When her dress tears at her ex’s wed­ding, Hay­ley Miller is mor­ti­fied. But her shame pro­vides the per­fect back­drop for pas­sion with the best man, the hand­some Nico Rossi....

Cosmopolitan (India) - - LIFESTYLIST - Er,

I turned my head and al­most passed out be­cause Nico was stand­ing there, his broad shoul­ders block­ing my view of the liv­ing room and the other guests. I’d thought about noth­ing but him for the past few days. Some­times when you fan­ta­sized about a guy and then you saw him again, you re­al­ized you’d built him up in your head. Not Nico. He was truly spec­tac­u­lar. And im­pos­ing. He filled the door­way of our kitchen and he glanced from me to the tur­key and lifted an eye­brow. Se­ri­ously un­bal­anced by his un­ex­pected ap­pear­ance, I gave what I hoped passed for a ca­sual shrug. ‘Not ev­ery­one likes leg.’

‘True.’ Those dark eyes met mine with sar­donic hu­mour. Not a smile, but def­i­nitely hu­mour. ‘I’m more of a breast man my­self.’ Oh, God, why did he have to say that? Im­me­di­ately I was back in that room at the wed­ding, with him show­ing me just how much of a breast man he was. I won­dered what the hell he was do­ing here.

Pre­sum­ably he needed his jacket for some Christ­mas gath­er­ing or other, but this seemed like an odd time to show up on our doorstep. I turned to look at Rosie, but she was in a panic over the waxed tur­key. My sis­ter had no sense of pri­or­i­ties. I was about to fetch Nico’s jacket and send him on his way when I re­alised he wasn’t alone. Kiara stood in the door­way, groomed and pol­ished as ever. She gave me an awk­ward smile, which I re­turned. At a guess I’d say mine was more awk­ward than hers. I felt more naked than the tur­key (al­though with­out be­ing vain, I’d say my legs were look­ing a hell of a lot bet­ter).

Nico was lean­ing ca­su­ally against the door­frame watch­ing me from un­der those thick lashes, the way he had when we’d kissed. He might as well have been touch­ing me be­cause I could feel his gaze right through me. The sen­sa­tion started as a tin­gling on the sur­face of my skin and then it was a warmth through my veins, and then the warmth turned to heat. The heat pooled low in my pelvis and I didn’t think it had any­thing to do with my fur-trimmed panties. It ex­as­per­ated me that I could feel like this. And what was even more ex­as­per­at­ing was the fact he knew I was feel­ing like this. Not that he looked smug or any­thing. Oh, no. If I’d had to de­scribe his ex­pres­sion I would have said ‘watch­ful’.

He kept look­ing at me. Un­flinch­ing. Un­em­bar­rassed. As if he’d asked him­self a ques­tion and was now look­ing at the an­swer.

Then he glanced from me to the woman stand­ing qui­etly next to him. ‘You haven’t been for­mally in­tro­duced, have you?’

Oh, great. He was go­ing to ram home the fact that his sis­ter had only ever seen me half-naked. ‘No.’ I spoke be­tween my teeth. ‘We haven’t.’

‘This is Kiara. Kiara, this is Hay­ley. You saw her briefly at the wed­ding.’ All right, enough! What was the guy play­ing at? One more com­ment like that and I’d give him one of my own kicks, which might not have been as im­pres­sive or el­e­gant as my sis­ter’s, but would still have threat­ened his abil­ity to fa­ther chil­dren. ‘Hi, Kiara. Lovely to meet you.’ I tried not to look at him even though I could feel him look­ing at me. He hadn’t stopped look­ing at me since he’d walked in. Be­ing on the re­ceiv­ing end of that smol­der­ing, in­tense gaze made my legs turn from a solid to a liq­uid. I was about to reach for the fire blan­ket Rosie kept in the kitchen and throw it over my­self.

‘It’s lovely to meet you,’ Kiara said earnestly. ‘I know you’re an engi­neer. I’m in awe. I’m hope­less at Math and Physics. Nico used to tear his hair out help­ing me with home­work.’ He’d helped her with home­work? I blinked. I tried to imag­ine this smooth, so­phis­ti­cated guy sit­ting pa­tiently by his sis­ter, help­ing her with al­ge­bra. ‘Well that’s, lovely.’ And hon­estly I did think it was lovely. Ex­cept that I was con­fused by the con­tra­dic­tions. ‘You came here for your jacket, so I ought to get that for you—’ Nico was still watch­ing me. I won­dered if part of his job in­volved in­ter­ro­ga­tion be­cause his gaze was like a laser. If I’d had a mir­ror I would have checked there wasn’t a red dot on my fore­head. There was a long, puls­ing si­lence and he con­tin­ued to look at me as if some­thing I’d said had an­swered a ques­tion lin­ger­ing in his head.

‘I’m not here for the jacket. We’re here be­cause Rosie in­vited us to join you for Christ­mas.’

An ex­cerpt from Ripped by Sarah Mor­gan, a part of our new line of books, Cosmo Red- Hot Reads from Har­lequin. Get your copy to­day!

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