The Millionaire's Indecent Proposal


by Emilie Rose

Prologue

“Must you marry every woman you sleep with?” Franco Constantine demanded of his father. Furious, he paced the salon of the family chateau outside Avignon, France. “This one is younger than me.”His father shrugged and smiled—the smile of a besotted old fool. “I’m in love.”

“No, Papa, you’re in lust. Again. We cannot afford another one of your expensive divorce settlements. Our cash reserves are tied up in expanding Midas Chocolates. For God’s sake, if you refuse to have a prenuptial agreement, then at least sign everything over to me before you marry her and jeopardize our business and the family properties with mistake number five.”

Armand shook his head. “Angeline is not a mistake. She is a blessing.”

Franco had met the misnamed harpy at lunch. She was no angel. But he knew from past experience his father would not listen when a woman had him transfixed. “I disagree.”

Armand rested a hand on Franco’s shoulder. “I hate to see you so bitter, Franco. Granted, your ex-wife was a selfish bitch, but not all women are.”

“You’re wrong. Women are duplicitous and mercenary creatures. There is nothing I want from one that I cannot buy.”

“If you’d stop dating spoiled rich women and find someone with traditional values like Angeline, you’d find a woman who would love you for yourself and not your money.”

“Wrong. And if your paramour loves you and not your wealth, she’ll stick by you once you’ve divested yourself, and I won’t have to borrow against our estate again, close stores or lay off workers when your ardor cools and her lawyers start circling.”

“If you want to control the Constantine holdings so badly, then marry.”

“I won’t endanger the family assets by marrying again.”

“And what of an heir? Someone to inherit all this when you and I are gone?” Armand’s sweeping gesture encompassed the chateau which had been in the family for hundreds of years.

Something in his father’s tone raised the hackles on the back of Franco’s neck. “Is Angeline pregnant?”

“No. But son, you are thirty-eight. I should be bouncing grandbabies on my knee by now. Since you’re not willing to provide heirs to our estate then I think perhaps I should. Angeline is only thirty. I could have several more sons and daughters by her before I die.”

“You can’t be serious. You’re seventy-five.”

His father speared him with a hard glance. “If you marry before my September wedding, I’ll sign everything over to you. If you do not…” He extended his arms and shrugged. “I’ll take matters into my own hands.”

Franco could easily find a woman to marry. Any number of his acquaintances would agree, but the stench of his ex-wife’s betrayal still clung to him. He’d been a young love-struck fool, blind to Lisette’s faults and her treachery. He would never let a woman dupe him like that again. Marriage was out of the question.

He stood toe to toe with his father. “If I find one of these mythical paragons and prove she’s just as greedy as the rest of her sex, then you will sign the Constantine properties over to me without a parody of a marriage on my part.”

“Prove it how exactly?”

How indeed? “I’ll offer her a million euros for the use of her body for one month without the pretense of love or the possibility of marriage. That amount is but a fraction of what each of your divorces has cost us.”

“I accept your terms, but don’t try to weasel out of this by finding an impossible woman. She must be one who you find attractive and beddable, and who you would be willing to marry if she cannot be bought.”

A woman who could not be bought. No such animal existed.

Confident he would win, Franco extended his hand to shake on the deal. Victory would not only be sweet, it would be easy, and his father’s most recent parasite would not get the chance to sink her fangs in the family coffers and suck them dry.

One

“Le chocolat qui vaut son poids en or,” Stacy Reeves read the gilt script on the shop window aloud. “What does that mean?” she asked her friend Candace without looking away from the mouthwatering display of chocolates on gold-rimmed plates.“Chocolate worth its weight in gold,” a slightly accented and thoroughly masculine voice replied. Definitely not Candace.

Surprised, Stacy pivoted on her sandaled foot. Wow. Forget chocolate. The dark-haired blue-eyed hunk in front of her looked good enough to eat.

“Would you care for a piece, mademoiselle? My treat.” Monsieur Gorgeous indicated the shop door with his hand. A silver-toned, wafer-thin watch winked beneath his suit sleeve. Platinum, she’d bet, from the affluent look of what had to be a custom-tailored suit. Nothing from a department store would fit those broad shoulders, narrow h*ps and long legs so perfectly.

Never mind that she’d probably dream of licking chocolate from the deep cleft in his chin tonight, Stacy had learned the hard way that when something looked too good to be true it was. Always. A seductively sexy stranger offering free gourmet chocolate had to be a set-up because sophisticated guys like him didn’t go for practical accountants like her. And her simple lilac sundress and sensible walking sandals weren’t the stuff of which male fantasies were made.

She glanced up and down the Boulevard des Moulins, one of the principality of Monaco’s shopping streets, searching for her friend. Candace was nowhere in sight, but she had to be behind Mr. Delectable’s appearance and offer. Her friend had joked about finding husbands for each of her bridesmaids before her wedding in four weeks time. At least Stacy had thought she was joking. Until now.

Stacy tilted her head, considered the man in question and gave him a saccharine smile. “Does that line usually work for you with American tourists?”

The corners of his oh-so-tempting lips twitched and his eyes glinted with humor beneath thick, straight eyebrows. He pressed a ringless left hand to his chest. “You wound me, mademoiselle.”

With his fantasy good looks he had to have an epic ego to match. “I sincerely doubt it.”

