The Italian Billionaire's New Year Bride(2)

By: Scarlet Wilson

“Well, if you’re not a creepy caller you’re one of those scam artists. Don’t tell me—you just need the details of my checking account and you’ll get the money right to me.”

She pushed herself up in the bed, wincing at the bright white light everywhere. Snow just seemed to reflect snow. “Do you know what day it is?” She turned to her clock, “And what time it is?” She ran her fingers through her thick tangled curls. Thank goodness there was no mirror around. She was definitely the “before” of some kind of wonder conditioner commercial. “It’s Boxing Day. It’s 8:00 a.m. Haven’t you heard of the word Christmas?”

There was a loud impatient sigh at the other end of the phone. “Ms. Gates, are you available in the next few weeks or not?”

She was definitely waking up now. Arrogant. He’d invaded the best dream in the world, ruined her lazy morning and he thought he could be snarky?

“That depends entirely who I’m talking to and what you’re talking about. You haven’t seemed to introduce yourself. In my world, we call those bad manners.”

Silence at the end of the phone. Good. Maybe Hugh Jackman was still waiting for her.

“Apologies, Ms. Gates. You’re right. My grandmother is currently spinning in her grave and slapping the back of my head.”

This time there was almost an edge of humor in his voice.

“Matteo Bianchi. I have a house—two houses in fact—that I need some work done on. I need them dressed and ready to sell in a few weeks.”

Work. This really was work. But she couldn’t help herself. “And you had to phone me at 8:00 a.m. on Boxing Day morning?”

“Christmas Day is over. I don’t like to waste time. Are you available, or not?”

He was getting snarky again. Phoebe shifted position in her bed and looked out at the falling snow. She’d planned on going to the sales. But braving the snow, as well as the chaos of the crowded shops, was slipping further down her list of priorities.

“Where are the houses?” she asked.

“The first is in the Hamptons,” he said quickly. “Southampton, to be exact.”

She felt her heart rate quicken. The Hamptons. Million-dollar houses with million-dollar budgets. The two things she’d always dreamed of. Particularly as her mother’s medical costs mounted.

She tried to stop her voice squeaking. “And the second?” How much had he offered to pay?

“Rome.” Her heart plummeted. Rome. An airplane ride away. Probably more than one airplane. Her skin prickled instantly and it wasn’t the cold.

“Oh.” It was the best response she could do.

“I’d need you to start straight away. I’ll make sure you have a company credit card to pay for any work or items that you need.”

She hadn’t found her voice yet. Her heart was clamouring against her chest wall. Rome. How could she go to Rome?

“Ms. Gates? Are you still there?”

“Yes. The Hamptons is fine. I can look at the house whenever suits. As for the house in Rome—that might be more of an issue.”

“Why do you need to see the house?” It didn’t matter she hadn’t met Mr. Bianchi yet, she could almost picture him frowning.

“I always look over any house before I agree to dress it for sale.” He didn’t mention the Rome comment.

There was another sigh.

Her curiosity was sparked. She’d never heard of Matteo Bianchi and, with an accent like that, if she’d met him before, she could guarantee she’d remember.

“Fine. I’ll pick you up in an hour.”

“What?” She sat bolt upright in the bed.

“You want to see the house? I’ll pick you up in an hour and you can see the house.”

She was stunned. One minute she was in the middle of a blissful dream—next she was working on Boxing Day.

Something pricked in her brain. “Mr. Bianchi, where did you hear about me?”

“I saw the apartment you dressed near Central Park.” He paused for a second as her brain caught up. “I liked it.”

She couldn’t help but smile. “In Madison Court?” She’d loved that job. The apartment belonged to an old sea captain. Other interior designers had suggested ripping the apartment bare, painting all the walls white and tiling all the floors. She’d been the only designer to suggest embracing the whole essence of Captain Monaghan’s life. She’d scaled back some of the clutter and enhanced the whole seafaring lifestyle by focusing on a few key pieces. A ship’s wheel. A handcrafted lighthouse. A small-scale model of one of the ships he’d captained. The apartment had sold for well over the asking price—with a key request to keep the design aspects.

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