A Millionaire for Cinderella

By: Barbara Wallace

‘Where were you when it hit?’ she asked.

‘Just about to dive into my lap pool. Then I noticed the surface of the water shimmering, which was kind of weird.’

‘That must have been scary.’ She shuddered as she spoke.

‘Yeah. It was.’

‘So much for relaxing in a tropical paradise,’ she said, with a bravado that didn’t hide the shadow of unease in her eyes.

She clutched her towel tighter to her. Mitch refused to let himself imagine what might happen if it slid off.

An awkward silence fell between them. Zoe was the first to break it. ‘I’m going to head back to my villa,’ she said.

‘How about I come with you? Who knows what we’ll find when we get back to our rooms.’

Her response was more of a cynical twist than a smile, but it was nonetheless attractive. ‘Thank you, but I don’t need a big strong man to protect me. I’m quite capable of looking after myself.’

‘I’m sure you are,’ he said. ‘But I... Well, I don’t really want to be on my own if we get any aftershocks.’

He wasn’t afraid to admit to vulnerability. Just never on a football pitch.

‘Oh,’ she said.

For the first time she seemed flustered.

‘You’re not...you’re not with someone?’

‘You mean a girlfriend? No. What about you? Are you on your own?’

‘Yes,’ she said, with no further explanation.

He glanced down at her hand. No wedding ring. Though that didn’t necessarily mean no man in her life. ‘I’d like to catch up, Zoe. Find out what you’ve been doing in the last ten years.’

She paused. ‘I don’t need to ask what you’ve done since we last met,’ she said. ‘You’re quite the sporting hero. The media loves you.’

He shrugged. ‘Yeah... That... Don’t believe everything they dish up about me. But seriously, Zoe, I’d really like to spend some time with you.’

* * *

Zoe looked up at him and her heart gave a flip of awareness. Mitch Bailey. Still the same: so handsome, so unselfconscious, standing before her in just a pair of swim shorts that did nothing to hide the athletic perfection of his body. So full of the innate confidence that came with the knowledge that he had always been liked, admired, wanted. So sure she’d want to spend time with him.

And she’d be lying to herself if she said she didn’t.

He was the best-looking man she’d ever met. Had been then—still was now. She couldn’t deny that. But all those years ago she’d seen a more vulnerable side of Mitch that had endeared him to her before he’d pushed her out of his life. Had it survived his stardom? It was difficult to resist the chance to find out.

‘I’d like to catch up too,’ she said lightly. ‘After all, it isn’t every day an earthquake brings long-lost school buddies together.’

He didn’t seem to remember the circumstances of their last meeting. It had been a long time ago. Devastating to her at the time. Insignificant, it seemed, to him.

Had she had a crush on him back then? Of course she had. A deeply hidden, secret, impossible crush. He’d been so out of her league she would have been relentlessly mocked if anyone had found out.

‘Great,’ he said with a smile.

If she didn’t know better, she’d think it was tinged with relief.

‘The manager said it was business as usual. We can order drinks. I don’t know about you, but I could do with a beer.’

‘Me too,’ she said.

And the first thing she’d do before she spent any more time alone with Mitch Bailey would be to put on some clothes.

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