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Read {PDF Epub} Download Harlequin Presents January - B by Helen Bianchin, Kate from the story Amount by evadnedame97 with 24 reads. home, girl. Electronics Gadgets & Other Electronics. More Categories. Shop by Price. Under $ $ - $ $ - $ $ - $ Over $ Helen Bianchin is a popular Australian writer of over 50 romance novels in Mills & Boon since . Create a book · Download as PDF · Printable version.


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Descarga Novelas Románticas, Encuentra la novela romántica que estás buscando, en formato PDF y totalmente gratis. Helen Bianchin. Helen O'loy Lester del Rey Ahora Soy un hombre viejo, pero aún recuerdo el día en que vi a Helen por primera vez cuando. The High-Society Wife Ruthless Helen Bianchin Toronto • New York • London • Amsterdam • Paris • Sydney • Hamburg • Sto Author: Bianchin Helen.

How are you both? Gianna traced gentle fingers along its surface, felt the smoothness of the wood, and fell in love with it. A glazed fruit flan would suffice for dessert. This all happens in the first eight pages. Dared she assume he wasn't going to play Famke's game? She checked the time, and saw it had been sent the previous evening. Appearance was everything, providing a benchmark for her husband's status in the business arena.

I usually steer well clear of second chance romance, especially in Harlequin land, as H usually will have tons of ow around in between, which leaves a very bad taste in my mouth, especially if we learnt he has been pining away all along. This one didn't say much regarding what happened in the interim with the H, yet I am going to go on a limb here to say H didn't stray based on his thoughts when h was talking about it, it also makes more sense to me based on his behavior as all along he just is waiting for h to come back.

H is not going for revenge here, obviously. Instead he just wants the h back. While he is bitter about their separation, he understands why h did it and tries to lay this to rest soon as they got back together.

He is sweet and understanding, basically just spoils our h rotten. Pretty great lead. Plot is more or less standard formula, with evil ows trying to separate the pair. I enjoy it but this is getting a bit like all the books Bianchin writes.

Always the high society with totally zero nice and genuine people, just glitz and fashion slaves and shallow personalities. While I am sure not everyone is nice in any society level, I am getting a bit annoyed by such a one dimensional portrayal and the smug distaste h always has for her circle. Honestly if she looks at her peers like this, I am not surprised she didn't make any close friends.

Other than that though, this is a decent read. H is a devoted sweetheart that only is waiting for the chance to get h back and give her the world. Our h has grown up and is mature enough to take a situation and make the best of it, and voice her wants.

This isn't a bad read it's one of your typical harlequin presents plot line of revenage and blackmail if you will. Kayla and her brother are struggling to pay off their father's debt who has died, Kayla has no choice but to ask her ex husband billionaire Guardo for help in turn Guardo wants Kayla and he wants her the way he didn't get to have her fully.

This wasn't bad and it wasnt perfect but I still enjoyed it it was a quickie and a decent read. I think the ending had a little action and was g This isn't a bad read it's one of your typical harlequin presents plot line of revenage and blackmail if you will.

I think the ending had a little action and was good. Dec 22, Akina rated it liked it.

{PDF} Miranda Lee, Clare Connelly, Dani Collins, Helen Bianchin, Maisey Yates, Kate Hewitt, Caitlin

I love Harlequin Presents books and Helen Bianchin is one of my favorite authors. This book was very enjoyable to read although at times the story did drag with not enough action to move the story along.

And the ending left a few things hanging: But I loved how I knew that the hero was not seeking revenge. Overall a decent read. May 19, Diane rated it it was ok Shelves: Jun 26, Mudpie rated it really liked it. Lots of tiny details about daily minutiae but I cannot stop reading! This has one of the better plots I dare say Duardo was such a swoon-worthy hero! So masterful! Kayla was in an untenable position three years ago, when she married Duardo in a whirlwind romance and was roundly blamed for the death of her mother;her mother had suffered a heart attack because they so did not approve of Duardo!

