Brides For Billionaires - Линн Грэхем - Chapter Three Читать онлайн любовный роман

В женской библиотеке Мир Женщины кроме возможности читать онлайн также можно скачать любовный роман - Brides For Billionaires - Линн Грэхем бесплатно.

Правообладателям | Топ-100 любовных романов

Brides For Billionaires - Линн Грэхем - Читать любовный роман онлайн в женской библиотеке LadyLib.Net
Brides For Billionaires - Линн Грэхем - Скачать любовный роман в женской библиотеке LadyLib.Net

Грэхем Линн

Brides For Billionaires

Читать онлайн
Предыдущая страница Следующая страница

Chapter Three

KAT WAS PEERING round her bedroom curtain when she finally saw Mikhail returning, ploughing through the snow with his long powerful stride. He was safe. She had not been able to sleep for worrying about him and now, although she no longer had an acceptable reason to hover or pry, she very quietly opened her bedroom door to listen to the voices drifting upstairs from the hall below.

‘We’ll be back in London by lunchtime,’ Luka was saying with satisfaction.

‘Are you sure you want to leave so soon, Mikhail?’ Peter Gregory enquired in a salacious tone of amusement. ‘Isn’t our hostess hottie waiting up for you? Bet you five grand you can’t get her into bed before tomorrow!’

Wishing she hadn’t chosen to eavesdrop, Kat turned paper pale and her stomach lurched. In haste, she closed her bedroom door softly shut, afraid that the smallest sign that she was still awake might be taken as proof of some sleazy invitation. There was no doubt about it: men could think, talk and behave like repellent beasts, she thought in disgust. Peter Gregory and his dirty mind certainly fitted into that category. Were the three men really agreeing a bet on the odds of her sleeping with Mikhail tonight? Clearly that kiss had been witnessed and misunderstood. A rolling riptide of shame and mortification assailed Kat. She had never been more aware of how inexperienced she was in the field of sex. A truly confident woman would have overheard that bet being proposed and sauntered downstairs to make a smart comment that would deflate Peter’s ego and show how little she cared for such coarse sexist nonsense. But Kat just felt hurt and humiliated and, unable to think of a smart comment, she paused only to turn the key in the lock before scrambling into bed.

And that was when she thought about that kiss; the recollection of her foolish surrender to it hit her like a slap in the face. She had let him kiss her, hadn’t made the slightest attempt to prevent him. Even worse, she had revelled in every insanely exciting second of his mouth on hers. Maybe all the years of self-discipline and repression had left her sex-starved and pitifully vulnerable to such an approach; maybe she was every bit the spinster figure of fun that she had feared she was, she conceded wretchedly. She tensed as she heard a slight noise outside her door, her imagination making an unpleasant deduction as a light knock sounded on her door. She froze in an agony of shame, did nothing, said nothing, her face burning as though it were on fire. It crossed her mind that she was being very heavily punished for allowing a single kiss and that she was old-fashioned and badly out of touch with modern mores not to have appreciated that even that small amount of intimacy had evidently encouraged expectations she would never have dreamt of fulfilling.

The following morning that restive night of self-recrimination and regret had etched shadows below her eyes and left her pale and out of sorts with the world in general. She rose early to prepare the full breakfast her guests would expect. She heard Mikhail’s deep drawl before she saw him and busied herself by the stove, the nape of her neck prickling, stark tension leaping through her slim, taut length.

A hand touched her arm and she jerked her head around, colliding with his stunning dark eyes.

‘I expected to see you last night,’ Mikhail informed her with a candour that disconcerted her.

‘Sorry, you lost your bet,’ Kat framed with dulcet scorn.

His level black brows pleated and he swung back to her, surprisingly light on his feet for all his size. ‘What bet?’ he shot back at her.

Her cheeks flamed. ‘I overheard your friend offering you a bet last night—’

‘Oh … that,’ Mikhail breathed with a sardonic tightening of his handsome mouth, his spectacular dark eyes meeting hers without a shade of discomfiture. ‘I’m a little too mature to bet on such outcomes.’

Kat glanced past him to note that only Luka was at the table while Peter Gregory was still chatting on his phone in the doorway. Kat moved a step closer to Mikhail and lowered her voice. ‘You knocked on my door,’ she murmured that dry reminder, pleased that she managed to achieve a tone of complete unconcern.

A sardonic laugh was wrenched from the tall, powerfully built Russian. ‘So?’ he challenged. ‘What does that have to do with anything?’

Kat dealt him a cold appraisal and without another word whisked the hot plates out of the warming oven in the range to serve the breakfast.

