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The Billionaire's Captive Bride

By:Emma Darcy

 CHAPTER ONE


PETER RAMSEY SAW the traffic controller step out onto the pedestrian  crossing, brandishing her stop sign, and slowed his car to a halt. A  tribe of preschool children, kept in check by a couple of adults, were  lined up on the sidewalk, waiting for it to be safe before heading over  to the park on the other side of the road. They were all carrying lunch  boxes.

Nice day for a picnic in the park, Peter thought, smiling at the happy little faces.

"Nice car!"

The appreciative comment from the traffic controller snapped his  attention back to her. She had a wide infectious smile on her face,  bright eyes dancing teasingly at him. Macho male in his BMW Z4 sports  convertible being stopped for a pack of kids. She was enjoying her  moment of power. Peter grinned back. I don't mind, babe.

She turned aside to help shepherd her flock across the road just as  Peter registered a buzz of interest in his mind. He liked the look of  her. Her jeans hugged a very pertly rounded backside and long shapely  legs. She was tall enough to be a good fit with his height. The scooped  neck top she wore showed off a small waist and very attractive breasts,  fulsome but not too big to be out of proportion with the rest of her  figure. She was a babe all right.

He even liked the fact that her hair was pulled up into a ponytail-dark  hair, almost black, the tail swishing as her head turned, keeping a  watch over the safe passage of the children. She had a pert nose, too,  slightly turned up at the end, and rather pixie-like ears, no lobes. Her  skin was clear and shiny with good health. He couldn't see any make-up  except for the light pink lipstick that matched the pink in her top. No  artful attraction about this woman. She was a natural. Mid-twenties?  Difficult to tell her age.

The last of the children-a little boy-grabbed her free hand as though it  was a highly prized connection, determined on pulling her along with  him. I don't blame you, kid, Peter thought, noticing how the boy looked  adoringly at her, which probably meant she was one of the teachers from  the preschool, briefly taking on traffic control.

She turned to look straight at Peter again, flashing the lovely wide  smile as she waved her Stop sign in a cheeky salute to his patience. He  raised his own hand in response, his mouth automatically curving as he  had the weird sense of a fountain of pleasure bursting through him. He  watched her accompany the little boy to the sidewalk on the park side of  the road, wanting to follow her, meet her properly.

A car horn beeped behind him.

He drove on reluctantly, telling himself the impulse was stupid. What  would a preschool teacher have in common with him? It flashed through  his mind that Princess Diana had worked with preschool children before  she married Prince Charles. Their marriage might have gone bad but Diana  had become the Queen of Hearts. She'd reached out to people, touched  them …

What woman had really touched him in recent years? Peter Ramsey, most  eligible bachelor in Sydney, heir to billions and billionaire in his own  right, and all too familiar with why he could have his pick of  beautiful women. Which was fine for his sex life, but he had never been  touched deeply enough for any attachment to last beyond an initial rush  of lust. Maybe it was his fault. Maybe he had become too cynical about  how much he was worth when it came to marriage.

Even the babe with the ponytail … had she smiled at him because of the car he was driving?

Great smile.

The buzz of interest lingered.

Take a second look, it said. You've got the time.

And the inclination.

After the deceitful artfulness of Alicia Hemmings-his recent ex-it would  be … refreshing … exciting … to have a woman without any artifice responding  to him. Especially in bed. No faking it with an eye to feathering her  own nest. Smiling that lovely smile afterwards …

Even while mentally mocking what was probably sheer fantasy, Peter  turned his car into the next side street, spotted a parking space and  took it. A quick button-press and the convertible hood lifted back in  position for secure locking up. Preferring not to be connected to the  driver of the BMW, he removed his cap, sunglasses, jacket, tie, undid  the neck buttons on his shirt, rolled up his sleeves, then stepped out  for an idle stroll through the park.

