A beep sounded outside Carol’s apartment before she got a chance to finish her first cup of coffee. Carol hated having to face the world without adequate caffeine intake! Her morning cuppa was…well, her shield against the big bad world.
Gah! Just what I wanted…to have to face today without my normal 12-20oz of liquid love! Cripes, I hope the shuttle driver the law firm sent will stop by somewhere I can get a to-go cup from. I really don’t want to have to pay airport prices for coffee!
When Carol stepped outside, juggling her luggage while trying to keep a hand free to lock up with she crashed into a black garbed wall of muscle. She felt her laptop bag start to slip off her shoulder, made a wild grab for it and nearly fell on her butt. A huge hand wrapped around her upper arm completely. Carol tilted her head back and then took a half step back to see the face of the man towering over her.
“Easy there, piccolina! You would be Miss Caruso, si?”
His voice rolled over her rich with a pronounced Italian accent. It had a dark rasp that sent chills racing down Carol’s spine despite the humid warmth of the morning. She was unable to repress the shiver the sound caused. His dark eyes seemed to burn into her, demanding an answer.
“I—I’m Carol Caruso, yes…are you the shuttle driver?”
Carol repressed the urge to smack herself on the forehead.
Stuttering like a social incompetent was so not the first impression I would choose to give a man as beautiful as this one.
A niggling thread of caution screamed in her head to run. The deeply hazel gaze locked with hers seemed to push that voice of reason into the far distance. Carol’s limbs felt heavy, weighted down by the mesmerizing combination of the sound of his deep baritone voice, the feel of his big hand slipping caressingly down the bare skin of her arm and the riveting look of intensity in his wild hazel eyes.
Strong white teeth flashed in a sudden smile, transforming his deeply tanned face from merely handsome to something Carol didn’t even have a word for. It hit her like a solid blow to her midsection. Her lips parted on a rapidly indrawn breath. Carol waited with her breath suspended for his answer.
“No, piccolina, I am not the shuttle driver. I am Alessandro Feliano. Mr. Jacobsen told you I would be meeting with you this morning, si? Ah, perdonami, ach, you say forgive me, yes? Sometimes the English, she slips away from me!”
His eyes were lit with some internal fire, the greens growing darker as he spoke and the gold flecks seeming to almost glow with light. The early morning sun shone brightly over his shoulder, dazzling Carol’s eyes further. She cudgeled her recalcitrant brain into formulating a sensible response.
“Oh! Yeah, ah, he did mention that I would be meeting with you. I—I have to leave for the airport though Mr. Feliano. I assumed we would be meeting there. Oh dear. I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to follow my shuttle there—”
He placed his forefinger against her mouth in a shushing motion. Before Carol could stop herself, her tongue had slipped out to touch the tip of that silencing digit. The light in his eyes flared bright, and he began to lean down toward her. Carol felt the skin at the back of her neck prickle as a frisson of excitement passed over her. She stumbled back another half step. Alessandro’s eyelids fell, screening his gaze. A shudder rippled through his tall, thickly muscled frame. When he opened his eyes fully again the calmer hazel of earlier had returned.
“Si, piccolina, I go to the airport with you. Mr. Jacobsen sends me to represent your interests and translate for you in Italia. You understand? I go with you.”
Carol struggled to make sense of what he’d said. The warm, faintly salty taste of his finger spilled from her mouth to fill her head, pushing out all logic and reason. His large hand descended slowly to rest at his side. Carol’s tongue swiped across her lips, seeking more of his flavor. Horribly revealing words fell out of her mouth the moment she let her lips part.
“You taste like salt and sin.”
Alessandro shuddered again. This time however, he stepped back away from Carol. The air immediately felt noticeably cooler. His smile this time seemed almost angry.
“Come piccolina, we must get to the airport.”
With that he stepped back again, sweeping his arm out in a strangely old-world gesture for her to precede him down the stairs. Carol stooped to pick up her suitcases.
“Leave them, cara. The driver is coming for them already.”
Carol blinked. This was the best fantasy she’d come up with yet. Alessandro was exactly the ideal she’d been striving to create in her head. Sheesh. The guy was actually better than any ideal she’d dreamed up. He looked like sex-on-a-stick and oozed Old World charm, smelled like positively edible man and tasted like sin and salt.“Oh. Well then, ah, oh yes…I’ll just go with you.”