A Scandal in the Headlines - By Caitlin Crews
“WHAT THE HELL are you doing on my boat?”
Elena Calderon froze in the act of polishing the luxurious teak bar in the yacht’s upper lounge. The low growl of the male voice from across the room was laced with a stark and absolute authority that demanded instant obedience. And she knew exactly who he was without looking up. She knew.
She felt it slam into her, through her, like a sledgehammer.
He wasn’t supposed to be here, she thought wildly. He hadn’t used this boat in over a year! He usually rented it out to wealthy foreigners instead!
“I’m polishing the bar,” she managed to say. She kept her tone even because that was how a stewardess on a luxury yacht spoke to the guests. To say nothing of the owner himself. But she still couldn’t bring herself to look at him.
He let out harsh kind of laugh. “Is this some kind of joke?”
“It’s no joke.” She tapped her fingers on the bar before her. “It’s teak and holly, according to the chief steward.”
She’d told herself repeatedly that what had happened during that one mad dance six months ago had been a fluke. More to do with the wine and the music and the romantic ballroom setting than the man—
But she didn’t quite believe it. Warily, she looked up.
He was half-hidden in the shadows of the lounge’s entryway, with all of that bright Sicilian sun blazing behind him—but she recognized him. A bolt of sensation sizzled over her skin, then beneath it, stealing her breath and setting off a hum deep and low inside.
Alessandro Corretti. The man who had blown her life to bits with one single dance. The man she knew was bad no matter how intensely attractive he was and no matter how drawn she was to him, against her will. The man who was even worse than her lying, violent, criminally inclined ex-fiancé, Niccolo.
Elena hadn’t dared go to the polizia when she’d fled from Niccolo, fearing his family’s connections. Alessandro’s family, however, made those connections seem insubstantial, silly. They were the Correttis. They were above the law.
And yet when Alessandro stepped farther into the lounge, out of the shadows, Elena’s chest tightened in immediate, helpless reaction—and none of it terror. Her breath caught. Her heart sped up. She yearned, just as she had six months ago, as if her body believed he was good. Safe.
“Was that an attempt at levity?” There was nothing in the least bit safe about his hard voice, or that look in his eyes. “Hilarious, I’m sure. But you still haven’t answered my question, Elena.”
Today the usually breathtakingly sophisticated eldest heir to and current CEO of Corretti Media and its vast empire looked … rumpled. Uncharacteristically disheveled, from his thick, messy dark hair to his scuffed shoes. His tall, muscled strength was contained in a morning suit with the torn jacket hanging open over his lean, hard chest. He had a black eye, scrapes and cuts that only accentuated his aristocratic cheekbones, a slightly puffy lip, even scraped knuckles. And that famous, cynical mouth of his was set in a grim line while his too-dark green eyes were ferociously narrowed. Directly at her.
What was truly hilarious, Elena thought then, was that she’d actually convinced herself he wouldn’t recognize her in the unlikely event that they ran into each other on this yacht she’d been repeatedly assured he hardly used. She’d told herself that he had world-altering interactions like the one she wanted to forget with every woman he’d ever clapped eyes on. That it was simply what he did.
And if some intuitive, purely feminine part of her had whispered otherwise, she’d ignored it.
“I’m not trespassing,” she said with a calm she wished she felt. “I work here.”
“Like hell you do.”
“And yet here I am.” With a wave of her hand she indicated the smart tan-colored skirt she wore, the pristine black T-shirt tucked in at the waist, the sensible boat shoes. “Uniform and all.”
His dark eyes were trained on her, hard and cold. She remembered the fire in them that night six months ago, the impossible longing, and felt the lack of both as a loss.
“You are … what, exactly? A maid?” His voice managed to be both incredulous and fierce at once, and she ordered herself not to react as he began to walk toward her, all impeccable male lines and sheer masculine poetry despite the beating he’d obviously taken.
Damn him. How could he still affect her like this? It disgusted her. She told