Leap Of Faith
by Christine London
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eBook ISBN: 978-1-58749-735-3
When Faith crashes a glamorous Italian island film festival she finds her actor crush, Alex, there. Whilst publicist Hunter Jameson may be hired to protect Alex, he’s no idea his growing feelings for Faith rival that of his famous client. The only for certain— life will never be the same.
The commanding voice stopped her in her tracks.
“I thought you’d never get here.”
Turning slowly, Faith was surprised to find the gruff voice belonged to a fair-complexioned Brit, the first she’d seen since landing on the little
Italian island of Forio.
“Beg your pardon?” she asked, her eyes dipping briefly to her scant attire.
“Here.” He shoved a silver tray carrying four flutes of champagne into her hands. “Mostriani is waiting.” With that, he strode around her and disappeared into the great room.
Faith hesitated, trying to process what had just happened. She turned toward the ornate grand living area, eyes again dropping to the towel barely clinging to her hips. She took a deep breath and marched in to meet the notables.
The spread of Italian baroque furniture complimented the plush olive area rugs, more ornate than it had appeared as she’d peeked through the windows. Against the far wall an intricately carved Italian vanity with triple arched mirrors beckoned; multi layered trays of canapés the likes of which she’d seen only in Epicurious magazine were spread across it in sumptuous display.
“Senora.” Her thoughts were yanked from the amazing spread to the man sitting in the largest of the sculpted cabriole chairs. “Vino.”
He summoned her with a strong backward pointing gesture, index finger repeatedly touching his yellow chintzed shoulder. The nerve, she thought. And did they really make men’s suits with such a gaudy shine?
Balancing the tray on her palm, she glided it to within his reach.
“Ah, no, no, no. Not the champagne. I asked for a ninety-seven Umbrian Barolo,” he snipped in Italian accent thick as peach zabaglione. Bushy black eyebrows knitting in disapproval, he craned his neck to search the hall. “Where is Marcello?”
“I…I don’t know, sir.” She retracted the tray and dipped her head in apology.
“Why do they send the pool staff into the hotel?” He nearly knocked her to the floor as he stood up and swept by. “Marcello will have the answer.”
Faith watched as he vanished down the same hall she had used to enter. Sheltered by lush vegetation and shaded by pines, Hotel Annuzio was nestled at the end of a small bay. A cobbled traffic circle isolated it from the fashionable shopping strip, creating a location cut off from the local community, unknown to all except the elite. This week they were out in force at the international film festival baring the island’s name.
Quickly disposing of the four flutes, Faith put the tray down on a barman’s bussing cart, and slid through a partly open door into the adjacent room. Royal blue carpeting, whitewashed walls, and rows of cushioned chairs faced a linen-draped table at the front. Six microphones placed at equal intervals, three pitchers of water, and tri-fold nameplates indicating the last of the day’s expert panelists gave silent testament to the fact she’d stumbled upon the very heart of the event. Professional camera equipment lined the back wall, uplifted on a small portable stage. This must be the room where the actors and directors were interviewed by the press.
Cool and vacant, it reminded her of any other conference setting. Wall to ceiling banners provided backdrops behind the panel table and to the area where photographers took pictures of the celebs before they sat for interview.
Dropping to one of the audience chairs, she drew in a large lungful of air. Fortified by a few moments of solitude, she still trembled. Her brazen crashing of such a restricted affair had turned her knees to Jell-O.
Relieved to see that the barmaids around the pool wore bikini tops and towels wrapped about hips, Faith had quickly used her beach towel to mimic them, tucking it in low-slung fashion. Now she sat in the deserted convention room wondering how she’d manage to get past the staff. No doubt Mr. Amazing Hair Brit would have all them out looking for the imposter. At any other occasion, Faith would need no encouragement pursuing such a gorgeous, broad-chested specimen, but she was definitely the outsider at this event.
It wasn’t everyday a girl from San Fernando found herself amongst the beautiful people, much less in such close proximity to fame. The poster in the lobby touted some of the names expected to attend. Her favorite English actor was one of them.
Squaring her shoulder, she stood to face the music.
“Why didn’t Gabriella show?” Hunter leaned over the sink. Staring at his reflection in the mirror, he pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Something about her mum having the flu.” Joey handed a towel to his boss. “Hiding here in the loo isn’t going to solve the shortage.”
“I’m nursing one hell of a headache, so go a bit easy.”
“Okay, but don’t say I didn’t try to warn you about that one.”
“The local girls are supposed to be reliable.”
“Not when their boyfriends call to whisk them to the beach on a scooter.”
Hunter splashed more water on his face. Wiping it from his week’s growth, he looked at Joey’s reflection in the mirror. “Are you telling me—?”
“No, sir. I don’t know about Gabriella, but if I’d been cooped up in a small flat all week without a ray of sun, I’d be likely to have flu first day of decent weather.”
