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Raffaele: Taming His Tempestuous Virgin

By:Sandra Marton

Raffaele: Taming His Tempestuous Virgin
Sandra Marton

CHAPTER ONE

RAFFAELE ORSINI prided himself on being a man who was always in control. There was no doubt that his ability to separate emotion from logic was one reason he'd come this far in life.

Rafe could look at a relatively nondescript investment bank or financial corporation and see not what it was but what it could be, given time and money and, of course, the expert guidance he and his brothers could provide. They had created Orsini Brothers only five years ago but they were already an incredible success in the high-stakes world of international finance.

They'd always been incredibly successful with beautiful women.

The brothers shared the dark good looks of their mother and the rapier-sharp intellect of their father, who'd both immigrated to the States from Sicily decades before. Unlike their old man, they'd put their talents into lawful pursuits, but there was a dangerous edge to them that worked to their advantage in bedrooms as well as boardrooms.

It had done so today, when Rafe had outbid a Saudi prince for the purchase of a venerable French bank the Orsinis had wanted for a very long time. He, Dante, Falco and Nicolo had celebrated with drinks a couple of hours ago.

A perfect day, on its way to becoming a perfect evening …

Until now.

Rafe stepped from the lobby of his mistress's apartment building-his former mistress's apartment building, he thought coldly-declined the doorman's offer of a taxi and dragged in a deep breath of cool autumn air. He needed to calm down. Maybe the walk from Sutton Place to his Fifth Avenue penthouse would do it.

What was it with women? How could they say something at the start of an affair even when they damned well didn't mean it?

"I am completely dedicated to my career," Ingrid had said in that sexy Germanic purr of hers after the first time they'd gone to bed. "You need to know that, Rafe. I am not at all interested in settling down, so if you are-"

Him? Settle down? He still remembered how he'd laughed and rolled her beneath him. The perfect woman, he'd thought as he began making love to her again. Gorgeous. Sexy.

Independent …

Yeah. Right.

His cell phone rang. He yanked it from his pocket, glared at the number on the screen and dumped the thing back into his jacket. It was Dante. The last thing he wanted was to talk to one of his brothers. The image in his head was still too fresh. Ingrid, opening the door. Ingrid, not wearing something slinky and sophisticated for their dinner reservations at Per Se but wearing, instead … What? An apron? Not the serviceable kind his mother wore but a thing that was all ruffles and lace and ribbons.

Ingrid, smelling not of Chanel but of roast chicken.

"Surprise," she'd trilled. "I'm making dinner tonight!"

She was? But she had no domestic skills. She'd told him that. Laughed about it.

Not tonight. Tonight she'd walked her fingers up his chest and whispered, "I'll bet you didn't know I could cook, liebling."

Except for the liebling, it was a line he'd heard before. It made his blood run cold.

The scene that played out next had been all too predictable, especially her shrill accusations that it was time to take their relationship to a new level and his blurting out, "What relationship?"

Rafe could still hear the sound of whatever it was she'd thrown at him hitting the door as he exited.

His cell phone rang again. And again, until finally he cursed, hauled the damned thing from his pocket and flipped it open.

"What?" he barked.

"And good evening to you, too, bro."

Rafe scowled. A woman walking toward him veered away.

"I am not in the mood for games, Dante. You got that?"

"Got it," his brother said cheerfully. Silence. Then Dante cleared his throat. "Problems with the Valkyrie?"

"Not a one."

"Good. Because I'd hate to lay this on you if you and she are-"

"Lay what on me?"

His brother's sigh came through the phone. "Command performance, eight o'clock tomorrow

morning. The old man wants to see us."

"I hope you told him what he can do with that request."

"Hey, I'm just the messenger. Besides, Mama called, not him."

"Hell. Is he supposed to be at death's door again? Did you tell her he's too mean to die?"

"No," Dante said reasonably. "Would you?"

It was Rafe's turn to sigh. They all adored their mother and sisters even though they seemed able to forgive Cesare Orsini anything. His sons could not. They'd figured out what their father was years ago.

"Damn it," Rafe said, "he's sixty-five, not ninety-five. He's got years ahead of him."

"Look, I don't want to listen to more endless speeches about where his banks are and what the combination is to his safe and the names of his lawyers and his accountants any more than you do. But could I tell that to Mama?"

Rafe's scowl deepened. "All right. Eight o'clock. I'll meet you guys there."

"It's just you and me, man. Nick's leaving for London tonight, remember? Falco heads for Athens in the morning."

"Terrific."

There was a brief silence. Then Dante said, "So, it's over with you and the Valkyrie?"

Rafe thought of saying everything from "No" to "What makes you think that?" Instead, he shrugged.

"She said it was time to reassess our relationship."

Dante offered a succinct, one-word comment. It made Rafe laugh; he could almost feel his black mood slipping away.

"I've got a cure for Relationship Reassessment," Dante said.

"Yeah?"

"I've got a date with that redhead in half an hour. Want me to call, see if she's got a friend?"

"I'm off women for a while."

"Yeah, yeah, I've heard that before. Well, if you're certain … "

"On the other hand, what is it they say about getting right back on a horse after you fall off?"

Dante laughed. "I'll call you back in ten."

Wrong. He called back in five. The redhead had a friend. And she'd be delighted to meet Rafe Orsini.

Well, hell, Rafe thought smugly as he hailed a cab, what woman wouldn't?

He overslept the next morning, showered quickly, skipped shaving, pulled on a black cotton sweater, faded jeans and sneakers and got to his parents' place before Dante.

Cesare and Sofia lived in a town house in Greenwich Village. Half a century ago, when Cesare had bought the house, the area had actually been part of Little Italy. Times had changed. The narrow streets had turned upscale and chic.

Cesare had changed, too. He'd gone from being a low-ranking mobster to being first a capo-the head of the syndicate-and then the boss. A don, though in Sicilian vernacular, the old Italian title of respect had a meaning all its own. Cesare owned a private sanitation company and half a dozen other legitimate businesses, but his true profession was one he would never confirm to his wife, his sons, his daughters.

Rafe went up the steps of the town house and rang the bell. He had a key but never used it. This place had not been his home for many years; he had not even thought of it as home long before he'd left it.

The house was enormous, especially by Manhattan standards. Cesare had used the increasingly large amounts of money brought in by his various enterprises to buy the houses on either side and convert the three buildings into one. Sofia presided over it all with no domestic help. A proper Sicilian housewife, she had always cooked and cleaned for her family. Rafe suspected it helped her cling to the fiction that her husband was just an everyday businessman.

Sofia greeted him as she always did, with a kiss on each cheek and a hug, as if she had not seen him in months instead of a couple of weeks. The she stepped back and gave him a critical look.

"You have not shaved this morning."

To his chagrin, Rafe felt himself blush. "Sorry, Mama. I wanted to be sure I got here on time."

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