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The Redemption of Darius Sterne

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«The Redemption of Darius Sterne» - Кэрол Мортимер

So innocent. So tempting…Having built a global empire synonymous with excellence, formidable tycoon Darius Sterne is a man who gets what he wants. Always. And right now? He wants ex-ballerina Miranda Jacobs….in his bed and sighing his name in pleasure.Virginal Miranda can’t resist the allure of the brooding billionaire. But the closer he pulls her, the more Darius threatens the barriers she’s carefully constructed to conceal the scars of her past. Yet Miranda isn’t the only one with pain to hide…Can her pure love dance into his heart, and redeem the dark and damaged Darius Sterne?The Twin Tycoons DuetThese twin tycoons are about to learn there are some things money and power can’t buy…And that the greatest challenges net the most satisfying rewards.Book 1: The Redemption of Darius SterneBook 2: The Taming of Xander SternePraise for Carole MortimerA D’Angelo Like No Other4.5* TOP PICK RT Book ReviewMortimer’s final D’Angelo romance is intense and heartwarming. The eloquent dialogue flows, while the elegant Parisian settings glow. With the cutest tots as co-stars, the leery hero and spitfire heroine shine.A Prize Beyond Jewels 4.5* TOP PICK RT Book ReviewMortimer uses opulent New York City as her palette for an emotionally fraught romance with a mystery. Her heroine is complicated and spirited; her hero is tenacious with hidden depth. Their lively banter camouflages their fears and electrifies their lovemaking.A Bargain with the Enemy 4.5* TOP PICK RT Book ReviewMortimer’s opulent scenes enhance the flavor of this exceptional romance. Her frenemies enchant from beginning to end, and their dialogue is bitingly realistic.
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The sexual tension between the two of them had been palpable downstairs in the restaurant earlier, and it was even deeper now that they had actually talked and then danced together.

The sexual tension between the two of them had been palpable downstairs in the restaurant earlier, and it was even deeper now that they had actually talked and then danced together.

‘Have dinner with me tomorrow night,’ Darius prompted abruptly as he turned to place a restraining hand on her arm before they could reach the table where her sister and brother-in-law were waiting for her.

‘I—What—? No!’ Miranda looked totally flustered by the invitation.

‘Why on earth not?’ He scowled darkly.

She gave an impatient shake of her head. ‘As I said, I’m grateful to you for inviting us up to your club, and—and everything else. It’s made my birthday even more special. I just—This—You and me—It isn’t going anywhere.’

‘I only invited you out to dinner, Miranda, not to become the mother of my children,’ he pointed out dryly.

The colour deepened in her cheeks. ‘And when was the last time you invited a woman out to dinner without the expectation of taking her to bed at the end of the evening?’ Her pointed chin rose challengingly as she looked up at him.

‘And what makes you so sure that isn’t going to happen?’ he purred.

Miranda wasn’t sure of anything in regard to her undeniable and unexpected attraction to this man—that was the problem!

THE TWIN TYCOONS

Twin billionaire brothers—one dark and brooding, one blond and charming—which would you choose?

Billionaire brothers Darius and Xander Sterne have it all—power, wealth, and the world at their beck and call. Never challenged, always triumphant—nothing is unattainable when you own the world, and they’ve enjoyed every indulgence their affluent status affords.

Until now.

Because these twin tycoons are about to learn that there are some things money and power can’t buy … And that the greatest challenges net the most satisfying rewards.

Find out what happens in:

THE REDEMPTION OF DARIUS STERNE February 2015

THE TAMING OF XANDER STERNE March 2015

The Redemption

of Darius Sterne

Carole Mortimer



www.millsandboon.co.uk

CAROLE MORTIMER was born and lives in the UK. She is married to Peter and they have six sons. She has been writing for Mills & Boon® since 1978, and has written almost 200 books. She writes for the Modern Romance™ line, and also Regency romances for Mills & Boon® Historical. Carole is a USA TODAY bestselling author, and in 2012 was recognised by Queen Elizabeth II for her ‘outstanding contribution to literature’.

For Peter, as always.

