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The Italian Millionaire's Marriage
By Lucy Gordon
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"I do not need a husband, do you understand that? I do not need a husband. And I certainly don't want one." These last words were said with a mild shudder that shocked Harriet d'Estino's listener.
"Harriet, calm down," she begged.
"A husband? Good grief! I've lived twenty-seven years without troubling myself with a creature so bothersome and unnecessary -"
"Will you just listen?"
"- and when I find my own sister matchmaking for me - Stars above! You've got a nerve, Olympia."
"I wasn't matchmaking," Olympia said placatingly. "I just thought you might find Marco useful."
Harriet made a sound that would have been a snort if she hadn't been a lady.
"No man is ever useful," she said firmly. "The breed isn't made that way."
"All right, I won't argue."
They were half-sisters, one English, one Italian. Only their rich auburn hair linked them to their common parent, and each other. But in Olympia, the younger, the glorious tresses were teased into a glamorous creation. In Harriet, the same colour hung, straight and austere on either side of an earnest face.
Their clothes too revealed their opposing characters. Olympia was dressed in the height of Italian fashion. Harriet looked as though she'd put on whatever was comfortable and handy. Olympia's figure was slender and seductive. Harriet was certainly slender. It was hard to be sure about anything else.
Olympia looked around her at the exquisite shop in the heart of London's West End. It was filled with fine art and antiques, several of which caught her interest.
"He's splendid," she exclaimed, noticing a bronze bust of a young man.
"First-century Roman," Harriet said, glancing up.
"Emperor Caesar Augustus."
"Really dishy," Olympia purred, studying the face close up. "That fine nose, that aristocratic head on the long, muscular neck, and that mouth - all stern discipline masking incredible sensuality. I'll bet he was a tiger with the women."
"You spend too much time thinking about sex," Harriet said severely.
"And you don't spend enough time thinking about it. It's disgraceful."
Harriet shrugged. "There are more interesting things in life."
"Nonsense, of course there aren't," Olympia said with conviction. "I just wish you were as interested in living men as dead ones."
"Listen to you!" Harriet riposted. "You've just been mooning over a man who's been dead for two thousand years. Anyway, dead ones are better. They don't tell lies, get legless or chat up your friends. And you can talk to them without being interrupted."
"So cynical. Mind you, Marco's pretty cynical, too. Otherwise he'd have married long ago."
"Aha! He's a grey-beard!"
"Marco Calvani is thirty-five, loaded, and extremely good-looking," Olympia said emphatically.
"So why aren't you marrying him? You said he asked you first."
"Only because his mother's an old friend of Pappa's mother, and she's got this sentimental idea of uniting the two families."
"And he does what she tells him? He's a wimp!"
"Far from it," Olympia said with a little chuckle. "Marco is a man who likes his own way all the time. He's doing this for his own reasons."
"He's a nutter!"
"He's a banker who devotes his life to serious business. He reckons it's time to make a serious marriage and he isn't into courting."
"Not according to my friends. In fact, his reputation is of a ladykiller, with the emphasis on killer. You might say he 'loves 'em and leaves 'em' except that he doesn't love 'em. No emotional involvement just a quick fling and goodbye before things get too intense."
"You make him sound irresistible, you know that?"
"It's only fair to tell you the downs as well as the ups. Marco doesn't go for moonlight and roses, so you can see why he'd be doing this. It would be more of a merger than a marriage, and I thought that since you were serious, too -"
"I'd be happy to take on one of your rejects. Gosh, thanks Olympia."
"Will you stop being so prickly? I took all this trouble to warn you that he might turn up here next week -"
"And I'm grateful. I've been planning a vacation on the other side of the world. Next week will suit me just fine."
"Dio mio!" Olympia threw up her hands in sisterly exasperation. "It's impossible to help some people. You'll end up an old maid."
Harriet gave a cheeky grin that transformed her face delightfully.
"With any luck," she said.
Excerpted from The Italian Millionaire's Marriage by Lucy Gordon Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
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