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Грэхем Линн

Brides For Billionaires

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Chapter Six

ENSCONCED IN THE spectacular luxury of Mikhail’s private jet the following day on a flight to Cyprus where they were to board his yacht, The Hawk, Kat pretended to read a magazine.

So far, Mikhail had not required much in the way of companionship. He had worked industriously since they boarded mid-morning. If he wasn’t talking on his phone, he was doing something on his laptop or rapping out instructions to the employee who had boarded with him. Kat was relieved by his detachment because she was still cringing over her behaviour with him the night before. How on earth had she lost the plot like that? Why the heck had she randomly announced that she was a virgin? That was none of his business and totally extraneous information to a male she had no plans to become intimate with. She would live to be a hundred before she forgot the stunned expression he had worn in receipt of her gauche admission. Aghast at having embarrassed herself to that extent, Kat had simply fled afterwards, muttering goodnight and taking refuge in her bedroom.

A virgin? Mikhail was still brooding on that astounding information. It explained a lot about her though, he conceded grudgingly; it made sense of things he hadn’t understood. No wonder she had been so edgy and had overreacted to his approach in her home, no wonder she had felt the need to insist that she would not sleep with him! But he was still strongly disconcerted that a beautiful, sensual woman with so vital a spirit could have denied herself physical pleasure for so many years. His suspicion that she might be trying to play games with him as so many of her predecessors had done by using his desire for her as a bargaining chip had died then and there. Furthermore, far from being daunted by what she had told him, he had discovered that he wanted her more than ever. Was that because she had never been with another man? The novelty of the situation? It was yet another question he couldn’t answer. He studied her covertly, taking in the taut delicacy of her profile set against her rich russet curls and the long slender legs crossed at the knee with a humming tension he could feel. Although he knew that she wasn’t one bit happy about being on his jet en route to his yacht, hunger laced with satisfaction roared through Mikhail like a tornado. For the moment, she was here and she was his. Pushing his laptop aside, he dismissed the PA hovering at his elbow to do his bidding.

Kat stole a covert glance at Mikhail, yielding to the terrible secret fascination that literally consumed her in his presence and tugged at her every nerve-ending. She sensed his preoccupation, wondered if he was thinking about her and despised herself for it. She didn’t want his attention, had never wanted his interest, she told herself staunchly. Yet how did that belief tie in with her treacherous satisfaction that he should find her so attractive? There was something within her that rejoiced in his awareness and her own, something she didn’t know how to root out, something that scared her because it seemed outside her control.

‘Would you like a drink?’ Mikhail asked smoothly.

‘Water, just water, please …’ Kat responded, mouth running dry as she collided with glittering black eyes enhanced by luxuriant lashes. Alcohol would not be a good idea when she needed to keep her wits about her. He had the most stunning eyes and the reflection made colour stream like a banner across her cheekbones.

Mikhail pressed the bell and the steward appeared to serve them. Restive as a prowling jungle cat, Mikhail leapt upright and watched her sip almost frantically at the water, the glass in her slender hand trembling almost infinitesimally. She could fight it all she liked, he thought with dark triumph, but she was every bit as aware of him as he was of her. He reached down, deftly removing the glass from her clinging fingers to set it aside, closing a big hand over hers to lift her to her feet. She raised startled eyes to his lean strong face, her beautiful eyes as verdant a green as a spring leaf.

What?’ Kat gasped, nerves now leaping about like jumping beans inside her as she looked up at him, feeling dwarfed by his height and width, the sheer hard power of his tall, well-built frame.

‘I’m going to kiss you,’ Mikhail murmured huskily, his dark deep drawl roughening.

Totally unprepared for that approach, her lashes flickered in shock. ‘But—’

‘I don’t need permission for a kiss,’ Mikhail derided. ‘Only to take you to bed. That gives me a fair amount of leeway, milaya moya.’

Kat was very much shaken by that catastrophic interpretation of their agreement. She had assumed that if he could accept she wouldn’t sleep with him, he wouldn’t touch her at all, for why would he want to waste time and energy on foreplay when the main event was not on offer to close the deal? She was stung by the realisation that he was bending the rules and by the belief that she should have known in her bones how devious he would be.

