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Page 14 of A Bride for a Billionaire

I feel the insane urge to giggle when I see the shock on his face. But it’s a slightly hysterical feeling, because as the shock is replaced by anger, I become aware that I’ve just poked the sleeping bear.

“What did you say to me?” His face registers total and complete disbelief. A tremor runs through me, because I can see his temper rising right before my eyes, but...

I don’t want to be that girl.

“You heard me.” I’m holding my breath, and it’s making me slightly dizzy, but I keep going anyway. “I just think that you’re not used to anyone making you wait.”

A strangled sound emanates from Matteo’s throat, and I can feel a bead of cold sweat slowly slither down my spine. But I stand my ground, and don’t break eye contact.

The muscles of his jaw twitch as he clenches it tightly shut. Then without another word, he turns on his heel and stalks from the room. He slams the door behind him, and the sound it makes is thunderous, echoing throughout the large bedroom.

“Christ.” Adrenaline rockets through me and, suddenly breathing hard, I sink down to the floor, right where I’ve been standing. I feel sick.

He has no idea why I’m at such odds over his proposal, if you can even call it that. I really do need the money, and as he ever so eloquently pointed out, there’s a definite attraction between us anyway.

There really isn’t a choice. I’ve always sworn that I would never make the choices that my mother did. But now, penniless and desperate, I have a bit more understanding for what might have been going through her head.

I might have to follow in her footsteps, just for a month... because that amount of money will ensure that I’ll never have to again. I’ll be able to shake that shadow that has haunted me my whole life—the one that took the shape of the various men travelling to and from my mother’s bed. I mean, who am I kidding? I’ll do it. I might even... like it, if I can forget that I’m being paid for sex.

Because a man like Matteo Benenati... if anyone can make my first time amazing, I’d bet money I don’t have on it being him.

MATTEO

After a half bottle of scotch and the resultant restless night, I sit on the massive balcony just off of my bedroom, my sunglasses not doing quite enough to protect my hung-over eyes from the hideously bright glare.

My father would have told me that real men don’t get hangovers. This morning I have to not-so-respectfully tell his ghost to fuck off.

Even after downing three aspirin and two glasses of water, even after sipping at the rich caffè e latte and sweet rolls that one of the maids brought me a few minutes ago, I feel like absolute shit... and only part of it is the physical.

Miss Riley Tremaine set me back on my heels last night, and while I can’t say that I much care for it, I know that I deserved it. Emilia’s ridiculous proposition had upset me more than I’d wanted to admit, and I’d taken it out on Riley.

And the impertinent chit had the nerve to call me on it. Even as my own words echo in my ears, I wonder at that.

I’ve rarely been told no in my lifetime, and then only by my father. Certainly never by a woman. And I know, somehow I just know, that this particular woman is going to be trouble.

If I was thinking only with the brain in my head, I would just find another woman, one who understands the score. One who won’t blink when the month is over, and who will be happy enough to warm my bed in the meantime.

“Fuck.” Wincing as a particularly bright shaft of sunlight sneaks in the sides of my sunglasses, I settle back in my lounger and try to ignore the incessant throbbing in my head, the throbbing which is only intensified by the way my thoughts keep running in circles.

I saw Riley Tremaine for the first time yesterday morning, and yet she and her big eyes have managed to work their way under my skin. What kind of a woman chases after a knife wielding drug addict, just to help someone else?

What kind of a woman has to think about whether or not to accept half a million dollars when she doesn’t have a penny of her own ?

“The kind of woman you should leave the hell, alone, Matteo, that’s who.” I glower down into my cup before shoving it away.

I already know that I won’t. There’s a darkness inside of me, forged by my father’s hand, and it’s drawn to the sweetness and light that this strange woman represents.

Since I set eyes on her in those ridiculous athletic pants that American women insist on wearing, I’ve wanted to possess her, and some primitive part of me loves the idea of marking her with a ring, of making her mine.

And though I know that Emilia is right, that Riley isn’t for me, I know that I’m not a good enough man to send her away. I’m used to having what I want, and her reluctance has been like a red flag in front of a bull.

Even knowing all of this, I cannot change it. Or maybe I just don’t want to. Either way, my conclusion is the same.

I will do whatever it takes to get Riley to agree to my proposal.

Standing, I pull my cell from my pocket, dial Rossi the lawyer. The older man answers on the fourth ring and doesn’t sound fully awake—it is just barely dawn, after all. But after the scene at the office yesterday, I find a strange glee in irritating the man who thinks he knows what’s best for me.

“I need you to get Mama’s ring out of the vault today.” Saying the words gives me a little jolt... even knowing that the marriage is temporary, it’s still... marriage. Something I’ve always intended to avoid, thanks to the example my own parents set for me.

Thanks to Carmine, I have no choice, and for the millionth time in my life, I curse him. Why had he done this? My best guess was just to continue being the miserable bastard he’d always been... to show me that even death can’t stop his control over me.

To tease me with the freedom I’d never hand, only to cruelly snatch it away. Certainly, I could refuse my father’s terms, and forfeit the company.

But my mother silently suffered years of abuse, keeping up appearances and eventually dying in that same silence, just to make sure that that company would still be there for me, as my legacy.

To honor my mother’s sacrifice, I would do a lot. And though I chafed at being ordered, at having my choices taken away...

Would it really be so terrible to spend a month with a woman that I find fascinating? Though I am irritated when I think of the way she put me in my place last night, I am also... intrigued.

And aroused, truth be told. The life that I have—there is little that surprises me anymore, and that includes sex. I’ve had women who promised to be a seductress, and then didn’t participate in the act at all. I’ve had women who were too aggressive even for my liking, and everything in between.

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