Read Kidnapping His Bride Online
Authors: Karen Erickson
“Of course. We can see a Broadway show, take a tour around the city, you could meet my sister…it’s up to you. I’m sure you’ll want to go shopping. Every woman in my family drops everything to shop in the city as much as possible.”
She frowned. “I don’t really have the…funds at the moment to do much shopping.”
He was a jackass. Of course she didn’t. “I’ll take you shopping.”
“No, you don’t have—”
“Shush.” He silenced her, pressed his mouth to hers for a too-quick kiss, then released her chin. “Let me do this for you.”
Cat nodded. “Okay. Yes. I would love that.”
“Good.” He smiled when she tried to suppress a yawn. “Are you tired?”
“A little,” she admitted, letting the next yawn fly.
“You should sleep through the flight. There’s an empty bed waiting for you.”
“I’m tempted.” She eyed him. “Aren’t you tired too?”
Exhausted, but he wouldn’t take the bed from her. “I need to do some work, but I’ll probably fall asleep in my seat.”
“You can take the bed,” she offered, but he shook his head.
“You use it. You’ll sleep over the flight and wake up refreshed and in the city. Ready to conquer it.” He smiled. “After we take off, you can slip back into the bedroom.”
“That sounds nice.” She offered him a faint smile and he swore he felt the power of it to the depths of his soul. “Thank you, Rafe.”
Thank you for kidnapping her? For pulling her out of her home, her comfort zone and forcing her to come with him? Not that he’d had to force her too terribly hard.
“You won’t regret this time away with me, Cat. I promise,” he said as she slipped her seatbelt on.
She flashed him a tentative smile. “I hope I won’t.”
Never in her life had she traveled in such high style. When Cat was younger, her father’s company had done well. She recalled many vacations, traveling all over Europe, spending summers in Chicago. They’d traveled so much it had become the norm.
But as she grew older, the family business had begun to suffer. Her father had lost interest—in everything. Once the excess money had dried up, the long, family-fun trips had stopped, until they became nothing but a fond memory Cat rarely thought of.
Flying in a private jet was an absolute luxury. Sleeping in a bed in said private jet? So beyond luxury, it felt downright decadent.
Once the jet had reached flying altitude, Rafe had encouraged Cat to take him up on his offer of using the bed. She’d protested at first, insisting she was fine, but he gently nudged her—twice. After she dozed off and her head ended up on his shoulder—yet again, twice.
So she’d wandered back into the small but comfortable bedroom and promptly fallen into a deep, dreamless sleep. Only to wake up what felt like days later to a warm, solid presence in the bed beside her.
Her eyes flew open and she sat up straight, gazing in disbelief at Rafe stretched out beside her. He lay on top of the thin comforter, his shoes still on, lying on his stomach, his head propped on his arm, facing her. His handsome face was covered in dark stubble, his lips were parted, hair and clothes rumpled, and he looked…
She sat cross-legged on the bed and studied him unabashedly. Could she imagine waking up with him every morning? Would he be an attentive, loving husband? Or would he eventually grow tired of her? Bored and restless, turning into the neglectful husband she not so secretly feared he could morph into?
Her low expectations of Rafe were probably unfair, what with her not even giving him a chance to prove himself, but she didn’t want to take that risk. It always came back to her parents’ marriage, to the way Rafe has behaved these last few years. She was scared. Marriage to Rafe frightened her. Not that she was afraid of him, not at all. She knew he wasn’t a violent man or anything of that nature.
But she was afraid of what he might do to her without knowing he was doing it. How he could neglect her. Destroy her. That was what had pushed her to end their engagement.
Yet here she sat with him on a private jet, sharing a bed, studying him, trying to come up with a way that she could jump him…
No jumping Rafael Renaldi allowed. No matter how difficult he was to resist.
“Are you finished checking me out?”
His deep, sexy voice knocked her from her reverie, and she shook her head, laughing softly. “You caught me.”
“You barely move on this tiny bed and I feel it. I couldn’t help but wake up.” He cracked open his eyes, their dark brown depths locked directly on her. “Sleep well?”
“Yes.” She nodded.
“Do you mind that I joined you? I was exhausted. Was afraid I’d fall out of my seat if I didn’t lie down.”
“Not at all.” She nibbled on her lower lip, still studying him. She wished she was bold enough to lean down and kiss him. What would he do? How would he react? “Rafe, where will we be staying in New York?”
“I have an apartment.”
“Do you have a guest room?” She sounded like such a ninny, but she had to know. She’d been almost afraid—and tempted—that they might end up in a hotel room. Together. Alone. With one bed and they’d have no choice but to share it.
“Of course. And you’re welcome to stay in it.” He smiled, looking rather…cute, lying there smiling up at her.
“Do you live in Manhattan?”
“I do.” He sat up, his leg brushing against hers, and her skin heated at first contact. The bed was so small, they were bound to touch each other. The moment felt rather…intimate. Close.
Perhaps too close.
“I’ve been there before, but it was years ago,” she said, tearing her gaze away from him to stare out the small window that was just to the left of his head. “I think the plane is starting to make its descent.”
“The pilot will announce when that’s about to happen. He’ll ask us to head back to our seats with plenty of warning time.” Rafe ran a hand through his hair, messing it up even more, and the urge to smooth his hair out, comb through those silky strands with her fingers, was so strong she had to clench her hands into fists to restrain herself.
“I could get used to traveling like this,” she said on a sigh, her gaze meeting his once more, noting the heat in his eyes, the hungry way he studied her. Alarm swept through her as the air fairly crackled between them. “What? Is something wrong?”
“Nothing at all. You’re pretty when you first wake up. And rather agreeable.” He reached out, trailed his fingers down her cheek. “I like the idea of finding you in my bed every morning.”
