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Authors: Abby Green

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BOOK: Exquisite Revenge
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‘Get out, Sanchis. You’ve overstayed your welcome.’

She heard a miaow then, and saw Tigger at Luc’s feet, front paws on one shoe. For a second the breath faltered in Jesse’s throat. She saw Luc bend down and pick up the kitten, stroke him with those long fingers. It made her think of the frantic coupling that had just taken place with little or no finesse, just heat.

She hastily found the clasp at the back of her dress and did it up. She held out her arms for the kitten, demanding, ‘Give him to me.’

Luc didn’t look at her for a long moment, and Jesse had the awful suspicion that he might just walk out with him. But then Luc all but thrust Tigger into her arms.

He said, with a rough quality to his voice, ‘I think he’s hungry.’

And then he was at the door, where he stopped and looked back. ‘I’ll be in touch, Jesse.’

The door opened and he was gone.

For a moment, when he’d handed Tigger back to her, Jesse could have sworn she saw something piercing through the cold shell of the man he was now, but it had to have been her imagination.

Luc sat in the back of his car and stared sightlessly out of the window. He moved, and the scent of Jesse rose up to tease his nostrils. It had an immediate effect on his body, hardening it.

He scowled and ordered his driver to raise the privacy partition. He felt raw. When he’d seen the kitten at his feet, looking up at him just now, it had flung him back to the island, and the cool composure he’d somehow managed to pull around himself so that he could stand there and say those things to Jesse had threatened to crack.

But it hadn’t, and he couldn’t let it. The island had been an illusion. All along she’d been planning on leaving him there. When he thought of how confident he’d felt after he’d told her the truth about her father he felt the burning wash of humiliation. But not again. He wanted her, and he would take her. He wasn’t going to go through with the pretence of seduction when there was no need. This time they both knew exactly where they stood.

Luc was aware that not even with Maria had he felt this ruthless, or
this ruthless. Despite the accusation Jesse had flung at him in her apartment. It reminded him of the the lurid tabloid headline:
Sanchis ex-lover tries to kill herself!
Accompanied by a story equally lurid, about how his ex-lover had betrayed him with a rival architect and he’d set out to get his revenge, driving her to the brink.

The truth was that it had been pure professional espionage. Maria had been the business partner and lover of a man whose company was a rival bidder for a lucrative architect contract. She’d set out to seduce Luc for her lover, purely to get his
ideas and pass them on—which she had … And then Luc had lost the contract and a million euros’ worth of investment.

It had almost been a killer blow, coming at a crucial stage in his career, just when he’d been on the cusp of achieving real respect. It had meant more long years of gruelling graft, building himself up again, building trust. The stain of infamy had lingered.

When Maria had returned to her lover to find him in the arms of another woman she’d gone on the attack and sold stories of her breakdown to the press—each one more lurid than the next—in a bid to make her lover take her back. She’d even staged a suicide attempt … and everyone had assumed Luc was the cause.

He shook his head now, as if to shake free of the memory. He didn’t like to be reminded that he’d found it relatively easy to walk away from Maria after her betrayal, even though he’d never forgotten it. But with Jesse … He saw her and he wanted to possess her with something bordering on the obsessional.

He would have her, and this time it would be entirely on his terms. When this all-encompassing lust burnt out he would walk away. And then he would be free of any ghostly memories and her image plaguing him in his dreams every night.

The following day Jesse was on a conference call with her colleagues in Silicon Valley in California. She was gritty-eyed with lack of sleep and trying to force her foggy brain to try to keep up with the fast-flowing conversation.

She became vaguely aware of a kerfuffle of some sort outside her glass-walled office, and craned her neck to try to see what it was. When she did she almost dropped the phone. Luc was striding towards her office holding a huge box with a big pink ribbon around it, and her assistant Georgia was running after him, clearly trying to stop him from barging into Jesse’s office.

Jesse almost felt sorry for Georgia, who had a look of awe mixed with lust mixed with fear on her face.

And then there he was, standing in her office, grinning at her. But Jesse could see the ice in his eyes. So nothing had changed there.

