Cesar was hot, sweaty, grimy and thoroughly disgruntled. All he wanted now was a cold shower and a stiff drink. A punishing ride around his vast estate on his favourite stallion had failed to put a dent in the dark cloud that had clung to him since his return that afternoon from his half – brother Alexio’s wedding in Paris. Those scenes of chirpy happiness still grated on his soul.
It also irritated him intensely that he’d given into the rogue compulsion to go. As he neared the stables his black mood increased to see the evidence of a serious breach of his privacy. A film was due to start shooting on his estate after the weekend for the next four weeks. If that wasn’t bad enough, the stars, director and producers were all staying in the castillo.
He wasn’t unaware of his complicated relationship to his home. It was both prison and sanctuary. But one thing was sure: Cesar hated his privacy being invaded like this.
Huge film equipment trucks lined his driveway. People were wandering about holding clipboards, speaking into walkie talkies. A massive marquee had been set up where locals from the nearby town were being decked out as extras in nineteenth century garb.
All that was missing was a circus tent with flags flying and a clown outside saying Roll up! Roll up!
One of his biggest stableyards had been cleared out so that they could use it as the Unit Base. The Unit Base, a film assistant had explained earnestly to Cesar, was where the actors got ready every day and where the crew would eat. As if he cared!
But, he’d feigned interest for the benefit of his friend Juan Cortez who was the Lord Mayor of Villaporto, the local town, and the reason why Cesar had even given this idea half a second’s consideration. They’d been friends since the age of ten when they’d had to both admit defeat during a fist – fight or remain fighting till dawn and lose all their teeth. And they would have, both stubborn enough.
His friend had pointed out: ‘Nearly eveyone has been employed in some capacity – accommodation, catering, locations, the art department. Even my mother is involved in making clothes for the extras, and putting up some of the crew. I haven’t seen her so excited in years.’
Cesar couldn’t fail to acknowledge the morale and economic boost the film had already brought to the locale. He was known in the press for his ruthless dealings with people and businesses; one journalist likening his methods to that of the cold dead – eyed stare of a shark before it ate you whole. But Cesar wasn’t completely heartless, especially if it involved his own local community.
More than one person caught a glimpse of his glowering features and looked away hurriedly but Cesar was oblivious, already figuring out how he could rearrange his schedule to make sure he was away for as much of the next four weeks as possible.
To his relief, his own private stableyard which was strictly off – limits to the crew, was empty when he returned. He wasn’t in the mood to deal with anyone, not even a groom. After unsaddling his horse and hosing him down, Cesar led him back to his stall and made sure he was secure, patting his still quivering flesh after their exertion.
It was only when he was turning to leave again that Cesar spotted a movement out of the corner of his eye and turned to look.
And stopped breathing, and thinking.
In the other corner of the quiet stable stood a woman. Cesar felt slightly dizzy for a moment and wondered if he was seeing an apparition. She was wearing a white corset that cinched in her waist to almost impossible proportions, while provocatively pushing up the abundant swells of her breasts. Long wavy golden hair was pulled back from an ethereally beautiful face and left to tumble down her back.
Very feminine hips curved out from that tiny waist and a long voluminous skirt almost touched the ground.
She was stunning, exquisite. She was venus incarnate. She couldn’t be real. Nothing so perfect existed in reality.
Almost without realising that he was moving, Cesar closed the distance between them. She didn’t move. Just stared at him, looking as transfixed as he felt. Imbueing this moment with an even headier other – wordly feeling.
Her eyes were huge and blue, piercing. She was tiny, and it seemed to call to some deep primal part of him. Evoking an alien urge to protect.
Her face was small and heart – shaped, but with an inherent strength that elevated it out of the merely beautiful to extraordinary. High cheekbones. Elegant straight nose. A full mouth. A lush mouth, made for sin and sinners. Skin like alabastor.
There was a beauty spot close to the edge of her upper lip. She exuded an earthy and very feminine sexual allure. She couldn’t be real. Yet every single ounce of his masculinity was humming and throbbing in reaction to her luminosity.