‘But I don’t want this,’ Kat told him feverishly, her slender body rigid as steel in the imprisoning circle of his arms.

‘Let me show you what you want,’ Mikhail husked with unassailable cool, long fingers closing into a handful of russet curls to draw her head back.

And he kissed her with soul-shattering intensity, his lips hungrily demanding entrance to her mouth, his tongue tangling erotically with hers and stabbing deep enough to send streamers of liquid fire snaking through her trembling body. She had had kisses, but nothing had ever come close to comparing to that explosive assault. That kiss was utterly decadent and deeply, compellingly sexual in nature. Suddenly her bra felt too small and tight to contain her swelling breasts. Her nipples were almost painfully stiff and the tingling awareness there tugged as though a piece of elastic connected her breasts to her groin. The tender flesh between her legs felt hot and damp and unbearably sensitive.

A big hand splayed across her bottom, gathering her closer, so that her breasts were crushed by the wall of his chest and she could feel the bold, hard ridge of his erection against her. A dulled ache gripped her pelvis, heat pulsing at her feminine core, and her knees turned weak and boneless beneath her.

His black hair tousled by her fingers, Mikhail lifted his dark head to stare down at the hectically flushed triangle of her face. ‘You see …’ he murmured raggedly, reining back his overwhelming need with fierce self-discipline, determined not to destroy the moment.

‘There’s nothing to be scared of.’

Breathless, Kat reeled away from him again, shattered by the effect he had had on her and the mindless clamour of a body suddenly unplugged from the source of energy and excitement that he had taught her to crave. Nothing to be scared of? Was he joking? Every natural alarm she possessed was screaming panic at full volume. Purebred predator that he was, he was toying with her as a cat might play with a mouse, his confidence in his own powers of seduction supreme. And why shouldn’t he feel like that? Kat castigated herself furiously. Telling a guy like Mikhail that she was a virgin had been the equivalent of throwing down a red carpet to welcome the enemy.

Let me show you what you want. How dared he? As if she didn’t know what she wanted; as if she were so confused it would take a man to show her anything! She already knew that he attracted her but she wasn’t prepared to act on the fact. Her choice, her decision! Trembling with rage and frustration, she sank back into her seat and refused to look at him again. He would use her own weakness against her without conscience but she was stronger than that, much stronger. Her teeth clenched together hard as she bit back angry defensive words that would only tell him how rattled she was. He had done that to her. With one scorching kiss he had pulled the rug out from below her feet.

Mikhail savoured his vodka, blithely unconcerned by the furious silence emanating from his companion. So, she was angry, but he had expected that: she was a fiery, independent woman too accustomed to having her own way. He wasn’t going to back off like a little boy who had had his wrist slapped and it was better that she knew the score from the outset. He had trod on glass around her for long enough. That wasn’t his style with a woman and now it was time for him to be himself.

When the jet landed in Cyprus, they transferred to a helicopter. The noise of the rotor blades on board made conversation impossible. As the unwieldy craft came in to land on the pad on the prow of the huge yacht below them, Kat was wide-eyed with wonderment. The Hawk was much bigger than she had expected and infinitely more elegant, different decks rising in sleek tiers rimmed with gleaming metal balustrades. There was already another pair of helicopters parked nearby.

‘I wasn’t expecting anything this size,’ Kat confessed as Mikhail urged her away from the landing area with a predictably bossy hand planted to her spine.

A grin slashed his wide mobile mouth and he told her what length The Hawk was and the maximum speed it travelled at. His zeal and pride of possession were patent and Kat listened graciously to the story of where the yacht was built, who he had chosen to design it and why as well as the exact specifications he offered. Although Kat had very little interest in such matters and much of it was too technical for her, she did have a fond memory of her late father giving her equally enthusiastic and unnecessary details about a new lawnmower he had once bought. The comparison almost made her laugh, for she knew that Mikhail would hang, draw and quarter her if he knew she had likened his precious yacht to a piece of garden machinery.