Now Kayla thought Duardo's actions we 3. Now Kayla thought Duardo's actions were all motivated by revenge. Now why on earth would such an eligible man saddle himself with an unwanted wife?! He could have humiliated her by asking her to be his mistress instead! All his actions clearly showed he cared for and loved Kayla, he wanted to protect her!

Instead she's too pigheaded and proud to see the truth. Probably her guilt too, at choosing her father and brother over husband three years ago, and as such she did not believe Duardo could love her again. It's awesome to see Duardo swooping in to take care of Kayla.

That Sunshine Coast getaway was so sweet. My heart broke for the burnt cottage boutique though, but like Duardo said all those could be replaced, when you have the kind of money he had I love the ahem product demo episode! When he requested for a repeat after his NY trip, she let slip that she'd miss him, his smile I could imagine his happiness that finally Kayla was softening towards him!

Little wonder he'd abandon his dealings in NY to rush home after she got stabbed during his absence. Feb 11, Radha rated it it was amazing. The H love the h Kayla whole heatedly, though she left him becoz of her father , still he made it a point to bring her back Bianchin has a dark background. It starts with the h brother being beaten up by thugs, whom he owes money to.

She goes to her ex husband for help. He will only help if she remarried him. Her father had broken up their marriage years ago. Now that he is gone things change. But as with all Bianchin stories that I have read there is the OW who is out for blood of the wife. Enjoyed Really enjoyed this book There was no real ugliness, just someone waiting as long as it took. Nov 16, RomLibrary marked it as to-read Shelves: Her father made her leave him.

Nov 30, Jennifer Worry rated it liked it. Oct 24, StMargarets rated it really liked it Shelves: This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

Fun old skool story of the Spanish hero who is smitten at first sight with the Aussie heroine who pleads with him to drop a prosecution against her stepfather who is dying of cancer. Step father was responsible for a car accident that killed the hero's brother and nephew. Hero needs heirs to continue the family name and business, so heroine must marry him.

You know. The typical day at the HP office. The rest of the story unfolds predictably as the heroine tries to resist her very handsome husband Fun old skool story of the Spanish hero who is smitten at first sight with the Aussie heroine who pleads with him to drop a prosecution against her stepfather who is dying of cancer.

The rest of the story unfolds predictably as the heroine tries to resist her very handsome husband and assert her independence. The hero is kind to the heroine during her stepfather's illness and death. He also takes care of the h when she contracts the flu. There's also a benevolent mother-in-law and a drippy companion who visit the newlyweds.

She's there and not a bit of a threat since the hero has eyes only for the h until she scratches the heroine's neck with her sharp nails. The ending is especially cute. The heroine calls the hero at his office and blurts out that she loves him. Our sophisticated bad boy hero is momentarily flabbergasted and then sweetly delighted. Just a fun story all around. Sep 27, April Brookshire rated it liked it Shelves: This was one of those Harlequins where everything would've gone smoother had the hero just let his love be known a lot sooner.

I don't know, maybe ask the heroine out on a date and court her the traditional way? May 17, Margo rated it did not like it. So awful. Oct 24, Brenda rated it really liked it. Good vintage HP. I remembered reading it before and liking the end very much where the heroine tells the hero she loves him over the phone when he's in the office and then their dinner burning because they were engrossed into each other.

This was a nice, quick. Heroine irritated me at times with her childishness. Hero was a nice guy - an alpha male.

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Liked how he took care of the heroine when she was ill. Enjoyed his moments with his niece, especially when they got together and teased Terese about Good vintage HP.

Enjoyed his moments with his niece, especially when they got together and teased Terese about babies. Used to like Helen Bianchin's earlier books. Can't remember why I stopped reading her later books. Must check them out again. I recommend this book for someone who likes vintage HPs like I do. Aug 18, Karla marked it as did-not-finish Shelves: The adverb abuse! Oh, the adverb abuse! Neither Captain Morgan nor I were in the mood. Great read. Not PC in the least and somewhat predictable.

