His Final Bargain(7)

By: Melanie Milburne

They hadn’t parted on the best of terms. Every time she thought of that final scene between them she felt sick to her stomach. He had been livid to find out she was already engaged to another man. His anger had been palpable. She had felt bruised by it even though he had only touched her with his gaze. Oh, those hard, bitter eyes! How they had stabbed and burned her with their hatred and loathing. He hadn’t even given her time to explain. He had stormed out of the restaurant and out of her life. He had cut all contact with her.

She could so easily have defended herself back then and in the weeks and months and years since. At any one point she could have called him and told him. She could have explained it all, but guilt had kept her silent.

It still kept her silent.

Dare she go with him? For a million pounds how could she not? Strictly speaking, the money wasn’t for her. That made it more palatable, or at least slightly. She would be doing it for the children and their poor disadvantaged mothers. It was only for a month. That wasn’t a long time by anyone’s standards. It would be over in a flash. Besides, England’s summer was turning out to be a non-event. A month’s break looking after a little girl in sun-drenched Positano would be a piece of cake.

How hard could it be?

Eliza straightened her spine and looked him in the eye as she held out her hand. ‘Do you have a pen?’


LEO WATCHED AS Eliza scratched her signature across the paper. She had a neat hand, loopy and very feminine. He had loved those soft little hands on his body. His flesh had sung with delight every time she had touched him…

He jerked his thoughts back like a rider tugging the reins on a bolting horse. He would not allow himself to think of her that way. He needed a nanny. This was strictly a business arrangement. There was nothing else he wanted from her.

Four years on he was still furious with her for what she had done. He was even more furious with himself for falling for her when she had only been using him. How had he been so beguiled by her? She had reeled him in like a dumb fish on a line. She had dangled the bait and he had gobbled it up without thinking of what he was doing. He had acted like a lovesick swain by proposing to her so quickly. He had offered her the world—his world, the one he had worked such backbreaking hours to make up from scratch.

She had captivated him from the moment she had taken the seat beside him in the bar where he had been sitting brooding into his drink on the night of his father’s funeral. There was a restless sort of energy about her that he had recognised and responded to instantly. He had felt his body start to sizzle as soon as her arm brushed against his. She had been upfront and brazen with him, but in an edgy, exhilarating way. Their first night together had been monumentally explosive. He had never felt such a maelstrom of lust. He had been totally consumed by it. He had taken what he could with her, how he could, relishing that she seemed to want to do the same. He had loved that about her, that her need for him was as lusty and racy as his for her.

Their one-night stand had morphed into a passionate three-week affair that had him issuing a romantic proposal because he couldn’t bear the thought of never seeing her again. But all that time she had been harbouring a secret—she was already engaged to a man back home in England.

Leo looked at her left hand. Her engagement ring glinted at him, taunting him like an evil eye.

Anger was like a red mist in front of him. He had been nothing more to her than a holiday fling, a diversion—a shallow little hook-up to laugh about with her friends once she got home.

He hated her for it.

He hated her for how his life had turned out since.

The life he’d planned for himself had been derailed by her betrayal. It had had a domino effect on every part of his life since. If it hadn’t been for her perfidy he would not have met poor, sad, lonely Giulia. The guilt he felt about Giulia’s death was like a clamp around his heart. He had been the wrong person for her. She had been the wrong person for him. But in their mutual despair over being let down by the ones they had loved, they had formed a wretched sort of alliance that was always going to end in tragedy. From the first moment Giulia had set eyes on their dark-haired baby girl she had rejected her. She had seemed repulsed by her own child. The doctors talked about post-natal depression and other failure to bond issues, given that the baby had been premature and had special needs, but deep inside Leo already knew what the problem had been.

Giulia hadn’t wanted his child; she had wanted her ex’s.

He had been a very poor substitute husband for her, but he was determined to be the best possible father he could be to his little daughter.