Her New Year Baby Secret

By: Jessica Gilmore

The Italian millionaire’s secret heir!

Waitress Sophie Bradshaw is used to being ignored at glamorous parties and, bruised by a disastrous relationship, that’s fine by her. Until Marco Santoro offers her his jacket, leading to a magical Christmas evening together...

Exasperated by his family’s matchmaking, millionaire Marco never gets close to anyone. But one heart-stopping night with Sophie isn’t enough, and he invites her to his Venetian palazzo. Little does he know that Sophie is bringing one tiny, life-changing surprise with her!





CHAPTER ONE

Early December, Chelsea, London

‘WAIT! STOP! OH, NO...’ Sophie Bradshaw skidded to a halt and watched the bus sail past her, the driver utterly oblivious to her outstretched hand. ‘Just great,’ she muttered, pulling her cardigan more closely around her and turning, careful not to slip on the icy pavement, to scan the arrivals board in the bus stop, hoping against hope the next bus wasn’t too far behind.

She huffed out a sigh of disappointment. Tonight London buses were definitely not running in pairs—she would have to wait twenty minutes until the next one. And, to add insult to injury, the light snowflakes that had been falling in a picturesque fashion over Chelsea’s well-heeled streets all evening had decided to pick up both speed and strength and were now dancing dizzily through the air, blown here and there by some decidedly icy gusts of wind. Sophie eyed a taxi longingly. Would it hurt? Just this once? Only, last time she’d checked, she had only forty pounds left in her bank account, there was still a week to go until payday and, crucially, she still hadn’t bought any Christmas presents.

She’d just have to wait and hope her best friend, and fellow waitress, Ashleigh, joined her soon so that she could forget her freezing hands and sore feet in a good gossip about the evening’s event. Sophie hadn’t received one thank you in the three hours she had toted a laden tray around the expensively dressed party-goers, but she had experienced several jostlings, three toe-tramplings and one pat on her bottom. It was a good thing her hands had been occupied in balancing the tray or the bottom patter might have found himself wearing the stuffed prawns, which would have been momentarily satisfying but probably not the best career move.

Sophie shivered as another icy gust blew through the bus shelter and straight through her inadequate if seasonally appropriate sparkly cardigan. Why hadn’t she brought a coat, a proper grown-up coat with a hood and a warm lining and a waterproof outer layer? ‘Vanity, thy name is Sophie,’ she muttered. Well, she was getting her just reward now; nothing shrieked high-end fashion like the ‘frozen drowned rat’ look.

Huddling down into the cardigan, she turned, hoping once more to see her friend, but there was still no sign of Ashleigh and Sophie’s phone was out of battery—again. The snow-covered street was eerily deserted, as if she were alone in the world. She blinked, hot unwanted tears filling her eyes. It wasn’t just that she was cold, or that she was tired. It was that feeling of being invisible, no more human or worthy of attention than the platters she held, less interesting than the cocktails she had been handing out.

She swallowed, resolutely blinking back the tears. Don’t be a baby, she scolded herself. So her job was hard work? At least she had a job and she was lucky enough to work with some lovely people. So her flat was so small she couldn’t offer Ashleigh even a temporary home? At least she had a flat—and, even better, an almost affordable flat right here in Chelsea. Well, ‘right here’ being a twenty-minute bus ride away to the unfashionable edges of Chelsea, but it was all hers.

So she was a little lonely? Far, far better to be lonely alone than lonely with someone else. She knew that all too well.

She straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin as if she could physically banish her dark thoughts, but her chest still ached with a yearning for something more than the narrow existence she had lived since moving to London just over a year and a half ago. The narrow existence she’d trapped herself in long before that. What must it be like to be a guest at one of the many glittering parties and events she worked at? To wear colour and shine, not stay demure and unnoticed in black and white?

With a sigh she looked around once more, hoping that the bright smile and can-do attitude of her old friend might help her shake this sudden and unwanted melancholy, but although the snow fell thicker and faster than ever there was still no sign of Ashleigh. Nor was there any sign of the bus. The board in the shelter was resolutely sticking to an arrival in twenty minutes’ time, even though at least five long minutes had already passed...

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