But a favorite author from my younger days. JR Holmes rated it really liked it Sep 26, Roub rated it liked it Dec 28, Noha rated it liked it Jan 28, Neenu rated it did not like it Jun 18, Sansho Shine rated it it was amazing Feb 23, Hnou rated it it was amazing Mar 12, Beeg Panda rated it liked it Jul 20, Claire rated it liked it Nov 05, Elizabeth rated it liked it Feb 18, Camille rated it it was amazing Feb 12, Sue rated it liked it Mar 24, Tima rated it it was ok Apr 15, Diana Tan rated it really liked it Nov 17, Karen Siddall rated it it was ok Aug 27, Monique rated it it was ok Dec 23, Vera rated it it was amazing Sep 07, Melis rated it really liked it May 03, A redolent aroma wafted from a small pot simmering on the cook-top, and she wrinkled her nose in appreciation.

Want to choose the pasta? Yet he saw too much and read her too well. Only to have a hand cup her chin and lift it. So they had. Except it hadn't resolved a thing. Emotionally, she didn't stand a snowflake's chance in hell. His eyes were inscrutable as he traced her mouth with his thumb, and for a few seconds she felt as if she couldn't breathe. Then he released her and crossed to the cook-top, leaving her to finish fixing the salad.

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When it was done, she set the kitchen table, checked the garlic bread heating in the oven, grated parmesan cheese and saw Franco drain the pasta. Simple fare eaten in a homely atmosphere provided a pleasant change from their hectic social life. I'll devote the day to it. In another life she could have been a chef. Except the sole surviving Castelli had no future in a restaurant kitchen.

Annamaria Castelli prided herself on her culinary expertise, and had personally trained her housekeeper to serve her favourite dishes. She had an acute knowledge of taste and smell, and could, she liked to boast, sample a dish and divulge not only every ingredient, but the precise measure in any recipe.

Santo Giancarlo, on the other hand, loved to eat. If it tasted fine and didn't upset his digestion, he had no inclination to examine and dissect the ingredients. Two grandparents who were as chalk to cheese in personalities, yet with more in common than they were prepared to admit.

Gianna forked the last of her fettuccine, followed it with a morsel of garlic bread, then finished off her wine. Leaving them for Rosa didn't enter her head. With deft movements she soon restored the kitchen surfaces to their former state of gleaming cleanliness, settled for tea instead of coffee, and took it into the room she used as a study.

It was late when she closed down her laptop and went to bed. Gianna was on the verge of sleep when she sensed Franco's presence, and she went willingly into his arms as he gathered her close. Warm skin, hard musculature, he was intensely male, and in the darkness she could pretend want and need were one and the same as his lips nuzzled the hollow at the base of her neck. Skilled fingers trailed her slender curves, teased and tantalised until the breath hitched in her throat.

Now…dear heaven, now. His mouth covered hers in a kiss that tore her apart, and she used her teeth to nip his tongue as she wound her legs around his waist.

Afterwards he rolled onto his side and drew her in against him. When she was done she left him reading the Sunday newspapers while she examined the well-stocked pantry.

Anamaria vowed the culinary skills of her housekeeper outweighed those of Santo's housekeeper, with the honour in culinary expertise being held by Anamaria herself. Two opposing grandparents, Gianna mused, who delighted in an ongoing game of verbal one-upmanship simply for the sheer mischief it provided each of them. After considerable thought to a menu, Gianna settled for bruschetta, risotto, with roast chicken and salad as a main.

A glazed fruit flan would suffice for dessert. She made a list, checked the chilled wine, collected her shoulder-bag, went in search of Franco and found him in his study. He glanced up from his laptop. What are your plans for the day? Want any help this afternoon? What would he do if she crossed round the desk, sank onto his lap and angled her mouth to his?

Be amused? Indulge her? The heat, she knew, would be all hers. She had his affection. But love wasn't part of the deal. Oh, for heaven's sake…get a grip. A child, she contemplated as she gained the road and headed towards the main thoroughfare. Hers, but undoubtedly his. Something both grandparents hoped for…and assuredly one of the main reasons for the marriage between the sole surviving grandson of Santo Giancarlo and the granddaughter of AnaMaria Castelli.

What if it didn't happen? Oh, for heaven's sake! She was young, healthy, and there was no immediate need to rush into parenthood.

