The C.O.O. Must Marry (The Valente Series #2)(7) by Maxine Sullivan

“Okay?” he asked hoarsely.

She nodded, too emotional to be able to speak. Nick had made her a woman.

His woman.

He began to move, and the world faded away. No one else existed, and nothing mattered. It was just the two of them, and when she cl**axed Nick followed, and they came together in their own private world.

After Nick returned from the bathroom he sat on the bed and took her hands in his. “Why?”

Sasha swallowed. “Why didn’t I tell you? You said it would make a difference and I…well…I wanted you to make love to me.”

His mouth softened with tenderness. “You silly goose. The difference would have been in the way I made love to you, not in whether I made love to you at all.”

“Oh.”

“Your first time needs to be handled gently.” A moment later he grimaced.

She saw the hint of regret in his eyes. “Nick, you were very gentle with me. Thank you.”

He kissed her briefly. “Thank you for saying that.” Then he leaned back with a penetrating look in his eyes that made her uneasy. “I seem to remember you telling me that you’d slept with Randall Tremaine.”

She’d been prepared for this.

“Yes, I did say that. But I was eighteen, and I didn’t want you thinking our kiss meant anything to me so…” she lifted one shoulder in a shrug, “I made it up.”

“You were saving face?”

“Yes.”

He considered her. “Why haven’t you ever slept with anyone?”

“Perhaps I wanted to save myself for my husband.”

A tic beat in his jaw. “And I’ve taken that away from you.”

“No!” She swallowed, feeling bad for him. “Nick, look, we’ve both lost a lot of things from this marriage but we’ve gained some things, too. I’m glad you were my first, okay?”

His gaze took on a piercing look that held hers for long moments. Then just as quickly it changed to a sensual warmth that made her heartbeat stutter.

He got off the bed and scooped her from the sheets. “Nick! Where are you taking me?”

“To the shower.”

She didn’t ask why. It became obvious when he stood her in the cubicle and began to wash her with tenderness and care, and with a gentleness that almost brought tears to her eyes. This rich, arrogant playboy had a capacity for caring she hadn’t really expected.

Then his hand and fingers replaced the soap, creating a lather that had nothing to do with bathing and everything to do with making love.

Four

F or a moment Nick was confused when he woke up the next morning. He could hear car doors shutting and voices talking, and usually he didn’t hear those sorts of noises from his tenth-floor apartment in the city.

Then he remembered.

He was married now. And this wasn’t his apartment. He was at the Valente estate and the sounds he heard were the caterers clearing up the last of the wedding reception.

Sasha!

He lifted his head to find himself weighted to the bed by the na**d female sleeping against his chest. He looked down at the top of her blonde hair, and heat surged through his veins.

God, she’d been a virgin.

Amazingly there was something totally satisfying about knowing he was the only man to ever touch her like he had. Knowing he was the first man to be inside her like he’d been. He’d never thought he’d be the sort of guy who indulged in that sort of thing. He wasn’t usually some sort of he-man who beat his chest in triumph.

Yet this time he wanted to do exactly that.

A virgin, for Pete’s sake!

And of course that meant she’d lied to him all those years ago when she’d told him she’d gone out and slept with Randall Tremaine. It had been a few weeks after the gazebo incident and at the time he’d put it down to the fickle ways of a woman not knowing her own mind.

It hadn’t stopped him wanting to knock the other man out when he’d seen them talking together briefly at a party. He remembered thinking Randall had been playing it so cool. No wonder. The poor guy had been an innocent pawn in it all.

Totally innocent.

Just like Sasha.

Hell, was he blind or what? Everything had pointed to her being a virgin, only he hadn’t been looking. He’d just thought her a little inexperienced. He could see it all now. The shyness in her, her first cl**ax, wanting the light turned off.

The thought of being inside her again made him groan softly, and he knew he could wake her up and take her again. And it would be good for both of them.

Damn good.

But this wasn’t a woman he could make love to, then kiss goodbye. This was his wife.

That thought had him easing out of bed and heading for the shower. He’d already given up his freedom for this marriage. He wasn’t giving up his work, too.

But tonight…yes, tonight…he was going to enjoy teaching Sasha more about making love with a man.

Sasha opened her eyes to find the sun streaming in through the windows and an empty bed next to her.

She was a woman in every sense of the word now.

And her heart was still intact.

She’d been terrified last night. Deep-down terrified that somehow Nick’s lovemaking would open up the floodgates on the love she’d had for him years ago. It had been a very real fear.

But she’d had nothing to worry about, thank heavens. Nick’s expertise in bed had made it so very special for her, and while lingering memories of her teenage love may have played a part in her enjoyment, pure physical attraction had saved the day.

It was such a relief!

Yes, she could cope with a physical relationship, she mused, throwing back the sheets and taking a couple of steps, then felt herself blush at how pleasurably sore her body was in all the places he’d touched.

And kissed.

Her hot shower should have soothed her but she kept remembering Nick carrying her in here last night. The thought of it brought a lump to her throat. How gentle he’d been.

And caring.

By the time she was dressed she was ready to face the day. The main thing was that she didn’t love Nick nor had he guessed she’d been in love with him years ago.

And that was something to celebrate, she decided, as she went down the staircase to the kitchen. Today was business as usual for her husband, and it would be for her, too. She had her own work to do.

She had plans.

Lots of them.

Her fingers itched while she ate breakfast on the terrace, her mind racing with excitement, eager now to get back to the designs she’d started a few weeks ago.

The house was an interior designer’s dream. It had a grand salon with picture windows and French doors looking out over spectacular gardens and courtyards. There was also a formal dining room and family living areas with five bedrooms and bathrooms, a study upstairs and one downstairs, and a kitchen with modern conveniences in an old-fashioned style.

Before too long she’d spread herself out in the downstairs study, her ideas and thoughts spilling onto the paper, her enthusiasm for the project continuing to bubble as she worked past lunch.

“Have you been here all day?” Nick said from the doorway.

Startled, she looked up and her heart skipped a beat at the sight of him. He was so handsome, and she’d been intimate with him last night. The thought made her feel warm all over.

She quickly dragged her gaze away to her watch. “Is it six o’clock already?”

He started to scowl as he stepped into the room and came toward her. “You’re working on plans for the redecorating?” A muscle ticked in his cheek. “So you’re still going ahead with it?” he asked, stopping in front of the desk.

That warm feeling disappeared at his tone. She leveled him a look. They hadn’t discussed it further, but she’d assumed he would still let her redecorate. “I guess that’s up to you. You’re the boss.”

His eyes narrowed. “This is your home, too, now, you know.”

“I guess it is.”

Not for a moment did she think she owned this house. How could she? It was Nick’s. It would always be Nick’s even if she stayed married to him for fifty years.

Her breath stopped at the thought.

He leaned over the paperwork and looked at her plans for the main dining room. A minute later he grudgingly admitted, “They’re good.”

Despite herself, she felt a thrill at his praise.

She shrugged. “They’re just ideas. There’s still a lot to be done.”

He studied her. “This means a lot to you, doesn’t it?”

“Yes.”

There was a tiny pause. “Fine. Then you have carte blanche to do what you like.”

“Really?” Excitement rushed through her, but she quickly reined it in and said more primly, “Thank you.”

“But my old bedroom stays as is.”

“Oh?” She didn’t say she’d planned to turn his room and the one next to it into a larger suite. “If that’s what you want.”

“It is.”

“Okay.” She’d allow him that. After all, she had the rest of the house.

“I’m going to shower and change before dinner,” he said, a possessive gleam in his eyes sweeping over her, making her panic.

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