Billionaire businessman Daniel De Angelis's plan was simple: a few undercover days at sea to uncover the weaknesses of the ship he plans to acquire. Instead he discovers a vulnerability of his owngorgeous art teacher Delilah Shaw!
The terms of their liaison were clear: two weeks of complete sensual surrender that ends the moment the cruise ship docks. But stepping back onto dry land brings Delilah back to earth in more ways than one. Now she's facing two very shocking truths: Daniel lied about his identity while tempting her and now she's pregnant with his baby!
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Could the day get any better?
Daniel De Angelis stepped out from the air-conditioned comfort of his black chauffeur-driven Mercedes and removed his dark sunglasses to scan the scenery around him.
Franklyperfect. Brilliant sunshine glinted on the calm turquoise water of the Aegean Sea. He'd never made it to Santorini before, and he took a few minutes to appreciate the scenic view of the bowl-shaped harbour from where he stood, looking down on it from a distance. He could even make out the vessel he had come to snap up at a bargain price.
It looked as picture-perfect as everything around it, but that, of course, was an illusion. It was semi-bankrupt, on its last legsa medium-sized cruise ship which he would add to his already vast portfolio of conquests.
He knew down to the last detail how much money it had lost in the past five years, how much it owed the bank, how much its employees were paid, how discounted their fares were now they were desperate to get customers He practically knew what the owners had for their breakfast and where they did their food shopping.
As with all deals, big or small, it always paid to do his homework. His brother, Theo, might have laughingly referred to this extravagant purchase as nothing more than a toysomething different to occupy him for a few monthsbut it was going to be a relatively expensive toy, and he intended to use every trick in the book to make sure he got the best possible deal.
Thinking about his brother brought a grin to his face. Who'd have thought it? Who would have thought that Theo De Angelis would one day be singing the praises of the institution of marriage and waxing lyrical about the joys of love? If he hadn't heard it with his own ears when he had spoken to his brother earlier in the week then he wouldn't have believed it.
He looked around him with the shrewd eyes of a man who knew how to make money and wondered what he could do here. Exquisite scenery. Exquisite island, if you could somehow get rid of the hordes of annoying tourists milling around everywhere. Maybe in the future he would think about exploiting this little slice of paradise, but for the moment there was an interesting acquisition at hand, and one which would have the benefit of his very personal inputwhich was something of a rarity. He was relishing this break from the norm.
Then there was his successful ditching of the last woman he had been dating, who had become a little too clingy for comfort.
And, last but not least on the feel-good spectrum, a sexy little blonde thing would be waiting for him when his time was up on that floating liner so far from paradise
All in all this was going to be something of a holiday and, bearing in mind the fact that he hadn't had one of those in the longest while, Daniel was in high spirits.
'Sir? Maybe we should head down so that you can board the ship? It's due to leave soon '
'Shame I've only been here for a few hours.' Daniel turned to his driver, whom he had brought with him from the other side of the world on an all-expenses-paid, fun in the sun holiday, with only a spot of driving to do here and there. 'I feel Santorini could be just the place for me Nice exclusive hotel somewhere Kick back and relax.'
'I didn't think you knew how to do that, sir.'
Daniel laughed. Along with his brother and his father, Antonio Delgado was one of only a few people in whom he had absolute trust, and in fairness his driver probably knew more about his private life than both his brother and his father, considering he drove him to his numerous assignations with numerous women and had been doing so for the past decade.
'You're right.' He briskly pulled open the car door and slid inside, appreciating the immediate drop in temperature. 'Nice thought, though '
In truth, kicking back by the side of a pool with a margarita in one hand and a book in the other wasn't his thing.
He kicked back in the gym occasionally, on the slopes occasionally and far more frequently in bedand his women all ran to type. Small, blonde, sexy and very, very obliging.
Granted, none of them stayed the course for very long, but he saw that as just an occupational hazard for a man whose primary focuslike his brother'shad always been on work. He thrived on the pressure of a high-octane, fast-paced work-life filled with risk.
He had benefited from the privileges of a wealthy background, but at the age of eighteen, just as he had done with Theo, his father, Stefano De Angelis, had told him that his fortune was his to build or not to build as the case might be. Family money would kick-start his career up to a certain point, but that would be it. He would fly or fall.
And, like Theo, he had flown.
Literally. To the other side of the world, where he had taken the leisure industry by storm, starting small and getting bigger and bigger so that now, at not yet thirty, he owned hotels, casinos and restaurants across Australia and the Far East.
