Penny Jordan Collection: Just One Night

BOOK: Penny Jordan Collection: Just One Night
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Penny Jordan Collection: Just One Night
Penny Jordan
Harlequin Enterprises Pty Ltd, Australia (2013)

One Night In His Arms

Ranulf Carrington's cruel words had crushed Sylvie's youthful passion. But she was a woman now, sophisticated and confident. Everything was different...yet nothing had changed. Ran might never come to love her, but Sylvie knew she'd still do almost anything for just one night in her first love's arms.

One Intimate Night

Piers's relationship with Georgia Evans was strictly business, which should have made their living under the same roof a fairly straightforward affair. So why couldn't Piers stop Georgia from stealing into his thoughts? He wasn't a man to act on impulse, but how long could he resist this beauty...?

A CELEBRATION OF PENNY JORDAN

Two favourite stories in one collectible volume

Just one night can never be enough for these passionate couples...they’ll need a lifetime

One Night in His Arms

Ranulf Carrington’s cruel words had crushed Sylvie’s youthful passion. But she was a woman now, sophisticated and confident. Everything was different...yet nothing had changed. Ran might never come to love her, but Sylvie knew she’d still do almost anything for just one night in her first love’s arms.

One Intimate Night

Piers’s relationship with Georgia was strictly business, nothing more, which should have made their living under the same roof a fairly straightforward affair. So why couldn’t Piers stop Georgia from stealing into his thoughts? He wasn’t a man to act on impulse, but how long could he resist this beauty...?

Praise for
New York Times
bestselling author
Penny Jordan

“Women everywhere will find pieces
of themselves in Jordan’s characters.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Ms. Jordan produces an absorbing tale with rich
characters, a layered conflict and a sensual tone.”
—RT Book Reviews
on
One Night in His Arms

“Jordan’s record is phenomenal.”

—The Bookseller

“One Intimate Night...
is a charming tale
with warm scenes and a pleasant storyline.”

—RT Book Reviews

“[Penny Jordan’s novels] touch every emotion.”

—RT Book Reviews

Penny Jordan
, one of Harlequin’s most popular authors, sadly passed away on December 31st, 2011. She leaves an outstanding legacy, having sold over 100 million books around the world. Penny wrote a total of 187 novels for Harlequin, including the phenomenally successful
A Perfect Family, To Love, Honor and Betray, The Perfect Sinner
and
Power Play,
which hit the
New York Times
bestseller list. Loved for her distinctive voice, she was successful in part because she continually broke boundaries and evolved her writing to keep up with readers’ changing tastes.
Publishers Weekly
said about Jordan, “Women everywhere will find pieces of themselves in Jordan’s characters.” It is perhaps this gift for sympathetic characterization that helps to explain her enduring appeal.

Penny Jordan Collection
ONE NIGHT IN HIS ARMS
ONE INTIMATE NIGHT
Penny Jordan

www.millsandboon.com.au

ONE NIGHT IN HIS ARMS

Penny Jordan

PROLOGUE

‘W
HAT
the hell are you doing, Sylvie? Just what kind of game are you playing now?’ Ran demanded angrily as he removed her hands, releasing her fingers from his shirt where she had unconsciously curled them in her attempt to get him to listen to what she wanted to say, to understand that she was no longer a child, that she was now completely and totally a woman...a woman who loved and wanted him.

‘Ran, this isn’t a
game
,’ she protested, her eyes starting to fill with anguished tears as he thrust her away. ‘I want—’

‘Oh, I know exactly what you want, Sylvie,’ he interrupted her savagely. ‘You want me to take you to bed. But right now what I feel more like doing—’ He broke off, said something she couldn’t quite catch under his breath and then turned to look at her so that the light fell sharply across his face, outlining the aristocratic arrogance of his profile.

‘Your stepbrother is one of my closest friends and my employer and—’

‘This doesn’t have anything to do with
Alex
,’ Sylvie protested frantically. ‘This is just between you and me, Ran.’

‘You and me? There is no
you and me
,’ he told her cruelly. ‘You are just a schoolgirl, Sylvie, whilst I am a fully adult man.’

‘But Ran, I love you,’ Sylvie pleaded desperately, throwing everything she had left into one last attempt to make him see how she felt.

‘Really?’ Ran drawled mockingly. ‘How much? As much as the pop star you were ready to die for six months ago, or the pony you wanted three months before that?’

