Milly Devlin hiked up the borrowed designer gown—which had cost ten times her current monthly income—and raced down the steep stone steps in the moonlight…
She was running away again, this time from the stunning Capri palazzo—perched on the clifftop above, overlooking the azure sea—and the site of her latest disaster. Because having a public spat with her sister in front of an audience of stupidly rich, ludicrously beautiful people supping vintage booze and nibbling priceless caviar on the marble terrazzo had not been her finest hour. And certainly not her intention, when she’d agreed to accompany Lacey to the launch party for her husband Brandon Cade’s new Italian subsidiary.
Milly cursed as her heel snagged on one of the cobblestones but managed to grab the iron balustrade before she pitched headfirst into the Gulf of Naples. Which would have put the final bow on this evening’s entertainment.
She took a steadying breath, and kicked off the cursed shoes, which her sister had lent her too—because designer footwear was not in Milly’s wheelhouse any more than lavish social events.
Lacey hadn’t wanted her to feel out of place in the world where Lacey and her daughter, Ruby, now lived—courtesy of her billionaire husband, Brandon Cade, Ruby’s dad.
Mission so not accomplished.
Milly scooped up the shoes, and bit her bottom lip to stop it quivering.
She glanced back, at the exclusive party still in full swing above her, and recalled the whispers she’d overheard as she pushed through the crowd on the terrazzo looking for the nearest exit. If only she didn’t speak such good Italian.
‘Can’t imagine why Cade and his wife put up with her, the woman is an ungracious ungrateful brat.’
‘She’s a liability, and a complete nobody. I heard she’s been backpacking around Europe like a homeless person.’
She ignored the ripple of embarrassment. She didn’t care what any of those people thought of her. She had no desire to be part of their world. She’d only agreed to come to show Lacey she was perfectly okay. But as she rushed down the steps, her bare feet warmed by the stone, it was a lot harder to dismiss the anxious look on Lacey’s face when they’d argued twenty minutes ago…
‘Why can’t you come home to London, Milly? Ruby misses you. I miss you. Brandon’s worried about you and so am I.’
‘It’s not his job to be worried about me. Is that why you invited me here? To ambush me again? I’m happy in Genoa, Lacey.’
Except it wasn’t entirely true. Because Milly’s grand plan to make a living out of her art hadn’t exactly been a roaring success… Yet. The truth was, she never had time to draw, or develop any of her ideas, because she had been too busy working in a string of minimum wage jobs first in France, then in Italy, which barely kept her head above water.
But she could not bear to return to London a failure. She couldn’t let her sister and her new husband support her. It didn’t matter how wealthy Brandon Cade was, her life was her responsibility. Nor did she want to be a spectator in her sister’s blissfully happy, loved-up new marriage.
She swallowed, hating the trickle of envy. Her older sister had worked so hard for so long, becoming a single mum at only nineteen, and being a stand-in mum to Milly too. She deserved to find happiness with the billionaire media mogul who had got her pregnant.
If only Milly didn’t feel so hopelessly displaced. Milly and Lacey and Ruby had been a unit, once. A tight, close, strong, unbreakable family unit. Until Brandon Cade had discovered Ruby was his daughter… And had swooped into their ordinary, unassuming lives eighteen months ago and insisted on marrying Lacey and becoming Ruby’s daddy for real. And changed Milly’s family for ever.
She did not fit in their exclusive world. And the sooner Lacey and Brandon figured that out, the better off they would all be. As for her adorable niece Ruby…
Milly cursed as she reached the private dock below the palazzo.
Low blow, Lacey, low blow.
Milly spoke to her niece every weekend on a video link. But Rubes was busy these days spending quality time with her daddy, training her very naughty dog, Tinkerbell, and adjusting to her new baby brother, Arthur.
If you only knew how much I missed Ruby, Lacey. But she doesn’t need me any more, and neither do you.
She had to make a future for herself, which didn’t depend on the Cades. Why couldn’t her sister understand that? And butt out of her life?
And yeah, maybe Milly was making a great big hash of said life, but Lacey and Brandon’s overbearing concern was not helping.
The tremor of irritation fortified her as she paced along the dock where a parade of shiny oversized super-yachts and motor launches were crowded so closely together they obscured the shimmering, moonlit water.
