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Bound by the Billionaire's Baby

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«Bound by the Billionaire's Baby» - Кэтти Уильямс

From one night…When Sergio Burzi’s table at an exclusive London restaurant is invaded by a stunning woman fleeing a blind date he’s intrigued. Candid, innocent artist Susie Sadler is nothing like the women he normally dates. The urge to sweep her into his gilded realm – if only for the night – is overwhelming.… to nine months!But there are repercussions after taking what you want, and Sergio’s rigidly controlled world is soon shattered – Susie’s pregnant! Now they’ll have to find a way to face their uncertain future together, and resist the craving for each other that their impulsive night ignited…ONE NIGHT WITH CONSEQUENCES: When One Night… Leads to Pregnancy!
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‘I’m pregnant.’

It was the last thing Sergio had expected to hear and it took him a few seconds to digest the revelation.

‘You have got to be kidding.’

‘Do I look like someone performing a comic routine, Sergio? I’m pregnant. I only found out yesterday. I did the test. In fact I did two tests and there’s no mistake. I’m having a baby. I’m having your baby.’

He vaulted upright, stared at Susie and raked his fingers through his hair. ‘You can’t be.’ He stood in front of her, feet apart, challenging her to defy that simple statement of truth.

In his heart, he recognised the ring of sincerity and fought against it.

Pregnant? How had that happened? He was going to be a father? Even when he had loosely contemplated the idea of eventually settling down with a suitable woman his thoughts had not stretched to the realms of fatherhood.

His eyes flew to her stomach and just as quickly looked away.

‘Don’t tell me that I can’t be,’ Susie snapped.

She glared at him. Did he think she was lying? No, of course not! He was desperately clinging to denial because the alternative was so hideous that he couldn’t bring himself to give it credence. He was a man who liked to control every aspect of his life—and just like that he’d lost it.

When one night … leads to pregnancy!

When succumbing to a night of unbridled desire it’s impossible to think past the morning after!

But, with the sheets barely settled, that little blue line appears on the pregnancy test and it doesn’t take long to realise that one night of white-hot passion has turned into a lifetime of consequences!

Only one question remains:

How do you tell a man you’ve just met that you’re about to share more than just his bed?

Find out in:

Nine Months to Redeem Him by Jennie Lucas January 2015

Prince Nadir’s Secret Heir by Michelle Conder March 2015

Carrying the Greek’s Heir by Sharon Kendrick April 2015

Married for Amari’s Heir by Maisey Yates July 2015

More stories in the One Night With Consequences series can be found at

Bound by the Billionaire’s Baby

Cathy Williams

CATHY WILLIAMS can remember reading Mills & Boon® books as a teenager, and now that she is writing them she remains an avid fan. For her, there is nothing like creating romantic stories and engaging plots, and each and every book is a new adventure. Cathy lives in London and her three daughters—Charlotte, Olivia and Emma—have always been and continue to be the greatest inspiration in her life.

To my three wonderful and inspiring daughters




One Night with Consequences

Title Page

About the Author














FROM THE VERY second Susie walked into the restaurant she knew she had made a big mistake. It joined the other three big mistakes she had made in the past fortnight. Making mistakes was beginning to feel like a full-time occupation.

What had possessed her to wear high heels? Why was she clutching a silly little bag with sequins, borrowed from one of her friends? And how on earth had she found herself in a ridiculous small red dress which had screamed sexy and glamorous when she had tried it on earlier in the week but now shrieked...sad and desperate?

Utterly grateful that she had wisely shunned the flamboyant checked coat which she had been tempted to buy with the dress, and had instead chosen something slightly more sober, she wrapped her black cape tightly round her, making sure to conceal every single square inch of the stupid red dress.

So what the heck should she do now? she wondered.

Date number four was there and seated at the bar.

In a couple of seconds he would look round and he would spot her. She had told him that she would be wearing red. The red might be concealed under the cape but how many other lonesome single girls were there here? None.

His picture on the online dating agency she used had seemed so promising, but one glance at him showed her that it had been a cruel lie.

