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Harlequin Presents January 2015 Box Set 3 of 4(9)

By:Lynne Graham

Disconcertingly Gio laughed, genuine amusement illuminating his darkly handsome face. ‘I’ve missed you, Billie.’

Her annoyance fell away and she turned her head in a sharp movement, both shaken and hurt by that claim and by how very empty it was. ‘You got married. How could you possibly have missed me?’

‘I don’t know but I did,’ Gio ground out truthfully. ‘You were so much a part of my life.’

‘No, I was like one tiny little drawer in a big busy cabinet of drawers,’ Billie countered. ‘I was never part of the rest of your life.’

Gio was sincerely astonished by that statement. He had phoned her twice a day every day no matter where he was in the world and no matter how busy he was. Her soothing happy-go-lucky chatter had provided him with necessary downtime from a hectic schedule. In truth he had never had so close a relationship with any woman either before or after her. He had trusted her and he had been honest with her, which was a very rare thing between a single man and a single woman in Gio’s world. But it was steadily sinking in on him that none of that mattered because he had married Calisto. Billie, who had never shown a jealous, distrustful streak in her life, had clearly been jealous and distressed by that development. He didn’t like that idea, he didn’t like it at all, and he kicked out that thought so fast it might never have existed.

Gio had constructed a protective shell while he was still a child to ensure that he could remain untouched by emotional reactions. Emotion didn’t need to get involved. Emotion complicated and only exacerbated an already difficult situation. Calm, common sense and control had always worked far more efficiently for Gio in every field of his life, only not with Billie, he acknowledged grudgingly. But the past was the past and he couldn’t change it, while life had taught him that with enough money, energy and purpose he could form the future into any shape he wanted.

Billie, however, was not practical; she was all about emotion and perhaps that essential difference between them had been one of the things that attracted him to her and which was now sending her in the wrong direction. His shrewd, dark eyes rested on her angry, flushed face and suddenly he wanted to flatten her to the seat of the limo and teach her that there were far more satisfying responses. Inky spiky lashes lowering, he scanned her from her bright eyes to her lush mouth right down over the glorious breasts he had loved to play with and the long shapely legs he had loved to slide between. Sex with Billie was amazing. Just thinking about her made heaviness stir at his groin. Being with her without being able to reach out and take what he wanted, what he had once taken for granted, not only felt weird, but also struck him as a form of refined torture.

‘I want you back,’ Gio declared with stubborn force. ‘I’ve been looking for you ever since you disappeared.’

‘Your wife must’ve liked that.’

‘Leave Calisto out of this...’

Even the sound of her name on Gio’s lips stung Billie like a whip across tender skin. She knew she was being too sensitive. He had married another woman two years ago and she needed to move on. Even if he hadn’t moved on? That was too complex for her, shouted too loudly of wishful thinking. And, my goodness, she had done enough of that while she was still with him and what had those optimistic hopes got her? A broken heart and, right now, the pieces of that foolish heart were rattling like funeral bells. This was the guy she had loved as she had never dreamt she could ever love anyone and he had damaged her beyond forgiveness. Even walking away as she had known she must had almost destroyed her, but not even for him would she have sunk low enough to sleep with another woman’s husband.

‘I can’t believe you’re wasting your time with this,’ Billie admitted abruptly, her soft full mouth compressed to a flat, tense line. ‘I mean, what are you doing here? Why do you even want to see me again? It makes no sense for either of us!’

Gio searched her animated face and wondered what made her seem so beautiful to him. In some corner of his brain, he knew that from a purist’s point of view she never had met and never would meet the standard tenets of beauty because her nose turned up at the end and her eyes and her mouth were too big for her face and in a sudden shower of rain her hair turned into an unbelievably frizzy mess. But dry it fell in a silky tangle of curls the colour of toffee halfway to her waist and that hair had cloaked his body many, many times on occasions so intimate it hurt to remember them and still be deprived of the right to repeat them.

‘Stop looking at me like that,’ Billie told him thinly, the colour of awareness mantling her cheeks, a warm glow unfurling low in her body to remind her of how much time had passed since she had last been touched. She had got pregnant, become a new mother, set up a new home and business and kept so busy-busy-busy for months on end that she fell into bed exhausted every night. It took Gio’s reappearance to remind her that life could offer more self-indulgent pastimes.