Home > The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire #1)(13)

The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire #1)(13)
Author: Jennifer Probst

“I will accompany you back to the dining room for a cordial and you will tell me all about yourself.”

She accepted his arm and allowed herself to be led out of the library. “You know, Michael, I think I have the perfect woman for you. She’s a close friend of mine. And she may be your match.”

“You underestimate yourself, signora.” He gave a naughty wink. “I am still grieving your loss.”

She laughed as they entered the dining room, then looked up in surprise when her husband stepped in front of them. He towered over her with an intimidating air. She opened her mouth to speak, but he reached out and pulled her into his embrace. A moment passed before she was able to form the words. “Hello, darling. I was chatting with Signore Conte. I don’t think you two have formally met yet?”

The men sized each other up like they would just before a c*ck fight. Nick was the first to surrender. Probably for good business reasons and not anything to do with testosterone.

Nick offered his hand. “Michael, how are you? I see you’ve met my wife.”

Michael shook his hand and Alexa studied her husband’s expression with sheer puzzlement. Was she crazy, or did he not want her to engage Michael Conte with her sparkling conversation? Hadn’t he hinted he wanted inside information if at all possible? Now he just looked plain irritated, as if she had betrayed him.

The clean scent of soap and lemon rose from his skin. His fingers splayed around her waist and rested on the curve of her tummy. She fought back a shudder when she imagined his hand coasting just a few inches downward. How would it feel to have his fingers deep inside her, taking her to places she ached to go, but was too afraid to visit?

She re-focused on their conversation.

“Congratulations, Nicholas. Alexa tells me you are newlyweds. How difficult it must be to drag yourself to a business function, no?”

“Absolutely.” His head lowered. Her breath hitched as his lips grazed her lobe, and his nose nuzzled her ear. Her n**ples grew hard and tingly. She prayed her padded bra hid the evidence of her body’s betrayal.

Michael watched the gesture with barely hidden amusement. “It seems Richard thinks you are the perfect man for the job. Perhaps we can set up a meeting to go over your ideas.”

“Thank you. I’ll call your secretary and arrange an appointment.” She caught the clear-cut simplicity in his tone, and knew Michael noticed. Nick didn’t play certain business games, namely being too arrogant to pick up the phone himself to call for an appointment.

“Very good.” Michael took her hand and placed a kiss on her palm. “It was lovely to meet you, Alexandria.” His Italian accent caressed her name. “I’m having a dinner party for a few close friends two weeks from tonight. Would you join me?”

She noted he directed his invitation to her so she turned to her husband. “Darling? Are we free?”

This time, his movement wasn’t subtle. He took a step behind her and wrapped both hands around her waist, drawing her back against him. Her butt pressed against his groin. Iron thighs trapped hers. He rested both hands directly under her br**sts and spoke. “We’d love to come.”

“Wonderful. I look forward to seeing you. Eight o’clock.” He nodded to Nick and directed a smile toward her. “Have a good evening.”

Within minutes of Michael leaving, Nick released her. The sudden loss of his body heat caused a chill to run down her spine. His face lost the look of a lover and turned impersonal. “Let’s go.”

Without another word, he strode toward the door, getting the coats from his hostess and saying his good-byes. She spoke to the few friends she had made and followed her husband to the car.

The lack of conversation continued during the drive home. Sick of the silent game, Alexa made the first move. “Did you have a good time?”

He grunted.

Alexa took that as a yes. “The food was really good, huh? And I was surprised at how nice some of the women were. I was invited to an art opening for Millie Dryer. Isn’t that great?”

He snorted.

“How did business go? Were you successful tonight?”

He made another weird noise. “Not as successful as you, I guess.”

Anger surged through her blood. Her voice strained with tension. “Excuse me?”

“Never mind.”

Her fists clenched. The chill left her body and twisted to a fiery heat. “You’re a hypocrite and a jerk. You asked me to seek Michael out and bring you back information. Do you think I’m stupid, Nick? You used me, but now you’re pissed off. I did everything you wanted. Consider your favor completed.”

“I only suggested you may be able to pick up something to help me with my business. I asked you to soften him up, not give him a hard on that’ll last for days.”

He swung the car into the drive with a squeal of tires and cut the engine.

She sucked in her breath. “Screw you, Nick Ryan! He treated me with courtesy and never crossed the line once he found out I was married. But you’re missing the big picture, Pretty Boy. Michael doesn’t let business interfere with pleasure. I could’ve stripped off all my clothes and begged him to give you the contract and he wouldn’t have budged. I can’t help you with this one—you’re on your own.”

She got out of the car and stalked toward the house.

He cursed and trotted at her heels. “Fine. Then we don’t have to go to his party. I’ll just set up a business meeting.”

She opened the door and tossed her head. “So, don’t go. But I am.”


“I’m going. I liked him and I think his party will be fun.”

