Bought: One Bride

By: Miranda Lee

PROLOGUE





THE lift purred its way up to the penthouse floor, coming to a quiet halt before the door slid smoothly open, revealing a marble-floored foyer underfoot, and a breathtaking view straight ahead. Sydney Harbour on a clear summer’s day was always a sight to behold, with its sparkling blue water and picturesque surrounds, but more so from this height and this vantage point.

Richard shook his head as he walked from the lift towards the huge plate-glass window, his expression wry as he glanced over his shoulder at Reece, who’d hung back a little.

“I can see why you’ve had no trouble selling these apartments,” he remarked to his friend and business colleague. “I’ve never seen a finer view.”

Reece’s handsome face showed satisfaction as he came forward to stand at Richard’s shoulder. “I always abide by that famous old real estate saying. Position. Position. Position. Aside from being north-facing with a great view of the bridge, this point at East Balmain is just a short ferry ride from Sydney’s Central Business District, and an even shorter ride across to Darling Harbour.”

“It’s certainly a top spot, especially being near to the CBD. Which is just as well,” Richard added. “There were mutterings at the bank all last year that I’d used their money to back one too many of your projects. My new position as CEO could have been on the line if this had proved to be one big white elephant. The board were seriously worried when you wouldn’t allow investors to buy off the plan.”

Reece smiled. “Aah, but these apartments weren’t directed at investors. They were designed so that people would fall in love with at least one of them and want to live here. As well as devoting two floors to a private gym, pool, sauna and squash courts, I had each apartment individually decorated and furnished, right down to the sheets, towels and accessories. It added between one and two hundred thousand to the cost of each apartment, but it’s proved to be a most successful selling tool.”

Richard winced. Up to two hundred thousand, spent decorating each apartment. Good God.

“I’m glad you didn’t tell me that earlier. The old fogies at the bank would have had a pink fit. I might have too,” he added with a dry laugh. There were factions at the bank who didn’t approve of Richard’s promotion last year. A couple of the senior executives thought he was too young at thirty-eight to run a multibillion-dollar financial institution.

“That’s why I didn’t tell you till now,” Reece said with a wry grin. “I know when to keep a secret. But you’ve had the last laugh, dear friend,” he said, clapping Richard on the shoulder. “The building’s only been open since last October and we already have a ninety-five per cent occupancy rate. Three short months, and there’s only one penthouse left empty, along with a few apartments on the lower floors.”

“What’s wrong with the penthouse you haven’t sold?” Richard asked. “Too expensive? Wrong colour scheme?”

“Nope. It’s not on the market.”

“Aah. The developer has claimed it for himself.”

Reece’s blue eyes twinkled. “Come on. I’ll show it to you.”

“I can understand now why you’ve kept this one,” Richard said ten minutes later.

It was nothing like other city penthouses Richard had seen during his lifetime. And he’d seen quite a few. This was like a house up in the sky. A beach house, complete with garden beds, a lap pool and wide, cream-tiled terraces where you could stretch out and enjoy the view and soak up the sun.

Inside, the décor continued the promise of a relaxed, sun-filled lifestyle, with the same cream tiles on the floors throughout. The walls were painted either cream or a warm buttery colour. Most of the furniture was made of natural cane, with soft furnishings in various shades of blue. Rugs in blues and yellows gave warmth to the tiled floors.

No curtains or blinds blocked the view, though the glass doors and windows were tinted to reduce any glare. Naturally, the interior was fully air-conditioned and Reece proudly announced there was heating under the floor tiles to warm the place in the winter. Every room had a view and sliding glass doors that led out onto the terraces. A high cement wall separated the two top-floor penthouses, providing privacy and a courtyard effect to house the lap pool.

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