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The Redemption of Darius Sterne

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‘I THOUGHT I WOULD wait for your students to leave before I came in.’

Andy froze as Darius Sterne’s voice echoed across her otherwise empty dance studio, her gaze now riveted on the mirrored wall in front of her as she saw his reflection in the doorway behind her.

It had been a week since she had left him at Midas, and he looked as tall and darkly forbidding as ever. Today he wore a charcoal-coloured suit and paler grey shirt and tie, beneath a dark overcoat. The darkness of his hair was even longer than a week ago, and more tousled about those harshly patrician features, his topaz gaze fixed on her intently.

Andy’s last class of the afternoon had just left and she was currently standing beside the barre on the wall going through the routine of exercises and stretches that she did at the end of each day, before going up to her apartment to shower and change.

What on earth was Darius even doing here?

How was he here at all? Andy didn’t remember telling him where her dance studio was located, only that she had one.

He was Darius Sterne, and if he wanted to find out exactly where that dance studio was situated, then no doubt he could just instruct one of his employees to find out for him.

The real question was: why had he?

Andy had tried her best not to even think about this disturbing man for the past week. Or her unprecedented physical response to him!

And for the most part she knew that she had succeeded, spending the weekend either going out with Kim and Colin, or cleaning her flat, and keeping herself busy at her studio the rest of the time, as she kept thoughts of Darius at bay.

Unexpectedly hearing the husky sound of his voice, and just a single glance at his reflection in the mirror, and Andy knew she had been wasting her time trying so hard not to think about this man this past week. She could feel the moist heat gathering between her thighs, and her breasts were already tingling with arousal.

And those were the reasons Andy couldn’t turn and face him, but instead continued to look at his reflection in the mirrored wall in front of her, her fingers now curled so tightly about the barre beside her that her knuckles showed white.

‘I had to separate two of those little angels before class began; they were arguing over whose leotard was the prettiest,’ she answered dryly.

‘Women in the making,’ he teased.

‘No doubt,’ Andy answered dismissively before asking the question she really wanted an answer to. ‘What are you doing here, Mr Sterne?’

At this precise moment, Darius was exerting all of his considerable will power to control the urge he felt to quickly cross the studio and kiss her delectable lips, before baring her body and kissing that too!

Who knew that a woman could look so sexy in a leotard and tights?

That Miranda Jacobs, specifically, would look so sexy in a white leotard and tights, with silky white ballet shoes on her slender feet?

The long-sleeved leotard hugged every inch of her body, outlining her small but perfectly rounded breasts tipped with ripe—and aroused?—berries. His gaze took in her tiny waist, the slight flare of her hips, her bottom two perfectly rounded globes, her legs long and shapely in white tights. Her hair was brushed back and secured in a ponytail at her crown and her face, completely bare of make-up, tinged with a slight glow of warmth to her satiny smooth skin. No doubt the latter was from her recent exertions with the dozen or so small children that had just left with their doting mothers in tow.

He had his own driver, but had chosen to drive himself to the dance studio. He’d arrived about fifteen minutes ago, the amount of other vehicles in the car park telling him that she must have a class on at the moment. Sure enough, shortly after he’d parked his car, the young students had all trooped out and disappeared off with their mothers in their various vehicles and directions.

For some reason Darius hadn’t expected that Miranda would be dressed in the same leotard and tights as her small charges wore. Or that it would take just one look at her in those revealing clothes for his body to harden to a painful throb!

It was a reaction that didn’t improve his temper in the slightest; he had already thought about this young woman far more over this past week than he was happy with—in the middle of business meetings, on a couple of long flights, in the shower, in his otherwise empty bed!—without becoming aroused almost the moment he set eyes on her again.

‘Mr Sterne?’

While he had been lost in the thought of exactly how and when he would like to have sex with her, Miranda had turned to face him, her head tilted curiously as those green and gold eyes looked across at him quizzically.

Miranda Jacobs was all and everything that Darius deliberately avoided in a woman.

And yet here he was, a week after their first meeting, hard and aroused after taking just one look at her.

Darius had tried taking out and bedding other women the past seven days—and nights—several of them to be exact. But every time it came to the end of the evening an image of ash-blonde hair and a willowy, desirable body would flash inside his head, totally deflating any desire he might feel to have sex with the woman he was with.