He wasn’t tall. Even though he was sitting she could see that. His feet dangled. Nor was he surfer blond...more wet sand than surf, to be perfectly honest...and he looked at least twenty years older than in his photograph. Furthermore he was wearing a bright yellow jumper and trousers that were vaguely mustard in colour.

She should have actually chatted with him on the phone instead of rushing headlong into a date. She should have relied on more than a couple of flirty messages and one email. She would have known then that he might be the sort of guy who wore yellow jumpers and mustard-coloured trousers. But instead she had jumped right in at the deep end and now here she was...

She felt faint.

This was an expensive bar/restaurant. It was the latest in hip and cool. People had to wait for months to get a booking. The only reason she had been able to get one was because her parents had had to cancel at the last minute and had told her that she could go along in their place. They had asked her to report back on the food—they wanted details.

‘Take a friend,’ her mother had said, with just the amount of weary resignation that seemed to hallmark everything she said to her. ‘You surely must know someone who isn’t absolutely broke...’

By which she had meant, You must know a man who isn’t scraping by without a decent job...someone who doesn’t play in a band in bars...or doesn’t slouch around in between acting jobs that never come up...or isn’t currently saving to go on a world trip, taking in the Dalai Lama on the way...

The mere fact that online date number four had heard of this place had been a point in his favour.

Silly assumption on her part.

Her fundamental sense of decency warred with a pressing urge to turn tail and scarper before she was spotted—but how could she scarper when she knew her parents would want to know all about the experience? It wasn’t as though she could wing it...make it up as she went along. She was rubbish at lying and her mother was gifted at spotting lies.

Yet she knew what the outcome of this would be before it even started. She knew they would make stilted conversation but would both be keen to end it. She knew that the conversation would run out sometime after the starter but they would both feel obliged to stay until the main course and she knew they would definitely leave without dessert or coffee. She felt he might make her pick up the tab. He would definitely insist on going Dutch. He would probably work out exactly who had eaten what and calculate the bill accordingly.

Already in the grip of uncertainty and a mild depression that she had found herself in this situation yet again, Susie glanced around the crowded restaurant.

It was buzzing with cool people. The bar area was busy and the restaurant, which was off to one side, a marvel of glass, chrome and plants, was likewise packed.

Couples and groups were everywhere...except at the back... Sitting at the best table in the place was...a guy...

For a few seconds her heart actually flipped over, because she had never seen anyone quite so stunningly good-looking in her life before. Raven-black hair, bronzed skin that spoke of some sort of exotically foreign gene pool, perfectly chiselled features... When the Big Guy above had been dishing out looks he had been first in the queue.

He was sitting in front of his laptop, oblivious to everyone around him. The sheer cheek of having a laptop on the table in one of the most sought-after restaurants in the city was impressive. As was the fact that he wasn’t dressed for show. He was in a pair of dark jeans and a long-sleeved faded black jumper that fitted him in a way that revealed a lean, muscular body. Everything about him suggested that he didn’t care where he was or who was looking at him, and there was an invisible exclusion zone around him that implied that no one should dare get too close.

He was just the sort of guy she should have found, scrolling through all those possibilities on the dating website—although, that said, he was probably just the sort of guy who had probably never heard of a dating website. Why would he?

And he was on his own.

The table wasn’t set for two. There was a drink in front of him but he had shoved his plate and all the cutlery to one side. She was sure that there was some kind of unwritten rule about doing something like that in a place like this but he was pulling it off.

Taking a deep breath, she turned to the maître d’, who had swooped down to ask her whether she had reservation and said airily, ‘I’m with...’

She pointed to the stranger at the back of the room and tried to smile knowingly. She had never done anything like this in her life before. But faced with the horror of date number four, the certainty of being spotted, the necessity to stay put until it was safe to slink to the table she had reserved and sample the food...desperation had made her act out of character.

‘Señor Burzi...?’

‘Absolutely!’ If only she could scuttle back to the apartment in her glad rags to sit in front of the telly with a chocolate bar and a glass of wine. Right now that would have been heaven.