‘That was before I was properly grown up,’ Sylvie told him.

So very little space separated them—a few feet...that was all. If she let him walk away from her now without at least trying...

Boldly she closed the distance between them, taking him off guard as she placed her body close to his and wrapped her arms possessively around him, possessively and far too tightly for him to remove them as he had done so easily a few moments ago.

‘Ran...’ She pleaded with him, lifting her face to him, her mouth trembling. ‘Ran, please...’

She felt something that could have been a shudder galvanise his body before clumsily and inexpertly she pressed her mouth against his in a closed-lipped, untutored kiss.

His mouth felt hard and hot, his skin where he had shaved thrillingly rough against her own. Fireworks ignited and exploded deep within her body; her heart was beating so fast she thought she might die of the excitement.

‘Ran,’ she moaned passionately against his mouth as she twisted with innocent provocation against his body.

Suddenly his own arms were around her, not pushing her away as he had done earlier, but holding onto her, his fingers biting hard into her slender arms as he slid one hand into the back of her hair, holding her head still whilst his mouth started to move on hers.

Sylvie felt her head start to spin and her knees go weak.

If she had thought that her heart was beating fast before, that was nothing to the way it was pounding now. Her whole body ached and pulsed with the intoxication of what was happening.

Ran! Ran! Ran!

She loved him so much,
wanted
him so much. Eagerly she pressed her still coltishly youthful body even closer to his. She could feel every nerve-ending in her skin aching with the intensity of her yearning for him.

The tip of his tongue was caressing the softly swollen outline of her mouth.

She wanted him to make love to her so desperately. These last few weeks, whilst they had been working together clearing the overgrown stagnant lake in the woods on her stepbrother’s estate, working on a conservation project which Ran, as her stepbrother’s estate manager, had been overseeing, she had come to see him in a new light and in doing so had fallen head over heels in love with him, with all the passion and intensity of her seventeen-year-old nature.

And now, after the corrosive hurt of all his recent rebuffs, all his painful rejections of her attempts to make him realise how she felt, here he was holding her, kissing her...wanting her...

A fiercely sharp thrill of feminine excitement spun through her. Her breasts ached for the touch of his hands, to be held and caressed by him as she had read about, seen in films. The thought of their two naked bodies entwined in the sensual privacy of Ran’s bed was almost too much for her. Eagerly she opened her mouth, inviting him to probe deeper with his tongue, but then abruptly, to her shock, Ran was suddenly pushing her away as quickly as he had taken hold of her, his face dark with anger.

‘Ran, wh-what is it...what’s wrong?’ she stammered.

‘What’s wrong? Oh, for God’s sake...’ she heard him mutter. ‘The fact that you even need to ask that kind of question shows just how... You’re a child still, Sylvie... Six months from now...’

She bit down hard on her bottom lip when she saw the irritation in his eyes as he ran his hand through his thick dark copper hair.

‘I’m sorry... I should never have done that...’ he told her tersely.

Sylvie felt her eyes fill with vulnerable tears.

‘You kissed me,’ she protested shakily. ‘You wanted me...’

‘No, Sylvie,’ she heard Ran telling her grittily. ‘What I wanted,’ he told her bluntly, ‘was not you, but what you offered. I’m a man, and when a woman comes on to me, offering me sex...’ He stopped and shook his head. ‘You’re a child still, Sylvie.’

‘I bet if we were in bed together you wouldn’t be saying that,’ Sylvie challenged him boldly, adding recklessly, ‘I’m not a child at all, Ran, and I could prove it to you...’

She heard the savage hiss as he expelled the air from his lungs.

‘Dear God,’ she heard him rasp, ‘have you the first idea of what you’re saying...
suggesting
...?’

‘I want you, Ran... I love you...’

‘Well, I sure as hell don’t want or love you,’ he told her ferociously, his face suddenly shockingly pale underneath its weather-beaten tan. ‘And let me give you a small warning, Sylvie: if you continue to go around offering yourself to men, sooner or later one of them’s going to take you up on your offer and I promise you that the experience won’t be a pleasant one. You’re far too young to be experimenting with sex, and when you are old enough it should be with someone of your own age and not... I’m a man, not a boy, Sylvie,’ he told her brutally, ‘and...well, let’s just say that the idea of taking some over-excited and inexperienced little virgin to bed and playing touchy-feely games with her is not my idea of a particularly satisfying relationship—not sexually, not mentally and certainly not emotionally...

