The Billionaire's Bridal Bargain (Bound by Gold)

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9780263257687: The Billionaire's Bridal Bargain (Bound by Gold)
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To love, honour...Cesare Sabatino never intended to marry. But if his thoughts did ever stray in that direction, the lucky woman's answer would have been a resounding 'yes'. Imagine his surprise when Lizzie Whitaker turns him down on the spot! ...and possess? To get his hands on her Mediterranean island inheritance, Cesare must wed innocent Lizzie...and ensure she's carrying his heir! Luckily the formidable Italian is legendary for his powers of persuasion. With Lizzie desperate to save her family's farm, it's only a matter of time before she gives in...and discovers the many pleasurable benefits of wearing this tycoon's ring. Bound By Gold, Captivated by passion Lizzie and Chrissie Whitaker: two ordinary girls until they meet two extraordinary men! But these men are renowned for getting what they want...whatever the cost! Book 1: The Billionaire's Bridal Bargain Book 2: The Sheikh's Secret Babies Praise for Lynne Graham The Secret His Mistress Carried 4.5* RT Book Review Graham's ritzy settings are ideal, her little-boy co-star coaxes smiles and her couple's tumultuous relationship enthralls. Zarif's Convenient Queen 4.5* RT Book Review Graham's desert romance is superb. Her dark, intensely handsome, aristocratic hero and innocent with-a-bite heroine are a perfect fit. Their tongue-lashings are spectacular, the lovemaking is as hot as the desert at mid-day and her exotic locales give the read a modern Arabian Nights feel. Christakis' Rebellious Wife 4.5* RT Book Review Graham's second-chance romance is intensely poignant. Her fluent narrative draws the reader into the absolutely opulent world of her emotionally damaged, controlling hero and her love-starved heroine. Watching them find their way back to love is heartwarming.

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About the Author:

Lynne Graham lives in Northern Ireland and has been a keen romance reader since her teens. Happily married, Lynne has five children. Her eldest is her only natural child. Her other children, who are every bit as dear to her heart, are adopted. The family has a variety of pets, and Lynne loves gardening, cooking, collecting allsorts and is crazy about every aspect of Christmas.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Cesare Sabatino flipped open the file sent by special delivery and groaned out loud, his darkly handsome features betraying his disbelief.

There were two photos included in the file, one of a nubile blonde teenager called Cristina and the other of her older sister Elisabetta. Was this familial insanity to visit yet another generation? Cesare raked long brown fingers through his luxuriant black hair, frustration pumping through every long lean line of his powerful body. He really didn't have time for such nonsense in the middle of his working day. What was his father, Goffredo, playing at?

'What's up?' Jonathan, his friend and a director of the Sabatino pharmaceutical empire, asked.

In answer, Cesare tossed the file to the other man. 'Look at it and weep at the madness that can afflict even one's seemingly sane relatives,' he urged.

Frowning, Jonathan glanced through the sparse file and studied the photos. 'The blonde's not bad but a bit on the young side. The other one with the woolly hat on looks like a scarecrow. What on earth is the connection between you and some Yorkshire farming family?'

'It's a long story,' Cesare warned him.

Jonathan hitched his well-cut trousers and took a seat. 'Interesting?'

Cesare grimaced. 'Only moderately. In the nineteen thirties my family owned a small island called Lionos in the Aegean Sea. Most of my ancestors on my father's side are buried there. My grandmother, Athene, was born and raised there. But when her father went bust, Lionos was sold to an Italian called Geraldo Luccini.'

Jonathan shrugged. 'Fortunes rise and fall.'

'Matters, however, took a turn for the worse when Athene's brother decided to get the island back into family hands by marrying Luccini's daughter and then chose to jilt her at the altar.'

The other man raised his brows. 'Nice...'

'Her father was so enraged by the slight to his daughter and his family that Lionos was eternally tied up in Geraldo's exceedingly complex will.'

'In what way?'

'The island cannot be sold and the two young women in that file are the current owners of Lionos by inheritance through their mother. The island can only be regained by my family through marriage between a Zirondi and a Luccini descendant and the birth of a child.'

'You're not serious?' Jonathan was amazed.

'A generation back, my father was serious enough to propose marriage to the mother of those two girls, Francesca, although I would point out that he genuinely fell in love with her. Luckily for us all, however, when he proposed she turned him down and married her farmer instead.'

'Why luckily?' Jonathan queried.

'Francesca didn't settle for long with the farmer or with any of the men that followed him. Goffredo had a narrow escape,' Cesare opined, lean, strong face grim, well aware that his laid-back and rather naive father could never have coped with so fickle a wife.

'So, why has your father sent you that file?'

'He's trying to get me interested in the ongoing, "Lionos reclamation project",' Cesare said very drily, the slant of his wide, sensual mouth expressing sardonic amusement as he sketched mocking quotations marks in the air.