Ne ponyal … I don’t get it,’ Mikhail extended impatiently, determined to win a response.

Kat planted a rack of toast on the table along with a pot of coffee and stood at the window, watching Roger Packham drive a tractor in the field beyond her garden, only vaguely wondering what he was doing there in the snow while she struggled to keep a hold of her temper. She didn’t care whether Mikhail got it or not. Thankfully he was leaving and she wouldn’t have to see him again and recall how degraded he had made her feel. He had assumed that she was so easily available, so free with her body that she might invite him into her bed within hours of meeting him, and that was an insult. He would have slept with her too, had she been willing, Kat thought grimly, and that told her all that she needed to know about him and his outlook on life. Most probably, he was what Emmie called a ‘man whore’, the sort of guy who slept around, who probably kept a tally of his sexual scores and prided himself on his high success rate with women.

In the continuing silence, Mikhail ground his teeth together. She infuriated him without even trying. ‘I want to see you again,’ he said flatly, not an ounce of appeal or gentleness in that statement.

No!’ Kat told him sharply, her soft full mouth rounding on the vowel sound in a manner that sent his hormones jumping.

‘And that is all you have to say to me?’ Mikhail growled, outraged by her attitude, luminous black eyes glittering like falling stars.

‘Yes, that is all I have to say to you.

I’m not interested,’ Kat completed with a little toss of her head that sent her fiery curls snaking round her taut cheekbones.

‘Liar,’ Mikhail contradicted with complete derision and the thwack-thwack noise of a helicopter coming in low above the house almost drowned him out.

But Kat heard him and squared up to him, antagonism splintering from her. ‘You really do think you’re God’s gift to the female sex, don’t you?’ she condemned, her scorn unhidden. ‘I’m not interested and I can’t wait for you to leave!’

‘Never thought I’d see the day that you got the brush off,’ Peter Gregory murmured somewhere in the background while Luka, glancing in every direction but at Mikhail, urged his future brother-in-law to keep quiet.

In a rush, Kat served the breakfast. Two helicopters were engaged in landing in Roger’s field beyond her garden. The older man must have been clearing the snow for them to land. She turned back to discover that Mikhail had still not sat down.

‘Eat,’ she urged him.

‘I’m not hungry,’ he breathed curtly, colour scoring his exotic cheekbones to accentuate the clean sculpted lines of his darkly beautiful face.

An unexpected stab of remorse assailed Kat, who wondered if she had been unreasonably outspoken and spiteful. Hadn’t she made assumptions about him in the same way she assumed that he had made assumptions about her? What if she was wrong? But she had not been wrong in her conviction that he had knocked on her bedroom door the night before, she reminded herself impatiently, wondering where that inappropriate attack of conscience had come from. Soft pink mantled her cheeks just as a loud series of knocks sounded on the back door. Mikhail opened it and suddenly her kitchen was awash with large men in overcoats all speaking Russian at one and the same time. An older man with greying hair greeted him with perceptible warmth and relief. In the free-for-all of competing male voices, Kat concentrated on offering everyone coffee and biscuits.

Evidently, Mikhail was important enough to have a helicopter sent to pick him up to facilitate his swift return to London. Two helicopters? Had he arranged that means of transport the night before? Was he a flash high-earning banker like Peter Gregory? Or some big businessman with more money than sense?

Luka was digging through his pockets to extract money to settle the itemised bill she had left on the table. Mikhail swept the bill up, glanced at it and shot Kat a sardonic look. ‘You don’t charge enough,’ he told her forcefully, digging the bill into his pocket, leaning down to thrust his friend’s money back into his hand. He tugged out his own wallet and slapped several banknotes on the table.

‘Thanks,’ Kat said in a voice that conspicuously lacked gratitude.

Mikhail dealt her a hard-eyed look, his superb dark eyes glittering with hauteur and arrogance. ‘I will not thank you,’ he delivered with succinct bite. ‘As yet you have done nothing to please me … not one single thing.’

And she almost burst out laughing because he sounded remarkably like a sultan informing a humble harem girl of his displeasure while cherishing the belief that she would naturally wish to improve on her performance. But when she clashed unwarily with his striking black eyes and the inescapable chill etched there, any sense of amusement vanished and a touch of dismay and foreboding somehow took its place.

The men filed out to head for the gate that still led from her garden to the field and the parked helicopters. Mikhail waited to the last while the older man awaited him just beyond the door. ‘I’ll be in touch,’ he murmured huskily, surveying her downbent coppery head in frustration.

Kat studiously avoided looking at him. ‘Don’t bother,’ she could not resist saying.

