The Italian Billionaire's New Year Bride(9)

By: Scarlet Wilson

“So am I. And you spent all the time in the car on the phone.” There was something about this guy. He was obviously far too wealthy for words. He was clearly a workaholic. But there was just something in his eyes. He liked someone to challenge him. He was amused by her. And somehow she already knew she wanted to earn his respect. If that meant demanding his attention, then she could do that.

He glanced at his phone, but didn’t continue with that conversation. The edges of his lips curved again. “You asked me to pinch you. I only did what you asked.” There was a cheeky hint in his tone.

“When do I get to meet your sister? I can already tell that I’ll be bruised from that pinch and I want to compare notes with her.”

He paused and disconnected the call. “The very last person I’m introducing you to is my sister. Brianna is even crazier than you are. You’d be a lethal combination.”

Phoebe folded her arms across her chest. “Brianna. I like the sound of her.” She nodded her head. “You don’t need to worry. I’ll meet her. And I promise to be on my best behavior.” She held up her hands. “Now, the house. I have so many ideas. So many plans. Let’s walk through and I’ll talk you through them. I can draw up something more formal in a few days. I’ll need to check if any of the people I regularly use are free to help out.” She raised her eyebrows. “For some people, this is the holiday season.”

Matteo frowned and shook his head. “No, no. I’ll leave all that to you. I don’t need to see plans. I don’t need to know your thoughts. I can give you contacts for teams to assist.”

Phoebe stood back a little and looked at him incredulously. “You are joking, right?”

He gave her a stern stare. “Why would I be joking?”

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Mr. Bianchi, usually clients want consulted on the plans, the overall look for their home. Often they want consulted on any major purchases.” She couldn’t help but frown. “People are generally passionate about how their homes are marketed—what they look like. They usually want to be involved to ensure they get the best price possible.”

Matteo gave an ironic smile. “I take it you’re used to clients who generally care about their homes—and the price they achieve. I care about neither. I just want this place off my hands.” As he finished his phone started ringing again and he strode out of the room, pressing it to his ear, leaving Phoebe wondering whether to laugh or cry. It was clear the conversation was over.

* * *

He’d picked a crazy woman. At one point he’d thought Phoebe Gates would start cartwheeling around the place. She was barely managing to keep her excitement simmering beneath the surface. Her joy at having this job seemed to emanate from every pore in her body.

That actually made a tiny little part of him happy. There was something nice about her enthusiasm and straightforwardness. In his line of business he was used to fake smiles and poker faces; somehow he didn’t think Phoebe Gates would know how to do either one.

But Phoebe obviously had very different ideas from him. She’d thrown open shutters and flooded this dusty old house with light, her face brightening as she’d practically run from room to room. He was surprised that she loved the ancient furniture and fittings. He’d been sure any interior designer would just skip the contents of the house and redecorate the place from top to bottom. Phoebe had obviously decided to take a different tack.

He’d reached the kitchen by now and let out a long sigh. The sooner he got out of here, the better. He only had one association with this house. And it was one he had no intention of revisiting.

He stared around the kitchen for a few seconds as something flashed through his brain. A long-forgotten memory. His mother. Those memories were so fleeting. So scant.

Her dark hair and bright eyes. Dressed in a swirling red dress. She’d been excited. Just the way that Phoebe was. Full of ideas and plans for what she could do to the house. The house they’d just bought that was stuck in a time warp. It had been owned by an elderly actress who had died a few months earlier. His mother could hardly wait to bring it up to modern-day living.

He remembered his father leaning against the double sink and folding his arms, smiling and watching Matteo’s mother the way he’d always watched her—with love and adoration in his eyes.

When Matteo blinked, the memory was gone. He inhaled deeply and leaned back against the sink—just the way his father had. Was the memory even real? He would only have been around five when they stayed here for a few weeks. Brianna was only a few weeks old and Vittore around three.

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