Playing the Billionaire (International Temptation)(4)

By: M.K. Meredith


She nodded. “Gift of God? After today, I can attest to that.”





Chapter Two


Mateu turned away to watch the city streets out the window. Gift of God, indeed. That bit of information was true, but far from accurate. A gift of God wouldn’t have hidden the fact he was the CEO of Huntington Place Barcelona, pretending to visit the hotel to renew a supplier contract—though that part wasn’t completely inaccurate. His family orchard was the hotel’s sole citrus supplier, but his father had worked his magic on the contract separate of Mateu’s influence. The old man had been working with Huntington since before Mateu could read.

Miss London would continue to think he was a gift, or even better, a God—or at the very least that his hotel was heaven. He’d make sure of it.

It was his duty to ensure that she loved her visit so much she wouldn’t be able to check out of Huntington Place Barcelona without leaving them a five-star review in Elite Life & Travel Magazine. They’d held the coveted position of the number one hotel in Barcelona four years in a row. A fifth year would have earned them induction into the magazine’s “Hotel of Fame” and significant critical recognition.

But they’d lost it. They hadn’t made it five years in a row, thanks to cuts and mismanagement from the European director of marketing and sales. Their budget cuts over the previous year stretched beyond orders of pillow mints and well into the hotel’s customer care staff. A hotel couldn’t be number one if it didn’t have the staff to make it work.

If they’d gotten that critical recognition, Mateu would have finally been able to slow down a bit and help his father more with the orchard. The call from his brother last week confirmed it. His father’s health was in jeopardy. Every day was wearing on the man, and if something didn’t change, his health would suffer.

Mateu studied his travel companion. He wasn’t used to women offering to help pay for anything, much less half, or carry their own luggage. The women he’d dated had made spending his money look like a contact sport, and the use of his service staff a white-collar job.

When his assistant had approached him with the identity of London Montgomery as hotel reviewer L.M. Cipriano, he’d never imagined her to be so damned beautiful.

Tapping London’s phone, he asked, “Mapping our route to make sure I’m not kidnapping you?” Honestly, he was surprised she’d trusted him as much as she had. It made him feel that much worse about what he had to do.

She glanced up with those sweet, searching eyes. “Please, with how helpful you’ve been, you should be worried I’m the one kidnapping you.” She angled the phone so he could see. “No, I’m looking over my itinerary.”

He read the top line and couldn’t help his own smile. “Once in a lifetime?”

“Don’t you dare laugh at me. I work all the time. And I mean all the time. I have a lot of responsibility back home, and this is my chance to really live before I have to get back to reality.”

Her eyes did not waver, though she tapped a finger just below her full lower lip. She wasn’t joking about her itinerary, which intrigued him. She was clearly a planner and took her goals seriously.

Her vacation agenda was also a great cover for her work. Hotel inspectors worked anonymously and needed to be in the hotel to do their job, but this list had her traipsing all over Barcelona. She was taking every precaution to keep from revealing why she was really there.

“Let me take a look.” He lifted the phone from her fingers, and she tried to grab it back.

“Hey!”

He held it just out of reach. “A cooking class, a vermouth barhop, Picasso… My cousin, Maria, works at the Picasso Museum. I’ll have to tell her to look for you.” He continued down the list. “Ahhhh, now we’re getting somewhere…the Erotic Museum on La Rambla and the nude beach. I like your style.” He winked at her, then finished skimming through the list, reading the last item twice.

She wanted to kiss a Spaniard.

He looked at her hard.

That would never do.

He forced himself to stop staring at her mouth. “This is quite a list. All except the hot-air balloon ride. I’m not a fan of heights.” Being that far up in the air didn’t leave much room for control. He had zero influence on how things turned out, and when the stakes included plummeting to his death, he’d rather manage his risks and keep his feet firmly planted on the ground.

Quick as a hummingbird, she snatched her phone away from his hand. She stole a quick peek at him then focused back on her agenda, but she didn’t return to her side of the shuttle. He respected a woman who held her space.