The Sicilian's Marriage Arrangement(5)

By: Lucy Monroe

Going back downstairs at this moment in time would serve no purpose other than to further underscore the humiliating fact that she did not fit amidst her grandfather’s guests. She might have been born to his world, but she could never feel like she belonged in it. Perhaps because she had never felt like she belonged anywhere.

From the clock, her gaze shifted to the plaque hanging on the wall. It was a saying by Eleanor Roosevelt and it reminded her that she might not be able to help her shyness, but she did not have to be craven as well.

Luciano became aware of Hope instantly when she arrived once again in the periphery of his vision. She said and did nothing, but the sweet scent he associated with her reached out to surround him. He turned from the Scandinavian cover model who had approached him within seconds of Hope’s disappearance from their table.

“You’re back.”

Her gaze flicked to the model and back to him. “Yes.” She reached her hand out, a small white card between her delicate thumb and forefinger. “Here’s the contact information for the shelter.”

He took it and tucked it into the inner pocket of his formal dinner jacket. “Grazie.”

“You’re welcome.”

Suddenly noisemakers started blaring around them and a ten second count down began in the other room. The model joined in as did the other guests surrounding him and Hope. Hope did as well, but an expression he did not understand crossed her features. Why should it make her sad to ring in the New Year?

He could not look away from the almost tragic apprehension turning her lavender eyes so dark, they appeared black. The blonde put her hand on his arm and he realized that men and women were pairing off. Ah, the traditional kiss to bring in the New Year with luck. And in a split second of clarity he understood Hope’s sadness and that he had a choice. He could kiss the sexy, extremely world savvy woman to his left, or he could kiss Hope.

Her expression was carefully guarded, but he could tell that she expected him to kiss the model. She had grown accustomed to neglect and although she seemed more than willing to talk to him, she was terribly shy around others. She expected to kiss no one. And the expectation had put that sadness in her eyes. It was not right.

She was gentle and generous. What was the matter with the men of Boston that they overlooked this delicate but exotic bloom?

He shook off the blonde’s hold and stepped toward Hope. Her eyes grew wide and her mouth stopped moving in the countdown, freezing in a perfect little O. Placing his hands on both sides of her face, he tilted it up for his kiss. A cacophony of Ones sounded around him and then he lowered his mouth to hers. He would kiss her gently, nothing too involved.

He did not want to frighten her, but he owed her this small concession for having made her cry. Buying furniture for her women’s shelter would not cut it. That was money, but the insult had been personal and this was personal atonement.

His lips touched hers and she trembled. He gently tasted her with his tongue. She was sweet and her lips were soft. They were still parted and he decided to go a step further. He wanted to taste the warmth and wetness of her mouth. So he did.

And it was good, better than he would have thought possible.

Her tongue tentatively brushed against his and heat surged through his male flesh. He wanted more, so he took it, moving one hand to her back and pressing her into him. She went completely pliant against him, molding her body to his like molten metal over a cast figure. Using the hand on her back, he lifted her off the floor until her face was even with his own and he could kiss her as urgently as he wanted to do.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and moaned, kissing him back with a passion that more than matched his own.

The small noises emanating from her drove him on.

He deepened the kiss further, oblivious now to his surroundings.

He wanted to do more than kiss her. He wanted to strip her naked and taste every centimeter of her delectable little body. The library. He could take her back to the library.

His hand was actually moving to catch her knees so he could carry her off when a booming voice broke through the daze of his lascivious thoughts.

“With a kiss like that, you’re both bound to have more good luck than a Chinese dragon.”


LUCIANO’S head snapped up at the sound of Joshua Reynolds’ humor-filled voice and reality came back with a painful thud. Hope was still clinging to him, her expression dazed, but the rest of the room was very much aware. And what they were aware of was that he’d been caught kissing the host’s granddaughter like a horny teenager on his first date with an older woman.

He set Hope down with more speed than finesse, putting her away from him with a brusque movement.