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IT WASNT exactly the same, of course. Lara supposed it must have been refurbished over the years, because once she was through the foyer, she saw that the colours seemed different in the glow of the lamps, warmer and more vibrant. In fact, the windows were not in the position she remembered either, so perhaps it wasnt the same suite. But the feeling was the same.

And the bed. That low, wide, sleek bed. The covers had been turned down, the pillows fluffed up. So enticing. So-sexual.

Her heart pounded with a nervy, excited rhythm.

Alessandro slipped off his jacket, sending her an assessing glance. Would you like anything? Some wine?

Lara shook her head. No. No, thanks. Could we dim the lights a bit, do you think?

His brows twitched but he barely hesitated. Of course.

In fact the room was already quite softly lit, but he switched off all the lamps, except for one by the bed. Then he dragged the counterpane from the bed and tossed it onto a chair, strolled across and parted the curtains a little, then walked back to her, pulling off his tie and loosening his collar.

Her pulse thundered in her ears. He stood before her, so straight and tall and darkly gorgeous, his eyes all at once so serious and compelling, the shadows in her heart were swamped by emotion. She could feel the electric tension in him, the fierce current that connected him to her at a deep, primitive level.

It all felt so familiar. How many times had she been at this point with him before? And apart from that first unforgettable time, what had followed from this moment had always flowed as naturally and as free of inhibition as the rhythm of life. But it had all been less complicated then. Though tonightUndeniably, the same dark, smouldering current was there, pulling her to him as powerfully as the sun.

His dark eyes glowed beneath lids that were heavy and slumberous. He slid his thumb across her cheekbone as if she were some exotic beauty. I have longed to be with you again.

He spoke with such intensity, the words wrapped in his beautiful, deep accent, she felt her insides curl up as though licked by fire.

Have you? she breathed. Me too. Her voice sounded husky with the intense emotion overflowing in her heart. Ive never, never stopped thinking of you.

He reached for the top button on her coat, his quick supple fingers sliding from one to the next, and she felt cooler air flood in as the coat fell to the floor.

How crazy shed been, how ridiculous to have felt nervous. Once she was trapped in his scorching hot gaze, the desire already smouldering in her blood blew through her like a desert wind, and another Lara, the wild, primitive Lara, took over.

The moment their lips touched, the fire in her sprang to blazing life. His kiss was hot and sexual, and she responded with all she had, aroused by the sensual delights of lip and tongue in sexy collision, relishing his urgent hands curving around her breasts, moulding the undulations of waist and hip, caressing her inflamed nipples.

Starved of sensation for so long, her skin burned for contact. She pressed herself to his hard angular frame, purring at the graze of his long, muscled thighs against hers, while the secret tissues between her legs flamed. Her greedy hands became possessed of their own convulsive life, lusting to enjoy him to the max, to clutch at his black silky hair, smooth the nape of his strong neck, knead his powerful shoulders.

As one kiss dissolved to the next, each deeper and more searching than the last, everything about him-his feel and taste, his strong, sure touch-all felt so achingly familiar, so beloved, and so much hers.

In the past hed been gentle and considerate, his fierce male dominance tempered by tenderness. Tonight, though gentle enough, he was uncompromising, hard and firm and confident, and there was no holding back her instinctive response. With every part of her so hot and aroused, an explosive cocktail of excitement and emotion coursing through her veins, this could be no polite engagement. The heavy beat of passion seethed in her blood and flamed for immediate assuagement.

As though in tune with her urgency Alessandro broke the kiss to trail hot, searing kisses down her neck, slipping his hand under her hair to seek the zip on her dress. She raised her hands in an attempt to take charge of that herself, but he caught them and held them still.

Ill do this, he bit out, his deep voice a husky growl.

Then he tugged down the zip and ruthlessly pulled the dress to her waist himself, the flame in his eyes flaring as her breasts were revealed, swelling from the lacy black bra.

He bent his head to scorch them with his lips, the faint roughness of his jaw on her tender skin sending wild quivers of pleasure radiating through her heated flesh.

Oh, she gasped, her knees liquefying. Oh.

Then through the black lace of her bra, his mouth closed over one of her nipples. With a provocative playfulness he teased each aching peak, until her lust roared through her like a forest blaze and she yearned for her skin to be exposed.

Quickly, she gasped.

Unable to wait for the niceties of gently escalating foreplay, she felt galvanised by a breathless haste to be naked. She dragged down her dress and stepped out of it, unfastened her bra and whipped down her pants, kicking them aside to stand there nude except for her stay-up stockings.

With a wild animal growl Alessandro seized her breasts in his hands and bent his head to kiss them. She moaned, then, as if riding the same desperate whirlwind as she, he dragged his shirt loose and began tearing at the buttons, his lustful gaze mesmerised by the silky blonde triangle at the juncture of her thighs. She tried to help him, her clumsy fingers colliding with his in their haste.

His shirt fell open, revealing his wide, bronzed chest, adorned by sexy whorls of black hair that arrowed down beneath his belt.

For an instant, she paused, the heavy erotic beat in her blood tinged with emotion at the sight of his raw, remembered beauty. Then with a small involuntary cry she bent to kiss his olive satin skin, as scorchingly hot as her own.

With an insatiable thirst to reclaim what was hers, she caressed the strongly defined muscles of his chest with sensual hands and lips, traced the ridges of his ribs, relished the hard-packed muscle of his abdomen.

