Damaso Claims His Heir

By: Annie West

CHAPTER ONE

DAMASO SAW HER and his breath snagged in his lungs.

He who’d had women dancing to his tune well before he made his first million.

How long since one had quickened his pulse? He’d known divas and duchesses, models and Madonnas. In the early days there’d been tourists by the armful, and one memorable tango dancer whose sinuous body and blatant sexuality had made his teenage self burn with need. None had affected him the way she did—without effort.

For the first time she was alone, not laughing with her coterie of men. He was surprised to see her crouched, photographing flowers on the rainforest floor. She was so engrossed, she didn’t notice him.

That was new for Damaso. He’d grown used to being watched and avidly sought after.

It pricked him that she was oblivious to him while he was hyper-aware of her. It infuriated him that his eyes strayed to her time and again, yet she had done no more than gift him with the dazzling smile she awarded so indiscriminately.

Damaso moved closer, intrigued. Was she really unaware or was she trying to pique his curiosity? Did she know he preferred to be the hunter, not the prey?

Beautiful blondes were commonplace in his world. Yet from the first day, watching her radiant face as she’d emerged drenched but undaunted from white-water rafting, Damaso had felt something new. A spark of connection.

Was it her unbounded energy? The devilment in her eyes as she risked her pretty neck again and again? Or that sexy gurgle of laughter that clutched at his vitals? Perhaps it was the sheer courage of a woman that didn’t baulk at any challenge on a trek designed to spark the jaded interest of the world’s ultra-wealthy.

‘Marisa. There you are. I looked for you everywhere.’ Young Saltram blundered out of the undergrowth to stop beside her. A computer geek who looked about eighteen, yet was worth upwards of seven figures annually, he was like an over-grown puppy salivating over a bone.

Damaso’s jaw tightened as Saltram ate her up with his eyes—his gaze lingering on the delectable peach ripeness of her backside as she squatted with her camera.

Damaso stirred, but stopped as she turned her head. From this angle he saw what Saltram couldn’t: her deep breath, as if she’d mustered her patience before turning.

‘Bradley! I haven’t seen you for hours.’ She gave the newcomer a blinding smile that seemed to stun him.

That didn’t stop him reaching out to help her rise, though it was clear she didn’t need assistance. Damaso had never seen a woman so agile or graceful.

Saltram closed his hand around her elbow and she smiled coquettishly up at the youth.

Amazingly, Damaso felt something stark scour his belly. His fingers twitched as he resisted the urge to march across and yank the boy away.

She was laughing, flirting now, not at all perturbed that Saltram was breathing down her cleavage.

She wore shorts and hiking boots and her toned legs drew Damaso’s gaze like a banquet set before a beggar. He swallowed, tasting his own hunger and the sharp, pungent tang of green apples.

Scowling, he recognised it was her scent filling his nostrils. How could that be? Standing in the shadows, he was too far away to inhale her perfume.

She turned and let Saltram guide her down the track, her long ponytail swaying across her narrow back. For a week Damaso had wanted to stroke that shining fall of gold and discover if it was as soft as it looked.

Yet he’d kept his distance, tired of dealing with fractious women who wanted more than he was prepared to give.

But she wouldn’t make demands, the voice of temptation whispered. Except in bed.

For Princess Marisa of Bengaria had a reputation with a capital R. Pampered from birth, living carelessly off inherited riches, she was a party girl extraordinaire. The tabloids branded her wilful, reckless and as far from a demure, virginal princess as it was possible to get.

Damaso had told himself he was sick of high-maintenance women. Yet a week in her vicinity had given him a new perspective. She might be feckless but she wasn’t needy.

She’d flirted with every man on the trek. Except him. Heat drilled through his belly as the significance of that hit.

She was exactly what he needed. He had no interest in virgins. A little wildness would add spice to a short vacation liaison.

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