It took her less than two minutes, though, to realise she’d screwed up again. The private dock was a dead end. She could not get to the ferry terminal to get a boat back to Sorrento from here without swimming past the rocky headland in her sister’s designer gown or scaling the cliff face.
Fabulous. Ms Screw-Ups-R-Us strikes again.
She swore. The sound bounced off the cliff walls and returned to her. Because it was going nowhere fast either.
Of course, the other option was to retrace her steps and exit through the palazzo in her sweat-stained dress, smudged make-up and what was left of the hairdo Lacey’s personal stylist had constructed at their hotel in Sorrento, which had started to list like the leaning tower of Pisa during her madcap escape.
No way. I’d rather swim a mile in designer couture than face those judgmental snobs again.
She strode to the end of the wooden platform built into the rock wall—to make sure there were no other viable exits from the Dock of Doom—and spotted a gleaming motor launch tethered at the far end.
Wasn’t that the boat she and Lacey had arrived on from Sorrento?
She scoured the deck—but it was empty and dark, there wasn’t even a light coming from the half-doors that led to the cabin.
The old fellow who had driven them here was probably getting his supper with the other staff up at the palazzo—ready to escort her and Lacey back to Sorrento when the event ended after midnight. She pulled out her phone to call him. Then swore. No service.
She shoved the phone back in her evening bag.
The Cade Launch Ball was due to go on for at least another two hours. The elegant event she would rather die than have to return to this century.
But… Why not just borrow the launch? She knew how to drive it, because she used the same make, if a much older model, to ferry tourists around the marina in Genoa, one of the two jobs she was currently juggling. Once she got back to the luxury hotel in Sorrento where she and her sister were staying, she could get one of the Cade staff to return the boat to Capri and pick up her sister later?
Fireworks exploded in the sky, the cheers of the crowd on the terrace above reminding Milly of all the reasons why she did not want to go back.
The sparkle of blue and green lights glittered over the bay.
She took a staggered breath and slung her heels on board. Tucking the hem of the gown into her panties, she leapt over the railing.
The boat swayed as she tiptoed towards the console. And grinned. Because there was the key, stuck in the ignition. That had to be a sign. Surely?
She rushed to untie the anchoring lines.
As soon as I have service, I’ll let them know I’ve borrowed it.
Getting back to Sorrento early would also mean she could be packed and changed and at the bus station before Lacey returned to the hotel. She did not need another tortuous conversation tonight about her independence, to go with all the others she’d had with Lacey over the past year.
She would send her sister a text as soon as she was on the bus, apologising and telling her not to worry before Lacey took the Cade jet back to London tomorrow morning.
Milly returned to the console and fired up the boat. The engine purred as she steered the launch round the other bigger vessels and out into the bay.
As the tidal waters from the Gulf of Naples tugged the hull, she scanned the horizon, her vision adjusting to the milky darkness. The water was clear as far as the eye could see, the fishermen and tourists having gone to bed hours ago.
A triumphant laugh popped out as she slammed back the throttle. Adrenaline hurtled through her system as the boat reared, skipping across the surf as if it were flying.
Free at last.
Of the obligations and anxiety that had dragged her down ever since Lacey had invited her to the event. And she had felt obliged to attend.
She let out a rebel yell—the endless frustrations of her overprotective family and trying to figure out her future lifting off her shoulders as the wind slapped her face.
But the whoop strangled in her throat as the cabin door burst open and a man charged out. Dark and dishevelled, in a black tuxedo jacket and trousers, his feet bare and his white dress shirt undone to the waist, this guy was not sixty-something Paulo who had driven them to Capri three hours ago.
Awareness shot through her as she got an impressive eyeful of his bare chest sprinkled with hair and spotted a tattoo of crossed cutlasses over his heart.
A marauding pirate in a designer tuxedo… Am I dreaming or hallucinating or both?
‘Who are you?’ she demanded of the apparition, so shocked the words came out on a high-pitched squeal. ‘And what were you doing hiding down there?’
His staggeringly handsome face contorted into a furious scowl.
‘I wasn’t hiding, I was sleeping, until you woke me up,’ he growled in a deep voice loud enough to be heard over the hum of the engine—and the heartbeat now punching her eardrums. ‘And this is my boat. So, what the hell are you doing stealing it?’