'He actually thinks he has a chance of persuading you to consider marriage with one of those two women?' Jonathan slowly shook his head for neither female appeared to be a show-stopper and Cesare enjoyed the reputation of being a connoisseur of the female sex. 'Is he crazy?'

'Always an optimist.' Cesare sighed. 'In the same way he never listens when I tell him I haven't the smallest desire to ever get married.'

'As a happily married man and father, I have to tell you that you're missing out.'

Cesare resisted a rude urge to roll his eyes in mockery. He knew that, in spite of the odds, good marriages did exist. His father had one, after all, and evidently Jonathan did too. But Cesare had no faith in true love and happy-ever-after stories, particularly not when his own first love had ditched him to waltz down the aisle with an extremely wealthy man, who referred to himself as being seventy-five years young. Serafina had dutifully proclaimed her love of older men all the way to the graveyard gates and was now a very rich widow, who had been chasing Cesare in the hope of a rematch ever since.

Cesare's recollections were tinged with supreme scorn. He would never make a mistake like Serafina again. It had been a boy's mistake, he reminded himself wryly. He was now far less ignorant about the nature of the female sex. He had never yet lavished his wealth on a woman who wasn't more excited by his money than by anything else he offered. A satisfied smile softened the hard line of his wide, expressive mouth when he thought of his current lover, a gorgeous French fashion model who went to great lengths to please him in bed and out of it. And all without the fatal suffocating commitment of rings or nagging or noisy kids attached. What was not to like? It was true that he was an extremely generous lover but what was money for but enjoyment when you had as much as Cesare now had?

Cesare was less amused and indeed he tensed when he strolled into his city penthouse that evening to receive the news from his manservant, Primo, that his father had arrived for an unexpected visit.

Goffredo was out on the roof terrace admiring the panoramic view of London when Cesare joined him.

'To what do I owe the honour?' he mocked.

His father, always an extrovert in the affection stakes, clasped his son in a hug as if he hadn't seen the younger man in months rather than mere weeks. 'I need to talk to you about your grandmother.'

Cesare's smile immediately faded. 'What's wrong?'

Goffredo grimaced. 'Athene needs a coronary bypass. Hopefully it will relieve her angina.'

Cesare had stilled, a frown line etched between his level ebony brows. 'She's seventy-five.'

'The prognosis for her recovery is excellent,' his father told him reassuringly. 'Unfortunately the real problem is my mother's outlook on life. She thinks she's too old for surgery. She thinks she's had her three score years and ten and should be grateful for it.'

'That's ridiculous. If necessary, I'll go and talk some sense into her,' Cesare said impatiently.

'She needs something to look forward to...some motivation to make her believe that the pain and stress of surgery will be worthwhile.'

Cesare released his breath in a slow hiss. 'I hope you're not talking about Lionos. That's nothing but a pipe dream.'

Goffredo studied his only son with compressed lips. 'Since when have you been defeatist about any challenge?'

'I'm too clever to tilt at windmills,' Cesare said drily.

'But surely you have some imagination? Some...what is it you chaps call it now? The ability to think outside the box?' the older man persisted. 'Times have changed, Cesare. The world has moved on and when it comes to the island you have a power that I was never blessed with.'

Cesare heaved a sigh and wished he had worked late at the office where pure calm and self-discipline ruled, the very building blocks of his lifestyle. 'And what power would that be?' he asked reluctantly.

'You are incredibly wealthy and the current owners of the island are dirt-poor.'

'But the will is watertight.'

'Money could be a great persuader,' his father reasoned. 'You don't want a wife and probably neither of Francesca's daughters wants a real husband at such a young age. Why can't you come to some sort of business arrangement with one of them?'

Cesare shook his arrogant dark head. 'You're asking me to try and get round the will?'

'The will has already been minutely appraised by a top inheritance lawyer in Rome. If you can marry one of those girls, you will have the right to visit the island and, what is more important, you will have the right to take your grandmother there,' Goffredo outlined, clearly expecting his son to be impressed by that revelation.

Instead, Cesare suppressed a groan of impatience. 'And what's that worth at the end of the day? It's not ownership, it's not getting the island back into the family.'

'Even a visit after all the years that have passed would be a source of great joy to your grandmother,' Goffredo pointed out in a tone of reproach.

'I always understood that visiting the island was against the terms of the will.'

'Not if a marriage has first taken place. That is a distinction that it took a lawyer to point out. Certainly, if any of us were to visit without that security, Fran-cesca's daughters would forfeit their inheritance and the island would go to the government by default.'

'Which would please no one but the government,' Cesare conceded wryly. 'Do you really think that a measly visit to the island would mean that much to Nonna?' he pressed.

'The right to pay her respects again at her parents' graves? To see the house where she was born and where she married and first lived with my father? She has many happy memories of Lionos.'

