Prisoner of Passion

By: Lynne Graham

The Playboy's Seduction


by


Lucy Monroe





Chapter One





Bethany rushed back toward the quaint but expensive café where she'd eaten lunch, hope, frustration and worry playing an out-of-sync symphony along her nerve endings.

She'd been in Rome three days. Beautiful, warm days during which she'd spent more time getting lost than sight seeing and not one of which had taken her a single step closer to her goal. The plan to come to Italy, meet a sexy man, have a week long fling and go home with the certainty she was not the passionless prude her ex-husband had accused her of being, had been crazy from the start. Her mother hadn't agreed of course, having come up with the plan to begin with. She'd also given Bethany the all-expenses paid trip to Rome along with a boatload of advice on improving her image and a strong recommendation to have a no-strings affair.

Coming from the rather conservative, shy woman who had spent thirty years married to the same man, the suggestion would have been hilarious if it hadn't been so shocking.

Not wanting to hurt her mom's feelings, Bethany had taken the self-improvement advice. She'd spent a hundred dollars having her mousy brown hair shaped and high-lighted, another thirty on a "Belly Dancing in a Box" kit, and several nights using the castanets and tips included to try to get in touch with her more sensuous side. She wasn't sure how much good it had done, but she now knew how to roll her hips with the best of them. She'd also had her very first pedicure so her toenails looked good in sandals.

None of which appeared to have done a bit of good in making Bethany appear any less boring to the opposite sex than her ex had accused her of being.

Shoving open the door to the small café, she propelled herself inside and ran smack into a wall. She didn't remember there being a wall opposite the entrance when she'd been here earlier.

Dazed, she contemplated that oddity as the wall shifted and two warm hands came down on her shoulders. "Scusi. Siete guisti?" She lifted her head, and met dark brown eyes in a face angels would envy. She'd never met anyone this gorgeous in her life. Not even her ex, Kurt, was a patch on this guy. He'd been pretty boy handsome, but this Italian Adonis was all masculine maturity. Not that he looked old, quite the opposite. He couldn't be more than thirty, but there was a wealth of sophisticated knowledge in his gaze she doubted she would have when she was ninety.

"I'm sorry. I mean, perdonilo prego," she said, repeating one of the phrases she'd learned from the set of Italian tapes her mother had insisted she listen to on the plane ride over.

"You are English?" The sexy voice reached a place inside that hadn't been touched in two years of marital intimacy and it was all she could do not to shiver.

"American."

His hands squeezed her shoulders, but he did not push her away and she made no effort to move back.

"You have no need to apologize."

"I wasn't looking where I was going."

"For this, I am grateful." He smiled, the implication of his words and look of male appreciation in his eyes unmistakable.

An invisible vacuum sucked all the air from her immediate surroundings, leaving her light headed and incapable of response to his flirtatious comment.

"You are in a hurry?" he asked.

"I am?"

His smile grew, sending her heart rate into the stratosphere. "You came through the door very quickly."

"Oh, yes. I am, in a hurry that is… I forgot my purse here earlier and didn't realize it until I was at the subway station wanting to buy a ticket," she babbled.

His expression turned grave. "This is not good."

"No." But at the moment she couldn't quite remember why.

Someone said something behind him and he turned, his hands dropping from her shoulders. He apologized for blocking the exit and then slipped an arm around her waist as naturally as if they'd known each other for years, and used it to guide her away from the door. A couple walked past them. The woman, a glamorous brunette who resembled a young Sophia Loren, gave Bethany a look of speculation tinged with envy as she passed by. Considering the fact she was with a pretty fine specimen herself, the envy surprised Bethany.

But she didn't dwell on the strange look long. She couldn't, not with his hand still attached to her waist. Sparks of excitement shot from where his fingers rested against her ribcage to the rest of her body in an electric reaction she'd never experienced before. She'd read about instant sexual attraction, but she'd never felt it and nothing she'd come across in books came close to conveying the sensations zinging along her nerve endings right now. She could barely breathe and it was a safe bet her brain wasn't functioning properly.

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