Focus on the day, she bade herself silently as she made for the closest supermarket and parked. Fresh produce was high on her list, together with a freshly baked French baguette from a nearby patisserie.

Almost an hour later she retrieved her purchases from the car, carried them into the kitchen and diligently set to work. Gianna bypassed lunch and nibbled on the end pieces of the baguette, some cheese and fruit in between tending to dinner preparations.

A quick glance at her watch revealed she should go exchange casual gear for something more respectable. The grandparents would arrive separately around four-thirty. They'd share a glass of wine, sample a little biscotti, and chat.

Dinner at six-thirty, coffee at nine, after which Anamaria and Santo would depart at ten. The pattern rarely changed, Gianna conceded as she donned black evening trousers and a white silk shirt, applied make-up, added a dab of subtle perfume, slid her feet into stilettos, and retraced her steps to the kitchen. The dining-room, she determined minutes later, resembled perfection, and she made ready a variety of serving dishes, ran a last-minute check everything could be put on hold, then cast a glance at her watch.

Security at the front gates beeped right on time, and she entered the foyer as Franco initiated the electronic release. Would it be Anamaria or Santo heading the arrival?

Each grandparent adhered to a strict punctuality schedule, but there was the inherent need to have an edge… Franco indicated the video screen. With Anamaria following a car's length behind in her conventional Bentley.

Santo laughed at Anamaria's baleful glare as they each emerged from their vehicles, then graciously indicated she should precede him indoors.

When it appeals to my inner child? A similar gesture from Santo followed. Anamaria offered a sweet smile. He obviously needs it. Anamaria didn't disappoint. Gianna waited for the expected pithy response, but her grandmother settled for an expressive, 'Hurumph!

She caught the silent query and a humorous gleam in Franco's dark eyes as she sought her escape. Tea, coffee and conversation…talk that was partly business oriented, social, and amazingly free from the grandparents' usual argumentative banter.

Had Franco issued a warning dictum?

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A superb strategist, he was immune to even the most persuasive ploy. But think of the fun it provides me. The early-evening air held a cool edge, and there was a premature dullness in the slowly sinking sun which surely spelled a precursor to impending rain.

Impeccably kept garden borders displayed perennials in glorious colour, clipped shrubbery planted with immaculate precision, splendid topiary and beautiful green lawn which was a testament to Enrico and the services of a regular gardening assistant.

Plants ranked high on her grandmother's list of favourite things. It was maintaining the earth, nurturing it with food and water so the seeds could stretch and grow to perfection. The right insecticides, preferably natural products.

Anamaria's garden was something to behold, with a conservatory housing indoor plants and a greenhouse filled with exotic blooms. While Giancarlo-Castelli represented her life's work, her garden and plants assumed a secondary interest. Now that a marriage between Gianna and Franco had been achieved, she was impatient for the birth of a great-grandchild. Together they examined the grounds, two women with a span of almost fifty years separating them, while grandfather and the son of his son followed at a leisurely pace.

Gianna sensed the heritage, the strong bond linking each of them together, appreciating on one level the need to preserve it. Surely a child deserved two loving parents? Yet who would dare to suggest a child conceived from such a marriage wouldn't be loved and adored? As a mother, her love would be unconditional…and Franco? She had a vision of him carrying a laughing child braced high atop broad shoulders, indulging the pleasure of fatherhood. Was it asking too much for it to be the real deal?

To know she was the love of his life, the only one? Sure, Gianna discounted. That was as likely as snow falling in summertime. And what of Famke? The glamorous actress wasn't going to fade into the woodwork any time soon. So get your head out of the clouds and face reality, a tiny imp chastised.

Consequently there was no need to maintain any pretence. She gave him a measured look, and gleaned nothing from his expression. Then the moment was lost as a fat plop of rain fell on her cheek, followed by another, and they made it inside as a vivid fork of lightning rent the skies, followed almost immediately by an ominous roll of thunder. Dinner proved a success, the serving of each course achieved with smooth expertise.

