Christmas Babies for the Italia (Innocent Christmas Brides #2) - Lynne Graham


SEVASTIANO WAS ON the very brink of a satisfying sex-fest with a lissom blonde model when his mobile phone interrupted him. Usually he would’ve ignored it, but that particular ringtone had been programmed in by his sister and it was distinctive. And Annabel would never call him late at night unless something was wrong.

‘Excuse me... I have to take this,’ Sevastiano intoned, stepping back.

‘You’re joking.’ The tumbled beauty assumed a baffled resentment, her ego clearly dented by his retreat. On the other hand, getting a technology billionaire into her bed was a coup of no mean order and had to have some drawbacks. She forced an understanding smile, because women adored Sevastiano and there was a lot of competition out there.

Certainly Sevastiano Cantarelli hadn’t been standing unseen behind any door when his looks had been handed out at birth. Six feet four inches tall, he was broad of shoulder and lean and powerful in build, and the exquisite Italian designer suits he wore were perfectly tailored to his lithe, muscular frame. Olive-skinned and black-haired, he was blessed by dark deep-set eyes that gleamed like liquid bronze in the low light.

‘Annabel?’ Sevastiano probed anxiously.

Frustratingly, he couldn’t get a word of sense out of his kid sister because she was distraught, sobbing and stumbling over her explanations. He did catch the gist of the story: some huge family drama that had apparently seen her told to leave the parentally owned apartment she inhabited and deprived of her car. Could she move in with him?

Sevastiano rolled his magnificent eyes at the idea that she would even have to ask such a question. She was the only member of his English family whom he had ever cared about. He still remembered the shy and loving little girl who would slide her hand comfortingly into his when their mother was referring to him regretfully as her ‘little mistake’ or her father was shouting at him.

‘I’m sorry I have to leave...a family emergency,’ Sevastiano told the blonde without a shade of hesitation.

‘It happens...’ Donning a silky robe, the model slid off the bed to see him out.

‘Dinner tomorrow night?’ Sevastiano suggested before she could speak.

She was beautiful, but many women were beautiful and yet still none could hold Sevastiano’s mercurial interest for longer than a month and few for even that long. Courtesy, however, was as integral to his nature as his attachment to his half-sister.

In his limo being driven home, he wondered what on earth could have happened to eject Annabel from her family’s good graces, because his sister never argued with anyone. Sevastiano had left the Aiken family and social circle of his own volition and he knew he hadn’t been missed. From birth to adulthood, after all, he had been the embarrassing reminder that his mother had given birth to another man’s child. He had never belonged. He had always been an intruder, the dark changeling when everyone else around him was blonde, and a high achiever when mediocrity would have been preferred. Those harsh truths no longer bothered Sevastiano. After all, he didn’t like his snobbish, shrewish mother or his power-hungry, bullying stepfather, Sir Charles Aiken. He had even less in common with his half-brother, Devon, the pompous, extravagant heir to his stepfather’s baronetcy, but he genuinely cared about Annabel.

So what on earth could she possibly have done to enrage her family? After all, Annabel avoided conflict like the plague. She followed the rules and stayed friendly with everyone, no matter how trying their behaviour. Only when she had insisted on training in art restoration had she defied the Aiken expectations. Her mother had wanted a daughter who was a socialite and had instead been blessed with a quiet, studious young woman devoted to her museum career. What could’ve happened to distress his half-sister to such an extent? Sevastiano frowned, conceding that he had spent a great deal of time in Asia in recent months and consequently had seen much less than he usually saw of Annabel. Obviously he was out of the loop...

And once Annabel had flung herself, sobbing, into his arms at his elegant Georgian town house, confessions, recriminations and heartfelt regrets tumbling in an unstoppable flood of revelation from her tongue, Sevastiano realised that he had been so far out of the loop that he might as well have been on another planet and that the situation was much more serious than he could ever have guessed.

Annabel had fallen madly in love with a much older man and had