From the book
SHE came hurrying along the sidewalk, enveloped from head to toe in black suede, stiletto-heeled boots clicking sharply, her head bent against the rain-driven wind, and barreled into Nicolo just as he stepped from the taxi.
The doorman moved forward but Nicolo had already dropped his briefcase and caught her by the shoulders.
"Easy," he said pleasantly.
Her hood fell back as she looked up at him. Nicolo, always appreciative of beauty, smiled.
She was beautiful, with elegant bones, a mouth that looked soft and inviting, and eyes the deep blue of spring violets, all that framed by a mass of honey-colored loose curls.
If someone had to run you down, this was surely the woman an intelligent man would choose.
"Are you all right?"
She pulled out of his grasp. "I'm fine."
"My fault entirely," he said graciously. "I should have watched where I was--"
"Yes," the woman said, "you should have."
He blinked. She was looking at him with total disdain. His smile faded. Though he was Roman, he'd spent a good part of his life in Manhattan. He understood that civility was not an art here but it was she who'd run into him. "I beg your pardon, signorina, but--"
"But then," she said coldly, "I suppose people like you think you own the street."
Nicolo lifted his hands from her shoulders with exaggerated care.
"Look, I don't know what your problem is, but--"
"You," she said crisply, "are my problem." What was this? A Mona Lisa with the temperament of a hellcat. Innate old-world gallantry warred with newworld attitude.
Attitude won. "You know," he said brusquely, "I apologized to you when there was no need, and you speak to me as if I were scum. You could use some manners."
"Just because I'm a woman--"
"Is that what you are?" His smile was as cold as his words. "Let's see about that, shall we?" Temper soaring, logic shot to hell, Nicolo pulled the blonde to her toes and kissed her.
It lasted less than a second. Just a quick brush of his mouth over hers. Then he let go of her, had the satisfaction of seeing those violet eyes widen in astonishment...
And caught the rich, sweet taste of her on his lips. Sweet heaven. Had he gone un po'pazzo?
He had to be. Only a crazy man would haul a meantempered woman into his arms on Fifth Avenue.
"You," she said, "you--you--"
Oh, but it had been worth it. Look at her now, sputtering like a steam engine, that icy demeanor completely shattered.
She jerked free of his hands. Her arm rose. She was going to slap him; he could read it in those amazing eyes, eyes that flashed lethal bolts of lightning. He probably deserved it--but he'd be damned if he'd let her do it.
He bent his head toward hers. "Hit me," he said softly, "and I promise, I'll make your world come crashing down around your ears."
Her lips formed a phrase he would not have imagined women knew. Not the women in his world, at any rate, but then none of them would have accused a man of something clearly their fault.
Why be modest? The truth was, not a woman he'd ever met would have blamed him even if he were at fault.
The hellcat glared at him. He returned the look. Then she swept past him, honey-blond mane glittering with raindrops, black suede coat billowing after her like a sail.
He watched her go until she was lost in the umbrellashrouded crowd hurrying through the chilly March rain.
Then he took a deep breath and turned his back to her. His eyes met the doorman's. Nothing. Not the slightest acknowledgment that anything the least bit unusual had happened but then,...