Haverton Manor in February was like a winter wonderland, with a recent fall of snow clinging to the limbs of the ancient beech and elm trees that fringed the long driveway leading to the Georgian mansion. The rolling fields and woods beyond were shrouded in a thin blanket of white, and the lake shone like a sheet of glass in the distance as she brought her sports car to a stop in front of the formal knot garden. Not handsome in a classical sense; he had too many irregular features for that. His nose was slightly crooked from a fist fight, and one of his dark eyebrows had a scar through it, like a jagged pathway cut through a hedge, both hoofmarks of his troubled adolescence.
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Haverton Manor in February was like a winter wonderland, with a recent fall of snow clinging to the limbs of the ancient beech and elm trees that fringed the long driveway leading to the Georgian mansion. The rolling fields and woods beyond were shrouded in a thin blanket of white, and the lake shone like a sheet of glass in the distance as she brought her sports car to a stop in front of the formal knot garden.
Not handsome in a classical sense; he had too many irregular features for that. His nose was slightly crooked from a fist fight, and one of his dark eyebrows had a scar through it, like a jagged pathway cut through a hedge, both hoofmarks of his troubled adolescence. He was wearing sturdy work-boots, faded blue denim jeans and a thick black sweater that was pushed up to his elbows, showcasing his strong, muscular arms.
His wavy, soot-black hair was brushed off his face, and dark stubble peppered his lean jaw, giving him an intensely masculine look that for some reason always made the back of her knees tingle.
She took in a little jerky breath and met his startling blue-green eyes, almost putting her neck out to do it. It was hard and tightly set, the deep grooves either side of it indicating it was more used to containing emotion than showing it. She had once come too close to those sensually sculptured lips. Only the once, but it was a memory she had desperately tried to erase ever since.
But even now she could still recall the head-spinning taste of him: salt, mint and hot-blooded male. Was he remembering it too, how their mouths had slammed together in a scorching kiss that had left both of them breathless? How their tongues had snaked around each other and duelled and danced with earthy, brazen intent? Bella tore her eyes away and glanced at the damp dirt on his hands from where he had been pulling at some weeds in one of the garden beds.
Are you sure you sent it to me? Who is it this week? It annoyed her that he found her news so amusing. She found his reaction over the top and completely unnecessary. How dared he mock the man she had decided she was going to marry? Julian was everything Edoardo was not. He was sophisticated and cultured; he was polite and considerate; he saw the good in people, not the bad.
And he loved her, rather than hating her, as Edoardo did. He swiped at his eyes with the back of his hand, still chuckling. She sent him a narrowed glare. His eyes ran over her long black boots and designer skirt and jacket, before taking a leisurely tour of the upthrusts of her breasts, finally meeting her gaze with an insolent glint in his.
She clenched her hands into fists to stop herself from actually doing it. Her nails bit into her palms as she tried to rein in her temper. This time Bella felt that tingly sensation at the base of her spine. She knew it had been a low blow to refer to his delinquent past, but Edoardo always triggered something dark, primal and uncontrollable in her. He had always done it. He seemed to take particular delight in getting a rise out of her. He always got under her skin. For months, if not years, at a time she would keep her distance, barely even acknowledging him when she came home for a brief visit to her father.
Edoardo brought out something in her that was deeply unsettling. She felt edgy and restless. She thought things she should not be thinking. Like how sensual the curve of his mouth was, the way the lower lip was fuller than the top one; how his lean jaw always seemed to need a shave. How his hair looked like it had just been combed with his fingers. How he would look naked, all tanned, whipcord-lean and fit.
Like how he always looked at her with that hooded, inscrutable gaze as if he was seeing through the layers of her designer clothes to her tingling body beneath Bella gave him a defiant look. You hardly ever visited him, especially towards the end. She hated him for reminding her of how she had stayed away when her father had needed her the most.
The permanency of death had made her run for cover. The thought of being left all alone in the world had been terrifying.
The desertion of her mother just before her sixth birthday had made her deeply insecure; people she loved always left her. She had buried her head in the social scene of London rather than face reality.
She had made the excuse of studying for her final exams, but the truth was she had never really known how to reach out to her father. Godfrey had come to fatherhood late in life, and after her mother had left, he had not coped well with the role of being a single parent.
Consequently their relationship had never been close, which had made her insanely jealous of the way in which her father had fostered his relationship with Edoardo.
She suspected Godfrey saw Edoardo as a surrogate son—the son he had secretly longed for. It made her feel inadequate, a feeling that was only reinforced a hundredfold when she found out the way her father had left his estate.
Your peccadilloes are splashed across the newspapers just about every week. The press always targeted her, making her out to be a wild child with more money than sense. She only had to be in the wrong place at the wrong time for some ridiculous story to come out about her.
But things would be different soon. Once she was married to Julian, the press would hopefully leave her alone. Her reputation would be spotless. It was positively galling to have to ask for permission to stay at her childhood home. That was one of the reasons she had turned up unannounced. I promise. No one would ever dream of finding me here with you. My death would be on your hands. Got it? What did he think she was going to do—call a press conference?
She wanted to escape all that and lie low until Julian came back. Is she female? Is she currently sleeping over? Asking would imply she was interested.
He mostly kept his private life exactly that—private. His enigmatic, unknowable nature made him a target for the paparazzi but somehow he managed to keep his head below the parapet.
Her engagement to Julian Bellamy would hopefully put all that to rest. She wanted a clean slate, and once she was married, she would have it. Julian was the nicest man she had ever met. He was nothing like the men she had dated in the past. Bella pushed her chin a little higher. She took a prickly little breath and stepped backwards but one of her heels snagged on the crushed limestone and she would have fallen but for one of his hands snaking out and capturing her by the wrist.
Her breath completely halted as his long, tanned fingers gripped her like a steel manacle. An electric charge surged through her skin as soon as those calloused fingers made contact with her skin. She felt it sizzling all the way to the bones of her wrist; they felt like they were going to disintegrate to fine powder. She swept her tongue out over her lips as she tried to muster as much icy hauteur as she could, but even so her heart fluttered like a hummingbird behind the scaffold of her ribs as his eyes meshed with hers.
One corner of his mouth came up in a sardonic smile. Not since that kiss. Ever since that night, she had assiduously avoided any physical contact with him. But now her skin on her wrist felt like it was being scorched. It felt hot and tingly, as if electrodes had zapped the nerves. His fingers tightened for an infinitesimal moment, his unusual blue-green eyes holding hers, sending a riot of sensations tumbling down the length of her spine. She could sense him so close to her pelvis, that essential part of him that defined him as a virile and potent male.
Her body felt its primal magnetic pull just as it had all those years ago. What would it feel like to press against him now that she was no longer that gauche, inexperienced, slightly inebriated teenager? She gritted her teeth. She could still feel the pressure of his fingers as if he had indelibly branded her flesh. Would they catch and snare like a thorn on silk? Would they scratch or would they caress? Would they? She pulled back from her wayward thoughts with a hard mental slap.
She turned around to look at him with a quizzical frown. Bella blew out a little breath. She had a very big problem with it.
Uncovering The Silveri Secret
Shelves: oct-read , harlequin-presents , read , harlequin-presents-challenge , 5-stars-hp This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was just one big tease, filled with lots of good foreplay from beginning to end. Oh my goodness was there foreplay that was enough to whet the appetite and having me panting for more. It was explosive. It felt very real and genuine. It fit well with This book was just one big tease, filled with lots of good foreplay from beginning to end.
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Uncovering the Silveri Secret