Engaged heiress risks all with mystery man!
Vitale Roccanti’s plan was simple – sleep with the daughter to get to the father. What could go wrong? But staring at the black and white headline that announces the success of his plan doesn’t feel half as satisfying as Zara did beneath his touch… Zara Blake is shattered by the public expose of the night she risked it all – and lost. She betrayed her father, and his plans for her marriage, for one chance at passion. But that’s nothing compared to the headline that will come in nine months’ time!
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VITALE ROCCANTI was a banker descended from a very old and aristocratic European family. Opening the private investigator’s file on his desk, he studied the photograph of four people seated at a dining table. The Greek billionaire, Sergios Demonides, was entertaining Monty Blake, the British owner of the Royale hotel chain, his highly ornamental wife, Ingrid and their daughter, Zara.
Zara, nicknamed Tinkerbelle by the media for her celebrity status, her silver-gilt-coloured hair and fairy-like proportions, wore what appeared to be an engagement ring. Evidently the rumours of a buyout anchored by a family alliance were true. Most probably Demonides’ loathing for publicity lay behind the lack of an official announcement but it certainly did look as though a marriage was on the cards.
Vitale, renowned for his shrewd brain and ruthless pursuit of profit, frowned. His lean, darkly handsome face hardened, his firm mouth compressing. His dark gaze flared gold with angry bitterness because it could only sicken him to see Monty Blake still smiling and at the top of his game. For a fleeting instant he allowed himself to recall the loving sister who had drowned when he was thirteen years old and his stomach clenched at the recollection of the savage loss that had left him alone in an inhospitable world. His sister had been the only person who had ever truly loved him. And the moment that he had worked towards for the better part of twenty years had finally arrived, for Blake looked to be on the brink of his greatest ever triumph. If Vitale waited any longer his prey might well become untouchable as the father-in-law of so powerful a man as Sergios Demonides. Yet how had Blake contrived to catch a fish as big as Demonides in his net? Apart from the little known fact that the Royale hotel chain had once belonged to Demonides’ grandfather, what was the connection?
Were the oft-publicised charms of Tinkerbelle, whose brain was said to be as lightweight as her body, the only source of Blake’s unexpected good fortune? Was she truly the sole attraction? Vitale had never let a woman come between him and his wits and would have assumed that Demonides had equal common sense. His mouth curled with derision. If he ensured that the engagement was broken the business deal might well go belly up as well and he would bring down Monty Blake, who desperately needed a buyer.
Vitale had never dreamt that he would have to get personal or indeed so unpleasantly close to his quarry to gain the revenge that his very soul craved for closure, but he remained convinced that Monty Blake’s cruelty demanded an equal response. Should not the punishment be made to fit the crime? This was not the time to be fastidious, he reflected harshly. He could not afford to respect such boundaries. No, he only had one option: he would have to play dirty to punish the man who had abandoned his sister and her unborn child to their wretched fate.
A man who had always enjoyed enormous success with women, Vitale studied his prey, Tinkerbelle. His shapely mouth quirked. In his opinion she fell easily into the acceptable damage category. And wasn’t suffering supposed to form character? Huge blue eyes wide in her heart shaped face, Blake’s daughter was undeniably beautiful, but she also looked as shallow as a puddle and was anything but a blushing virgin with tender feelings.
Undoubtedly she would regret the loss of so wealthy a catch as Demonides but Vitale imagined that, like her glossy mother, she had the hide of a rhinoceros and the heart of a stone and would bounce back very quickly from the disappointment. And if he left her a little wiser, that would surely only be to her advantage…
‘I can’t believe you’ve agreed to marry Sergios Demonides,’ Bee confessed, her green eyes bright with concern as she studied the younger woman.
Although Bee was only marginally taller than her diminutive half sibling, and the two women had the same father, Bee was built on very different lines. Zara looked delicate enough to blow away in a strong breeze but Bee had inherited her Spanish mother’s heavy fall of dark brown hair and olive-tinted skin and she had substantial curves. Bee was the child of Monty Blake’s first marriage, which had ended in divorce, but she and Zara were close. Monty had a third daughter called Tawny, the result of an extra-marital affair. Neither girl knew their youngest sister very well because Tawny’s mother was very bitter about the way their father had treated her.
‘Why wouldn’t I have?’ Zara shrugged a narrow shoulder, striving for a show of composure. She was very fond of Bee and she didn’t want the other woman worrying about her, so she opted for a deliberately careless response. ‘I’m tired of being single and I like kids—’
‘How can you be tired of being single? You’re only twenty-two and it’s not as if you’re in love with Demonides!’ Bee protested, scanning her sibling’s flawless face in disbelief.
‘You can’t love him—you hardly know him, for goodness’ sake!’ Bee exclaimed, quick to take advantage of Zara’s hesitation. Although she had met Sergios Demonides only once, her shrewd powers of observation, followed up by some careful Internet research on the Greek tycoon, had warned her that he was altogether too tough a proposition for her tender-hearted sister. Demonides had a very bad reputation with women and he was equally renowned for his cold and calculating nature.
Zara lifted her chin. ‘It depends what you want out of marriage and all Sergios wants is someone to raise the children that have been left to his care—’
Bee frowned at that explanation. ‘His cousin’s three kids?’
Zara nodded. Several months earlier Sergios’ cousin and his wife had been killed in a car crash and Sergios had become their children’s legal guardian. Her future husband was a forceful, sardonic and distinctly intimidating shipping magnate, who travelled a great deal and worked very long hours. If she was honest, and there were very few people in Zara’s life whom she dared to be honest with, she had been considerably less intimidated by Sergios once he had confessed that the only reason he wanted a wife was to acquire a mother for the three orphans in his home. That was a role that Zara felt she could comfortably cope with.
The children, ranging in age from a six-month-old baby to a three-year-old, were currently being raised almost entirely by his staff. Apparently the children had not settled well in his household. Sergios might be a very rich and powerful man but his concern for the children had impressed her. The product of a dysfunctional background himself, Sergios wanted to do what was best for those children but he just didn’t know how and he was convinced that a woman would succeed where he had failed.