She doesn't want you in her kitchen. How do you imagine meals appear on my table? Gianna picked up her own cup with a steady hand, and took a sip before fixing her grandmother with a level look. Anamaria's expression was priceless for the few seconds it took her to recover.

Spine straight, shoulders squared, she resembled the matriarchal epitome as she gathered up her purse. Santo joined them as Anamaria's car disappeared through the gates. Gianna momentarily closed her eyes as Franco trailed his hand between her shoulders and soothed the knot of tension there. Yet the bedroom was empty when she entered it, and she removed make-up, discarded her clothes in favour of an over-size cotton tee-shirt and slid between the sheets.

She must have fallen asleep, for she stirred at the touch of a hand sliding over one hip in a seeking trail to her breast, and warm lips nuzzling the vulnerable curve at the base of her neck.

It was so easy to turn in to him, to savour his warmth, the hard muscled male frame, his strength. To believe, in the darkness, the intimacy they were about to share meant more than just the slaking of desire. In his arms she became a witching wanton, eager for his touch, the sensual nirvana he unleashed, and the shattering incandescence of primitive, almost pagan sex.

Every nerve in her body vibrated with it, and afterwards she lay spent, totally lost to him. Complete, in a way she'd never dreamed possible. Why Monday, for heaven's sake? Franco had left the house an hour earlier, preferring an early start to the working day, and would have missed the congestion. She drummed her fingers against the steering wheel and fought against reactive thought. How long would it take for the Dutch-born model to make her next move?

Any day soon. Had to be. After all, why would the long-legged blonde waste time before homing in for the figurative kill? Gianna saw the cars in front begin to move, and sent a silent prayer to the Deity she'd clear the intersection before having to battle the next. Except no one was listening. The morning didn't get any better, with her PA calling in sick again, and just as she thought she had a handle on the workload Franco entered her office…something he so rarely did she had the feeling the day was about to get worse.

Attired in Armani tailoring, hand-stitched Italian shoes, expensive cotton shirt and silk tie, he looked every inch the directorial executive. But it was the man himself who drew attention, for he exuded an aura of power envied and coveted by many. Gianna examined his features, and could gain little from his expression. She skimmed the social gossip page, honed in on the photograph of Franco and Famke, read the caption, and endeavoured to control the painful knot twisting her stomach.

Famke hadn't wasted any time. Gianna sank back in her chair and forced herself to hold his dark gaze. Spare me subsequent embarrassment? A muscle bunched at the edge of his jaw. Dammit, she hadn't thought anything could hurt so much. And this was only the beginning… Franco moved round the desk, caught hold of her chin between thumb and forefinger, and tilted it. The caption is sheer conjecture, and the article itself ignores journalistic licence and lurches close to slander.

Don't lose it. I imagine you're next on their list. Confirm our marriage is rock-solid? Something dark moved in the depths of his eyes, then it was gone. At that moment her cellphone beeped with an incoming text message, and she heard his husky oath as she indicated the need to read it. She was shutting him out. Had to, otherwise she'd crumble before his eyes. And she couldn't, wouldn't allow that to happen.

Practice allowed her to act a required part, and she arched an eyebrow in silent query. His eyes flared, and his features hardened as he turned towards the door. Gianna waited a few seconds before activating the SMS, and read the text with a sense of disbelief. Watch this space. Who else would text such a cryptic message? It bothered her for what remained of the afternoon, niggled during the drive home, and by the time she entered the grounds she was ready to do battle.

Franco's top-of-the-range Mercedes sat in its customary bay, and she drew to a halt alongside, then entered the house. The kitchen was first, and she found the comfortably proportioned housekeeper intent on fixing dinner.

Everything OK? Special delivery package came for you. I put it on your desk. She breathed in the redolent aroma. Pasta alfredo? All afternoon she'd seethed in silence, cogitating how Famke could have accessed her cellphone number. And if the actress had hers, then it was a given she also had Franco's number.

She took a deep steadying breath as she reached the master suite, then swung open the door…only to discover an empty room, and the sound of water running in the adjoining en suite bathroom.

