The Sicilian's Marriage Arrangement(9)

By: Lucy Monroe


David shook his head. “We’re not scheduled to go back to the hotel for another twenty minutes.”

“Then why were you rushing me?” she demanded with some exasperation.

His even white teeth slashed in an engaging grin. “I wanted your attention.”

She eyed the blond Texan giant askance. In some ways he reminded her of a little boy, mostly kind but with the self-centeredness of youth. “Why?”

“I thought we could go for a walk.” He put his hand out for her to take, clearly assuming her acquiescence to his plan.

After only a slight hesitation, she took it and let him lead her away from the others. A walk was a good idea. It was their last day in Athens and she wanted this final opportunity to soak in the ambience of the Parthenon.

David’s grip on her hand was a little tight and she wiggled her fingers until he relaxed his. She was unused to physical affection in any sense and it had taken her a while to grow accustomed to David’s casual touching. In some ways, she still wasn’t. It helped knowing that he wasn’t being overly familiar, just a typical Texas male—right down to his calling her honey as often as he used her name.

She stopped and stared in awe at a particularly entrancing view of the ancient structure. “It’s so amazing.”

David smiled down at her. “Seeing it through your eyes is more fun than experiencing it myself. You’re a sweet little thing, Hope.”

She laughed. “What does that make you, a sweet big thing?”

“Men aren’t sweet. Didn’t your daddy teach you anything?”

She shrugged, not wanting to admit she couldn’t even remember her father. She only knew what he looked like because of the pictures of her parents’ wedding her grandfather had on display in the drawing room. The framed photos showed two smiling people whom she had had trouble identifying with as her own flesh and blood.

“I stand corrected,” she said. “I won’t call you sweet ever again, but am I allowed to think it?”

The easy banter continued and they were both laughing when they returned to the tour bus fifteen minutes later, their clasped hands swinging between them.

“Hope!”

She looked away from David at the sound of her name being called. The tour operator was standing near the open door of the bus. She waved at Hope to come over. A tall man in a business suit stood beside her, dwarfing her with his huge frame. The growing darkness made it difficult to discern his features and Hope could not at first identify him. However, when he moved, she had a moment of blindingly sure recognition.

No one moved like Luciano di Valerio except the man himself. He had always reminded her of a jaguar she’d once seen in a nature special when she was an adolescent, all sleek, dark predatory male.

David stopped when they were still several yards from the bus, pulling her to a halt beside him. “Is that someone you know?”

Surprised by the aggressive tone in her friend’s voice, she said, “Yes. He’s a business associate of my grandfather’s.”

“He looks more like a don in the Mafia to me.”

“Well, he is Sicilian,” she teased, “but he’s a tycoon, not a loan shark.”

“Is there a difference?” David asked.

She didn’t get a chance to reply because Luciano had started walking toward them the moment David stopped and he arrived at her side just as David finished speaking. Regardless of her wish to never see the man again, her eyes hungrily took in every detail of his face, the strong squarish jaw, the enigmatic expression in his dark brown eyes and the straight line of his sensual lips.

“I have come to take you to dinner,” he said without preamble or indeed even the semblance of having asked a question.

“But how in the world did you come to be here?” Bewilderment at seeing him in such a setting temporarily eclipsed her anger toward him.

“Your grandfather knew I would be in Athens. He asked me to check on you.”

“Oh.” Ridiculously deflated by the knowledge he was there under her grandfather’s aegis rather than his own, she didn’t immediately know what else to say.

David had no such reticence. “She’s fine.”

The comment reminding her of not only his presence, but her manners as well. “Luciano, this is David Holton. David, meet Luciano di Valerio.”

Neither man seemed inclined to acknowledge the introduction.

David eyed Luciano suspiciously while the tycoon’s gaze settled on their clasped hands with unconcealed displeasure. Then those dark eyes were fixed on her and the expression in them was not pleasant. “I see you have decided to go for option two after all.”