When shy virgin Katie Carter is summoned to renovate a Tuscan villa, the enigmatic owner, Count Giovanni Amato, soon stirs up emotions she's long kept buried. Giovanni is intent on having her but he has two unbroken rules: there's no room for a wife in his life, and definitely not for a child! So what will the brooding, aristocratic billionaire do when he finds out Katie is carrying his heir?
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September 08, 2008
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Excerpt from Pregnant by the Italian Count by Christina Hollis
Katie had expected Tuscany to be hot and dusty. She had not expected it to be so beautiful, and perfumed with the scent of herbs basking under a hard blue sky.
'You will be expected to hit the ground running, Miss Carter. Signor Amato rarely makes allowances for anyone-- especially not an interior designer!' Plump, neatly suited Eduardo leaned forward and tapped on the glass separating them from the limousine's chauffeur. He issued a curt order in Italian and then settled back into the cream leather seat beside her. 'Signor Amato must visit his city office later this morning and he is attending a dinner given by an Australian delegation this evening. His day operates to the second. As his right-hand man at the Villa Antico, I must ensure that we reach there on time.'
'I'm sorry my flight was cancelled. I was supposed to land yesterday.' Katie's fingers gripped her briefcase. Of all the days to get caught up in a security alert. This dream job was really important to her. Giovanni Amato had a reputation as the world's most reclusive billionaire. When the Marchesa di San Marco's personal recommendation had secured Katie the job of restyling his ancestral home north of Florence, she had hardly been able to believe her luck. Everything had been planned down to the last detail. She had arranged to stay overnight in Milan, to make sure she was fresh for this morning meeting. Then all her arrangements had collapsed like a house of cards. Instead of being cool, calm and collected, Katie was stiff and overtired after a night spent in the airport. Her palms were suspiciously damp and her heart was racing, too. This was not how she was supposed to arrive on her first day in heaven.
Working in a place like this will be no hardship at all, she thought as they sped through rolling countryside dotted with pretty little stone and tile villages. Eventually the sleek black Amato limousine turned in at an enormous pair of wrought iron gates. The chauffeur lowered his window and checked in to security. Obediently the gates slid open. Then the car set off down a long avenue of lime trees. Katie gasped as a classic Tuscan villa loomed into view. It was only slightly smaller than Windsor Castle.
An intense young man in Armani emerged from the house as the car drew up. He opened Katie's door before the vehicle stopped, breaking into its air-conditioned comfort. The heat enveloped Katie like a thermal blanket.
'My goodness, what lovely weather,' she began, but Antico staff were not chosen for their small talk.
'Signor Amato will see you in the White Office, Miss Carter,' the butler said to Katie, then turned to Eduardo. 'She is late.'
'Show me the way and I'll run,' said Katie.
Giovanni Amato was standing with his back to the door. Windows stretched from floor to ceiling in his cathedral-like office and silhouetted his tall, muscular frame. From that first moment, Katie knew he would be a force to be reckoned with. A commanding figure in beautifully cut linen trousers and a crisp white shirt, he made a gesture of acknowledgement as she entered the room. Then he went back to pouring a flow of eloquent Italian into the tiny mobile at his ear. Katie had to wait until he finished his call before she got her first proper look at him.
'I hope I did not disturb you, Signor Amato,' she said as he turned, then stopped. He had a face that men could fear but women could not resist. One look into those intense grey eyes and she might have been lost--but for his expression. Momentarily it looked as though he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. And then the handsome, regular features broke into a practised smile.
'Not at all--it's Miss Carter, isn't it? I'mpleasantly surprised to meet you. The contractors Mima usually recommends are tough Neapolitans!' he said in perfect English. Raising one hand, he ran fingers through his thick dark hair. There was no need. It was cut short enough to remain tidy without attention, but that did not stop him. He flexed his shoulders, and the cut of his shirt hinted at powerful muscles beneath. Then, stretching his left arm with lazy elegance he inspected the silver Rolex on his wrist.
'I was told you would be late, but five minutes? That is nothing.' He smiled again and for a moment there was an air of devilment about him. 'Sometimes my staff worry too much, but I am not about to criticise them. When they are working well, my days run smoothly. That is all I ask.'
Katie was speechless. He was absolutely charming and his easy manner continued as he walked around his workstation and perched on the edge, facing her.
A desk puts up such a barrier between people, don't you think?' Reaching behind him, he picked up a china Viola mug, tasted the contents and pulled a face. 'Cold cappuccino retains all of its caffeine but none of its pleasure. Excuse me while I ring for a replacement.'