She reached for his belt buckle at the same time as he, her urgency intermingled with responding to his wild kisses and increasingly fierce caresses, until their frenzied hands released the fastenings and he dragged off the rest of his clothes.

He stood before her, naked, and she felt an involuntary moistening between her thighs as the majestic length and thickness of his proud erection set her juices flowing in tingling expectation. But hardly giving her a moment to take in the full impact of his sleek, raw beauty, the power and heart-stopping grace of his long limbs, Alessandro pushed her onto the bed and threw himself down beside her.

She lay there, burning for the relief of his lean angular body in friction with hers, to feel his body hair brushing her breasts and legs, but first he leaned up on his elbow and reached for a package on the bedside table.

She sat up, and with avid, trembling hands helped him to slide on the protective sheath, with a fervent mental prayer that this one she could trust.

Ive dreamed of you, he said, gazing down at her nudity, dark eyes ablaze, his voice hoarse and rough with passion. Like this. Hot and wild.

The breath caught in her lungs.

She gazed up into his fierce, passionate face, her heart nearly spilling over with the most intense and poignant love and her need to express it, but she held herself back from framing the words, and reached up to kiss him instead.

He kissed her down onto the pillow, then parted her thighs, his smouldering gaze on her patch of blonde curls, and moved over her, supporting himself on his powerful arms.

She lay trembling beneath him in anticipation, ablaze to the feel of his masculine hair grazing her breasts and legs, tingling to feel the thrust of his hard length filling her.

Wrap your legs around me, he commanded, a flame in his black eyes.

Complying, she felt his hard rod tantalise the yearning portals of her moist sex, and melted to the hot, liquid rush deep in her womb. Then, watching her face with his aroused, heavy-lidded gaze, he plunged into her, his eyes closing an instant as if to savour the exquisite pleasure as he filled her with his hot, hard flesh.

Then he rocked her, slowly, gently at first, then harder, faster, with deep, sensual thrusts that made her breath come in gasping little cries. And, oh, the pleasure. She thrilled to the sexy rhythm, her passion fuelled by his athletic stroking of the sensitive, inflamed walls inside her. His rock-hard shaft glided deeper and deeper, faster and harder, in an escalating jungle beat of pure, primitive masculine possession.

Almost at once her excitement made the dizzy, steep reckless climb to the heights of ecstasy, and exploded in a blissful release of spasmodic waves that radiated pleasure throughout her entire body.

Alessandro reached his own climax shortly after, then withdrew from her body, and rolled back onto the pillows. After a few silent, heart-thundering minutes, he stood up and walked into the bathroom. She heard the rush of water, taps flowing, then he returned, glancing down at her with his warm shimmering gaze before joining her and lying on his back, his eyes closed.

Lara lay there as her tumultuous heart rate calmed, in the sweet, exhausted limbo between rapture and afterglow. After a moment Alessandro turned on his side, and leaned up on one elbow to gaze down at her, tracing the line of her body with one finger. Thats one of the things Ive always loved about you. Your ability to respond to the moment.

Smiling, she turned to her lover, just reaching up to caress his lean, shadow-rough jaw, when her gaze was trapped by the flash of the digital display of a clock radio on the bedside table.

10:40. Arghhh. Her brain snapped out of its pleasant miasma.

Oh, she gasped. Oh, my God, look at the time. Im late. Ill be late.

She leaped from the bed, scrabbled on the floor for her pants and pulled them on, then threw on her dress, diving for her coat before shed even done up the zip. She pounced on her bra, waved it helplessly for a second, then shrugged the coat on, stuffing the bra into a pocket while she searched for her shoes.

A deep growl intruded on her exertions. Alessandro was sitting up in the bed, his lean, austere face a mask of incredulity.

I told you, I have to go. I cant stay, sorry. She cast about for her purse.

Per carit'a. You cant go now. What about? His voice was a deep howl of outrage. We have hardly begun. That was too-too fast. We need now to take it slowly. To let the passion build. To prolong our pleasure until we are both at the-

I know. But thats all I have time for. Honestly. She seized on her purse and turned for the door. Thank you, darling, she said softly, blowing him a kiss. It wassplendid.

Now, stop right there. He sprang off the bed, and strode towards her, his tall, bronzed, hair-roughened body still glistening with a faint sheen of sweat after their athletic coupling. Truly, it tore her heart to leave him. What can possibly be more urgent?

She evaded his outstretched hands and backed away. Mums waiting for me. I told you. I cant let her down. I must get home for Vivi.

He closed his eyes and winced. Oh, yes, yes, of course. Ill drive you, he asserted, swooping on his underwear.

There isnt time, she said hurriedly, dashing for the door before he could touch her, her words falling over each other in her haste. Honestly. Ill catch a taxi downstairs. Bye.

The door closed behind her. Cursing with artistic versatility, Alessandro dragged on his trousers, snatched a sweater from a drawer, and, still stumbling into his shoes, hopped to the phone and dialled the concierge.

Three interminable lift minutes later, he sprinted across the lobby and caught her standing outside the entrance, just as his hired BMW swept into the driveway.

No need to worry, tesoro, he said, smoothly taking her arm and hustling her to the car. Im here now.

CHAPTER TEN | At The Boss`s Beck And Call | CHAPTER TWELVE