Before she had time to think about what was happening—or why—he pressed his lips against hers. She hitched a breath, startled by the electrifying and tender contact.
His lips were supple and moved over hers in a gentle manner as if hesitant of his own actions. Instead of trying to push him away or slapping his face at his boldness, her resistance disappeared and pleasure filled her. Beyond her control, a sigh escaped her throat. Closing her eyes, she returned the kiss the best she could since this was her very first time kissing a man so intimately.
The pressure of his arms changed. No longer was he just holding her up. Instead, he was embracing her so very sweetly. His large hands moved in slow but tender circles on her back. Cautiously, she slid her palms up his arms and hooked her wrists around his neck. The moment brought them closer together.
Only in her dreams could a man kiss this wonderfully. Dizziness assailed her, yet she didn’t want this dream to end. Her mind wouldn’t work yet, either, because all she could concentrate on was the unfamiliar sensations flowing through her body right now. She’d never felt so hotsy-totsy in her life.
He shifted and his arms tightened around her. But in the midst of the dream she floated in, his gun pressed hard against her side. Quickly, she snapped to awareness. He must have a gun hidden under his chauffeur’s coat. Finally, her mind made her realize this man was part of Zambino’s mobsters!
No matter how hard it would be, she must break the kiss! She needed to get away from him and never look upon him again.
Slipping her hands between their bodies, she pushed against his chest to free herself from his embrace. This time she was able to feel the outline of his gun a little better, which scared her even more. She stepped back and met his warm gaze. He grinned. The beat of her heart was out of control, and she tried breathing slower.
“Are you all right, miss?” he asked, his voice husky.
“I…um, I—” she stuttered in confusion as she looked around her. They were now the only two people on the sidewalk. What happened to the stampede a minute ago?
His hand cupped her chin and turned her face toward him. “What’s wrong?”
Her body shook from his touch, and her knees weakened. The sensation of his warm hand touching her sent tingles throughout her body. “Nothing is wrong. I’m just swell. But…what just happened?”
He presented an earth-shattering smile, the kind that stops women dead in their tracks and makes them swoon. In fact, she was close to losing consciousness herself.
“What happened?” He chuckled. “We kissed and the earth stood still, my sweet temptress.”
Her heart fluttered over his endearment. “I know that, but why did you kiss me?”
Leaning back against the car, he folded his arms over his wide chest. “I don’t know. I liked the way you felt in my arms and the way you gazed at my mouth as if you were mesmerized.” He shrugged. “I felt the urge and I took it.”
She shook her head. “So what happened before that?” She looked up the street again. “The commotion—you grabbing me and pulling me aside…”
“Oh, that. Well, there was a group of hoodlums who were almost upon you. I had seen them lurking around before you came out of the restaurant, and I suspected what they had planned.”
She met his stare, and tried not to melt again. “And what did they have planned?”
“They were going to bump into you and steal your purse.” He shrugged. “I’ve seen it before and I just didn’t want to see it happen to you.”
“But you don’t even know me.”
“No, but I figured since I knocked you down a week ago, that this was the opportunity to get to know you.”
Oh, no, he remembered! She wrapped her trembling arms around her middle to hold them still. “Thank you for saving me, but why would you go out of your way to protect a stranger?”
His devastating smile grew. “I felt bad because your date stood you up in the restaurant. And, I happen to think you are a strikingly beautiful woman.”
Her face heated, and she hoped he wouldn’t be able to see in the shadows since she wasn’t directly under the streetlight. But although his comment made her blush, she didn’t believe a word he said. She wasn’t considered pretty by any means, especially to good-looking men, and he was definitely the lead in that category.
“Thank you, but—” she stopped, not really knowing what to say.
He lifted her chin with his fingers until their eyes met again. “It was my pleasure.”
He winked and her stomach flipped. He was so incredibly charming, but she had to remember who he worked for and what he carried underneath that chauffeur’s jacket.
She took another step away. “Thank you again, but I’ve got to go.” She spun around. Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw him reach out to grab her. Luckily, feminine voices floated from the front doors of the restaurant as the Zambino women exited.
Monica hurried to her car, and then looked back at him. Doing his job, he opened the door and helped the ladies in the Rolls Royce.
She breathed a sigh of relief and said a little prayer. Now that she had her mind back, she had to think of a way to get into Michael Zambino’s employ as his nanny. Even that devastatingly handsome driver would not distract her from her goals. At least she hoped he wouldn’t.
* * * *
Anthony Kelly watched the blue-eyed dame with the silky blonde, glorious hair practically run down the street. He would have given anything to go after her. She intrigued him not only with her beauty, but because he’d now run into her twice in a week. Unfortunately, his job came first, and at this moment he had to open the car door for the Zambino wives and drive them home.
Mary Zambino stopped in front of him before climbing in the car. “Tony, dear. Who was that young woman you were with just now?”