But she couldn’t—and right now she didn’t want to think anyway. She just didn’t want to spend another evening on her own, dealing with what her parents and her sister had been telling her for the past three years...that she had to ‘get some direction’ in her life...that she should start thinking about a career instead of painting pictures and drawing cartoon characters...that she was ‘so lucky’ to have been given the education that she had and that she owed it to herself to make the best of it... Perhaps they weren’t quite so brutally honest, but she could read between the lines.

‘Is Señor Burzi expecting you, Miss...?’

‘Of course he is! I wouldn’t be asking to join him if he wasn’t, would I?’

She began walking purposefully over to the dark, sexy stranger, hoping and praying that her date wouldn’t spot her, and hoping and praying even more that the maître d’ wouldn’t create an embarrassing fuss and chuck her out.

Head down, she practically collided with the table, and was aware of two piercing dark eyes shifting from the computer to her flushed face as she plopped down in one of the empty chairs.

‘What the hell...? Who the hell are you?’

‘Señor Burzi...this lady said that she was expecting to join you...’

‘I’m really sorry. I know I’m probably interrupting you. But, please...could you just bear with me for a few minutes? I...I’m in a bit of a sticky situation...’

‘Show her out, Giorgio, and next time please don’t make the mistake of bringing anyone to my table unless I tell you to.’

His voice was deep and dark and velvety and perfectly matched the way he looked. His attention had returned to whatever was on his computer. She was dismissed. She would be chucked out of the restaurant.

Panic filled her. Panic and just...just a feeling of hopelessness. She should never have been persuaded by her two best friends into this crazy online dating situation. The thought of being escorted out of the restaurant like a common criminal, while everyone including her yellow-jumpered date turned and stared and sniggered, was just too much.

‘Just a few minutes. I just need somewhere for a few minutes...’

This time the man did look up, and she had to force herself not to stare because up close he was even better looking than he had appeared from a distance. His eyes were navy blue and he had eyelashes to die for—long, thick and dark, and right now fringing eyes that were the temperature of ice.

‘Not my problem. And how the hell did you find out that I was going to be here?’ he asked coldly. He spared a glance for the maître d’, who was hovering and wringing his hands. ‘Leave us, Giorgio. I’ll get rid of her myself.’

‘Sorry?’ Susie looked at him blankly.

‘I haven’t got time for this. I have no idea how you found out where I was, but now that you’re here let me make myself perfectly clear. Whatever begging mission you’re on, you can forget it. Charitable donations are handled by my company. Donations of any other nature are not on the table. And a word to the wise...? Next time you get it into your head to start digging for gold, try being a little more subtle. Now, I’m giving you the option of making a dignified exit or being thrown out. Which one would you rather go for?’

Angry colour had seeped into her cheeks as the meaning of what he was saying gradually became clear.

She had no idea who the man was, but he actually thought that she had targeted him! Thought that she was making a play for him because she wanted to ask him for money!

‘Are you accusing me of coming here to ask you for money?’

The man gave a bark of humourless laughter and raked his eyes over her. ‘Clever deduction. Now, what’s your choice of exit going to be?’

‘I didn’t come here to ask for money. I don’t even know who you are...’

‘Now, I wonder why I find that hard to believe?’

‘Please—just hear me out. I honestly don’t make it a habit to approach strange men even expensive restaurants...but I won’t be long...’

She had as much right to be here as he did. Admittedly not actually at his table, but in the restaurant...generally speaking.

She actually had her own table booked, and would be forking out for some very expensive food just as soon as her blind date left and she could relax—and that was more than could be said for him, judging from the way his plate had been shoved to one side. One drink wasn’t going to make the restaurant owner a rich guy, was it? In fact he was just the sort of customer a restaurant owner would hate! The sort of customer who booked a table, had a drink, made it last for four hours and refused to budge for the remainder of the evening.