He had acquired so much money that he could spend the remainder of his life taking time outnext to that pool with a book in one hand and a margarita in the otherand still live in the sort of style that most people could only ever dream of. But work was his passion and he liked it that way.
And this particular acquisition was going to be novel and interesting.
'Don't forget,' he reminded Antonio, 'you're to drop me off fifteen minutes away from the port.'
'It's boiling out there, sir. Are you sure you wouldn't rather enjoy the air-conditioning in the car for as long as possible?'
'A little discomfort won't kill me, Antonio, but I'm deeply touched by your concern.' He caught his driver's eye in the rearview mirror and grinned. 'No, it's essential that I hit the cruise ship like any other passenger. Arriving in the back seat of a chauffeur-driven Merc isn't part of the plan.'
The plan was to check out the small cruise liner incognito. The thing hadn't made a buck in years, and he wanted to see for himself exactly where the myriad problems lay. Mismanagement, he was thinking. Lazy staff, incompetence on every level.
He would spend a few days checking out the situation and making a note of who he would sack and who he would consider taking on as part of his team when the liner was up and running in its new format.
Judging from the list of airy-fairy scheduled activities, he was thinking that the entire lot would be destined for unemployment.
Five days. That was the time scale he had in mind, at the end of which he would stage his takeover. He didn't anticipate any problems, and he had big plans for the liner. Forget about woolly lectures and cultural visits while on board substandard food was served to passengers who frankly wouldn't expect much more, considering the pittance they were paying for their trips.
He intended to turn the liner into one of unparalleled luxury, for a wealthy elite whose every whim would be indulged as they were ferried from golf course to golf course in some of the most desirable locations in the world. He would decide on the destinations once the purchase was signed, sealed and delivered.
As with every other deal he had successfully completed, Daniel had utter confidence that he would succeed with this one and that the ship would prove to be a valuable asset. He had never failed and he had no reason to assume that this would prove the exception.
At the port, with the shiny black Merc behind him and a battered backpack bought especially for the purpose slung over his shoulder, he cast a jaundiced eye over the motley crew heading onto the liner.
Already he could see that the thing was in a deplorable state. How could Gerry Ockley, who had inherited this potential goldmine from his extremely wealthy father, have managed so thoroughly to turn it into something that no self-respecting pirate would have even considered jumping aboard to plunder? How the hell could he ever have imagined that some wacky cultural cruise would actually turn a profit?
True, it had taken over eight years to run it into the ground, but he would have thought that someonebank manager good friend concerned acquaintance wife would have pointed him in the right direction at some point.
The liner was equipped to hold two hundred and fifty passengers comfortably, in addition to all the crew needed. Daniel figured that at present it was half fullif that.
He would be joining it halfway through its trip and, ticket at the ready, he joined the chattering groups of people, mostly in their mid-fifties and early sixties, who were gathering in preparation for boarding.
Did he blend in? No. When it came to anyone under the age of thirty-five, as far as he could tell he was in the minority. And at six foot two he was taller than nearly everyone else there.
But he was in no doubt that he would be able to fend off any curious questions, and he was tickled pink that he would be travelling incognito for the next few days. Was that really necessary? Possibly not. He could always have stayed where he was, in his plush offices in Australia, and formulated a hostile takeover. But this, he thought, would afford him the opportunity of removing at least some of the hostility from his takeover.
He would be able to tell Ockley and his wife exactly why he was taking over and exactly why they couldn't refuse him. He would be able to point out all the significant shortcomings of their business and he would be able to do that from the advantageous perspective of someone who had been on board their liner. He was being kind, and in the process would enjoy the experience. The fact that the experience would be reflected in his offer would be a nice bonus.
He could feel inquisitive eyes on him as the crowd of people narrowed into something resembling an orderly queue. With the ease born of habit he ignored them all.
His appearance matched his battered backpack. He was just a broke traveller on a cut-price cultural tour of the Greek islands and possibly Italy. His hair, a few shades lighter than his brother's, was slightly longer than he normally wore it, curling at the nape of his neck, and as he hadn't shaved that morning his face was shadowed with bristle. His eyes, however, the same unusual shade of green as his brother's, were shrewd as they skimmed the crowds. He had tucked his sunglasses into his pocket.
The sun was ferocious. He could feel himself perspiring freely under the faded polo shirt and realised he shouldn't have worn jeans. Fortunately, he had a few pairs of khaki shorts in the backpack, along with an assortment of tee shirts, and those should do the trick in the blistering sun once he was on board the liner.
He switched off the thought, his mind already moving to work, planning how he would coordinate the work to be done on the liner and the time when it would be ready to set sail in its new, improved condition. He would charge outrageous prices for anyone lucky enough to secure a ticket, and he had no doubt that people would be queuing to pay.