“I have no idea.” He glanced back down the street in the direction she’d gone. “She was almost attacked by some hoodlums. I think they were purse snatchers.”
Mary huffed and planted her hands on her hips. “I should talk to Michael about these capers who roam the streets after dark. This is a respectable restaurant and we don’t need hoods lurking around waiting to pounce on an innocent person.”
“You’re absolutely right, ma’am.”
The youngest of the Zambino brothers’ wives leaned closer to Tony and ran her bejeweled hand along his arm. “And you just had to be the one to rescue the girl, didn’t you?” She batted her long, false eyelashes.
He shrugged. “I do what I can, ma’am. Besides, I couldn’t just stand back and watch, especially since it would have happened right in front of me.”
“That is why we have this big, strong man with us, ladies,” Another Zambino wife commented in a flirtatious manner.
“So true, and Michael wouldn’t have it any other way,” Mary added before climbing in the car.
When the elder Zambino wife, Elizabeth, passed in front of him, she patted his cheek and gave him that motherly smile of hers. “Keep up the good work, my boy.”
He chuckled and shut the door. He’d only been in Michael’s employ for six months, but the women treated him like family. Well, the older women did, anyway. The younger ones gazed at him as if he were some kind of exotic Sheik made of nothing but passion that was put on earth for their gazing pleasure.
Tony knew it was only a matter of time before he got promoted from being a driver to working beside Michael Zambino as one of his men. Driving had been a good job for him to start out with, but Tony was trained for bigger and better things. Knowing Michael as he did, Tony figured his boss watched him closely, waiting until the moment he could finally trust him.
It would happen. Tony would make certain of it. He’d wanted this promotion for a very long time.
As he drove the chatting wives back to their home, he couldn’t stop thinking about the dame he met tonight. Actually, he hadn’t really met her, although their lips had met. He grinned. He definitely liked the way they were introduced. Words wouldn’t have been any stronger, that’s for certain.
He didn’t really know why he kissed her. She’d gazed at his mouth with eyes full of interest, which made him want to sample her sweetness. She was certainly worth the effort.
When he first noticed her in the restaurant looking all alone, he’d felt sorry for her. Obviously, she’d been stood up by her date, the stupid sap. What man in their right mind would leave a beautiful woman like her alone? But the more he watched, the more he realized she wasn’t there just to eat. He could tell from when the Zambino women had first arrived, that the doll was interested in them more than she was her food. It wasn’t a normal interest, either. Sometimes she had been straining her lovely neck to hear what the Zambino women were discussing.
Tony had been trained well, and his instincts were screaming at him that there was more to this young lady than he first thought. When she’d run into him by the drugstore, he never had a second thought to be suspicious. Seeing her tonight, however, his suspicion grew.
In fact, he was just about getting ready to walk to her table and introduce himself when his food had arrived. He had no other choice but to take his dinner outside and eat in the car. Then when she hustled out of the restaurant and headed his way, excitement built in his chest as he thought of a way to talk to her. Those hoodlums arrived at the perfect time.
And speaking of perfect…that kiss nearly knocked him speechless. Never had a woman’s innocent kiss made him want to cuddle her against him and hold her there forever.
Then again, he wasn’t used to kissing innocent women. That was probably why he found the kiss so exciting and made him breathless.
Now he wanted to know her better, and it had nothing to do with the fact that he suspected her of spying on the Zambino women, either. Unfortunately, unless fate intervened again, his job came first and he couldn’t look for the beauty that would be hard to forget.
When they reached home and he helped the women out, Michael Zambino walked through the opened door of the house toward him. Looking dignified, as always, the boss took leisurely steps. Mary hurried to her husband’s side, but she was brushed away. Rejection was an expression Tony saw too often on Mary’s face, and his heart went out to the wife who was always ignored by her husband. Michael had always put his men first. Shoot, even Michael’s mother was put above Mary.
Tony leaned back against the car, waiting for his employer to reach his side. Michael’s wealth showed in his pinstriped suit, hat, and the jeweled rings around his fingers. But it was more than that. Michael’s Italian heritage bespoke his every move and expression. People knew right away not to mess with the Big Zambino Cheese.
The only way for Tony to reach his goal was to get closer to Michael. One way or another, he was determined to get that promotion he deserved.
Zambino stopped in front of him, and his dark glare met Tony’s. Gulping, he hoped his boss didn’t notice the unease running through him right now. “Do you need me to take you someplace, Mr. Zambino?”
“Yes. I’ve just arranged an emergency meeting at the drugstore. We’ll need to pick up Donald and Campbell along the way.”
Tony opened the car door and motioned. “Ab-so-lute-ly!”
As Michael climbed in, Tony couldn’t wait to see what the important meeting was about. He hoped this would be the meeting Michael would finally allow him to attend.