‘I haven’t come here because I’m targeting you for money,’ she repeated urgently, leaning forward, elbows resting on the table. ‘And, by the way, I feel very sorry for you if you can’t talk to a stranger for three minutes without thinking that they’re going to ask you to put your hand in your pocket and write them out a cheque! You’re the only person in this place on your own and I...I...just need to kill a little time before I’m shown to my table. I do have, actually, a valid reservation. And I will be eating.’

She took a deep breath and powered on before he had a chance to throw her out on her ear—because, whether she had a valid reason to be there or not, she certainly didn’t have a valid reason to gatecrash his table.

‘Do you see the guy sitting at the bar?’

Humiliation made her skin prickle. She had always been a people person. Finding herself stared at as though she was something that had crawled in off the streets—something that needed to be bagged and binned immediately—was a new experience for her and she didn’t like it.

His icy silence squashed her natural breeziness like a pin being stuck into a balloon.

* * *

Sergio Burzi was frankly incredulous. Had she just told him that she felt sorry for him or had he misheard? He felt as though he had been run over by a bus, and was momentarily too dazed to do anything but pick himself up and dust himself down.

‘There are a lot of guys at the bar,’ he said.

So she would eventually do one of two things. Ask outright for money for some hare-brained scheme or else try and cosy up to him. He was a target for gold-diggers, and gold-diggers came in all different shapes and sizes and plied their trade with the back-up of all sorts of sob stories and fairytales.

But he was between women...jaded with the opposite sex. He liked them clever, career-orientated...he liked women who had purposeful, goal-orientated lives, who weren’t clingy and emotional. He had had them by the bucketload, but recently...they did less and less for him. Not even the chase was as stimulating as it had used to be, and more often than not the ‘catch of the day’ became boring in a matter of weeks.

What was the harm in letting this woman sit with him for a couple of minutes before he got rid of her?

She was putting on a damn fine show and she was really rather attractive. Big brown eyes, blonde curly hair that looked as though it had only a passing acquaintance with a brush, full, sexy lips...

A sharp pang of pure lust hit him deep in the gut. He had a vivid image of how that cloud of strawberry blonde hair would look spread across his pillow, her pale skin against his much darker bronze.

It just showed how neglected his sex-life had been of late. He had dispatched his last girlfriend over two months ago and hadn’t had the energy or the desire to replace her.

And now this tawdry little gold-digger had stirred him up. He sat back, easing the discomfort of a sudden rock-hard erection, and gave her his undivided attention.

‘Which one are you talking about?’ he asked, angling his big body so that he could extend his long legs to one side. ‘And why should I be looking at him?’

Susie relaxed fractionally. He was prepared to listen to what she had to say. This would be the end of her learning curve. No more blind dates. Ever.

‘Yellow jumper. Mustard trousers. Thin sandy hair. Do you see him?’

Sergio glanced at the bar and then back to her flushed, earnest face. ‘I see him.’

He was beginning to enjoy himself. He could see Giorgio out of the corner of his eye, anxiously watching the table, ready to spring into action should he need to, and Sergio gave just the slightest shake of his head.

She was going round the houses to get to the point, but she had managed to pique his interest. That in itself was worth the storyline.

When she finally made a move on him he wondered whether he would take her up on the offer... She wasn’t his type, but wasn’t a change as good as a rest?

‘And you’ve pointed him out to me because...?’

‘He’s my blind date and I’m trying to avoid him.’

She groaned, looked at the man sitting opposite her, and her breathing picked up because those lazy, dark, fathomless eyes made her nervous and excited at the same time...gave her a weird, giddy feeling.

‘I met him on one of those dating websites,’ she confided glumly. ‘They cater for the under-thirties. You know the kind of thing...young people seeking serious relationships... It’s a lie. None of them are. I feel awful about standing up poor Phil, but I just can’t face another date frantically trying to make small talk while the minutes tick by at a snail’s pace...’

Sergio wondered what she would do if he called her bluff by going across to Mr Yellow Jumper and asking whether he was there to meet someone from a dating agency.

‘I guess he’s panicking because I’ve stood him up. I’d hate someone to stand me up. But, like I said, I just can’t face all that silly, pointless conversation...’

