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Harlequin Presents January 2015 Box Set 3 of 4(16)

By:Lynne Graham

‘You’re starting to offend me,’ Gio admitted with the disconcerting honesty he could occasionally employ to unsettle the opposition. He tugged out his phone and voiced terse instructions in Greek. ‘Perhaps it’s better that you leave now and think over what you’re doing.’

Billie flushed, hands linking tightly in front of her. ‘I’ve already thought—’

‘If I leave, I never come back,’ Gio spelt out in pure challenge. ‘Think carefully before I give you what you say you want.’

A pang of dismay shot through Billie. She wanted him to go away and leave her alone, of course she did. She didn’t have a single doubt. She had to protect Theo because Gio would hit the roof if he found out about him. His Greek family was very traditional and old-fashioned and children born on the proverbial wrong side of the blanket were not welcomed. She knew his father had had an illegitimate child with a lover, a half-sister of Gio’s, whom his family did not acknowledge or accept into their select circle.

Gio was finally coming round to her arguments, she decided, striving to feel pleased that her objections were finally getting through to him and being taken seriously. But just then, as Gio showed her back out to the lift and turned away again without a backward glance to vanish into his suite, it was impossible for Billie to feel good about anything that had happened. She was a mess inside and out and she hadn’t even brushed her hair. The mirrored wall in the lift showed a woman with a reddened swollen mouth, a wild torrent of tousled curls and guilty troubled eyes gritty with the tears she was denying. Did she blame the wine? Being sex-starved? Old memories and familiarity? Or did she have a fatal weakness called Gio Letsos? And without any warning, time was sweeping her boldly back to their very first meeting.

Billie’s grandfather had died when she was eleven. Seven years later, her grandma had passed away after a very long illness. The older woman had willed her house to a local charity and had essentially left Billie homeless. Billie had travelled down to London with another girl, moved into a hostel and found work as a cleaner in a luxury block of apartments. She had cleaned Gio’s palatial apartment daily for several months before she met him.

Before she’d entered any apartment she had rung the bell to check whether anyone was at home and there had been no answer that day. Billie had been dusting shelves in the vast open-plan living area when a sudden unexpected noise had made her jump in fright. Whirling round, she had belatedly realised that there was a man lying slumped on one of the sofas. For an instant she had believed he was asleep, but his dark golden brown eyes had opened to stare at her and he had immediately begun trying to sit up, his movements clumsy and uncoordinated. She had watched in shock as, instead of standing, he had ended up rolling off the sofa and falling heavily to the polished wooden floor.

‘For goodness’ sake...are you all right?’ she had exclaimed, wondering if he was in a drunken stupor.

But having grown up with a grandfather and school friends who liked to overindulge in alcohol at every opportunity, Billie had trusted her ability to recognise when someone was drunk. Gio had tried and failed to lift his head and he had groaned. She had noted that there was no sign of a bottle or a glass anywhere and no smell of drink before she had finally risked moving closer to see if he was simply ill.

‘Flu...’ he had mumbled, ridiculously long black lashes dropping back down over his stunning eyes as if even the effort of speech was too much for him.

Billie had rested cool fingers fleetingly on his forehead and registered that he was running one heck of a fever. ‘I think you need an ambulance,’ she had whispered.

‘No...doctor...phone,’ he had framed with difficulty, patting the pocket of his business suit jacket.

Billie had dug out the phone for him and slotted it into his hand. He had fumbled with buttons and cursed. ‘No, you do it.’

But the contacts list had been written in some weird script that was definitely not the alphabet and most probably a foreign equivalent. She had had to shake his shoulder to bring that to his attention and with some difficulty at focusing he had stabbed out the name for her and she had had to make the call to the doctor for him. Mercifully the doctor had spoken English and, sounding very concerned about the male he’d referred to as ‘Gio’, he had promised to be with them in twenty minutes.

Feeling uncomfortable but knowing she had to wait to let the doctor into the apartment, Billie had got on with the cleaning while Gio had lain there on the floor. She had felt helpless and useless because he was simply too big and heavy in build for her to lift him in an effort to make him more comfortable. The doctor, young and fit, had been shocked to see Gio lying on the floor and had immediately hauled him up and practically carried him into the first bedroom off the corridor.