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Tall, Dark & Handsome: The Infamous Italian's Secret Baby / Pregnant by the Millionaire / Liam's Secret Son

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CHAPTER EIGHT

BELLA woke slowly, slightly disorientated as she looked around the unfamiliar room.

And then she remembered.

Not just where she was, but everything that had happened since she had entered this bedroom.

Bella turned her face into the pillows, the aching protest of her body as she curled into a foetal position reminding her all too forcefully of the way Gabriel had touched and caressed her.

So much for her claim, her determination, that her marriage to Gabriel would be in name only—they hadn’t even left British airspace before she’d succumbed to his caresses!

It was—

She looked sharply towards the door as she heard the handle turning softly before it was opened, her expression becoming defensive as she saw Gabriel standing in the doorway.

The cream polo shirt and jeans he wore showed that he had remained in the bedroom long enough to change his clothes after Bella—after she—After she what? Collapsed from the sheer ecstasy Gabriel had given her time and time again until she simply couldn’t take any more?

Oh, God…!

Her mouth tightened. ‘If you’ve come to gloat—’

‘I came to see if you were awake yet,’ he corrected coldly. ‘We will be landing shortly, and you need time to dress before we do.’

Which reminded Bella all too forcibly that she was completely naked—apart from her panties and hold-up stockings—beneath the bedclothes.

It also reminded her that although she had been almost naked Gabriel had remained completely dressed throughout their earlier—Their earlier what? Sexual encounter? Lovemaking? It could hardly be called the latter when there was no love for each other, on either side.

Sexual encounter, then.

How awful did that sound?

‘Thank you,’ she accepted with polite dismissal.

Gabriel scowled across the cabin at Bella for several long seconds. Knowing her as he did, he hadn’t been expecting her to fall lovingly into his arms when she awoke, but her coldness, her accusation that he had come here to gloat over her earlier capitulation, was unforgivable.

His expression was grim as he crossed the cabin in three long strides to stand beside the bed and look down at her. ‘It is not me you are angry with, Isabella—’

‘Don’t presume to tell me what I’m feeling,’ she said resentfully, her eyes glittering with suppressed emotion as she glowered up at him.

Gabriel sat down on the side of the bed, trapping her beneath the bedclothes as he put a hand either side of her to lean over her. ‘We are husband and wife, Isabella; there is absolutely no reason for you to feel embarrassed because of what happened between us earlier—’

‘I’m not embarrassed, Gabriel—I’m disgusted. With myself as much as with you!’ she added, her expression defiant as she met his gaze squarely.

Gabriel wanted to reach out and shake her out of this mood of self-recrimination. But if he were to touch her again now, even in anger, he knew that he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from making love with her again.

Just looking at Bella, her hair a cloud of darkness against the gold colour of the pillows, her mouth a sensual pout, and knowing her body was almost completely naked beneath the bedclothes was enough to make Gabriel shift uncomfortably as his thighs became engorged with arousal. His own lack of release earlier had become an aching throb he’d remained totally aware of while Bella slept.

He stood up abruptly, needing to put some distance between himself and Bella before speaking again, but before he could do so she got in first. ‘Just don’t count on a repeat performance, Gabriel,’ she snapped.

Where Bella was concerned Gabriel didn’t take anything for granted. Not one single thing. ‘We will be landing in ten minutes, Isabella, so I suggest that before we do you get some clothes on,’ he bit out tersely.

She kept the covers pulled up against her as she sat up, her hair falling silkily about her shoulders. ‘I thought you said it was a small Caribbean island?’

‘It is,’ Gabriel confirmed. ‘We will complete the rest of our journey by helicopter.’

Bella had never been in a helicopter before, and wasn’t sure how she was going to respond to being in such a small aircraft.

She was even less comfortable when she realised that Gabriel intended piloting the small black wasp-looking craft himself!

She looked at him uncertainly as he climbed into the seat beside her after stowing their cases in the back. ‘Are you sure you know how to fly one of these things?’

‘Very sure,’ he drawled. ‘I assure you, Isabella, you will be completely safe in my hands,’ he added mockingly as she still didn’t look convinced.

Bella shot him a narrow-eyed glare before turning away to look out of the window beside her at the bright sunshine reflecting on the beautiful blue-green ocean beyond a beach of white-gold sand.

A relaxed pose that didn’t last any longer than it took for Gabriel to start the engine and move the controls to lift the helicopter from the ground!

Bella reached out to clutch at Gabriel’s arm as the helicopter bucked and swayed as it rose into the air. ‘I think I’m going to be sick!’ she cried frantically.

‘You will not be sick if you look out at the sea and not down at the ground,’ he instructed.

Easy enough for him to say, Bella groaned inwardly as her stomach continued to heave in protest for several long minutes, only settling down to a slight queasiness as the helicopter levelled out and she could finally appreciate the beauty of the scenery.

