Rebel's Bargain

By: Annie West



‘Look after me for a couple of weeks and I’ll set you free.’

‘What do you mean, set me free?’ Poppy asked.

Orsino’s mouth curled up at one side. ‘That should be obvious. I’ll give you a divorce.’

Poppy stared. Was he offering an easy divorce because that was what he wanted or because he thought she did? Had he found someone else to fill the rarefied position of his wife? For years she’d resolutely turned her thoughts away from Orsino with anyone else. Even though he wore gorgeous women like fashion accessories every time he appeared in public.

A hollow ache started up beneath her ribs. She told herself it was stress from the long journey and from facing Orsino again.

‘Why should I go to such bother, when I could just visit a lawyer and file for divorce?’

He didn’t like that. She saw his mouth tighten.

‘Because I have it in my power to make divorce easy.’ He paused. ‘Or hard. You get to choose whether it’s smooth and painless or drawn out and very, very public.’

No mistaking the threat in the rough velvet timbre of his voice. Silence throbbed between them, fraught with a challenge she didn’t dare refuse.

‘You’ve got yourself a deal, Orsino. I’ll give you a couple of weeks for old times’ sake and then I never want to see you again.’




CHAPTER ONE


‘I’LL BE THERE as soon as I can organise flights.’

Orsino heard an unfamiliar grim note in his brother’s voice. News your twin had almost died would sober anyone. He grimaced.

After years of risk-taking his luck had run out. Being faced with his own mortality and possible permanent incapacity was forcing him to reassess his life.

‘There’s no need to race here, Lucca.’ He shifted the phone and winced as he knocked the bandages on his head. ‘There’s nothing you can do. Besides—’ he forced a smile into his voice ‘—you’d spend your time flirting with the nurses and ignoring me.’

‘How can you say that?’ No mistaking Lucca’s relief at Orsino’s joke. ‘I’m a changed man. There’s only one woman for me and she’s a real princess.’

Orsino groaned at his brother’s awful pun. Lucca’s romance with a royal hadn’t improved his sense of humour.

‘Besides, the nurses probably have their hands full with you,’ Lucca continued. ‘Have you got a date with the prettiest one yet?’

Orsino swallowed the retort that he had no idea what the staff looked like. That was a detail not even Lucca needed to know. Unless it became absolutely necessary.

‘You’re the lady-killer, Lucca, remember?’

‘This is me you’re talking to, Orsino. I’ve seen how women react to you. Not that I could work out why, when I’m the handsome twin. You’re seriously saying you’re not fending women off?’

‘Not right at the moment.’

Orsino gritted his teeth against swamping self-pity and anger. Not anger at Lucca, but at the disaster his world had become. The staff fussed over him only because it had been touch and go at first whether he’d survive.

‘Of course.’ Lucca sounded serious again. ‘That’s why one of us should be there. You need family.’

‘Family!’ Orsino didn’t hide his bitterness.

The closest family had come recently was when his father’s CEO, Christos Giatrakos, had made contact, wanting to cash in on Orsino’s reputation, requesting—no, demanding—that he be the ‘face’ of the company. Orsino and his father had never been close but at least the old man could have rung himself.

‘Yeah, well, I know I’ve been busy but—’

‘I didn’t mean you, Lucca.’ Orsino palmed his bristled jaw with his unbandaged hand, feeling like an ungrateful heel. ‘Sorry. I’m in a foul mood, not used to being stuck in a hospital bed. I shouldn’t take it out on you.’ He drew a slow breath, knowing his injuries were only part of the problem. ‘I appreciate the offer but there’s nothing you can do here.’

‘Maybe not now, but when you’re released from hospital you’ll need someone.’

‘You’re offering to play nurse?’ Orsino smiled. ‘It might be worth agreeing just to see it.’

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