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Secrets of the Playboy's Bride

By:Leanne Banks

Secrets of the Playboy's Bride
Leanne Banks


Leonardo Grant caught the woman in his arms, absorbing her feminine  impact and taking in swinging blond hair and seductive curves just  before he felt something cold and wet slide down his chest.

"Oops," the blond woman said with a contrite expression, glancing from  her nearly empty glass to his shirt. "I'm so sorry," she said. "I'm not  usually such a klutz. I just wasn't watching where I was going. Let me  get a napkin for you."Despite the spill, the woman emanated class. No  surprise, given she was attending one of Philadelphia's most exclusive  charity events. He wondered who her date was. A woman this beautiful  wouldn't have arrived alone. "No problem," he said smoothly. "I can get  my own napkin."

"But I feel terrible. And you probably feel worse in that soggy shirt," she said motioning toward a waiter.

Charmed by how flustered she was, Leo allowed her to fuss over him for a  moment while he studied her from head to toe. Silky shoulder-length  blond hair framed an oval face with wide green eyes, a pert nose and a  mobile, sensual mouth. He glanced lower, taking in her lean but curvy  body. She worked out, he observed, taking in the slight muscle in her  biceps. Her strapless dress revealed the tops of her creamy breasts and a  narrow waist. The slit in her full-length gown gave him a peek at  shapely legs.

A furrow formed beneath her brow as she mopped at his chest. "Maybe we could find you another shirt," she said.

Leo bit back a chuckle. He could have a shirt delivered to him in five  minutes, but she was so much more interesting. "I can stand it," he  said. "But we should replace your drink."

"I don't know," she said, full of doubt. "Maybe dumping my margarita on  your shirt is a sign for me to stop even though that was my first one  for the evening," she said.

He shrugged. "If at first you don't succeed," he said and extended his hand. "Leo Grant."

"Calista," she said, sliding her smooth, well-manicured hand in his.  "Calista French. You've been such a good sport. I truly am sorry."

Her last name tripped a trigger, and Leo searched his memory for  details. There'd been so many names over the years, names of people his  guardian had tricked and used. Once Leo had run away, he'd tried to  forget them all. He pushed the thought aside. "No more apologies  necessary. You rescued me from boredom."

She held his gaze for an extra few seconds. "You don't seem the type of man to allow boredom."

He felt a flicker of sensual awareness snap between them. "I don't," he  said. "I wasn't planning on staying long tonight anyway."

"Lucky guy," she said in a low, conspiratorial voice. "I'm a member of  the group who sponsored the event, so I can't duck out until at least  half-time. The only thing that makes it bearable is I really believe in  the cause we're supporting this year. Support for Abused Children. A  close second to that cause in my opinion is the mentoring program for  inner-city youth."

"Are you a mentor?" he asked, surprised that a classy bombshell like her would spend her spare time with needy youth.

"Of course," she said, then shot him a look of sexy challenge. "Aren't you?"

"I could be," he said. "Maybe you could tell me more about the program  sometime over drinks or dinner." He pulled a card from his pocket and  pressed it into her hand.

Biting her lip, she searched his face. "I can have the program director  give you a call. She's more knowledgeable about specific needs than I  am."

"Are your turning down my invitation for dinner?" he asked.

She cleared her throat, but didn't fidget. "I was taught that a woman  never makes the first call. Especially if she's spilled a margarita on  the man. I should go. It's been a pleasure."

He watched her walk away, appreciating the curve of her backside. So,  she didn't want to make the first move. He had no problem stepping up.  Even though she'd neglected to give him her phone number, he could have  it within minutes. He'd make a request now, he thought, reaching for his  BlackBerry. Calista French stimulated his curiosity. When it came to  women, Leo always got what he wanted. Unfortunately, once they  discovered the extent of his wealth, women tended to fall over  themselves to please him. At that point, he quickly became bored, but  Calista intrigued him. Aside from her obvious assets, he'd liked the  sound of her laughter and the sparkle in her eye. He'd been working  nonstop lately. He could use a distraction, and she didn't seem the type  to be overly impressed by his money. She oozed good breeding-something  he certainly lacked. In the back of his mind, Leo was always looking for  the perfect woman to make him clean.                       


