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«Legacy Of His Revenge» - Кэтти Уильямс

Exacting his revenge…in the bedroom!Sophie Watts is mortified when she crashes into billionaire Matias Rivero’s luxury sports car. But even worse is his proposition that she work off her debt by becoming his chef for a glamorous weekend party at his mansion!Having Sophie at his beck and call is a golden opportunity for Matias to find out everything there is to know about her father—the man who ruined his family. He’ll seduce the truth out of her and exact his revenge… Except Matias doesn’t count on their passion having unexpected nine-month consequences!
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Exacting his revenge...in the bedroom!

Sophie Watts is mortified when she crashes into billionaire Matias Rivero’s luxury sports car. But even worse is his proposition that she work off her debt by becoming his chef for a glamorous weekend party at his mansion!

Having Sophie at his beck and call is a golden opportunity for Matias to find out everything there is to know about her father—the man who ruined his family. He’ll seduce the truth out of her and exact his revenge... Except Matias doesn’t count on their passion having unexpected nine-month consequences!

‘Don’t you feel the chemistry between us as well?’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Sophie whispered, and Matias raised his eyebrows in an expression of frank incredulity.

‘Of course you do,’ he corrected her casually. ‘Although,’ he continued, ‘I understand that you might want to deny it. After all, it’s not exactly something either of us bargained for, is it?’

No truer words spoken, Matias thought wryly. All things considered, he would have placed greater odds on him catching a rocket to the red planet.

He shrugged eloquently. ‘But there you are. These things happen.’

Sophie’s brain finally cranked into gear and anger began building inside her with the force of suppressed molten lava. He was a rich, powerful man who had her on the run, and because of that he figured he could come on to her because he happened to find her attractive.

‘I’m sorry,’ she said coldly, ‘but I’m not interested.’

Matias laughed as though she’d cracked a hilarious joke. ‘Are you telling me that you don’t feel that electric charge between us?’ He noted the blush that crept into her cheeks. ‘Ah, yes. Of course you do. You’re feeling it now. Why deny it?’

CATHY WILLIAMS can remember reading Mills & Boon books as a teenager, and now that she is writing them she remains an avid fan. For her, there is nothing like creating romantic stories and engaging plots, and each and every book is a new adventure. Cathy lives in London. Her three daughters—Charlotte, Olivia and Emma—have always been, and continue to be, the greatest inspirations in her life.

Books by Cathy Williams

Mills & Boon Modern Romance

Cipriani’s Innocent Captive

The Secret Sanchez Heir

Bought to Wear the Billionaire’s Ring

Snowbound with His Innocent Temptation

A Virgin for Vasquez

Seduced into Her Boss’s Service

The Wedding Night Debt

A Pawn in the Playboy’s Game

At Her Boss’s Pleasure

The Real Romero

The Uncompromising Italian

The Argentinian’s Demand

Secrets of a Ruthless Tycoon

The Italian Titans

Wearing the De Angelis Ring

The Surprise De Angelis Baby

One Night With Consequences

Bound by the Billionaire’s Baby

Seven Sexy Sins

To Sin with the Tycoon

Visit the Author Profile page

at millsandboon.co.uk for more titles.

Legacy of His Revenge

Cathy Williams



Back Cover Text


About the Author

Title Page






html#litres_trial_promo"> CHAPTER SIX









In receipt of this revelation, Matias Rivero looked at his friend and trusted associate, Art Delgado. Like Matias, Art was thirty-two. They had gone to school together and had formed an unlikely friendship with Matias the protector, the one who always had his friend’s back. Small, asthmatic and bespectacled, Art had always been an easy target for bullies until Matias had joined his class and, like a dangerous, cruising shark, had ensured that no one came near the boy who had spent the past two years dreading the daily onslaught of beatings.

Now, all these years later, Matias was Art’s boss and in return Art was his most loyal employee. There was no one Matias trusted more. He motioned for Art to sit and leaned forward to take the mobile phone handed to him.

He scrolled down the three pictures capturing a small, homely, plump little creature leaving Carney’s mansion in an old car that looked as though its only wish was to breathe its last breath and depart for the great automobile parking lot in the sky.

