The Mistress That Tamed De Santis(2)

By: Natalie Anderson


BURN.

The four bronze letters bolted to the wall screamed both defiance and demand. He read it as a blatant statement of intent—she was here, she didn’t care, and she didn’t intend to hide.

Antonio frowned. Suddenly the window just ahead was flung wide open. The shutter banged on the wall right beside him. If he’d been one pace on, he’d have been knocked out cold on the pavement.

He halted. Even with the relaxed rules in carnival season, the club ought to be closed at this hour. He glanced into the open window, expecting to see a few intoxicated patrons still partying, but no noise streamed out. No endless thud, thud, thud of drum and bass. No high-pitched giggles, loud laughs or low murmurs. It seemed there was no one in the vast room—until something white silently flashed in the deep recesses. He looked closer, tracking the fast-moving creature as the white flashed again. The woman wore a loose white top and...nothing else? The most basic instinct had him locking on her legs—unbelievably long legs that right now were moving unbelievably fast.

Pyjamas. Short pyjamas.

His suddenly slushy brain slowly reached a conclusion. She opened another window down the side of the room and turned again. She wore ballet flats on her feet, not for fashion, but for function, dancing across the floor—spinning so quickly her auburn hair swirled in a curling ribbon behind her. She leapt and landed near the window on the opposite side of the room and opened that one with another dramatic, effervescent gesture before turning yet again. That was when he saw her face properly for the first time.

She was smiling. Not one of the usual sorts of smiles Antonio received—not awed or nervous or curious or come-hitherish... This smile was so full of raw joy it made him feel he should step back into the darkness, but he couldn’t find the will to turn away.

Heat kicked hard in his gut.

Anger. Not lust. Never lust.

He’d have to have spent the last six months living under a rock not to know she’d moved to San Felipe. Given he ruled the island principality, he knew exactly who she was and why she was here. And he didn’t give a damn that she was even more stunning in real life than in any of the pictures saturating the Internet. Bella Sanchez was here to cause trouble. And Antonio didn’t want trouble in San Felipe.

Nor did he want Bella Sanchez.

He didn’t want anyone.

Yet here he was with his feet glued to the pavement, watching her whirl her way round the room with glorious abandon, from one window to the next in flying leaps until she’d opened them all.

She executed another series of dizzying spins across the floor, and suddenly stopped—positioned smack bang in the centre of the window frame he was looking through.

‘Enjoying the view?’ Her smile had vanished and her voice dripped with sarcasm.

When he didn’t move, she glided closer, her feline green eyes like lasers. She wasn’t even breathless as she stared him down like a Fury about to wreak revenge on a miscreant.

Antonio’s reflexes snapped. She thought she could shame him into scuttling away? Another hit of heat made him clench his muscles. He pushed back the hood of his sweatshirt and coolly gazed back up at her, grimly anticipating her recognition of him.

Her eyes widened instantly but she quickly schooled the shock from her face—her expression smoothing until she became inscrutable. Somehow she stood taller. She had the straightest back of anyone he’d ever seen.

‘Your Highness,’ she said crisply. ‘May I help you with something?’

Unfortunately he couldn’t reply; his tongue was cleaved to the roof of his mouth. How could she look this radiant so early in the morning? She had to have had an extremely late night and yet here she was without a scrap of make-up on, looking intolerably beautiful.

Antonio actively avoided being alone with women—especially models, actresses and socialites—but, given his single status and Crown Prince title, they littered his path and made their play nonetheless. Over the past few years he’d met hundreds, if not thousands, of stunning, willing women. He’d refused every single one.

But none had ever looked as gorgeous as Bella Sanchez did right now. And none had looked as haughty.

At his continued silence, she stepped closer. ‘You were spying on me?’

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