Look at me,’ Mikhail ground out between clenched teeth.

Against her will, affected more by that tone of command than she expected to be, Kat glanced up. Soft pink flushed her delicate cheekbones while a pulse beat out her nervous tension like a storm warning just above her collarbone. Involuntarily captivated by the brilliance of her green eyes against her pale perfect skin, Mikhail studied her with a frown. He watched the tip of her tongue slide out to moisten her lower lip and he went hard as a rock just imagining even the tip of that tongue on his body. Expelling his breath harshly, he turned his handsome head away.

‘I’ll be in touch,’ he said again in a tone of decided challenge.

Kat closed the door, shutting out the freezing air. As Mikhail reached the boundary of the gate he addressed the older man by his side. ‘Katherine Marshall. I want a background check done on her. I want to know everything there is to know about her …’

Stas stiffened. ‘Why?’ he dared as if he had not noticed that very interesting hostile exchange at the back door.

‘I want to teach her some manners,’ Mikhail grated with a brooding glance back in the direction of the house. ‘She was rude!’

Astonished by that outburst, Stas said nothing. As a rule Mikhail never got worked up over a woman. Indeed his marked indifference to the many women who pursued him and even the chosen few who shared his bed was a legend among his staff and Stas could not begin to imagine what Katherine Marshall could have done to arouse such a strong reaction in his employer.

Kat was grateful to be busy once the helicopters had gone. She stripped the beds and in the act of filling the washing machine found herself pressing the striped sheet that had been on Mikhail’s bed to her nose, catching the elusive scent of him from the cotton before she even realised what she was doing. Her face hot, she stuffed the sheet into the machine, poured powder into the dispenser and turned it on. What the heck had he done to her? She had sniffed his sheet … She was acting like a loon! It was as though Mikhail had switched on some physical connection inside her and she couldn’t switch it off again. She was embarrassed for herself.

Roger Packham called that afternoon with the firewood he had promised her and she invited him in for a cup of tea. With satisfaction he told her the outrageous sum he had charged to clear the snow for the helicopters to land that morning. ‘City boys must make easy money,’ he remarked with scorn.

‘I was grateful to get three guests out of the snow,’ Kat admitted, knowing she would use that money to stock up on food because, with the current state of her finances, getting hold of ready cash was a problem. ‘Business has been anything but brisk recently.’

‘But it must have been difficult for you to have three strange men staying here,’ Roger remarked disapprovingly. ‘Very awkward for a woman living on her own.’

‘I didn’t find it awkward,’ Kat lied with a determined smile, keen not to play up to the older man’s preferred image of her as a poor, weak little female. ‘And Emmie’s back from London, so I won’t be alone any more. She stayed in the village last night.’

Mikhail was gone and he wouldn’t be back. She could bury all those squirming, inappropriate feelings and reactions that he had aroused, forget the mortification they had caused her, forget him …

‘Don’t use it,’ Stas advised, sliding the file onto Mikhail’s desk. ‘You’ve never been the kind of man who would use this kind of stuff against a woman …’

His appetite whetted by the rare event of Stas coming over all moral and censorious, Mikhail lifted the file and flipped it open. He read the extensive information about Katherine Marshall with keen interest, noted the figures, raised a black brow in surprise and knew exactly where Stas was coming from. She was on the edge of bankruptcy, struggling to hang onto the house, a sitting duck of an easy target. Now he knew why he had never seen a smile on her face. Serious financial problems caused stress and might that explain why she had blown him off that weekend? He knew he could act on such information, employ it like a weapon against her. It was what his father would have done with an unwilling woman. Mikhail’s handsome mouth hardened, his eyes darkening, for the most unwilling woman of all had been his own mother, a living doll ultimately broken by his father’s rough handling. But he was not his father and Katherine Marshall was not an unwilling woman, simply a defiant screwed-up one, he mused impatiently.

What was it about her that had kept her image alive for him? He frowned, frustration gripping his big powerful frame, for he was suspicious of anything he didn’t immediately understand. Three weeks had passed yet he still thought about her every day, hungering for that elusive image even as more immediately available woman failed to ignite the same urgency. His stubborn desire for Kat Marshall was obsessional and impractical and that he could see that and still feel that way greatly disturbed him. He wanted his head back in a normal place and he didn’t believe he could achieve that without seeing her again. But while she might be in debt and he was rich enough to solve her every difficulty, there was still one insurmountable problem on Mikhail’s terms: his own unbreakable rule that, no matter what happened, he didn’t buy women. Exactly where did that leave him?

