Bound by the Italian's 'I Do'
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CHAPTER ONE (opening excerpt)
THE MESSAGE THAT pinged on Issy Seymore’s phone was the notification that her taxi had been dispatched.
She met her sister’s apprehensive dark eyes. This was it. Everything they’d worked towards this last decade about to come to fruition. All the late-night planning. All the scheming.
She’d imagined she’d reach this moment and be buzzing at this spring into action. She hadn’t expected to feel such a weight in the belly she’d spent years working desperately hard to keep flat and toned. Gianni Rossi favoured a specific type of woman. Short brunettes that leaned towards plumpness were not in that favoured league.
‘We are doing the right thing aren’t we?’ she whispered.
Amelia swallowed hard and nodded. ‘But if you’ve got cold feet and want to back out then...’
‘No,’ she cut her off with a fortifying shake of her head. ‘It’s not cold feet. Just nerves, I guess.’
Amelia rubbed her arms and gave a rueful smile of understanding. If anyone understood about nerves, it was her sister. The faint bruising under her eyes was testament to the lack of sleep that had gripped them both since they’d realised five weeks ago that the stars had finally aligned and it was time to put the plan they’d spent so long finessing into action.
Amelia had taken all the risks to get them to this point, had spent two years in the enemy’s camp, every minute of her working life spent with a cold knot of fear of being found out. As the Seymore sisters knew to their personal cost, the Rossi cousins were men without conscience. Without humanity. They’d ruined their lives and now it was the sisters’ turn to repay the favour. Let them get a taste of what it felt to have your whole life destroyed. Because it could only be a taste. It was impossible to replicate the scale of the damage the Italian men had wrought on their family.
While Amelia had put herself on the line every working day for two years, Issy had worked safely behind the scenes, immersed in the online world. Now it was time for her to step up, step out, and play her part in the real world.
Straightening her spine, Issy stood as tall as her five-foot-one body would stretch.
Amelia’s smile at this contained the first hint of humour either of them had been able to muster that day. ‘Remember to keep your shoes on around him—you don’t want him knowing you’re short one end before you get him on the yacht.’
A splutter of laughter left Issy’s lips, and she threw her arms around her big sister and hugged her tightly.
‘You’ll let me know as soon as you land?’ Amelia asked into her hair, embracing her with equal intensity.
‘You’ve packed your charm repellent?’
She snorted and hugged her even tighter. ‘You know I don’t need it.’
Amelia disentangled her arms and cupped Issy’s cheeks. ‘Promise you’ll be careful. Don’t take any silly risks.’
‘I won’t. You be careful too.’
A shadow fell over her sister’s face but she smiled. ‘I’m always careful.’
Issy’s phone pinged. Her driver had arrived.
One last embrace and a kiss to her sister’s cheek and it was time to leave.
Time to fly to the Caribbean and put the plan they’d spent ten years strategizing into fruition.
Ten days earlier
Gianni Rossi knew when a woman was interested in him and the beautiful blonde with the fabulous legs at the bar of this ultra-exclusive, members-only club was definitely interested. She’d wafted through the swing doors with a feline grace and as she passed his table, her eyes had glanced at his. When she reached the bar, she’d turned her head to look back at him and this time the lock of her stare had not been fleeting. Now she sat sucking a cocktail through a straw with a gleam in her eye that suggested she would like to be sucking something else.
Never a man to turn down a beautiful woman blatantly showing her interest, Gianni excused himself from the company he was in. He indicated the stool beside her. ‘May I?’
Wide, eminently kissable lips twitched. Dark blue eyes gleamed. ‘Be my guest.’
He rested his backside on it and beckoned the barman over.
‘Drink?’ he asked her.
The gleam deepened. ‘Sure.’
‘A large bourbon for me and a...?’ He raised a brow in question at her.
Dimples appeared on the beautiful face. ‘Mojito. Please.’
‘Mojito for the lady.’
While the barman fixed their drinks, Gianni ran his expert eye over her. Glossy shoulder length honey-blonde hair only several shades lighter than her perfectly plucked eyebrows. Beautiful elfin features. A short, silver sequinned dress with spaghetti straps that came from no high street store. A slim watch on her slim wrist from a brand also unavailable on the high street. The cut of her diamond earrings too showed that this was a woman with a discerning eye and access to an undiscerning bank account. He wondered how their paths had never crossed before.
He extended a hand. ‘Gianni.’
Slim fingers wrapped around his. Her expensive, exotic perfume drifted into his space like a fragrant cloud. ‘Issy.’
‘I haven’t seen you here before... Issy.’ A name that rhymed with dizzy did not suit this sleek, confident woman with the melodious voice who pronounced her words with the same exactness as the English socialites who flocked to his parties whenever he was in London.
Gently extracting her hand from his, she flashed pretty white teeth. ‘It’s my first time.’
His lips curved. ‘Is that a fact?’
She wiggled one of her perfect eyebrows knowingly and, enchanting blue eyes not leaving his face, closed her lips over the straw to suck the last of her original drink. The eroticism behind it sent a thrill racing through his bloodstream. Damn, this woman was hot.
Placing his elbow on the bar, he rested his chin on his closed hand. ‘Waiting for someone?’
‘My girlfriend. We’re meeting here before we go to Amber’s. She’s running late.’
Amusement sparkled. ‘A friend who’s a girl. Why? What did you think I meant?’
He smiled slowly. ‘I think you know very well what I meant.’
Another knowing, amused wiggle.
‘Do you have a significant other?’ he asked, cutting to the chase.
She shook her head slowly. ‘Life’s too short for significant others.’
A woman after his own heart. ‘I couldn’t agree more.’
‘You’re single too?’