Matias vaguely wondered why she wasn’t in a car befitting a man who had always made social climbing his priority.

But more than that he wondered who the hell the woman was and why he hadn’t heard of her before.

‘How is it that I am only now finding out that the man has a child?’ Matias murmured, returning the mobile phone to his friend and relaxing back in the chair. ‘In fact, how do you know for sure that the woman is his daughter?’

At a little after seven, his office was empty. It was still summertime hot, it was Friday and everyone else had better things to do than work. There was nothing pressing to hold his attention. His last lover had been dispatched a few weeks ago. Right now, Matias had all the time in the world to think about this development in his campaign.

‘She said so,’ Art told him, pushing his wire-rimmed spectacles up his nose and looking at his friend with some concern. ‘But I don’t suppose,’ he added uneasily, ‘it makes any difference, Matias. Does it?’

Matias pushed his chair back and stood up. Seated, he was formidable. Standing, he towered. He was six feet three of solid, packed muscle. Black-haired and black-eyed, the product of an Argentinian father and a dainty Irish mother, Matias had resoundingly come up trumps in the genetic lottery. He was sinfully beautiful, the hard lines of his lean face wonderfully chiselled into absolute perfection. Right at this moment, he was frowning thoughtfully as he strolled towards the floor-to-ceiling bank of glass that overlooked the busy London streets in the heart of the city.

From this high up, the figures down below were matchstick small and the cars and taxis resembled kids’ toys.

He ignored the latter part of his friend’s remark and instead asked, ‘What do you mean “she said so”? Surely I would have known if the man had offspring. He was married and it was a childless union.’ But in truth, Matias had been uninterested in the personal details of James Carney’s life.

Why would he care one way or another if the man had kids or not?

For years, indeed for as long as he could remember, he had been focused on bringing the man to his knees through his company. The company that should never have been Carney’s in the first place. The company that had been founded on lies, deceit and Carney’s outright theft of Matias’s father’s invention.

Making money and having the power associated with it within his grasp was so entwined with his driving need to place himself in a position to reach out and wrench Carney’s company from under his feet, that it would have been impossible to separate the two. Matias’s march towards wealth had also been his march towards satisfying his thirst for revenge. He had gained his first-class degree, had bided his time in an investment bank for two years, making the money he needed to propel himself forward, and then he had quit with money under his belt and a black book stuffed with valuable connections. And he had begun his remorseless rise to the top via mergers and acquisitions of ailing companies, getting richer and richer and more and more powerful in the process.

Throughout it all, he had watched patiently for Carney’s company to ail and so it had.

For the past few years, Matias had been circling the company, a predator waiting for exactly the right time. Should he begin the process of buying shares, then flooding the market with them so that he could plunge the company into a premature meltdown? Should he wait until the company’s health deteriorated beyond repair so that he could instigate his hostile takeover? Choices, choices.

He had thought about revenge for so long that there was almost no hurry but the time had finally come. The letters he had recovered from his mother’s possessions, before she had been admitted to hospital three weeks previously, had propelled him towards the inevitable.

‘Well?’ he prompted, returning to his chair although he was suddenly restless, itching now to start the process of retribution.

‘You had a convivial conversation with the woman? Tell me how you came to your conclusion. I’m curious.’

Matias looked at Art, waiting for clarification.

‘Pure coincidence,’ Art admitted. ‘I was about to turn into Carney’s drive when she came speeding out, swerved round the corner, and banged into the car.’

‘The woman crashed into my car? Which one?’

‘The Maserati,’ Art admitted. ‘Nasty dent but her car, sadly, was more or less a write-off. No worries. It’ll be sorted.’

‘So she banged into my Maserati,’ Matias hurried the story along, planning on returning to this little episode later down the line, ‘told you who she was and then...what?’

‘You sound suspicious, Matias, but that’s exactly what happened. I asked her if that was the Carney residence and she said yes, that her dad lived there and she had just seen him. She was in a bit of a state because of the accident. She mentioned that he was in a foul mood and that it might be a good idea to rearrange whatever plans I had with him.’

