The Italian Billionaire's New Year Bride

By: Scarlet Wilson

She was stunned. One minute she was in the middle of a blissful dream—next she was working on Boxing Day.

Something pricked in her brain. “Mr. Bianchi, where did you hear about me?”

“I saw the apartment you dressed near Central Park.” He paused for a second as her brain caught up. “I liked it.”

She couldn’t help but smile. “In Madison Court?” She’d loved that job. The apartment belonged to an old sea captain. Other interior designers had suggested ripping the apartment bare, painting all the walls white and tiling all the floors. She’d been the only designer to suggest embracing the whole essence of Captain Monaghan’s life. She’d scaled back some of the clutter and enhanced the whole seafaring lifestyle by focusing on a few key pieces. A ship’s wheel. A handcrafted lighthouse. A small-scale model of one of the ships he’d captained. The apartment had sold for well over the asking price—with a key request to keep the design aspects.

A warm feeling spread through her belly. The fact that Matteo had seen her work and liked it made her smile. Madison Court had been her biggest job yet. She hadn’t told anyone she’d met the old sea captain when he was getting chemotherapy in the same hospital as her mother. It was funny where some of the turning points in your life could be.

She rested back against the pillows.

“Yes” came the rich smooth voice. “Madison Court was...unusual. So, are you available for the next few weeks?”

A quarter of a million dollars. That was what he’d offered her.

She and her mom had some savings. But not enough to cover what the medical insurance didn’t. This could be the answer to their prayers. This could stop the shadows that were currently residing under her mother’s eyes.

The words came out before she could think about it any longer. “I’ll see you in an hour.”

“Looking forward to it, Ms. Gates.”

She glanced at the clock again. Something still didn’t sit quite right with her. The apartment at Central Park was gorgeous. But in New York there were dozens of interior designers—competition was tough. She’d never been near a house in the Hamptons before. If that was where Matteo Bianchi owned property he must have a whole range of other contacts.

She smiled. “Mr. Bianchi?”

“Yes, Ms. Gates?”

“How many other interior designers did you call this morning before me?”

There was the briefest hesitation. “Seven.”

She let out a laugh. “See you in an hour,” she said as she replaced the phone.

* * *

Matteo glanced at his watch for the fifth time as he tried not to curse under his breath. It seemed that limousines and New York snowstorms didn’t work in partnership together. The car had edged along an inch at a time. Finally, they pulled up outside an apartment. Two seconds later a round figure emerged from the building. She was covered in so many layers he couldn’t even see her face. The driver opened the door and Phoebe Gates practically rolled into the car alongside him.

She pushed back her numerous hoods, fixing him with the darkest brown eyes he’d ever seen. She was younger than he’d expected—prettier than he’d expected too, with smooth coffee-colored skin and curls poking out around her face.

She gave him a wide smile as she started unzipping all her jackets. “I think I might have overdone it. I took one look at the snow and put on just about everything I owned.”

“I can see that.” He couldn’t help but smile as she started to emerge from underneath all the layers.

He shook his head as she stripped off a raincoat, a black parka, a zip-up hoody and pushed her mass of curls back from her face. She gave her head a shake. “Wow. It’s hot in here.”

He kept watching as she folded her arms across her chest and hitched one knee a little on the seat so she turned to face him. “So, I was number eight, huh?”

He shrugged. “Apparently I picked the wrong time of year to look for an interior designer.”

He liked the fact she wasn’t afraid to say what she thought. A straight talker. She laughed. “No, I just think you picked the wrong day.”

She stared at the snow-covered streets. “So what’s the big rush anyhow?”

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