She seems faintly puzzled as she listens. “Why are you telling me this?”
She’s not stupid; after the meeting I did some digging into her life. But most of the woman I know would already be batting their eyelashes at me and making a play for the coveted position as my wife.
This girl, though—she either truly cannot comprehend a situation like what I’ve described to her, or she is going to make me say the words.
Make me ask her to marry me.
The question freezes on my lips, and I feel anything but casual. I am not used to needing people... but I need this girl to say yes to me more than I need my next breath.
I don’t know how to ask. I only know how to manipulate, to push, to take.
“You have student loans that you cannot afford to pay. And you do not have even enough money to get back to the States.”
Her fingers clench in the sheet, and I try not to think about the way that the slate colored satin looks against that smooth skin.
I expect her to ream me out for checking up on her, but instead her hand reaches for the bandage covering her wound. Though I don’t think she intended it, I get the message as surely as if she stabbed me with it like that blade sliced through her.
I can’t afford to go home because I took a knife for you.
Guilt is not an emotion that I am accustomed to, and I don’t quite know what to do with the heavy weight of it. I know that I should bite back my words, should find someone else for what I am about to ask of her.
But I don’t want to. For reasons that I can’t explain, I want her, and so I tell myself that I am doing her a favor.
“You need money.” My voice is casual, but I feel anything but. “I need a wife. Immediately.”
“Oh my God.” A choked kind of cry issues from her throat, and I wonder if maybe she really hadn’t understood what I was getting at. “You’re not seriously—”
“I’m asking you to be my wife for thirty days, in exchange for five hundred thousand dollars.” I snap. I don’t like having to ask, and I set the amount low, sure that she will ask for more.
“Five hundred thousand dollars? Are you insane?” The girl’s mouth works, and I can’t help but imagine it doing other things.
Not the time, Matteo.
“It’s not a large amount of money.” What the hell am I saying? I’m just asking her to gouge me. But she’s looking at me like she can’t imagine that there’s that much money in the world.
Probably I shouldn’t tell her that Emilia can spend that much in one shopping spree in Milan.
Riley’s cheeks are flushed, and that long, lovely body is tense. She’s going to say no, and my mind is reeling with possibilities about how I can make her say yes.
But instead of yelling, as I find American women are wont to do, she asks a simple question that gives me hope.
“What’s the catch?”
She is tempted. And for some strange reason I am disappointed, even though I am a step closer to what I want.
But for some reason, this woman seemed... different. Not like the ones who are obsessed with my money.
Shoving that feeling down, I try to focus in the way I do at the office.
She is an acquisition, Matteo. Nothing more.
I think about trying to sugarcoat the next words, but the intelligence that I see in those eyes tells me that she won’t swallow anything but the truth.
“I am expected to be faithful to my wife for the term of the contract.” Her eyes widen, just a bit, and I find myself wanting to bend over, to sink my teeth into her full lower lip. “And so I would expect you to be my wife in all meanings of the word.”
Her cheeks flush. Honestly, I’m not sure what to expect from this girl—wide eyed protestations of innocence or the calculation that I am accustomed to from women.
She gives me neither, instead twisting her lips into a sardonic smirk. “So you’re asking me to have sex with you for money.”
“I told you. I do not pay for sex.” I glare, indignant. But...
Does she not have a point?
Still... “I am not asking you to be a common whore.” I place my hand on her thigh, feel the muscles tense beneath my fingers. Watch heat flicker through her eyes.
“I’m not going to be any kind of a whore, common or not.” She scowls, but without conviction.
I’m offering her a way out, and she knows it. And being who I am, I capitalize on that need.
“I will seduce you whether you accept the offer or not. Be smart. Take the money.”
“Fuck you.” Riley sits straight up, and her hand flies, heading for my cheek. I allow her palm to connect, the sharp crack echoing throughout the room.
“I believe I just suggested that.” Smiling darkly, I twine my fingers around her wrist—her hands are so small compared to mine—and drag her towards me.
“Stop it!” She barely manages to speak before I crush her lips to my own. I mean the kiss to be intimidating, to show her just who is in control, and so I’m deliberately rough.
But... the way she struggles, even as she moans... the surrender of a strong woman. It overwhelms me. Makes me... feel.
Planting my hands on her shoulders, I push her back. Trying to hide the way that I am panting, I all but jump off of the bed—away from her warmth, her skin, her scent—and sneer.
“I require an answer by morning.” My heart is thudding against my ribcage, and the sight of her there on the bed, sheets rumbled, cheeks flushed, lips swollen from my own...
I want to possess her, make her mine, on the most primal of levels. But what I want from this girl is simple—sex and a business arrangement—and I have to keep it that way.
So I close my eyes against the sweetness that is begging me to take a taste and head for the door. Her voice stops me before I can pass through the arched exit.
“What you... what you want from me. I may not be very good at it.” Her words aren’t trembling and virginal... they are matter of fact. Still, I tense.
Surely she is just talking about being my wife, being in the public eye... not about the sex. Because there is no way that a woman of her age is untouched.
“Matteo?” Her voice is silken, caressing my skin like I just know those sheets are caressing her thighs.
No. She cannot be innocent. Because if she was...
I don’t know that I could stop myself from claiming her entirely. And the very thought has my cock hardening, pressing against the thin fabric of my trousers.
I could have her right now. She may not be like the other women I know, but there is no mistaking the attraction between us.