The truth dawned, like the fireworks still bursting in the sky behind them.
Oh, fabulous… Miss Screw-Ups-R-Us just borrowed the wrong boat!
Roman Garner starred at the girl steering his boat barefoot, her toned legs displayed by the glittering gown hooked into her panties and a clump of her hair sliding down her head on one side.
He’d just been tossed across the cabin and woken from a perfectly sound sleep.
But the jet lag and fatigue—which had driven him down to his boat to take a nap and escape the boring spectacular of the Cade Launch Ball in the first place—had disappeared. He grabbed the rail as the boat skipped over the waves, glaring at the girl, whose wide eyes were now the size of saucers.
‘I… I wasn’t stealing it,’ she said, having regained the power of speech.
‘Oh, yeah, does it belong to you?’ he snarled, determined not to be amused by her horrified expression. Or turned on by the way her breasts pressed against the jewelled fabric of her dress and seemed to be sparkling in the moonlight.
His head hurt and it was all her fault.
‘I was borrowing it,’ she explained.
‘Usually, when someone borrows my property, they ask me first,’ he pointed out and rubbed his forehead, where he was pretty sure he’d just lost a sizeable portion of braincells after head butting the cabin floor. ‘So I can tell them to get lost.’
‘I thought the boat belonged to my brother-in-law.’
A likely story. Did she think he was an idiot? ‘Yeah, right.’
She opened her mouth to say more, when the boat smacked a rogue swell. Her hands were yanked off the steering column as the boat wheeled to one side.
Her scream split the night as he lurched to catch her before she went headfirst into the Tyrrhenian Sea.
They went down hard on the deck together. He managed to roll just in time to take the brunt of the fall, instead of crushing her body beneath his much larger one. But it cost him. He grunted as pain radiated through his hip.
The boat’s engines cut out instantly. Thank God, the kill cord was already engaged.
He lay dazed on the deck, staring up at the night sky with his arms full of the little boat thief—who it turned out was soft in all the right places.
It had clearly been far too long since he’d had a woman on top of him, if he was noticing the girl’s lithe figure and abundant curves.
Something to remedy another time, Roman.
His wayward libido quickly got a clue, though, thanks to the throbbing pain in his backside—and his all-round fury at being inconvenienced to this extent.
She scrambled up, managing to recover a lot quicker than he did, her face a picture of anguish and shock… But not nearly penitent enough for his liking.
‘I didn’t mean to steal your boat,’ she protested.
‘Yeah? So, whose boat did you mean to steal?’ he snarled, lifting himself up on his elbows.
But then the full moon appeared from behind a cloud and he got a proper look at her features.
Her make-up was almost as much of a mess as the rest of her, but the smudges of eyeliner, the dregs of mascara and the lipstick she had chewed off did nothing to detract from her unusual face—wide eyes, a stubborn chin and a slight overbite accentuated her surprising beauty. A small gold ring in her left nostril added to her quirky, unorthodox appearance.
The girl was striking…
His eyes narrowed. And vaguely familiar.
How did he know her? And then it hit him. She had arrived with that bastard Cade’s wife, Lacey. If he’d known Cade wasn’t going to be at the launch himself, he would never have bothered to attend the event—even though it was less than a mile from the island retreat where he was supposed to be starting an enforced two-week break.
‘You work for Brandon Cade, right?’ Was she the wife’s assistant? If one of Cade’s employees had tried to steal his boat, he would find a way to use it against his rival.
Perhaps a little industrial espionage? Or better yet, a major lawsuit to humiliate the man.
‘What? No…’ she said. ‘Do you know Brandon?’ she asked, sounding wary now, but still not sorry.
He climbed to his feet, ignoring the pain from his slam dunk on the deck.
Brandon, was it? Was she one of the Cades’ inner circle, then? A mistress, perhaps? Was that why the wife had been having that whispering altercation with her much earlier in the evening? Although it seemed odd to bring this girl to the Cade Ball if she was sleeping with her husband.
But whatever way he looked at it, this situation could have potential. Unless, of course, it was some kind of a set-up. His usual cynicism kicked in. Because what were the chances this girl would have chosen to steal his boat? And why the hell was she such a mess, when she’d looked pretty hot earlier…?
