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Mistletoe Not Required

By:Anne Oliver

Mistletoe Not Required
Anne Oliver

ONE

Olivia Wishart slicked ruby gloss on her lips, then checked her strapless cocktail dress in the mirror and frowned. 'Red lips, red dress, red hair.' She reached for her standby little black dress. 'I don't care if everyone's decked to the halls in Christmas finery, it's-'

'Lovely, but not for tonight.' Her best friend, Breanna Black, whipped the garment from her hand. 'And not another word-you look sensational.' She eyed the cleavage on display and nodded. 'Wise choice-men will look.'

'So long as they listen.' Olivia wasn't a fancy dress fan but the opportunity to talk up her charity to her fellow competitors in this year's Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race was too good to pass up. And a little flesh never failed to get attention.

'Try to remember, it is Christmas.' Brie shimmied into a short mulberry all-in-one playsuit with a fur-trim neckline then tossed Olivia a white feather boa. 'Here. It'll put you in the mood.'

Olivia's lips twitched as she slung the silky feathers around her neck. 'I assume you're referring to the festive mood.'

'That'd be a start,' Brie suggested, brightly.

Raising the Pink Snowflake Foundation's profile was the reason for Olivia's entry into the race. Being invited by yachting royalty to celebrate the festive season at the mega-million-dollar mansion overlooking Sydney Harbour was a bonus, but anything else...well, it wasn't going to happen.

Brie unravelled a luscious strand of silver tinsel. 'You're sure you don't mind if Jett shares our suite?' she asked for the umpteenth time.

'This mysterious brother you've managed to keep out of the way for- How long's it been?' Stepping into red stiletto sandals, Olivia reassured her, 'I told you I don't mind. I'm interested to meet him actually.'

Brie paused in her task of twisting the tinsel into her hair. 'Half-brother. And it's a slow, fraught process. Jett's a hard guy to get to know. I'm not sure he even likes me.'

Olivia smiled. 'What's not to like? And he accepted your invitation, didn't he?'

'Only because his initial plans fell through.'

'You don't know that for sure.' But Olivia was pretty sure she did. Classic irresponsible, egocentric male behaviour. Yes, she was absolutely interested to meet him, even if it was only to make certain he knew how much he meant to Brie.

Sighing, Brie flipped her reef of long black hair over her shoulder. 'It makes me feel bad that I'm going away for New Year's Eve now, but he told me not to alter my plans on his account.'

'And why should you? If you're right about his plans, he's the one who changed his mind and decided to come at the last minute.'

It was obvious Brie cared but apparently the lost sibling she'd spent three years looking for didn't give a toss. Even though they were as close as sisters, Olivia had decided it was a sensitive issue and none of her business unless Brie opened up to her. 'When's his flight due in?'

'Any time. I'll let the front desk know to expect him before I leave-' Brie's mobile buzzed and she checked caller ID. 'That's him now. Hi, Jett...'

Olivia saw her friend's smile fade, and the temptation to snatch the phone and give him a piece of her mind was overwhelming. She had to turn away. None of your business, remember.

'Oh... Uh-huh. Okay. You've got the party's address? I'll meet you there. Text me when you're here,' Olivia heard her say before she disconnected. 'His flight's been delayed. Christmas rush; he hasn't even left Melbourne yet.' She flicked through the contacts on her phone, her smile returning. 'Which gives me a spare couple of hours to meet the Horizon Three's sexy skipper for a drink downstairs at the bar after all.'

'Good for you,' Olivia enthused, reserving judgement on Jett-for now. She slipped a wad of business cards into her evening purse, handing one to Brie. 'Give him this and highlight our cause. And just remember, sexy skipper or not, he's the enemy come Boxing Day.'

Brie nodded, mobile attached to her ear, obviously waiting for Mr Sexy Skipper to pick up. 'Don't get smashed or pick up any strange men before I get there.'

As if. Olivia preferred to wake up with a clear head and no regrets. Brie, not so much. Differences aside, they made a good team, trusted and looked out for each other. She flipped the end of the boa over her shoulder. 'I promise not to get smashed.'

'And...?'

'Hey, it's a party for yachties, there'll be men. And I don't care if they're strange so long as they're rich and I can persuade them to part with large sums of money. It's Christmas Eve and I'm hopeful.'

'Good luck, then, and be careful, okay? Hi, Liam...' Brie's voice instantly switched to smooth sensuality.

'Back at you,' Olivia murmured as she slipped out of their suite and headed downstairs to summon the driver they'd organised exclusively for the entire evening.

As the chauffeured vehicle made its way across the bridge, Olivia's thoughts weren't so much on the harbour's glittering light show, but on the session she'd attended as a mandatory part of the genetics testing she'd undergone last week.

Her counsellor had said it could take weeks before she had the results. A chill ran deep through her bones. She'd never have taken the test if her mother hadn't made her promise to have it before her twenty-sixth birthday-the age her maternal grandmother had been when she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer.

So she'd done it. Two months late, but she'd done it. Fulfilled her mother's death-bed request. She'd been so busy, it had been easy to push aside her own needs-or as Brie had said, to bury her head in the sand-but now it was real and she could no longer deny the probability that she'd inherited the same mutant gene.

She wrapped her boa tighter around her shoulders. At least the result, whatever the verdict, would bring relief from the uncertainty she'd lived with as long as she could remember. And she'd deal with it in her own way-she had control of that at least.

Until then she refused to think about it. It was Christmas, she had a yacht race to win, a charity to run.

A life to live.

* * *

He was late but Jett Davies skirted the massive gold Christmas tree dominating the black marble foyer as he made his way up yet another sweeping staircase. The third level was an outdoor entertainment area and he caught a waft of briny harbour and freshly mown grass. Winking party lights cast a muted kaleidoscopic blush over the elite guests wearing anything and everything from a token nod to the festive season to the full Christmas get-up.

The guest list included the Who's Who of the yachting world from all over the globe, along with their glammed-up wives, lovers and/or mistresses. Seemed anyone with money to throw at Australia's prestigious Sydney to Hobart, one of the world's top and most difficult off-shore yacht races, was partaking of the evening's merrymaking.

A force-field of inquisitive eyes found him as he took a beer from a circulating waiter's tray. Eyes dead ahead, he cut straight to an antique spiral staircase he'd spotted in the corner. He hoped its steep and winding steps would discourage stiletto-heeled females from venturing up. He wasn't looking for an available woman. He was looking for his sister. Or had been until she'd texted him ten minutes ago to say she'd been caught up. Car problems, she'd told him-she'd let him know when she was on her way.

The stairs opened up onto a small viewing platform above the main outdoor entertainment area. Deserted-the way he liked it. Leaning on the rail, he watched the ferries track across the twinkling harbour.

Car problems. Breanna. He didn't know her well but he knew her well enough-there was no car and a man was definitely involved. He chugged back on his beer. Perhaps they had m

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