He hadn't felt this relaxed in ages.
Delilah Scott eyed her mobile, which was buzzing furiously at her, and debated whether she should pick it up or not.
Her sister's name was flashing on the screen, demanding urgent attention.
With a little sigh of resignation she answered, and was greeted with a flurry of anxious questions.
'Where on earth have you been? I've been trying to get through to you for the past two days! You know how I worry, Delly! It's mad here, with the shop I can't believe you've decided, just like that, to extend your holiday! You know I'm depending on you getting back here to help I can't do it on my own '
Delilah felt her stomach churn into instant nervous knots.
'II know, Sarah,' she stammered, gazing through the tiny porthole of her very small cabin, which was just big enough for a single bed, the very barest of furniture, and an absolutely minuscule en-suite shower room. 'But I thought the added experience would come in handy for when I get back to the Cotswolds It's not like I'm on holiday ' she tacked on guiltily.
'You are on holiday, Delly!' her sister said accusingly. 'When you said that you'd be doing some teaching for a fortnight, I never expected you to send me an email telling me that you'd decided to extend the fortnight into six weeks! I know you really needed to get away, Delly what with that business with Michael but still It's manic here.'
Delilah felt the worry pouring down the phone line and experienced another wave of guilt.
Back home, Sarah was waiting for her. Building work which was costing an absolute arm and a leg was set to begin in two weeks' time, and she knew that her sister had been waiting for her to get back so that they could weather it together.
But was it too much to take a bit of time off before the dreadful drudgery of normal life returned? She had just completed her art degree, and every single free moment during those three years she had been in that tiny cottage with her sister, worrying about how they were going to survive and counting the takings from the gallery downstairs in the certain knowledge that sooner or later Dave Evans from the bank was going to lose patience and foreclose.
And then there had been Michael.
She hated thinking about himhated the way just remembering how she had fallen for him, how he had messed her around, made her feel sick and foolish at the same time.
She definitely didn't want to hear Sarah rehashing that horrible catastrophe. Delilah loved her sister, but ever since she could remember Sarah had mothered her, had made decisions for her, had worried on her behalf about anything and everything. The business with Michael had just fed into all that concern. Yes, it was always great to have the comfort of someone's love and empathy when you'd just had your heart broken, but it could also be claustrophobic.
Sarah cared so much always had.
Their parents, Neptune and Moon, both gloriously irresponsible hippies who had been utterly and completely wrapped up in one another, had had little time to spare for their offspring. Both artists, they had scratched a living selling some of their art, and later on a random assortment of crystals and gems after their mother had become interested in alternative healing.
They had converted their cottage into a little gallery and had just about managed to survive because it was slap-bang in the middle of tourist territory. They had always benefited from that. But when they had diedwithin months of one another, five years previouslysales of local art had already begun to take a nosedive and things had not improved since.
Sarah, five years older than Delilah, had been doing the best she could, making ends meet by doing the books for various people in the small village where they lived, but it had always been understood that once Delilah had completed her art degree she would return and help out.
As things stood, they had taken out a substantial loan to fund renovations to the gallery, in order to create a new space at the back where Delilah would teach art to anyone local who was interested and, more importantly, other people, keen on learning to draw and paint, who would perhaps attend week-long courses, combining sightseeing in the picturesque Cotswolds with painting indoors and outdoors.
It was all a brilliant if last-ditch idea, and whilst Delilah had been totally in favour of it she had suddenly, when offered the opportunity to extend her stay on board the Rambling Rose, been desperate to escape.
A little more time to escape the finality of returning to the Cotswolds and to breathe a little after her breakup from Michael.
Just a little more time to feel normal and relaxed.
'It'll be brilliant experience for when I get back,' she offered weakly. 'And I've transferred most of my earnings to the account. I'll admit I'm not on a fabulous amount, but I'm making loads of good contacts here. Some of the people are really interested in the courses we'll be offering.'
'Honestly, Sarah. In fact, several have promised that they'll be emailing you for details about prices and stuff in the next week or so.'
'Adrian's just about finished doing the website. That's more money we're having to expend.'
Delilah listened and wondered whether these few weeks on the liner were to be her only window of freedom from worrying. Sarah would not countenance selling the cottage and Delilah, in fairness, would have hated to leave her family home. But staying required so many sacrifices that she felt as though her youth would be eaten up in the process. She was only twenty-one now, but she could see herself saying goodbye to her twenties in the neverending task of just making ends meet.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Alittle boring and the plot doesnt flow good.