Savor the heat with

A Taste of Temptation

When Élodie Martel’s motorbike leaves her stranded on the side of a Tuscan backroad—on the way to her only remaining relative’s funeral, no less—the last thing she’s looking for is a hookup. But how can she resist sexy farmhand Vico Fierli when he offers her a ride? And the best gnocchi she’s ever tasted. And comfort—sweet, tempting comfort—in trying times.

But life gets complicated when it turns out Vico is intimately tied to an old Martel family scandal. Though El finds herself more and more attracted to Vico’s hidden charms, the drama threatens to tear them apart. But could a con man’s attempts to steal El’s inheritance be just the thing to bring them back together?




A hint of spice

I grimaced as I tried to slide my feet into my flip-flops. I had a blister on my left heel and one on my right foot, just on the side behind my big toe. I padded out of the bedroom and listened at the bathroom door. Not hearing any running water, I knocked.

Vico opened up, still toweling off his hair. He was shirtless, his waist wrapped in another towel, drops of water glistening here and there on his tanned skin.

What Roman god had dropped this living Renaissance sculpture into my life? You’re closer to Siena, El. Rome, Siena, tomayto-tomahto. Same gods, weren’t they? Or maybe they were Etruscan here?

I resisted the temptation to run my hands across his chest. A part of me craved the simple, clean comfort of an uncomplicated hookup, but was this really the best time? I cleared my throat. “Do you have Bandaids?”

He gave me a puzzled look.

I lifted my foot a bit and pointed at my blister.

Vico made a face. “Ai. Si. Cerotti. Un minuto.” He disappeared into the bathroom, closing the door, so I wandered back into the bedroom and sat on the bed. He reappeared—fully clothed, to my eternal disappointment, his hair still damp and tousled—with a box of bandages.

Instead of handing them to me, he knelt down, clasped my ankles and rested my feet on his thighs. As if it was the most natural thing in the world to tend to a complete stranger’s feet. I found his lack of artifice endearing, and suppressed my usual control-freak tendencies. It was nice being taken care of for once.

He selected a plaster from the assortment in the box and deftly opened the wrapper. He applied the bandage to my heel, then repeated the process for the blister on the side of my other foot, smoothing the dressing out gently with his fingers, his grip on my skin firm so as not to tickle. He paused, my foot still in his hand, and cocked his head. “You have lovely feet.”

Despite the sudden warmth running up my spine at his touch, I snickered. The skin on my feet was creased from my motorcycle socks and boots, red pressure marks and angry welts visible here and there.

“Why do you laugh?” Vico’s hand drifted over the top of my foot, caressing my ankle. He looked up at me, his eyes a startling light grey against his tawny skin. “They are the feet of a woman with a well-lived life. Particolare.”

My breath hitched. His hand still rubbed lightly across my skin, warm and solid.

He didn’t push, though, and ironically that lack of insistence kindled my interest. He looked at me not as a prize to snatch and display, but as someone to be savored.

And that was almost irresistible.

The moment hung in the balance, poised between flirting and something more.

“Vico! La cena è in tavola!”

Vico shook his head and, giving me a wry look, released my foot. He slapped his thighs, stood, and extended a hand to help me up from the bed. “Always perfect timing, la nonna. Come. Dinner awaits.”

I followed him back to the dining room. I was hungry.

Just not for dinner.