She said into the phone, ‘I’m sorry, gentlemen, something has come up. I’m going to have to reschedule this call.’

She put down the phone and got up and went to the door.

Georgia was outside, blushing. ‘I’m really sorry, Jesse, he just—’

Jesse stopped her. ‘It’s fine. I’ll handle it.’

She closed the door and turned to face Luc, who was looking around her office with interest. Jesse wasn’t unaware of lots of eyes checking them out, and cursed the fact that she’d insisted on glass-walled offices to foster a sense of openess.

She went back to her desk and sat down, trying to assert her authority—which was laughable. She had no authority around this man. He came over and put the box down on her desk. He leant over it and Jesse fought not to slink back into the chair, or let her eyes dwell on his hard-boned face.

‘Considering how generous you were in giving me a wardrobe of clothes on Oxakis, I’ve decided to return the favour.’

Jesse glanced at the box suspiciously, as if it might explode, and then back at Luc. ‘What is it?’

He stood back. ‘Take it out and have a look.’

Colour flared into Jesse’s cheeks and she glanced around her. She saw several heads quickly swivel back to work. She could well imagine Luc had chosen something to mete out as much humiliation as possible.

She hissed at him, ‘You can’t just come in here like this. I’m busy. That was an important call you interrupted.’

Luc quirked a brow. ‘You mean like the way you
barge into my office and demand to be heard?’

Jesse flushed even more. So he was following through on his promise of retribution.

She reached for the box and ripped off the bow. ‘If it’s the only way to get rid of you …’

The top of the box came off to reveal gold tissue paper. Jesse pushed it aside to see champagne-coloured folds of material peeping out. Intrigued despite herself, Jesse lifted out the dress. It was strapless and short—exactly the kind of dress she’d seen other women wearing and envied.

She avoided Luc’s eye, feeling horribly vulnerable. ‘I don’t wear things like this. It won’t suit me.’

‘Well, I have a yen to see you in a short dress, so you’re wearing it tonight, at the opening of a gallery in town.’

Before she could respond to his autocratic statement he came and sat on the side of her desk, for all the world as if this was a daily occurrence.

‘Keep going. There’s more,’ he said.

For a second Jesse’s heart clenched hard, painfully. What if things had been different …? What if what had happened on the island between them had been real …?

Mortified to find her thoughts straying into such dangerous territory, she scrabbled through the rest of the tissue and pulled something out. She only realised that she was holding up a strapless wisp of lace that was masquerading as a bra very belatedly, and with cheeks burning stuffed it back into the box.

She stood up, and was not prepared when Luc reached over, put his hand around the back of her neck and pulled her close before slanting his mouth over hers.

But this wasn’t like last night’s desperate kiss. This was slow and searching, almost tender, and Jesse had to cling on to the desk when her legs grew wobbly. Luc’s tongue teased her lips, and on a helpless sigh she opened them.

And then, just as suddenly, Luc had pulled away and was
standing up, leaving Jesse still comically leaning forward. She sprang back and her eyes spat sparks at him.

He chuckled darkly. ‘Don’t look so fierce. I’m doing your reputation a favour, you know. They say you’re quite the cold fish, but we know otherwise—don’t we, Jesse?’

Before she could explode he’d blown her a kiss and was striding back out of her office. Jesse couldn’t be unaware of the sudden flurry of whispers, or the way several female and some male heads swivelled in his direction for a long time. She sat down and angrily stuffed the dress into the box, then put it on the floor beside her.

She felt that dreaded emotion rising again, and willed it down with everything in her body. She desperately longed to tell Luc where he could shove his non-invitation to go out that evening, but was all too aware that he would most likely steamroller his way over her refusal and come to her apartment and dress her himself … and that thought had a burst of heat flooding her lower body.

Jesse had to face the fact that she’d created this monster by kidnapping him in the first place. All she could do for now was go along with him. She had no doubt that with a willing line of beauties waiting for him in the wings whatever appeal Jesse held for him would soon wane. And then she would deal with the fall-out—far away from Luc’s prying mocking gaze.

