She can run...Lethally attractive Vittorio d'Severano was everything Jillian Smith wanted - until she discovered his secret life and her dreams of a happy-ever-after crumbled into dust...Broken-hearted and terrified, Jill disappeared. But she can't hide! Now Vitt has returned - to claim the tiny son Jill has sworn to keep from him! But to stay with her child she must put Vitt's ring on her finger. Yet what kind of relationship can they have when it's based on secrets...and a heat impossible to resist?
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Jane Porter loves central California's golden foothills and miles of farmland, rich with the sweet and heady fragrance of orange blossoms. Her parents fed her imagination by taking Jane to Europe for a year where she became passionate about Italy and those gorgeous Italian men! Jane never minds a rainy day – that's when she sits at her desk and writes stories about far-away places, fascinating people, and most important of all, love. Visit her website at: www.janeporter.comExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Jillian Smith drew a deep breath as she walked along the jagged cliff overlooking the stormy Pacific Ocean, relishing the fresh air, stunning scenery and a rare moment of freedom. Things were definitely looking up.
She hadn't seen Vittorio's men in over nine months and she was certain that if she was careful, they'd never find her here, in this small, private coastal town just a few miles outside Carmel, California.
For one, she didn't use her name, Jillian Smith, anymore. She had a new identity, April Holliday, and a new look— blonde, tan, as if she were a California native instead of a striking brunette from Detroit. Not that Vitt knew she was from Detroit.
Nor could he know. It was imperative she keep Vittorio, the father of her baby, as far away from her as possible.
He was so dangerous. Such a threat. To her. To Joe. To everything she held dear. She'd loved him, had come so close to imagining a future with him, only to discover that he wasn't a hero#133; wasn't a knight in shining armor but a man like her father. A man who'd made his fortune in organized crime.
Jillian drew a short breath, aware of the tension balling in her shoulders. Relax, she told herself. There's no reason to be afraid. The danger's behind you now. Vitt doesn't know where you are. He can't take the baby from you. You're safe. Everything's good.
She paused along the cliff to stare out at the dark blue water crested with foam. The waves were big today and they crashed against the dark rocks below with power and passion. The sea seemed angry, almost inconsolable, and for a moment she felt the same way.
She'd loved Vitt. And maybe they'd been together only two weeks, but in those two weeks she'd imagined a life with him. Imagined so many possibilities for them.
But then the truth emerged. He wasn't a hero—no prince on a white stallion—but a terrifying villain.
The first raindrops began to fall and she pushed back her long blond hair from her face, determined to put the past behind her and focus on the present as well as Joe's future. And Joe would have a great future. She'd make sure he had everything she'd never known—stability, security, a happy home.
Already she'd found a darling rental house just a quarter mile down the road on a quiet cul–de–sac. She'd gotten an amazing job at the Highlands Inn, one of the premier hotels on the Northern California coast, assisting with their marketing and sales. And best of all, she'd found excellent child care so she could work. In fact, lovely Hannah was with Joe now.
The rain pelted down, and the brisk wind whipped at her hair, tugging at her black fisherman's sweater, but she welcomed the fierce weather, and loved its intensity. She couldn't help smiling at the ocean, and the endless horizon, imagining life's possibilities.
"Thinking of jumping, Jill?" A deep male voice spoke behind her.
Her smile vanished as she stiffened in shock, recognizing the smooth, accented voice immediately.
She hadn't heard his voice in nearly a year, but Vitt's was impossible to forget. Deep and calm, his voice was pitched to dominate life—whether it be man or nature—and it did.
But then, Vittorio Marcello d'Severano was a force of nature, a human being that inspired awe or fear in virtually everyone.
"There are solutions," he added softly, so softly that Jillian shuddered, and took a nervous step away from him, putting her closer to the cliff's edge. Her unsteady footstep sent loose rocks tumbling from the craggy point to the cove below. The falling rocks sounded like her heart shattering and Jill's throat squeezed closed.
Just when she'd felt secure.
Just when she'd thought they were safe.
"None that I would find acceptable," she answered flatly, turning slightly but avoiding looking him in the face. She knew better than to look at Vitt closely, much less meet his gaze. Vittorio was a magician, a virtual snake charmer. He could get anyone to do anything just by smiling.
He was that handsome.
He was that powerful.
"Is that all you have to say to me after months of cat–and–mouse games?"
