Harlequin Presents...
Stripped of her defenses…

Italy's most desirable playboy, Gianluca Benedetti, might not initially recognize Ava Lord as the beautiful bridesmaid who stole his breath and shared his bed all those years ago, but one glimpse of the curves beneath her buttoned-up clothes and it all comes rushing back!

When a steamy kiss between them ignites a media firestorm, Gianluca whisks Ava off to the Amalfi Coast to minimize the PR scandal. Exploring the reignited passion between them, Ava realizes the danger of opening her heart. Because the closer Gianluca gets…the more cracks in her carefully constructed armor appear.

'Come on, wake up.'

He reached down to shake her but his hand hovered over her bare shoulder.  He tried to find a portion of her body he could touch with impunity but she seemed to be made up entirely of erogenous zones.  He knew if he touched any part of her it would be soft and pliant and far too female and his self-control would be history...

Cursing under his breath he struggled to peel his mind off the rise and fall of her chest.

'Wake up Sleeping Beauty.'

She murmured something and his gaze was drawn off the sheet and due north like a compass to that strawberry of a mouth, as luscious as any of her curves.  Sultry green eyes gleamed behind slowly lifting lashes.

She was absolutely killing him.

God help him, he wanted another taste of the soft pink fullness of her lips, the heat of her mouth, the explosive reaction of the kiss they had shared last night.  His ungoverned imagination moved on, taking the sheet down slowly.  He would shape the heaviness of her breasts with his hands and feast on her nipples he remembered amazingly clearly were the same strawberry colour as her mouth... and when she was wet and wanting and begging him to come into her, he would push himself deep inside her, fill her hard and...

She gave a sigh, gazing dreamily up at him as if awaiting his pleasure.  There was only one thing for it under the circumstances.

He leant down and found her lips with his, and that kiss in the piazza last night was pushed aside by the sweetness of this one.  Her mouth was as luscious as he remembered from last night and just like last night she responded.  This time there was no fury in her, just sleepy soft sensuality.

Even half asleep she kissed a man as if her heart and soul were involved and he found himself tangling his hands in her thick, silky hair until she -


He drew back and saw the shock and accusation in her eyes.  As if she had no idea who she was kissing, as if she responded to every man who put his arms around her, drew her close, put his mouth on hers with the same incredible abandon.

Dio mio, he told himself as he put his hand to the door, it wasn't jealousy of other men that had driven him from that room this morning and into a cold, cold shower.  It was a matter of good taste.

This was not some woman he'd picked up last night.  There would be no indiscriminate coupling, not now that he knew her identity.

She was his guest.  She was Alessia's sister-in-law.  She was the one woman in Rome he definitely wouldn't be sleeping with.

This time he made sure he knocked before shoving open the door.  He didn't know what he expected, at the very least a woman dressed.  Better would be her hair neatly combed away into that ugly knot she'd been wearing the day before - before all of this got out of hand.

Instead, she was sitting in the middle of the bed, legs tucked under her, wearing the sheet.

Still wearing the sheet.


'Santa Maria,' he snarled, 'for the sake of decency will you put some clothes on?'

Her head jerked around and for a moment she looked almost shocked, but it must have been a trick of the light because those green eyes instantly narrowed and she yanked at the sheet, winding it more securely under her soft, pale arms.

Bene, that's exactly what he wanted.  Her covered up.  Except if anything the gesture only exaggerated the spill of flesh beneath her fine collarbones and made her more of a feast for his male senses.

He hadn't realised until this moment how incredibly appealing a voluptuous woman could look in nothing but a bed sheet.  He'd clearly been sleeping with far too many skinny girls.  She was every inch Venus emerging from the foam.  A goddess of love and sex and the secrets of the flesh.  If she went about in nothing else but a sheet there would be riots on the streets of Rome...

From "A Dangerous Solace" by Lucy Ellis
Harlequin Presents - November 2013
ISBN: 9780373131952
Text Copyright © 2013 Lucy Ellis
Cover Art Copyright © 2013 Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.  Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited.  All rights reserved.  ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

Lucy Ellis