It was possible he could be recognised as Peter Ramsey, given his high  media profile, but who would believe it when he was so out of place?  Besides, it didn't matter anyway. The woman would be surrounded by  children, hardly an appropriate time or place to make himself known to  her in any sense. Pursuing this impulse was ridiculous, yet the  compulsion to go on, if only to satisfy a niggling sense of curiosity  about her, had become irresistible. She was different to the usual run  of women who peopled his world.         

     
 

A corner shop provided him with sandwiches and a can of cola and he  carried them into the park, feeling as though it would look perfectly  reasonable for him to be having his lunch there. In fact, he was  enjoying the novelty of it, enjoying the pretend game of being just  anyone. Acting on this particular impulse was definitely not boring.

The children were seated on the grass, shaded from the midday sun by the  widely spread branches of a Moreton Bay Fig. They were all looking  enthralled at the ponytail babe who was apparently telling them a story.  Peter settled on a nearby bench seat where he could surreptitiously  watch and listen to the story-teller.

Her face was full of animation, very watchable. She also had a voice  worth listening to. It lilted beautifully as she recited the rhyming  verses of a fairy tale-a charming story about a princess with a magic  rainbow smile and a heart of gold who'd come from the land of Evermore  to bring joy to all the children.

Of course, there was the villain of the piece-a sneaky kid who always  wore black and was really a rat-who set out to spoil every bit of  happiness and spread lies about the princess, making her disappear from  the children's lives. But one small boy didn't believe the rat's  trickery and he cried out in a mighty lion's roar, bringing the princess  back from the land of Evermore and exposing the rat for the stinking,  rotten liar he was.

Standard stuff-good triumphing over evil-yet Peter was completely  captivated by the rhyming verses and the perfectly pitched emotional  delivery of them. The preschoolers listening so avidly to every word,  actually came in on some lines as though they knew much of the story by  heart, especially the lion's roar bit. It had tremendous appeal and no  doubt came from a popular children's book. Peter decided to look for it,  buy it as a gift for his nephew some time in the near future.

Once the last line had been recited, the children clapped and jumped up  to form a dancing ring. There was a bit of a scuffle over who got to  hold the storyteller's hands. One of the other adults dryly advised,  "You'd better be the princess in the middle, Erin."

Erin …

Nice name.

And she was great with the children, all of whom clearly adored her.

He was feeling very attracted to this woman, and not just on a physical  level, though her sexual appeal was certainly getting stronger by the  moment. He imagined her telling him fairy tales in bed … erotic ones … like  Sheherazade, keeping her sultan entranced with her stories, making every  night too good to miss.

He'd like that.

Very much.

So how was he going to meet Princess Erin in an acceptable fashion?

She could be married for all he knew, or attached to some guy she was in  love with. Peter didn't care for that thought one bit, quickly brushing  it aside to concentrate on what tactic would give him the result he  wanted.

There was no easy in here, not like for his friend and now  brother-in-law, Damien Wynter, who'd taken one look at Peter's sister  and charged straight into getting Charlotte to marry him instead of the  fortune-hunter who'd almost had a wedding ring on her finger.

He remembered asking Damien how he knew Charlotte was the one for him. The answer was still imprinted on Peter's mind.

"There's a buzz in your brain that tells you not to miss out on what you  could have with this woman. She fits what you've been waiting for."

Were his instincts telling him that Erin might be the one? The mocking  voice of past experience said that was jumping too far too fast. Right  now he was hooked enough to know he didn't want to walk away from her,  shutting a door that might lead to something good, something better than  he'd had in the past. No matter how unlikely it was …

"Hey!"

The startled cry of alarm came from one of the teachers as a man charged  the circle of dancing children and grabbed one of the little boys,  snatching him up in his arms and hugging him tightly against his  shoulder.

"He's my son!" he threw at the three women who started toward him,  protesting his action. It was like an animal growl, fiercely possessive,  and the man backed away, eyeing them wildly, still clutching the boy to  his chest.

The women argued with him.

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