High Fantasy + Emotional Intensity = Harlequin Presents
Tara loved Harlequin Presents since she was a teenager. She used to smuggle them into the house hidden in mathematics tomes, sometimes hiding them in her unsuspecting younger cousin's bag.
Warning: Arrogant Alpha Heroes, Feisty Heroines and Sizzling Passion ahead!
The Surprise Conti Child
The Surprise Conti Child
"I came to tell you... that I have a daughter. Her name is Isabella Adrian. She's six years old and she's beautiful and precious and she...she's yours, Leandro."
June 2016 Book 1 The Legendary Conti Brothers
Kindle | Nook | iBooks | HQN | BooksAMillion
"I have a daughter…she's yours."
After nearly losing her life, Alexis Sharpe determines to tell Leandro Conti about their child. It's been seven years, but for her daughter she'll face him and hope her heart remains intact…
Known as the Conti Saint, Leandro's passionate encounter with Alexis is his guilty secret. Following the death of his wife he forbade himself the indulgence of a woman, but Alexis remains the one irresistible temptation.
He regrets how he treated Alexis, but now that she's back and the mother of his child, Leandro will claim everything that's his!
The name floated, almost reverently, on the lips of the sweaty, gyrating crowd, bringing Alexis Sharpe to a sudden halt in the middle of the dance floor in an exclusive Milanese nightclub she’d only been allowed into because of her new friend, Valentina Conti.
Their friendship had been instantaneous when Alex, backpacking through Italy, had somehow found herself facing the attentions of an enamored but harmless Italian waiter. Tina had interfered and instantly decided that she liked Alex.
Valentina, vivacious, sophisticated and rich, was as different from Alex as Milan was from Brooklyn, but Alex hadn’t been able to resist Tina’s generous heart. The differences hadn’t bothered her either until she had met Tina’s older brother.
Leandro Conti…CEO of Conti Luxury Goods.
Gorgeous, sophisticated Italian magnate.
Brooding. Forbidding. Almost godlike in the way he surveyed the rest of them. As if he existed on a different sphere.
For a twenty-year-old from Brooklyn, and for one who blended into average and dull on a daily basis, that felt very true.
That he was at the nightclub in Milan was as rare as a UFO sighting. Suddenly, even the most raucous party girls pushed their hair back, adjusting dresses poured over hourglass figures.
They were hoping to catch his attention, Alexis realized, with a dawning sense of defeat.
Still, she chanced a glance.
The central glass dance floor suspended above water and the interplay of light created an illusion of a vast space. Yet the edgy elegance faded against the darkly stunning man.
That same hungry, fluttery feeling uncoiled in the pit of Alex’s stomach.
Clad in a black dress shirt and dark blue jeans, the chiseled angles of his face tightly stark, he came to a standstill at the edge of the dance floor. That slate-gray gaze searched, and dismissed each face in turn.
How she longed to make sure he noticed that she, Alexis Sharpe, was a woman. That she couldn’t be dismissed so easily…a compulsion she’d never felt before.
She faced every day that she lacked any special talent, that she’d been overlooked, even by her parents. This vacation to Milan had been a desperate escape she’d grabbed after being rejected at another high-flying Manhattan firm for a job. When she’d realized she wasn’t equipped for a big career like some of her friends, that a menial job at her dad’s health food store comprised her future.
A summer in Italy because you’ve been turned down at another job, her mom had said in that resigned tone of hers. Rewarding failure, are we now?
As if she hadn’t expected anything different of Alex. The words had rankled but Alex needed this. A small rebellion in a life that had made her less than mediocre and thoroughly without merit.
And yet, when it came to Leandro Conti, she felt a reckless freedom, a vicious urge to stand out to him.
Like that time two weeks ago when he had arrived at the dinner with Valentina, their brother, Luca, and their friends on the veranda overlooking the lake.
A soft breeze had rolled in from the lake and Valentina had whipped up a batch of margaritas. Alex had had just one sip and instantly put it down.
Leandro had dragged a chair out next to her, inquired over Valentina’s twisted ankle, and then he’d turned that dark gray gaze on her.
“Other than chiding Tina that she is a big baby,” he mimicked her tone, and Alex cursed herself for losing patience with Valentina that evening a few weeks ago, “how are you enjoying your trip, Ms. Sharpe?”