Contents

Excerpt

The Twin Tycoons

Title Page

About the Author

Dedication

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

EPILOGUE

Extract

Copyright

CHAPTER ONE

‘WHO IS THAT?’ Andy exclaimed as she glanced towards the doorway of the exclusive restaurant and bar, Midas, in which she was currently celebrating with her sister and brother-in-law.

Her glass of champagne raised halfway to her lips, Andy openly stared across the elegant restaurant at the man standing just inside the doorway. Tall and grimly unsmiling, he removed his dark outer coat, before handing it off to the waiting maître d’.

Andy estimated him to be in his early to mid-thirties, and he was so dark and arrestingly handsome that Andy couldn’t have looked away if her life had depended on it.

Everything about the man was dark, she noted as she continued to watch him.

The elegant black suit and the shirt and tie he wore under it, the perfect tailoring emphasising rather than hiding the muscled perfection of his well over six feet height.

His tousled hair gleamed the colour of dark mahogany under the light of the overhead crystal chandeliers.

His complexion was olive.

As for his expression...

The longer she stared at him, the more Andy realised that grim didn’t even begin to describe the look on that hard and chiselled face. He had a high, intelligent forehead, glowering dark brows over narrowed eyes, blades for cheekbones, a sculptured and firmly unsmiling mouth, his jaw square and arrogant.

Overall the combined effect was best described as electrifying.

There really was no other word that quite described the man as he now glanced disinterestedly about the elegant restaurant, while at the same time continuing his conversation with the man accompanying him. A piercing glance, which now moved over and past Andy, and then slowly moved back again, before stopping.

Andy’s breath caught in her throat, her mind going completely blank as she found herself the focus of that piercing gaze.

For some reason Andy had expected that the man’s eyes would be as darkly arresting as the rest of him, but instead they were a clear and beautiful topaz in colour, with darker striations fanning out from the pitch-black pupils.

They were mesmerising eyes, which continued to hold Andy’s gaze captive even as he raised one questioningly dark brow at her obvious interest.

‘Aha!’ her sister murmured beside her as she saw the direction of Andy’s gaze and realised the reason for her earlier comment. ‘Absolutely gorgeous, isn’t he?’

‘Sorry?’ Andy was still held captive by that compelling gaze as she answered Kim distractedly, her heart pounding in her chest, her pulse racing.

‘The man you’re currently ogling, darling,’ her sister teased dryly. ‘Don’t you just want to rip his clothes off and—?’

‘Hello? Husband sitting right next to you,’ Colin reminded Kim ruefully.

‘That doesn’t stop me from window-shopping, my love,’ his wife replied pertly.

‘There’s window-shopping, and then there’s just completely out of your price range!’ Colin muttered teasingly.

‘That’s the whole point of window-shopping, silly!’ Kim chuckled affectionately.

Andy was barely aware of the bantering between her sister and brother-in-law, the stranger’s gaze continuing to hold hers captive for several more, heart-stoppingly long seconds, before he gave a curl of his top lip in the semblance of a smile. Then he turned away, as he and his dining companion now followed the maître d’ to their table.

Andy drew in a ragged breath, although her heart was still pounding, her pulse racing.

A small shiver waved over her body, a reminder of her unexpected physical reaction to that darkly delicious man.

And she was far from the only one watching the two men as they made their way through the restaurant, nodding acknowledgement to several acquaintances as they passed, before stopping at a table for four near the window. They greeted an older couple already seated there, before the maître d’ himself pulled back the two empty chairs so that the two men could join them.

In fact, now that Andy was no longer completely under his spell she realised that the other diners weren’t just surreptitiously watching those two men, but that conversation in the room had become a hushed whisper; the very air seemed to be filled with tense expectation.

Which, considering this fashionable restaurant, was frequented only by the rich and the famous, who were usually too full of their own self-importance to be aware of anyone else’s, she found distinctly intriguing.

In fact, Andy had been slightly overwhelmed by the clientele when she’d first arrived.

The only reason that Andy and her sister and brother-in-law were able to dine in such exalted company at all was because Colin worked in the London office of Midas Enterprises. As an employee of Midas he was allowed to book a table at one of the Midas restaurants for himself and three guests once a year, and given an employee discount; none of them would ever have been able to afford to eat here otherwise!

