Her New Year Baby Secret

By: Jessica Gilmore



‘Ask me to dance?’ Her eyes were even wider than before if that was possible and she pressed even further into the table. ‘But I walked out on you. Without a note! And I ran away as soon as I saw you.’

‘Sì, both of these things are true, but if you dance with me, then I am willing to overlook both transgressions.’

‘I did mention that I don’t want a relationship, didn’t I?’

‘You did. Sophie, I am also not looking for anything serious and, like you, I’m not in the habit of picking up strangers in the snow. So if neither of us is interested in a relationship and neither of us indulges in one-night stands, then why not get to know each other better? Retrospectively. Unless you’re here with someone else?’ His hands curled into loose fists at the thought, the thrill of possession taking him by surprise. It was only because they had barely scratched the surface of their attraction, he reminded himself. Only because spending the evening with Sophie would be safe and yet satisfying. No expectations beyond fun and flirtation, although if the evening did end the same way as their past encounter, he wouldn’t complain. His gaze travelled down the sixties-inspired minidress to the acres of shapely leg, lingering on the slight swell of her hips. No, he wouldn’t be complaining at all.

‘No. I’m here with my friends and their husbands and fiancés. They are all lovely and doing their best to include me, but they’re all so madly, sickeningly in love that I can’t help feeling like a spare part.’

She was wavering. Time to press his advantage. ‘Then this is fate,’ he said promptly. ‘Every time you feel like a spare part, dance with me. We can have a code.’

Her eyebrows raised. ‘A code?’

‘Sì, you rub your nose or tug your ear and I will know you need rescuing from the tedium of romance.’

‘They don’t mean to be tedious.’ But the wariness had disappeared from her face and she was smiling. ‘What if you’re not watching, when I signal?’

‘Oh, I’ll be watching,’ he assured her. ‘But just in case you forget to signal, let’s make an appointment now to see the new year in together. I’ll meet you...’ He paused, trying to think of a landmark in the ballroom.

‘Outside this closet?’

‘Perfect. Yes, I’ll meet you outside here at eleven.’

‘But that’s a whole hour before midnight.’

‘You owe me half an hour of dancing for running out on me and half an hour for escaping into a closet. I’m Italian, the hurt to my machismo could have been catastrophic.’

A dimple flashed in her cheek. ‘Okay, eleven it is. Unless I need rescuing, in which case I’ll...I’ll twizzle my hair. Deal?’

‘Deal.’ Marco opened the door and held it, standing to one side while Sophie passed through it, brushing past him as she did so, his body exploding into awareness at each point she touched. He took her hand as he stepped out of the small room and raised it to his lips. ‘Until eleven, signorina. I look forward to further making your acquaintance.’

Marco leaned against the door as he watched Sophie disappear back into the ballroom. Yes, she would do very nicely as a distraction, very nicely indeed. Suddenly he was looking forward to the rest of the Snowflake Ball after all.





CHAPTER THREE

‘WHO IS THAT HOTTIE? What?’ Emma looked round at her friends, indignation flashing in her eyes at their splutters. ‘I’m married, blissfully and happily married, but I still have eyes—and, Sophie...that man is sizzling. Tell us all.’

Sophie slid into her seat uncomfortably aware that her cheeks were probably bright red under her friends’ scrutiny. ‘There’s nothing to tell,’ she said, picking up her white linen napkin, dislodging a drift of small glittery paper snowflakes as she did so. ‘I didn’t miss the starter, did I? I’m starving.’

‘Tell me my eyes are deceiving me and I didn’t just see you emerge from a closet with him.’ Ashleigh leaned in to stare intently at her and Sophie’s cheeks got even hotter if that was possible—she was almost combusting as it was. ‘Ha! You did. Nice work, Soph. Quick work though. We’ve only been here for twenty minutes.’

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