‘So there’s a daughter,’ Matias said thoughtfully. ‘Interesting.’

‘A nice girl, Matias, or so it would seem.’

‘Impossible.’ That single word was a flat denial. ‘Carney is a nasty piece of work. It would be downright impossible for him to have sired anything remotely nice.’ The harsh lines of his face softened. For all his friend’s days of being bullied, Art had an instinctive trust in the goodness of human nature that he, Matias, lacked.

Matias had no idea why that was because they were both mixed race, in Art’s case of Spanish descent on his mother’s side. They had both started at the bottom of the pecking order and had had to toughen up to defend themselves against casual racism and snobbery.

But then, Matias mused not for the first time, he and he alone had witnessed first-hand the way criminal behaviour could affect the direction of someone’s life. His father had met James Carney at university. Tomas Rivero had been an extraordinarily clever man with a gift for all things mathematical. He had also been so lacking in business acumen that when, at the age of twenty-four, he invented a computer program that facilitated the analysis of experimental drugs, he was a sitting duck for a man who had very quickly seen where the program could be taken and the money that could be made out of it.

James Carney had been a rich, young thing with a tribe of followers and an eye to the main chance. He had befriended Tomas, persuaded him into a position of absolute trust and, when the time was right, had accumulated all the right signatures in all the right places that ensured that the royalties and dividends from the software went to him.

In return, Tomas had been sidelined with a third-rate job in a managerial position in the already ailing family business Carney had inherited from his father. He had never recovered mentally.

This was a story that had unfolded over the years, although, in fairness to both his parents, nothing had ever been said with spite and certainly there had never been any talk of revenge on the part of either of them.

Matias’s father had died over a decade previously and Rose Rivero, from the very start, had not countenanced thoughts of those wheels turning full circle.

What was done, was done, as far as she was concerned. The past was something to be relinquished.

Not so for Matias, who had seen his father in those quieter moments, seen the sadness that had become a humiliating burden. You didn’t have to be a genius to work out that being shoved in some dingy back office while you saw money and glory heaped on undeserving shoulders had damaged his father irreparably.

As far as Matias was concerned, his father had never fully recovered from Carney’s theft. He had worked at the company in the pitiful job condescendingly given to him for a couple of years and then moved on to another company, but by then his health was failing and Rose Rivero had had to go out to work to help make ends meet.

If his mother had cautioned against revenge, then he had had enough of a taste for it for the both of them.

But he knew that over the years the fires had burned a little less brightly because he had become so intensely consumed in his own meteoric rise to the top. It had been propelled by his desire for revenge but along the way had gathered a momentum of its own, taken on its own vibrant life force...distracted him from the goal he had long ago set himself.

Until he had come upon those letters.

‘She must have produced her insurance certificate,’ Matias mused, eyes narrowing. ‘What’s the woman’s name?’

‘I’ll email you the details.’ Art sighed, knowing without having to be told the direction of his friend’s thoughts. ‘I haven’t had a chance to look at it but I took a picture of the document.’

‘Good,’ Matias said with some satisfaction. ‘Do that immediately, Art. And there will be no need for you to deal with this matter. I will handle it myself.’

‘Why?’ Art was the only person who would ever have dared ask such a forthright question. Especially when the question was framed in a tone of voice that carried a warning.

‘Let’s just say that I might want to get to know her better. Knowledge is power, Art, and I now regret that I didn’t dig a little deeper into Carney’s private life. But don’t look so worried! I’m not the big bad wolf. I don’t make a habit of eating innocent young girls. So if she’s as nice as you imply, then she should be as safe as houses.’

‘Your mother wouldn’t like this,’ Art warned bluntly.

‘My mother is far too kind for her own good.’ For a few seconds, Matias thought of Rose Rivero, who was recuperating from a near fatal stroke at one of the top hospitals in London. If his father had never recovered from Carney’s treachery, then his mother had never recovered from his father’s premature death. When you looked at it, Carney had not only been responsible for his family’s unjust state of penury, but beyond that for the stress that had killed his father and for the ill health and unhappiness that had dogged his mother’s life. Revenge had been a long time coming but, if only James Carney knew it, it was now a juggernaut rolling with unstoppable speed towards him...