The same didn’t apply to the Midas nightclub on the floor above; that was reserved for members only. And to become a member, you had to be approved by both the Sterne brothers, the billionaire owners of Midas Enterprises.

As well as most of the known universe, it seemed to Andy.

Social hermit that she usually was, even she had heard of Darius and Xander Sterne’s success. Her brother-in-law had told her that the brothers had burst onto the business scene twelve years ago, when they had launched an Internet social media company, which had rapidly grown and grown, until they’d sold it just three years later for several billion pounds. After that there had been no stopping them, as they’d bought up several electronic companies, an airline, media and film-production companies, hotel chains, and opened up exclusive restaurants and clubs just like this one, all around the world.

Everything they touched, it seemed, did turn to gold.

Which was probably the reason they had decided to name their company Midas.

‘Don’t let it worry you, Andy.’ Her sister now gave her hand a reassuring pat as she saw that grimace. ‘Everyone, male or female, reacts in exactly the same way the first time they set eyes on the Sterne brothers.’

‘The Sterne brothers?’ Andy repeated breathlessly, eyes wide; no wonder everyone in the restaurant was staring!

‘The Sterne twins, to be exact,’ Kim corrected knowledgeably.

‘Twins?’ Andy’s eyes widened incredulously. ‘Are you saying that there’s another one just like him at home?’ There couldn’t possibly be!

The man who had just walked into the restaurant was—well, he was utterly unique. In a dark and compelling way Andy could never imagine anyone else ever being. Certainly not in the form of an identical twin.

She knew little of the Sterne brothers’ personal lives.

When they had first rocketed into the public eye she had only been thirteen and at ballet school, and totally caught up in that world. She had paid little attention to the world of business, or society photographs in newspapers and glossy magazines of the rich and the famous.

And after her accident she had been too busy trying to rebuild her future to be too aware of what was going on in other people’s lives.

She had known her brother-in-law had worked for Midas Enterprises for the last few years, of course, but the bachelor billionaire Sterne brothers inhabited a totally different world from her own—no doubt they could eat at a different one of their own restaurants every night around the world, and fly there on their own private jet!

But she would certainly have remembered it if she had ever seen so much as a photograph of the man seated across the restaurant.

‘Hardly, darling. That’s his twin sitting beside him,’ Kim explained softly.

Andy’s gaze shifted to the man who had walked in with Mr Dark and Compelling—Darius or Xander Sterne?—and now sat at the table with him talking to the older couple.

Definitely not an identical twin!

If one of the twins was dark and compelling then the other was light and magnetic; the second man’s fashionably tousled hair was a pale blond, his skin golden, a sexy grin lighting up his handsome and chiselled features, laughter lines fanning out from warm brown eyes, as if he smiled often. He was as tall and muscled as his brother, his impeccably black evening suit also tailored to perfection.

Under any other circumstances Andy knew she would have found the second twin the most handsome man in the room, but the dark twin was just so breathtaking she had to admit to having barely noticed his brother until now.

Dark twin. Light twin.

Andy’s gaze moved inexorably back to the dark twin. ‘Which one is he?’

‘Mr Gorgeous? That would be Xander,’ Kim supplied lightly.

‘Hello? I’m still sitting here,’ Colin put in pointedly, his own dark-haired and blue-eyed looks better described as homely rather than gorgeous.

‘You know how much I love you, love,’ Kim assured him warmly. ‘But no woman in her right mind could stop herself from looking at someone like Xander Sterne.’

Again, Andy was barely listening to her sister and Colin as they bantered back and forth. Mainly because the dark twin had just glanced her way again. And given another raise of that dark and mocking brow as he’d found her still watching him. Causing Andy to quickly look away, the warmth of embarrassed colour flooding her cheeks.

‘—all that gorgeous golden hair and those warm brown eyes. As for the delicious and toned body underneath that wonderful designer-label suit...’ Kim continued to sing the man’s praises.

‘I’m going to go to the bathroom, leaving you two ladies to continue drooling, before I develop a complex,’ Colin excused dryly as he stood up and left the table.

‘Xander is the blond one?’ Andy questioned her sister sharply once the two of them were alone, instantly revising her thoughts as she realised it was Darius she had been staring at, not the light twin, Xander.

