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The Italian's Future Bride

By:Michelle Reid

The Italian's Future Bride
Michelle Reid

       CHAPTER ONE



IT WAS like playing Russian roulette with your sex life: place a loaded  invitation in the barrel, then shoot and see if you scored a hit.



Everyone was doing it, Raffaelle Villani observed cynically-the young  and nubile, complete with breast implants and carefully straightened and  dyed blonde hair. They circled the room eyeing up likely victims,  picked the richest man they could find, then primed him and fired their  lucky shot.



Or unlucky, depending from which side of the fence you viewed it.



Some you win, some you lose, he mused as one eager player tried the deal on him only to be rewarded with the sight of his back.



Contempt twisting his lean golden features, he beat a retreat to the  furthest corner of the room where the bar was situated. Discarding his  untouched glass of champagne, he ordered a glass of full-blooded red  wine to take its place.



Functions like this were the pits and he would not have come but for his  stepsister twisting his arm. He owed Daniella a favour for pulling him  out of a tricky situation recently with a woman who had been about to  become his latest lover-until Daniella had whispered in his ear that the  woman was married with a small son.



It turned out that she had even lied to him about her name. Discovering  that she was actually the ex-catwalk model Elise Castle, now married to  the heavyweight Greek Leo Savakis, had not made Raffaelle feel good  about himself.



Married women were not his bag. Married women with small children were  an even bigger turn-off. As were neat little liars who pretended to be  someone they were not. Elise Castle ticked the boxes in all three  categories and the hardest part of it all had been accepting how  thoroughly he had been duped by a pair of innocent blue eyes and a set  of good breasts that had been her own.



Or maybe not, Raffaelle then contended. Perhaps the breasts and the blue  eyes had been just more lies the beautiful Elise had fed to him.  Fortunately he had not managed to get close enough to find out.



But he still owed it to Daniella that he'd managed to get out of a  potentially scandal-spinning tangle before it had exploded in his face.



He was into gun metaphors, he noticed. What a great way to spend a Saturday night.



Where was Daniella-?



Straightening his six-foot-four-inch frame up from its bored languid  slouch against the bar, Raffaelle began scanning the sea of bodies  milling about in front of him for a glimpse of the sylphlike figure  belonging to his beautiful stepsister.



He found her almost instantly. Her glossy mane of black hair and the red  dress she was wearing made her virtually impossible to miss. She was  standing with some smooth-looking guy over by a wall on the other side  of the room, and it came as a shock to Raffaelle to see that she was  playing the game like all the rest!



She was pouting, her pose distinctly saucy, her breasts pushed up almost  against the guy's chest while he looked down at her with one of those  lazy I'm-interested-smiles on his handsome face.



Were Daniella's breasts her own-?



The question hit Raffaelle's brain and made him curse softly because he  didn't care what Daniella's breasts were made of. She was not and never  had been his type. And anyway, as his stepsister, she was and always had  been off limits.



She was also getting married in two months, to one of his closest friends. But there she stood, coming on to another man!



Annoyance launched him away from the bar with the grim intention of  going over there and hauling her away before one of the other kind of  circling vultures here-the press-noticed her and ruined the foolish  creature's life.



'Mr Villani?' a husky female voice spoke to him. 'I'm really sorry to bother you but … '



Raffaelle spun on his heel to find himself staring down at yet another  nubile young thing with the requisite blonde hair and good breasts. His  expression turned to ice as he looked down at her, though the way she  was looking up at him through tense, apprehensive, big blue eyes almost  made him think twice about turning his back.



More so when the pink tip of her tongue arrived to nervously calm the little tremor he could see happening with her lips.



Nice lips, he noticed. Full, very pink, very lush lips.



'Do you think I could h-have a word with you?' she requested nervously.  'It's really important,' she added quickly. 'I need to ask you a big  favour … '



A favour? Well, that was a novel approach. Raffaelle felt the corner of  his mouth give a twitch-and thereby did the worst thing he could have  done, by allowing a chink of interest to stop him from walking away.



Her silky hair hung dead straight to her slender shoulders and she  possessed the most amazing pearly-white skin. He sent his eyes skimming  down her front to her cleavage where two firm, plump very white breasts  balanced precariously inside the tiny bodice of the short and skimpy  pale turquoise silk thing he supposed he should call a dress. She wasn't  tall by his standards, but she had a pair of legs on her that did not  need the four inch heels she was wearing to extend their fabulous  length.                       
       
           



       



Cosmetically enhanced or not, this one was probably the most appealing  package in the room tonight, he accepted as he lifted his eyes back to  the pair of pink lips to watch them tremble some more as she waited for  his response.



When he still did not give one, she took a step closer, her too-blue  eyes lighting up with appeal. 'You see I have this-problem … '



She was going to touch him. His stupid hesitation had given her encouragement to believe that he was interested.



Raffaelle stiffened, each well toned muscle in his long lean framework abruptly tightening up.



'No,' he iced out.



Then turned on his heel and strode off.



Cold, rude, arrogant swine, Rachel mentally tossed after him in stinging  frustration. Did the too-tall, dark and disgustingly handsome devil  think he was so special that he didn't need to be polite to a woman?



Well, you're not my type, Mr Villani, she told the long length of his  retreating figure. Especially ifhis type was the kind of women doing the  rounds here tonight.



Rachel's blue eyes turned bitter as she flicked them round the gathered  assembly of the famously rich and beautiful-in that order, money being  the biggest attraction here tonight. It was a trade fair for the  beautiful people to ply their wares in front of London's wealthiest,  though it hid under the more respectable title of a Charity Fundraising  Event.



She should not have come here. If Elise hadn't convinced her it was the  only way to get close to a man like Raffaelle Villani, she would not  have been seen dead at a do like this.



'He likes them blonde and slinky,' Elise had said. 'Notoriously can't  keep his hands off. You only have to read down the list of his last  fifteen girlfriends to know the man has no control when he's faced with  blonde hair and a great pair of legs.'



Well, not in my case, Rachel thought heavily as she gave a grim tug at  the hem of the dress Elise had made her wear. 'You have to look the  part,' her half-sister had insisted. 'When you pay the extortionate  price for tickets like these it means you have to look as if you can  afford to throw good money away.'



The silly price of the tickets was one thing, but a five figure sum  dress only earned its price tag if it looked good on the wearer.



Rachel felt as if she looked like a very cheap tart.



'Hello, beautiful … 'The unremarkable hit line arrived as a hand squeezed  around her waist at the same time and a pair of lips arrived at one of  the straps which held up the dress. 'Having trouble with the dress? Can I  help?'



His teeth nipped at the shoulder strap. Rachel heaved in a thick breath  of disgust. 'Take your hands and your teeth off me,' she iced out, then  broke free and walked off without giving the guy a single glance.



She'd taken about five steps before she realised she'd inadvertently walked in the same direction as Raffaelle Villani.



And there he was.



She stopped dead.



He was in the process of disentangling a lovely young thing wearing red  from the possessive clutches of another man. The vision in red turned to  pout a protest at him, then flung her arms around his neck and kissed  him full on the mouth.



So much for him preferring them blonde, Rachel thought cynically. The  creature he'd just claimed and was now kissing was hot-lipped, glossy  and black-haired.



Oh, God, she thought helplessly, what was she going to do if she did not manage to pull this off?



'You're drunk,' Raffaelle informed Daniella.



'Tiddly,' his half-English stepsister insisted with a smile gauged to melt his irritation away.



It did not succeed. 'Admit to being drunk,cara ,' he advised as he  grabbed both of her hands and dragged them down from around his neck.  'It is the only excuse Gino will accept for what you have just been  doing.'

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