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Behind The Castello Doors

Behind The Castello Doors

Mills & Boon Modern Romance

May 2012

ISBN: 0263890732

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About the Book

After suffering a terrible personal tragedy, Cesario Piras shuns the outside world as much as possible, but on one night of the year he throws a party for the staff who work at his bank. He is furious when an uninvited guest arrives and claims that the baby in her arms is his!

Beth Granger is determined that little Sophie’s father should accept responsibility for her. But first she had to prove that the mysterious master of the Castello del Falco is the father of her friend Mel’s baby. She hadn’t expected the fierce attraction that blazes between her and Cesario, and she certainly hadn’t planned to fall in love with him, especially when baby Sophie’s future is at stake.

 


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Beth raced back across the field, desperate to find help to rescue the injured dog. As she ran, the rain started again, feeling like sharp needles on her skin and quickly soaking through her skirt and blouse. Seeking what shelter she could from the elements, she kept close to a row of thick bushes. She became aware of a pounding noise, and at first thought it was the sound of her blood pumping in her ears as she ran. But the pounding grew louder. There was a split-second’s silence, and then she screamed when a huge shape, a figure - she did not know what - soared over the bushes and missed her by mere inches.

Utterly terrified, she stumbled and fell. The grass was wet beneath her cheek and she could smell the damp earth. She heard a male voice swear savagely, and then strong hands gripped her arms and she was lifted and set roughly on her feet.

Santa Madre! What in hell’s name are you doing?’

Cesario glared at her furiously, his jaw rigid and his unruly hair falling into his eyes. ‘Where have you been? You told Filomena you were going to walk in the gardens, but no one could find you in the castle grounds. ‘Answer me, damn it,’ he growled when Beth made no sound, simply stared at him mutely, trembling with a mixture of fright, shock and an involuntary reaction to her proximity to Cesario’s big, muscular body.

Behind him she could see his great black horse calmly cropping the grass. The pounding she’d heard must have been the horse’s hooves as it had galloped across the field on the other side of the bushes. If Cesario and his horse had landed on her she could have been killed, she thought weakly. A wave of dizziness swept over her and her lashes fluttered against her cheeks.

‘Oh no, you don’t,’ she heard him mutter. ‘You’re not going to faint on me again, mia belleza.’

Cesario could not explain the irrational fear that had swept through him when he had learned that Beth had disappeared from the castle. There was no reason to suppose she had come to any harm, he had told himself as he had mounted his horse and ridden out of the courtyard to search for her. But he’d been plagued by the image of how she had looked the previous evening: pale and shaking with emotion as she had faced him across the dining table, fiercely refuting the accusation that she had stolen from her previous employers. The memory of her trying to blink back her tears had tugged on his insides, and he had felt uncomfortable with the knowledge that he had upset her.

Now, as he stared down at her white face, relief surged through him. But when his eyes roamed over her slender body and saw the firm thrust of her breasts clearly outlined beneath her wet blouse another, far more primitive emotion thundered through his veins.

Beth sensed a subtle change in Cesario. His voice was no longer harsh with anger but rough, and laced with a seductive huskiness that sent a tremor through her. She opened her eyes and was trapped by his granite-grey gaze. She felt his warm breath on her skin and her senses quivered as she inhaled the scent of him: an intoxicating mixture of his wet leather coat, the evocatively spicy cologne he wore, and something else that was intensely male and uniquely him.

Her brain registered all those things in the timeless seconds that trembled between them. And then his head swooped and he covered her mouth with his own.

Starbursts of pleasure instantly exploded inside her, and without conscious thought she parted her lips beneath his. Perhaps she should have been shocked, but in truth she had imagined his kiss from the moment her eyes had locked with his in the ballroom of his castle. She felt as though she had been waiting for him all her life, that she had been born for this moment with this man, and there was no thought in her head to resist him when he plundered her lips with a hunger that touched her soul.

He was not gentle, but she hadn’t expected him to be, and his fierce desire, the bold thrust of his tongue into her mouth, evoked a desperate longing for him to pull her down onto the wet earth and claim her body with every pagan demand she sensed throbbed in his blood.

The few chaste kisses she had shared when she’d been on occasional dates with other men had not prepared her for Cesario’s sensual onslaught. His lips grazed hers again and again, drawing a response that she was powerless to deny.

The teeming rain pounded them, running down their faces and slicking Beth’s shirt to her body. The feel of the sodden material clinging to her breasts was deliciously erotic, and she could not repress a soft moan when he ran his hands down her front and traced her taut nipples jutting through the wet cotton. Sensation arrowed through her and, driven by an instinctive need to be even closer to him, she lifted her arms and curved them around his neck.

He muttered something in Italian and crushed her to him, so that her breasts were pressed against his chest. She was conscious of his hard sinews and muscles imprinted on her softer flesh, and the solid ridge of his arousal jabbed her belly, causing molten heat to pool between her thighs.

The dark stubble shading his jaw felt abrasive against her cheek but she did not care. Nothing mattered except that he should never, ever stop kissing her. Some pagan force deep inside her told her that she belonged here in his arms. That she belonged to him. She curled her fingers into his hair and then, like a blind person wanting to imprint his image on her brain, stroked his face, exploring every angle and plane and tracing the sharp edges of his cheekbones.

Her fingertips fluttered over the raised ridge of his scar. At her touch he stiffened and tore his mouth from hers, his actions so abrupt that she was unprepared and swayed dizzily for a moment. Deprived of the warmth and strength of his body she felt bereft and wondered with a flash of despair how she could bear the aching loneliness of her life.

He dropped his arms to his sides, allowing her to step back from him. As the reality of what had happened sank in she lifted her hand to her mouth and felt its swollen softness, staring at Cesario with stunned eyes.

‘Why did you do that?’ she whispered.

He gave a harsh laugh, his eye hooded and glittering with a savage hunger. ‘Why? You know why, cara. You feel this intense attraction as strongly as I do. Maybe you resent it, and are shocked by it - just as I am. But you cannot deny the fire that burns between us.’

She could not deny her awareness of him, but she was startled by his stark admission that he desired her. He cupped her face in his hands and she watched, her heart hammering, as he lowered his head once more. Her lips parted involuntarily in readiness for him to kiss her again, but a sudden memory forced its way into her heads and with a cry she pulled away from him.

‘The dog! I found a dog caught in a trap,’ she explained when he stared at her uncomprehendingly. ‘We have to set it free, or it will die. Please…’ she caught hold of his arm. ‘Will you come?’

‘Where?’ Cesario demanded tersely, fighting the temptation to snatch her back into his arms and finish what they had started, here and now on the sodden grass. He had never felt such a primitive urgency to possess a woman, but this woman with her fey beauty and slanting green eyes had surely cast a spell on him, he thought self-derisively.

‘In the woods at the edge of the field.’ Feeling desperately guilty that she had forgotten about the injured dog during those moments when she had been in Cesario’s arms, Beth turned and started to run. She had only gone a short distance when he came alongside her, sitting astride his horse.

‘Give me your hand,’ he ordered. Reaching down, he ignored her shocked gasp and lifted her up onto the saddle in front of him as easily as if she weighed nothing. ‘Show me where to go.’

Beth disliked heights, and a cautious glance over the horse’s head revealed that the ground was a long way down.

‘You’re safe. I won’t let you fall.’ Cesario’s deep voice sounded close to her ear. And, strangely, she did feel safe with her back pressed against his chest and his arms on either side of her as he flicked the reins and urged the horse into a gallop.

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