Her heart threatened to lurch out of her chest at his words. But surely he didn’t mean it. He couldn’t. “Very funny,” she said weakly. “I can be a grump in the morning. Until I have that first cup of coffee.”
“You? A grump? I can’t imagine.” His smile grew as he toyed with a lock of her hair and she realized he was teasing.
“I’ve been rather grumpy to you, I can admit it.” She offered him a quick smile. “I’ll try to be on my best behavior during our trip.”
“So you’ll be a well-behaved kidnapping victim? How lucky am I?” Leaning in, he brushed her mouth with his, his lips lingering. Just long enough for her to open to him, their bodies swaying toward each other as his tongue touched hers delicately.
“Mr. Renaldi, we’re about to make our final descent into New York City. I suggest you and your guest return to your seats and buckle in.” The captain’s voice rang from invisible speakers, causing Cat to jerk away from Rafe so fast she nearly tumbled off the bed.
“Watch it.” He grabbed her arm, saving her from tumbling onto the floor, and she shot him a grateful smile. “You all right?”
“I’m fine.” She hadn’t hurt anything. Just her pride. “Shall we go back to our seats?”
“Absolutely.” He stood and drew her to her feet, keeping her hand clasped in his. “Are you ready for a brand-new adventure?” he murmured close to her ear.
She nodded, keeping her head averted. More than afraid if she looked him in the eye, she’d probably kiss him again. Meaning the captain would have to tell them again to get in their seats and embarrass her further.
“I can’t wait to spend the next few days with you, Cat,” he whispered, his firm, damp lips brushing her earlobe, making her shiver. “Maybe then I can convince you we belong together after all.”
She didn’t doubt it for a second. She’d need to utilize every bit of resistance she had within her to ward him off.
But maybe she didn’t want to.
Rafe brought Cat to his apartment in Midtown, pleased when she glanced about the space in seeming awe, her hazel eyes wide as she drank in the view, and he was thankful the weather cooperated, offering a gorgeous glimpse of the city skyline. The brightly shining sun reflected off the windows of the high rises that surrounded them, casting a glow into the room.
“This is amazing.” She turned to look at him, surprise written all over her face. “How do you ever want to leave? I wouldn’t, not with this view.”
“Can’t stay cooped up in this place for the rest of my days, now could I?” He set her small travel bag on the ground, then went to the wall of windows where she stood, overlooking the city. “Do you want to rest some more? I know you couldn’t have got much sleep on the plane. Or would you want something to drink? Maybe eat? I can order something for us if you’d like.”
She glanced up, her reflection meeting his in the window’s reflective glass. “I’m fine, thank you.”
Hell. She’d thrown up a wall since they departed the jet, seeming to withdraw into herself. He tried to tell himself she was tired, overwhelmed, unsure. More than anything, he was afraid she regretted coming with him.
And he couldn’t have that. He’d set her right back on that jet and send her home to Italy if that was the case. No way would he keep a woman with him against her will. Despite his jokingly calling their situation a kidnapping, he didn’t really mean it.
He certainly didn’t think he’d be able to stand it if they planned on tiptoeing around each other for the next few days, though. He’d thoroughly enjoyed her earlier when they’d woken up together on the plane. Soft and sweet and agreeable, her obvious reaction to him had been a tremendous turn on. He’d been tempted to take it that much further right there on the bed when the plane’s captain had warned them they were ready to land.
That interruption still irritated him, though she’d seemed blissfully unaware. Of course, he was the one who still walked around with a perpetual hard-on while she acted like that moment had been completely forgettable.
Damn, he felt like such a simpering fool. For the first time in his life, had he actually encountered a woman who couldn’t give a shit about him? She’d more than proven that when she walked away from him just last night.
But he’d turned around and more than proven himself by convincing her to leave the country with him. If that didn’t earn him some points, he didn’t know what would.
This isn’t a game, asshole. There’s no need for keeping score.
He knew this. But he couldn’t help himself. It was the middle brother in him, the constant need to compete, strive toward greatness. Strive toward winning. And right now he was desperate to win back Catalina as his fiancée.
And, eventually, as his bride—his wife.
“Well, if you don’t want to rest, let’s at least get you settled. I can show you to your room.” He stopped just behind her, settling his hands on her slender shoulders. She went rigid beneath his palms, her muscles tense, and he gave her a gentle squeeze. “Don’t worry,” he murmured close to her ear. “I won’t bite.”
A soft laugh escaped her. “I’m not sure how to act around you, especially after what happened between us last night.”
“Are you referring to when I kissed you?” he joked. He knew exactly what she referred to.
“No.” She tensed once more and he began rubbing her shoulders, trying his best to ease her discomfort. “You, uh, know what I’m talking about. After I…rejected you.”
“My heart is still wounded from your cold and callous behavior,” he teased, though it really was, not that he’d ever admit it.
“Please. I don’t matter that much to you,” she murmured.
He gave her shoulders a meaningful squeeze. “That’s emphatically untrue.”
She glanced back at him. “What do you mean? As I told you repeatedly last night, we don’t even know each other. How could I matter?”
“We may not know each other well, but you’ve been a part of my life for years. A goal I worked toward, a life I looked forward to.” He pressed his lips together, not willing to reveal more. He’d end up sounding like a sappy idiot and he refused to show his hand this early in the game.
There he went again, referring to this life-altering situation as some sort of contest.
“Really?” She sounded surprised. Foolish woman. “I always believed you never thought of me at all.”
He was shocked. “Now why would you think that?”
“We hardly ever spoke to each other. You’ve ignored me for years,” she explained. “I always thought if I really mattered to you, you would’ve sought me out more. Tried to spend time with me.”