After a man in a captain’s cap greeted Mikhail and a brief introduction was performed, Kat moved away a few feet to stand by the guard rail, the breeze blowing her hair back from her face as she took in the impressive view of the sleek prow scything smoothly through the turquoise depths of the Mediterranean sea. It was an undeniably beautiful day: the sky was blue and the sun was shining down to pour welcome warmth on her winter-chilled skin and, annoyed as she still was with Mikhail, she could only feel glad to be alive on such a day.

A stewardess in uniform appeared at her elbow, told Kat that her name was Marta and offered to show her to her cabin. Leaving Mikhail chatting to the captain, Kat followed the stewardess down an incredible curving glass staircase, which Marta informed her lit up and changed colours once darkness fell. Quite why anyone would want a staircase that changed colour escaped Kat, but the sheer opulence of the guest suite impressed her to death. The bed in the big room sat on a shallow dais and doors led off to an incredible marble bathroom, a dressing room and a private furnished balcony. A steward arrived with Kat’s luggage and Marta proceeded to unpack it.

‘When do the other guests arrive?’ Kat enquired.

‘In about an hour, Miss Marshall,’ Marta told her.

Positively relieved by the news that she and Mikhail were not to be left alone together for even a day, Kat decided to get changed to ensure that she was ready for her hostessing duties. Choosing a simple but elegant toffee-coloured shift dress from her new wardrobe, she freshened up in the bathroom, emerging just as another door opened on the far side of her room and Mikhail strode in.

‘You’re dressed … excellent,’ he pronounced approvingly.

Through the door he had left open behind him she could see another bedroom, which she surmised to be his and her colour heightened as dismay flashed through her. ‘There’s a connecting door between your accommodation and mine?’

A wickedly amused smile slashed his expressive mouth. He stood there, big and bold and brazen, daring her to object. ‘Did you expect me to have it bricked up for your benefit?’

Her small white teeth scissored together. ‘Of course not, but for future reference … I’ll be keeping it locked—’

‘I have a master key for every compartment on board but you don’t need to be quite so protective of your privacy—I’m equally keen on my own,’ Mikhail informed her drily while simultaneously awarding her slender figure a slow, lingering appraisal that ran from the top of her head down to her curling toes. Beneath that relentless dark and shameless gaze, fresh heat sprang up in her face and her discomfiture increased. ‘That colour suits you—I knew it would.’

Kat was already very tense. ‘You chose my clothes … personally?’

‘Why not? I’ve been buying clothes for my women since I was eighteen,’ Mikhail fielded with lazy assurance.

It was just another piece of his control freakery, Kat told herself in exasperation, not something she needed to get worked up about.

Unfortunately there was something alarmingly intimate about the idea that he had personally selected the very clothes she wore to suit his tastes. That was way too intimate. She had assumed some hired help had selected the garments. And she really didn’t want to know that he had been buying clothes for women since he was a teenager. That both shocked and alienated her. The very thought of him with other women was offensive to her and the discovery filled her with consternation. Surely she couldn’t be developing possessive feelings about him?

‘I’m not your woman,’ Kat told him with icy emphasis, green eyes glimmering with hauteur and resentment.

‘Then what are you?’ Mikhail countered levelly, one ebony brow slightly elevated as if he was looking forward to the prospect of her trying to explain her exact role in his life.

‘Your hostess … er, your companion,’ Kat quantified stiltedly.

A charismatic smile of amusement crossed his face. His spectacular eyes glittered like black diamonds in sunshine, his potent sexual appeal making her mouth run dry and her blood run hot in a way she was starting to recognise. With great difficulty she dragged her gaze from his, struggling to control the race of her heartbeat and the edge-of-her-seat excitement he could induce so easily.

‘I’m not your woman,’ Kat told him stubbornly again.

‘But never doubt that that’s my ultimate goal, milaya moya,’ Mikhail imparted silkily just as a knock sounded on the door.

