The Spanish Billionaire's Hired Bride(6)

By: Rachel Lyndhurst

Ricardo pulled up, killed the engine, and took the keys out of the ignition. “I’ll walk you to your door.”

“No,” she said firmly. “I can look after myself and you’ve done more than enough already. But thanks for the lift.”

Helen leapt out of the car and slammed the door shut before Ricardo could argue with her. He watched her briskly walk up a dusty side alley, her golden ponytail catching a few beams of yellow-gray streetlight as she went. It was a rough area, but to his surprise she still waved him away with an agitated hand as he watched her unlock a green wooden door. He was being dismissed! It had to be the first time a woman hadn’t asked him in for coffee as well, which made his ego smart.

He didn’t give a damn if she was living in a run-down area full of dealers and pimps, being a wealthy man didn’t make him a snob. But she didn’t know that. All she knew was that he was a flashy relative of her employer who’d tried to strangle her.

God, she was attractive. In spite of the ferocious kick to the groin she’d dealt him earlier, he stiffened below the belt as images of her flashed through his mind. Her full breasts strapped into the passenger seat of his car, and the sway of her hips in the sensible black trousers she’d been wearing taunted him. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as his mind began to race.

He wanted her.

He had six months left to get married or lose a long-standing bet and his honor forever. Time was running out.

She wanted money.

He needed a wife.

A plan was taking shape, and he didn’t care if he went straight to hell for even considering the idea.

Chapter Two

Helen quickly locked the battered door to her studio flat behind her and slumped against the cold interior wall. She was breathless after racing up three flights of dark narrow stairs. They were far too dank and sinister to hang around in. Perhaps on reflection she had been stupid to agree to living out. This was a dark and dangerous area at night for a woman by herself. She had to admit to feeling genuinely unsafe, but the Condesa had made it obvious that she didn’t want Helen living under the same roof as her. Helen knew why—the entire household did—but she was in no position to judge what her employer got up to with her young, buff protégés.

A loud knock on the door shattered the silence and a surge of adrenaline ripped through her. “Who’s that?” Helen said. Her hands were trembling. The rent had been paid up two weeks in advance so she wasn’t due for an unpleasant visit from her landlord yet…

“It’s me.

Ricardo. Open up before I get mugged out here, will you?”

Helen exhaled a tiny laugh, relieved it wasn’t her greasy landlord, and rattled the heavy key in the door to admit a large angular mass of Spanish male. Ricardo slid lithely in before it was even properly open.

“Dios, this place is a dump!” He quickly looked around the tiny living room. “How much are you paying for this?”

“It’s the cheapest I could find.” The half smile on her face disappeared as she followed his eyes around the shabby interior. “I’ve been waiting for my day off to have a bit of a tidy up.”

“I don’t think there’s much you can do with it, frankly,” he said, flicking the flat of his hand roughly across her back.

“Damn!” she exclaimed when she registered what he was doing. “I must remember not to touch the walls. There’s bloody paint peeling off everywhere in here.”

“It would appear so,” he agreed, allowing his hand to rest a moment longer than necessary on her shoulder.

“So, er, did I leave something in the car?” She picked up a pile of mail and pretended she was sorting through it. “It could have waited until tomorrow, I’m sure.”

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