“They would truly perish in London,” Hunter quipped.
Joey chuckled. “That they would.”
“How did you find the gorgeous brunette?”
“That replacement girl out in the lobby.”
“There are no ‘replacements’,” Joey stated emphatically.
Hunter cocked his head, gave one more swipe of his jaw line, and tossed the towel to the collection basket.
“Mister Jameson, I—”
Hunter hadn’t time for Joey’s speculations. Sweeping past a tray table crowded with glassware, his suit jacket caught a stem. Glassware spewed across the hardwood floor, some rolling, others shattering in a cacophony of sound. Blood pressure spiking, Hunter shook off the liquor that had splattered him. Cursing under his breath, he strode toward the last place he’d seen her—that beautiful infuriating crasher.
Only the dim recessed light above the dressing room mirror spilled in through the frosted glass enclosure. Alex stood, back to the door, showerhead set on pulse, water beating against his shoulders. Closing his eyes, he drew in a lungful of the thick, moist air, wishing he could stay under the soothing massage forever. He’d have to be downstairs in half an hour for the cocktail party, but a few extra minutes luxuriating under the caress of the rhythmic spray was simply irresistible.
The only image in his mind? The luscious Italian model turned actress he’d just dismissed from his hotel room before he could do what he’d really fancied with her—peel that white eyelet bikini from her exquisite curves and drizzle chocolate sauce with a whipped cream chaser on every incredible arc and bend. All thought of obligation whisked away as he cursed the networking cocktail doo he’d have to attend. Downstairs in the elegant great room, the crème de la crème of Italian film was about to meet Hollywood’s elite. Hunter had told him not to be late.
The fingers of water melted the knots along his shoulder blades.
Arching his neck, he allowed his head to drop back in release.
So absorbed was he in his own thoughts, he didn’t hear the soft click of the shower door. Slippery arms slid by the sides of his waist, delicate hands moved along his abdomen, grazing so close…past his package and down the tops of his thighs. He drew in a sharp breath and held it for a long moment before opening his eyes. He couldn’t see her, but he felt her press her body against his back, interrupting the pulse of the water, replacing its allure with that of her own. Her breasts were flush against him as she wrapped one long leg about his hip and slid it down his thigh.
Her mouth at his ear, hand squeezing his thigh, she whispered, “Stand still.”
His first reaction would have been to tighten his body, but this surprise was a welcome one. They’d said their goodbyes, she scurrying to dress and meet the director who’d encouraged her to attend. Jesus…she’d actually taken him up on his jest. The only thing that’d keep me from the party is some warm wet enigma with eager hands. That’s what he’d said as she grabbed her beach towel and headed for the door, he for the hower.
Her pubic bone was against the right cheek of his ass, and he felt soft abrasion of hair at the indentation there. She’d not entered the enclosure with bikini still on. This woman was naked, warm, and…fuck. Words escaped him. She had released her hands from their firm grasp at his thigh muscles and now cupped his balls. In one hand, she held a bar of soap. He couldn’t help but clench his jaw as she stroked him, one hand ministering to his now hard shaft, the other sliding the soap across his abdomen, to his chest across his pecs onto the column of his throat. He thought his lungs had ceased functioning with the sensation. Gut coiling, desire jetting through his veins, he reached one arm to the touchstone of the wall, trying to keep his world intact. He heard her drop the bar of soap into the dish on the wall. Her hand, now free, joined its twin in service of his throbbing equipment.
Shit…what was she doing? It wasn’t enough that the woman had the firmness of those fabulous breasts against his back, drawing the sanity from him with wanting to touch her; now she had his shaft sandwiched between two talented palms, squeezing, twisting, rubbing along it as though starting a campfire with nothing but two sticks and some kindling.
When her thumbs swirled across his sensitive head, he thought a bolt of lightning had struck. Clenched jaw now morphed to grinding teeth as he drew in a sharp breath of ecstatic escalation. That’s it. He had to have her.
Turning around in her arms to face her, he lowered his head, mouth now open and struggling for air. Her eyes tilted up to his, pupils dilated, dark with desire. She opened her mouth as though to speak. No, she was drawing in air like an athlete as well, just as turned on as he. That discovery spiked his need ten notches as she slid her hands back to minister to his granite hard on. Lord…more of the same. He gasped and looked to the ceiling as though some ethereal power would save him. But from what? He was already in heaven. Closing eyes again, he grasped for the wall. He opened his mouth and gulped at the air as though there weren’t enough left to supply him. What was she doing? Where’d she learnt this? Shit. She pulled firmly, gently, cupping balls, grazing along shaft in random alternations. Open palms, forceful fingers against upper thighs, inner thighs, everywhere at once. God, the sensitive sensation of it.
