The Italian Billionaire's New Year Bride(6)

By: Scarlet Wilson

If she closed her eyes for a second she could imagine how beautiful this house could be at Christmas. Lights. Trees. Decorations. Instead, it was all closed up like an unwanted present.

Phoebe tilted her head to the side. “Do you only use the house in the summer?”

Matteo shook his head. “We’ve never really used this house.”

“What?” Phoebe spun around and looked at him. “What do you mean, you’ve never used this house?”

Matteo shook his head and stuck his hands in his pockets. “It’s been in the family for a while. But...we’ve never really stayed here.” There was something odd about the way he said that.

Phoebe couldn’t help but shake her head. She couldn’t get past the fact that this beautiful house was sitting empty—and had done for years.

“Who takes care of it?”

Matteo gave the briefest shake of his head. “I have a caretaker. They come in a few times a year to clean up and maintain the place. Over the years, the electrics, heating and plumbing have all been kept up-to-date but...” he paused for a second “...I imagine there will be lots of areas in the house that need updating.”

Phoebe wrinkled her nose for a second as she stared up at the three-story building with its shuttered windows. “It looks around a hundred years old. Please tell me it’s been updated since then.”

Matteo gave a nod. “Of course it has. Just not recently.”

He pulled a large key from his pocket, along with his phone. As they approached the thick double entrance door he lifted his phone to a panel at the door side. There was a short beep before he turned the key. “Alarm,” he said simply before pushing the door open.

Phoebe smiled as she watched him pull the key from the lock. “You put in a digital alarm but didn’t put in digital locks?”

He shrugged. There was something so juvenile about it. Like a naughty teenager. “Who says I didn’t? I might just be trying to fool you.”

It was the first time she’d seen a spark of something. A glimpse of something other than the very busy businessman. A hint of what might lie beneath the surface.

Matteo stood back and she stepped inside the wide entranceway and sucked in a breath.

The air was still all around her. Silent.

But there was something else. Something almost magical.

She held out her hands and spun around. Light flooded in from the open door, allowing her to see the huge curved staircase with intricate iron railing that spiraled up through three floors of the house. Every step she took on the tiled floor echoed upward to the yellowed glass dome at the top of the house. By the time she stopped spinning and brought her gaze back down to the current floor she finally got a feel for the place. The entranceway was huge.

Matteo was looking at her curiously. There was something odd. He looked uncomfortable. She gave a little stagger and laughed as she put out her hand, grasping onto his sleeve to try and stop her head spinning. Now she could see all the rooms off the entranceway. Most of them had glass-paneled doors, hinting at what lay beyond. Her heart gave a little flutter.

She’d dreamed of getting the chance to do a house in the Hamptons. It had always been an ambition that she’d hoped to achieve. She just thought it was still at least a few years away. Her fingers were itching to touch this house. To run through every room. To suck in the atmosphere. Trying to appear cool, calm and collected was rapidly slipping from her grasp. Even though Matteo Bianchi was staring her down with that disapproving glare.

She looked to the side again. The room directly to her right was practically calling out to her. “May I?” She gestured with her head.

Matteo stopped glaring and glanced toward the room. A furrow lined his brow. “Actually, I want you to let me know what your instincts tell you.”

It was the way he said it. The tone. And the way the glare in his eyes had been replaced by a kind of mischievous twinkle. He was testing her. Or teasing her.

She tilted her chin upward. Matteo Bianchi had no idea who he was dealing with. She met his green gaze straight on. “You know you’re being unfair—but that’s fine.” She held up her hands. “I’ve already told you I think the house is around a hundred years old.” She wrinkled her nose. “About twenty thousand square meters? Maybe around eight or nine bedrooms? Probably four or five bathrooms or half baths. I expect two or three formal rooms. I expect a dining room, a large kitchen, laundry, study and a basement and wine cellar.” She put her hand on her chest. “And I’m hoping there are exceptional views over Mecox Bay from the rear of the property. Am I getting close? Can I actually get in to see the main sitting room?”

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