The Playboy of Argentina(6)

By: Bella Frances


She’d seen it all before, of course—most recently in the pages of various magazines and in online news. But watching it like this she felt a flame of anger burst inside her. Anger at herself for still being there! Still gawping. She was a respected businesswoman now. Not a stupid, infatuated little girl!

She turned and began a fast path out. She’d get a cab, get away, get her head straight.

Her flat-heeled sandals moved swiftly over the grass, her stride long in her cotton sundress. Molina Lario was getting less and less attractive by the moment. More of that? No, thanks. Esme would understand. She knew her feelings for the arrogant Rocco ran to pathological disgust—she just didn’t know why.

No one did.

The one thing she could thank him for, she supposed, was igniting that fire for her to get the hell out of County Meath. When she’d watched him swing his rucksack over his shoulder and walk away from her, down the singletrack farm lane, through the dawn light and rain dust, she’d realised he was heading back into a world wide open with choices and chances. She didn’t need to be tied to County Meath, to Ireland, to the narrow options of which her dad thought her capable.

She’d taken a cold hard look at herself. Skinny, flat chested, unattractive and unkempt. Her dressing table cluttered with riding trophies instead of make-up. And when she’d stopped wailing and sobbing into her pillow she’d plotted her escape.

And now here she was—out in the world.

And here she would stay—proving them all wrong.

Head down, she reached the gates.

Just as a figure in black stepped alongside her. Large, male, reeking of strength.

‘Señor Hermida asks that you join him.’

A rush … a thrill thrummed through her. For a moment she felt the excitement of flattery. Tempted.

But, no. That way disaster lay. She was headed in a whole different direction.

She didn’t even break her step.

‘Not today. Or any other day, thanks.’

She eyed the gate like a target board, upped her pace. Lost him.

Almost at the gate, she felt his presence again.

‘Miss Ryan, Señor Hermida will collect you later for the party. 10:00 p.m. At your hotel.’

She spun on her heel, ready to fire a vicious volley of words right back. But he was walking away, obscured by the hundreds of people crossing in front of her. As obscured as her own feelings at seeing the Hurricane.

So sure he’d mean nothing to her, she’d turned up as if it was all in a day’s work to bump into him. But skulking about in the crowds, sneaking among the horses when she could so easily have done things properly …? She should have asked Mark to set it up. That was what someone who truly wasn’t fazed would have done—brushed off what had happened between them and joined him for a drink and a chat for old times’ sake …

Instead of spontaneously combusting when he’d come up behind her.

He was dangerous. The last thing she needed.

Her career was her life. Not ponies. Or polo. Or dark, intense men who lit up her body and squeezed at her heart.

She emerged onto the pavement like a hostage set free. He didn’t know her hotel. And he didn’t know her. Collect her later? Arrogant fool. One overbearing father and two extremely alpha brothers did not make Frankie Ryan anyone’s pushover.

She would be swaddled in Do Not Disturbs and deep, deep sleep. He could just cross her off his list and move to the next name. There were bound to be hundreds.





CHAPTER TWO


‘So MANY GIRLS, so little time,’ Dante mouthed, and winked at him over the heads of the two dancers from Rio who had just wound themselves around him.

Well, that was him taken care of for the evening—or the next couple of hours at least.

Rocco had just peeled a sweet little blonde from hm. Normally his preferences did run to sweet little blondes, but tonight … He strode to the wide windows that ran the length of the Art Hotel penthouse—Dante’s go-to joint for post-match partying. Tonight he was well off his game.

He braced his hands on the glass and stared out across Palermo to the outskirts, where he knew her hotel was. One phone call and he’d found out everything he needed to know. One phone call that had confirmed she was in town long enough for him to scratch the itch that had started all those years ago.

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