'But would one short visit satisfy her? It's my belief that she has always dreamt of living out her life there and that's out of the question because a child has to be born to fulfil the full terms of the will and grant us the right to put down roots on the island again.'

'There is a very good chance that clause could be set aside in court as unreasonable. Human rights law has already altered many matters once set in stone,' Goffredo reasoned with enthusiasm.

'It's doubtful,' Cesare argued. 'It would take many years and a great deal of money to take it to court and the government would naturally fight any change we sought. The court option won't work in my lifetime. And what woman is going to marry and have a child with me, to allow me to inherit an uninhabited, undeveloped island? Even if I did offer to buy the island from her once we were married.'

It was his father's turn to groan. 'You must know how much of a catch you are, Cesare. Madre di Dio, you've been beating the women off with a stick since you were a teenager!'

Cesare dealt him an amused look. 'And you don't think it would be a little immoral to conceive a child for such a purpose?'

'As I've already stated,' Goffredo proclaimed with dignity, 'I am not suggesting you go that far.'

'But I couldn't reclaim the island for the family without going that far,' Cesare fielded very drily. 'And if I can't buy it or gain anything beyond guaranteeing Nonna the right to visit the wretched place one more time, what is the point of approaching some stranger and trying to bribe her?'

'Is that your last word on the subject?' his father asked stiffly when the silence dragged.

'I'm a practical man,' Cesare murmured wryly. 'If we could regain the island I could see some point of pursuing this.'

The older man halted on his passage towards the door and turned back to face his son with compressed lips. 'You could at least approach Francesca's daughters and see if something could be worked out. You could at least try.'

When his father departed in high dudgeon, Cesare swore long and low in frustration. Goffredo was so temperamental and so easily carried away. He was good at getting bright ideas but not so smooth with the follow-up or the fallout. His son, on the other hand, never let emotion or sentiment cloud his judgement and rarely got excited about anything.

Even so, Cesare did break into a sweat when he thought about his grandmother's need for surgery and her lack of interest in having it. In his opinion, Athene was probably bored and convinced that life had no further interesting challenges to offer. She was also probably a little frightened of the surgical procedure as well. His grandmother was such a strong and courageous woman that people frequently failed to recognise that she had her fears and weaknesses just like everyone else.

Cesare's own mother had died on the day he was born and Goffredo's Greek mother, Athene, had come to her widowed son's rescue. While Goffredo had grieved and struggled to build up his first business and establish some security, Athene had taken charge of raising Cesare. Even before he'd started school he had been playing chess, reading and doing advanced maths for enjoyment. His grandmother had been quick to recognise her grandson's prodigious intellectual gifts. Unlike his father, she had not been intimidated by his genius IQ and against a background of loving support Athene had given Cesare every opportunity to flourish and develop at his own pace. He owed his nonna a great deal and she was still the only woman in the world whom Cesare had ever truly cared about. But then he had never been an emotional man, had never been able to understand or feel truly comfortable around more demonstrative personalities. He was astute, level-headed and controlled in every field of his life yet he had a soft spot in his heart for his grandmother that he would not have admitted to a living soul.

A business arrangement, Cesare ruminated broodingly, flicking open the file again. There was no prospect of him approaching the teenager but the plain young woman in the woolly hat and old coat? Could he even contemplate such a gross and unsavoury lowering of his high standards? He was conservative in his tastes and not an easy man to please but if the prize was great enough, he was clever enough to compromise and adapt, wasn't he? Aware that very few people were cleverer than he was, Cesare contemplated the startling idea of getting married and grimaced with distaste at the threat of being forced to live in such close contact with another human being.

'You should've sent Hero off to the knackers when I told you to!' Brian Whitaker bit out in disgust. 'Instead you've kept him eating his head off in that stable. How can we afford that with the cost of feed what it is?'

'Chrissie's very fond of Hero. She's coming home from uni next week and I wanted her to have the chance to say goodbye.' Lizzie kept her voice low rather than risk stoking her father's already irascible temper. The older man was standing by the kitchen table, his trembling hands—the most visible symptom of the Parkinson's disease that had ravaged his once strong body—braced on the chair back as he glowered at his daughter, his gaunt, weathered face grim with censure.

'And if you do that, she'll weep and she'll wail and she'll try to talk you out of it again. What's the point of that? You tried to sell him and there were no takers,' he reminded her with biting impatience. 'You're a bloody useless farmer, Lizzie!'

'That horse charity across the valley may have a space coming up this week,' Lizzie told him, barely even flinching from her father's scorn because his dissatisfaction was so familiar to her. 'I was hoping for the best.'

'Since when has hoping for the best paid the bills?' Brian demanded with withering contempt. 'Chrissie should be home here helping you, not wasting her time studying!'

Lizzie compressed her lips, wincing at the idea that her kid sister should also sacrifice her education to their daily struggle for survival against an ever-increas...

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