Passion's Design by Sharon Noble
erotic contemporary inter-cultural romance
Cover Art by Winterheart Design
Designer Rosalind Hughes’s task is to create a perfect wedding, not to fall in love with groom, a South American aristocrat who holds all things American in contempt, especially American women. Her conservative Vermont background failed to prepare her for the environment of Colombian social conventions and the strength of tradition. She is mesmerized by black eyes and overwhelming sensuality, unaware that they belong to the bridegroom.
From the moment he sees Rosalind, Julio is a man in torment. He wants her, but she represents everything he abhors. How can he separate lust from love and remain faithful to his family’s traditions and the pledge made years ago by his father to join two powerful families?
The two women were left alone to deal with the language barrier, but Inés seemed completely comfortable, as if an American in the foyer was an everyday occurrence.
“La Señora no está en casa, Señorita.” She handed a gilt-edged, lavender-scented paper to Rosalind.
In a large, bold hand was written, My dear Miss Hughes, I have been called into town on rather urgent business. I regret that I cannot be at home to greet you on your arrival at Dos Ríos, but Inés will see to your needs, and my daughter will act as hostess in my absence. Please make yourself comfortable. My home is your home. The signature was a sweeping and ornate Estrella.
Rosalind felt palpable relief. She had time to freshen up and get her bearings before meeting the family.
Using a lot of sign language and a couple of Spanish words, she was able to describe a bath. Inés understood quickly. She picked up the bags and waddled toward the staircase.
With the lure of a bath seducing her mind, she slipped out of her travel clothes. Within minutes she was enjoying warm, scented water in an enormous sunken tub that fulfilled every fantasy of luxury. She lay back against the curving slope of the enameled tub and observed the room, tastefully splattered with plush topaz carpet, towels, and bath accessories. An elusive scent was in the air, enhanced by the aroma of the soap.
She could hardly believe she was here already. Despite the gloomy weather and the early hour, she had felt a shiver of anticipation as she boarded Continental's flight out of Burlington. The first leg to Miami was uneventful; she was still drowsy from the early hour. But as she changed planes and settled in her seat for the leg that would take her to Bogotá, she wished Madame could share with her the sense of excitement that now tingled along her nerves. She loved her employer like family; indeed Madame had become a second family in the years that Rosalind had worked for her. She wished the two of them were off together on this adventure, each bringing her own special abilities to the task at hand.
But Madame had silenced all further discussion with one girlish remark, "Oh, dear me, no, I couldn't possibly go with you. I haven't a thing to wear!"
Rosalind laughed out loud at the memory.
When her fingers became pruney, she realized she had lost track of time. She lifted the massive pink conch shell resting near her head. Dipping it into the sudsy water, she poured it over her shoulders and back and stepped out of the tub, her toes sinking into the deep pile of the carpet.
As she reached for a gold velvet robe lying across a stool, the sound of angry voices drew her to the open window looking out onto the opposite side of the courtyard. Rapid-fire Spanish frequently punctuated with a resounding No rent the air and disturbed the tranquility of the quiet afternoon. As a guest, she should have retreated and not have intruded upon the privacy of the inhabitants, but her natural curiosity got the better of her. Holding the robe, she stole a surreptitious look through the white lace curtains billowing at the window.
Two men approached from the rear of the hacienda where, behind them on the mountain slope, acres of coffee plants flourished in the black soil of Colombia. As the men came closer, the intensity of the argument mounted.
One was berating the other in a voice that held thunderous authority. He was lean and tall and walked with a long, graceful stride despite his obvious anger. Muscular thighs flexed under close-fitting tan riding breeches; the blue denim shirt was open at the throat, leaving a patch of sun-browned chest uncovered under a knotted blue kerchief. The sleeves were rolled to the elbows, exposing copper-gold hair on his forearms that matched what she could see of his chest.
With one leather-gloved hand he held the bridle of a superb chestnut stallion that danced along at his heels, responsive to his every move. This was obviously an altercation between the foreman of the plantation and one of the peons.
Rosalind’s body contracted as if she had been punched in the solar plexus. Never had she felt instant, powerful, and uncompromising attraction for a man, but her visceral response was undeniable. It was as if an invisible cord had sprung from his body and landed unerringly in hers. She was an intruder, but she was unable to move as she watched the foreman snatch the wide-brimmed black hat from his head and slap it against his knee as he made a point, prompting a flurry of anxious nods from the field hand.
She was mesmerized by sheer male beauty, crowned by a shock of unruly reddish hair that looked as if it had never known a comb. She stood stupidly as cataclysmic emotions flooded her. The broad shoulders could carry a woman as easily as if she were a child. For a brief moment she wondered what it would be like to be caught up in his embrace. But the deep, booming voice and the torrential speed of his Spanish were frightening, and she was glad to be hidden inside the shadows of the hacienda.
She shouldn’t, but she lingered nonetheless——watching, listening.
The foreman, having made his point conclusively, finished his instructions, dismissed the worker, and sent him on his way. He gathered up the reins of his restless horse, and, as he did so, his eyes moved upward and collided with hers. Her breath caught in her throat. She had been discovered eavesdropping! A rush of heat invaded her body, not only of embarrassment but of something deeper and more compelling——something that stirred her, leaving her weak.
His eyes, black under dark aggressive brows, stared steadily into her blue ones, holding her in the grasp of something almost unknowable. Her heart began to flutter like a bird caught in her ribcage. Feral heat in the depths of those eyes sent shivers skipping throughout her nervous system. He probed her hotly, forcing her to hold his gaze, touching her as surely as if his hands were moving slowly over her body, seeking secret places and discovering hidden desires.
She tried to move away, but her legs were water. When he made a move as if to approach the house, she knew a moment of panic. Then he obviously thought better of the action. In one sinuous movement he swung himself into the saddle and gathered up the reins in one large fist. He made it seem effortless, as though he became one with his mount.
Sitting astride the horse, he held the animal absolutely still between strong thighs while he slowly, deliberately replaced the hat on his head and tugged it over his brow. Still gazing relentlessly into Rosalind’s eyes, he touched his gloved fingers to the brim of his hat in a silent salute. The corner of his mouth lifted in a half smile. Then booted heels touched the horse’s flanks, and the animal set off at a winged gallop, raising torrents of dust in its wake.
On unsteady legs, Rosalind shook her head to clear the throbbing he had created. She leaned against the windowsill for a moment to quiet the storm in her body.
She had just witnessed the personification of all women’s sexual desires, to which she had responded with naked craving. A craving she had never experienced in her quiet New England life. He was magnificent, and she knew she would surely find him in her dreams for a long time. But she had come here to work, not to hunger after a stranger whose language she didn’t understand and couldn’t speak. She had to focus on her purpose.
Glancing down at her hands on the window, she discovered the gold dressing gown still clutched in them. As she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, a flush crept up across her shoulders onto her neck and face. She had forgotten to put on the robe. She was standing stark naked at an open window!