There was no escaping this.

They spent some time talking to Tatum Fitzgerald, whom Rocco found to be vain and narcissistic. So unlike Olivia it was almost impossible to believe they came from the same blood, except for their clearly matching outward genetics. He got them out of dinner with a promise to do so in Italy as Olivia’s eyes begged for a reprieve. And then they were in the car being whisked through the warm Manhattan night.

CHAPTER TEN

THE APARTMENT WAS SILENT, bathed in the glow of the ever-present light of New York. After the pounding, pulsing rhythm of the night that had preceded it, the utter silence was like slamming on the brakes of his Aventador after he’d put the pedal to the floor. Full stop, jarring awareness. Of everything.

He threw his jacket over a chair, stripped his tie off and rolled up his sleeves. “Drink?” he asked Olivia, who was sitting on the sofa unbuckling her shoes.

She nodded.

He poured himself a much-needed tumbler of Scotch along with a glass of wine for her and crossed over to where Olivia stood at the windows.

“She was only twenty-five when she died.” Her profile was ridiculously beautiful in the moonlight. “We met at a panty hose shoot when we were nineteen. They were asking us to say these ridiculous lines about how sexy the panty hose made us feel, and we both giggled our way through it. After that, we were best friends.”

“You loved her a great deal.”

She nodded. “She was the one who kept me sane. When there was too much money, too many people wanting to know us only because of who we were, too much partying and too much drinking. We were young and we had everything.”

“But you didn’t have everything.”

“No.” She turned to face him. “We were out of control near the end. I wasn’t an alcoholic, but I was close. I always managed to rein myself in, but Petra couldn’t. Her new boyfriend liked to do drugs, and it was a dangerous combination. I tried to get her to break up with him, but she was strong willed. One night—” her voice took on a gravelly note “—we were at a party and we split up. She went home with Ben and I stayed. A few hours later, I went to her apartment to check on her. But it was too late.” A hot tear escaped the brimming pools of her eyes and slid down her cheek. “She was by herself and she didn’t have a pulse.”

His insides turned over. He captured her hand in his, wrapping his fingers tight around hers. “That must have been awful.”

She looked down at the hand he held. “I was still holding her body when the paramedics told me she was dead. When they told me I had to let go.”

“Mi dispiace.” His voice was rough. “I am so very sorry, Olivia.”

Her brilliant blue gaze clung to his. “If you hadn’t been there tonight, I couldn’t have done it. I would have destroyed myself.”

He shook his head. “You would have walked out of there and you would have found your way.”

“Not the right way.” She pulled her hand free to swipe the tears from her face. Blinked hard. “I needed to face it. Face the past.”

“And you did.”

She nodded slowly as if just realizing that now. Her creamy skin was blotchy, her eyes red rimmed, but she was still the most bewitching woman he’d ever seen in his life and, with Olivia, it was not all on the outside. So much of what he hadn’t seen in the beginning was inside that stunning exterior.

“Is that when the panic attacks started? When Petra died?”

She shook her head. “Those started when I was a teenager. My mother was emotionally unavailable, my father was gone, and there I was traveling to all these foreign countries under so much pressure.” She looked out at the lights. “I went to see a therapist, learned how to try to control them, but they never went away. Sometimes they were worse than others.”

“And that night in New York, that’s what it was?”

“Yes.” Her gaze stayed glued on the cityscape. “It was the end.”

“Not the end,” he countered softly. “You conquered it tonight.”

“With you.” She turned back to him, eyes brimming with emotion. “Thank you.”

“That isn’t necessary.”

“Yes, it is. Rocco?”

“Sì?”

She brought her fingers to his lips. “Can we not talk anymore?”

Need roared to life inside of him, so fast and sharp it blinded him for a moment. He was in complete agreement, because to keep talking was rational, and this was not rational. He didn’t want to think.

He captured her hand and pressed an intimate, openmouthed kiss against it. The way she tensed made his blood fire in his veins. “Do you still love him?”

She frowned. “Guillermo? I told you I never loved him the right way.”

“Do you still lust after him, then?” He was shocked at how dark and gritty the words came out.

She looked down at the trembling hand he held in his. “What do you think?”

He put his drink down with a jerky movement. Took hers and set it on the table beside his. Her gaze tracked him as he bent his head and allowed himself a mouthful of her bare, smooth shoulder. She was a silken, golden feast for him to explore, and she shuddered beneath his mouth. His stomach jammed into a tight, hard ball. Five weeks of wanting her had weakened him. Badly.

He blazed a path from her shoulder across the delicate skin of her collarbone to the throbbing pulse at the base of her neck. He was so enthralled with the taste of her, with the salty, sweet essence he had finally secured access to, he didn’t hear her speak at first.

“Rocco?”

“Sì?” He lifted his head and focused on her shimmering stare, glistening with the remnants of her tears.

“When did this become real?”

His heart stuttered in his chest, then stopped completely, his tongue unable to form the words.

Her gaze darkened. “I’m not asking for promises. I just need to know that this, tonight, whatever it is, it’s real and not another of your games.”

That he could answer. He lifted her palm and pressed it against the pounding beat of his heart, echoing her words. “What do you think?”

Her pupils dilated until they were dark glowing orbs in a sea of blue. She slid a hand behind his neck, tangled it in his hair and brought his mouth down to hers. He nipped at the lush fullness of her lower lip, teased her with tiny pulls that telegraphed his impatience. She was equally impatient, tugging on his hair and demanding his full attention. He consumed her then, taking her mouth in a series of hot, openmouthed kisses that made up for every last minute of these interminably long past few weeks. He kissed her until he’d explored every centimeter, every angle, of her, learned every mystery of her irresistible heart-shaped mouth. And then he demanded more, because his need for her was insatiable.

They broke apart finally, breathing hard, eyes on each other. Olivia was the first to break the standoff, reaching for the top button of his shirt. His breath caught in his throat as her knuckles brushed against his bare skin. He’d had a lot of women undress him, had had a lot of women period. But he had never held his breath as they’d done so. Had never anticipated a touch so much he’d almost jumped out of his skin by the time she’d freed all the buttons and slid her hands up his bare abdomen.

“You are the most beautiful man I have ever seen in my life,” she murmured, tracing the ridges of his abs with her fingers. “And I’ve seen a few.”

“I’d rather not hear about your ex-lovers,” he growled. “I had one in my face tonight.”

“On shoots,” she reprimanded quietly. “Guillermo was my first and only lover.”

That burned a searing path through him. If he hadn’t hated the Venezuelan before, he did now. He didn’t want to think about any man’s hands on Olivia. Only his.

He dipped his shoulders as her fingers slid under the collar of his shirt and pushed it off. Thoughts about ex-lovers vanished as Olivia brought her mouth to his pecs and scored her lips and teeth across the width of him. When she had thoroughly tasted his skin, the ridges of his muscles that flexed beneath her touch, she brought her mouth to one of his nipples and teased it to erectness with soft, flicking motions of her tongue. He braced a hand against the window as she sucked it inside her mouth. Cristo. Helen of Troy had nothing on her.

She transferred her attention to his other nipple. He closed his eyes and let himself feel. Feel what this woman did to him, because he rarely, if ever, relinquished control in anything he did, but with her it was impossible not to.

“The photo Alessandra took of you,” he rasped, a spasm of pleasure shaking him as she drew his nipple deeper inside her mouth. “That better have been me in your head.”

She looked up at him, dragging her fingertips over his hard, burning nipples. “You made sure it was... Did you like it?”

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