His Innocent Wife…
The last thing Gaetano Leonetti wants is to be shackled in marriage, but to become CEO of his family’s bank, his grandfather has decreed Gaetano must find a nice, ordinary woman to wed. Convinced his grandfather is mad, Gaetano sets about proving him wrong with housekeeper Poppy Arnold. With her outspoken nature and unusual dress sense, she’s definitely not wife material! But it’s not long before hardworking, self-sacrificing Poppy charms his grandfather and Gaetano’s stuck with a union he didn’t want and a bride he sinfully craves! Having set her up to fail, can he really take the precious gift of her virginity?
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GAETANO LEONETTI WAS having a very bad day. It had started at dawn, when his phone went off and proceeded to show him a series of photos that enraged him but which he knew would enrage his grandfather and the very conservative board of the Leonetti investment bank even more. Regrettably, sacking the woman responsible for the story in the downmarket tabloid was likely to be the sole satisfaction he could hope to receive.
‘It’s not your fault,’ Tom Sandyford, Gaetano’s middle-aged legal adviser and close friend, told him quietly.
‘Of course it’s my fault,’ Gaetano growled. ‘It was my house, my party and the woman in my bed at the time who organised the damned party—’
‘Celia was that soap star with the cocaine habit you didn’t know about,’ Tom reminisced. ‘Wasn’t she sacked from the show soon after you ditched her?’
Gaetano nodded, his even white teeth gritting harder.
‘It’s a case of bad luck…that’s all,’ Tom opined. ‘You can’t ask your guests to post their credentials beforehand, so you had no way of knowing some of them weren’t tickety-boo.’
‘Tickety-boo?’ Gaetano repeated, his lean, darkly handsome features frowning. Although he was born and raised in England, Italian had been the language of his home and he still occasionally came across English words and phrases that were unfamiliar.
‘Decent upstanding citizens,’ Tom rephrased. ‘So, a handful of them were hookers? Well, in the rarefied and very privileged world you move in, how were you supposed to find that out?’
‘The press found it out,’ Gaetano countered flatly.
‘With the usual silly “Orgy at the Manor” big reveal. It’ll be forgotten in five minutes…although that blonde dancing naked in the fountain out front is rather memorable,’ Tom remarked, scanning the newspaper afresh with lascivious intent.
‘I don’t remember seeing her. I left the party early to fly to New York. Everyone still had their clothes on at that stage,’ Gaetano said drily. ‘I really don’t need another scandal like this.’
‘Scandal does rather seem to follow you around. I suppose the old man and the board at the bank are up in arms as usual,’ Tom commented with sympathy.
Gaetano compressed his wide sensual mouth in silent agreement. In the name of family loyalty and respect, he was paying in the blood of his fierce pride and ambition for the latest scandal. Letting his seventy-four-year-old grandfather Rodolfo carpet him like a badly behaved schoolboy had proved to be a truly toxic experience for a billionaire whose investment advice was sought by governments both in the UK and abroad. And when Rodolfo had settled into his favourite preaching session about Gaetano’s womanising lifestyle, Gaetano had had to breathe in deeply several times and resist the urge to point out to the older man that expectations and values had changed since the nineteen forties for both men and women.
Rodolfo Leonetti had married a humble fisherman’s daughter at the age of twenty-one and during his fifty years of devoted marriage he had never looked at another woman. Ironically, his only child, Gaetano’s father, Rocco, had not taken his father’s advice on the benefits of making an early marriage either. Rocco had been a notorious playboy and an incorrigible gambler. He had married a woman young enough to be his daughter when he was in his fifties, had fathered one son and had expired ten years later after over-exerting himself in another woman’s bed. Gaetano reckoned he had been paying for his father’s sins almost from the hour of his birth. At the age of twenty-nine and one of the world’s leading bankers, he was tired of being continually forced to prove his worth and confine his projects to the narrow expectations of the board. He had made millions for the Leonetti Bank; he deserved to be CEO.
Indeed, Rodolfo’s angry ultimatum that very morning had outraged Gaetano.
‘You will never be the chief executive of this bank until you change your way of life and settle down into being a respectable family man!’ his grandfather had sworn angrily. ‘I will not support your leadership with the board and, no matter how brilliant you are, Gaetano, the board always listens to me… They remember too well how your father almost brought the bank down with his risky ventures!’