The Italian Billionaire's New Year Bride(10)

By: Scarlet Wilson

But everything changed. The house was boarded up and they moved with their father back to Rome, flitting between the capital and an apartment in New York City, then London for a while. The house in the Hamptons was never mentioned. Ignored.

Too many painful memories. It was only now, thirty years later, the family had decided it was time to sell.

Phoebe floated into the kitchen. Literally, floated. Her smile spread from ear to ear, showing off her straight white teeth and enhancing her glowing coffee-colored skin. Her hair bounced as she walked, tight corkscrew curls resting on her shoulders. There was something about her. An aura. She made him want to smile. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d felt like that. For a few seconds she’d even made him forget where he actually was. But the truth was, he just couldn’t shake the sense of this place. The dark memories. The secrets he’d learned to keep. The ones that kept him locked away.

Phoebe moved in front of him. She’d shed more layers. Now he could see the way her green fine-knit jumper and fitted black trousers clung to her curves. Many of the women Matteo came across in New York were skeletally thin. It was a look he’d never appreciated. Italian men much preferred women with curves—and Phoebe wore them well.

Her perfume drifted up around him as she fixed her chocolate-brown eyes on him. She paused for a second, with an amused expression on her face. It was clear she was contemplating how to phrase her words.

“Ms. Gates?” he prompted.

She gave a nod. “How about we settle on Phoebe and Matteo? I think that might make things a bit easier. After all, we will be seeing a lot of each other.”

There was a sparkle in her eyes.

He slid his hand into his pocket and pulled out a credit card. “I’m not sure that will be necessary. But I’m happy to call you Phoebe if that’s what you prefer.”

She took the credit card without a glance, merely sliding it into the back pocket of her trousers.

“We need to talk about this place, Matteo. We need to discuss my plans.” It was clear that persistence was one of her traits.

He was curt. “No. We don’t.”

He turned on his heel and walked out of the kitchen, heading in the direction of the front door. In the space of few seconds it almost felt as if the walls were closing in around him.

The cool air almost bit into his skin as he stepped outside and he blinked at the brightness. He hadn’t realized quite how blinkered the house had been.

His phone started ringing. He pulled it from his pocket—Brianna. He might have guessed. They were closer than some families. He spoke to both his brother and sister a few times a day. A few female companions in the past had commented on it—finding it strange. But Matteo had never cared for other people’s opinions on his family. They hadn’t lived his life, they didn’t know that he and his siblings were the glue that held their splintered family together.

“Did you get one?” Brianna was speaking rapidly in Italian. She was probably doing ten things at once.

“I did.”

“And? Are they good?”

Was Phoebe Gates good? He didn’t really know. He’d called her both on a whim and out of desperation. Captain Monaghan had been one of the most interesting men Matteo had ever had the pleasure of meeting. But his apartment had been a cluttered, claustrophobic mess. Rudy Monaghan was clearly a hoarder. He’d sailed the seven seas and collected just about everything he’d ever seen.

Matteo had never met Phoebe, but Rudy had been full of praise for the beautiful, enthusiastic and, most importantly, respectful interior designer that he’d hired. The crew she’d hired to assist her had been given very clear instructions. Carefully pack up everything without a yellow sticker. Walls had been painted, windows shined, pictures moved and rehung. She’d stripped the place bare but kept its heart and essence.

No, she’d kept Rudy Monaghan’s heart and essence.

Matteo had dropped in one evening just before he knew Rudy was due to move out and been struck by the enormity of the changes. Rudy had been sitting in his wooden rocking chair, his genuine ancient ship’s wheel still next to him, bathed in the orange setting sun, watching the view of Central Park. That sight would stay with Matteo forever.

He took a deep breath. Now he remembered the transformation he almost wished he’d called Phoebe first. He couldn’t help but smile. He could just imagine how she’d have been if he’d called her at seven instead of eight. “They’re not good, Brianna,” he said deliberately.

“What?” she shrieked from somewhere in New York.

“They’re great. She’s great.”

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