A Very Exclusive Engagement(6)

By: Andrea Laurence

“Francesca, take off some of your clothes. I know you’re dying over there.”

She shook her head adamantly, although he could see the beads of sweat running down her chest and into the valley between her breasts. “No, I’m fine.”

“The hell you are. You’re just as miserable as I am. That tank you’re wearing looks like it will cover up enough to protect your honor. The skirt looks terribly clingy. Take it off. Really. I’m about ten minutes from losing these pants, so you might as well give up on any modesty left between us.”

Francesca looked up at him with wide eyes. “Your pants?” she said, swallowing hard. Her gaze drifted down his bare chest to his belt and then lower.

“Yes. It’s gotta be ninety-five degrees and climbing in this oven they call an elevator. You don’t have to look at me, but I’ve got to do it. You might as well do it, too.”

With a sigh of resignation, Francesca got up from the floor and started fussing with the latch on the back of her skirt. “I can’t get the clasp. It snags sometimes.”

“Let me help,” Liam offered. She turned her back to him and he crouched down behind her to get a better look at the clasp in the dim red light. This close to her, he could smell the scent of her warm skin mixed with the soft fragrance of roses. It wasn’t overpowering—more like strolling through a rose garden on a summer day. He inhaled it into his lungs and held it there for a moment. It was intoxicating.

He grasped the two sides of the clasp, ignoring the buzz of awareness that shot through his fingertips as he brushed her bare skin beneath it. With a couple of firm twists and pulls, it came apart. He gripped the zipper tab and pulled it down a few inches, revealing the back of the red satin panties she wore.

“Got it,” he said with clenched teeth, standing back up and moving away before he did something stupid like touch her any more than was necessary. It was one thing to sit in the elevator in his underwear. It was another thing entirely to do it when he had a raging erection. That would be a little hard to disguise.

“Thank you,” she said softly, her eyes warily watching him as she returned to her corner of the elevator.

As she started to shimmy the skirt down her hips, Liam turned away, although it took every ounce of power he had to do so. She was everything he liked in a woman. Feisty. Exotic. Voluptuous. And underneath it all, a caring soul. She wasn’t one of those rich women that got involved in charity work because they had nothing better to do with their time. She really cared. And he appreciated that, even if it would cost him a few headaches in the future.

“Grazie, signore,” she said with a sigh. “That does feel better.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her settle back down on the floor. “Is it safe?” he asked.

“As safe as it’s going to get. Thank you for asking.”

Liam looked over at her. She had tugged down her camisole to cover most everything to the tops of her thighs, although now a hint of her red bra was peeking out from the top. There was only so much fabric to go around, and with her luscious curves, keeping them all covered would be a challenge.

“You might as well just take those pants off now.”

Liam chuckled and shook his head. Not after thinking about her satin-covered breasts. He didn’t even have to touch her to make that an impossibility. “That’s probably not the best idea at the moment.”

Her brow wrinkled in confusion. “Why—” she started, then stopped. “Oh.”

Liam closed his eyes and tried to wish his arousal away, but all that did was bring images of those silky red panties to his mind. “That’s the challenge of being trapped in a small space with a beautiful, half-naked woman.”

“You think I’m beautiful?” her hesitant voice came after a long moment of silence between them.

He planted his hands on his hips. “I do.”

“I didn’t expect that.”

Liam turned to look at her. “Why on earth not? I think a man would have to be without a pulse to not find you desirable.”

“I grew up in Beverly Hills,” she said with a dismissive shrug. “I’m not saying I never dated in school—I did—but there was certainly a higher premium placed on the Malibu Barbie dolls.”

“The what?”

“You know, the blond, beach-tanned girls with belly button piercings and figures like twelve-year-old boys? At least until they turn eighteen and get enough money to buy a nice pair of breasts.”

“People in Hollywood are nuts,” he said. “There was nothing remotely erotic about me as a twelve-year-old. You, on the other hand…” Liam shook his head, the thoughts of her soft curves pressing against the palms of his hands making his skin tingle with anticipation. He forced them into tight fists and willed the feeling away. “It takes everything I’ve got not to touch you when I see you sitting there like that.”