That accent of his had sent a shiver curling through her spine even as it stiffened at his condescending tone.
Shock that he’d sat down next to her had stolen speech from her. While his gaze had traversed over her messy, high ponytail, her forehead, her nose and, then briefly, her mouth.
A bare five seconds, maybe but Alex had felt the perusal like a caress.
Heat had clamped her cheeks and she gritted her teeth. “Alex, my name is Alex. Why do you refuse to say it?”
His greeting to her had always been unflinchingly polite, as if he was determined to deny her even that small satisfaction.
Valentina, both shrewd and kind, had warned Alex that her older brother wasn’t someone to set her sights on.
Perversely, that warning had only intensified Alex’s attraction to the man.
“Why do you shorten it to a man’s name like that?” And then he had flitted that intractable gaze over the rest of her, her small breasts in her worn-out community college T-shirt, her midriff and her long legs in worn-out capris and her favorite sneakers. Moved up again. Four weeks amid Valentina and her friends dressed at the height of sophistication and it was the first time Alex wished she’d dressed up.
His thinly sculpted upper lip curled and Alex clenched tight inside. “Do you assume you are successful at hiding everything you are?” A taunt that no one else at the table could hear.
Shock buffeted her in waves as she looked inward.
Had she done that? Had she dressed to minimize herself, to willingly lay down in defeat before she could actually be rejected anyway by the world?
She met his gaze with a boldness she didn’t know she had, this man who saw her so clearly. “I have no idea what you mean.”
He sat at a perfectly respectable distance, yet fire uncoiled in every nerve. His warm breath feathered over the rim of her ear. “Little advice from your friend’s brother, Ms. Sharpe. Stop looking at men like that.” Then he looked at her again and those gray irises widened. “Unless you’re fully aware of the weapon you wield.”
He’d left then, without a backward glance.
Leaving Alex seething with humiliation and embarrassment and anger. Only then had she realized that he knew.
He knew that she was attracted to him.
And he had rejected her. Very thoroughly.
But she hadn’t even retorted because it was as if her brain was incapable of higher functions when he was close.
The din of the nightclub, the slow jazzy tune that had men and women around her gyrating sensuously, the sweaty crush of the crowd and the heated scent of pheromones…everything faded as she studied him.
He stood about two feet from her, and yet, she was aware of every inch of that hard, lean body, could feel herself gravitate toward him.
As if he was a black hole and she was being sucked toward him.
Hasn’t he made a fool of you enough already, some tiny self-preservation instinct asked.
Alex clutched it like a lifeline, forced her legs to turn away from him.
She didn’t need an arrogant Italian to ruin her hard-won holiday this summer. To make her feel as if somehow she came up short.
She already lived with that feeling every day.
This trip to Italy, this whole summer was supposed to be about escaping, about being someone other than the Alexis who failed at everything, the Alexis who was nothing but a mere shadow of everything her genius brother Adrian had been. About living before she returned to being a disappointment to her parents.
Anxious to get away, she tripped in her four-inch stilettos. A leanly muscled forearm wrapped around her waist, steadying her.
Held tightly against a hard, male chest, her breath knocked out.
“Grazie mille,” she managed one of the two phrases she knew, breathless against the press of the corded muscles just below her breasts.
“You can barely stand in those stilettos. Just because Valentina offers a free pair of Contis doesn’t mean you should wear them.”
Her head jerked up, the gravelly voice tugging at her nerves.
Leandro Conti stared down that aquiline bridge of his nose. Neon blue lighting from the strobes cast blue shadows on his narrow, angular face, teasing her with flashes of his thin-lipped mouth.
The scowl on his brow straightened her spine. “Are you implying that I’m not good enough to wear your exalted designer shoes?”
“I do not imply.”
“You’re a jerk, Mr. Conti.”
His gaze flitted down over her neck, and her body tightly encased in a sheath dress she’d borrowed from Valentina. Even the stretchy fabric couldn’t make much of her nonexistent curves.
But under his stare, Alex felt scorched, marked.
“And you…are playing hard at being a grown-up. Unsuccessfully, I might say.”
“Damned if I do, and if I don’t, with you. At least three men wanted to take me home tonight,” she taunted recklessly, even as hurt pierced her, “so I say screw your unwanted, stuffy opinion.”