Shameful Secret, Shotgun Wedding

By: Sharon Kendrick

‘Giancarlo. I need to speak to you.’

At the other end of the phone Giancarlo frowned—wondering what had made her abandon the pride he had so admired in order to ring him. Was this a ploy to get back into his bed—and, if so, wasn’t there a small part of him which was tempted to indulge her?

‘Giancarlo, are you still there?’

‘You are speaking to me,’ he pointed out coolly.

‘I meant…in person.’

‘In person might be difficult.’ He thought of her firm young body. Her violet eyes and rose petal lips. ‘I have a business trip coming up. Time is tight, Cassandra—you know how it is.’

In her little Cornish sitting room Cassie flinched—wishing that she’d just come right out and told him. And hadn’t there been a part of her which had hoped that maybe he was regretting letting her go? Well, she had just received her wake-up call, because he very definitely wasn’t.

‘I’d prefer not to have to tell you this on the phone.’

‘Tell me what?’

She swallowed. What else could she do but come right out with it? ‘I’m pregnant, Giancarlo.’

Chapter One

THERE was something about him which made her think of danger. Something dark and tantalising which drew her gaze like a magnet. Cassie felt the rush of blood to her cheeks and the sudden pounding of her heart as she stared at the man across the busy holiday rush of the department store.

He was gorgeous. Too gorgeous to be real, surely? Why, if she hadn’t been surrounded by tinsel, fairy lights and a packed working schedule until the big day itself she might have thought that Christmas had come early.

Not that she had a lot to compare him with. It was only the second time she’d been away from rural Cornwall—where most of the men she met wore cheap aftershave and trod on your toes while you were dancing. And when you got up close for the slow numbers you could see little pieces of blood-stained tissue paper on their chins, where they’d cut themselves shaving.

Which was why landing this temporary job in London’s most glitzy department store over the festive season was Cassie’s chance to get away from the predictable world she’d grown up in and to live the dream. And London at this time of the year was a dream—an enchanted world of fairy lights and fake snow and an air of expectation. She loved Christmas.

Even working on the ‘Seasonal Candle’ section—a fir-festooned grotto selling a variety of upmarket candles—was a dream. One which remained intact despite the best efforts of mealy-mouthed Lindy in nearby Cosmetics and the fact ten hours of standing made your feet scream with protest. Daily, Cassie dealt with stick-thin society matrons and laughing students and over-excited small children filing past her on their way to see Santa.

Only today, she could see someone rather different from her usual customer—a tall, brooding man with skin the colour of burnished olive. Clad in a dark cashmere overcoat, his face proud and aristocratic, his lips mockingly sensual—and yet there was a cold, hard glint to his eyes of pure ebony.

Cassie’s heart started racing. Racing hard enough to burst. She was certain he wasn’t interested in buying a candle—in fact, she was surprised to see him shopping at all. He looked like the sort of man who would have minions to do the more mundane chores in life and one who would never cut himself shaving. She didn’t imagine he’d be tempted by her sales pitch, either—but something made her walk up to him, her bright professional smile fixed firmly in place.

Never in her life had Cassie been so conscious of anyone’s presence. He seemed to own the space around him simply by existing in it and exuded a rare kind of charisma which made people stop and take a second look.

Suddenly dizzy and wondering what insane instinct had propelled her into his vicinity, she drew a deep breath. ‘Good afternoon, sir—I wonder can I interest you in one of these beautiful candles?’

Giancarlo’s brows knitted together as a banal little sentence interrupted his reverie and he found himself staring into a pair of violet eyes of extraordinary beauty. He was used to the adulation of women in general and salesgirls were no exception—and he really wasn’t in the mood to be engaging. But he was supposed to be buying Christmas gifts for all his admin staff and the girl who was trying to sell him something was very pretty—so he gave her his attention. ‘A candle?’ he drawled.

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