The Italian Billionaire's New Year Bride

By: Scarlet Wilson

He settled back into the plush leather seats. “The time is just right.”

She wrinkled her nose. It looked as if she might be about to say something when she gave a yell. “Stop the car!”

The driver screeched to a halt, throwing them both forward. “What is it? Did we hit someone?”

She shook her head and shot him a huge grin as she opened the car door. “No. It’s my favorite coffee cart. What can I get you?”

Matteo tried not to say the expletives that were circling around his head. “You what? You stopped us like that for coffee?”

She stared at him for a second with those big brown eyes, narrowing them for a millisecond as if she were surprised at his reaction. She touched the driver on the shoulder. “You’re a macchiato, aren’t you?”

The driver blinked in surprise and nodded. She glanced over at the cart. “And a chocolate donut?” He nodded again. She got out of the car and gave her order to the vendor then ducked her head back in and turned to Matteo. She put one finger next to her mouth. “Hmm.”

“What?” He was getting annoyed now. New York was starting to get busy with shoppers. It would take around ninety minutes to reach the house and he wanted to get moving as soon as possible.

She gave a half-smile. “I’m trying to work out whether you’re a double espresso or an Americano kind of guy.”

She ducked back out and spoke quietly to the vendor, who laughed and filled her order. Two minutes later she was in the car and settled back in her seat, handing him a hot paper cup and something in a bag.

She shrugged as he continued to frown. “I get cranky if I don’t have coffee in the morning.” She shook her head. “And believe me, you won’t like me when I’m cranky.”

A caramel aroma was drifting over toward him and he watched as she pulled out a raspberry-covered donut, taking a large bite. “Best donuts in New York. Nowhere else comes close.”

She nudged him. “Go on. Try yours.”

Phoebe Gates was nothing like he’d expected. The last time he’d dealt with an interior designer she’d been all business suits, stiletto heels and clipboards. Her assistant had hung on her every word, constantly taking notes. She’d been abrupt, professional and aloof.

He stared down at the Americano in his hand. Just the way he liked it. And in the paper bag? A regular sugar donut. He hated icing and sprinkles nearly as much as he hated filled donuts.

He frowned. “How did you know?” he asked.

She swallowed her donut and took a sip of her coffee. “How did I know what?”

He held up his Americano and paper bag. “This. How did you know this?”

He was suspicious. People didn’t generally surprise him. It wasn’t as if she could have done an Internet search to find out what kind of coffee and donut he preferred.

She shrugged again and smiled. “I just know these things.” She grinned and tapped her nose. “Interior design. It’s all based on observation skills.”

Matteo narrowed his gaze. Maybe he’d made a mistake this morning, but by the time he’d reached call number eight he was reaching the desperate stage. In amongst the family feuds of Christmas, the one thing that his overextended Italian family had agreed on was that it was time to get rid of some of the family property. Matteo had agreed to take charge and he intended to get this over with as quickly as possible. He’d thought with the price tag he was offering any interior designer would snap his hand off for the job. Turned out he was wrong. Four of the designers he’d called were on holiday with only an answer-phone message saying calls wouldn’t be returning until the new year. Two had answered but refused due to family commitments. One was currently working in Washington. By the time he’d reached Phoebe he just wanted someone to say yes. But then she’d surprised him.

Matteo was used to doing business. He paid a price and a job got done. End of story. So he’d been a little surprised that Phoebe had insisted on seeing the property instead of just agreeing to the job straight away. This was time he really didn’t have to spare.

And it wasn’t that she seemed unprofessional—that was too harsh. It was just, she seemed so...relaxed.

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