The sun was bright and very hot, the sea so blue and clear that Bella could see the sandy bottom in several places, even more so as they began to approach a small island edged by unspoilt beautiful beaches and covered in lush green foliage and trees.

Gabriel flew the helicopter over the beach, almost but not quite touching the tops of the trees, Bella’s eyes widening as she saw he was heading towards a white-painted villa on top of a hill, only slightly inland and surrounded by more trees and huge brightly coloured flowers.

‘Home.’ Gabriel nodded in answer to Bella’s questioning look as he began to lower the helicopter onto the patch of flat green grass next to the villa. ‘What did you expect, Bella?’ He turned to her once they were down on the ground. ‘That I was bringing you to a shack in the middle of nowhere?’

Bella hadn’t really given a lot of thought as to where they would stay once they reached the island. The fact that Gabriel had given her an island as a wedding gift had seemed fantastic enough!

‘It is slightly primitive in that there are no servants here to wait on us,’ Gabriel warned.

Bella smiled wryly. ‘I won’t miss what I’ve never had, Gabriel.’

‘A Frenchman owned the island previously, and he had the villa built several years ago,’ Gabriel told her as he climbed out of the helicopter. ‘Obviously, if you want to change the décor then you must do so.

‘It’s beautiful as it is,’ Bella murmured as she took her sunglasses off to follow him inside the villa.

The floors were cool cream-and-terracotta-coloured marble, the cream furniture in the sitting-room kept to a minimum, with several glass-topped tables placed conveniently beside the armchairs and sofa. The kitchen was even more surprising, everything white, including the cooker and huge refrigerator and freezer.

‘We have our own generator and fresh water supply,’ Gabriel told her as she moved slowly about the room. ‘Or rather, you have your own generator and fresh water supply,’ he corrected ruefully.

Bella blinked, totally overwhelmed now that she was actually here. ‘This really is all mine?’

Gabriel nodded. ‘Do you like it?’ His expression was guarded.

Almost as if he expected her to throw his gift back in his face. Not literally, of course, but verbally at least. Not surprising considering her remarks when Gabriel had first told her about the island!

‘I love it!’ Bella assured him emotionally. ‘I—thank you, Gabriel,’ she added slightly breathlessly.

Gabriel stood across the kitchen, his own sunglasses pushed up into the darkness of his hair. Hair that he hadn’t bothered to have cut the last five weeks, its longer length making him look more like the man Bella had met and briefly fallen for five years ago.

She turned away abruptly. ‘How on earth did everything get here? The materials to build the villa? The furniture?’ she quickly asked to cover her sudden and complete awareness of Gabriel as he stood there so still and yet so lethally attractive.

Gabriel shrugged. ‘The same way that the food in the freezer and refrigerator got here.’ He opened the fridge door to show her all the food stored on the shelves. ‘By boat,’ he supplied ruefully as Bella still looked puzzled.

Bella eyes narrowed. ‘Are you telling me that I didn’t have to suffer that helicopter flight at all? That we could have come here by boat, instead?’

Gabriel held back a smile at her slightly indignant expression. ‘I thought it would be more…dramatic…to arrive by helicopter,’ he admitted.

‘Oh, you did, did you…?’ Bella said quietly as she placed her bag down on one of the work-surfaces.

‘I did, yes,’ Gabriel muttered warily, not able to read Bella’s mood at all as she strolled over and opened the freezer door, taking out a tray of ice cubes before moving over to the sink. ‘Of course, you must be thirsty,’ he acknowledged. ‘There is a selection of drinks in the—What are you doing?’ He frowned as Bella approached him brandishing a handful of ice cubes before reaching out to grasp the collar of his polo shirt and dropping them inside. ‘Bella!’ Gabriel gasped in protest at the first uncomfortable touch of the icy-cold cubes against the heat of his flesh.

‘I thought you were looking a little hot, Gabriel,’ she drawled as he stepped back to shake the frozen cubes out of his clothing, several of them shattering on the marble floor.

‘Damn it, Bella—’ Gabriel broke off as Bella began to laugh at his discomfort.

It was the first time, Gabriel realised, that he had heard her laugh without cynicism or sarcasm since they’d met again five weeks ago.

His breath caught in his throat as he stared at her, those gorgeous violet eyes shining with good humour, her teeth tiny and white against her pale pink lip gloss, a healthy colour in her cheeks.

Bella was the most beautiful woman Gabriel had ever seen!

‘Perhaps I deserved that,’ he allowed gruffly.

‘Perhaps you did,’ she confirmed unrepentantly. ‘Next time we come by boat, yes?’ she said as she moved to pick up the shattered ice cubes.

Gabriel remained silent as he hunkered down on his haunches to help her, unwilling to break the sudden truce by making any comment that Bella might take exception to, satisfied for the moment that there would be a next time…

‘What are you doing, Gabriel?’