That evening Luc knocked on Jesse’s door impatiently. Something uncomfortably like panic gripped him inside when there was no immediate answer. If she was going to try to—

The door opened suddenly to reveal Jesse standing there, looking hassled in a robe, holding Tigger. She thrust the kitten at Luc and said, ‘He wrecked the kitchen while I was out today. I’ve just spent an hour cleaning it up. I’ll be ready in ten minutes.’

And she disappeared.

Luc stepped into the apartment holding Tigger, who was looking entirely innocent of any crimes, purring contentedly into Luc’s palm.

This scenario was so far removed from Luc’s normal experience with women that it took a minute to orientate himself. He was used to being greeted by women dressed to impress: coiffured and perfumed and
haute coutured
to within an inch of their lives.

He went and sat down in the one armchair, and Tigger curled trustingly into his lap. Luc realised that he’d missed the tiny animal. He’d been even angrier with Jesse when he’d discovered she’d not only left the island but taken the kitten too. It had been like a double betrayal.

He took in the spartan nature of her apartment. It looked as if she’d only just moved in, but Luc knew she’d had it for a few years. The ascetic nature of the space matched her style the day she’d come to see him in his office.

She’d been zealous and single-minded that day. Sitting here now, he could all too easily imagine her returning after that meeting, having nothing on her mind but how to make sure her father was ruined, and how she could stop Luc from getting in her way …

Thinking of her like that … on her own, fighting … made something weaken in Luc’s chest. And then he heard a sound and looked up. And couldn’t breathe for a long second.

Jesse stood on the far side of the room, obviously nervous. But all he could see were her legs, looking stupendously long and shapely in the pair of gold sandal heels that had come with the dress. The dress reached to midthigh and fell from a ruched bodice in soft folds to her knees. The bodice hugged her breasts, making them seem fuller.

Her skin glowed like a lustrous pearl next to the champagne colour, and Luc’s body tightened painfully when he thought of the freckles on her skin that were only visible up
close. He carefully put Tigger down and stood up, oblivious to the kitten’s indignant miaow. Luc felt very uncharacteristically at a loss.

Jesse felt like a child trying to play at dress-up who’d ended up looking like a clown. She’d put on make-up but, not used to it, had probably put on too much. Luc was just staring at her, as if she were some kind of alien.

She turned to go back into her room and change, saying, ‘I told you it wouldn’t suit me. These kind of clothes just don’t—’

She was whirled around and she gasped. She hadn’t even heard Luc move. His hands were around her face and the look in his eyes was
. It reminded her of how he’d looked at her before.

‘It’s beautiful—perfect. You look stunning in it. I like what you did with your hair …’

Jesse blushed and put a hand up, embarrassed. She was so happy to see it growing out a bit that she’d experimented by putting a small plait into her fringe to keep it out of her eyes. She’d completely forgotten to take it out. ‘That was just messing. I can’t go out like this …’

Luc stilled her hand with his and said, ‘It’s cute. Leave it.’

Jesse grimaced and glanced up at him, far too aware of how potent he was in dark trousers and a light shirt, open at the neck. ‘It’s silly.’

He shook his head. ‘It’s sexy.’

Jesse found it hard to breathe, and then she heard a miaow at her feet and looked down to see Tigger, winding his way between their touching toes. The image was curiously intimate, and Jesse bent down to pick him up before Luc could see her expression. She took Tigger into the kitchen and put him in his box for the night, making sure he had food and milk.

When she went back out to Luc the moment seemed to have passed, and he was looking stern again.

He put out a hand. ‘Come on or we’ll be late.’

Jesse resisted the urge to do something childish, like stick out her tongue, and instead put her hand in his. There was something so intimate about the gesture in the midst of all the tension that she stumbled a little, cursing him for not making it easier to resist his charm.

Luc looked at her in the lift. His voice sounded tight as he remarked, ‘You’re not used to high heels, are you?’

Jesse shook her head, glad that he thought it was just the shoes keeping her off balance.

In the back of his car, as they wound their way through London at dusk, Jesse couldn’t stop herself from saying, ‘You’ve been busy since—’ She stopped abruptly.

Luc supplied the missing words. ‘Since my incarceration on that island?’

BOOK: Exquisite Revenge
2.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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