MEET THE SCANDALOUS BILLIONAIRES
Last summer, some of my best writing friends and I signed on to write a series about five billionaires living on the glamorous Amalfi Coast. Now, those five novellas have been put together in a special boxed set, and for a very limited time, it is available for only 99 cents!
And as a special thanks, we'll send you a wonderful digital cookbook, with recipes that were inspired by our stories. To get yours, first buy SCANDALOUS BILLIONAIRES. Then, send proof of purchase to this address, and we'll send you the cookbook by return email. Then enjoy the deliciousness! How easy is that?
Order here: Amazon
All five novellas are sexy, touching, romantic and fun. Here's an excerpt from mine,
THE BILLIONAIRE'S SECRET:
In the warm darkness, he suddenly heard the sound of footsteps. The guests didn’t spend a lot of time on this particular terrace, which was really more like a working kitchen garden, growing lemons for use in food and drink. They were more likely to hang out on the loungers of the pool level, where they could bikini-watch or zone out to the view of the sea.
He didn’t stand. He didn’t feel sociable. With any luck, he’d be just another shadow in the darkness, and the footsteps would pass him by.
“Hello?” The newcomer stopped awkwardly, and a woman’s pleasant American accents broke into the silence. She sounded uncertain, maybe a little nervous. “I…is someone there?”
And just like that, his sour mood lifted, like a lemon ripening into sweetness. The voice belonged to Sophie.
He didn’t ask himself why she should have this effect on him, though it was a legitimate question. His heart was still pretty much scorched earth from the way things had ended with Mariota Fordyce, his ex-fiancée. He knew he wasn’t destined to be a monk forever, but he definitely didn’t want romance in his life anytime soon, either.
“Sophie,” he said, brushing dirt from his hands. When they’d met in the garden yesterday, they’d moved easily to a first-name basis. “Sorry. I hope I didn’t scare you.”
As he stepped from the shadows of the breeze-ruffled trees, he noticed that she looked a little odd. A little green.
He moved closer. “Are you all right?”
“You didn’t scare me,” she said, but she didn’t sound convinced. “It’s just… I’ve been out sailing.” She lay her palm over her mid-section. “It was...” She smiled wanly. “Frankly, I don’t think I’m a fan.”
Or maybe Gin Blakely was just enough to turn anyone’s stomach. Declan scanned her carefully. She didn’t look too far gone…no hollow eyes or blue lips. Just a little drawn and unsteady.
He stepped down onto the path and gestured toward a simple stone bench tucked beneath one of the lemon trees. “Maybe sitting a while would help.”
She accepted the suggestion without hesitation and collapsed with a sigh, shutting her eyes and leaning her head back against the thick trunk of the old tree behind her.
After a few seconds, she opened her eyes. She drew in air with a slow, focused concentration, like a wine connoisseur inspecting a new vintage. She held the breath a long while, and then released it. When she saw him watching her, she smiled.
“My plan was to sketch every scene of my vacation, to capture it for—“ she broke off. “To capture it forever. But how can I draw this air?”
He knew what she meant. The lemons in this garden were ripe, and the long days of sun had coaxed a clean, tart sweetness out of them, which made the air smell like something you should drink.
“You can’t,” he said. “But you won’t need to. You’ll never forget it. The sense of smell is very powerful, and long-lasting.”
“I hope so,” she said. She took another breath, as blissed out as a kid near a bakery. “It must be wonderful to work here, and to smell it all day long. The lemons, and the sea… It’s nothing like home, that’s for sure.”
“No? And where is home?”
“Boston.” She sat straighter, as if the subject made her mildly uncomfortable. “Boston is great, but it’s very urban. From my townhouse, the strongest smell is bus exhaust.”
“Plenty of that in Edinburgh, too,” he said. “Although surely Boston is close enough to the Atlantic to find the water if you need it.”
She nodded. “Yes. The Cape…that is one of the great smell memories of my childhood. Salt and seaweed and fish everywhere.” She wrinkled her nose. “I’m making it sound terrible, but it’s really wonderful. Very fresh, very alive.”
“I know,” he said. “I’ve been there. It’s not unlike where I come from, except that we add in the wind and cold. And, though that may not sound perfect, it is, actually. At least for me.”
“Oh, I’d love to go to Scotland,” she said with a warmth that sounded entirely genuine. “I’d love to see all that…and to paint the crags, and the lochs, and the castles.”
“You should make Scotland your next jaunt, then,” he said. It surprised him that she’d never been. Few Americans made it to Amalfi before they’d thoroughly explored the British Isles, which had the advantage of a common language.
“Oh, no, I—“ She bit her lip suddenly. “Well, I don’t know. Heavens, so many exotic destinations to choose from!”
And there it was…that odd, off note he’d sensed once or twice before. He was pretty good at spotting a lie—or so he’d thought, before he discovered his entire family business was built on lies—and she wasn’t being honest here.
Though why she should lie about where her next vacation would take her, he couldn’t imagine.
“I’ll bet you miss Scotland very much,” she said, and her voice was back to normal. “Is it only the Fiori job that has brought you to Italy? Or do you live here now?”
”It’s just the Fiori job,” he said. “The De Lucas are old friends, and the redesign is a dream commission. I’ll be here another month, maybe.”
“And then…” She hesitated. “Will you return to Scotland? Is your family waiting for you there? A wife…or children?”
With any other woman, he would have assumed she was fishing, doing the classic availability check. But he didn’t hear that sneaky, too-casual tone, and she wasn’t twinkling at him archly, the way so many of the Fiori’s single female guests had done since he arrived.
She wasn’t, in fact, even looking at him at all. She was arching her neck to smell a large, globular lemon she had gently tugged down toward her face. She hardly seemed aware of anything but the fruit.
He wasn’t sure how to answer. After the Fiori, what? He honestly didn’t know. He hoped the cachet of working for the De Lucas would win him more projects, but hoping wasn’t having.
And since he had no intention of returning to Scotland, he suspected he’d live as a nomad for a while, until he built the business.
“No, no wife or children,” he said, avoiding the larger “family” details. This shadowy moment alone in the lemon-scented secret garden might feel intimate, but he obviously didn’t know Sophie well enough to confide about the amoral kin he’d left behind, and the greedy ex-fiancé who had shown her true colors when things got ugly.
“How about you?” He dropped onto the next bench over, propping his silver shears against the seat, their shining jaws point-down in the dirt. “Where do you go after this? Do you have a husband, or a fiancée, waiting back in Boston?”
“Of course not,” she said, releasing the lemon as if the question surprised her. It bobbed on its branch, then settled slowly in place. “Do you really think I’d have been out on a moonlight sail with Gin Blakeley if I were married?”
He shrugged. “Well, you wouldn’t be the first to believe that what happens in Amalfi…” Then he glanced over at her and smiled. “But no. I don’t think that. I’m just making small talk, and I’m a little rusty, I guess. Perhaps I’ve been spending too much time alone with the lemons.”
She smiled, too, as if she thought his comment was purely a joke. She couldn’t know that, for the past month, he’d kept to his own company like a hermit. He wasn’t overly fond of the human race as a whole right now, and he definitely had no interest in light flirtation with well-heeled tourists who valued money above everything else.
To linger here, like this, with one of those rich tourists, was not in his plans. But something about this woman…