‘He doesn’t appear to be overly heartbroken. In fact he seems to be chatting up an older woman at the bar.’


‘Blonde hair...smartly dressed... Yes, they appear to be leaving...together...’ Maybe because she was his original date...

‘I don’t believe it! Didn’t I tell you?’ Susie said bitterly. ‘Serious relationships... Ha! One-night stand relationships, more like it.’

She might not have wanted to go through with the ordeal but she was insulted that she had been dumped without even being interviewed for the job.

‘Online dating isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Forget about all those pictures of starry-eyed couples gazing lovingly at one another over a romantic meal, or dashing along a beach grinning like star-struck maniacs and holding hands. It’s all just advertising. Just look at my date. He couldn’t even hang around and wait a few minutes for me to show up.’

‘I thought you were trying to avoid him?’

‘That’s not the point. The point is that he could have hung around a bit longer before making off with the first available woman who gave him the time of day!’

Susie wouldn’t have dreamt of finding her perfect guy via a computer—except for the fact that The Big Wedding was getting closer, and she couldn’t face showing up without any boyfriend in tow or, worse, with one of her arty, creative crowd who would be politely dismissed as yet another loser because ‘poor little Susie’ just didn’t seem to have what it took to find herself a halfway decent boyfriend.

Poor little Susie can’t even get her love-life in order...

She knew she shouldn’t care, but the big Three-Oh was only five years away and she suddenly and inexplicably felt that her time was running out. Surely it wasn’t asking too much for one part of her life to be sorted out?

‘I’ll make sure to steer clear of dating sites on the internet. Why don’t you have a glass of wine and take your coat off, by the way?’

‘There’s no need to keep chatting to me, Mr... Sorry, I’ve completely forgotten your name...’

‘You can call me Sergio. And you are...?’


She politely held out her hand and the warmth of his long fingers as he clasped it sent a jolt of electricity racing through her body, as though she had suddenly been plugged into a light socket. She almost wanted to rub her hand on her dress when it was released.

‘And I’ll leave you to get on you were doing...’

Sergio toyed with the idea of calling her bluff and then decided against it. He hadn’t been this engaged for a while. The work that was waiting to be done could take a back seat.

He waved at his computer without taking his eyes from her face. ‘What does it look like I was doing?’

‘I know. Pretty dull. Work. I don’t know how you can concentrate in a place like this. I’d be too busy looking around and people-watching.’ She made a sympathetic face and began to stand up.


Sergio had made his mind up. So what if she was a gold-digger? She would discover soon enough that she had chosen the wrong place to go prospecting, but he was enjoying her company. He was certainly enjoying what she was doing to his body.

Susie frowned and hesitated. ‘Do you usually order people around?’

‘It comes naturally,’ he said, with a sudden smile that shook her to the core. ‘Arrogance is apparently one of my many faults...’

‘And you have a lot, do you? Faults, I mean...?’

‘Too many to mention. Now, you came here to eat and drink. Sit. Please. Allow me to replace your erstwhile date for the evening...’

He almost burst out laughing at the irony of his pretending to believe the little white lies she had told him but, hell, she was the most creative and amusing woman he had met in a long time.

Susie was charmed. Not only was he drop-dead gorgeous, but how many men admitted to having failings? Most of them were far too busy Photoshopping their pictures, slashing twenty years off their real age and pretending that they weren’t five foot two.

And wasn’t he now inviting her to have dinner with him?

‘Why don’t you join me? My table is...’

She looked around for an empty table and sighed because it had probably been taken. Arriving late would not be an option for anyone who had booked a table in this place. There would be a long list of people waiting in the wings for tables booked by poor, hapless idiots who might have run into delays on the Underground or got snagged in traffic on the way.

‘Where...?’ Sergio made a show of trying to spot a vacant table.

‘Gone.’ She sighed again.

‘Oh, dear.’

‘I don’t normally do...this...’ she began, although a little thrill darted through her at the thought of having dinner with him.