‘Go and find someone your own age to play with, Sylvie,’ he told her grimly.

For a moment Sylvie was tempted to protest, to argue and plead, or even more daringly to throw herself back into his arms and prove to him that she could
make
him want her despite her age and her lack of experience. She was not normally so easily defeated or diminished, but something deep down inside, some very new sense of womanliness, shrank from enduring another rejection from him. And so, instead, swallowing back the tears she was aching to cry, she lifted her head and, tilting her chin to him defiantly, said, ‘Yes, I think I will...’

There had been one boy in particular in the party of co-workers involved in the conservation campaign who had shown a very marked interest in her. At the time, newly, wildly in love with Ran, she hadn’t paid him very much attention, but now...

A militant sparkle illuminated her eyes. She could see Ran beginning to frown.

‘Sylvie,’ he warned. Angrily she refused to stop and listen to him, he had no jurisdiction over her.

The bright delicacy of her newly emergent tender love was already tarnishing and fading as resentment, pride and enmity took its place.

Ran!

She loved him but now she felt as though she could very easily come to hate him—she certainly
wanted
to hate him.

CHAPTER ONE

‘Y
OU

RE
not
serious...’

Sylvie frowned as she studied the synopsis pinned to the front
of the file her employer had just handed her.

Lloyd Kelmer the fourth was the kind of eccentric billionaire
who, by rights, only ought to have existed in fairy stories—as a particularly
genial and indulgent godfather, Sylvie thought. She had been introduced to him
at a party to which she had been invited by some acquaintances of her
stepbrother’s. She had only gone to the party because she had been feeling
particularly lost and insignificant, having only recently left her American
college and moved to New York. They had got chatting and Lloyd had begun to tell
her about the trials and traumas he had experienced in running the huge wealthy
Trust set up by his grandfather.

‘The old man had this thing about stately homes, I guess I
kinda feel the same. He owned a fair handful of the things himself, so he kinda
had a taste for them, if you know what I mean. There was the plantation down in
Carolina and then a couple of châteaux in France and a
palazzo
in Venice, so it just kinda happened naturally that he
should have this idea of using his millions to preserve and protect big houses,
and now the Trust has a whole skew of them all over the world, and more wanting
to have the Trust bankroll them every day.’

Sylvie, with her own admittedly second-hand experience of her
stepbrother’s problems in running and financing his own large family estate in
England, had quite naturally been very interested in what Lloyd had had to say,
but it had still surprised her a few days later to receive not just a telephone
call from him but the offer of a job as his personal assistant.

Sylvie wasn’t seventeen any longer, nor was she the naive and
perhaps over-protected girl she had once been. Lloyd might be in his early
sixties and might, so far, not have done or said anything to suggest that he had
any ulterior motive whatsoever in making contact with her, but nevertheless,
having asked him for time to consider his unexpected offer, the first thing
Sylvia had done was telephone her stepbrother in England and ask for his
advice.

An unscheduled and unfortunately brief visit from Alex and his
wife Mollie to vet Lloyd and talk over the situation with Sylvie had resulted in
her deciding to take the job, a decision which, twelve months down the line, she
regularly paused to congratulate herself on making, or at least she had done
until now.

Her work was varied and fascinating, and barely left her with
any time to draw breath, never mind for any personal relationships with members
of the opposite sex, but that didn’t worry Sylvie. So far, what she had learned
from her experiences with men was that she was a particularly poor judge of the
breed. First there had been her revoltingly humiliating teenage crush on Ran and
his rejection of her, then there had been the appalling danger she had put
herself and her family in with her foolish involvement with Wayne.

She and Wayne might never have been lovers but she had known,
from the first, of his involvement in the drug scene and, as foolishly as she
had tried to convince herself that Ran would fall in love with her, she had also
tried to convince herself that Wayne was simply a lost soul in need of
protecting and saving.

She had been wrong on both counts. Love was the last emotion
Ran had ever felt for her. And as for Wayne... Well, thankfully he was now
safely out of her life.

Her new job took every minute of her time and every ounce of
her energy. Each new property the Trust decided to ‘adopt’ had to be inspected,
vetted and then painstakingly brought up to the same standard as all the other
properties the Trust financed and opened to the general public.