‘Well, of course he’s the gorgeous blond,’ Kim teased dismissively. ‘I would hardly be drooling, as Colin so elegantly put it, over Darius.’ She gave a shiver. ‘All that dark, cold broodiness makes him just too scary for words!’

Dark, cold and scary.

Yes, Andy acknowledged, Darius Sterne was definitely scary. But, as far as she was concerned, not in the cold and brooding way her sister meant.

If Xander was light and good humour, then Darius was the opposite; a man as dark as sin—inside as well as out. His chiselled features were so grimly forbidding it looked as if he rarely found occasion to smile, let alone laugh.

But when he did?

How would it feel to be the woman responsible for putting a smile on that coldly arrogant face? To bathe in his appreciative laughter? To be the one responsible for putting the warmth of that laughter into those beautiful topaz eyes?

Or the heat of desire!

And on that note Andy brought her thoughts to a screeching halt.

Men like Darius Sterne, successful billionaires like Darius Sterne, she corrected herself ruefully, did not look at women like her. Women who so obviously did not even belong in a restaurant like Midas, let alone the rarefied world of extreme wealth that the Sterne brothers inhabited.

And yet Darius Sterne had certainly looked at her.

Only briefly, Andy admitted, but he had definitely returned her gaze.

Maybe that was because she had been caught staring at him eyes wide, mouth agape?

Well, yes. Maybe. But to be fair, everyone else in the restaurant had also been staring at the Sterne twins. Maybe not in quite the lustful way she had been staring at Darius Sterne, but they had all been looking, nonetheless.

Lustful?

Lord, yes, her feelings were lustful, if the tingling fullness in her breasts and the heat surging through her body was any indication!

And Andy was sure it was.

Though she had never, ever, responded in such a visceral way to any man before tonight. Before she’d looked at Darius Sterne and been unable to look away again.

Until the age of nineteen, her life and her emotions had all been totally dedicated to ballet and her career, with no time left for romance. After the months of recovering from the accident, Andy had had necessarily to concentrate on making something else of her life.

Her dream of one day becoming a world-class ballerina had been over, but she was by no means a quitter, and had no intentions of just sitting around feeling sorry for herself. Consequently she had known she had to do something with her life.

It had been a lot of hard work, and taken most of her own share of the money left to her and Kim by their parents when they’d died almost five years ago. But three years after making that decision, Andy had finished her training to teach and been able to open a ballet studio for five-to-sixteen-year-olds. Ballet was what she knew, after all. And maybe one day, if she was lucky, she might actually be responsible for discovering and training a world-class ballerina.

Her personal life had been the casualty of all those years of hard work, both as a ballerina and latterly her training to teach others to dance. As a consequence she’d had no intimate relationships before her accident. Or since...

The loss of both her beloved parents had been a terrible blow, and Andy had buried herself even more in her love of ballet as a way of coping with that loss. The accident just months later, putting an end to her career in ballet, had shaken her to her very core.

Oh, she had recovered some of her previous confidence these past four years, on the outside at least. But the physical scars that now marred her body were undeniable. She certainly hadn’t ever wanted to share those with any man.

Most especially a man as handsome and sophisticated as Darius Sterne, who no doubt dated some of the most beautiful women in the world. He certainly wouldn’t be interested in someone like Andy, who was scarred emotionally on the inside, and visibly on the outside.

* * *

‘Darius?’

Darius masked his irritation as he gave the beautiful blonde across the restaurant one last appreciative glance before turning his attention slowly back to the three people seated at the table with him. His twin Xander. His mother. And stepfather.

Darius had managed to block them all out in his preoccupation with the fragile-looking woman, having quickly assessed her dining companions when he arrived, and just as quickly dismissed them; the likeness between the two women, in colouring and facial features, meant they were probably sisters, and the man’s close proximity to the second woman showed he was with her rather than the woman who held Darius’s interest. There was no fourth place setting at the table, either.

The woman was ethereally beautiful, her ash-blonde hair a straight curtain to just below her shoulders, green eyes huge in the delicate perfection of her face. It was those hauntingly lovely green eyes that had first caught and held his attention the moment he’d entered the restaurant.

Surprisingly.

