Series: Tavonesi #7
Source: Author, Netgalley
Genres: Alpha Guy, Contemporary Romance, Millionaire/Billionaire Hero, Romance
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A one-night stand brought Natasha Raley the greatest gift of her life—her son. She wants to give him a better life than she had, but a gambling bet lands both of them in a homeless shelter. When the shelter director gives her a ticket to a masquerade ball, Natasha finds herself dancing with the most intriguing and mysterious man she’s ever met.
Adrian Tavonesi is creating a paradise on earth in Sonoma California, determined to be worthy of his vast fortune by making the world a better place. Convinced women only like him for his money and his status, he invents an anonymous relationship with the beautiful Natasha to create a dream world for both of them.
As passion flares into an all-consuming affair, the lies Adrian and Natasha have told each other threaten to ruin everything. Adrian is kind, generous, and sincere—Natasha knows he would be the ideal father for her son. But will her past and the devastating gamble she once made destroy her new world? Or will betting on the truth this time lead to the perfect, ever-lasting love?
He couldn’t know how much she would like to do exactly that.
Yet Natasha’s fears of giving over to the sensations jolting through her at his touch were stronger than her impulse to let go and enjoy the evening, the moment and the man. Her lucky night, he’d said. She didn’t want to think about luck. She’d had the dream again the previous night—always the same sequence of events, always the same words. It wasn’t right. Surely her mother wouldn’t mock her from the grave.
But the man’s firm leading caught her up, and soon she was twirling and dipping and dancing and laughing.
Until the music ended.
And Natasha snapped back into the room.
She stepped away from his hold. A rush of coolness swept between them as if someone had opened a door or a window, but there was neither in sight. He dipped his head toward hers and she panicked, thinking he was going to kiss her.
“One more?” he asked, smiling. “And then we should get something to drink.”
Relieved that all he wanted was a dance, she nodded.
But then the DJ cued a slow song, a song she’d never heard before. As his hand slipped to her back and down to her waist and he drew her close, her heart rumbled a beat far faster than the slow tempo of the lovely ballad.
He ran his other hand along her arm until his fingertips met hers. He twined his fingers in hers, then lifted their joined hands and rested them against his chest. Through the edge of her palm, she felt his heart beating, keeping time with hers, keeping a tempo that had nothing to do with the DJ or the party or the place. She tilted her head back and caught him smiling down at her as he swayed and drew her into the first slow steps of the dance. The music played not only around her but through her, melding with the beat of his heart against her palm and the feel of his other hand at her back, guiding her, meeting her, caressing her.
And she let go. Surrendered to the pulse of energy flowing in her. And danced with the mysterious man with the beguiling smile.
When the music stopped, she felt like a woman waking from a delicious dream. But within seconds her thoughts rushed in, calling her defenses back into place like sentinels that had waited at the ready, unhappy to have been dismissed for even the briefest of moments.
“Let’s get some air,” he said. “There’s a terrace just outside the back of this tent.”
Air. Yes, air would help her return to her senses.
He took two glasses of champagne from a passing waiter and handed one to her.
The night had turned cool, the perfect drop in temperature that would lead to this season’s best grapes. The fog hadn’t yet come in, but there was a distinct chill in the evening air.
He whisked off the black doublet he wore and wrapped it around her shoulders.
“Thank you,” she said, finding her voice.
Several couples were seated near heaters at small tables lit by candlelight. Their mingled voices and laughter rippled into Natasha. Had she ever really had fun? She couldn’t remember.
“The stars are especially bright tonight. No moon,” he said.
She looked up, but he wasn’t looking at the stars. He was looking at her.
“Tell me something about you,” he said softly.
“We’re not supposed to exchange information,” she answered.
“Only identifying information is off limits. Tell me about something you love.”
Under normal circumstances she would’ve said Tyler. She sorted through possible responses and found she wanted to answer. Wanted to share some part of her with this mysterious man. But not without a reciprocal exchange.
“If I do, then after, you tell me something. One thing that you love.”
His accent perhaps explained his rather formal English. She liked the way he spoke, the way his words wound together in unusual patterns and his accent made the words stand out, familiar yet not familiar. For so many years she’d honed her ability to listen, to see, to use her senses to make up for her struggles with written words. She was reaping the reward for honing those senses tonight. With this man in this magical setting.
She hugged her elbows close to her chest. “I love plants, everything about them. Their beauty. Tenacity. Fragility. They speak my language.”
He raised a brow, barely visible above his black mask. “Then we have more in common than loving to dance.”
“I didn’t say I loved to dance,” she said, glad that it was dark and he couldn’t see the heat creep into her cheeks.
“You didn’t have to.”
If she’d known how intimate dancing with him would feel, would she have agreed to dance? Already she felt that she’d stepped into a world with signs and signals she couldn’t read. With sensations that tumbled her thoughts and teased at her carefully held boundaries. But perhaps she was like a prisoner kept too long in a dark cell. She longed for color. For song and dance and laughter. To surrender, if only for a moment.
If only there wouldn’t be consequences.
But there were. There always would be.