his hair-roughened wrist, the strong tendons of it, was too much sensation. She dropped his hand, her pulse thudding too loud.

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