The Italian Billionaire's New Year Bride

By: Scarlet Wilson

She tried to swallow as there was a little glint of yellow from the top of the house. A curve, covered in snow. Was that an atrium?

The question started to form on her lips then she glimpsed a flash of something else from Matteo. Distaste. Or dislike. She wasn’t quite sure which. Really? To a place like this?

Play it cool. The words kept repeating over and over in her head. She hadn’t been joking when she’d said she liked to see a property before deciding if she would take on a job. But she also liked a chance to meet the client. Interior designers sometimes worked alone. Getting a feel for a job and a client had given her a “Get out of Jail Free” card on a few occasions. Safety always came first and on the odd occasion something just didn’t feel right. It had been okay when Jason had been around. He’d always had her back. Clients had taken one look at the strapping ex-Navy pilot and any erroneous thoughts had vanished from their minds. At least that was the way it had always seemed.

But three years ago life had changed in the blink of an eye. Or, more accurately, the stall of two plane engines—something that apparently never happened.

Except to her fiancé. And life would never be the same again.

She’d had to get used to working with no backup plan and part of today had been making sure she felt safe to work for Matteo Bianchi. She shot him a sideways glance. For the most part he seemed like a workaholic typical New York billionaire businessman. An exceptionally handsome Italian workaholic businessman.

And that was interesting. Handsome wasn’t something she’d noticed in the last three years. Matteo Bianchi had all the traditional attributes of every Italian movie star she’d ever seen on screen. Thick dark hair, deep green eyes, sallow smooth skin and straight white teeth. The only thing that marred his good looks was that permanent frown on his forehead.

She got the distinct impression that he really didn’t have time for her. In fact, she got the distinct impression that Matteo Bianchi didn’t have time for much of anything.

The car pulled up outside the huge cream-colored mansion and Matteo opened the door straight away. Phoebe fumbled around, trying to select one of her many jackets, finally settling on a red one. She stepped out of the car and looked up at the outside of the house.

The grounds were pristine. She could imagine how manicured the lawns were in summer, even though they were covered in snow right now. The façade was elegant, if a little faded. The double front door was arched and the front of the house lined with mahogany windows covered by internal shutters. Why was a place as beautiful as this all closed up?

If she closed her eyes for a second she could imagine how beautiful this house could be at Christmas. Lights. Trees. Decorations. Instead, it was all closed up like an unwanted present.

Phoebe tilted her head to the side. “Do you only use the house in the summer?”

Matteo shook his head. “We’ve never really used this house.”

“What?” Phoebe spun around and looked at him. “What do you mean, you’ve never used this house?”

Matteo shook his head and stuck his hands in his pockets. “It’s been in the family for a while. But...we’ve never really stayed here.” There was something odd about the way he said that.

Phoebe couldn’t help but shake her head. She couldn’t get past the fact that this beautiful house was sitting empty—and had done for years.

“Who takes care of it?”

Matteo gave the briefest shake of his head. “I have a caretaker. They come in a few times a year to clean up and maintain the place. Over the years, the electrics, heating and plumbing have all been kept up-to-date but...” he paused for a second “...I imagine there will be lots of areas in the house that need updating.”

Phoebe wrinkled her nose for a second as she stared up at the three-story building with its shuttered windows. “It looks around a hundred years old. Please tell me it’s been updated since then.”

Matteo gave a nod. “Of course it has. Just not recently.”

He pulled a large key from his pocket, along with his phone. As they approached the thick double entrance door he lifted his phone to a panel at the door side. There was a short beep before he turned the key. “Alarm,” he said simply before pushing the door open.

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