Whoa, boy? Hot? Seriously?
He admonished his unruly libido for the second time in one night. Which was a record. He definitely needed to get laid if he was finding one of Cade’s cast-offs hot.
‘Yes. I know of Cade,’ he said, cryptically. ‘We share similar business interests,’ he added, although he and Cade shared a whole lot more. The familiar resentment twisted in his gut. But he let it go.
That Cade had always refused to acknowledge their connection was Roman’s strength now, not his weakness. After sixteen years of hard work, Roman was now a major player in the same field the Cade family had ruled for generations in the UK. But unlike Cade, who had inherited everything he had, Roman had earned his position.
‘Who…? Who are you?’ she asked again, as if she didn’t know.
He scowled. Cagey. No question about it.
If this girl worked for Cade, she had to know exactly who Roman was—because he’d made it his business to get on Cade Inc’s radar and headhunt their best staff, just to annoy the man. But even in her dishevelled state and with her inclination to boat piracy, she did the innocent look very well.
‘As I’m the injured party here, I demand you identify yourself first,’ he said with his best Captain of the Universe voice. He had given her more than enough information already.
She was on his boat, in the middle of the Gulf of Naples, without his permission and she’d just given him a sizeable bruise on his arse thanks to her antics. There was a major power imbalance here—which she seemed to be wilfully ignoring with her ballsy attitude.
Annoyingly, he found himself becoming intrigued by her stubborn expression. Why didn’t she want to tell him her name? And why did it only make her seem more…hot? Because he didn’t usually find antagonism and inconvenience a turn-on.
‘Injured, how?’ she demanded, because she clearly had not got the message who the captain of this universe was. Another new experience for Roman, who was used to having women do exactly what he told them.
‘Okay, that’s it.’ Roman yanked his phone out of his jacket pocket—resolutely refusing to be impressed by her attitude problem. ‘You’ve got two seconds to tell me who the hell you are, what you are to Cade and why you stole my boat, or I’m calling the Polizia Municipale and having you arrested for piracy and assault.’
‘Piracy and…’ She huffed out a shocked breath—which made her breasts bounce, distractingly. ‘You have got to be kidding? And how exactly did I assault you?’
He tapped a contact on his phone—to call Giovanni, his estate manager on Isola Estiva, not the cops, but she didn’t need to know that. ‘That’ll be one second now,’ he said, lifting the phone to his ear.
‘Ciao, la polizia?’ he said, when Giovanni picked up on the second ring.
And at the exact time that Giovanni said, ‘Signor Garner, is that you?’ his uninvited passenger threw up her hands.
‘Okay, wait. My name’s Milly Devlin, I’m Lacey Cade’s sister.’
She was Brandon Cade’s sister-in-law? So not his mistress…
Relief washed over him. Then he frowned. Why on earth was he pleased the girl wasn’t his rival’s extramarital squeeze, when that would have made a much better tabloid exclusive?
‘Va bene, signor…’ he said into his phone, cutting off Giovanni, who was still trying to establish what the hell was going on. That made two of them, he thought ruefully as he ended the stunt call and shoved the phone into his trouser pocket.
‘That’s more like it,’ he said, but was careful not to lose the frown.
He was much more intrigued now than mad. But he had no plans to let her off the hook—because her family connection to Cade could only enhance the potential of this situation.
So that explained why she and Cade’s wife had come to the event together. But it did not explain the argument he’d witnessed. Not that her domestic situation interested him per se. Families were not his forte—he knew nothing of their dynamics and he did not want to know. But if there was trouble in the Cade paradise he might be able to use it to his advantage. Cade’s much publicised marital bliss—ever since the man had finally deigned to recognise his own child and marry the mother, four years too late—had not convinced Roman in the slightest. Roman had bought Drystar to break the story, and had then had his tabloid journalists looking for another juicy exposé ever since. But, annoyingly, Cade had managed to turn the revelation of his secret love child to his advantage, by marrying the girl’s mother and then pretending to be in love with the woman.
Getting to know Cade’s sister-in-law might help him get to the truth about that. Of course, he didn’t usually bother doing any of the dirty work himself, that was the job of his editors, reporters and columnists. And he had also stopped caring about Cade—because he had decided it was not good for his mental health to be so focussed on the guy… But this scoop had landed in his lap. Like, literally. And he had the bruises to prove it.
