A Tainted Beauty (Mills & Boon Modern)

ISBN 13: 9780263891003

A Tainted Beauty (Mills & Boon Modern)

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9780263891003: A Tainted Beauty (Mills & Boon Modern)

Merciless businessman Ciro D'Angelo knows an opportunity when he sees it - and Lily Scott's vulnerable sweetness and old-fashioned values are exactly what he needs in a wife. She's the complete opposite to the red-taloned gold-diggers who relentlessly pursue him.

But on their wedding night Ciro realises that Lily isn't quite the pure bride he expected. Does her virtuous facade hide a fortune-hunter as shameless as the rest? It seems their marriage is over before it's begun - yet once you're a D'Angelo wife there's no turning back...

"Sinopsis" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.

About the Author:

Sharon Kendrick started story-telling at the age of eleven and has never stopped. She likes to write fast-paced, feel-good romances with heroes who are so sexy they’ll make your toes curl! She lives in the beautiful city of Winchester – where she can see the cathedral from her window (when standing on tip-toe!). She has two children, Celia and Patrick and her passions include music, books, cooking and eating – and drifting into daydreams while working out new plots.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Someone was watching her.

The little hairs prickled on the back of Lily's neck and somehow she just knew. Lifting her head from her pastry-making, she narrowed her eyes against the brightness outside to see the powerful figure of a man standing at the far end of the garden.

He was as still as a statue. Only his thick black hair seemed to move—ruffled by the same faint breeze which was drifting in through the open kitchen door as she worked. Unconsciously framed by a tumbling bower of early summer roses, he looked like a dark and indelible blot on the golden landscape and Lily's heart gave a funny little kick as he began walking towards the house.

For a moment she wondered why she didn't feel more scared. Why she wasn't screaming the place down and grabbing the nearest phone to tell the police that some dark stranger was lurking in the grounds. Maybe because the sight of him was a distraction from the troubled thoughts which kept nagging away at the corners of her mind. Or maybe there was just something about this particular stranger which overrode all normal considerations. He looked as if he had every right to be there. As if the soft summer day had been waiting just for him.

With a guilty kind of pleasure she watched the powerful thrust of his thighs against fine grey trousers as he walked across the manicured perfection of the emerald lawn. The light breeze was rippling the white shirt across his chest and defining the hard torso which lay beneath. Poetry in motion, thought Lily longingly—and could have watched him all day.

He grew closer and she could see the unashamed sensuality of his face. Thick-lashed dark eyes, which seemed to gleam with dangerous brilliance. A chiselled jaw, shadowed with virile new growth. And a pair of lips which she immediately began imagining imprinting themselves on hers. The kick in her heart became a full-scale football match as he stopped at the open doorway and Lily felt almost dizzy. How long had it been since she'd looked at a man and felt an overpowering sense of desire? And how could she have forgotten just how potent it could be?

'Can I...help you?' she questioned and then, realising how passive she sounded, she glared at him. 'You scared the life out of me—creeping up on me like that!'

'I wasn't aware that I was creeping, he answered. His eyes met hers with a mocking look—as if he was perfectly aware that she had been drooling over him. 'But you look pretty capable of holding your own against any intruders.'

She realised that his gaze was now directed at her hand and that she was still holding her rolling pin, clutching onto it as if it were the latest thing in personal safety devices. Her tongue flicked out to moisten lips, which suddenly felt cracked and dry. 'I was just making pastry.'

'You don't say?' Ciro's amused glance took in the flour-covered table behind her: the fruit-filled pie-dish and sugar shaker. And suddenly his senses were alerted by more than her soft beauty. The rare smell of home-baking in the cluttered room made him think of a world he'd only ever glimpsed. A world of warmth and cosy domesticity—and he felt an unexpected twist of his heart. But with habitual ruthlessness, he batted away his uncomfortable thoughts and looked at the pastry-maker instead.

She was the most old-fashioned woman he'd ever seen. The kind of female he didn't think existed any more—at least, not outside reruns of old TV shows. A tantalising composition of curves and beguiling shadows, she was wearing an apron—and he couldn't remember the last time he'd seen a woman wearing one of those. Not unless you counted the French maid outfit which his last-but-one lover used to wear in the bedroom, when she suspected he was tiring of her—which he was. That had been chosen to highlight the wearer's nakedness, but this was a much more innocent variation. A deliberately retro version in frilly cotton, it was tied tightly enough to emphasise the tiniest waist he'd ever seen.

