SEDUCED BY THE MOGUL (MARCH, 2016)
When business becomes pleasure
Winning is a way of life for Dante Morretti, and he’s got the real estate empire to prove it. With custody of his four-year-old son, Matteo, at stake, Dante intends to win that, too. Marrying his best friend, Jordana Sharpe, is a vital step in his plan. But when the alluring actress takes Matteo and Dante sightseeing around Los Angeles, he’s waking up to a world beyond boardrooms and billion-dollar deals.
Jordana is as committed to her acting as Dante is to his business. She doesn’t envision feeling that passion for anything else, until her no-strings arrangement with the gorgeous Italian magnate takes a detour…right into Dante’s bed. Suddenly everything is at stake—her career, his custody fight and a fake marriage that could very well lead to the real family they both secretly crave…
On the fourth floor, Dante Morretti stopped in front of apartment 4B and rang the buzzer.
The door swung open and Matteo, his four-year-old son, jumped into his open arms. “Daddy!”
Chuckling, Dante held him tight and spun him around the hallway.
“Faster, Daddy! Faster!”
Dante obliged, and his son shrieked with laughter. The sound warmed his heart, made him feel like the world’s best dad. Matteo was his number one concern, the only person in his life who truly mattered, and he’d do anything to make him happy. He looked adorable in his navy blue uniform, like the spitting image of his grandfather, but with dark, curly hair.
“Daddy, where’s Mommy? She forgot to pick me up from school today.”
“Mommy’s at home, lil’ man. You’ll see her later.”
“Great timing. Dinner’s almost ready.”
Dante put Matteo down and faced his best friend, Jordana Sharpe. Her smile blinded him with its light. His pulse sped up. In a city overrun with females addicted to plastic surgery, it was refreshing to see a natural woman. Her beauty boggled his mind, leaving him tongue-tied and weak in the knees. Even in a tie-dye shirt and denim shorts, Jordana was stunning. She looked pretty and youthful in her outfit, and smelled like heaven. She had eyes a man could get lost in, tawny skin dotted with freckles, and a slender physique. Dante loved how lush and thick her hair was, and his hands itched to play in her chocolate-brown curls. She’d been blessed with model features and a banging body, but she wasn’t a snob. Everywhere Jordana went she made friends and men tripped over themselves to meet her. Even A-list celebrities.
“I’m starving,” Dante said, patting his empty stomach. “What’s on the menu?”
“Squash soup, kale-almond salad and chickpea burgers.”
He wrinkled his nose. “I just lost my appetite.”
“Oh, stop. Vegan food is to die for.”
“Yeah, if you’re stranded on a deserted island.”
“You’re not happy unless you’re eating a hundred-dollar steak. But don’t come crying to me the next time we go to a fancy five-star Beverly Hills restaurant and you get chest pains.”
“I didn’t get chest pains because of the food.” Dante winked, flashing her a mischievous grin to make her laugh. “It was that sexy little hostess in the see-through dress. What a hottie!”
Jordana stuck out her tongue, and Dante chuckled. His gaze zeroed in on her mouth, lingering there for a beat. Those are some lips, he thought, wishing they were pressed against his. He liked how plump they were, how moist and juicy they looked.
Catching himself, he tore his eyes away from her face. They were friends and nothing more, and that would never change. Jordana was like a sister to him—
Bullshit! argued his inner voice. Sister my ass! You want her bad, and the only reason you haven’t made a play for her is because she’s still in love with her ex.
“Dad, can we stay for dinner? Please?” Matteo begged. “I just love cheeseburgers.”
“That depends. Were you a good boy for Jordana?”
“No,” she said sadly, shaking her head. “He was horrible.”
“Yup. The worst.”
Dante spoke in a stern voice. “You have some explaining to do, young man.”
Eyes wide with alarm, Matteo glanced frantically from his dad to Jordana. “I didn’t mean to spill grape juice on the carpet,” he said, shuffling his feet. “It was an accident, but I cleaned it up right away. Tell him, Jordana. Tell my dad I was a good boy.”
“You weren’t good,” she said, ruffling his curly hair. “You were great.”
Matteo cheered. “Dad, did you bring me something back from King Kong?”
“I went to Hong Kong,” Dante said with a laugh. “King Kong is a character in a movie.”
“Oops!” Giggling, he spun around and took off running back inside the apartment.
Jordana waved him inside and closed the door.
Following her down the hallway, he sniffed the air. A spicy aroma tickled his nose, and his stomach grumbled. Dante hated vegan food, but the apartment smelled so good his mouth watered.
“How’s the sweatshop?” he asked jokingly. After six years of being a nanny, Jordana had quit to pursue a career in acting. But after months of pounding the pavement with no luck, she’d accepted a job at a telemarketing agency. Dante loved independent women, but it bothered him that she didn’t tell him about her financial troubles. Typical Jordana. She’d rather suffer in silence than accept help. Her I’m-every-woman attitude drove him crazy. He loved showering his family and friends with gifts, and he wanted to spoil Jordana, too, but she wouldn’t let him. “Are you still thinking about quitting?”
“Every second of every day,” she quipped, entering the kitchen. Sliding on her cooking mitts, she bent over, opened the oven and took out the casserole dish. “It’s paying the bills, so I’m trying not to complain.”
“Come work for me.” It was a struggle to be a gentleman, but Dante kept his eyes on the wall clock and off her delicious backside. He’d never seen a pair of jean shorts look better, and he liked how they elongated her long brown legs. “I could use another executive assistant, and I think you’d be an asset to The Brokerage Group.”
“I’d never fit in at your company.”
“Why not? You’re smart, and beautiful, and—”
“Curvy,” she added, with a flick of her head. “You only hire tall, thin, surgically enhanced blondes, and that’s not me. Besides, my dream is to be an actress, not an executive assistant. I suck at answering phones, and I don’t know how to make coffee.”
“I don’t drink coffee. I drink tea.”
“Tea?” Jordana wore a funny face. “And you say you’re not a metrosexual? Right!”
Chuckling, he leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. Watching Jordana move around the kitchen made Dante think of all the times he’d returned home from work and found his wife, and son baking cookies.
Memories of happier days flashed in his mind. Playing soccer in the backyard, swimming, reading him bedtime stories. Dante talked big, pretended he didn’t need anyone, but he missed having his family around. That’s why he worked nonstop and traveled as much as he did. Work helped him forget his pain, his loneliness. Feeling a pang of sadness, he shook off his thoughts and wiped at his eyes with his fingertips.