Because she wasn’t his usual type at all; his taste usually ran towards women who were older, and more sophisticated than the youthful-looking blonde. Women who expected nothing more from him than a night or two in his bed.

But there was something about the green-eyed blonde that had caught and held his attention.

Possibly because something about her seemed slightly familiar to him? The tilt of her head... The elegance of her movement...

And yet at the same time Darius knew he had never met her before; he would surely have remembered where and when if he had!

Maybe it was her other-worldly air that had caught his notice? She was so willowy she looked as if a puff of wind might blow her over, her bare arms incredibly slender, her collarbones and the hollows of her throat visible above the neckline of her black dress. Her face was hauntingly lovely; eyes fringed by thick dark lashes, cheekbones high, straight nose, full and sensuous lips, with a pointed, stubborn chin. That straight ash-blonde hair had the appearance of moonbeams, tempting a man to run his fingers through its silkiness.

Moonbeams?

He could never remember waxing lyrical about the colour and texture of a woman’s hair before.

Whatever the reason for his attraction to her, Darius had the definite feeling it was reciprocated, as he had felt those beautiful green eyes continuing to watch him through the curtain of her thick dark lashes as he and Xander strolled through the restaurant to join his mother and stepfather at their table.

But maybe a more plausible reason for having become so preoccupied by the blonde was that he didn’t really want to be here at the restaurant at all?

It was Darius’s reluctance to start the evening that had caused him to work so late at his office he hadn’t even had time to go to his apartment and change before meeting up with Xander outside the restaurant. The two of them had decided during a telephone call earlier today that presenting a united front tonight was probably the best policy.

His mother’s frown of disapproval, when he had bent to place the perfunctory kiss on her smooth and powdered cheek, had clearly told him that she had taken note that Xander and their stepfather were both wearing black evening clothes and Darius wasn’t.

Not that it had bothered Darius for many years whether or not he had his mother’s approval. Twenty years, to be exact. Since the death of the father he and Xander had hated and the husband Catherine had feared. The man that Darius so resembled, in looks, at least; no doubt it was difficult for Catherine to even look at the son who so reminded her of the husband she had disliked.

Darius could understand some of his mother’s aversion but it didn’t stop her rejection from hurting him. Over the years he had found the best way to deal with that hurt was to distance himself from his mother in return. It was not the ideal, by any means, but as the years had passed it had become the best way for him to deal with the situation.

Consequently mother and son now rarely talked, let alone spent evenings together like this.

Thankfully the rest of his family usually more than made up for Darius’s brooding silences.

Xander was currently behaving with his usual charming urbanity.

Their mother, Catherine, still beautiful at fifty-eight, was also presenting a gracious and charming front for the benefit of the other diners, who they were all only too well aware were continuing to watch the family surreptitiously.

Only Charlie, or Charles, as his mother preferred her second husband to be called, was being his usual warm and affable self as he ignored the other diners, and the underlying tensions at their table, in favour of keeping the conversation light and impersonal.

It might be Catherine’s birthday today, and the reason they were all sitting here, but his relationship with his mother was now such that it was out of respect and affection for Charlie that Darius had made the effort to make an appearance at all this evening.

‘Isn’t it time we drank the toast to your birthday, Mother?’ He picked up his glass of champagne. ‘I can’t stay long. I have somewhere else I need to be.’ He glanced towards the back of the restaurant where the second blonde’s escort had disappeared a few minutes ago. Probably on his way to the men’s room.

His mother gave another frown of disapproval. ‘Surely you can spare me one evening of your time, Darius?’

‘Unfortunately not,’ he cut her off unapologetically.

‘You speak to him, Charles!’ Catherine turned to appeal to her husband.

‘You heard the boy, Catherine, he has work he needs to do.’

Silver-haired, and in his mid-sixties, Charles Latimer obviously adored his wife, and Darius knew that the older man did everything in his power to ensure her happiness. But even Charlie knew better than to argue when Darius made a statement in that flat, uncompromising tone.

‘He didn’t say it was work.’

‘It is,’ Darius bit out tersely, deliberately choosing to ignore Xander’s accusing glare.

