Bedded for Passion, Purchased for Pregnancy

By: Carol Marinelli

CHAPTER ONE




‘GUESS who’s coming tonight!’

Emma smiled at the excitement in her mother’s voice as Lydia Hayes replaced the phone receiver.

‘Half of Melbourne are coming!’

The party was all her mother had spoken about for the past few weeks, Emma’s father’s sixtieth birthday, and the intimate dinner they had initially planned had swelled to marquee proportions! Every inch of their sweeping bay view home had been commandeered to maximum effect, with the marquee open to reveal Port Phillip Bay in all its glory, and even the weather had obliged, with a clear sky allowing for city views. The dance floor had been laid, the band was setting up, caterers were milling, and Lydia was rattling with nerves as the hour approached. But the telephone call had, momentarily at least, halted her nerves.

‘We’ve got an unexpected guest!’ Lydia clasped her hands in delight. ‘Go on, Emma, guess who.’

‘Mum…’ Emma wailed, wrapped in a towel and painting her toenails. Having spent the day helping her mother prepare, she was already racing against the clock to be ready.

‘Just tell me.’

‘Zarios!’

A smudge of red nail varnish streaked across Lydia’s little toe. Pulling out a cotton bud, she dabbed at the area, refusing to let on that it mattered a jot that Zarios was coming tonight.

Oh, but it did.

Zarios—the single word that sent a tingle up every woman’s spine. A man who didn’t need to use his high-profile surname to be instantly recognisable.

His scowling but effortlessly beautiful face often appeared in the gossip columns. His reputation with women was appalling—so much so that it was a wonder, after so many blistering articles written on the man, that any woman might even consider getting involved with him.

Oh, but they did—over and over they did. And without fail it always ended in tears—or, to be more exact, the woman’s tears.

‘Why?’ Curiosity got the better of Emma, and, screwing back the top on her nail varnish, she just couldn’t stop herself asking.

Their fathers might be best friends, but why would Zarios D’Amilo even entertain the thought of coming to her father’s celebration? Shouldn’t he be sleeping with some supermodel on a Saturday night? Or crossing the equator on the way to some exclusive star-studded function? Certainly not on his way to celebrate Eric Hayes’s sixtieth birthday.

Rocco D’Amilo had arrived in Australia nearly half a century ago, at eleven years of age. The son of Italian immigrants, he had been teased and goaded in his first hellish days at school. Unable to speak English, his lunchbox full of smelly meat, he had been an easy target, until Eric Hayes, who had suffered his own share of teasing in his time, had blackened the eye of the ringleader. The unlikely pair had been firm friends ever since.

Rocco had started out his working life as a builder, Eric as a real estate agent, and they had remained in touch even when Rocco had taken his young bride and new baby son back to Italy. They had been best man at each other’s weddings, godparents at christenings, and their friendship had been the support Rocco needed when his young wife had walked out on her husband and four-year-old child.

Eric had done well for himself over the years and a few wise property investments meant his family lived comfortably. He had followed the ‘worst house, best street’ rule, and had bought a rundown home on a rundown acre in an exclusive beachside suburb, refurbishing it slowly until it gleamed with the same majesty as its view. Rocco, too, had achieved success, both here and in Rome, yet it was his son Zarios who had turned the family business into the empire it was today. His father’s strong work ethic, combined with a private school education and a brilliant brain, had proved a dizzying recipe for success.

Zarios had emerged from university with big plans, which he had rapidly implemented, turning the modest but successful building company into a global property and finance company. D’Amilo Financiers had multiple branches throughout Europe and Australia and was stretching its golden fingers ever further across the globe. Now, with Rocco’s retirement imminent, Zarios was expected to officially take the helm.