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PROLOGUE

SHE was not the sort of woo Cordoba del Rey found attractive or even likable, but that hadn’t kept hi her for the past hour

Crazy, Antonio thought with a little frown What was there to look at, when you came down to it?

She was tall and y—far too slender for his taste, though the high thrust of her breasts and the curve of her bottom beneath the little black silk dress she ere, he had to ad

It couldn’t have been her coloring, though it was striking His preference was for blue-eyed blondes with skin the color of fresh creaolden hue and eyes so gray they were almost silver Her hair was short and dark auburn, and when she tilted her head, it framed her heart-shaped face with the color of autumn leaves

There was even a way about her that set his teeth on edge The tilt of her chin, the too-polite saze narrowed He knew the type Underneath the soft gold skin and the hair that gloith red and amber fire lived an ice princess, filled with scorn and cool hauteur

She rens on the an unworthy public that they could look but not touch

…she reotten

Antonio scowled and turned his attention to the woht himself one of the lucky ones ould eventually be permitted to touch It was there for the world to see in the way he’d danced attendance on her, first throughout the nonsensical cocktail party that had preceded dinner and then through the meal itself, when she’d made no attempt at conversation and merely toyed with the chicken and mushrooms on her plate

It was not good food, of course What did the North Americans call such banquet fare? Rubber chicken, wasn’t that it? But goodit The wo She was bored with the charity event, bored with her table coht her—and she didn’t give a damn who knew it

Not that her attitude was a surprise Women of her class were often like that, especially the ones who kne beautiful and desirable they were Here I am, their cool faces told the world, and aren’t you fortunate? Just don’t expect me to feel the same, or even to pretend that I do

“Antonio?”

He watched as the wo, and smiled It was a nervous smile; Antonio could see that even at this distance Surely, she could see it, too, could sense that the man needed some little reassurance A smile in return, or a word

She offered, instead, a shrug of her bare, elegant shoulders and an almost imperceptible pout of that soft, cinnamon-colored mouth

“Antonio? I’ to you”

What a fool thebeside her like a pet poodle waiting for a treat? Why didn’t he tell her to stop treating hiet up and walk out?

There was a simple way to put a woman like her in her place A man had to strip away that cold insolence and reduce a woman to what she really was, naked flesh and hot desire

It was, Antonio thought with a cold sht them all to their knees

That hat he would do with this one, if she were his

His body tightened He would take her in his arms, kiss that contemptuous mouth until it ollen with desire He would carry her out of here, take her to his private plane, and at twenty thousand feet, in the privacy of the darkened cabin, he’d strip away that black dress so that her breasts tumbled into his hands and take her over and over until she understood what it was to be a woman and not an unattainable symbol…

“Antonio! What on earth is the matter with you?”

A graceful, red-taloned hand landed on his arht free of the ies that had suddenly blazed to life in his brain

“Susannah,” he said, and with some difficulty, solden-haired; she was blue-eyed; she was all the things he liked to enjoy—and she was looking at him as if he’d lost his mind

He took a deep breath Hell Perhaps he had Only a crazy s about an ice princess when he had a hotblooded woman at his side

”Querida,” he said softly He took her hand in his “I ahts were a million miles away”

The blonde smiled, but her eyes were hard “Really? I didn’t think the brunette on the other side of the room was quite that far away”

“What brunette?” Antonio said, s about you”

The blonde’s sotten all about me”

“Could the tide forget the moon?” Antonio said smoothly He moved closer to her “I have done as I pro of the Denver Dance Folklorico Festival Would you think it unkind of o someplace more private?”

He saw the little treh Susannah’s body She was ready for him, he knew She had daas—or was it Reno? For a moment, he couldn’t remember His business took him everywhere and there were alomen,

beautiful women ere happy to become involved even when he made it clear—and he always did—that the liaison would never be permanent

“You are too arrogant, Antonio,” a woh, “but then, what else could you be, with your looks and your money?”

It was probably true, Antonio thought as he rose to his feet, but there was no i it His looks were a fact of life, the only gift given him by the parents he had never known As for his money—he had worked hard for what he had, and he owed no apologies to anyone It was only those born to wealth, who thought it ies He had learned that a long tiel and the heart and morals of a puta

Hell! What rong with hiht? It was the woman, da about her beauty that could possibly re else was the same: the look of boredom, the air of insolence

All at once he knew she was looking at him

The knowledge ave no hint of his awareness Instead, he drew back Susannah’s chair, helped her to her feet, shook hands with the men at the table, kissed the hands of their ladies

And then, only then, as if it were a little gift he had been savoring, he took Susannah’s elbow, turned around, and looked straight at her

He felt as if he’d been hit in the belly with a sledgehammer It wasn’t that he hadn’t expected to find her eyes on him; it hat followed The sudden rush of heat in his blood The desire that knotted his gut The way everything else dimmed and faded until there was only him, and her, and the need to—to…

The woman’s mouth thinned with derision She lifted her chin and turned away sharply, and suddenly Antonio felt as if he were standing here not in this expensive, custom-tailored tuxedo but in the T-shirt and work boots he’d worn for so many years

“Antonio, you’re hurting me!”

He glanced down, surprised to find Susannah at his side, evenher wrist He loosened his grip instantly, offered a quick apology, and then he slipped his arh the rooned to take him directly past the table where the woman with the silver eyes and hair the color of autumn leaves was seated

When he reached her, he let go of Susannah, put his hand gently in the small of her back and steered her ahead of hiave him just the time he needed He saw the astonishment on the redhead’s beautiful face as he looked down at her

”Señorita,” he said politely “Do you, by any chance, speak Spanish?”

She stared up at him, her eyes wide After a moment, she nodded

Antonio sue in a whisper meant for her alone