Zacarias Albaron-Marquez picked up his glass of orange juice and glanced at the magnificent view of Table Mountain. Buenos Aires was home, he’d traveled extensively, yet he’d never visited Cape Town before and he rather liked the eclectic, vibey city situated between mountains and the sea.
He also liked The Vane Hotel, owned by the Tempest-Vane brothers, and understood why the hotel had recently made the list of best hotels in the world. He had two hotels on that list, and knew how much work was required to reach that level of perfection.
Zac looked across to his sister, dark-haired and grey-eyed like him, and sighed. Where had the time gone? Five years ago, Jada told him that she wanted to marry Felipe when she turned eighteen. As her legal guardian, he told her no, that she had to wait until she was twenty-one. She turned twenty-one months ago and at the end of the week, she would be Felipe’s wife.
God, he wasn’t ready for this. Oh, he liked Felipe, but Jada had been his responsibility since their parents death eighteen years ago. While he was looking forward to his so-called “freedom”, he knew he wasn’t ready. Not for her to grow up, not for her to leave the mansion they shared in Puerto Madero, not for her to be anyone’s wife…not for any of it.
“What are you thinking about Zac?” Jada asked him.
Zac’s gaze returned to the view of the mountain. “Just that our parents would’ve loved this and how proud they would be of you.”
Jada smiled. “And of you.”
Zac waved her words away.
“Zac, you’ve built a massive, international company while raising me. You’ve sacrificed so much to raise me and they would be hella proud of you,” Jada insisted.
He did what he needed to do.
“But they would be happier if they knew that you were also getting married, thinking of a family.”
Zac narrowed his eyes at her. “Do not even start on that.”
“No.” He was not going to get into another discussion about how Jada was worried about leaving him on his own, whether he was lonely, how a wife and kids would enrich his life. He had his business, he had lovers and he had his friends. He was facing true freedom for the first time since he was eighteen and damn, he was going to relish it. He was not going to tie himself down anytime soon.
“Where’s Felipe and who are we meeting?” Zac asked, wanting to change the subject.
“And remind me who she is again?” Zac asked, gesturing to the waiter to refill his coffee cup.
Jada rolled her eyes. “She’s the wedding photographer.”
“Ah. How much is she costing me?”
Jada grinned. “A bomb. She only does a few weddings a year and she’s crazy busy. She’s the most creative and popular photographer around and she counts the royal families of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia as her clients.”
“And how did you manage to secure her services if she’s so in demand?” Zac asked.
“I book her three years ago after you told me we had to wait to get married. I also booked out the restaurant at The Vane and all the rooms at Kagiso Lodge.” Jada sent him an unrepentant smile. “I knew I was going to marry Felipe and I knew I wanted a destination wedding. And here we are.”
Zac shook his head, unable to understand how she could be so sure, so young. He’d never been in love, never even came close. Yet his baby sister knew from the age of sixteen that Felipe was whom she wanted to be with for the rest of her life. His parents had been the same, but it seemed that he was missing the “I, recognize you, you’re-mine” gene they all seemed to carry.
“Here they are now.”
Zac looked over her shoulder, his eyes immediately finding his lanky about-to-be brother-in-law, dressed in comfortable chino shorts and a loose, button-down shirt. As his eyes moved to the woman walking next to Felipe and his vision tunneled. The busy restaurant faded away, the mountain disappeared and only she remained, bright-haired and indescribably lovely.
Her hair was Venetian red, the color used in fairy tales and fantasy movies, and wavy, flowing over her shoulders and breasts like a red tide. She was tall but slim and moved with a ballerina’s grace and poise. She wore a flowy, Bohemian-inspired dress in contrasting colors and textures—blues and browns and aqua— that shouldn’t work together but did. She was the exact opposite of the sophisticated and sleek women he normally dated and slept with.
But Zac wanted to find out whether her mouth was spicy or sweet—or both—and whether her skin felt as smooth as it looked. Whether those long, slim legs would feel wrapped around his hips, the color of her nipples. He wanted her and worse, much worse, he needed to make her his.
Dios, this wasn’t good. She was trouble…
Karo Griffiths followed Felipe Ramos across the light and bright dining room onto the veranda dotted with tables and darted a glance at the magnificent view of Table Mountain. She loved this city and had visited many times before, even though home was now a cottage in Devon, England, on the Duke of Carrington’s—her uncle’s— estate. The Georgian mansion was her true home, the place she felt most secure, and the duke and duchess, Ledley and Trina, her second parents and the only people she trusted to look after her three-year-old son, Max, while she was away.
God, she missed him. Missed his naughty-as-hell face, his sturdy body, his engaging grin. She didn’t miss his must-try-everything, fearless streak. Boys, she was starting to realize, weren’t great at self-preservation.
Looking for the bride, Karo’s eyes collided with silver eyes under straight, jet black eyebrows. Her stomach dipped and dived and, suddenly, she felt too small for her skin. Resisting the urge to call for a defibrillator to restart her heart, she told herself that, at thirty, she should be too old to be sidewinded by a gorgeous face and a ripped body.
She always researched her clients and Karo had spent far too much online looking at pictures of the bride’s brother. Online, he was just another great looking guy, in real life he was sexy with a capital S, written in bold. His ink-black hair was styled off his forehead and expertly cut. Diabolical eyebrows and long black lashes set off lightning-filled eyes. His nose was ever so slightly hooked and, beneath his super short black beard, his mouth was stern. Tall, broad, and muscular, he checked all her I-could-jump-him boxes.
But she’d impulsively jumped a guy before, and it hadn’t ended well. No, that wasn’t true, she’d got Max out of it. But Max’s dad wanted to be free and when she’d chosen to keep Max, he’d chosen to leave. She and Max were better off on their own but the experience had taught her to look before she jumped. She couldn’t afford to make another man-related mistake.
Felipe introduced her to Jada, a feminine version of her forbidding brother, and then to Zac. He held out his hand and Karo held her breath, and his gaze, as they touched and an electrical substation exploded in her body. Her heart bounced off her ribcage and her stomach felt like it was experiencing a massive earthquake.
Her eyes kept flicking to his mouth and her hands ached to touch him…man, she was in a world of trouble here. The worst type…sexual trouble..
But she didn’t have the time or the energy for this… She had a job to do, an exorbitant fee to earn, a reputation to maintain. She didn’t, she reminded herself, play where she worked. Ever.
As a single mom, she didn’t play at all anymore.
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