* * *

Sophie Watts stared up at the soaring glass tower in front of her and visibly quailed.

The lovely man whose car she had accidentally bruised three days previously had been very accommodating when she had phoned the number he had given her when they had exchanged details. She had explained the situation with her insurance policy and he had been sympathetic. He had told her in a friendly enough voice that she would have to come and discuss the matter personally but he was sure that something could be sorted out.

Unfortunately, the building in front of her did not look like the sort of user-friendly place in which cheerful and accommodating people worked, sorting out thorny situations in a cordial and sympathetic manner.

She clutched her capacious bag tightly and continued staring. Her head told her that she had no option but to move forward with the crowd while her feet begged to be allowed to turn tail and flee back to her low-key corner of East London and her little house in which she did her small-scale catering and baking for anyone who needed her services.

She didn’t belong here and the clothes she had carefully chosen to meet Art Delgado now felt ridiculous and out of place.

The young women sweeping past her with their leather computer bags and clicking high heels were all dressed in sharp black suits. They weren’t dithering. They were striding with purpose into the aggressive glass tower.

A small, plump girl with flyaway hair wearing a summery flowered dress and sandals didn’t belong here.

Sophie propelled herself forward, eyes firmly ahead. It had been a mistake to come here first thing so that she could get it over with. That idea had been great in theory but she hadn’t banked on the early rush-hour stampede of city workers. However, it was too late now to start chastising herself.

Inside, the foyer was a wondrous and cruel blend of marble, glass and metal.

Arrangements of sofas were scattered here and there in circular formations. The sofas were all very attractive and looked enormously uncomfortable. Clearly management didn’t want to encourage too much lounging around. Ahead of her, a bank of receptionists was busily directing people while streams of smartly dressed worker bees headed for the gleaming lifts opening and closing just beyond an array of stunted palm trees in huge ceramic pots.

Sophie felt a pang of physical longing for her kitchen, where she and Julie, her co-worker, chatted and baked and cooked and made big plans for the upmarket bakery they would jointly open one day. She craved the feel of her apron, the smell of freshly baked cake and the pleasant playing around of ideas for meals they had booked in for catering jobs. Even though she was now talking to one of the receptionists, explaining who she wanted to see, confirming that an appointment had been made and stuttering over her own name, she was unhappily longing to be somewhere else.

Frayed nerves made her miss what the snappily dressed girl in front of her had just said but then she blinked and registered that a mistake had been made.

‘I don’t know a Mr... River,’ she said politely.

‘Rivero.’ Eyebrows arched up, lips tightened, eyes cooled.

‘I’m here to see a Mr Delgado.’

‘Your meeting is with Mr Rivero.’ The receptionist swivelled the computer towards her. ‘You are to sign in. Anywhere on the screen will do and just use your finger. Mr Rivero’s secretary will be waiting for you on the tenth floor. Here’s a clip-on pass. Make sure you don’t remove it because if you do you’ll be immediately escorted out of the building.’

In a fluster, Sophie did as she was told but her heart was hammering inside her as she obeyed instructions, allowing herself to be swept along in a group towards the nearest lift and then staring fixedly at nothing in particular as she was whooshed up to the tenth floor, as directed.

Who was Mr Rivero? She had banked on the comfort of explaining her awkward situation to the very nice Mr Delgado. What sort of hearing was she going to get from a complete stranger? She was as tense as a bow string when, disgorged into the plushest surroundings she had ever seen, she was taken in hand by a very tall, middle-aged woman whose expression of sympathy did nothing to quell her escalating nerves.

And then she was being shown into an office, faced with a closed door, ushered through it and deposited like an unwanted parcel in a room that was simply breathtaking.

For a few seconds, eyes as round as saucers, Sophie looked around her. She hadn’t budged from where she had been placed just inside the door of a gigantic office. She cravenly recoiled from actually being bold enough to walk forward. Bag clutched tightly in front of her, she gradually became aware of the man sitting behind the desk. It was as if, suddenly, she focused, and on focusing felt the thudding impact of shock because the guy she was staring at was the most stunningly drop-dead gorgeous specimen she had ever seen in her entire life.

