A night in the Italian’s bed…
Now she’s pregnant with his babies! To counter a media scandal, billionaire Raffaele di Mancini must marry fiery Vivi Mardas. But when she rejects his convenient proposal, he’s stunned. How can she deny their searing chemistry? Determined to convince Vivi to be his temporary bride, Raffaele’s not above using one night of seduction! But when Vivi discovers she’s carrying his twins, Rafaelle demands she meet him down the aisle―for real!
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STAMBOULAS FOTAKIS WAS in a grim mood as he surveyed the dossier sited squarely in front of him on his desk. To the side of it sat the much thinner file containing an investigative report on his quarry, Raffaele di Mancini.
Raffaele di Mancini, his granddaughter Vivi’s bête noire, the man who had wronged her without reason.
Another good-looking bastard, he thought irritably, flipping the folder open to scan his victim’s perfectly chiselled profile, which would have done justice to any male supermodel. Obviously, his three granddaughters liked handsome men. Well, he had settled his eldest granddaughter Winnie’s problems, even if that hadn’t quite turned out as he had planned when she had elected to stay married to the father of her son.
Vivi, however…bright, hot-tempered Vivi…would be a much tougher nut to crack than the more biddable Winnie. He had had a huge argument with Vivi at his seventy-fifth birthday party, something of a novelty for a man who generally only met with fear and flattery. Being very rich and very influential, Stam was more accustomed to those who did exactly as he told them to do. But not Vivi, he reminisced fondly, Vivi who had no fear of him and spoke her mind without hesitation and, surprisingly, he respected her the more for her inner strength and conviction.
Fortunately for him, however, Vivi utterly loathed Raffaele di Mancini for the way he had wrecked her life. Two years earlier he had ruined her reputation to ensure that his flighty little sister came out of the same scandal whiter than white. Vivi had been accused, not only of being a prostitute, but also of having lured Arianna into stripping off for the camera and signing up as an escort with a sleazy business masquerading as a legitimate modelling agency. No, there was little chance of Vivi falling in love with Mancini, Stam conceded with an amused smile. But of the three potential husbands he had originally lined up to rescue his granddaughters’ reputations, Raffaele di Mancini was undeniably the most dangerous as well as being the biggest mystery.
Raffaele, billionaire banker and noted philanthropist, was the descendant of an extravagantly long and blue-blooded family line that could trace its beginnings back to the tenth century. By repute, he was a genius in the financial field and he led a remarkably discreet and conservative life, never ever seeking publicity. That made it all the harder for Stam to understand why Mancini had broken the discretion of a lifetime and labelled poor Vivi an escort on the back of the slenderest evidence. Had he somehow imagined it would shield his kid sister, Arianna, from being associated with the sleazy operation both young women had innocently become embroiled with?
But what did that matter now when the damage had been done? Stam ruminated. His problem was that Mancini was too clever by far to be entrapped by the usual ploys and too rich and virtuous to be bribed. That had meant that Stam was forced to stoop to a means of persuasion that he disliked intensely, particularly when that file revealed that Mancini had spent his adult life struggling to protect his wayward sister from her mistakes and their consequences. It was commendable that he had gone to so much trouble for a girl who was only a half-sister and the daughter of the drug-addled stepmother he could only have despised.
Mancini, however, deserved everything he had coming to him for what he had done to poor Vivi’s self-esteem, Stam reflected with harsh finality.
* * *
Raffaele di Mancini was uneasy.
And he didn’t know why, which nagged at him because he always trusted his gut. Yet there was nothing wrong in his world. His life ran with machine-like efficiency from the instant he arose at six in the morning to a perfectly cooked breakfast to the moment he retired to a bed made up with the very finest bed linen available.
All was quiet within his family circle as well. His younger sister, Arianna, for a long time a source of concern, was finally settled and on the brink of marrying a suitable man, with whom she was currently sharing a home in Florence. He had neither worries nor any thorny problems to tackle.
In London to speak at a banking conference, he had been surprised to be invited to a meeting with the notoriously reclusive Stamboulas Fotakis at his palatial and multi-storeyed London apartment. Fotakis was one of the richest men in the world but Raffaele had never met him and naturally he was curious to discover what had prompted such an invitation. He was also curious about the man himself, he acknowledged wryly. Over the years, reams had been written about Stam Fotakis and even if half of the stories could be discounted as nonsense, what remained was the stuff of legend.
Raffaele raked impatient fingers through his cropped black hair and checked his designer watch. Being kept waiting was a new experience for him. Raised to believe that good manners were integral to good business practice, Raffaele frowned, dark-as-charcoal eyes flaring with irritation. Clearly, Fotakis was running late but Raffaele was keen to get back to his town house and unwind after a very long day spent answering stupid questions and being sociable. Raffaele had a very low tolerance threshold for fools. Labelled a genius at school, he was impatient, extremely organised and only happy when following a precise schedule.
A PA, a beautiful blonde, entered the reception room and ushered him into a lift, where she tried to strike up a conversation and flirt with him. Stiffening in exasperation at her hair-tossing, fluttering eyelashes and lingering glances, Raffaele behaved much like a man swatting off a fly. Women came on to him all the time and it often irritated him. It got in the way of normal dialogue and tainted the professional atmosphere of an office environment. If she had been working for Raffaele, he would have instantly sacked her for such a display.
Women had their place in his life, of course they did. Raffaele had a high sex drive, as with many other thirty-year-old men. But he was infinitely more discreet than most. He chose his lovers with care and none of his affairs lasted longer than a few weeks. There was even a good reason for that brief timescale. Raffaele had eventually worked out that the longer he spent with a woman, the more attached and ambitious and indiscreet she became. As he had no intention of getting married until he was in his forties and mature enough to make a wise choice, he enjoyed sex only as long as it came without strings.