Home > The Billionaire's Cinderella Contract

The Billionaire's Cinderella Contract
Author: Michelle Smart

CHAPTER ONE


   MIA CALDWELL GAZED at the nondescript central London building before her then double-checked the address she’d been given. She’d never heard of Club Giroud, but this ordinary, black, slightly shabby front door did not look like the entrance of any club she’d been to before. The address matched, and the app on her phone indicated she was in the right place.

   She put her finger to the doorbell, tightened her hold on her handbag and waited, trying hard not to bounce on her toes.

   At the end of last night’s performance she’d been in her tiny shared dressing room barely minutes when her normally useless agent had called. She hadn’t spoken to Phil in over a month, so the call had been as unexpected as his news that she’d been invited to audition for the director of a new theatre company intending to tour a show in the south of the country.

   The only catch was that the audition was being held first thing the next morning in a private club rather than in a theatre. Oh, and Phil had forgotten to get the name of the theatre company. And the name of the show. Or to ask how much the pay would be.

   She really needed to think about getting a new agent.

   As she was on the last leg of her current tour and had nothing else lined up there was no way she was turning the audition down. Whatever the pay was, it couldn’t be less than she was currently earning. If she was lucky, and they intended to play bigger theatres, she might earn a little more, hopefully enough to save a little cash. The boiler in her flat kept making ominous noises whenever she turned the hot water on, there was damp coming through the walls, plus there was no way her car would pass its next MOT. Right now, she didn’t have the money to pay for any of these things.

   The door opened. A huge man mountain with shoulder-length greasy hair dressed in a too-short and too-tight black suit stood in the threshold and stared at her with no expression whatsoever.

   ‘Is this Club Giroud?’ Mia asked when the man mountain made no effort to speak.

   ‘And you are?’

   ‘Mia Caldwell.’

   ‘ID?’

   That was something else, apart from the venue, that she’d found curious about this audition. The request for her to bring identification.

   The man mountain examined her driving licence closely, gave a grunt, passed it back and then stepped aside to admit her with a curt, ‘Follow me.’

   She hesitated before stepping into a lobby as dingy and nondescript as the building’s exterior, and followed Mr Man Mountain to a door at the far end. When that door opened...

   Her eyes widened and for a moment she stood still, taking it all in. If there was a polar opposite of the dingy, nondescript lobby this was it, but she barely had time to soak in the richly decorated Gothic reception room when Mr Man Mountain grunted at her to continue and she was led through another door into a wide Gothic-inspired corridor. Up a flight of hardwood stairs, they came to another corridor. Some of the doors they passed were open. Mia caught a glimpse of a casino then a little further on a tantalising peep of a bar with a grand piano. Mr Man Mountain finally came to a stop, pushed a door open and indicated for her to enter.

   She fixed the sunny smile to her face that now came as naturally to her as breathing and crossed the threshold.

   This room was a fraction of the size of the others she’d passed and contained only two dark leather sofas separated by a small table. A man sat reading through a paper file. Their eyes met as the door closed behind her.

   Prickles laced her spine at the unabashed scrutiny she found in his stare but, before the prickles could be defined, he rose from his seat and strode to her.

   ‘Miss Caldwell?’ he clarified, extending his hand. ‘Damián Delgado. It’s a pleasure to meet you.’

   She held her hand out and found it gripped by the firmest handshake she’d ever been on the receiving end of.

   ‘Likewise,’ she murmured. Mia rarely found herself flustered but there was something about this man that set all her nerve endings pinging.

   He was gorgeous. As tall as Mr Man Mountain but half the width, he had a muscular physique wrapped in a crisp white shirt, navy trousers and a silver striped tie but it was his eyes that really captured her attention. It was like staring into melted obsidian. Thick black hair styled in a classic crew cut framed a chiselled face with a broad yet defined nose and a generous mouth, all of which was enhanced by a trim black goatee beard.

   And he smelled amazing.

   ‘Can I get you refreshment?’

   As her throat had suddenly gone dry, she asked for a glass of water.

   ‘Still or sparkling?’

   ‘Still.’

   He walked to a cabinet. ‘Please take a seat.’

   Fearing she was in danger of swooning over his voice as well as his looks, she sat on the sofa opposite the one he’d been using. But honestly, his voice...it matched his eyes, all dark and rich, and his accent! This was a voice she would gladly have read her a bedtime story.

   ‘Let us get straight to business,’ he said as he popped the lid of a glass bottle of water. ‘What have you been told about why you’re here?’

   For the beat of a moment Mia wondered what he was talking about. And then she realised she’d been on the verge of drooling over this man and pulled herself together sharply. ‘That I’m here to audition for a role...’ She looked more closely at him. At the immaculate way he was turned out, right down to shoes so buffed he could use them as mirrors...

   Damián Delgado did not look like any theatre director she’d met before. And nor did his name mean anything to her. There was not a performing arts magazine or blog that Mia didn’t subscribe to. His name should mean something.

   Suspicions suddenly zinging through her, she narrowed her eyes. ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know the name of the production.’

   ‘That’s because there is no production.’

   ‘Sorry?’

   He placed her glass of water on the table and folded himself back on the sofa. ‘The audition was a cover story.’ He inclined towards her, his scrutinising stare unblinking. Unsettling. ‘I need an actress to accompany me for a weekend to my family home in Monte Cleure.’

   She drank half her water, unable to tear her gaze from his face even while she tried to take in his words. Mia had never been to Monte Cleure, a tiny principality sandwiched between France and Spain. Widely regarded as one of the wealthiest and most glamorous countries on the planet, only the stinking rich could afford to live there.

   ‘If you agree to my proposition, I am prepared to pay you two hundred thousand pounds and cover all your expenses.’

   Her mouth dropped open. So stunned was she at the astronomical figure quoted, which was ten times the amount she’d earned over the past year, that it took a few seconds for her brain to process it. ‘You want to pay me two hundred thousand pounds?’

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