She didn't pause, just marched straight through and pulled open the shower door. Franco, sans clothes, was something else. Masculinity in its most potent form, his tall muscular body sculpted to male perfection. Powerful, virile, and infinitely dangerous. All it took was a look, and…she closed her eyes, then opened them again to meet his musing appraisal. Damn him, he didn't appear in the least surprised, and it irked her unbearably.

The fact it cascaded over his tall frame did much to diminish her composure. Get a grip. Ignore the man, focus on why you're here. Oh, hell, maybe this wasn't such a great idea!

How could she rail at him when he stood naked, water-drenched, and far too close for comfort? Two things registered simultaneously…the warning flare in his dark eyes as he fielded it with one hand and his reaching out with the other hand to haul her into the spacious shower cubicle.

There was amusement apparent, and she lashed out at him, only to have her wrist caught in a steel-like grip. Naked, she stood before him in open defiance. She was mad at him…wasn't she?

So why in hell was she just standing there? Because it felt so darned good. Was that so wrong? Next he picked up the soap and ran it over her body, then turned her away from him and eased the kinks from her neck, her shoulders, then angled the shower spray to remove the suds.

When he was done, he placed the soap in her hand. Was he kidding? How far would she get before soaping him became something else? Without hesitation she handed the soap back. All it would take was the touch of his mouth on hers, the intimate brush of his body as he drew her in…and she'd be lost.

His husky chuckle almost undid her, and Gianna stepped out from the shower cubicle, caught up a towel, wrapped it sarong-wise round her slender curves, then curled another into a turban over her damp hair. She emerged into the bedroom ahead of him, and she chose a tailored skirt and cotton top, twisted her hair into a knot atop her head, and was in the process of applying moisturiser and lipgloss when Franco joined her.

Without a word she retrieved hangers and returned to the bathroom to allow her suit to dry, then she gathered up everything else and popped them down the laundry chute. As to the shoes…hopefully, if they were dried carefully and polished, they'd remain wearable. There was a speculative, vaguely brooding gleam in those dark eyes, making it difficult to gauge his mood. Temporary being the operative word.

Cynicism lent a dark tone to her voice. There was nothing like the direct approach. Did she have a choice? Instead, she conceded steadily, 'For now. She'd give it her best shot. The pasta was superb, so too was the excellent red wine they shared with the meal. Gianna cleared the table, set up the coffee-maker and took care of the dishes while the coffee brewed.

There were personal e-mails, some business data…stuff she needed to take care of, plus running a check of her social diary. The first thing she saw when she opened her study door was the delivery package sitting on her desk, and she placed the coffee down and examined the wrapping.

The destination and date stamp were partially obliterated, and, turning it over, she discovered no sender's address. Intrigued, she undid the taping, removed the wrapping…and discovered a slightly smaller box. A frown creased her forehead.

Was this a joke? Two more layers followed, each time revealing a smaller box. So small it could only contain jewellery…ear-studs? A ring? Not from Franco. It wasn't his style. Gianna removed tissue and discovered a silk-covered box. Inside was a delicate velvet pouch, which at first sight didn't appear to hold anything. No, wait…She extracted a small piece of paper, a picture of a wedding ring. With a diagonal line through it.

The meaning was unmistakable. She took a deep breath, then slowly released it. Her initial instinct was to dump it on Franco's desk and demand an explanation. Except that was presumably what Famke anticipated. The actress's goal, after all, was to cause trouble…and what better way to achieve it than to keep the barbs constant. OK, so she'd deal with it. Action brought reaction…but what if she didn't react as expected?

Cool, calm and collected. She could do that. With no hesitation she scooped the packaging together and binned it. Waiting for the next strike to fall made for a fraught day, and by evening's end Gianna dismissed relief as premature. It was a game, with Famke as the master player. Wednesday moved the tension up a notch, and although she set her cellphone for all calls to go direct to the message bank, none of them were from the actress.

A recent gift? You're good at the social thing. Educated, groomed and prepared for it.

