Summer with the Millionaire

By: Jessica Gilmore

Minty mentally went through the weapons at her disposal and dismissed them all. She doubted he’d be moved by tears, nor impressed with flirtation. There was no way she was going to plead.

She’d have to settle for honesty.

She looked down at her right hand and twisted the moonstone ring she wore on her middle finger round and round. Her left hand felt bare; yet another engagement ring removed. She’d liked the latest one too—not big, not ostentatious, not a family heirloom.

She took a deep breath. Right, honesty. How hard could it be? She looked back up, directly at Luca. ‘Daddy was furious,’ she said. ‘Not that he particularly liked Joe, but he wanted me settled. And he hated the publicity. Although I think that’s more because the press always drag up his three divorces, which kind of bursts his “happy family” bubble. Anyway, he decided I needed some tough love and cutting off my trust fund was the kindest thing he could do. Because I used my trust fund to start the first shop, he banned me from entering the premises. Too easy, he said.’

It took some work to keep the bitterness from her voice. Tough love. That was a good one. It would have been nice if he’d tried unconditional love first.

‘So you came to us in desperation?’ Luca said drily.

Ouch, that cut far too close. ‘Oh, no,’ Minty assured him, making sure she kept her voice light and breezy, not letting him see how much she wanted this, needed this. ‘Desperation would have meant accepting one of the reality TV shows I keep being offered, or pretending to write a book. And there are a lot of art galleries who would snap me up. Pearls, a little black dress and an expensive education are all they require, and I have all three in abundance. But, believe it or not, I want more; I do always read the board’s papers. I think this expansion is a good idea, and I want to be part of it.’

Minty put as much conviction as possible into her voice.

‘I’m glad our plans have your approval.’ Why did he have to sound so scathing? ‘But your sudden desire to contribute still seems a little suspicious. After all, apart from collecting your annual cheque, you haven’t shown any interest in Di Tore Dolce—or Oschia—for years. And now you want to...what? To move here? Or do you see your role as being more ambassadorial? Wining and dining prospective clients? Parties?’

Minty bit her lip. This was what she’d been afraid of—her plans dismissed out of hand, her ideas rejected unheard. And now she was here, actually back in Oschia, she was suddenly unsure. After all, he had shown her more than once how little he valued her. That he thought her nothing but a spoilt child.

He wasn’t the only one who thought that, yet somehow, even now, his disapproval stung that little bit more.

She stared unseeingly out of the window, at the landscape that used to feel like home. It hadn’t been for a long, long time. Maybe she should go back to London. Stop fighting her birthright, her destiny. Take a job in a West End gallery and share a flat with one of her trustafarian friends. Rejoin society—go to Henley, Ascot, shooting parties and hunt balls; see if she could attract the kind of husband who asked for little more than the right family and the ability to throw a good party. She’d managed it once, after all. Maybe this time she could actually go through with the wedding.

‘No, I want more than that.’ The conviction in her voice surprised her, and she could see Luca looked taken aback too. ‘I know this seems like a whim to you. And it is sudden. But I have thought it through; I’ve planned a role which fits in with the board’s objectives.’

‘Come on, Minty.’ Luca pushed his chair back and got up, walking over to the window and looking out. He stood there for one long moment then turned back to face her. ‘You can’t just swan in after all these years and expect us to fit in around your half-baked ideas. You’ve read the papers? Great. You’re a shareholder; you should know what’s going on. But that doesn’t mean that because you are bored with your shallow London life you can create a job here. We need people we can rely on, not people who run away in the middle of the night without even leaving a note.’

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