Calista's heart pounded as she walked away from one of the wealthiest  men in the world. Drawing in a calming breath, she accepted the bottle  of water the waiter offered on her way to the opposite end of the grand  ballroom. She rarely drank alcohol because she always had to be on  guard. Since her father had died, there'd always been too much at  stake.Time would tell her if her fishing expedition with Leonardo Grant  was successful. He was the kind of man who liked a challenge, and she  had spent the last two months planning how to become his challenge. He  was better looking in person than in the rare photographs she'd seen in  the newspaper. Tall with dark hair and black eyes, he had a dangerous  air that seemed to whisper beneath the surface.

She knew he was a huge benefactor of charitable causes. Probably paying  his own version of penance for what his father had done, she thought  bitterly. Not many people knew Leo Grant was the son of the late,  unlamented Clyde Hawkins. Leo might have had enough money to pay for  most of his past to go away, but she had a photograph of Clyde Hawkins  and the boy who'd ruined her father. The boy in the photo was Leo Grant  and he didn't know it, but he was going to help her.

On Sunday afternoon, Calista pulled her eight-year-old, but  well-maintained, BMW in front of her cousin Sharon's home in the suburbs  just as she did every week. Two hours from Philadelphia, the home had  mostly insulated her twin sisters from the scandal that had wreaked  havoc on their lives years ago.Calista smiled at the beautifully-tended  shrubs and flowers. Even with a son of their own, Sharon and her  husband, Walter, had tended her sisters in the same loving way they  approached everything. She walked up the steps to the small cottage and  knocked on the door. "Hello? Anyone home?"

She heard a screech followed by pounding feet. The door flew open and  her sister Tina and Sharon's son, Justin, elbowed each other. "Beat ya,"  Tina said and gave Calista a hug.

"Uh-uh," Justin said. "I got here first."

Despite the fact that Tina was seventeen and Justin was nearly fifteen,  the two engaged in friendly competition at every opportunity.

Her other sister Tami appeared behind them with more predictable teenage  cool. "As if it matters who gets there first," Tami said, yawning as  she nudged past them. "Cal, can you take me for a mani-pedi? My nails  are a mess."

"I wanted to ride go-karts," Tina said.

"Second that one," Justin said. "I'd win again."

Tami rolled her eyes. "Tina always gets her way. I'll watch."

"Maybe we could do both," Calista said. "Go-karts first, then a mani or pedi."

"I can't sit still long enough for a manicure, but I'll take the pedicure," Tina said.

"And you can just let me off at the ice-cream parlor," Justin said. "It's on the way."

Sharon appeared in the doorway and smiled. "Cal, sweetie, I didn't know you were here."

Calista reached forward to embrace her cousin. "I barely had time to knock with these two," she said.

Sharon ruffled her son's hair. "I shouldn't be surprised. What's the sister outing for today?" she asked.

"Looks like go-karts and a manicure," Calista said.

"What a combination," Sharon said. "Can I chat with you before you go?"

"Sure," Calista said, stepping inside the house. "And Justin can join us."

"For a manicure?" Sharon said.

"Go-karts and ice cream," Justin said.

"Hmm. We'll see," Sharon said and led Calista to the back porch. "Would you like something to drink?"

Calista shook her head. "I'm fine. What's up?"

"It's Tami," Sharon said quietly. "I caught her smoking again and I  don't like the crowd she's hanging around. She got in well past her  curfew last night and I think I smelled alcohol on her breath."

Calista's stomach clenched. It had been her most fervent goal for her  sisters to grow up in a safe, nurturing environment until it was time  for them to go to college. Since Sharon was a stay-at-home mom, and her  husband, Walter, made a modest income, Calista provided all the  necessary financial support for her sisters since she'd finished college  three years ago.