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By Helen Bianchin Lucy Gordon Rebecca Winters
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCHANTELLE transferred the last bag of groceries into the boot and closed it, then she returned the shopping trolley to a nearby bay. Minutes later she eased her mother's Lexus out from the car park and joined the flow of traffic heading north.
Handling left-hand drive after a four-year absence didn't pose any problems at all, and she slid her sunglasses down to shade her eyes from the glare of the midsummer sun as she headed towards Sovereign Islands, a top-end luxury residential estate on Queensland's Gold Coast, comprising numerous waterways where boats and cruisers lay moored adjacent waterfront homes.
It was an idyllic setting, and she approved of her parents' move from their frenetic Sydney lifestyle. Mother and stepfather, she mentally corrected, although Jean-Paul had taken on the role of father when she'd been nine years old. Too long ago for her to regard him as anything other than a much-loved parent.
The past few years had wrought several changes, she reflected musingly.
Who would have thought at twenty-four she'd have thrown up a position as pharmacist in an exclusive Sydney pharmacy, a modern apartment, family, friends ... for a small villa owned by her parents in northern France?
Yet four years ago it hadseemed the perfect place to escape to following an end to a brief, passionate affair.
A month after her arrival, she'd discovered she was pregnant. So she'd stayed, gaining work in the local pharmacie, and had the baby, a beautiful dark-haired, dark-eyed boy she'd named Samuel. It had become a matter of pride to be self-supportive, and her parents visited twice a year.
Now, after a four-year absence, she'd brought Samuel to Australia for him to sample his first southern-hemispheric Christmas.
"No snow," she'd explained when the jet touched down in Brisbane two days ago, and rejoiced in her son's wonderment at the switch in climates as he embraced his grandparents.
How simplistic life was to a child, Chantelle mused as she traversed the first of three bridges leading to Anouk and Jean-Paul Patric's home on one of seven islands linked to form the suburban Sovereign Islands estate.
Children responded to love and affection, and her son was no exception. Bilingual, he was equally conversant in French and English. Tall for his tender years, thick dark hair, beautiful dark eyes, with a melting smile, he was his father in miniature.
Chantelle shook off the whisper of ice slithering down her spine at the thought of the man who'd fathered her child.
Dimitri Cristopoulis. Undeniably Greek, American educated, tall, dark and attractive, an entrepreneur in his mid-thirties who dealt in the buying and selling of hotels and apartment buildings in several major cities worldwide.
Even now, his image was as vivid as it had been four years ago. Broad sculpted facial features, olive textured skin, dark gleaming eyes, and a mouth to die for.
Sexy, sensual and incredibly lethal, she'd mentally accorded when she'd first caught his gaze in a Sydney city restaurant.
She hadn't been wrong. He was all three, and more ... much more. She, who was incredibly selective in sharing her body, had gifted hers willingly after one night.
For one month they'd enjoyed life and each other with a passion that captured her heart. Only to have it torn apart with the arrival of an actress claiming to be his fiancée.
Confrontation involved accusations and argument, and Chantelle had walked away ... out of his life, her own, invoking her parents' promise not to divulge information as to her whereabouts. In a bid for a new life, a new identity, she had reverted to her legal birth-name of Chantelle Leone.
Now Chantelle turned into the boulevard housing the elegant home her parents had retired to last year from their mansion in Sydney, used the remote modem to open the gates, and garaged the car.
Jean-Paul appeared as she opened the boot, and together they caught up the grocery bags and took them indoors.
Chantelle deposited the bags on the kitchen table and opened her arms wide to scoop up her son.
"Hello, mon ange. Have you been good for Grandmére?"
"Excellent," Samuel assured as he wrapped his arms around her neck. "Tonight we're having a party." He pressed kisses to her cheek. "Grandme're says I am an important guest."
"Very important," she confirmed, hugging him close. He was the most precious person in her life, and she never failed to ensure he knew just how much he was loved. "After lunch you must have a long nap, hmm? So you will be at your best, and everyone will think you totally adorable."
Chantelle chuckled and buried her lips into the curve of his sweet neck. He was developing a delightful sense of humour, and his smile ... it bore the promise of having the same devastating effect as the man who'd fathered him.
Which tore at her heartstrings more than she cared to admit. Already, the likeness between child and father was fast becoming apparent. Too apparent, she perceived, making it difficult to dismiss Dimitri Cristopoulis from her mind.
A silent derisive laugh rose and died in her throat. As if that was going to happen any time soon. His image was just as powerful now as it had been four years ago.
Excerpted from Coming Home by Helen Bianchin Lucy Gordon Rebecca Winters Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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