The Billionaire's Bridal BargainBy: Lynne Graham
To love, honor…
Cesare Sabatino never intended to marry. But if his thoughts did ever stray in that direction, the lucky woman’s answer would have been a resounding “yes.” Imagine his surprise when Lizzie Whitaker turns him down on the spot!
To get his hands on her Mediterranean island inheritance, Cesare must wed innocent Lizzie…and ensure she’s carrying his heir! Luckily the formidable Italian is legendary for his powers of persuasion. With Lizzie desperate to save her family’s farm, it’s only a matter of time before she gives in…and discovers the many pleasurable benefits of wearing this tycoon’s ring.
Cesare turned to look at Lizzie only when she reached the altar. Eyes the color of melted bronze assailed her and she stopped breathing, gripped by the ferocious force of will in that appraisal. He had no doubts, she interpreted. He knew exactly what he was doing, had come to terms with the drawbacks and was concentrating on the endgame.
She had to do the same, Lizzie told herself urgently. She had to stop trying to personalize their relationship and stop wondering whether or not he would kiss her after they had been pronounced man and wife. Such treacherous thoughts were far removed from businesslike behavior and utterly inappropriate, she scolded herself in exasperation.
“You look fantastic,” Cesare murmured softly while he threaded the wedding band onto her finger, and she followed suit, copying his maneuver with less cool and more nerves.
Indeed, Cesare was taken aback by just how fabulous she looked. The effect she had on him was ever so slightly unnerving. It was his libido, he told himself impatiently. As long as he stuck to his rules of never getting tangled in anything that smacked of an emotional connection, he would be fine and perfectly happy.
CESARE SABATINO FLIPPED open the file sent by special delivery and groaned out loud, his darkly handsome features betraying his disbelief.
There were two photos included in the file, one of a nubile blonde teenager called Cristina and the other of her older sister Elisabetta. Was this familial insanity to visit yet another generation? Cesare raked long brown fingers through his luxuriant black hair, frustration pumping through every long lean line of his powerful body. He really didn’t have time for such nonsense in the middle of his working day. What was his father, Goffredo, playing at?
‘What’s up?’ Jonathan, his friend and a director of the Sabatino pharmaceutical empire, asked.
In answer, Cesare tossed the file to the other man. ‘Look at it and weep at the madness that can afflict even one’s seemingly sane relatives,’ he urged.
Frowning, Jonathan glanced through the sparse file and studied the photos. ‘The blonde’s not bad but a bit on the young side. The other one with the woolly hat on looks like a scarecrow. What on earth is the connection between you and some Yorkshire farming family?’
‘It’s a long story,’ Cesare warned him.
Jonathan hitched his well-cut trousers and took a seat. ‘Interesting?’
Cesare grimaced. ‘Only moderately. In the nineteen thirties my family owned a small island called Lionos in the Aegean Sea. Most of my ancestors on my father’s side are buried there. My grandmother, Athene, was born and raised there. But when her father went bust, Lionos was sold to an Italian called Geraldo Luccini.’
Jonathan shrugged. ‘Fortunes rise and fall.’
‘Matters, however, took a turn for the worse when Athene’s brother decided to get the island back into family hands by marrying Luccini’s daughter and then chose to jilt her at the altar.’
The other man raised his brows. ‘Nice...’
‘Her father was so enraged by the slight to his daughter and his family that Lionos was eternally tied up in Geraldo’s exceedingly complex will.’
‘In what way?’
‘The island cannot be sold and the two young women in that file are the current owners of Lionos by inheritance through their mother. The island can only be regained by my family through marriage between a Zirondi and a Luccini descendant and the birth of a child.’
‘You’re not serious?’ Jonathan was amazed.
‘A generation back, my father was serious enough to propose marriage to the mother of those two girls, Francesca, although I would point out that he genuinely fell in love with her. Luckily for us all, however, when he proposed she turned him down and married her farmer instead.’