As if to check that he wasn’t losing it completely, Cesar reached out a hand noting with almost dispassionate surprise that it trembled slightly. He cupped his hand near her cheek and jaw, without actually touching her, almost afraid that she might disappear if he did…
And then he touched her…and she didn’t disappear. She was real. Warm. Skin as soft as silk. A movement made his eyes drop and he saw her chest moving up and down rapidly with her breaths.
‘Dios,’ he said faintly to himself, ‘You are real.’
Her mouth opened. Cesar saw small even white teeth. Her tongue tip, pink. She said, ‘I…’ and then stopped. Just that one tiny word had been uttered with a husky voice, making Cesar’s whole body tighten with a need that was unprecedented.
Sliding his hand further around her jaw, to the back of her neck, silky hair tickling the back of his hand, Cesar tugged her into him and after a minute hesitation she came, stumbling ever so slightly. All he knew once he felt the barest whisper of a touch of her body to his, was that he couldn’t hold back now even if a thousand men tried to stop him.
His head lowered and Cesar’s mouth touched hers and all that sweet soft voluptuousness pierced him all the way through right to the centre of his being and threw him into the pit of a fire of lust so strong, it obliterated everything he knew, or thought he knew.
Cesar felt her hands clutching at him, grabbing his shirt. Any resistance vanished when her mouth opened under his and his arms tightened around her as his hungry tongue thrust into that hot moist cavern.
However sweet that first initial taste had been…it turned to pure sin. Decadent and rich. Her tongue was sharp and smooth, teasing. Stoking his levels of arousal so that every bit of blood seemed to be rushing to the centre of his body, making that shaft of flesh lengthen and stiffen painfully.
Moving his two hands to her waist, encircling it, Cesar almost groaned loud when he felt his fingers meet. That evidence of her intense femininity almost pushed his body over the edge, betraying him like an over – sexed teenager.
He could feel her chest, struggling with her constricted breath, moving up and down rapidly. Blood surging anew, Cesar lifted a hand and dragged it up between their bodies, fingers itching to touch that smooth pale skin.
When he came into contact with the swell of one breast his body pulsed with a need that shocked him. He broke the contact of their mouths for a moment, resting his forehead against hers, overwhelmed at the strength of this desire.
Her voice sounded even huskier, needy. Like how he felt. He needed this woman now. Needed to free himself and lift up her skirts and plunge right into the centre of that taut, smooth body. Feel her legs wrap around him. On some very dim and distant level, Cesar was aware that he had become animalistic. Reduced to the cravings and needs of a base animal in an effort to achieve a kind of satisfaction he’d never anticipated before.
But that still couldn’t stop him. Not after that husky please had filled the space between them.
Branding her mouth with his again, the kiss was open – mouthed and carnal. Electrifying. In the act of lifting up her skirts, almost desperate now, Cesar jerked and flinched when a flash of light seemed to illuminate the world for a second. Like the crack of a whip. Shattering the heady moment.
Lifting his head from where their mouths were welded together, Cesar could only see two huge pools of blue, ringed by long black lashes. That plump mouth, pink. Feel her chest moving against his.
Then there was another flash and a rapid jarring clicking sound. He flinched again. Some vague notion of reality and sanity returning from a long distance. He turned his head but it was the hardest thing to do, to look away from that face. Those eyes.
He saw a man standing at the entrance of the stables holding a camera up to his face. It was the equivalent of having a bucket of cold water thrown over him. Suddenly reality was back. Cesar straightened up.
Instinctively he pushed the woman behind him as he snarled at the man who was backing away, still shooting. ‘Get out of here. Now.’
One of Cesar’s grooms appeared near the door and he rapped out, ‘Get security now, and get that man’s camera.’
But the photographer had disappeared and even though Cesar’s groom darted away after him, Cesar had the sinking feeling it would be too late. He’d reacted too late himself. Becoming aware of rapid harsh breathing behind him, Cesar turned around.
And almost fell into the pit again when he saw those huge blue eyes staring up at him and that body which made his ache to keep going.
But reality had intruded. This woman was no apparition or ghost. She was flesh and blood, and he had just lost his legendary control spectacularly. Jésus, had he gone mad? Accusingly, Cesar asked, ‘Who the hell are you?’