Summer with the Millionaire

By: Jessica Gilmore

‘Okay, then.’ Luca was back to his usual inscrutable, faintly mocking self. ‘I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Shall we go through?’

Hang on, this wasn’t in her plan. ‘What, now? The meeting doesn’t start for an hour.’

‘I thought you might want to settle in, freshen up.’ The amber eyes gleamed. ‘Prepare for the meeting. I’m sure we can find you a spare corner somewhere.’

‘Thanks,’ Minty said. ‘But I’m quite all right here.’ She gestured vaguely around the foyer. It was a light, welcoming space, the inside functional yet as lovely as the outside. Some people thought running a business the size of Di Tore Dolce from old farm buildings in the lush Oschian countryside was crazy; that they would be better moving to one of the big cities: Rome, Milan or Florence. But neither Luca nor his uncle had ever considered uprooting from the family estate where it had all begun.

The office building had once been a barn. Now it housed desks, meeting rooms and dozens of people. The reception area in which they stood was a modern, glass-roofed extension. Living vines wound abundantly round the ceiling and support beams and large wooden pots held huge, vibrant green plants. Clusters of chairs were grouped around coffee tables and to one side three smartly dressed women were seated behind a long desk. Despite the early hour, their fingers were flying away on the keyboards as they chatted into earpieces.

They were the stylish embodiment of Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guarded the entrance to Hades, and there was no getting past them. Minty had tried, unleashing the full power of her charm on them.

It hadn’t worked.

On the short flight over, Minty had allowed herself a few daydreams about her successful return to Di Tore Dolce, mostly inspired by late-night Dynasty reruns. She would be sitting at the head of the table, presentation already set up when the other board members walked in, ready to dazzle them with her business acumen and vision.

If Cerberus hadn’t barred her way.

But if Luca took her through she would immediately be sidelined, relegated back to the same position she had been in as a bored and sulky teenager dragged into the office for work experience.

Minty thought quickly. ‘Honestly, you go ahead; I need to sort out my pass,’ she said, darting a look over at the receptionists.

They’d have to let her through now. And then she could set up while Luca assumed she was freshening up. She could still surprise him.

‘No worries, they can deliver one to you. Come on.’ Luca put his hand on the small of her back and ushered Minty towards the automatic door that separated the public part of the business from the private. At just that brief contact a jolt of electricity snaked up Minty’s spine and she shot forward, away from his touch.

So much for cool and professional.

But she was no longer a silly teenager with a crush. This time she was the one in control.

* * *

What on earth was Minty Davenport doing back in Oschia? And, more important, what was she doing here at Di Tore Dolce?

Luca strode over to the window and looked out over the hills and vineyards that surrounded the head office of the business he had inherited and grown. Just a mile away over the brow of the nearest hill was his home, the old Oschian farmhouse where he had lived first with his parents and then, after the accident, with his uncle, Gio, and Gio’s English wife. Luca had adored the softly spoken Englishwoman—and had dreaded the summers when her wilful, wild niece came to wreak havoc for weeks on end.

Now Minty was back. What destruction did she bring in her wake this time?

And what on earth did she want with his business? If only Aunt Rose hadn’t split her third share between the two of them; she’d given Minty a reason to return.

There had to be a reason she was back. Minty was wild, impulsive and thoughtless but her whims had never included board meetings before. Luca pulled out his phone and quickly did a search on her name. Instantly the return page showed thousands of possible hits, some dated that week. He pulled up the most recent and read, a frown pinching his forehead.

‘Aha,’ he said softly as he scrolled down the backlit screen. ‘Got you.’

* * *

‘You summoned me?’ Her voice was light, full of laughter, but the blue eyes were defiant. Luca recognised the pose well: the time she’d stayed out all night... No, he corrected himself, the times she’d stayed out all night. After every outrageous prank, after every time she’d been called to account, Lady Araminta Davenport had presented that same mix of insouciance and bravado.

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