He was so unlike any man she had ever met. Her last boyfriend, Aidan, had been a would-be writer who went on protest rallies, railed against ‘capitalist pigs’ and had now disappeared to the other side of the world, where he was bumming around in search of ideas for his next book, doing little jobs to keep himself going. They vaguely kept in touch.

‘Do what?’ Sergio inclined his head to one side.

‘Force myself on strangers and then accept meals from them. I’ll join you on one condition, and it’s that I pay for myself... I’d offer to pay for you as well, but I’m not in a great place financially at the moment...’

And she wouldn’t be there at all were it not for her parents’ generosity. She had always made it a point to go it on her own, but the temptation to have a free meal at the hottest ticket in town had been irresistible.

‘By which you mean...?’ Sergio signalled to a waiter for menus and then relaxed back, prepared to be amused.

‘I’m between jobs, in actual fact. Well, no, that’s not strictly true. I’m a freelance artist, but still quite new to the business. I haven’t had time to make many contacts so jobs are pretty thin on the ground at the moment. Things will pick up. I’m pretty sure of that. But it’s difficult breaking through... I make ends meet working at a pub near to where I live. I can only hope that I get some work soon—perhaps a long-term contract, which would be brilliant. Via word of mouth... Of course I’ve been in touch with every pu—’

‘Enough. Really not all that interested in the backstory. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the bottom line is that you’re broke because you can’t find regular work?’

‘It’s a competitive world out there when it comes to graphic art and illustrations...’


‘I did a secretarial course when I left school...I had a few jobs doing secretarial work, but I didn’t enjoy it.’

‘Expensive choice of restaurant for someone who happens to be currently financially challenged.’

But then that wouldn’t be a consideration, bearing in mind she would have known, if she played her cards right that he would pick up the tab—and if not him, then any other lone punter. This wasn’t a place frequented by paupers. She was sex on legs and that worked nine times out of ten.

Susie opened her mouth to tell him that, actually, her parents would be the ones picking up the tab and promptly closed it—because how pathetic was that? She was twenty-five years old and still reliant on handouts from her parents for the occasional treat. Shame washed over her.

‘ just have to splash out now and again...’ she countered feebly.

‘Maybe your online date would have done the gentlemanly thing and treated you to the meal,’ Sergio humoured her, ‘had he only stayed the course...’

‘I doubt that. Anyway, I wouldn’t have allowed him to do that. The last thing I would have wanted would have been to give him any ideas.’

‘Any ideas...?’

‘That if he paid for my meal he got me thrown in as an added extra...’

She reddened as Sergio looked at her with raised eyebrows.

‘And if I pay for your meal do you think that I might see you as dessert?’ he murmured.

All at once her head was full of images of him having her as his dessert...taking her to his bed, making love with her, touching and tasting her everywhere...

And the way he was looking at her...

It sent thrilling little shivers up and down her spine. His navy eyes were cool, speculative... She was a tasty little morsel and he was idly contemplating the pros and cons of sampling her...

That was what it felt like and, yes, it should have had her bristling with indignation didn’t.

She licked her lips nervously—an unconsciously erotic little gesture that made Sergio shift in his chair, easing the pain of an erection that wasn’t going anywhere.

‘The coat,’ he reminded her softly. ‘Take it off.’

Susie obeyed. She got the feeling that people always obeyed what he said. Maybe that was why he was allowed to take up valuable space in a pricey restaurant without actually putting any money in the coffers by eating. She had thought he was being charming and self-deprecating when he had described himself as arrogant. Maybe he was just being truthful.

The coat came off.

Sergio’s breath caught in his throat. What had he been expecting? He didn’t know. He just knew that if she was out to see what she could get from him, then she had been inspired in her choice of dress, because it displayed every inch of her fabulous figure in loving detail. The tiny waist. The generous breasts. Shapely legs. But she wasn’t overly tall, and he liked tall. She wasn’t brunette, and he preferred brunettes. And she certainly wasn’t a career woman—unless you could call not having a steady job a career choice—and career women were the only women who interested him.

But she was doing terrific things to his libido.