She scanned the sidewalks again looking for her MIA friend. Anything would be better than embarrassing herself by drooling over something she couldn’t have. Namely him or the five-dollar—make that euro—per-piece candy.

“You are looking for someone? A lover, perhaps?”

Lover. Just hearing him say the word, rolling that R, gave her goose bumps.

“A friend.” One who’d been right behind her seconds ago. Candace must have ducked into one of the quaint shops nearby, either to purchase something wedding-related or to spy if she was the one responsible for this encounter. After all, stopping by the chocolate shop had been Candace’s idea.

“May I assist you in locating your friend?”

He had the most amazing voice. Deep and velvety. Was the accent French or native Monégasque? Stacy could listen to him talk for hours.

No. She couldn’t. She was here with Candace, the bride-to-be, and two other bridesmaids to help prepare for Candace’s wedding the first weekend in July, not to have a vacation romance.

“Thanks, but no thanks.” Before Stacy could walk away, Candace popped out of the shop next door waving a scrap of lace.

“Stacy, I found the most exquisitely embroidered…” She trailed off as she spotted the Adonis beside Stacy. Surprise arched her pale eyebrows. “…handkerchief.”

Maybe this wasn’t a set-up. Stacy rocked back on her heels, folded her arms and waited for the inevitable. Candace had naturally white-blond hair and big baby-blue eyes. Her innocent Alice-in-Wonderland looks tended to bowl men over. No doubt this guy would fall at Candace’s dainty feet. Stacy had never had that problem and that suited her fine. Forever wasn’t in the cards for her. She’d never trust a man that much.

“Mademoiselle.” Tall, Dark and Tempting bowed slightly. “I am trying to convince vôtre amie to allow me to gift to her un chocolat, but she questions my intentions. Perhaps if I buy you both lunch she will see that I’m quite harmless.”

Harmless? Ha! He radiated smooth charm in the way that only a European man could.

A cunning smile curved Candace’s lips and her eyes narrowed on Stacy. Uh-oh. Stacy stiffened. Whenever she saw that expression, someone was getting ready to try and pull a fast one on the IRS, and that meant trouble for Stacy, their accountant. “I’m sorry, Monsieur…? I didn’t catch your name.”

He offered his hand. “Constantine. Franco Constantine.”

Recognition sparked in Candace’s eyes, but the name meant nothing to Stacy. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you, Monsieur Constantine. My fiancé, Vincent Reynard, has spoken of you often. I’m Candace Meyers, and this is my one of my bridesmaids, Stacy Reeves.”

Mr. Wonderful’s considerable charms shone back on Stacy with the heat of the noonday sun. He offered his hand. Darn protocol. She’d been warned during the hours-long etiquette session delivered by Candace’s soon-to-be sister-in-law that the inhabitants of this tiny country were quite formal and polite. Refusing to shake his hand would be an insult.

Franco’s fingers closed around Stacy’s. Warm. Firm. Lingering. His charisma spread over Stacy like butter on hot bread. “Enchanté, mademoiselle.”

She snatched her hand free and blamed the spark skipping up her arm on static electricity caused by the warm, dry climate. A predatory gleam flashed in his eyes, and warning prickles marched down Stacy’s spine. Dangerous.

He turned back to Candace. “May I offer my congratulations on your upcoming nuptials, Mademoiselle Meyers? Vincent is a lucky man.”

“Thank you, monsieur, and I would love to accept your luncheon invitation, but I’m afraid I’ll have to decline. I have a meeting with the caterer in an hour. Stacy, however, is free for the rest of the afternoon.”

Stacy’s jaw dropped. She snapped it closed and glared at her friend. Embarrassment burned her cheeks. “I am not. I’m here to help you plan your wedding. Remember?”

“Madeline, Amelia and I have everything under control. You have a nice lunch. We’ll catch up with you tonight before we go to the casino. Oh, and monsieur, the hotel has already received your RSVP to the wedding and the rehearsal dinner. Merci. Au revoir.” Candace waggled her fingers and departed.

Stacy considered murder. But she’d read that Monaco had a truly impressive police force. There was no way she could get away with strangling the petite blonde in broad daylight on a crowded street, and rotting away in a European prison wasn’t exactly the financially secure future she had planned for herself.

A plan now in jeopardy.

Worry immediately weighted her shoulders, but she slammed the barriers in place. Stop it. This is Candace’s month. Don’t ruin it for her.

But Stacy wasn’t the type to hide her head in the sand. She knew she had some difficult days ahead. Not now. You have a more urgent problem standing in front of you. She blinked away her distressing thoughts and examined the man problem. She hadn’t missed Candace’s not-so-subtle hint that Franco Constantine was close enough to the Reynards to have been invited to the intimate rehearsal dinner for only a dozen or so guests.

In other words, play nice.

Franco grasped Stacy’s bare elbow as if he knew making a fast escape topped her to-do list. She felt those long fingers clear down to her toes, and it rattled her that an impersonal touch from a stranger could wreak havoc on her metabolism.

“If you will give me but a moment, Mademoiselle Reeves, I must speak to the shopkeeper, and then I am at your disposal.”

He escorted Stacy inside the chocolate shop. The heavenly aroma was enough to give her a willpower-melting sugar rush. After greeting the clerk, Franco commenced a conversation in rapid-fire French…or something that sounded like French.