The Italian Billionaire's New Year Bride(4)

By: Scarlet Wilson

She shrugged as he continued to frown. “I get cranky if I don’t have coffee in the morning.” She shook her head. “And believe me, you won’t like me when I’m cranky.”

A caramel aroma was drifting over toward him and he watched as she pulled out a raspberry-covered donut, taking a large bite. “Best donuts in New York. Nowhere else comes close.”

She nudged him. “Go on. Try yours.”

Phoebe Gates was nothing like he’d expected. The last time he’d dealt with an interior designer she’d been all business suits, stiletto heels and clipboards. Her assistant had hung on her every word, constantly taking notes. She’d been abrupt, professional and aloof.

He stared down at the Americano in his hand. Just the way he liked it. And in the paper bag? A regular sugar donut. He hated icing and sprinkles nearly as much as he hated filled donuts.

He frowned. “How did you know?” he asked.

She swallowed her donut and took a sip of her coffee. “How did I know what?”

He held up his Americano and paper bag. “This. How did you know this?”

He was suspicious. People didn’t generally surprise him. It wasn’t as if she could have done an Internet search to find out what kind of coffee and donut he preferred.

She shrugged again and smiled. “I just know these things.” She grinned and tapped her nose. “Interior design. It’s all based on observation skills.”

Matteo narrowed his gaze. Maybe he’d made a mistake this morning, but by the time he’d reached call number eight he was reaching the desperate stage. In amongst the family feuds of Christmas, the one thing that his overextended Italian family had agreed on was that it was time to get rid of some of the family property. Matteo had agreed to take charge and he intended to get this over with as quickly as possible. He’d thought with the price tag he was offering any interior designer would snap his hand off for the job. Turned out he was wrong. Four of the designers he’d called were on holiday with only an answer-phone message saying calls wouldn’t be returning until the new year. Two had answered but refused due to family commitments. One was currently working in Washington. By the time he’d reached Phoebe he just wanted someone to say yes. But then she’d surprised him.

Matteo was used to doing business. He paid a price and a job got done. End of story. So he’d been a little surprised that Phoebe had insisted on seeing the property instead of just agreeing to the job straight away. This was time he really didn’t have to spare.

And it wasn’t that she seemed unprofessional—that was too harsh. It was just, she seemed so...relaxed.

He’d be paying her a quarter of a million dollars. Was it wrong to expect a little more deference? His insides cringed at the thought. Was he being archaic—or sexist even? In this day and age, neither would be acceptable and both could earn him a slap around the back of the head from his very feisty sister.

She nudged him. “Eat up, or I’ll start to think my instincts are off. Now, we’ve got a bit of time. Give me some history about the house.”

Matteo finally took a sip of the coffee. Surprisingly good for a street vendor. He opened his mouth to speak just as his phone rang. He glanced at the caller. Vittore. His brother. Doubtless this would be another fight.

The interruption clarified things in his mind. He turned to Phoebe. “I’m not going to give you any background information on the house.” He tried not to look amused. “Let’s just see what your instincts tell you.” He settled back against the seat as he pressed the phone to his ear.


* * *

She’d spent the last hour staring out the window at the passing view, desperately wanting to talk. But Mr. Bianchi appeared to conduct most of his business on his phone. Something she’d find depressing on a good day.

Right now, she could be in the middle of Macy’s searching for the best bargains.

Maybe the purple coat her mother had admired would be half-price. She could have bought that as a “getting better” present. She’d like to get her mom something to put a smile back on her face. It certainly would be better than spending an hour in forced silence.

The city view had changed rapidly to an even more snow-covered landscape. There was a reason the Hamptons was famous. The popular seaside resort was a historical summer colony on the south fork of Long Island. It featured some of the most luxurious and expensive real estate in all of New York and was regularly featured on TV shows and films.

Phoebe had visited here as a child and a teenager. She’d even spent a semester at the university campus out here and seen exactly how the other half could live. It was almost as if the whole atmosphere changed the further away from the city you got.

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