It was the dynamic blonde, Lara, from his London office. Her bright blue eyes ping-ponged assessingly between her employer and Kat before she extended a file to Mikhail, which he immediately passed to Kat. ‘The profiles of the guests I’ve invited,’ he explained.

Kat’s fingers tightened round the file while she told herself that Mikhail’s goal was not a threat to her as long as she kept a steady head on her shoulders. This holiday on his yacht was an interlude in her life, not a real part of it. ‘Thanks. I’ll study them.’

And with a decisive jerk of his chin, Mikhail swung round and returned to his own room. Kat followed him at speed and snapped shut the lock on the door before walking out to the balcony and sitting down on a comfortable wicker seat to open the file.

There were twenty guests in all, more than she had expected. There were several business tycoons with their partners and adult children as well as a well-known entrepreneur and his actress girlfriend. Some of the names were familiar to her, most were not. The presentation of the file, however, had calmed her nerves because it was a welcome reminder that she was on The Hawk to fulfil a function and she intended to do it to the best of her ability as she memorised the useful information she had been given.

An hour later, Lara reappeared to usher her upstairs to welcome Mikhail’s guests, who had arrived on the helicopters sent to collect them. Lara had changed into a very short silver dress more akin to a cocktail frock than anything else and it had the effect of making Kat feel severely underdressed. She reminded herself that Mikhail had approved what she wore but that was a humbling recollection that could only irritate her. After all, she was not his woman; she did not belong to him in any way and she had no intention of changing her mind on that score.

The salon was a large light-filled space ornamented with spectacular seating arrangements and paintings. Lara hovering at her elbow, Kat spoke to a well-preserved blonde in a reassuringly restrained dress. Even so, a glance around the gathered cliques revealed the fact that all the younger guests were wearing party gear, displaying legs, cleavage and glitzy jewellery. A slight hush fell in the chatter and the hair at the nape of Kat’s neck prickled a sixth-sense warning. She turned her head to see Mikhail stride in, dressed in tailored chino trousers and an open shirt. The sheer impact of his size, black hair and golden skin was undeniable and set up a sizzling chain reaction deep in her tummy that made her shift her feet uncomfortably. She saw the women present look at him as though he were a tasty dish on a banqueting table and move almost as one towards him until he was literally surrounded.

‘Women always act that way around the boss. You’ll get used to it,’ Lara cooed in her ear in a saccharinesweet tone of sympathy.

‘It doesn’t bother me,’ Kat fielded softly, pride making her chin tilt, and stiffening her spine. Mikhail was breathtakingly handsome and sexy in a way she had never seen in a man before but she could cope, yes, she could cope because looks and sex appeal were only a superficial blessing. She had no intention of getting involved in a shallow affair with a man who was only interested in her body.

Lara gave her an unconvinced look and said, ‘Most women are prepared to put up with a lot to stay in the boss’s life.’

‘I’m quite content,’ Kat responded evasively, uneasy with the conversation and how personal it was becoming because she wasn’t sure whether or not any of Mikhail’s staff were aware that she was simply a woman hired to do a job and she did not want to be indiscreet. After all, Birkside hung in the balance and, while Mikhail’s ultimate goal seemed to be sexual, Kat’s sole goal was to reclaim her home. And she would achieve that, she told herself bracingly, without sex playing any part in the arrangement.

‘That’s Lorne Arnold over there,’ Lara whispered, evidently having taken the hint that her curiosity was unwelcome. ‘I would pay him some special attention. He looks bored.’

Kat nodded, her brain summoning up the details she had carefully memorised. Lorne Arnold. At thirty-three years of age, he was a very successful London-based property developer and he was currently involved in a high-profile development scheme with Mikhail. He was an attractive man with blond hair almost long enough to hit his shoulders and his partner, Mel, a top financial analyst, was nowhere to be seen. Possibly the woman had decided to change before she joined them, Kat surmised, directing her steps into his path while she moved a hand towards a waiter standing by the wall to encourage him to bring his tray of drinks over.