‘Now tell me why you stole my boat,’ he demanded.
The girl wrapped her arms around herself, a gust of wind slapping the hull. The tissue-thin dress didn’t give her much protection against the night air. If he were a gentleman, he would have offered her his jacket. But he wasn’t.
She looked away, a shiver running through her. ‘Borrowing your boat was a stupid impulse that I now deeply regret. But I genuinely thought this was the Cade launch,’ she offered, her tone a tad more contrite.
‘And I needed to leave the party,’ she added. ‘Is that enough of an explanation for you?’ she finished, but the stubborn tilt of her chin and the direct stare totally ruined the almost contrite effect.
‘Not hardly,’ he replied. It had to be the oldest cliché in the book, but when her back straightened, and those huge eyes narrowed, he had to admit, she was even more attractive when she was staring daggers at him. ‘I’ll need a much more specific explanation of why you climbed aboard my boat and tried to pinch it,’ he added.
She looked so mad, she couldn’t speak—and he was actually starting to enjoy himself, more than a little.
Although he wasn’t sure what was more satisfying, having a Cade family member at his mercy, or the way her face looked even more stunning when she glared.
‘That is,’ he continued, ‘if you don’t want me to have you arrested.’
She hissed something under her breath that sounded like ‘rich people’ and not in a complimentary way.
‘Fine, arrest me!’ She threw up her arms in exasperation. ‘But you’ll end up getting charged yourself with wasting police time when it turns out this was all a massive misunderstanding.’
‘Perhaps I’ll settle for slapping you with an enormous lawsuit instead, then.’ He rubbed his sore backside, pointedly. ‘Fifty grand for every bruise ought to make you think twice before borrowing anyone else’s boat without their permission.’
‘Sue me, too, then.’ The daggers became broadswords as the last of her fake regret went up in smoke. ‘But I have a grand total of one hundred and sixty-two euros in my account. So a ten-second call to your lawyer will cost you more than you’ll g-get out of m-me.’
The threat would have been more convincing if her teeth hadn’t chattered right at the end.
‘A pauper who wears designer couture and is Brandon Cade’s sister?’ he scoffed. ‘I think I’ll take my chances.’
He knew what poverty looked like—because he and his mother had lived on the thin edge of it during most of his childhood—and she wasn’t it…
‘This dress isn’t mine,’ she said. ‘I borrowed it from Lacey. And I’m not Brandon’s sister, I’m his sister-in-law and I’m certainly not his responsibility. If you sue me, you’ll be suing complete nobody Milly Devlin, who is about as far from being worth suing as you are from being an ugly humble pauper without a gargantuan ego.’
He had to bite his lip to stop from chuckling at her outrage. And her back-handed compliment. So, she didn’t think he was ugly. Good to know. He’d take the hit about his gargantuan ego, because she wasn’t wrong about that. Yes, he had a very healthy ego—which he had nurtured from a young age, to see him through the deprivations and humiliations of his childhood.
Her comment about Cade was also illuminating. It seemed she was not one of the man’s acolytes and didn’t enjoy his largesse. But he knew enough about Cade to know he was fiercely protective of anyone he thought ‘belonged’ to his family, and his wife’s sister would no doubt qualify. Even if she didn’t seem to think so.
She shivered again, dramatically. And he sighed.
‘Here…’ He dragged off his jacket and dumped it onto her shoulders—no point in having her freeze to death before he’d got any useful information out of her.
‘I didn’t ask you for your j-jacket,’ she said, still shivering.
Her fierce expression made it impossible for him to contain his amusement any longer.
‘What are you smiling at?’ she asked indignantly, which only made his smile widen. Her snarky attitude was actually rather refreshing. Who knew?
‘You,’ he said. ‘You’re incredibly ungrateful for a boat thief.’
‘For the last time, I’m not a boat thief, I’m a boat borrower.’
‘Whatever…’ He stepped to the console and fired up the boat’s engine. He wasn’t ready to let her go yet, but he also did not want to give her pneumonia, which left only one option.
She grabbed the console when he wheeled the boat around and headed towards Isola Estiva—the coastal island he had bought two summers ago, but had rarely had the time to use, until now.