The rain fell harder, drenching Jillian's thick knit sweater so that it ran with rivulets of water. "I believe everything has already been said. I can't think of anything I've forgotten," she retorted, her chin tilted in defiance even though her legs shook beneath her. She was torn between fury and terror. Vittorio was just a man, and yet he could, and would, destroy her world given the chance.
And no one would stop him.
"I can. Let me suggest you begin with an apology," he said almost gently. "It would be a start."
Jillian threw back her shoulders and steeled herself against that deep, husky voice of his, forcing her gaze to his throat. What harm could there be in that? And yet it was impossible to look at his throat—strong and bronzed by sun—without seeing the square chin or the broad shoulders encased in charcoal–black.
And even limiting herself to that very narrow region, her stomach plummeted. Because Vittorio was still everything that overwhelmed her. Impossibly physical and primal, he was the true alpha male. No one was stronger. No one more powerful. She'd tumbled into his bed within hours of meeting him and she'd never done that before. For God's sake, she'd never even come close to making love before but something about Vitt made her drop her guard. With him, she felt safe. Near him, she'd felt secure.
"If anyone ought to apologize, it should be you."
"You misrepresented yourself, Vittorio—"
"—and you've hunted me like an animal for the past eleven months," she said, her voice hard, her tone clipped. She would not fall to her knees. She would not beg. She would fight him to the bitter end.
He shrugged. "You chose to run. You had my son. What else did you expect me to do?"
"It must thrill you to have such power over helpless women and children!" she flashed, raising her voice to be heard over the wind and the great angry walls of water crashing onto the beach below.
"You're far from helpless, Jill. You're one of the strongest, shrewdest women I've ever met, with the skills of a professional con artist."
"I'm not a con artist."
"Then why the alias of April Holliday? And how did you manage to create such a persona? It takes money and connections to pull off what you nearly pulled off—"
"Nearly. That is the key word, isn't it?"
He shrugged again. "That's for another discussion. Right now I'd like to get out of the rain—"
"You're free to go."
"I'm going nowhere without you. And I don't like you standing so close to the edge of the cliff. Come away. You worry me," he said, extending a hand to her.
She ignored his hand, and glanced up instead, her gaze taking in the long, lean jaw, the angled cheekbone, the very sensual lips above his firm chin, and all it took was that one glance for her to go hot, then cold, and hot all over again.
"And you terrify me," she answered bitterly, looking swiftly away, knowing that his lips had kissed her everywhere, exploring her body with mind–blowing detail. He'd brought her to her first orgasm with his mouth and tongue and she'd been mortified when she'd screamed as she came. She hadn't imagined pleasure so intense or sensation so strong. She'd never known anything could shatter her control. But then, she hadn't ever imagined a man like Vittorio.
But the truth was, she wasn't terrified of him. She was terrified of herself when around him. Because in Bellagio, Vittorio undid her. With just one look, he weakened her resolve. One kiss, and he shattered her independence. From the first time they'd made love, she wanted him far too much, realizing she needed him more than she'd ever needed anyone.
"You're ridiculous," he chided, his tone exasperated. "Have I ever hurt you, or laid a hand on you—other than to pleasure you?"
She closed her eyes as her legs wobbled beneath her. During their two weeks together, two incredible weeks, he had only shown her kindness, and tenderness, and passion. Yes, he'd had his secrets. He'd been mysterious. But she'd ignored her concerns and followed her heart. "No."
"But you ran. And worse, you've kept my only child, my son, from me. How is that fair?"
She couldn't answer because already his voice was doing that strange seduction, where he peeled away her rigid control, stripping away her defenses. He'd done it that very first day she'd met him in the hotel lobby in Istanbul. One introduction, one brief conversation, one invitation to dinner and then she lost her head completely. Took leave from her job. Moved into his villa at Lake Como. Imagined she was in love...something Jillian didn't even believe in. Romantic love was silly and foolish and destructive. Romantic love was for other people, people who didn't know better. She'd thought she knew better.
But then came Vitt, and there went sanity, reason, self–preservation.
Oh, he was too dangerous for words.
He'd destroy her. And Joe.
But no, she wouldn't let him have Joe. Wouldn't let Vitt turn Joe into a man like him.
"He's not Sicilian, Vittorio. He's American. And a baby and my son."
"I've indulged you this past year, given you time alone together, but now it's my turn—"
"No!" Jillian pressed her nails into her palms, barely maintaining control. "You can't have him, you can't."
She swayed on the lip of the cliff, aware that the rain was making the soil a soggy, unstable mess, but she&#...
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Book Description Mills & Boon, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110263886530