Her breathing slowed and even though she knew she was staring, she couldn’t help herself. His hair was raven black, his eyes the colour of the darkest, richest chocolate, his features lovingly and perfectly chiselled. He oozed the sort of stupendous sex appeal that made heads swing round for a second and third look.

The silence stretched and stretched between them and then it dawned on her that she was making an absolute fool of herself.

‘Miss Watts.’ Matias was the first to speak. ‘Do you intend to hover by the door for the duration of this meeting?’ He didn’t get up to shake her hand. He didn’t smile. He did nothing to put her at ease. Instead he nodded at the chair in front of his desk. ‘Sit down.’

Sophie shuffled forward, not knowing whether she was expected to shake his hand as a formality, but his expression was so forbidding that she decided against it and instead sank into the leather chair. She almost immediately leaned forward and rushed headlong into the little speech she had earlier rehearsed.

‘I’m really sorry about the car, Mr...er... Rivero. I honestly had no idea that your friend was turning into the drive. It’s so difficult to see round that bend, especially in summer. I admit I may have been driving a little faster than usual but I want to impress upon you that it was unintentional.’ What she could have added but didn’t was that her vision had been blurred because she had been doing her utmost not to cry after a stormy and upsetting meeting with James Carney.

* * *

Matias was watching her intently, his dark eyes narrowed on her flushed and surprisingly pretty face. He was a man who went for catwalk models, with long, angular bodies and striking, photogenic faces, yet there was something alluring about the woman sitting in front of him. Something about the softness of her face, the pale, vanilla shade of her unruly hair, the perfect clarity of her aquamarine eyes, held his attention and he could only assume that it was because of her connection to James Carney.

He hadn’t known the woman existed but the minute he had found out he had recognised the gift that had landed in his lap for what it was.

He thought back to those letters he had unearthed, and his jaw tightened. That soft, wide-eyed, innocent look wasn’t going to fool him. He didn’t know the full story of the woman’s relationship to Carney but he certainly intended to find out, just as he intended to exploit the situation he had been handed to discover if there were any other secrets the man might have been hiding. The broader the net was cast, the wider the catch.

‘Employee,’ Matias replied. This just in case she got it into her head that special favours were going to be granted because of Art’s personal connection with him.

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘Art Delgado is my employee. He was driving my Maserati. Miss Watts, do you have any idea how much one costs?’

‘No, I don’t,’ Sophie said faintly. He was having the most peculiar effect on her. It was as though the power of his presence had sucked the oxygen out of the air, making it difficult to breathe.

‘In that case, allow me to enlighten you.’ He named a sum that was sufficiently staggering to make her gasp. ‘And I have been told that your insurance policy is invalid.’

‘I didn’t know,’ Sophie whispered. ‘I’m usually so good at dealing with all that stuff but things have been a bit hectic recently. I know I cancelled my old policy and I had planned on renewing with somewhere cheaper but...’

Matias held up one imperious hand to stop her in mid flow. ‘I’m not interested in the back story,’ he informed her coolly. ‘To cut to the chase, the damage you have done to my car will run to many, many thousands.’

Sophie’s mouth dropped open. ‘Thousands?’ she parroted.

‘Literally. I’m afraid it won’t be a simple case of sorting out the dent. The entire left wing of the car will have to be replaced. High-performance cars charge high-performance prices.’

‘I... I had no idea. I haven’t got that sort of money. I...when I spoke to your friend...sorry, your employee Mr Delgado on the phone, he said that we would be able to work something out.’

‘Sadly working something out really isn’t in his remit.’ Matias thought that his old friend would raise a sardonic eyebrow at that sweeping statement.

‘I could pay you back over time.’ Sophie wondered what sort of time line would be acceptable to the unforgiving man staring coldly at her as though she were an undesirable alien that had suddenly invaded his personal space. She somehow didn’t imagine that his time line was going to coincide with hers. ‘I run a little catering business with a friend,’ she hurtled on, desperate to bring this uncomfortable meeting to an end and even more desperate to find some sort of solution that wouldn’t involve bankruptcy for her and Julie’s fledgling start-up company. ‘We only opened up a year and a half ago. Before that we were both primary school teachers. It’s taken an awful lot of borrowing to get everything in order and to get my kitchen up to the required standard for producing food commercially, and right at this moment, well...there isn’t a great deal of spare change flying about.’

