Enduring passion, turbulent emotions, and an engagement of convenience...
At age twenty, Anna Felgate rid herself of her unwanted virginity with the one man she adored--Nick Lisitano, long-time family friend and legendary lover. But that one taste of passion branded her soul for all time--and still casts a long shadow, four celibate years later.
Their single night of matchless lovemaking left Nick racked with remorse for taking advantage of Anna's innocence. Thanks to his parents' stormy marriage, he's sworn off commitment, but believes Anna deserves deep, enduring love, not a temporary liaison.
In the intervening years, they've managed to keep a cordial distance, but when a crisis in Nick's family brings them together again, Anna is shocked by Nick's daring plan to cheer up his dangerously ill father--a temporary facade of an engagement. Against her better judgment, she agrees to it, fully aware of the emotional minefield yawning before her.
As if destiny has been waiting for them to touch once again, their volcanic mutual attraction reignites, threatening to burn the terms of their pragmatic bargain to ashes. Each begins to wonder privately if their passion can become permanent--or whether it will crumble under the weight of past sins and present secrets...
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March 01, 2011
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Excerpt from Far From Perfect by Portia Da Costa
"We have to talk about that night, Anna. We've danced around it since it happened and it'll only fester if we leave it any longer."
"What's to discuss?" Anna held his gaze, and the lack of fear in her eyes was awesome, almost warrior. He wasn't the only one who'd pulled himself together. "I made a mistake...and you informed me of it in no uncertain terms. There's nothing more to be said." Her voice was steady, but huskier than before. And the blush in her cheeks was pinker, hotter.
Oh hell, he wanted her more than ever.
"It was a lot more than that. And we need to talk about it." He moved to push his hands in his pockets, then thought better of it and crossed his arms in front of him.
Suddenly, Anna was on her feet, fists clenched at her sides. "Yes, there was a bit in the middle that you seemed to enjoy--quite a lot as I recall! But after that, all I remember is you suddenly turning into the Reverend Father of Good Sense and Moral Rectitude and preaching me a sermon along the lines of 'You young idiot!' and 'How could you be so stupid?' and 'Per Dio, what on earth were you thinking?'"
Per Dio indeed! That night he'd lost his cool completely, just as he was in serious danger of losing it now.
There had been a delicious, drowsy awakening, then shocked realization, then an almost fatalistic slide into the most soul-drenching pleasure. And afterwards, another rollercoaster plunge, but this time into another realization. The fact that he'd just had sex with exactly the type of woman, exactly the woman whom he shouldn't have allowed himself anywhere near.
Remorse had shocked him in its agonizing intensity. Anna hadn't been one of his no-strings sophisticates who knew the score. Not then, and maybe not now. His plan was stupid...stupid, but he couldn't forget the way his father's weary eyes burned with hope at the mention of her name.
And yet, there was the other thing too. The need to get past that night, exorcise their demons and move on properly. Surely she wanted the same? Or was he just fooling himself so he had an excuse to bed her again? His thoughts whirled, round and round, and his temples ached from the urge to shake his head again.
"I was harsh. I shouldn't have been. I admit that." It seemed a hollow concession at best, and he hated the memory of her lovely face crumpling in distress.
"And presumptuous," she flung back at him, "and arrogant."
"Okay, yes, it was arrogant of me to presume that because you wanted to fuck me you'd expect me to get into a serious relationship with you afterwards." Odd voices, yearnings, muttered in his head. "And it was a shock realizing you were a virgin...it was...was a responsibility."
"Which you don't like. I know that. I only wanted to get rid of my virginity with a man I knew was likely to be pretty damn good in bed." Anna's delicate chin came up as she spoke. Her expression was determined and brittle and he didn't like it at all. "I picked you because I knew you were a player and you could get the job done."
Sudden outrage barreled through him, but at her or himself, he wasn't quite sure. Nevertheless it swept aside all better judgment and pragmatism. It was one thing to have a reputation as a seasoned stud--deserved, admittedly--but to be told he'd been chosen purely as a stallion hurt like a punch in the gut. Especially as he still wasn't sure she was telling the truth.
He wanted a drink. He wanted to clear his head, which was suddenly aching. He wanted release, and whether it was emotional or just pure sex, he didn't care.
"Well, in view of the fact that I never asked you for specifics at the time...was I satisfactory?" he demanded, "Did I 'get the job done', as you so delicately put it?"
To his surprise, Anna laughed. A light, sexy laugh that should have broken the tension, but didn't. "Nick! You are kidding, aren't you? If you couldn't tell from all the--" her eyes skittered away just a second, and she swallowed furiously, "--all the fuss I made, then you obviously aren't the all-conquering sexual love-rat everyone believes you to be."
"Reports of my sexual prowess have been greatly exaggerated," he murmured dryly, but inside he found a smile, stupidly pleased at the idea of "getting the job done" and well.
Because she'd pleased him. Per Dio, how she'd pleased him. He'd never had quite the same sublime experience since, and he'd had lovers who were world-class beauties, sexually voracious and practiced seductresses to boot.
Looking down at Anna's face, he saw courage and fire in every perfect contour. Her mouth was luscious yet determined and her eyes held his, not quailing, not hiding anything.
She did want him, but she was wary. Her slender body had an almost feline quality of readiness, as if she were gathering herself to dart away from him if he made the slightest wrong move. Either that or she was poised to attack him. Even ravish him.
But everything about her made him want to launch his own counterattack. To haul her against him and kiss her until the last sub-atomic particle of hostility in her had melted and she was eager and aroused in his arms. As eager and aroused as he was.
Instead, he dropped onto the sofa again, taking care to observe her personal space while every fiber of his being howled at him to invade it. "Is that what you think of me? That I'm a love-rat?" He patted the seat beside him, and felt a ridiculous, almost boyish happiness when she sat too.
He recognized his peril when close proximity surrounded him with the delicate drift of her perfume. It was very light, yet as rich as a basket of summer flowers, and it was exactly the same fragrance she'd worn in bed at Villa Rosa. It had been the only thing she'd been wearing that night and it had filled his head with madness.
As it did now.
"It's a pretty crude way of putting it, but essentially...yes." She glanced down at his thigh, and hers, almost touching, and he could tell she wanted to move, but he wasn't quite sure whether away or closer. "According to those--" she nodded to a pile of shiny magazines lying on the nearby coffee table, "--and what everybody says, you do seem to work your way through a lot of women."
"So you believe the made-up tales of trashy magazines and evil-minded gossips?" he murmured, irrationally wounded, but knowing he shouldn't blame her. He as good as promoted that image of himself, so his lovers wouldn't be cruelly disappointed when forever wasn't on offer. "I've always credited you with more intelligence than that, Anna."
Nick felt an intense desire to defend himself. Take her by the shoulders, look deep into her intelligent green eyes and convince her by sheer force of personality that he wasn't the unprincipled womanizer the sensationalist press and his self-created persona portrayed him to be. But what would be the point of that? She was safer thinking he was a womanizer.