He slammed the door, marched into the living room, and ripped off his tie. “You are my wife. You will not be going to any parties without me.”

She wiggled out of her coat and hung it in the closet. “I’m a business partner who follows the rules. We’re free to have our own lives as long as we don’t sleep with anyone. Correct?”

He closed the distance between them and glared down at her. “I’m concerned about my reputation. I don’t want him to get the wrong impression.”

She lifted her chin and deliberately taunted him. “I’ll follow the rules of our deal but I’m going to Michael’s party. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a man’s company. A man who is actually charming and funny and…warm.”

Her last word exploded in the air between them. She watched in fascination as the calm man she knew turned into someone different. His clear eyes turned hazy, his jaw clenched, his body locked. His hands lifted until they grasped her upper arms. He looked like he was ready to shake her, or do something else, something completely…irrational.

Her body lit up like an electrical current. Her lips parted to take in breath. And she waited.

“Do you need someone that bad, Alexa?” His mocking tone raked over her. He lowered his head so his mouth stopped inches from hers. With slow purpose, his hands moved from her arms and upward to circle around her neck. Linking his fingers around the sensitive flesh, his thumbs tipped her head up, so he clearly spotted the wildly beating pulse her dress didn’t hide. He watched her face while he continued the torture by tracing the line of her collarbone, the slope of her shoulders. Then moved lower. Both palms slid down her front and cupped her br**sts in his hands. Excitement danced over her nerve endings. Her muscles softened and grew weak. Her br**sts swelled and ached, rising to meet him. His thumbs grazed the tips, and a low groan rose from deep in her throat. He made a low murmur of satisfaction as he continued the stroking, teasing motions. She felt him harden, rise and press against the sensitive apex between her thighs. Liquid warmth rushed through her.

“Maybe I should give you what you need so badly.” He thrust his h*ps against hers to give her a taste, and she shook in response. His hands slipped under her dress, under her bra, and met warm, willing flesh. “Maybe if I took you now, you wouldn’t need to go running to Conte.” Her tummy plunged as those talented fingers plucked at her n**ples and stroked her, his motions gentle and tender even as his words stung.

She trembled before him, a bundling mass of emotion and sensation, but her mind stayed icy clear. The truth of his actions forced her to play out her hand to win. Letting him win this battle would weaken her. He was going to kiss her. Right here, right now. He’d give her so much pleasure she’d beg for more, and leave her pride and sanity shredded. He wanted to kiss her for one reason—his power and manhood had been threatened, and he wanted it back. He didn’t want her. The wild call of mating and male dominance beckoned him, and she was stuck in his path.

So, Alexa gathered up the scattered threads of her control and played her trump card.

She moved even closer and let her lips rest a bare inch from his. His breath rushed over her mouth.

“No, thank you,” she whispered. She pulled his hands off of her. “I prefer we stick to business. Good night.”

She turned her back on him and disappeared up the stairs.

Nick’s hands hung at his sides, empty. For one moment, he’d been filled with her: her curves, her scent, her heat. Now he stood in the middle of the room, alone, just like he had on their wedding night. A married man with a hard-on and no relief in sight. Amazed at his ridiculous predicament, he tried to go over the events of the evening and see where he’d gone wrong.

The moment he caught her with Conte, a slow, steaming anger had risen up within him. The heat started at his feet, traveled to his stomach, his chest, and finally settled like a hot band around his head. If he was a horse, he would have snorted out smoke and stamped his hooves. If he was a wolf, he would have howled at the moon.

Her hand had rested on the count’s arm. He must’ve been quite amusing, because she threw her head back and laughed, her cheeks flushed and rosy. Her full lips had gleamed under the chandelier light. They’d acted like they were long-time friends instead of people who had just met.

But the worst was when she smiled at him.

It was a dazzling, bewitching, come-hither smile that told the man on the receiving end he was everything she was looking for, everything she wanted. A smile that gave a man nasty dreams at night and haunted his waking hours. Nick had never seen that smile directed at him and something crazy exploded inside him.

His plan had misfired. He’d expected her to be mildly entertaining to the count and gain a few tidbits of knowledge to help close the deal. Not actually enjoy the man so openly.

Nick cursed and picked up his tie, ready to go to bed. As he climbed the stairs, he thought about what Alexa had said. If Conte did separate business and pleasure, he’d played the scene all wrong. Maybe when he requested a business meeting he’d concentrate on the rational logistics of the building rather than paint an emotional landscape for the sale. Maybe Conte was only passionate when it came to women. Maybe he wanted a cool-headed executive to head the architectural team.

Nick stopped at her door. The light was off. He paused for a moment and listened for her breathing. He wondered what she wore to bed. Images of scanty black lace wreaked havoc with his mind, but even the thought of her in flannel pants and a cropped T-shirt did things to him no other woman had ever accomplished. Was she lying awake in bed, dreaming of Conte? Or was she thinking about their last kiss and wanting more?

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