‘Where are you taking me?’ she asked, gazing longingly at the lights of Sorrento, which were disappearing in the distance at a rate of knots as he drove past Capri and out into the Gulf.
He gave her a quick once-over. ‘To my private island, where I plan to sleep on what the hell to do with you. Because I’m too tired to decide a suitable punishment tonight…’ Which was not untrue. A decent night’s sleep had eluded him for months now, as he pushed himself and his business to the limit. And he hadn’t taken a proper break in over a decade—which was precisely why he’d been so deeply asleep when she’d woken him up.
‘But you can’t! That’s kidnapping!’ she shouted over the wind and the slap of the waves on the boat’s hull.
‘Kidnapping, huh? That’s rich, coming from a boat thief…’
‘I’m not a flipping…’ she yelled back then swore as she was forced to grab the console again. ‘Oh, for Pete’s sake, I give up.’
‘Sit back and relax,’ he said, enjoying her exasperation, almost as much as the sight of her body draped in his jacket. She was a petite little thing, the jacket reaching almost to her knees.
‘It’ll take us about half an hour to get to Estiva,’ he said jauntily. There was something so perfect about having Cade’s prickly sister-in-law in his boat, he was not about to give up the buzz just yet. Holding her hostage and needling her might even make this enforced break more amusing.
‘I’ll scream,’ she declared, pointlessly, because they both knew no one would hear her.
‘Go ahead,’ he said, calling her bluff.
Her glare became radioactive, but her lips remained firmly shut, probably because she was no fool.
She dropped onto the bench seat that surrounded the deck, the kick of the waves in the open sea becoming choppier. She looked dejected for about a nanosecond, then she whipped out her phone.
‘How about I call the polizia?’ she said, brandishing the smartphone like a lethal weapon. ‘And tell them I’ve been kidnapped?’
‘Good luck,’ he replied. ‘Don’t forget to mention Roman Garner is kidnapping you, for stealing his boat,’ he supplied helpfully. ‘And taking you to Isola Estiva for punishment. They can pick you up tomorrow, if you’d rather be arrested.’
He pursed his lips to hold onto the laugh that wanted to burst out at her confused expression. Then turned back to the console, to concentrate on navigating the boat.
‘Roman Garner?’ she murmured, behind him. ‘I think my sister, Lacey, might have interviewed for a job with you. I’m sure I’ve heard that name. She’s a journalist.’
‘Possibly,’ he said as it occurred to him she really didn’t know he was her brother-in-law’s biggest rival. Either that or she was an award-winning actress. ‘Although I wouldn’t know anything about your sister’s job prospects,’ he added. ‘I don’t involve myself with the day-to-day operations of the business.’
Which wasn’t entirely true…
He hated himself for the small white lie. Why should he care that Lacey Carstairs—the byline she had used before her big reunion with Cade—hadn’t accepted the job at Buzz online magazine. Breaking the story of her hasty marriage to Cade after Cade’s ‘surprise’ discovery he was the father of Lacey’s four-year-old daughter had been just one of Roman’s attempts to humiliate the man over the years. The offer of a job had been a way for Roman to keep tabs on what he suspected was a fake marriage. But it hadn’t surprised him when Cade’s new bride had turned it down. After all, the woman would surely have realised keeping the pretence of a happy marriage to Brandon Cade was a much better meal ticket than an opportunity to become Buzz’s main celebrity correspondent.
In the early days of Garner’s growth, when it had still been called Blackbeard Media, Roman had made it his business to get on Cade’s radar and annoy the hell out of the guy. And having Cade’s new wife working for him would have been quite the coup. But Garner Media Group had more important things to concentrate on these days—such as taking over Cade Inc’s top spot in the world of media conglomerates.
‘I can’t believe I accidentally borrowed your boat,’ she mumbled. ‘Lacey and Brandon are going to be so unimpressed.’
He glanced round, to find her staring out to sea, but where he had expected to see contempt—because he knew Cade despised him as much as he despised Cade—what he saw on her face was dejection. As if the person Cade and his wife would be unimpressed with was her… Not Roman.
So, Cade had never mentioned their feud to his family? Or the real reason for their mutual animosity? Why did that not surprise him? He’d always been the Cade family’s dirty little secret, after all.
