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Harlequin Presents January 2015 Box Set 3 of 4(8)

By:Lynne Graham

Gio climbed out of his limo while his chauffeur argued with the traffic warden and his security team were disgorged from the vehicle behind. He scanned the shop front, adorned with the name, ‘Billie’s Vintage’, and frowned, positively transfixed by the idea that Billie could have opened up her own business. Yet there was the proof in front of him. Theos! He shook his arrogant dark head, thinking that women were strange, unpredictable creatures and finally wondering if he had ever really known Billie at all because nothing that she had done or said so far had appeared on his list of her potential reactions. His frown grew even darker, lending a saturnine quality to his hard, dark features. He had important projects to manage and people to see and yet here he was still stuck after twenty-four exceedingly boring hours in a back-end-of-nowhere Yorkshire town chasing Billie! What kind of sense did that make?

Dee and Iwona arrived at the shop within minutes of each other. Dee strapped Theo into his pram and asked Billie what she fancied eating for supper while Iwona wrapped a purchase for a customer. That was when Gio strode in, utterly frying Billie’s brain cells because she stopped mid-conversation with Dee and totally forgot what she had been about to say.

Garbed in a charcoal designer pinstripe suit that sheathed his tall, muscular body like a tailor-made glove, Gio simply took her breath away. His white shirt accentuated his bronzed complexion and the very masculine black stubble already beginning to shadow his handsome jaw line. A startling sunburst of honeyed heat blossomed between Billie’s thighs and she pressed them tight together, her colour steadily climbing. She was even more painfully aware of the swelling heaviness of her breasts and the sudden tightening of her nipples. She was appalled that Gio could still have that immediate an effect on her, an effect that was markedly more intense than the day before when she had blamed her surrender to that kiss on the fact that he had caught her unprepared. What was her excuse this time?

‘Billie...’ Gio breathed in his dark, velvet drawl, poised several feet away and acting as if his appearance in her shop were the most natural thing in the world.

‘G-Gio...’ she stammered half under her breath, quickly closing the space between them, fearful of being overheard. ‘Why are you here?’

‘You’re not stupid, don’t act it,’ Gio advised, glancing around. ‘So, you left me to open a shop—’

‘You. Left. Me,’ Billie spelt out with a bitterness she could not restrain but it was the truth: he had left her to place a wedding ring on another woman’s finger.

‘We can’t talk here. We’ll catch up back at my hotel over lunch,’ Gio decreed, closing a hand round her arm.

‘If you don’t let go, I’ll slap you!’ Billie hissed, determined not to be railroaded by his overpowering personality and drive.

His dark eyes glittered like pyrite as if the prospect of a good slap was an entertaining challenge. ‘Lunch, pouli mou?’

‘We’ve got nothing to say to each other,’ Billie told him, noting that his entire hand was still wrapped round her arm, forcing her to stay by his side.

His sensual mouth quirked as he studied her full pink mouth. ‘Then you can listen—’

Butterflies danced in her tummy as she looked up at him. ‘Don’t want to talk, don’t want to listen either—’

‘Tough,’ Gio pronounced and then he did something she would never ever have dreamt he would do in public. He just bent down and scooped her up off her feet and headed for the door.

‘Put me down, Gio!’ she gasped, making a wild grab at the flouncy skirt of her dress, which had flown up to expose her thighs. ‘Have you gone crazy?’

Gio glanced at the two women standing together behind the counter. ‘I’m taking Billie out for lunch. She’ll be back in a couple of hours,’ he explained with complete cool.

‘Gio!’ Billie launched in disbelief, catching a glimpse of Dee’s laughing face before Gio shouldered open the door and hid her cousin from view.

The chauffeur swept open the passenger door as if they were royalty and Gio shoved her into the back seat with scant ceremony. ‘You should’ve known that I wouldn’t stand there arguing with an audience,’ he pointed out smoothly. ‘In any case, I’m out of patience and I’m hungry.’

In a series of angry motions, Billie smoothed down her dress, tugging it over her knees. ‘Why didn’t you go back to London yesterday?’

‘You should know by now that saying no to me only makes me try harder.’

Billie rolled her bright green eyes in mockery and said angrily, ‘Well, how would I know that when I never did say no to you?’