“I want to fuck!” She shrieks, and I wince, hoping that Riley—that the servants—can’t hear.
What is going on? The Emilia I know would scheme like this, certainly, but she would be the picture of control.
“I don’t.” Releasing her with disgust, I point to the door, and she hisses.
“I’ll ruin you, Matteo.” Seeing that I’m not about to change my mind, she turns on the spike heel of her boot, stalks to her fallen coat. When she bends to pick it up, she does so slowly, making sure to give me a full view, even though her body is vibrating with rage. This tells me that she wants, more than anything, to entice me into her ridiculous offer.
It’s not happening.
“You can try,” I reply calmly. “But I wonder who the press would sympathize with more, a pampered Italian princess like you, or a man who went through what Carmine put me through.”
Emilia laughs, the sound high and slightly hysterical. It’s not what I expected, and it makes me uneasy.
“You have no idea what I did to earn this company,” she says finally, shaking her head. Her lips are curled into a smile, but there’s no hint of mirth. “No idea. But I’ve paid my dues. And so it will be mine. I won’t offer this again.”
“Go!” Finally losing patience, I throw my snifter against the wall, as hard as I can. The glass explodes like fireworks, and my voice is a roar. But how dare, how dare she compare her pampered existence to my own? “Get the fuck out!”
“You’ll regret this.” Her words drip with venom as she strides out the front door. She doesn’t bother putting her coat back over top of her non-outfit, and I wonder for a moment if Carmine’s death has somehow sent her over the edge—paparazzi follow us everywhere, and once one of my more... intimate... moments with a women were captured with a long range camera and splashed across the Italian tabloids.
Nearly naked pictures of Emilia Guerra, stepdaughter of the late, great Carmine Benenati, would fetch a pretty penny, and reflect horribly on the company.
In that moment, I don’t give a fuck. I just want her gone.
“Bye, Matteo. Hope you’re ready to lose everything.” Finally outside, Emilia turns to look at me over her shoulders, smirking and wiggling her fingers in a wave. Her veneer of control is back, firmly in place as I slam the heavy wooden door shut behind her.
My own control is sadly lacking. I slump back against the barrier, cold sweat spearing on my forehead.
I’ve never seen that side of Emilia before, and it has thoroughly unnerved me. More than that...
She has declared war. I won this battle, but she’ll strike again.
I have to make sure I’m ready.
“I NEED AN ANSWER NOW.”
Startled, I whirl around, the long tangle of my hair whipping me in the face as I do. Matteo is standing just inside the doorway. At first glance, nothing is different from when he left twenty minutes ago... but when I take a moment and look harder, I can tell that something has changed.
The man who left this room before was confident and in control. Now... well, he still looks that way, mostly. But there’s just the thinnest edge of something darker, something... desperate.
“I need your answer now,” he repeats, slowly stalking his way toward me. I can feel my pulse accelerating, pounding just under the line of my jaw, as I note the clouds that have gathered in his eyes.
I don’t think he’ll hurt me. It might be stupid to trust him, but really... if he’d wanted to, he’s had plenty of chances already. You know, like when I was unconscious.
Still, right now he seems harder, wilder than the man who just kissed me senseless. And I don’t know him well enough to know what that means for me.
“You said I could have until morning.” I hate that my voice is breathy, aroused. But damn it, I’ve never had the full attention of a man like him, never felt so... wanted.
“Things have changed.” He stops just a bit less than an arms’ width away from me... just inside my personal space. When he reaches out to toy with a piece of my hair, I can’t stop the shiver that runs through me.
I have no business wanting this man. I’m not stupid, it would be like a lamb and a lion. And I have no desire to be anyone’s dinner.
“We both know what you’re going to say, anyway.” His voice is smug, and I pause, my lust rapidly cooling off in the face that tone. “You need the money.”
Cocking his head, he studies me, his gaze lingering on the flush that still stains my cheeks. “Or maybe you just want the money. Maybe it’s something else that you really want.”
Jackass. The word is on the tip of my tongue. Matteo is the most infuriating man I’ve ever met, and my palm itches to slap him one right across the face. Or maybe to knee him in the nutsack.
And yet... that’s what he would expect me to do. I can see it on his face—to play the part of the reluctant female, or maybe to go in the other direction, to swoon and fall right into his arms.
For reasons I don’t quite understand, I don’t want to be like all the other women, so I tamp my anger down, and try to think rationally.
“You need me.” My voice is quiet, but the words seem to stop him in his tracks. Anger flickers over those gorgeous features, but again, it’s like I’m wearing special goggles that can see beneath.
There’s a thread of vulnerability there that is just barely detectable.
A sneer curves those lips that played over mine with such skill, and the expression is cruel.
“You still don’t understand who I am, do you?” He spreads his arms wide, and I eye him warily, trepidation skittering over my skin. “I don’t need anything or anyone.”
“You’re not making much of a case for yourself.” I don’t miss the hint of self-loathing that shows through his scorn. “I won’t give you a decision until morning.”
“Didn’t you hear me?” He laughs, mockery a knife’s edge in the sound. “There are thousands of women all over the world who would jump at the chance to be my wife. Take the offer, Riley, before I change my mind.”
That glint in his eyes makes my heart pound against my ribcage. I’m still certain that he won’t hurt me, but at the same time, I don’t like him very much in that moment.
No, I don’t like him... but I still want him. Cause I’m crazy like that.
“I’m sure there are other women,” I say, keeping my voice as calm as I can make it, even though that storm in Matteo’s eyes makes my own pulse accelerate. “But for some reason you want me. And I will give you my answer in the morning.”