He threw his cheroot to the ground, grinding it beneath the sole of his shoe before turning slowly to look at Bella as she stood behind him in the moonlight.

Their uneasy truce had continued while they walked along the beach earlier, and through the dinner they had prepared together and then eaten outside on the terrace that overlooked the moon-dappled ocean. The two of them had returned outside after they had cleared the dishes away, the silence between them companionable rather than awkward as they finished drinking the bottle of red wine Gabriel had opened to accompany their meal.

Bella had excused herself half an hour or so ago in order to go to the master bedroom to prepare for bed, Gabriel opting to stay outside a little longer, still reluctant to say or do anything that might shatter even the illusion of the companionship they had found together since the ice-cube incident.

They were due to stay here for a week, and Gabriel would prefer that they not spend all of that time at loggerheads!

Looking at Bella now, in a pale-lilac-coloured nightgown, the silk material clinging to her breasts and moulding to the gentle curve of her hips, Gabriel knew that he wanted to strip even that flimsy garment from her before making love with her.

Something, after her comments earlier on the plane, that was sure to shatter even the illusion of companionship that they’d shared so far!

He thrust his hands into the pockets of the black trousers he had changed into before dinner. ‘I thought you would prefer your privacy after such a long and tiring day.’

Bella looked at him searchingly, but was totally unable to read Gabriel’s mood beneath the remoteness of his expression. ‘Aren’t you coming to bed?’ she finally prompted hesitantly.

‘Later, perhaps,’ he rasped dismissively. ‘I am not tired yet.’

Bella hadn’t exactly had sleep in mind when she’d asked that question!

The island was beautiful, and totally unspoilt, she had discovered as she and Gabriel had strolled barefooted, if slightly apart, along the shoreline before dinner. The water had lapped gently against their feet, the smell of the exotic blossoms wafting in the warm softness of the breeze, and all adding to the seduction of the evening.

To the air of awareness that lay hidden just below the surface of even the slightest glance that Bella and Gabriel exchanged.

At least, she had thought it had.

Gabriel’s reluctance to come to bed now seemed to imply that only she had felt that aching awareness.

Because Gabriel’s lovemaking earlier had only been a way of showing her that he really could make love to her wherever and whenever he felt like it, as he had put it so bluntly?

That, having already proved his point once today, Gabriel now felt no urgency to repeat the experience?

How utterly ridiculous of her to have imagined that, because the two of them hadn’t argued for the last few hours, they could have actually reached some sort of understanding in their relationship. Gabriel had never made any secret of his reason for marrying her—his only reason for marrying her!—and that reason was Toby.

Bella felt the humiliated colour burn her cheeks. ‘You’re right, Gabriel, I would prefer my privacy,’ she said. ‘As such, it would be better if you used one of the other bedrooms, and kept out of mine, for the duration of our stay here.’

Gabriel’s gaze narrowed on the pale oval of her face in the moonlight, her chin raised in challenge, that same challenge reflected in the deep purple of her eyes.

‘Don’t come any closer, Gabriel!’ she warned as he took a step towards her.

A warning Gabriel chose to ignore as he came to stand only inches away from her, his eyes glittering darkly as he looked down the length of his arrogant nose at her, and his hands clenched at his sides as he obviously fought the urge to reach out and shake her until her teeth rattled.

Bella felt her own anger starting to fade as she instead found herself fascinated by the nerve that pulsed beside that livid scar on Gabriel’s tautly clenched left cheek.

He looked so gloriously handsome with his long hair slightly tousled onto his shoulders, the black silk shirt and tailored trousers only adding to that darkness, his eyes also appearing a glittering black in the moonlight.

Bella had never known another man with the grace and beauty of Gabriel. Had never been as physically aware of another man in the way she was Gabriel. Had never wanted another man in the way she constantly seemed to want Gabriel.

As, God help her, she wanted him even now…!

She swallowed hard. ‘You’re right, Gabriel, it’s been a long and tiring day. Far too long and tiring for this conversation,’ she said huskily. ‘I—I’ll wish you a goodnight.’

His mouth twisted self-derisively. ‘I very much doubt that it will be that!’

Bella looked at him searchingly for several seconds before shaking her head ruefully. ‘We really must try to find a way to stop insulting each other, Gabriel.’

He winced. ‘The only time we manage to do that is when we are making love together, but…’ He shrugged. ‘Goodnight, Isabella. I will try not to wake you when I come to bed.’

Bella was frowning as she turned and walked slowly back inside the villa, too utterly weary to fight him any more concerning their sleeping arrangements. Especially as Gabriel had already made it plain she would lose!

She very much doubted that she would be able to fall asleep when she knew that at any moment Gabriel would be coming to share what was now their bed.

Very much doubted that she would be able to sleep at all with Gabriel in bed beside her…

.

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