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Harlequin Presents January 2015 Box Set 3 of 4(12)

By:Lynne Graham

‘Is there really another man?’ Gio asked very quietly, the rich velvety depth of his accented drawl filling her with pleasure, no matter how hard she tried not to react that way. But that was the same voice she had once lived to hear on the phone when he was away from her, and she could not break her instinctive appreciation.

Billie worked out the question and flushed as she collided with stunning tigerish golden eyes surrounded by ebony lashes. She breathed in, intending to lie, breathed out, knew that for some reason she didn’t want to lie. Perhaps it was because if she lied he would come down on her like a granite block to get further information about the supposed man in her life and would eventually cleverly trip her up and learn that she was lying, which would only make her look stupid. ‘No, there isn’t,’ she admitted grudgingly. ‘But that doesn’t change anything between us.’

‘Then we’re both free,’ Gio murmured lazily, topping up her glass with the bottle of wine.

‘I have no intention of getting involved with you again,’ Billie declared, taking a hasty gulp of the mellow red, wondering if he would laugh if she told him what the flavour reminded her of. After all, she had once attended a wine course as well as an art-appreciation course and had never had the opportunity to show off what she had learned there.

‘But we work well together.’

Billie shook her head in vehement rejection of that statement and concentrated on her food again.

Sipping his wine, Gio watched her. He suspected she was wearing vintage clothes and the pale green linen dress she wore teamed with a light blouse-like jacket embroidered with flowers didn’t bear any resemblance to what he deemed to be current fashion, but the colours and plain styling had an understated elegance. The minute she sat down, however, the fabric of the dress pulled taut across the swell of her ample bosom. Gio tensed, hunger stabbing through him while he wondered how he was supposed to tempt a woman so utterly lacking in greed. She didn’t want his money, had never wanted his money, had once told him in no uncertain terms that he didn’t need a yacht because he would never take the time off to use it. His yacht, sitting idle and costing a fortune to maintain, was currently moored at Southampton.

The waiters came back to serve the main course. She saw their sidewise glances and recognised their curiosity about her. By now the hotel staff would have established who Gio was—Giorgios Letsos, the oil billionaire was a legend the world over. The press loved him because he lived a rich man’s life and looked great in print. Calisto had looked brilliant in print too with her sleek straight blonde hair, her perfect features and her terrifyingly tiny size-zero body. Beside her, Billie would have appeared plump, short and ungainly and, from seeing that first photo, Billie had accepted that no comparison could ever be made between them. After all, she and Calisto weren’t even on the same page in the looks department.

Gio wound down the tension by talking about his recent travels round the world. She asked small, safe, impersonal questions about some of his staff, a couple of whom she had met and some she had only got to know by speaking to them often on the phone.

While eating her dessert, a glorious concoction of fresh berries and meringue, she enquired whether or not he still had the apartment.

‘No...like you, it’s long gone,’ he stated.

Billie took that to mean that he had not installed a more malleable woman in her place and when a sense of relief filtered through her she gulped more of her wine and tried hard to direct her thoughts to safer topics. It was no longer her business to wonder who he slept with. Once he had married Calisto the question had become academic. Billie had been replaced in every way. Calisto had been chosen to sit at the other end of the dining table in his probably very beautiful Greek home, which Billie had naturally never visited. Gio would have socialised with Calisto because they were a real couple and obviously he had planned to make Calisto the mother of his children...


AS THE PAIN of that never-to-be-forgotten reality pierced Billie, she suddenly reached the limits of her tolerance. Her attempt to be civilised for the sake of appearances was shattered and, forced cruelly out of her comfort zone, she thrust her hands down on the edge of the table and suddenly stood up. ‘I can’t do this!’ she told Gio with ragged abruptness. ‘I want to go home right now!’

Taken aback, Gio sprang upright, a frown line drawing his ebony brows together, his lustrous dark eyes locked to her flushed and unhappy face with wary, searching curiosity. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘Only you would ask that in this set-up!’ Billie exclaimed helplessly. ‘I didn’t want to see you ever again. I don’t want to be reminded of the past!’