Sylvie knew that her employer’s highly individualistic and
personalised way of deciding which of the multitude of properties he was offered
as potential new additions to the Trust’s portfolio were worth acquiring caused
other organisations to eye him slightly askance. For Lloyd to accept a house it
had to have what he described as the ‘right feel’, but his eccentricities tended
to make Sylvie feel almost maternally protective of him.

Or at least they had until now.

To return from a six-week trip to Prague, where she had been
supervising the takeover of a particularly beautiful if horrendously run-down
eighteenth-century palace they had recently added to their acquisitions, to
discover that in her absence Lloyd had made yet another acquisition in the form
of Haverton Hall, a huge neoclassical building set in its own parkland in
Derbyshire, had caused her heart to sink into her shoes.

‘But Sylvie, this place is a gem, a perfect example of English
neoclassicism,’ she could hear Lloyd protesting as he studied her stubborn
expression. ‘I promise you, you’ll love it. I’ve had Gena book you onto the day
after tomorrow’s Concorde flight for London. I thought you’d be pleased. You
were only complaining way back in the spring how much you wanted to spend more
time with your stepbrother and his wife and their son...

‘This house... Did I tell you, by the way, that the guy who
inherited it just happens to know your stepbrother and that’s how he’d got to
hear about us? It seems that he was telling your stepbrother about the problems
he was experiencing, having unexpectedly inherited this place, and Alex
suggested that he should get in touch with me... I wasn’t too sure at first.
After all, we’ve already got that pretty little Georgian place down near
Brighton, but, well, I kinda felt I owed it to Alex, so I flew over to Britain
and went to have a look.’

Sylvie closed her eyes as she listened to Lloyd extolling the
virtues of Haverton Hall.

How could she admit to him that it wasn’t so much the house
itself she objected to as its
owner
?

Its owner...

There it was on the front page of the report... Haverton
Hall... Owner... Sir Ranulf Carrington.
Sir
Ranulf
now, not just Ran any longer... Not that Sylvie was impressed by a title. How
could she be when her own stepbrother was an earl?

She had known all about Ran’s unexpected inheritance of course.
It had been the subject of a good deal of discussion at Christmas, when she had
gone home, not least because Ran, with an estate of his own to run, quite
naturally could no longer run her stepbrother’s.

No one, least of all Ran himself, had expected that he would
inherit. After all, his cousin had only been in his early forties and had seemed
perfectly fit. The last thing anyone imagined was that he would suffer a fatal
heart attack.

Sylvie had smiled politely, but without interest. The last
thing, the last
person
she wanted to waste time
talking about was Ran.

Her memories of the way he had rejected her might have been
carefully and very deeply buried but...but every time she returned to her
brother’s home she was painfully reminded of her seventeen-year-old self and her
vulnerability.

No question about it, she must have annoyed and aggravated Ran
with her unwanted adoration, but surely he could have handled the situation and
her a little more gently, let her down a bit more caringly instead of...

Sylvie was aware that Lloyd was watching her expectantly. How
could she, as her instincts urged her to do, totally and flatly refuse to have
anything to do with Ran? She couldn’t. She was a woman now, a woman who prided
herself on her professionalism, a woman who along with her outward New York
shine and gloss had also developed an inner self-worth and determination. She
loved her work and she truly believed that what Lloyd and the Trust were doing
was extremely worthwhile.

Secretly, there was nothing she enjoyed more than watching the
houses that Lloyd rescued from their often pitiful state of decay being restored
to their former glory... Perhaps it was idealistic and, yes, even foolishly
romantic of her, but there was something about watching the process, of seeing
these once grand homes rising phoenix-like from the ashes of their own neglect,
that touched a chord within her. She could well understand what motivated Lloyd,
and she suspected that, ironically, it had been that long-ago conservation
scheme she had worked on under Ran’s supervision which had awakened within her
the awareness of how very important it was to preserve and care for—to
protect
—a landscape and its architecture, which had
ultimately led to her sharing Lloyd’s passion for their task.

However, Sylvie’s responsibility as an employee of the Trust
included a duty not just to share Lloyd’s enthusiasm but to make sure as well
that the Trust’s acquisitions were funded and run in a businesslike manner, and
that the Trust’s money was used shrewdly and wisely and not wasted or
squandered—a responsibility which Sylvie took very seriously. No project, and
certainly no bill, was too small for Sylvie to break down and scrutinise very
carefully indeed, a fact which caused the Trust’s accountants to comment
approvingly on her attention to detail and her excellent bookkeeping.

