Swapping chef's whites for ivory silk, Lydia Fletcher's competing in a contest to see how far she can travel in a wedding dress! She's determined to win her beloved sister her dream wedding--but a chance meeting with the gorgeous but guarded widower Massimo Valtieri is something the contest's small print failed to mention!
When Lydia narrowly misses winning, Massimo wants to help. He offers her his grand palazzo for her sister's wedding in return for Lydia's help on his estate. But with the heat between them rivaling the Tuscan sun, her sister's wedding might not be the only one Lydia has to plan....
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Harlequin Enterprises, Limited
May 01, 2012
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Adobe DRM EPUB
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Excerpt from Valtieri's Bride by Caroline Anderson
What on earth was she doing?
As the taxi pulled up in front of the Jet Centre at London City Airport, he paused, wallet in hand, and stared spellbound across the drop-off point.
Wow. She was gorgeous.
Even in the crazy fancy-dress outfit, her beauty shone out like a beacon. Her curves--soft, feminine curves--were in all the right places, and her face was alight with laughter, the skin pale and clear, her cheeks tinged pink by the long blond curls whipping round her face in the cutting wind. She looked bright and alive and impossibly lovely, and he felt something squeeze in his chest.
Something that had been dormant for a very long time.
As he watched she anchored the curls absently with one hand, the other gesturing expressively as she smiled and talked to the man she'd stopped at the entrance. She was obviously selling something. Goodness knows what, he couldn't read the piece of card she was brandishing from this distance, but the man laughed and raised a hand in refusal and backed away, entering the building with a chuckle.
Her smile fading, she turned to her companion, more sensibly dressed in jeans and a little jacket. Massimo flicked his eyes over her, but she didn't hold his attention. Not like the blonde, and he found his eyes drawn back to her against his will.
Dio, she was exquisite. By rights she should have looked an utter tramp but somehow, even in the tacky low-cut dress and a gaudy plastic tiara, she was, quite simply, riveting. There was something about her that transcended all of that, and he felt himself inexplicably drawn to her.
He paid the taxi driver, hoisted his flight bag over his shoulder and headed for the entrance. She was busy again, talking to another man, and as the doors opened he caught her eye and she flashed a hopeful smile at him.
He didn't have time to pause, whatever she was selling, he thought regretfully, but the smile hit him in the solar plexus, and he set his bag down on the floor by the desk once he was inside, momentarily winded.
'Morning, Mr Valtieri. Welcome back to the Jet Centre. The rest of your party have arrived.'
'Thank you.' He cleared his throat and glanced over his shoulder at the woman. 'Is that some kind of publicity stunt?'
The official gave a quiet, mildly exasperated sigh and smiled wryly.
'No, sir. I understand she's trying to get a flight to Italy.'
Massimo felt his right eyebrow hike. 'In a wedding dress?''
He gave a slight chuckle. 'Apparently so. Some competition to win a wedding.'
He felt a curious sense of disappointment. Not that it made the slightest bit of difference that she was getting married; she was nothing to him and never would be, but nevertheless...
'We asked her to leave the building, but short of escorting her right back to the main road, there's little more we can do to get rid of her and she seems harmless enough. Our clients seem to be finding her quite entertaining, anyway.'
He could understand that. He was entertained himself--mesmerised, if he was honest. And intrigued--
'Whereabouts in Italy?' he asked casually, although the tightness in his gut was far from casual.
'I think I heard her mention Siena--but, Mr Valtieri, you really don't want to get involved,' he warned, looking troubled. 'I think she's a little...'
'Crazy?' he said drily, and the man's mouth twitched.
'Your word, sir, not mine.'
As they watched, the other man walked away and she gave her companion a wry little smile. She said something, shrugged her slender shoulders in that ridiculous meringue of a dress, then rubbed her arms briskly. She must be freezing! September was a strange month, and today there wasn't a trace of sunshine and a biting wind was whipping up the Thames estuary.
No! It was none of his business if she hadn't had the sense to dress for the weather, he told himself firmly, but then he saw another man approach the doors, saw the woman straighten her spine and go up to him, her face wreathed in smiles as she launched into a fresh charm offensive, and he felt his gut clench.
He knew the man slightly, more by reputation than anything else, and he was absolutely the last person this enchanting and slightly eccentric young woman needed to get involved with. And he would be flying to his private airfield, about an hour's drive from Siena. Close enough, if you were desperate.
He couldn't let it happen. He had more than enough on his conscience.
The doors parted with a hiss as he strode up to them, and he gave the other man a look he had no trouble reading. He told him--in Italian, and succinctly--to back off, and Nico shrugged and took his advice, smiling regretfully at the woman before moving away from her, and Massimo gave him a curt nod and turned to the woman, meeting her eyes again--vivid, startling blue eyes that didn't look at all happy with what he'd just done. There was no smile this time, just those eyes like blue ice chips skewering him as he stood there.
Stunning eyes, framed by long, dark lashes. Her mouth, even without the smile, was soft and full and kissable-- No! He sucked in a breath, and found himself drawing a delicate and haunting fragrance into his lungs.
It rocked him for a second, took away his senses, and when they came back they all came back, slamming into him with the force of an express train and leaving him wanting in a way he hadn't wanted for years. Maybe ever--
'What did you say to him?' Lydia asked furiously, hardly able to believe the way he'd dismissed that man with a few choice words--not that she'd understood one of them, of course, but there was more to language than vocabulary and he'd been pretty explicit, she was sure. But she'd been so close to success and she was really, really cross and frustrated now. 'He'd just offered me a seat in his plane!'