‘Why don’t you ring Cade and tell him whose boat you just tried to steal tonight?’ he goaded, all his old resentments against the man resurfacing—as well as that vague feeling of being not enough, which he’d thought he’d banished a long time ago. How irritating to realise those feelings were still there in some hidden corner of his psyche. ‘That should really make his night.’
‘No thanks,’ she said, but her glare had downgraded considerably. ‘I’ll take my chances,’ she added, sounding a lot less sure of herself.
Interesting… He’d given her a chance to call her brother-in-law to come to her rescue, and she hadn’t taken it. Why?
Tonight, surely, had the potential to be very fortuitous for him. Once he figured out how to use this woman’s connection to Cade. But somehow the thought only made him feel more exhausted. He turned his attention back to the console. Perhaps he should concentrate on getting them back to Estiva in one piece, first.
Luckily for Milly Devlin, he didn’t take advantage of defenceless women. But she still owed him.
After all, she’d just tried to steal his boat and given him a head injury and a bruised arse in the process. And for that he would require payback.
Of all the boats, in all the docks, in all the world, why the heck did I have to accidentally steal the boat of another flipping media mogul?
Milly stared in dismay at the rigid back of the man standing at the controls of the motor launch, and handling it with consummate ease, as they shot through the night towards who knew where.
She’d heard Lacey mention him before… And she wished she’d listened more carefully. All she really remembered from when Lacey had been offered the job at Buzz was that she hadn’t ended up taking it. She’d also described Roman Garner as a ‘playboy’. And she could vaguely remember Brandon once describing his business practices as ruthless. But then, didn’t that go with the territory, if you were a billionaire media baron?
From what she’d seen of him so far, Garner certainly seemed to be the perfect fit as a ‘ruthless playboy’.
Shivering violently, she wrapped his jacket tighter around herself—which was still warm from his skin—and inhaled a lungful of clean soap and sea salt and a delicious sandalwood cologne.
Delicious? Really, Milly?
Still… Why had he given her his jacket? Because the chivalrous gesture was so out of keeping with his threats of punishment and the fact he was currently kidnapping her.
Not only that, but he’d saved her from falling off the boat and taken the impact of the fall when they’d hit a wave and she’d nearly capsized them both.
A completely inappropriate kick of awareness made her shiver again as the white tails of his shirt flapped around his torso—revealing a band of tanned skin, and another tattoo on his lower back. Was that an elaborate skull and crossbones to match the crossed cutlasses on his left pec?
Clearly, he was big on pirate iconography. Which was somewhat ironic, given that he had accused her of being the pirate.
She huddled on the seat, to get out of the wind, and snuggled into his jacket, tired and confused and wary… But also not scared. Or not as scared as she probably ought to be. Because she was definitely being kidnapped.
But as her eyelids drooped, all she could picture was the dancing light in his eyes while he’d baited her—which had infuriated her a moment ago… But now only confused her more. Why did she get the impression this was all a big joke to him? And why had their argument been more exhilarating than upsetting? Was it because she had seen the blast of admiration in his expression when she’d challenged and provoked him?
Or had she totally misinterpreted that? Frankly, she knew next to nothing about flirting, because she’d never even had a proper boyfriend. It was one of the things her European jaunt had been supposed to remedy… As well as her plan to take the art world by storm, she had been on a mission to finally have some fun, to hang out with people her own age and lose her blasted virginity. But she hadn’t had the chance, because she’d been far too busy staying solvent to get up close and personal with any fit guys.
Yet another example of how Milly Devlin’s grand plan to kick-start a new life over the past year had been a complete and utter disaster.
She tucked her hands under her cheek, blinking furiously as she tried to stay awake. To stay alert. Forget about his charms, Roman Garner might be fit beyond her wildest dreams and exciting to spar with, but she also doubted she could trust him.
And not just because he was an arrogant billionaire kidnapper with a gargantuan ego. But also because he had a naughty, and undeniably hot, twinkle in his eye, which she had no idea how to handle.
Well done, Milly, never screw up small when you can screw up big.
But as the boat bounced over the waves, her eyelids became heavier, and her mind couldn’t quite get to grips with the unprecedented and unfamiliar awareness making her exhausted body feel different somehow, as it melted into the butter-soft leather seat…