‘Now that is something I will gladly drink to.’ Placing an elbow on the bar close to his, she mimicked him by resting her chin on her closed hand. ‘So...’ She tilted a little closer. ‘Gianni... You’re Italian?’
She grinned. ‘An Italian stallion?’
How he loved a woman who knew how to use a good double entendre. ‘So I’ve been told.’
She looked him up and down without an ounce of shame. ‘I’ll bet.’
Their drinks were placed before them. Gianni raised his. ‘To being single.’
She clinked her cocktail to his glass, dark blue eyes bold on his. ‘To having fun.’ Then she pinched the straw between her thumb and forefinger and slowly inserted it between her lips. It could not be interpreted as anything but suggestive and the thrills racing through his veins ramped up.
Her phone buzzed.
‘Excuse me,’ she said, swiping to read the message. She replied quickly then fixed him with a rueful smile. ‘That, I’m afraid, is my cue to leave.’
‘I didn’t expect to leave so soon but it’s Camilla’s birthday. She was going to meet me here but as she’s running so late, she’s got her driver to drop her at Amber’s and sent him on to collect me. He’ll be here in a few minutes.’ She gave him an openly provocative stare, and added, ‘I’m sure she won’t mind if you join us.’
Gianni had been to Amber’s, a tiny nightclub with a clientele comprised almost exclusively of British high society, a number of times. With regret, he waved a hand in the direction of the three men he’d not long ago abandoned. ‘I’m on a poker night promise, but I can join you later...if you like?’
She finished her mojito and as she pulled the straw from her mouth, her bottom lip pulled down seductively with it. ‘I do like,’ she murmured, ‘but I’m afraid it has to be an early night for me, midnight at the latest or I risk the danger of turning into a pumpkin.’
He rested his fingers on the hand with the immaculately manicured and painted nails that had incrementally moved closer to him and bored his gaze into hers. There was nothing he loved more than a sexy, confident woman who knew exactly what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to show it, and this woman had all of that. She was sexy. Beautiful. Blonde. Long-legged. And she was unashamedly making it clear that she wanted him. The perfect temporary bedwarmer. ‘I could do with an early night too.’
Her eyes gleamed and her pretty teeth grazed her bottom lip. ‘As tempting as your unspoken offer is, regretfully I must decline. I’m flying to Barbados in the morning and need my beauty sleep.’
She nodded and got to her feet. ‘I keep my yacht at a marina in Bridgetown. I always spend a couple of months each summer sailing.’
‘Now that is a coincidence... I’m flying to the Caribbean myself in a couple of weeks.’
Her eyes widened in surprise and delight. ‘Really?’
He nodded. ‘We can meet up... If you like?’
She didn’t even pretend to think about it. She leaned closer to whisper into his ear, close enough that her silky hair brushed against his neck. ‘I would like that very much.’ Then, smiling widely, she stepped back and pressed her phone. ‘What’s your number?’
He recited it to her. She entered it into her phone, then held the phone up. ‘My chariot is here.’
‘Then it is best you go so you don’t turn into a pumpkin.’
Eyes shining, she laughed softly. ‘Great to meet you, Gianni.’ Then she blew him a kiss and strolled away in her fabulously high stilettos with the same ramrod-straight sexy confidence she’d entered the bar, gently curved hips swaying.
Gianni watched her leave, shaking his head and trying to stifle a laugh at what had just occurred in a few short minutes.
Ordering himself another bourbon, he re-joined his friends debating whether to throw the evening’s game so he could get himself to Amber’s before Cinderella turned into a pumpkin.
A moment later a message pinged into his phone.
The ball’s in your court. Hopefully meet you for some fun in the Caribbean soon. Issy x
He messaged her back.
Looking forward to it. I’ll be in touch. G x
Issy hailed the first black cab that passed and jumped in the back. ‘Nelson Street, Brockley,’ she said to the driver.
Not until the club was a blur in the distance was she able to breathe with any semblance of normality.
She’d done it.
While she kicked off the awful shoes that made her feel like her feet were clamped in vices, she fired a quick message to her sister. Amelia, she knew, would be unable to breathe properly herself until she heard from her.
It worked! Hook, line and sinker. On way home. xx
That done, she rested her head back and closed her eyes.
She felt sick. And exhilarated. And unsettled. So many emotions, all sloshing in her mostly empty stomach.
The closer the time to acting out their plans had come, the more unsettled she’d become at going through with it. When Amelia had started work at Rossi Industries, she’d vowed to find concrete proof of corruption against the cousins. They’d both needed to know that what they were doing wasn’t just revenge but a good thing, that they were saving other victims from the fate their family had suffered. When Amelia had told her five weeks ago that their time had come, all Issy had been able to think was they still needed that proof. Amelia had finally found it three days ago, exultantly messaging her with the news.
The mojitos Issy had drunk suddenly rose up her throat. Pressing her hand there, she squeezed her eyes even tighter and willed the nausea to pass.
She willed even harder to banish the image of Gianni Rossi looking at her like he would gladly eat her whole.
And willed even harder than that to forget the thrills that had run through her veins to see it.
In this game of revenge, she’ll meet her enemy at the altar…
Billionaire Gianni Rossi destroyed Issy Seymore’s family legacy…and it’s time for payback. Issy has a plan: she’ll get him onto a yacht headed for the Caribbean, distract him then take down his company!
Gianni has been onto Issy from the start, outmanoeuvering her at every turn. But, as the heat between them rises, it’s the Italian who begins to feel out of his depth. To finally end the charade, he calls her bluff with an outrageous marriage proposal. Then Issy makes one last move—by saying yes!
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"This love story was epic, in my opinion. It was special." Eva K, Beyond the Pages