He had turned up tonight, hadn’t he? Had made the required appearance at his mother’s private birthday dinner celebrations, as he would make an appearance at the more public celebrations next weekend, at a dinner given in aid of one of his mother’s numerous charities. What more did any of them want from him? Whatever it was, the estrangement between Darius and his mother was now such that he wasn’t willing to give it.

He gave another glance towards the back of the restaurant, having just decided exactly what he did want.

* * *

‘It was Xander you were looking at, wasn’t it?’ Kim questioned with concern. Three years older than Andy, she had always taken her ‘protective big sister’ role very seriously, even more so since the loss of their parents.

Andy didn’t reply immediately, continuing to watch Darius Sterne as he suddenly stood up abruptly from his table.

The woman seated at the table with the three men was beautiful, but obviously aged in her fifties, and with her blonde hair and dark eyes she bore a resemblance to Xander Sterne. Perhaps she was the twins’ mother? Although Andy could see no resemblance to Darius whatsoever.

The older man didn’t look like either of the brothers, so perhaps he was the twins’ stepfather?

Whatever the relationship between the Sterne twins and the older couple, it had been impossible not to miss the edge of tension at the table since the twins sat down. A tension that seemed to ease as Darius Sterne now left their company.

Andy’s gaze continued to follow him as he walked towards the back of the restaurant.

‘No,’ she finally answered her sister distractedly, her breath leaving her in a whoosh as Darius disappeared from view down a marble corridor at the back of the restaurant.

Allowing her to realise she had actually stopped breathing, as well as being unable to take her eyes off him until he disappeared, his elegance of movement so like that of a stalking predator. A sleek and powerful jaguar, perhaps, or maybe a tiger? Definitely something feral and lethal!

‘I advise you not to even bother looking at Darius Sterne, Andy,’ Kim said hastily. ‘Admittedly he’s gorgeous, in a dark and dangerously compelling way, but he’s also way out of your league, my love. Well out of any sane woman’s league!’ her sister added with feeling.

Andy took a much-needed sip of the champagne in her glass; her mouth had gone dry just from watching Darius Sterne.

‘There have been stories and hints in the newspapers for years regarding the extent of Darius Sterne’s darkness,’ Kim cautioned as Andy made no reply.

She turned to give her sister a teasing smile. ‘You aren’t saying he’s into black magic?’

‘More like wielding whips and paddles.’

Andy almost choked on her champagne. ‘Kim!’ she finally managed to splutter incredulously. ‘Why is everyone so obsessed with that stuff nowadays?’ Personally, she could imagine nothing more demeaning to a woman than having some man put his collar of ownership on her and demanding she call him master. Or tying her to his bed before doing whatever he wanted with her. Or that same man demanding that she kneel subserviently at his feet until he told her otherwise. It made Andy’s skin crawl just to think about any man treating a woman like that.

Even a man she found as fascinating as Darius Sterne.

Her sister held up her hands defensively. ‘I’m not responsible for the gossip about him.’

‘You’re responsible for reading it,’ Andy scolded. ‘What’s printed in the gutter press isn’t gossip, Kim, it’s pure fantasy most of the time. Sensationalised speculation, and luridly made-up headlines to encourage people to buy their newspaper rather than someone else’s.’

Her sister shrugged slender shoulders. ‘You’ve heard the saying, there’s no smoke without fire.’

She raised her brows. ‘I also remember Mum telling us years ago that it isn’t wise, or fair, to listen to gossip or hearsay, that we should make our own minds up about other people.’

If Mum were here, I have no doubts she would also tell you that there’s nothing in the least wise in being attracted to a man like Darius Sterne,’ her sister stated with certainty.

Both girls sobered at the mention of their mother. At the time of their parents’ deaths the sisters, Kim twenty-one, and Andy eighteen, had been absolutely devastated by the loss, but with the passing of time they had both come to appreciate the years they had been able to spend with their parents. Andy had always been grateful that at least they had lived long enough to see Kim happily married to Colin, and they had also been present the night Andy had appeared in the lead of Giselle with England’s most reputable ballet company.

Andy’s own accident, just six months after their death, had meant that she would never dance in public again.

Andy determinedly shook off the sadness that realisation still gave her, even four years later. She had her studio, was slowly, sometimes too slowly, making a success of it. She also conveniently lived in the flat above the studio. It was so much more than a lot of people had.