It had been pointless for Lloyd to protest when they had been
renovating the Venetian
palazzo
that he preferred
the red silk to the gold which Sylvie had favoured.

‘Red is almost twice as expensive,’ she had pointed out
sternly, adding as a clincher, ‘And besides, the records we’ve managed to trace
all indicate that this room was originally decorated in gold and hung with gold
drapes...’

‘Then gold it is, then.’ Lloyd had given in with a sigh, but
Sylvie had been the one who had been forced to give in to him a few weeks later
when, on their departure from Venice, Lloyd had presented her with a set of the
most exquisite and expensive leather luggage crafted as only the Italians could
craft leather.

‘Lloyd, I can’t possibly accept this,’ Sylvie had protested
with a small gasp.

‘Why not? It
is
your birthday,
isn’t it?’ Lloyd had countered, and of course he had been right, and ultimately
Sylvie had given in.

Although, as she had told her stepbrother defensively at
Christmas when Mollie had marvelled enviously at the luggage, ‘I didn’t
want
to accept it but Lloyd would have been hurt if I
hadn’t.’ She’d added worriedly, ‘Alex, do you think I should have refused...? If
you...’

‘Sylvie, the luggage is beautiful and you did the right thing
to accept it,’ Alex had reassured her gently. ‘Stop worrying, little one,’ he
had commanded her.

‘Little one’! Only Alex ever called her that, and it made her
feel so...so protected and safe.

Protected and safe? She was an adult, a woman, for heaven’s
sake, and more than capable of protecting herself, of keeping herself safe.
Irritably she dragged her attention back to the file she was holding.

‘You don’t approve, do you?’ Lloyd demanded, shaking his head
ruefully. ‘Just wait until you see it, though, Sylvie. You’ll love it. It’s a
perfect example of...’

‘We’re already very close to the limit of this year’s budget,’
Sylvie warned him sternly, ‘and—’

‘So what? We’ll just have to increase this year’s funding,’
Lloyd told her with typical laid-back geniality.

‘Lloyd,’ Sylvie protested, ‘you’re talking about an increase of
heaven alone knows how many million dollars... The Trust...’

‘I
am
the Trust,’ Lloyd reminded
her gently, and Sylvie had to acknowledge that he spoke the truth. Even so, she
gave him an ironic look to which he responded by informing her loftily, ‘I’m
just doing what I know the old man would have wanted me to do...’

‘By buying a decaying neoclassical pile in the middle of
Derbyshire?’ Sylvie asked him dryly.

And she was still shaking her head as Lloyd told her winningly,
‘You’ll love it, Sylvie...I promise you!’

Cravenly Sylvie was tempted to tell him that she was far too
busy and that he would have to find someone else to take charge of this
particular project, but her pride—the same pride which had kept her going, kept
her head held high and her spirit strong through Ran’s rejection of her and
everything that had followed—refused to allow her to do so.

This time she and Ran would be meeting on equal ground—as
adults—and this time...this time...

This time what? This time she wasn’t going to let him hurt her.
This time her attitude towards him would be cool, distant and totally
businesslike.

This time...

Sylvie closed her eyes as she felt the tiny shivers of
apprehension icing down her spine. The last time she had seen Ran had been when
he had unexpectedly turned up at the airport three years ago when she had been
leaving England to finish her degree course in America. She could still remember
the shock it had given her to see him there, the shock and the sharply sweet
surge of helpless pleasure and longing.

She had still been so vulnerable and naive then, a part of her
still hoping that maybe, just maybe, he had changed his mind...his heart... But
of course he had not. He had been there simply to assure himself that she was
actually leaving the country and his life.

Alex knew, of course, that she had once had a foolish
adolescent crush on his friend and employee but, thankfully, that was all he did
know; thankfully, he had no knowledge of that shaming and searingly painful,
never to be thought about, never mind talked about incident that had taken place
when she had still been at university in England.

No one knew about that. Only she and Ran. But that was all in
the past now, and she was determined that this time when she and Ran met, as
meet they would surely have to,
she
would be the one
who would have the upper hand and he would be the one who would be the
supplicant; she would have the power to deny and refuse him what he wanted and
he would have to beg and plead with her.

BOOK: Penny Jordan Collection: Just One Night
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