‘In other words you’re broke.’

‘We’re really making a go of things, Mr Rivero!’ Heat flared in her cheeks. ‘And I’m sure we can work something out when it comes to a repayment schedule for your car...’

‘I gather you’re James Carney’s daughter.’ Matias lowered his eyes, then he pushed back his chair and stood up to stroll across to the impressive bank of windows, in front of which was a tidy sitting area complete with a low table fashioned in chrome and glass.

Sophie was riveted at the sight of him. The way he moved, the unconscious flex of muscle under the expensive suit, the lean length of his body, the casual strength he exuded that was frankly spellbinding. He turned to look at her and it took a big effort not to look away.

His throwaway remark had frozen her to the spot.

‘Well?’ Matias prodded. ‘Art was on his way to pay a little visit to James Carney on business,’ he expanded, ‘when you came speeding out of his drive like a bat out of hell and crashed into my car. I had no idea that the man even had a family.’ He was watching her very carefully as he spoke and was mildly surprised that she didn’t see to ask him a very fundamental question, which was why the heck should Carney’s private life have anything to do with him?

Whatever she was, she clearly didn’t have a suspicious nature.

Sophie was lost for words. She had been shaken by the accident, upset after the visit to her father, and Art Delgado, so different from this flint-eyed guy assessing her, had encouraged her into a confidence she rarely shared with anyone.

‘Of course...’ Matias shrugged, curiosity spiking at her continued silence ‘...I am not primarily concerned with the man’s private life but my understanding was that he was a widower.’

‘He is,’ Sophie whispered, ashamed all over again at a birthright she hadn’t asked for, the consequences of which she had been forced, however, to live with.

‘So tell me where you fit in,’ Matias encouraged. ‘Unless, of course, that was a little white lie you told my employee on the spur of the moment.’ He appeared to give this a little thought. ‘Maybe you were embarrassed to tell the truth...?’

‘Sorry?’ That garnered her attention and she looked at him with a puzzled frown.

‘Young girl having an affair with an old man? I can see that you might have been embarrassed enough to have said the first thing that came to your head, anything that sounded a little less unsavoury than what you really are to Carney.’

‘How dare you?’ Sophie gasped, half standing. ‘That’s disgusting!’

‘I’m just trying to do the maths.’ Matias frowned and tilted his head to one side. ‘If you’re not his lover, the man must have had a mistress while he was married. Am I right? Are you Carney’s love child?’

Sophie laughed bitterly because nothing could have been further from the truth. Love had never come into the equation. Before her untimely death, her mother, Angela Watts, had been an aspiring actress whose great misfortune had been her Marilyn Monroe blonde-bombshell looks. Prey to men’s flattery and pursued for her body, she had made the fatal error of throwing her net too wide. James Carney, young, rich and arrogant, had met her at a club and, like all the others, had pursued her, but he had had no intention of ever settling down with someone he considered a two-bit tart with a pretty face. Those details had been drummed into Sophie from as soon as she was old enough to understand. He had had fun with Angela and she had foolishly thought that the fun would actually go somewhere, but even when she had contrived to trap him with a pregnancy he had stood firm, only later marrying a woman he considered of the right class and social position.

‘He met my mother before he was married,’ Sophie confessed, belatedly adding, ‘not that it has anything to do with...well, anything. Mr Rivero, I would be more than happy for you to draw up a schedule for repayment. I will sign it right here and right now and you have my word that you will have every penny I owe you back. With interest if that’s what you want.’

Matias burst out laughing. ‘That’s very obliging of you,’ he drawled lazily. ‘Believe it or not, I haven’t become a successful businessman by putting my faith in the impossible. I have no idea what you owe the bank but I suspect you’re probably barely making ends meet. Am I right?’