Some people thought it was rude to stare—but when a man was confronted by a beautiful woman, wasn't it an insult not to? His eyes drifted to her thick hair, which was the colour of ripened corn and piled high on her head with a haphazard collection of clips. Her skin was flushed and he was amazed that a neck that slender could possibly support the weight of all that hair. He wondered if she realised what a perfect picture of domesticity she made. And he wondered what it said about him that he should find such an image so unexpectedly sexy.

'So aren't you going to invite me in?' he drawled.

The egotistical certainty of his question made Lily spring into action. Why was she standing there like some sort of muppet while he ran those admittedly gorgeous eyes over her as if she'd been some sort of car he was considering buying? Wasn't that why men thought they could get away with arrogant behaviour, because women like her let them? Hadn't she learnt anything from her past? 'No, I am not. For all I know, you could be an axe-murderer.'

'I can assure you that murder is the last thing on my mind,' he said drily.

Their eyes met and Lily heard the sudden roar of blood in her ears.

'And you don't look in the least bit scared,' he added silkily.

She swallowed down the lump which seemed to have taken up residence in her throat. It was true she wasn't exactly frightened. Well, not in the conventional sense. But there was something about him which was making her heart race in a way which wasn't a million miles away from fear. And the clamminess on the palms of her hands was going to play havoc with her pastry if she wasn't careful. 'It is normal to introduce yourself when you burst unannounced into someone's kitchen, you know,' she said primly.

He bit back a smile because even when women didn't know who he was, they were nearly always intimidated by him. But not this one, it seemed. Intrigued by the unfamiliar, he inclined his head as if they were being formally introduced at a social function. 'My name is Ciro D'Angelo.'

She stared into the dark gleam of his eyes. 'That's an unusual name.'

'I'm an unusual man.'

With difficulty, Lily decided to ignore the outrageous boast—mainly because she suspected it was true. 'And you're Italian?'

'Actually, I'm Neapolitan.' He gave a lazy shrug in answer to the question in her eyes. 'It's...different.'

'How?'

'That might take a long time to explain, dolcezza.'

The pounding in her heart increased especially when he said dol-cezza like that, though she didn't have a clue what it meant. She wanted to him to explain why Neapolitans were different but sensed that would be straying into even more dangerous waters. Instead, she deliberately glanced at the clock which hung next to the old-fashioned cooking range. 'Time which I don't have, I'm afraid,' she said crisply. 'And I'm still none the wiser. Just what are you doing here, Mr D'Angelo? This is private property, you know.'

Ciro gave an almost imperceptible nod of satisfaction because her question pleased him. It meant that news of his purchase hadn't been made public. Which was good. He hated publicity—but he particularly hated his deals getting into the public domain before the ink had dried on the paper. Despite his legendary prowess in the world of business, he was still superstitious enough to worry about jinxing things.

But her question also made him wonder who she was. The woman selling this house was middle-aged. He frowned as he racked his brains to remember the vendor's name. Scott, yes—that was it. Suzy Scott—all age-inappropriate clothes and too much make-up and a way of looking at a man which could only be described as hungry. He frowned. Was this domestic goddess old enough to be her daughter? he wondered, as he tried to work out just how old she actually was. Twenty-one? Twenty-two? With skin that clear and soft, it was hard to tell. And yet, if she was the daughter of the house—surely she would know it was about to pass into the ownership of someone else. His ownership, to be precise.

She was still looking at him questioningly and he noticed that a shiny tendril of corn-coloured hair was tickling the smooth surface of her cheek. Maybe he should just turn around and come back at a more legitimate time—but suddenly, Ciro didn't want to go anywhere. He felt as if he'd stumbled into a warm world which was so different from his own that he was curious to find out more. To discover its inevitable flaws so that he could walk away with his cynicism intact.

He gave a shrug of his powerful shoulders. 'I wasn't expecting to find anyone home.'

'You mean you have an expectation that all houses will be empty?' Aware that the pie would be ruined if she neglected it any longer, Lily curled the pastry around her rolling pin and then deftly flipped it over the top of the prepared pie-dish. 'What are you—some sort of cat burglar?'

'Do I look like a cat burglar?'

Glancing up from where her fingers were fluting the sides of the soft pastry, Lily thought not. She doubted that your average cat burglar would exhibit such a cool confidence if they'd been rumbled—though he certainly looked agile enough to accomplish the physical demands of the job. And it was frighteningly easy to imagine him clothed entirely in some sort of close-fitting black Lycra.

'You're not exactly dressed for it. I imagine that your expensive-looking suit might be ruined if you tried scaling the front of the house,' she said caustically. 'And in case you were thinking of scaling the front of this house—I can save you the time. You won't find any pr-precious jewels or baubles here....

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