‘I really wouldn’t worry about it, Kim; I’m never likely to so much as set eyes on Darius Sterne again, so it really isn’t an issue,’ she pointed out ruefully. ‘As you said, it’s nice to window-shop.’

‘You ladies are never going to believe what just happened to me in the Gents,’ a red-faced Colin announced as he arrived back at their table before plonking himself back down into his seat to look at them both expectantly.

His wife raised her eyebrows. ‘Do we want to know?’

‘Oh, yes.’ He nodded with certainty. ‘It was nothing like that, Kim!’ He frowned at his wife as her eyebrows had risen even higher. ‘Honestly, sometimes I wonder if your mind isn’t constantly in the gutter.’

‘I think we just had this conversation.’ Andy chuckled as she gave her sister a pointed glance. ‘Kim’s just been regaling me with lurid tales of the licentious behaviour of the Sterne twins,’ she explained at Colin’s questioning glance.

One of the Sterne twins,’ Kim defended. ‘I’m sure that Xander is every bit as deliciously gentlemanly and uncomplicated as he appears to be.’

Andy gave a disbelieving snort; Xander Sterne might not be as obviously brooding as his twin brother, but there was no way a man of his age and wealth, and with those Adonis good looks, could possibly have remained single if he was as gentlemanly and uncomplicated as Kim claimed he was.

Admittedly, with that much money, the Sterne brothers could no doubt pick and choose when it came to women. As it would no doubt be difficult for either of the brothers to ever know if a woman wanted them for themselves, or their billions. But even so, it was unusual for two brothers, aged in their early to mid-thirties, never to have married.

Or at least Andy assumed neither of them had ever married; she really knew very little about them. They could both be married for all she knew, but had left their wives and half a dozen children at home this evening.

If that was true, it made Darius Sterne’s earlier flirtation with her decidedly questionable.

Andy decided there and then to look the Sterne brothers up on the Internet as soon as she got home. With special emphasis on learning a lot more about Darius.

‘Do I take it from that remark that it’s Darius Sterne you’ve been gossiping about?’ Colin gave Kim an irritated glance. ‘You do realise that he’s one of my employers? That we wouldn’t even be here this evening if he wasn’t? Talk about biting—literally—the hand that feeds you!’ he added crossly.

Kim’s cheeks coloured guiltily. ‘I was only repeating what I’ve read in the newspapers and magazines.’

‘Those glossy magazines you read that rave about a couple’s marital bliss one month, and then unashamedly write about their break-up the next?’ her husband came back scathingly.

‘He has you there, Kim.’ Andy smiled.

Her sister adopted a look of hurt superiority. ‘You were going to tell us what just happened to you in the men’s room, Colin?’

‘Oh. Yes.’ His youthfully handsome face lit up excitedly again as he sat forward. ‘Anyway, I was just drying my hands, when who do you think walked in the door?’

Andy’s heart suddenly skipped a beat, her breath once again ceasing in her lungs, as she suddenly knew exactly who had entered the men’s room.

The same person who, just minutes after Colin, had also disappeared down that marble hallway in the direction of the loo.

‘Darius Sterne,’ Colin confirmed excitedly. ‘Not only that but he actually spoke to me. I’ve worked for the brothers for seven years now, seen them around the building of course, but I’ve never spoken to either one of them before tonight.’

Kim gave Andy a narrow-eyed glance before turning back to her husband. ‘What did he say?’

‘You’re never going to believe it!’ her husband assured her. ‘I can hardly believe it myself.’

‘What did he say, Colin?’ Kim bit out through gritted teeth.

‘Well, if you stopped interrupting me maybe I’d have chance to tell you,’ he teased, obviously enjoying himself now that he had their full attention.

‘Andy, you can bear witness to just how annoying my husband is being right now—because I am seriously going to strangle him if he doesn’t tell us what Darius said to him, in the next thirty seconds.’ Kim’s hazel-coloured eyes sparkled warningly.

Andy was too transfixed by Colin’s air of excitement to take her sister’s threat in the least seriously. Especially when she was sure that Kim had to be just as eager as she was to hear what Darius had said to Colin to make him look so excited.

.

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