Mikhail’s brooding gaze swept the room and snapped to a sudden halt when he finally located his target. His big powerful frame went rigid. Kat was laughing and smiling up at Lorne Arnold. He watched in growing disbelief as Lorne planted a hand to Kat’s arm to draw her attention to a painting on the wall and guided her over to it, and his handsome mouth compressed into a harsh line, rage lashing through him like a whip. What the hell did Lorne think he was playing at when he flirted with Kat of all people? And why was Kat encouraging him like that? That was certainly not the way she behaved in Mikhail’s company when she had never yet deigned to laugh or smile. Kat still treated Mikhail like a queen trying to repel an over-familiar commoner and it galled him. The only time he was happy with her response to him was when she was in his arms and her reserve was shattered, ripped away by the passion she could not suppress.

Ty v poryadka … are you OK?’ Stas murmured to one side of him.

Eyes bright as golden stars in his lean strong face, Mikhail was pale with dark fury and he didn’t trust himself to speak. Kat was engaged in animated conversation with Lorne: her expressive hands were sketching vivid word pictures while she studied the painting with the other man. Lorne now had an arm clasped round her waist and the sight of that familiarity was so offensive to Mikhail that he could happily have wrenched the couple apart and tossed his business partner off the side of the yacht. Kat was his. She’s mine screamed every fibre of Mikhail’s tautly muscled body and he was ready to break Lorne’s arms for daring to touch her. Damn art, Mikhail thought bitterly, thrusting his passage through the crush around him. That had to be the common denominator that had brought down the barriers between Kat and Lorne because Lorne was involved with the Arts Council and she had a degree in Fine Arts. Mikhail’s vast and much-admired art collection was solely investment-based and he couldn’t have talked about any of it, for his interest had never gone much beyond that level. And for the first time in his life he was in no mood to admit to being a total philistine.

An arm locked round Kat’s waist from behind, anchoring her back into the powerful strength and heat of a large male body. Disconcerted at being touched without warning even though she knew immediately who it was who held her, Kat jerked and froze even as Mikhail murmured her name above her head and addressed Lorne Arnold. Hot pink swept her cheeks as the other man tensed, unable to hide his surprise at Mikhail’s revealing embrace. Long lean fingers brushed her torrent of russet curls back off one slim shoulder and male lips slowly grazed the slender column of her throat, pressing in at one point in a fleeting kiss that sent a lightning bolt of sizzling sexual awareness shooting through her unprepared body. Her breasts peaked and sliding heat clenched every muscle in her pelvis. Even as angry resentment roared through Kat she found herself leaning back into Mikhail for support to compensate for the sudden paralysing weakness of her legs.

‘Excuse us,’ Mikhail purred like the predator he was, holding Kat below one arm like a piece of booty he had reclaimed and urging her across the room while at the same time refusing to allow any of his attentive guests to intercept him.

Stas yanked open the door in readiness and Kat recognised the glimmer of amusement in the older man’s eyes even though his expression was politely impassive. That glimpse stoked her own temper even more and that was the only reason she did not protest Mikhail’s domineering behaviour. She did not want to have a row with Mikhail in front of an interested audience.

Thrust into another room across the corridor furnished like an office, Kat barely paused to draw breath before she whirled round to confront him. ‘How dare you touch me like that in public?’ she raked at him in an uncompromising attack.

Mikhail was utterly taken aback by that defiant demand, and his darkly handsome features hardened even more. ‘You shouldn’t have been flirting with him and encouraging him to take liberties—’

‘I wasn’t flirting with him!’ Kat flung back at him hotly. ‘We were just chatting—’

‘Nyet … no, you were flirting like mad, batting your eyelashes … smiling … giggling!’ Mikhail condemned in a raw undertone of accusation, eyes full of derision at her plea of innocence.

Belatedly recognising that he was entirely serious in his misapprehension, Kat compressed her lips. ‘We were in a room surrounded by people—’

‘And I saw in his face that until I touched you he didn’t even realise who you were!’ Mikhail grated. ‘He would never have laid a finger on you had he known you were here with me. You should have been by my side—’

Kat tilted her bright head to one side, green eyes sharp as lasers with offence. ‘Sticking to you like glue, so that you didn’t feel the need to mark your territory like a wolf? I have never been so embarrassed in my life.’

