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

By:Lynne Graham

‘Are you really planning to stage this long-overdue meeting on the doorstep?’ Gio drawled, all velvety smoothness and sophistication. He was taking control the way he always did and it unnerved her.

‘Why not?’ Billie whispered helplessly, struggling to drag her eyes from his devastatingly handsome features, remembering all the many times she had run her fingers through his thick black hair, loving him, loving each and every thing about him, even his flaws. ‘I don’t owe you the time of day!’

Gio was disconcerted by that comeback from a woman who had once respected his every word and done everything possible to please him, and his lean, strong face set taut and hard. ‘You’re being rude,’ he told her icily.

Billie’s hand clutched at the edge of the front door while she wondered if its support was all that was keeping her upright. He was so cool, so collected and such a bully, really couldn’t help being one. Life had spoilt Gio Letsos although he had never seen it that way. People flattered him to an extraordinary degree and went out of their way to win his approval. And once she had been the same, she acknowledged wretchedly. She had never stood up to him, never told him how she really felt, had always been far too afraid of spoiling things and then losing him. Only a very naïve woman would have failed to foresee that naturally Gio would choose to walk away from her first.

Her abstracted gaze took in the fact that her neighbour was staring over the fence at them, possibly even close enough to catch snippets of the conversation. Embarrassment made her step back from the door. ‘You’d better come in.’

Gio strode into the tiny sitting room, stepping with care round the toys strewn untidily about the room. He swallowed up all the available space, Billie thought numbly as she hastily switched off the television, which was playing a noisy children’s cartoon. He was so tall, so broad and she had forgotten the way he dominated any room he occupied.

‘You said I was rude,’ she said flatly as she carefully shut the sitting room door, ensuring their privacy.

She kept her back turned to him as long as possible, shielding herself from the explosive effects of Gio’s potent charisma as best she could. It wasn’t fair that just being in the same room with him should send a shower of sparks tingling through her and give her that oh, so dangerous sense of excitement and anticipation that had once seduced her into behaving like a very stupid woman. He was so very, very good-looking that it hurt to look at him and the effect of seeing him on the doorstep had stimulated her memories. In her mind’s eye, she was seeing the straight black brows, the utterly gorgeous dark golden eyes, the distinctly imperious blade of his nose, the high cheekbones, the bronzed Mediterranean skin, the beautiful, wide, sensual mouth that had made seduction an indescribable pleasure.

‘You were rude,’ Gio told her without hesitation.

‘But I was entitled to be. Two years ago, you married another woman,’ Billie reminded him over her shoulder, angry that it could still hurt her to have to force that statement out. Unhappily there was no escaping the demeaning truth that she had been good enough to sleep with but not good enough to be considered for anything more important or permanent in Gio’s life. ‘You’re nothing to do with me any more!’

‘I’m divorced,’ Gio breathed in a raw-edged undertone because nothing was going as he had expected. Billie had never attacked him before, never dared to question his behaviour. This new version of Billie was taking him by surprise.

‘How is that my business?’ Billie shot back at him, quick as a flash, while refusing to think that startling declaration of divorce through or react to it in any way. ‘I still remember you telling me that your marriage was none of my business.’

‘But then you made it your business by using it as an excuse to walk out on me.’

‘I didn’t need an excuse!’ A familiar sense of wonderment was gripping Billie while she listened, once again, to Gio vocalise his supremely selfish and arrogant outlook. ‘The minute you married, we were over and done. I never pretended it would be any other way—’

‘You were my mistress!’

Colour lashed Billie’s cheeks as though he had slapped her. ‘In your mind, not mine. I was only with you because I fell in love with you, not for the jewellery and the clothes and the fancy apartment,’ she spelled out thinly, her hands curling together in front of her in a defensive, nervous gesture.

‘But there was no reason for you to leave. My bride had no objection to me keeping a mistress,’ Gio stressed with growing impatience.

My bride. Even the label still hurt. The back of her eyelids stung with tears and she hated herself but she hated him more. Gio was so insensitive, so self-centred. How on earth had she ever contrived to love him? And why the heck would he have tracked her down? For what possible reason?