The Disobedient Bride

She'd dressed with care, choosing a classic black dress with a scooped neckline and lace overlay, and added black stilettos. Skilfully applied make-up, her hair swept into a smooth twist, and her mirrored image revealed a sophisticated young woman. Confident, assured… How looks could be deceiving! With practised ease she moved at Franco's side, greeting fellow guests, offering conversation, sipped the excellent Chardonnay served by her host's hired staff, and when directed she took her designated seat at the magnificent long table set with china, crystal and gold flatware.

Nikki was too well-versed in the social mores to think of seating her guests while waiting for a late arrival. Some of Gianna's tension began to ease. How would Franco handle it?

As if she needed to ask! The tactile gesture sent the blood fizzing through her veins, heating her body at the implied intimacy. For a few timeless seconds the guests, the room, faded as she became caught up in something she couldn't afford to analyse. Then the moment was broken by light laughter and the buzz of conversation.

Had his action been a deliberate ploy to defuse the situation? Or a genuine attempt to ease her tension? It would be nice to think it was the latter. Nikki had selected a number of small-portion courses to tantalise her guests' palates. Dinner parties hosted in her home involved a celebration of the senses, with the evening's theme chosen with extreme care. Tonight the theme was Thai, and the delicacies won praise for artistic presentation and taste.

Fine food and scintillating conversation spread over several hours and, capped by superb coffee, a pleasant evening drew to a close just before midnight. The witching hour, Gianna perceived as the Mercedes purred through the darkened streets. Yet it was she who lay awake, conversely wanting his touch long after he'd fallen asleep. What would he do if she reached out and initiated a seduction?

The thought he might still her hand, her lips, was enough to prevent any move in his direction. The temptation to key in a blistering response was overwhelming, except she refused to give the actress the satisfaction. She checked the time, and saw it had been sent the previous evening.

A further SMS followed later that afternoon, equally as telling, and Gianna muttered something unladylike beneath her breath. Last-minute data download meant she took work home and spent the evening hours cloistered with her laptop, aware Franco was similarly occupied with in ternational conference calls. Gianna looked askance, and met his studied gaze.

How could she have forgotten? For the past few days they'd been like ships that passed in the night…or it seemed that way! The constraints of work, each leaving and arriving home at different times, with bed the only time they connected. Thank heavens it was almost the weekend. Galerie Minoche numbered high among Gianna's list of favourite art galleries, situated in a rambling old two-storeyed home whose ground level interior had been cleverly converted and beautifully crafted to retain its originality.

Privately owned by one of the city's grande dames, whose flamboyant persona was legend, attendance was by invitation only, with a percentage of every sale donated to a charity devoted to assisting disadvantaged children. The ticket price was exorbitant, given it served as an obligatory donation to the same charity, with a guest list comprising the cream of Melbourne's highest social echelon.

Elegance and style were apt descriptions for what could only be termed an event, Gianna mused as the validity of their invitation was checked by a security guard at the main entrance, ensuring only genuine invitees were granted admission. One of several guards employed to safeguard the premises, the art-work—and the guests…guests who were given a time-frame in which to arrive, after which the gallery went into lock-down, and at evening's end an identical time-frame was provided for the guests to leave.

Dinner suits and black bow tie were de rigueur for the men, while the women dressed in their finest and wore jewellery whose collective worth could feed an entire Third World country.

{DOWNLOAD} Helen Bianchin - Ondraaglijk dichtbij [PDF]

It was strictly smile time, Gianna perceived as she entered the spacious reception room, for there was Minoche, hostess supreme, poised to greet them. A tall imposing figure, attired in one of her outrageously garish kaftans, and wearing so many gold bracelets it was a wonder her arms didn't ache from the weight of them, Minoche had so long discarded any first name it was doubtful she'd ever been gifted one.

Married one year and divorced the next, she'd become a female Croesus who appeared to live only to please herself. Little was known about her early life, and various stories abounded as to how she'd acquired her wealth. Something, Gianna suspected, deliberately orchestrated to foster intrigue.

To do so without just cause would be akin to committing social suicide. Familiar faces, from High Court judges to scions of the medical profession, captains of business and industry, those representing old money and new, each incredibly wealthy in their own right.