He smiled a slow, curling smile as he inspected her lazily from head to toe and back again.

‘That’s rude!’ Hot and bothered, Susie hurriedly sat down and wiped clammy hands on the dress.

‘Come again?’

‘That’s rude...’

‘Don’t tell me you don’t like being looked at? If you didn’t you wouldn’t be wearing a red dress that leaves very little to the imagination.’

‘It was a mistake buy.’

She was mortified to feel dampness seeping through her underwear and the tingle of her nipples, which had reacted to that lingering, unhurried inspection as though they were being played with.

What was going on? she wondered in confusion. She never reacted to guys like this. She was comfortable around them. Always had been. Yes, she had had two boyfriends, but neither of them had had this sort of effect on her.

Mistake buy? Sergio nearly burst out laughing. ‘Mistake buys’ weren’t small, red and sexy. Small, red and sexy were designed to do one thing and one thing only, and that was to attract a man. To attract, in this case, him. It had worked. He was attracted.

And the way she could barely meet his eyes... She was the very picture of flustered, pink-cheeked innocence. It might be great acting, but the flustered pink-cheeked innocence was as sexy as the dress.

Hats off to her for a new and interesting route to getting through to him. Had she just turned up at the bar wearing the sexy red dress he might have looked but he wouldn’t have gone there. But her storyline... She had enticed him with more than the dress and the body...she had enticed him with her personality—and, frankly, he was in the mood to be enticed.

She was a refreshing change. He needed a break from intellectual women who had opinions and could become borderline tedious on the subject of their high-powered careers. What could be more of a break than a frisky little number who didn’t have a job?

‘I’d dispute that,’ he told her, with that same curling smile that made her short of breath. ‘In fact, from where I’m sitting, it looks like anything but a mistake buy.’

He was hardly aware of their glasses being refilled by a waiter, or of menus being placed in front of them. In fact he was hardly aware of ordering food.

‘So, does the bartending and the occasional picture-painting pay the rent? In London?’ he asked.

‘Just about. I can’t say I have much left over at the end of the month...’

Her parents would have loved nothing more than to install her in their grand apartment in Kensington, which was only used when they occasionally decided to descend on the city for the theatre or the opera, but she had always stuck to her guns and refused the offer.

Pride, however, did entail roughing it in a not particularly great part of London and having to put up with a good-natured but lazy landlord who didn’t see a problem with eccentric central heating and appliances that only worked when they felt like it.

‘And yet you’re here...?’

‘Sometimes you’ve just got to live a little.’ Susie blushed and looked away. ‘I should have done what I always wanted to do,’ she said, staring off into the distance. ‘I mean, have you ever found yourself sucked into following a career path that just wasn’t for you?’

She had been eighteen...with no interest in going to university...and the family consensus had been that a secretarial career would at least provide a steady income, with the possibility of branching out at a future date. The unspoken conclusion had been that she was just not academic enough for much else.


‘You mean you’ve always known what you wanted to do with your life? Where you wanted to go and how to get there?’

‘Circumstances have a cunning way of steering us down an inevitable road,’ Sergio murmured, a little surprised to be participating in this abstract conversation.

‘What does that mean?’

‘So you were “sucked into” becoming a secretary...?’

Susie duly noted his avoidance of her question—and yet he had sounded, just then, as though he had been speaking from experience...what experience?

‘It seemed to make sense at the time.’ And anything that made sense had seemed so important at the time—more important than standing her ground and pursuing a career in fine art.

‘But in retrospect it was the biggest mistake of your life, because things that are done because they make sense are not always the things one ends up enjoying...?’

‘That’s so true!’ Susie leaned forward. She laughed, delighted that he had caught on so quickly, had almost read her mind and expressed her thoughts in a handful of words. ‘You’re very insightful,’ she murmured shyly.

Sergio raised his eyebrows. Insightful? One adjective that had never before been applied to him.

‘I wouldn’t get carried away,’ he murmured drily. ‘If I were you I’d remember what I told you before. I’m’d be far better off bearing that in mind...’


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