A Fragile Heart (BBW Billionaire Light Romance)

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Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Part One

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Part Two

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

A FRAGILE HEART

Juliet Michaels

Copyright © 2014 Juliet Michaels

Cover Images © 2014 Pressmaster – Depositphotos.com

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 978-1503333871

ISBN-13: 1503333876

PART ONE

Chapter One

Elena looked down at her outfit and despaired: black leggings, old trainers, a t-shirt which she’d brought back from Ibiza three years ago (and should’ve been thrown out long ago), and a cotton sweatshirt tied round her waist. She glanced about her at some of her work colleagues, who were also about to take part in this charity fun run.
 

Suzie was her usual neat self with a navy tracksuit and her blond hair drawn back in a pony tail, Jude had appeared in shiny pink lurex with pink pompoms on her socks, and Marianne, never one to miss an opportunity to expose her perfect figure, had braved the blustery March morning in tiny white shorts and an even tinier vest top.
 

Why did I ever get involved?
Elena thought. She wasn’t built for running and hadn't done any training. Even back at school, she’d dreaded any form of sport or P.E. lesson. Still, it was all for a good cause and she had simply been swept along by the enthusiasm of her work friends.
 

Yvonne, Elena’s boss and organiser of the event, came up with a clipboard and bundle of paper.

“Great,” she said, ticking Elena's name off her list. “Loads of people have turned up, even more than I had hoped. I'll just pin your number on the front and back, and we’ll be off in a minute.”

She pointed out the route with her pen.

“Once round the park, follow the outside path, out of the gate at the top, cross the road to the pavement in front of those fabulous Regency houses and carry on until the middle gate, then back into the park and meet here.”

She took a step back, surveying the assembled crowd.

“Anyone who’s going for the double circuit, see you back here,” she shouted. And then, with a sharp blow on her whistle, they were off.

There appeared to be around fifty or so brave souls who had turned up at this unearthly hour of eight a.m. on a Sunday morning; people had obviously encouraged more friends and family to join them. Quite a few seemed to be semi-experienced runners and set off quickly. Elena meanwhile joined the middle bunch and, for a time, jogging gently, was just about able to keep up. But she found it became harder and harder as they went on. Some joggers were even chatting as they ran, which seemed incredible to Elena, who had begun to struggle with her breathing.
 

As they were approaching the gate she got a stitch in her side and came to a stop, bent over, breathing deeply. She watched as other joggers overtook her, then decided to walk for a while, hoping the pain might go away.
 

Not for the first time, Elena wished that she was a size ten or twelve, instead of her generous sixteen. Perhaps then she would find exercise more appealing. However, she consoled herself that as long as she actually finished, she would be eligible to collect her sponsor money, even if she had to walk the rest of the way.
 

Feeling slightly better after her short rest, she trotted towards the gate of the park and picked up a little speed once more.
 

If only I’d bought a sports bra
, she thought, as her ample boobs seemed to have a life of their own beneath the straining t-shirt.
 
Tugging at the shirt, she crossed the road towards the pavement and, before she knew what was happening, caught her toe on the kerb and stumbled, wrenching her ankle.

With a yelp of pain, she staggered across the pavement and sat down on the bottom of a flight of white marble steps in front of one of the immaculate houses. She rested her head on her knees, taking gulps of air as she waited for the pain and the clammy feeling of faintness to pass.
 

How she wished she was anywhere else, rather than here on this step on a sunny, Sunday morning.

“If you’ve been out clubbing, please don't be sick on my step.”

She heard the deep, masculine voice from behind her and was faintly aware of movement on the step above.

“Clubbing?!” she exploded. “Do you really think I would be dressed like
this
to go out on a Saturday night? And even if I did, I certainly wouldn't finish up on anyone's step.”

“Then what are you doing?”

“I'm in a charity run ... If you look at my back you'll see a number.”

“No number, it must have dropped off.”

Elena looked sideways and saw a pair of bare feet, brown, muscular legs and, finishing at the knees, the bottom of a dark red robe.
 

She looked up –
wow!
– to find herself staring at the most fantastic man: lean and athletic, not to mention handsome, with dark hair and steely grey eyes. Probably just nearing forty with that indefinable aura of money all over him. He came down to the bottom step and leaned over her, gazing at the front of her t-shirt, his robe falling open a little to reveal his tanned, toned, muscular chest. Elena was aware of the clinging material of her own shirt and she hunched her shoulders as he looked at the number.

“Well then, number 56, what happened?” he asked.

“I tripped up the kerb and twisted my ankle.”

He sat down next to her on the bottom step. Totally taken by surprise, Elena tried to breathe deeply and keep calm.

“Try moving your foot up and down and side to side.”

Gingerly, she wriggled her foot around, but it was still painful.

“Doesn't seem like there's anything broken,” he said, leaning forward to roll down her sock.
 

She noticed that his hair was damp, probably straight from the shower, and he smelled of expensive, citrus cologne.

“Ankle’s swollen,” he pronounced. “I seem to remember reading somewhere that you need to rest the foot and keep it cold.”

