A Bride Worth Millions

By: Chantelle Shaw

 CHAPTER ONE

‘I’VE BEEN THINKING.’

‘Really?’ Luca De Rossi could not disguise the scepticism in his voice as he glanced at the blonde in bed beside him. Giselle Mercier was exquisite, and she was an inventive lover, but Luca doubted that the French model with baby-blue eyes and a penchant for expensive jewellery was about to announce that she had discovered a solution for world peace, or a cure for cancer.

His suspicions were confirmed when she held up her left hand so that the enormous diamond on her third finger was set ablaze by the early-morning sunbeams streaming into the penthouse.

‘Yes. I’ve been thinking that I don’t want to get married at a registry office. I want our wedding to be in a church, or even a cathedral.’

Giselle glanced towards the window and the view of the elegant spires of the Duomo—Milan’s magnificent cathedral.

‘And I want to wear a wedding dress. Think what a fantastic publicity opportunity it would be for De Rossi Designs,’ Giselle purred when Luca frowned. ‘The press would go mad for pictures of a wedding gown designed by the creative director of DRD for his bride.’

‘There will be no press coverage of our wedding,’ Luca said tersely. ‘You seem to be forgetting that our marriage will be a temporary arrangement. I only require you to be my wife for one year. After that we will divorce and you will receive one million pounds—as we agreed.’

Giselle threw back the sheet to reveal her naked, golden-tanned body, and hooked one lissom thigh across Luca’s hip. ‘Perhaps you’ll decide that you don’t want a temporary marriage,’ she murmured. ‘Last night was amazing, chéri. I think we could have something special...’

Luca muttered something ugly beneath his breath as he swung his legs over the side of the bed. It was true that the sex last night had been good—albeit in the vaguely uninspiring way that sex always was with any of his mistresses. But it meant nothing to him. Just as it always meant nothing.

He didn’t know why Giselle had suggested that their relationship could be in any way ‘special’. They had made an arrangement that suited both of them and he could not conceal his impatience at her attempt to try and change the rules.

He strode across the room and stared moodily out of the window, while his mistress ran her eyes hungrily over his bare buttocks and muscular thighs. In the sunlight, Luca’s thick black hair, which had a tendency to curl at his nape, gleamed like polished jet. His broad shoulders were tanned a dark bronze, the same as the rest of his body, even his buttocks, which made Giselle wonder if he sunbathed in the nude.

She had never had a lover as skilful and tireless as Luca De Rossi. No wonder the tabloids dubbed him the ‘Italian Stallion’! He was as famous for his affairs with the countless female celebrities who wore his designs to red-carpet events as he was for his undeniable artistic talent and his flair for designing clothes that flattered women whatever their shape.

Luca was sinfully sexy and filthy rich. He was also in urgent need of a wife, so that he could keep his ancestral home: Villa De Rossi—a palatial house on the shores of Lake Como. It was something to do with the terms of his grandmother’s will. Luca had to be married by his thirty-fifth birthday or the villa, which had been owned by the De Rossi family for three hundred years, would be sold.

Giselle did not understand all the details and did not particularly care. The important thing was that Luca had asked her to be his bride. The deal included an amazing pay-off, as well as lots of other perks—such as the diamond solitaire ring that Luca had promised she could keep when they went their separate ways.

But Giselle had no intention of going anywhere. It had occurred to her that, even though a million pounds was more than she was ever likely to earn from modelling, it made sense to hang on to her soon-to-be husband for as long as possible. After all, if he was willing to pay her one million pounds for one year of marriage then even Giselle’s poor grasp of mathematics could work out the amount she should receive after two or three years of being Luca’s wife. And of course if they had a child then Luca would have to pay maintenance and school fees.