Ravelli's Defiant Bride(8)

By: Lynne Graham

The twins closed their mouths, ducked their tousled heads and surged up the stairs past their eldest sister.

‘You can tell me now why you’re wearing a skirt,’ Isa pressed Belle.

‘Cristo Ravelli phoned...in need of a housekeeper.’ Belle quickly explained what had transpired on the phone. ‘I need to look at least ten years older.’

As Belle spoke, Isa studied the younger woman in consternation. ‘You can’t possibly pretend to be Mary... It’s an insane idea. You’ll never get away with it.’

Belle lifted her chin. ‘But it’s worth a try if it means that Cristo Ravelli has to listen to what I have to say. He obviously knows nothing about Mum. I don’t think he even realises that she was his father’s housekeeper.’

‘I doubt if he’s that ignorant,’ Isa opined thoughtfully. ‘It could be a shrewd move. Naturally he’s going to want to meet the children’s mother as soon as possible. But I don’t want you going up there to run after the man, doing his shopping and cooking and making up his bed, especially dressed like that!’

‘What’s wrong with the way I’m dressed?’

‘It might give the man the wrong idea.’

‘I seriously doubt that,’ Belle responded, smoothing her stretchy skirt carefully down over her slim hips. ‘As far as I’m aware he’s not sex-mad like his father.’

Isa compressed her lips. ‘That kind of comment is so disrespectful, Belle.’

‘It’s a fact, not a nasty rumour.’

‘Gaetano was the children’s father. He may not have been much of a father but you still shouldn’t talk about him like that where you could be overheard,’ her grandmother rebuked her firmly.

Aware that the older woman was making a fair point, Belle reddened with discomfiture. ‘May I borrow your car, Gran?’

‘Yes, of course.’ Belatedly aware that Belle had successfully sidetracked her concern about the deception she was preparing to spring on Cristo Ravelli, Isa planted a staying hand on the front door before Belle could open it. ‘Think about what you’re about to do, Belle. Once you try to deceive this man, there’s no going back and he’ll have every right to be very angry with us all when he discovers the truth...as eventually he must,’ she reasoned anxiously.

‘Cristo is a Ravelli, Gran...shrewd, tricky and unscrupulous. I need an advantage to deal with him and the only way I can get that advantage is by pretending to be Mum.’


BELLE DROVE DOWN to the garage shop in the village to stock up on basic necessities for the Mayhill kitchen and was taken aback by the cost of the exercise.

Cristo Ravelli was expecting her to cook but she couldn’t cook, at least not anything that required more than a microwave and a tin opener. She pondered her dilemma and decided on an omelette, salad and garlic bread. Surely even she could manage a meal that basic? She had often watched her mother and her grandmother making omelettes. Bruno was also a dab hand in the kitchen. They always ate well when he was home at weekends.

Tense as a steel girder, she drove round to the back of the house, noting that the lights weren’t on. The back door was still locked and with a groan she lugged her carrier bags round to the front, mounted the steps and pressed the doorbell.

Cristo was on the phone when the bell echoed through the hall. Brows drawing together, he went to answer the door, stepping back in surprise when a slender redhead in sky-high heels tramped in past him. The housekeeper? Not his idea of a housekeeper, he conceded, swiftly concluding his call, his brilliant dark eyes flaring over one of the shapeliest bodies he had ever seen and very probably the best ever legs. Legs that put him in mind of the girl he had seen walking across the lawn, his gaze rising to the woman’s face to note the huge anxious green eyes lost in the heavy make-up and the ripe full mouth. She was not his type, no way was she his type, too obvious, too loud, hair too red. Indeed Cristo knew to his cost that he was most attracted to tiny ice-cool blondes with big blue eyes. His conscience sliced through that thought instantaneously, reminding him that that particular image was forbidden for very good reasons. Lush black lashes shielding his grim and guilty gaze, he rested his attention quite deliberately on the redhead’s remarkable breasts. Now, those were truly a work of art like her legs, he conceded abstractedly.

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