That wasn’t going to happen. As soon as she had her passport, she was heading back to Sorrento. But she would need watercolors to sell when she got there.
The sun was bright and punishing, the light glorious off the water as the tranquil turquoise sea lapped at the rugged coastline. Gnarled lemon trees shaded the path through the gardens, their pungent scent joined by the aroma of wild thyme and oregano. Steps etched out of the limestone led down to the villa’s private cove, a sandy beach sheltered by shrubs and the glorious yellow flowers of the local broom plants.
Katie tried to clear her mind of all thoughts of Jared Caine, but even the stunning scenery failed to take away that deep ache which he had awakened the night before with a simple kiss.
In the distance, fishing boats and small tourist crafts sailed past the headland. She did detailed sketches then switched to watercolor, the small vignettes the perfect size for the gallery in Florence where she had sold her previous work.
But every time she tried to lose herself in her art the same questions kept torturing her.
What had Caine been dreaming about to make him cry out like that? And why couldn’t she control her hunger for him?
The memory of Jared’s body haunted her. The slopes and sinews of his muscular chest, as strong and indomitable as the cliff face...the dark intensity in his pure blue eyes as vivid as the translucent color of the sea.
The charcoal broke off in her fingers. And she swore under her breath, the now familiar heat flushing through her as she studied the drawing she’d sketched on autopilot.
She saw Jared Caine’s face, his body, that glorious erection, so thick and heavy just for her, barely disguised by the cotton of his boxers. The desire to see him naked, to feel that warm, firm flesh in her hands, to lick every glorious inch of him like a drug, turned her body into a raw nerve.
She crumpled the sketch and stuffed it into her pack. Then scrubbed her hands over her sweat-slicked skin.
Was this what her mother had felt? Was this why she’d run away from Katie and Megan to join one of her lovers? Was this the giddy thrill which had been driving her when she’d put her life at risk that night on Capri and taken a high, fast drive with another of her many conquests after making love in the moonlight?
No wonder Alexis Whittaker had forgotten about all her responsibilities—her daughters, her husband, even her own safety.
Shouldering the heavy mahogany box of paints, brushes and sketching pencils, Katie made her way back up the cliff, more tired and out of sorts now than when she had arrived. Her whole body felt like a raw nerve begging for something it shouldn’t want.
After the long, hot walk up the limestone steps, she trekked through the sheltered gardens, the trellises of flowering vines letting off a heady perfume as the sun began to sink toward the horizon.
The sound of slashing in the pool cut through her frantic thoughts and her pulse jumped as she spotted Jared cutting through the water in powerful strokes, the setting sun gleaming on his dark head.
Instead of rushing back to her room, to hide out for another night, she toed off her sandals and stood transfixed in the shadow of an olive tree—unable to tear her gaze away from him. Just like the night before.
As he levered himself out of the water, moisture flowed over the sculpted muscles of his chest, flattening the smattering of hair. He reached for a towel and a small gasp escaped from her lips.
His head turned, and her heart charged into her throat. He watched her as he rubbed the towel over his chest in absent-minded strokes.
She stood trapped as the terrifying blast of heat consumed her.
Dumping the wet towel on a lounger, Jared stood with his legs akimbo, the stance deceptively casual. “What are you doing, Katherine?”
The low words felt like a caress on her too-sensitive skin, the burn of desire overwhelming her. A gust of wind made the short summer dress she wore press against her thighs.
“Watching you,” she admitted.
“I thought I told you to stay out of my way?” His voice rasped across her skin like sandpaper.
“I’ve never been very good at taking orders,” she said, forcing a defiance into her voice she didn’t feel.
She wanted him, she wanted this, and she couldn’t deny it any longer.
As scared as she was of taking this next step, she was more scared of having him never look at her again the way he was looking at her now. As if he knew exactly what she wanted, what she needed. And knew how to give it to her.
One dark brow rose at the provocative statement, and she felt the surge of confidence. If there was one thing she’d always been good at, it was bluffing. Pretending not to care when she did care. Pretending not to be hurt when she was. Pretending to know what she was doing when she didn’t have a clue.
Surely this was one time that being her mother’s daughter ought to work to her benefit?
He pressed his hand to his jaw and rubbed the rigid muscles through the shadow of stubble, as if considering his situation. Their situation. But the fierce hunger in his eyes was unmistakable.
“If we do this thing, you need to know it means nothing to me,” he said. “I don’t do emotional attachments.”