Black eyes blazing at her accusation, Mikhail bit out ferociously, ‘Don’t exaggerate! I only kissed your neck—I didn’t touch you anywhere intimate!’

Still all too aware of the fast-beating pulse at the precise spot he had only kissed, Kat went rigid with resentment at the memory of the practised manner in which he had demolished any possible resistance she might have raised to protect herself. That place on her throat was clearly an erogenous zone she had not even known she possessed and he was a man capable of demonstrating many more such tricks. Well, he wouldn’t be doing that to her again—not if she had anything to do with it!

‘I wasn’t flirting,’ she said again in a cutting tone and she watched him pick up on that tone as if she had thrown a flaming torch at him: his black eyes suddenly burning jewel-bright, his exotic cheekbones slashing taut. ‘Why would I have flirted with him? Lorne has a girlfriend and I was expecting her to appear at any moment—’

‘When he arrived, he told me they’d broken up a few weeks ago. He’s looking for a replacement and he had his eye on you,’ Mikhail delivered grimly.

Refusing to be intimidated, Kat tossed her russet curls back and sighed. ‘So? I smiled at the man. I was only being friendly. I don’t giggle … I never ever giggle,’ she told him drily. ‘And you didn’t like it? Why do you think that is? Because I don’t smile and laugh with you? Ask yourself if you have ever done or said anything likely to encourage such a relaxed response from me.’

Infuriated by the charge that laid fault at his door when it was her unacceptable behaviour that had provoked him into warning off Lorne, Mikhail gritted his perfect white teeth and almost snarled. He reached out for her with determined hands.

Kat backed off so fast that she would have fallen over, had she not had the support of the desk behind her. ‘You’re such a caveman,’ she muttered helplessly. ‘And you’re not touching me in that mood.’

Mikhail stayed where he was mere inches from her but he dropped his hands, disconcerted by her words and equally disturbed by the level of his own anger. ‘I would never ever hurt you.’

And reading the look of reproach in his stunning eyes, Kat believed him, but he was never going to be a pussycat of the domestic variety either. He was one-hundred-per-cent primal male laced with aggression. ‘I know but unfortunately for both of us that legal agreement didn’t go far enough—’

‘Kat …?’ Mikhail began darkly, exasperated by the change of subject.

‘No, please let me have my say for once,’ Kat cut in in a resolute plea that ignored the taut silence smouldering around her. ‘You want something from me that I’m not prepared to give and now you’re judging me unfairly. I wouldn’t flirt with one of your guests. I’m not that sort of woman, I’m not even sure that after so long I even know how to flirt any more—’

‘You know,’ Mikhail contradicted without hesitation. ‘Lorne couldn’t take his eyes off you.’

‘But I was only trying to make him feel welcome. There was no subtext and nothing else intended,’ Kat told him quietly. ‘I wouldn’t do anything to embarrass you either but you do need to be aware of the boundaries of that agreement.’

‘In what way?’ Mikhail prompted, marvelling that against all odds she had managed to talk him down from his rage, somehow cutting through all the aggro to make him think clearly again. Even so, he didn’t like the explosive, unpredictable effect she had on his mood; he didn’t like it at all. Lorne was a business partner and a friend, but, if the other man had gone even one step further with Kat, Mikhail knew he would have struck him. The sight of Lorne’s hand on Kat had enraged him and that disturbed him as well. In all fairness, what could have happened between Lorne and Kat in a room full of people? Nothing, his logic answered. He had never been a possessive man when it came to women but Kat roused unsettling reactions in him. He didn’t want another man anywhere near her. But where did she get off calling him a caveman? He was a highly sophisticated, educated guy, who had never treated a woman in a less than civilised manner. Had he been the barbarian she suggested he would already have seduced her and dragged her off to his bed, instead of which he was, for the first time in his life, practising restraint with a woman and giving her the chance to get to know him … for all the good that that was doing him, he reflected broodingly as he recalled the caveman insult.