He felt like he’d explode any moment. It was too much, too good. Could he pull away before he expired? No…yes…shit. Panting like a dog, he held onto the bar at the door. She brushed her chest, those beaded breasts, against his pecs as she continued in pursuit of his sanity. Hand around his back, grasping one ass cheek, drawing him against her. Other hand still at him, stroking, swirling thumb across head, a tug, a swirl. Holy shit. He erupted into her hand, nearly losing his ability to stand, holding on for dear life…Lord…life…would he survive? Rainbows, fireworks, LSD trip, surreal explosive shattering ecstasy. The rumbling groan from deep within him matched the release in intensity.
He draped arms around her, pulling her into him, chin hooked over her shoulder, still struggling for air. He held her until he could cobble some semblance of control. Hands sliding to her shoulders, he pushed her back just far enough to engage her eyes.
“Where the fookin’ hell did you learn that?”
“Imagination. Inspiration.” Her voice was low, raspy. She looked into him as though she could read his very soul. “Now how about I wash the rest of you?”
He growled. “Madelinela, I have to…you have to get to the party.”
“Nessun problema, amore.” She flashed an impish grin and pushed out the glass door as she had entered, soft and swift as a cat burglar. Her tanned outline disappeared through the mist.
“I sure hope you and Marcelo make it to Cannes,” he called after her.
Smiling, he finished his shower and headed for the bedroom. She’d gone.
Only her lingering perfume reminded him how much he loved being the man of the hour, the star every director courted and every starlet fancied a shag.
Dressing quickly, he straightened the silk knot of his tie, ran a hand through his hair, and nodded approval into the mirror of the armoire. For one long moment, a wave of sadness washed over him. Loneliness. What man in his right mind would pass on his luck? On the ability to have any woman? Still, he’d not done it. He’d not fallen for any of them. Eyes refocusing on his dapper appearance, he shook off the unwanted ennui, popped his key into breast pocket, and was out the door.
The dull percussive sound of impact sent her reeling. Landing on her butt, legs sprawled, Faith closed her eyes and shook her head.
“Just who do you think you are?”
She glared up the mile of trouser to the man above her. Hands on hips, he looked the right jailer.
“Faith. Miss Holmes to you.”
He extended a hand. “Not in this hotel.” His reprimanding scowl melted as she rose to face him. “You’d best sit.” With a firm grasp at her shoulder, he directed her to the nearest chair. He pulled a cloth handkerchief from his breast pocket. “Pinch.”
“You’ve a bloody nose. Pinch.”
Raising two fingers to her upper lip, she felt the evidence of his statement warm on her hand. “Oh, shoot!” She leaned back against the wall and snagged the cloth from his grasp.
“Don’t think this means I’m following your orders,” she mumbled from behind the handkerchief.
“You are out of line.” His hands returned to narrow hips, giving him the look of a brooding male model. Bronzed copper hair fell in perfect waves about ears. His angular jaw clenched in determination and his light hazel eyes flashed. “This is a private affair, in case the poster in the lobby wasn’t large enough for you to see.” Leaning in closer, he paused for effect. “You do read, don’t you, Miss…uhhh…?”
“Holmes. You know, like Tom’s wife?”
“Yer…I don’t…no. You simply will not persuade me with this wounded act.”
She rose from the chair and pushed the bloody handkerchief back into his Armani suit breast pocket, giving two pats to his chest. “There!”
Pushing past him, she attempted to escape.
“Oh no, you don’t.” He’d hooked her arm and yanked her to face him.
“You have some explaining to do.”
“Me and Lucy?” she asked, glaring. The incomprehension on his face sent her eyes to rolling. “Dim Brits. You don’t even know your fifties television classics.”
He grasped her upper arm. “Look, lass. I’ve a contingent of celebrity to see to and it’s people like you that I’m charged with…discharging.” He towed her toward the entrance.
Shaking him off, Faith sent a remedial hand to her arm. “If we were in the states, I could bring you up on charges.”
“Well, we bloody well aren’t, thank God. Now are you going to leave with me as your escort or do I need to ring the Carabiniere?”
Faith exploded into laughter. “You’re going to bring the military police down on a poor girl from San Fernando?” She swabbed at her nose, which had started to bleed again. “Big tough Scot. The best you can hope for on a little island like this is the Polizia Municipale.”
“I don’t need a civics lesson from the likes of you. Hotel security should be enough.” He scrolled his gaze around the room. People were starting to stare and there were no hotel employees to be seen.
“Bit of trouble, Hunt?”
They both redirected their attention to the man approaching, the only other man in the room wearing Armani, English actor Alexander Winslow.
Close to choking, Faith ripped the handkerchief from Hunter’s pocket.
“This young woman has broken security and gained entrance, Alex. To see you, no doubt.”
Saucer eyed, Faith ran from them, sliding around the corner of the grand room and onto the slick wood flooring of the hall.
“Hold on, old man, I’ll take care of this.” Alex headed off in pursuit.
“Like hell you will.” Hunter strode two paces behind.
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