Summer with the Millionaire

By: Jessica Gilmore

There had been a time when Luca had thought there was a vulnerability to her. That she presented a mask to the world.

He had been wrong.

Luca leant back in his chair, allowing his eyes to travel slowly down the demurely clad, long, lean body, the grey dress oddly seductive as it clung to her subtle curves. The coltish teenager had matured into a beautiful woman.

Luca looked directly at her, held her guileless gaze. ‘I’m sorry to hear about your engagement.’

The blue eyes widened momentarily. A faint flush crept over her cheekbones but it was the only outward sign of any inner emotion. Surprise? Discomfort? Embarrassment? Whatever Minty was feeling, she kept it locked inside.

Once he had wanted to know—to know what she felt. To know if she felt. To peel back her layers and see if there was anything more to her than a trust fund with an attitude.

‘To lose one fiancé is unlucky,’ he said, still watching her. ‘Three losses could be considered careless.’

She shrugged. ‘What can I say? I never did take care of my toys.’

Had he been one of those toys? Picked up on a whim then discarded? He felt the old familiar anger rise up and swallowed it back down. He had never given her the satisfaction of reacting to her selfish and outrageous behaviour. He wasn’t going to start now.

‘Probably for the best. I can’t really see you as a politician’s wife.’

‘Oh, it’s not all opening fetes and kissing babies, you know; some spouses even have jobs here in the twenty-first century.’ Minty wandered over to the bookshelves that lined the left side of the room and picked up a photo of her aunt. Rose was standing outside the farmhouse, her arm around a twelve-year-old Luca. He was smiling, leaning into the woman who had become his surrogate mother. He remembered that day clearly. It had been the first day since the accident that he had been happy and hadn’t thought about his parents.

‘It seems odd to be here, without her,’ Minty said, so softly he barely made out the words. ‘As the taxi drove past the house, I half-expected it to turn in to the driveway and I’d see her standing on the step in that flour-covered apron of hers.’ She put the photo down and continued to browse along the shelves, examining the photos and awards he kept there.

For a moment Luca softened. Rose had been just as much Minty’s surrogate mother as his; it must be strange for her to be back in Oschia for the first time since the funeral. But it had been her choice to stay away; to run away in the middle of the night; to barely bother keeping in touch with Uncle Gio, the man who had provided her with stability and a home for over ten summers.

‘It says here that your father wasn’t very pleased about the engagement being called off.’

Minty turned, leaning back against the bookshelves, confident, graceful, unpredictable as a cat. ‘You shouldn’t read gossip websites, they’re very bad for you.’

‘Ah, but how else would we know what you are up to?’

Her eyes gleamed. ‘I didn’t know you cared.’

Luca stared at her, not trying to hide his contempt. ‘I don’t, but Gio worries about you. Is it true?’

Minty wandered back towards the desk, dropping into the chair opposite, folding one long leg over the other as she did so. ‘True that Daddy was unhappy? You know Daddy. Inconvenient offspring of early marriages should not be seen, not be heard and definitely not be splashed all over the newspapers. He was a tad cross.’

‘Is that why you’re here?’

She gave him a long look from under her lashes. ‘Can’t you just believe that I was seized with a desire to contribute to the company?’

A burst of impatience shot through him. She’d been back for less than an hour and already she was playing games, turning his plans upside down. No way was he allowing her into that board meeting without knowing exactly why she was here and what she wanted. ‘Come on, Minty,’ he said. ‘You may be a shareholder, but as we plough most of the profits back into expansion we can only be a tiny part of your income.’ His eyes slid to the snakeskin Birkin bag dumped by the door. ‘A tiny part,’ he repeated. ‘You have never shown any interest in Di Tore Dolce before. Why now?’

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