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

By:Lynne Graham

Theo clutched Billie’s ankles and slowly levered himself upright, beaming with triumph at his achievement. Considering her son had had both legs in a special cast for months to cure his hip dysplasia, he was catching up on his mobility fast. For a split second he also reminded her powerfully of his father and she didn’t like that, didn’t go there in her mind because she didn’t allow herself to dwell on the past. Looking back on the mistakes she had made was counterproductive. Those experiences had taught her hard lessons and she had forced herself to move on past them.

Dee studied her cousin in frank frustration. Billie Smith was the equivalent of a man magnet. With the figure of a pocket Venus, a foaming mane of dense toffee-coloured curls and an exceptionally pretty face, Billie exuded the kind of natural warm and approachable sex appeal that attracted the opposite sex in droves. Men tried to chat Billie up in the supermarket, in car parks or in the street and if they were behind a car wheel they honked their horns, whistled out of the window and stopped to offer her lifts. Had it not been for Billie’s modest take on her own assets and her innate kindness, Dee was convinced she would have been consumed with envy. Of course she would have been the last to envy Billie’s unfortunate long-term affair with the ruthless, selfish swine who had broken her tender heart, she thought guiltily. Like Dee, Billie had paid a high price for falling in love with the wrong man.

The knocker on the front door sounded loudly. ‘I’ll get it,’ Billie declared because Dee was doing the ironing and Billie hated ironing with a passion.

Davis hurtled out of the sitting room, almost tripping over Theo, who was crawling earnestly in his mother’s wake. ‘There’s a big car...a really big car on the street!’ the little boy exclaimed.

It was probably a lorry with a delivery, Billie assumed, aware that any vehicle with wheels fascinated Dee’s son. She unlocked the door and then took an immediate and very abrupt step back, astonishment and panic shooting up inside her like a sudden jarring surge of adrenalin.

‘You’re a hard woman to track down,’ Gio murmured with supreme assurance.

Billie’s facial muscles were locked tight by shock. She couldn’t have shown him an expression to save her life but her wide green eyes were huge and anxious. ‘What are you doing here? Why would you have wanted to track me down, for goodness’ sake?’

Gio feasted his shrewd, dark gaze on her. Twenty four freckles adorned her nose and her upper cheekbones: having once counted them, he knew that for a fact. Her clear eyes, delicate features and lush mouth were utterly unchanged, he was relieved to note, his attention sliding inexorably down over her in a staged appraisal because he was strictly rationing himself. A faded blue cotton tee shirt stretched to capacity over her high, rounded breasts and his attention lingered there against his will, lust sending his libido leaping for the first time in a long time.

Relief rather than irritation consumed Gio because it had been far too long since he had experienced that reaction to a woman, so long indeed that he had feared that his marriage had stripped him of his essential masculinity in some peculiar fashion. But then, he would have been the first to acknowledge that he had never wanted any woman the way he had always wanted Billie. He had once flown her out to New York for a single night because he literally could not get through another week without her in his bed.

Billie was so worked up, so horrified that Gio Letsos had come looking and found her, that her feet were glued to the hall carpet. She stared at Gio, unwilling to credit that he was really there in the flesh in front of her, the man she had once loved, the man she had believed she would never see again. Her heart started to thump very, very hard and she sucked in a sudden snatch of oxygen, flinching as Theo drew her back to reality by hauling on her jeans-clad legs with his little fat hands to pull himself upright.

‘Billie...?’ Dee asked from the kitchen doorway. ‘Who is it? Is there something up?’

‘Nothing.’ Billie rescued her voice from her convulsed throat and stooped down in a jerky movement to scoop up Theo, her dazed gaze roaming over her cousin’s children who were studying Gio as though he had just dropped in from Mars. ‘Dee...could you take the kids?’

Her voice emerged all husky and shaken and she had to force herself to direct her attention back to Gio while Dee put out her arms for Theo and urged her own children into the kitchen with her. The kitchen door closed, sealing the hall into a sudden claustrophobic silence.

‘I asked you why you were here and why you would have looked for me in the first place,’ Billie reminded her unwelcome visitor doggedly.