The next day, Kat received a devastating letter informing her that her house would be repossessed at the end of the month. As she had received copious warnings on that score it was not a surprise. A week after that, she answered her phone and frowned when her solicitor asked her to come and see him as soon as possible. What more bad news lay in store for her? Mr Green could only want to see her about her financial situation, which he had become aware of some months earlier when she had first approached him for advice. He had urged her to sell up, settle what she could of her debts and start again, but she had been desperate to hang onto the house that still counted very much as home for both her and her sisters. Birkside was their safe place, their security blanket, the place to which all her siblings ran to for cover when life got too tough in the outside world. Once it had worked that magic for Kat as well. Losing the house would be like losing a chunk of herself and now, after months of fruitless anxiety, it was finally happening.

‘I received this letter yesterday.’ Percy Green extended the single sheet to Kat. ‘It contains an extraordinary offer. Mikhail Kusnirovich is willing to settle your outstanding debts in full and buy your home. He is also giving you the chance to remain at Birkside as his tenant—’

Kat had turned pale. ‘Mikhail … K …?’

‘Kus-niro-vich,’ the older man sounded out helpfully. ‘I checked him out and I’m afraid I haven’t the faintest idea how he became involved in your debt situation. He’s an oil billionaire, not a loan shark.’

‘B-billionaire?’ Kat stammered incredulously. ‘Oil? Mikhail’s rich?’

Astonishment made the solicitor stare at her. ‘You actually know this man—you’ve met him?’

In some discomfiture, Kat explained briefly how the three men had taken shelter with her in the snow the previous month. ‘And you say he’s suggesting that he pay off my loans and purchase Birkside? Why on earth would he do something like that?’ she whispered shakily.

‘A rich man’s whim?’ Percy Green shook his head slowly, his incomprehension unconcealed. ‘From your point of view, it’s a miracle and a timely one. Obviously since the repossession order would leave you homeless you’ll accept this offer.’

‘Obviously,’ Kat parroted unevenly.

The letter dug into her bag, Kat drove back to Birkside in a growing stew of incomprehension. Mikhail was richer than sin and she was staggered by the discovery. Mikhail was offering to pay off her debts and buy her house. But why would he do such a thing? What did he want from her in return for such expenditure on her behalf? Wealthy men didn’t give their money away or waste it. She wasn’t a charitable cause he could claim as a tax deduction either. So, what was he after? Was he showing off his power? Punishing her for her rejection? But how could saving her from becoming homeless be considered a punishment?

She called the lawyers’ office responsible for sending the letter and requested the phone number she needed to get an appointment with Mikhail. Whoever she was speaking to went all cagey and uninformative until her call was eventually passed on to someone else. Once she had identified herself, the attitude changed and the phone number was finally advanced. But the difficulties she had had getting that number from the legal office were as nothing to the challenge of getting past the secretarial watchdogs who were determined to know her business before even considering her request to see their employer. Hot with chagrin, Kat finally admitted that Mikhail owned her home and that she wanted to discuss the matter with him. She was offered an appointment four days away.

Emmie dropped Kat off at the railroad station and showed little curiosity about her sister’s unusual desire to visit London. Kat smothered a yawn on the train, her early start to the day soon making itself felt. Clad in a tailored dark trouser suit that she had last worn to attend a neighbour’s funeral, she felt overdressed as well as deeply apprehensive and angry. What was the wretched man playing at? What did he want from her? Surely not the obvious? She could not believe that Mikhail would not have far more exciting sexual options than she could possibly offer.

When she finally reached the reception area on the top floor of the impressive office block that functioned as Mikhail’s London base, a dazzling Nordic blonde came to collect her and walk her down a corridor. The blonde’s curiosity was unhidden. ‘So, you are Katherine Marshall and Mikhail owns your house,’ she remarked rather curtly. ‘How did that come about?’

‘I haven’t a clue,’ Kat fielded. ‘But I’m here to find out.’

The blonde subjected her to another assessing look, her bright blue eyes cool. ‘Don’t take too long about it. He has another appointment in ten minutes.’

Kat gritted her teeth on a sharp retort and smoothed anxious hands down over her slim thighs to dry the nervous dampness from her palms. A door swung open in front of her. She passed over the threshold and into bright blinding sunlight that prevented her from seeing anything.


Получить полную версию книги можно по ссылке - Здесь

Предыдущая страница Следующая страница

Ваши комментарии
к роману Brides For Billionaires - Линн Грэхем

Комментарии к роману "Brides For Billionaires - Линн Грэхем" отсутствуют

Ваше имя


Введите сумму чисел с картинки