Mikhail shifted an infinitesimal distance closer and her big green eyes widened. Beautiful eyes but not doe’s eyes. Kat’s eyes were wide, wary, and suspicious. He lifted a hand and ran his forefinger gently down the side of her face. ‘In what way do I need to be aware?’

Kat blinked. For a split second her entire mind was a terrifying, disorientating blank. The touch of his finger had whispered down her cheekbone like a teasing caress and he was so close her nostrils were flaring on the spicy tang of the cologne he wore and the underlying scent of clean warm male. Butterflies broke loose in her tummy, her nipples tightening and lengthening below her clothing. ‘Aware?’ she queried uncertainly.

‘You said I had to be aware of the boundaries of our legal agreement,’ Mikhail reminded her, black-lashed dark eyes turned a mesmeric gold as they connected with hers.

Like a doll re-equipped with a new battery, Kat’s brain suddenly switched back on. ‘Oh, yes, the agreement. I think you need to be reminded that you don’t own me. I don’t belong to you in any way—’

‘Nor do you belong to anyone else,’ Mikhail pointed out with lethal cool. ‘You’re up for grabs—’

‘No, I’m not!’ Kat countered speedily, keen to kick that idea to the kerb. ‘I’m not interested in a relationship with anyone—’

‘Except with me,’ Mikhail slotted in silkily, as stubborn as a mule in pursuit of his goal.

Oh, my word, those long curling eyelashes went for her every time he got close, a quite unnecessary dramatic embellishment to his stunning dark gaze, Kat reflected dizzily. Her mouth was running dry, her brain on overload, physical impressions flooding her and washing away logical thought.

‘You want me,’ Mikhail told her with a deep roughened edge to his powerful voice that shimmied down her taut spine and made her tremble.

Without any warning that she picked up on, he framed her face with long splayed fingers and kissed her. It was drugging, wildly intoxicating, like an adrenalin shot straight into the veins. One minute she was thinking no, this can’t happen, I must stop it here and now, and the next the hungry and continuing pressure of that wide sensual mouth was what she wanted and needed most in the world.

With a muffled sound thrumming deep in his broad chest, Mikhail gathered her up into his arms and sank down in the chair behind the desk. For a split second he appraised her flushed and lovely face, the dazed expression in her eyes for once empty of defiance and censure, and it grabbed hold of every base male instinct in his body. He wanted her so much more than he had ever wanted any other woman. He wanted her under him, over him, in every possible position. He wanted her to accept that she was his. He wanted to see that look of bliss on her face for him again and again and again. Tamping down his ferocious hunger to possess, he lifted her up to him and darted his tongue between her lips in a rhythmic invasion, revelling in the sweetness of her response and the little moan she could not hold back.

Ti takaya krasivaya … you are so beautiful …’ he translated his own first words for her ‘… but ti svod-ishme nya suma …’ You drive me crazy.’ He didn’t translate that last admission.

As he bent over her Kat’s fingertips feathered through his thick black hair even while she was wondering what she was doing, but, strangely enough, she felt extraordinarily safe and at peace in his arms. There was something definitely to be said for a male big enough and strong enough to pick her up. ‘What am I doing?’ she framed with a sudden frown.

‘For once? Exactly what you want,’ Mikhail husked and kissed her again with all the hungry fervour of his high-voltage temperament.

With one hand he nudged her knees apart and she tensed, a choky little sound of dismay escaping her throat.

‘I won’t do anything you don’t want me to do. I won’t take you.’ Mikhail was determined to keep her where she was on his lap and within reach of intimacies he had hitherto only been able to dream about.

The tension in her slender frame began to ebb and he nibbled enticingly at her full lower lip before plunging his tongue deep within again. The taste of him went to her head like fine wine and another flush of arousal travelled through her, stiffening her nipples and making her achingly aware of an even more private place. He pushed up the hem of her skirt and she jerked while he made soothing sounds she could not have believed he was capable of making. His hand smoothed over her inner thigh, temptingly close to the unbearable heat and sensitivity there, and she had never wanted so badly in her life to be touched. The need for more was screaming through her every skin cell like nothing she had ever imagined and so strong was that need she consciously stopped trying to fight it. Curiosity had awakened along with the longing.

