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Harlequin Presents January 2015 Box Set 3 of 4(15)

By:Lynne Graham


LIKE AN ACCIDENT VICTIM, Billie sat up in the tangled and creased remnants of her clothes. She blinked and then the realisation of what had just happened kicked in and she hated herself with a virulence that literally hurt. In shock, she struggled to deal with a colossal self-betrayal. Gio would never believe she wanted to be left alone now, would he? Not when she glugged down a couple of glasses of wine over lunch with him as if they were old and dear friends and then got upset and still went to bed with him!

How could I have? Theo’s trusting little face below his mop of black curls swam inside her head. What had happened to her self-respect? She had wanted Gio with a desperate hunger that in retrospect shook her inside out. Had she missed sex that much? She fought her way into her knickers with clumsy, trembling hands. The bathroom door opened and she froze before sliding off the bed, gathering up her discarded clothing, locked in a cocoon of almost-sick mortification.

‘I didn’t plan for this to happen...’ Gio breathed curtly.

Engaged in getting her bra back on, it was as much as Billie could do to even spare a glance in his direction. She was surprised that he wasn’t sporting a triumphant smile because he had won and Gio liked to win much more than most people. It was the high-voltage combination of that essential drive, innate aggression and competitiveness that made Gio Letsos a global success.

‘Like I believe that,’ Billie framed dully while she slid into her dress because she knew how intensely manipulative and devious he could be. He used those qualities in business. She was quite sure he had used them on her and was still doing so. Conscience didn’t get much of a look-in with Gio when it came to anything he wanted.

‘Let me...’ He strode round the foot of the bed to run up her zip and she wanted to slap his hands away and scream, only that would have humiliated her even more by exposing just how much he had wounded her. ‘I didn’t plan it,’ he repeated.

‘Right, you didn’t plan it,’ Billie echoed like a well-taught parrot, pushing her feet into her shoes, wanting a shower badly but desperate to escape his presence and reach the sanctuary of her home and her son.

‘Next week you have your twenty-fifth birthday,’ Gio told her.

Billie grimaced. ‘My twenty-third—’

Gio looked back at her in bewilderment. ‘Twenty-fifth—’

‘I lied when we first met,’ Billie volunteered carelessly. ‘You said you didn’t date teenagers and I was nineteen, so I said I was two years older.’

Taken aback, Gio stared at her. ‘You lied? You were only nineteen?’

Billie nodded and shrugged. ‘What does it matter now?’

Biting back a sharp retort, Gio compressed his handsome mouth, his absolute trust in her taking a severe hit because right from the start of their acquaintance he had been disarmed by her apparent honesty. Aside of that he was less than pleased that he had taken a teenager to his bed without even realising it. It had been a much more unequal relationship than he had ever appreciated, he recognised grudgingly. He had been twenty-six years old and about a thousand years of sexual savoir faire and sophistication ahead of her.

‘Call me a taxi,’ she prompted in the strained silence. ‘I want to go home.’

‘We haven’t agreed anything yet—’

‘And we’re not going to,’ Billie interposed. ‘What just happened was an accident, a mistake...a case of familiarity breeding contempt, whatever you choose to call it. But it didn’t mean anything to either of us and it didn’t change anything...’

Billie waited for Gio to protest but the silence stretched and she was suddenly wretchedly, unhappily aware of how much that silence of agreement hurt. He had travelled from hot-pursuit mode to apparent indifference: it seemed the sex had acted like a miracle cure. And why was she surprised? She had always been surprised that Gio stayed interested in her. She had been surprised throughout their relationship, had never contrived to work out what he saw in her that he could not find in a more beautiful and glossier woman.

‘The limo will drop you back,’ Gio breathed flatly, his spectacular eyes veiled. ‘I have work to catch up on. My business team are joining me here within the hour. I’ll call you tomorrow.’

Shot from the conviction that she was being rejected to the news that once again she had read him wrong, Billie slowly shook her head. ‘There’s no point. End it here, Gio. Leave me alone. You go your way, I go mine. It’s the only sensible option after all this time.’

A sliver of dark fury shot through Gio that Billie should still feel detached enough to believe that she could easily walk away from him. This was the woman he had once believed loved him. This was the woman he had spent a fortune tracking down. Well, so much for love, he reflected without wonder at that change in her and her lack of appreciation for a persistent and flattering pursuit that many women would have killed to receive from him. Was his less-than-stellar performance between the sheets at fault? Shorn of his usual cool, he had been too fast and too eager. His perfect white teeth gritted.