An Impossible Attraction

By: Elsa Winckler

A Cavallo Brother Romance

Chapter One

“Thank you for the offer, but I decline,” Zoe said, trying to ignore the quivering in her stomach. Why the blasted man always had this effect on her, even over the phone, she didn’t know, but it was driving her crazy.

It was early December and she still had a lot of work to finish before the Christmas break. The last thing she had time for was talking to Dale Cavallo. She’d been working since early this morning and had been sending out quotes when his call came through and now she had to waste precious minutes with him.

“You don’t think your reaction is a tad childish?” Dale’s voice filled her ear, sending a tremble down her spine as it always did.

“Me, childish?” she snapped. “Childish is the perfect word to describe your behavior last Tuesday. You summoned me to meet you at the site of your new hotel in the middle of nowhere. I had to leave everything I was busy with and fly out there. And then? I was there for the entire day and you never once spoke to me! Your brother showed me around. Believe me, I got the message that the whole idea to use me as interior designer was not yours.”

“When exactly should I have talked to you?” Dale asked, his voice cool. “While you were yelling at my bother for some ridiculous reason or other, or when you sat sulking at lunch?”

Zoe inhaled sharply. She didn’t think of herself as a violent person, but if Dale were here, she would damn well clobber him! She didn’t want to work for him. He was just too damned arrogant, too sure of himself, too male, too bloody everything.

Clutching her phone with tense fingers, she counted to ten. Nope, she was still spitting fire. She tried to inhale again but couldn’t get any air through the stiffness in her throat. The man made her so mad!

“Let’s leave your brother and my sister out of this discussion,” she said, and tried to calm herself. She was not going to defend her actions. “I will not be able to do the interior decorating of your new hotel. Thank you for offering me the job; I hope you find someone else.”

And then she did something she had never done before. She slammed the phone down without saying good-bye.

Still steaming, she got up from behind her desk but before she could move, Susan, her second-in-charge in the business, poked her head around the door.

“Everything okay? Difficult client?”

Zoe tried a calming breath. “Something like that. Can I help?”

“Can we talk about the job in Paarl?” Susan asked, and Zoe nodded, showing Susan to the chair in front of her desk.

Usually, she was excited about new projects, and this new development near the beautiful town of Paarl was something she’d been dreaming of getting involved with. Drat the bloody Cavallos. Ever since her sister had met the oldest brother, they seemed to be everywhere.

Yes, they were all drool-worthy but, from the moment Dale Cavallo had pinned her down with his coffee-brown eyes in his mother’s restaurant in Cape Town, he’d managed to turn her into a babbling idiot.

That orchestrated lunch at Rosa’s had been one of her mother’s not-so-subtle attempts to get her sister Caitlin and Don Cavallo back together. Dale had phoned her just a day or so before with the offer to do the work for them and even over the phone he’d sounded surly. So, when he’d barely acknowledged her at the lunch, she hadn’t been surprised.

She had wanted to ignore him, but the minute their eyes met, something deep inside her had been touched, and she didn’t like the feeling.

It was as if her body had simply taken over her brain. Her heartbeat went up several notches, her hands were sweaty, her mouth dry. She had been so upset—never before had a man reduced her to such a state that she couldn’t see straight.

Yes, he was drop-dead gorgeous and very, very, very sexy. Whoever first coined the phrase tall, dark, and handsome had probably seen the Cavallo brothers together. But although she could acknowledge his brothers were also very attractive, very sexy, she didn’t respond to them in the same way.

Why her reaction to Dale was like that of a sex-starved spinster, she had no idea. At twenty-seven she was no spinster and okay, yes, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d had sex, but she wasn’t starved, for goodness’ sake.

She simply had to ignore him, and now that she’d declined his offer, it was only a matter of time.

“What do you think?” Susan’s voice finally penetrated her thoughts.

Zoe leaned over and took the plan Susan held in front of her. She had work to do and thinking about Dale Cavallo making her weak in the knees was not helping. Oh, hell, that was not what she was thinking, was it? He irritated her, he was overbearing, and he was insufferable.