“Why not?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. Just haven’t felt like it.”

The knowledge gave her a start and she crossed her arms over her chest. “I just hope they’re not expecting a super wealthy, sophisticated type—”

“They’re not expecting anything because I haven’t told them about you.”

She felt a stinging pinch to her ego and rolled her eyes at herself. Unable to stand her anxiety any longer, she gave a sigh and turned to leave the room.

“Where are you going?” he called after her.

“To bake a cake,” she said.

“Why? That’s why I have staff,” he said.

“It will give me something to do and make the house smell welcoming,” she muttered and continued into the kitchen where the cook was preparing lasagna. “Would I be in your way if I baked a cake?” she asked Gary.

He looked at her in surprise. “Not at all, but I can do it for you.”

“I know you can and you could probably do a better job, but I’d like to do it if you don’t mind.”

Gary’s face softened. “Of course. Let me know if I can help you. Do you need a cookbook?”

“No. I’ve got this one memorized,” she said and mixed together one of her favorite cakes from childhood.

Minutes after she put the cake in the oven, the doorbell rang. Her stomach twisted. She heard a chorus of voices, male and female, along with that of a child. She considered hiding in the kitchen, but forced herself into the hallway.

At first glance, she almost couldn’t believe how similar the brothers looked. All were tall with dark complexions. One of the brothers had a scar on his cheek, his bone structure somewhat angular. If she hadn’t seen him smile, she would have thought he looked like a handsome version of Satan. That one must be Damien.

The other brother held a boy in his arms and a glowing woman stood beside him. From what Michael had told her, she concluded this was Rafe, the playboy brother who’d been tamed by his wife.

Suddenly, she felt Damien’s gaze on her. Curiosity glinted in his eyes. “Who do we have here?” he asked Michael.

Michael met her gaze and smiled. “This is Bella St. Clair. Bella, this is my brother Damien and his wife Emma. Rafe, his wife Nicole and his son—”

“Joel,” she said, smiling at the adorable boy who looked like a miniature of his father with the exception of his blue eyes.


Rafe lifted his eyebrows. “She has an advantage. She knows more about us than we know about her.”

“From what I’ve heard about the Medici brothers, I need every advantage I can find,” she said. “Nice to meet you all.”

“Nice to meet you, too,” Nicole said, stepping forward. “You’re a brave woman facing all of them at once.” She paused and sniffed the air. “What is that delicious smell?”

“Michael’s cook is preparing lasagna,” Bella said.

Nicole shook her head. “No. This is a chocolate smell.”

Bella smiled. “Oh, I baked a chocolate cake. It’s a favorite recipe from childhood. Chocolate applesauce cake.”

“You’ve just gotten a best friend forever,” Rafe said. “My wife is having chocolate cravings that grow more intense each day. I’m having a hard time keeping up.”

Nicole swatted at him. “He’s joking. This isn’t related to my pregnancy. I like chocolate anyway.”

“So do I,” Emma said and extended her hand. “It’s nice to meet you. How did you and Michael meet?”

“At one of his restaurants,” she said. “I worked there, but I didn’t know he was the owner,” she quickly added. “Snowy night, lots of conversation, some surprising things in common.”

“Sounds romantic,” Emma said.

“It was definitely interesting. I haven’t met anyone like him,” she said, catching him watching her from the small space that separated them.

“I’m so glad Michael has a…um—” Nicole stopped and laughed. “A friend. He’s such a workaholic. Of course, Damien was the same. So was Rafe. He just projected another image, so everyone would think he was a playboy.”

“Why are you talking about me as if I’m not here?” Rafe asked.

Gary appeared in the foyer. “I can serve dinner anytime you like.”

“Now sounds good,” Damien said.

“Big brother has spoken,” Michael said good-naturedly. “Five or ten minutes okay?” he asked Gary.

“No problem,” Gary said. “The table is waiting.”

“I need to go to the bathroom,” Joel said.

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