“Well, I don't happen to have a bag of frozen peas with me,” she snapped, feeling out of her comfort zone. After all, here she was, in her sweaty old running clothes, with her foot being held by the sort of gorgeous man she would never usually get to meet.

“If you come in, I'm sure my housekeeper will have some in the fridge.”

For a moment, Elena thought of refusing, but her ankle was beginning to throb, and he seemed to be the only means of help around.
 

Why not?
she thought to herself.
 

Chapter Two

Holding tightly onto the rail at the side of the steps, Elena carefully made her way towards the shiny, navy front door, with its brass knocker and letter box.

“Here, hold on to me.”

So she held on to his arm and hopped into the spacious hallway. She was dimly aware of a high ceiling, wide curving staircase and an antique table to the left on which stood a magnificent arrangement of spring flowers – daffodils, tulips and narcissi. On the wall above the flowers was a huge gilt mirror and as they passed, Elena caught a glimpse of herself.

Oh no!
 

Her best features – in fact the only ones she was happy with – were her creamy, soft skin and mane of tawny hair, but in the mirror she saw that her face was flushed bright red from running and her hair was wild and tangled from the breeze. Just her luck to meet the most perfect looking guy when she herself looked at her absolute worst.

He opened a door on the right and ushered her into an airy, medium-sized room with Shaker style units, a green Aga and dark wooden kitchen table and chairs. A deep, cream sofa was placed in front of the window, next to a coffee table piled with newspapers.

“Put your foot up,” he suggested, pulling out the kitchen chairs.

Elena was relieved to sit down and lifted her injured foot onto the spare chair to rest it. She looked around and was surprised, considering the size of the house, that this room was quite small and rather simply furnished. There was a pot of coffee on the side unit and a half-filled cup next to it.

“My housekeeper uses the large kitchen at the back of the house for the main catering,” he explained, catching her gaze. “I use this as a sort of den, especially on Sundays, when I hope to have a quiet morning."
 

As he spoke, Elena felt slightly embarrassed that he had obviously noticed how much interest she was taking in the surroundings.
 

 
“There should be something in here,” he said, delving into a small freezer. "Ah yes, peas okay?”

“Thank you,” Elena replied, leaning forward to loosen the lace on her trainers, uncomfortably aware of how old and shabby they were. She didn't have spare money to spend on trendy sports clothes and had grabbed the first casual things she could find early that morning.

He carefully draped the frozen packet of peas over her throbbing ankle.

“Perhaps we should introduce ourselves,” he said simply, holding out his hand. “Guy Silver.”

Elena took his hand and was instantly surprised by a small shock of attraction. It may have been some time since she’d been badly let down, but her trust in men was still very fragile and she’d built quite a wall around her emotions.

“Elena Walsh,” she responded quietly. “And thank you for your help.”

“So, Elena,” he continued, “what on earth is so important that you’re willing to risk life and limb running around the streets of London at this hour?”
 

She detected a hint of irony in his voice and decided that she would give him the full story. After all, it would give her time to rest and compose herself ready to continue the run.

 
“Well, we’re raising money for a children's hospice,” she began. “My boss has a little niece who’s there and all of us in the office have been doing various fund raising events this year. It's only a small home in Somerset, but the children are so well cared for and every penny raised goes straight to
 
making their lives more comfortable.”

She took a breath, wondering if she was going into too much detail, but noticed that he looked interested, his intense grey eyes fixed on hers, so decided to continue.

“People are often willing to give to large charities where much of the money goes on fancy offices and admin, but this goes straight to the hospice. They’re landscaping the garden this year, so we’re trying to raise money for a play house and furniture. This is more personal and we feel involved because we see photographs of the children and know exactly how the money is used and what a difference it can make.”

“What's the name?” he asked.

“Thornwood Children's Hospice,” she replied.

“Is it a large office you work in?”

Elena explained that there were only twenty-four people who worked together at Banks and Marshall, the market research office near Charing Cross Road, but told him how enthusiastic they had all become in their fund raising, trying to think of new ideas all the time.

“Once we’ve collected all the sponsor money for today and add it to the rest that we’ve already got, we might be nearing a thousand pounds, That's our big target!” she ended.

Elena felt that she had taken up enough time and was aware that Yvonne would have to wait in the park to tick off all the runners on her list as they finished. She must be wondering what had happened to Elena. She felt she should begin to move. Carefully she got to her feet.
 

 
“I would offer to get my driver to take you home, but Sunday is his day off, I’m afraid. Shall I call you a taxi?”

Guy was standing at the kitchen table now, watching her closely as she held onto the back of the chair, just that burgundy robe wrapped around his athletic muscular frame, his wet hair sparkling in the morning light.

“No. I have to finish the run, otherwise I can't honestly collect my sponsor money.”

He frowned slightly, his handsome features flashing with concern.

“Are you
sure
you should continue? I mean, surely your friends would understand that you'd been injured,” he said, and Elena was pleased to note a trace of genuine warmth in his voice.

Oh, how she wished she could stay here in this pretty, snug kitchen, letting Sunday morning drift away with this handsome, sexy man. She could hardly believe that it was happening, but time was passing, and she definitely must go.

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