Professional photographers were forbidden, and no cameras were permitted. Women dressed to impress, and racked up a small fortune in body maintenance. Social gossip included a guessing game as to who had recently undergone the latest procedure. Names of good cosmetic surgeons were exchanged…preferably those residing overseas to mask the real reason for a trip.

For Gianna, it was the art which drew her interest. Displayed in rooms and annexes, assembled by category, the canvases encompassed the avant-garde, the exotic, even the bizarre, and varying attempts to compare with the Impressionists and the Great Masters. Vivid slashes of colour in some, muted brushstrokes in others, they represented the mood and expression of the individual artist.

Furniture and furnishings lent an ambience which heightened the works' appeal, and owed much to Minoche, whose keen interest in art lay reflected in each room, each annexe. No expense had been spared, and Gianna had little doubt the objets d'art, exquisite porcelain, jade, were priceless originals, and not merely very good copies. The actress looked even more strikingly beautiful in a black barely-there gown that alternately clung and revealed with designer perfection.

And there, at her side, stood the reason why the stunning blonde had gained entry. Gervaise Champeliere, the son of one of Minoche's closest friends, whose family wealth went through the stratosphere. Gianna mentally gritted her teeth. Oh, why not go for broke and include the entire nation, Europe, America and the United Kingdom? Given Gervaise and Franco were friends as well as business associates, it seemed inevitable they'd spend part of the evening together.

Something Famke had deliberately orchestrated, Gianna decided, and it provided concern for just how far the actress would go in her 'Get Franco' campaign. Nervous anxiety was hell and damnation. It kept her awake nights and clouded her thought processes. He was hers, dammit. On reflection, Franco had always been part of her picture. Older, taller, more physical than any male she knew. Then he'd disappeared out of her orbit…New York, London, Milan, returning at intervals, often with a different woman in tow.

Until the accident which had altered the structure of Giancarlo-Castelli and provided the power to change their lives.

Now he was hers, and she intended to fight to keep him. Whatever it took. Forget hint, Gianna accorded wryly, and go with promise. Damn, the woman was good! What man wouldn't rise to the occasion…literally!

She closed her eyes, then quickly opened them again. Watching Famke work both men was a fascinating experience. Gervaise, however, was no one's fool, and Gianna doubted he was unaware of the actress's guile.

Could she attribute to Franco the same nous? Or was his memory enhanced by having slept with the inimical Famke? Although sleep wouldn't have been on the agenda!

If she could, she'd walk out and take a cab home. Except good manners and social etiquette forbade such an action. It was relatively easy to slip into social mode, to smile, make conversation and give every appearance she was enjoying herself. If Franco noticed she was overly vivacious, he gave no sign.

In public, and especially in Famke's presence, she had no recourse but to accept the touch of his hand to her waist, the occasional soothing brush of his fingers down her spine, his smile, with its latent gleam of amusement, almost as if he could read her mind, her mood, and was mildly entertained by her thought processes. After one flute of champagne she switched to mineral water, thereby ignoring the temptation to suffer Famke's presence beneath a mind-numbing influence of alcohol.

An hour in the actress's presence was too much, and she sought temporary escape in the ladies' powder room. It didn't last long, for just as she was about to emerge Famke walked through the door.

What now? Verbal pistols at five paces? Gianna stifled the bubble of hysterical laughter that rose in her throat. Unless she was mistaken, the actress was on a mission, for her features lacked polite civility. OK, she could play this game. Hell, she even managed to dredge up a smile. You think he married you for love? It's a business deal. A fellow guest entered the vestibule, and Gianna took the opportunity to exit with a degree of dignity. Franco appeared deep in conversation with a colleague as she re-entered the main room.

Almost as if he sensed her presence he glanced in her direction and subjected her to a searching appraisal. Looking for battle scars? Let us admire the works of art, and you shall choose one for me to buy. Gervaise indicated the pale Monet look-alike. And the frame is perfect. A painting might live and breathe in the eye of the artist, but the end result was an inanimate entity. Make that very good, Gianna accorded. The question being whether Gervaise would accept the bait.