He tilted his head to one side and Sophie looked at him with loathing. He might be sinfully handsome but she had never met anyone she hated more on the spot. She wasn’t stupid. He had all the money in the world, from the looks of it, but he wasn’t going to be lenient when it came to getting back every penny she owed him and she knew that he wouldn’t give a hoot if he drove her little company into the ground to do it.

Right now, he was toying with her like a cat playing with a mouse.

‘We could work out a schedule,’ he mused, ‘but I would be on my walking frame before you made the final payment.’ She really had the most wonderfully transparent face, he thought. Impossible though it was, she looked as pure as the driven snow.

But perhaps she wasn’t fashioned in the same mould as the father. Certainly, she wouldn’t have had the example set by him on a daily basis if she was the product of a youthful affair. He was surprised, in fact, that she had any contact with the man at all and he wondered how that had worked when Carney’s socially acceptable wife had been alive.

Matias wasn’t going to waste time pondering stuff like that, however. Right now, he was working out how best to use her to his advantage. When he pulled the plug on Carney, he intended to hit him on all fronts and he wondered whether she could be of use to him in that.

What other secrets was the man hiding? Matias knew that the company was beset with financial problems but, in the ether, there had been rumours of foul play... Sometimes skeletons were hard to find, however hard you dug, and Carney was a man who was sly and smart enough to cover his tracks. Wouldn’t it be satisfying if all his dark secrets were to be exposed to the cruel glare of light...?

Could this fresh-faced girl be the key to unlock more doors? And what if there were personal skeletons? An attack on all fronts was certainly worth considering. He was honest enough to acknowledge that this level of revenge was probably beneath him, but those letters he’d found...they had made this personal...

‘You could always ask Daddy for the money,’ he ventured smoothly, knowing what the answer would be.

‘No!’ This time she did stand up. Her full mouth was drawn into a thin, obstinate line. ‘I won’t have...my father involved in this. Bankrupt me if you want.’ She reached into her bag, pulled out one of the business cards, remembering how filled with optimism she and Julie had been when they had had them printed. ‘Here’s my business card. You can come and see the premises. It’s just in my kitchen but the equipment must be worth something. I have a number of big jobs lined up, so if you’re patient I can do those and you can have the money. As for the rest... I will sell my house and I should be able to sort out the rest of the debt with money left over after the mortgage has been covered.’

Matias looked at her, every line of his powerful body indicating a man totally relaxed, totally unfazed by her emotional outburst.

Dark eyes roamed over her. She had tried to do something businesslike with her hair but somewhere along the line it had rebelled and tangled, white-blonde strands already curling around her cheeks. Her eyes were wide and a curious shade of turquoise and fringed, he noted, with thick dark lashes, which was at odds with the colour of her hair. And her body...

He shifted in his chair, astonished that he was even bothering to notice that she had curves in all the right places and luscious breasts that were prominent against the truly appalling flowered dress she was wearing.

She lacked sophistication and clearly had no style gene whatsoever, so what, he wondered, with a certain amount of irritation, was it about her that captured his attention so completely?

‘You’re overreacting,’ he told her as she remained standing, her blue eyes dark with worry, anger and distress.

‘You’ve just told me that you’re not willing to come to any kind of arrangement with me about the money I owe you for your stupid car!’ Easy-tempered by nature, Sophie was shocked at the stridency of her voice and the fact that she was yelling at him! ‘I can’t go to my bank and draw out the kind of money I would need to make good the damage. So, of course I’m going to be upset.’

‘Sit down.’

‘No. I’m going. You can get in touch with me on the number on the card! I’m going to have to talk this through with Julie. I don’t know what she’s going to say. She’s put in most of her savings to try and get this business of ours going, as have I, so I’m going to have to find the money to pay her back too and make sure she doesn’t have to pay for my mistake.’ Her voice was wobbling and she stared off into the distance in an attempt to stop herself from crying.

Matias squashed all feelings of guilt. Why should he feel guilty? He was staring at a woman whose father had destroyed his family. In that scenario, guilt didn’t exist. After all, all was fair in love and war, wasn’t it?

‘You could do that,’ he murmured, ‘or you could sit back down and listen to the proposition I have for you.’


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