by Simona Ahrnstedt
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
Elegant, brilliant, driven to succeed in a man’s world, Natalia is curious about David’s unexpected invitation to lunch. Everyone knows that he is rich, dangerous, unethical; she soon discovers he is also deeply scarred.
The attraction between these two is impossible, but the long Swedish nights unfold an affair that will bring to light shocking secrets, forever alter a family, and force both Natalia and David to confront their innermost fears and desires.
She opened her eyes.
David was studying her intently. “Tell me more things that make you blush. You’re very attractive, in a non-corporate-finance way, when you’re blushing.”
Natalia shook her head. She reached for the thermos as an excuse to avoid looking at him. “I think that’s enough of a revelation for tonight,” she said. “Your turn.”
“Hmm, what do you want to know?”
Natalia cocked her head, and they looked at each other over the remains of their picnic. Oh, there was a lot she wanted to know. Why had he asked her out? What wasn’t he telling her about his past?
What was that coldness she glimpsed in him sometimes all about? And most of all, of course: did he think they would be having sex with each other in the near future?
“What would you have done if you didn’t do what you do now?” she asked instead.
“I think I’d sail around the world. Give up the Internet, read books.” He laughed. “Maybe learn to cook.”
“You can’t cook?”
“Can you?” he dared her.
“I opened a jar of pickles the other day. Does that count?”
His eyes twinkled. “I don’t think so.”
“What did you do during your military service?” she asked. “I have two brothers, but you know, strangely enough, I’ve never asked them.”
“Romp around outdoors, get chewed out, work like a dog,” he said. “But I actually liked it. We followed orders, got a lot of exercise, slept well at night.” He fell silent.
She listened to the waves lapping. She heard a dog barking somewhere onshore.
He turned to her, raised himself up on his elbows. “Are you still cold?” he asked. “Should I go get a blanket?”
Natalia slowly shook her head.
David looked into her eyes. He reached out his hand and she held her breath. He grazed her pearl necklace with his fingers and she blinked. He fingered the heavy clasp, which had slid to the front.
“What kind of pattern is this?” he asked.
She swallowed, trying to sound casual despite his fingers brushing over the base of her throat. A finger caressed her collarbone, almost absentmindedly. “The family crest,” she said, her pulse racing under his fingertips. “My brothers each wear it on their signet rings. I wear it on the clasp of my necklace.”
“Because you have a title? You’re a countess?”
She couldn’t interpret the expression on his face. He was staring at the heavy gold clasp as if it meant something. Then he looked at her again, without taking his hand away. He leaned forward but stopped. And Natalia surprised herself. She moved her own hand behind his head, impatient and bold. They came together over the remains of their picnic, and he kissed her lightly, no more than a flutter over her lips. He lingered a second or two, warm and a little rough.
Natalia tried to think clearly, but felt only desire. There was no, no reason not to do this. It was as if she’d been waiting her whole life for this, she thought, to be kissed on an ostentatious yacht in the middle of the archipelago by David Hammar, who tasted like tiramisu.