He stroked a finger over the stretched taut fabric of her knickers, heat rippled through her and her hips rose and her slender thighs parted without her volition. ‘Just do it … w-whatever,’ she murmured shakily from between clenched teeth for she truly didn’t know what he was planning to do and didn’t much care at that moment. If he could satisfy the desperate pulsing craving inside her, it would be enough.

Mikhail almost laughed at that command she had issued but the strangest shard of something tender burnished his hard dark eyes. He didn’t know what it was about her but she touched things in him that nobody else ever had and right then she needed him. He closed his lips to her wonderfully swollen and tempting mouth and wrenched the surprisingly strong barrier of her underwear down her legs, even sparing a frowning glance in the item’s direction as it fell on the floor in a sensible heap of white cotton, for it was certainly not anything that had featured in his lingerie choices for her wardrobe.

One moment Kat was mortifyingly aware of how damp she was down below and the next as a fingertip very delicately traced the tiny entrance to her body she was shivering and mindless with a flood of hunger like nothing she had ever felt before. There was not a thought in her head—there was no room for it: excitement had driven out everything else. He stroked her clitoris and it was as if an electric shock ran through her, her back arching, every muscle tightening. He circled that tiny bundle of nerve-endings and it was like being set on fire, for the tormented shivers of arousal were assailing her ever more strongly. The heat in her pelvis and the extreme sensitivity at the heart of her were almost unbearable. His tongue flicked against the roof of her mouth and she gasped round it as he eased a finger into her, answering a need she had not even known she had until he showed her. She bucked. Erotic pulses of agonisingly strong sensation were gathering at her feminine core and she couldn’t stay still, couldn’t find her voice to tell him that she needed more and faster. And almost as though he was attuned to her needs as she was, his fingers plunged deeper within her while his thumb pressed against her clitoris.

‘Come for me, laskovaya moya,’ Mikhail husked, a tremor she had never heard before threading his voice.

And there was nothing Kat chose about what happened next, for her body had long since taken charge of her. It was as if white lightning cracked inside her, throwing her high and tearing her apart while wave after wave of shudderingly intense pleasure engulfed her.

But Kat didn’t float back to planet earth again, she fell with a resounding crash when coherent thought returned and she grasped exactly what she had allowed. And she wanted to scream and thump herself, was already wondering if she was a split personality to tell him to stay away, to tell herself that she wanted him to stay away and then to engage in such intimacy!

‘I want so much more from you,’ Mikhail confessed huskily, both arms banded round her so firmly that she would’ve had to fight to escape.

Kat couldn’t look at him, knew the power of those eyes of his to sway her into stupidity and recklessness. ‘Please let go of me,’ she whispered unevenly, desperate to find the right words to explain herself but meeting only a mortifying emptiness in her brain. Confusion assailed her. Only the awareness that it had been a very one-sided episode restrained the anger she usually used to keep him at a safer distance.

Mikhail expelled his breath in a thwarted hiss and released her with exaggerated immediacy. Dragging the hem of her dress down over her thighs, Kat scooped up the undergarment on the floor with crimson cheeks. ‘I don’t know what to say to you—’

‘Say nothing at all,’ Mikhail advised in a dry tone that made her wince. ‘You’re not very tactful. Go and change for dinner. I’ll see you later.’

Later … as in her bedroom? Kat wondered wildly. Well, she could hardly blame the guy for expecting something in return for such encouragement as she had given him! Nor could she imagine managing to tell him that lust wasn’t enough, for her, would never be enough for that, she was convinced, was what was wrong with her. She lusted after him like a shameless hussy, lost all control the minute he looked at her in a certain way or made physical contact!

Mikhail swore long and low in Russian. She was nuts, way too mixed-up for him. How had he avoided seeing that for so long? What was he doing with her? He should have her flown home, allow Lara to take over … That would be the rational thing to do. And Mikhail was nothing if he was not rational.


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