Every time he stepped into the shower, or climbed into bed at night, he could imagine that ash-blonde hair either slicked back and wet from taking a shower with him, or feathered out on his pillows, her green eyes sultry as she looked up at him invitingly, and making any idea of sleeping impossible. He also resented having to take care of his arousal himself.

He certainly didn’t appreciate having had an image of Miranda popping into his head in the middle of a business meeting, as it had earlier this week in Beijing!

Something had to be done. And the only solution Darius could come up with was to take her to bed, before then putting her firmly from his mind.

If that meant he had to wine and dine Miranda, charm her—although that part might be a strain on his usual taciturn nature!—before then seducing her and taking her to his bed, then that was what Darius had decided he had to do. For his own sanity, if not hers.

His mouth thinned. ‘I was under the impression you no longer danced?’ He swept his gaze up and over her leotard once more.

‘I dance enough to be able to demonstrate the moves to my students, and to be able to do that I need to dress as they do.’ Andy was thankful that the thick white tights she was wearing also hid the mesh of scars on her right hip and thigh.

‘So why are you here, Mr Sterne?’

He drew his breath in sharply. ‘I came to invite you to attend a charity dinner with me on Saturday evening.’

To say Andy was surprised by the invitation would be putting it mildly.

Although she did know, after finally giving in and looking him up on the Internet, that Darius wasn’t now, nor had he ever been, married, or even engaged to be married. In fact, at the age of thirty-three he had never been involved in a single serious relationship, as far as Andy could tell from the information available on him.

Which, surprisingly, hadn’t been as detailed as she had expected it to be.

There had been plenty of articles on how successful he and his brother were in business; it appeared they owned half the known universe, not almost all of it, as she had first thought!

There were also numerous publicity photographs of him and his brother, and others taken of him at exotic locations all over the world, with beautiful and glamorous women on his arm. Noticeably the majority of those women had been tall and shapely brunettes.

But Darius Sterne’s private life seemed to be exactly that: private.

Oh, on the surface of it there appeared to be plenty of details.

She’d discovered the names of the schools he had attended, followed by a degree at Oxford University.

She’d read up on the social network site that had been the start of the successful business empire that he had owned with his twin brother for the past twelve years. As well, there had been a brief mention of the fact that his father had died when he was thirteen, and his mother had remarried when he was fourteen. But that was all it had been; there was nothing tangible about Darius himself. Nothing about Darius Sterne the man, or his relationship with the rest of his family, apart from that business partnership with his twin. And despite Kim’s warnings of a lurid past—and present?—there had been no ‘kiss and tell’ newspaper articles from any women Darius might have scorned.

Although Andy suspected that the reason for the latter was because Darius either owned, or had influence over, most of the world’s media.

She now also knew he lived mainly in a penthouse apartment in London, but also owned other homes in several capital cities around the world, including New York, Hong Kong, and Paris.

But again, none of those things were personal to the man.

After reading everything she could find that had ever been written on Darius, the only thing that Andy knew with any certainty was that she wasn’t, in any way, shape or form, his type!

And yet here he surprisingly was, and asking her to go out with him again.

‘Why?’ She picked up a towel and draped it about the dampness of her neck and shoulders, making sure it also covered her breasts. Her cheeks warmed as she walked across the smooth wooden floor towards him. Thankfully, without any sign of the limp she sometimes developed when she was tired.

And how, Andy wondered irritably, considering that she was covered completely, did the intensity of Darius’s gaze as he watched her approach somehow manage to make her feel as if she were naked from head to toe instead?

‘Saturday is only two days away,’ she taunted as she came to a halt just feet away from him. ‘So did your original date have to cancel?’

Andy gave an inner wince even as she asked the question; if Darius Sterne’s original date had cried off, for whatever reason, then there was a multitude of women who would happily have taken her place. He certainly didn’t need to resort to going to the trouble of seeking Andy out, for the sole purpose of inviting her to go with him.

‘I didn’t have a previous date.’ He raised dark brows, as the same thought obviously crossed his own mind. ‘It is a bit short notice, I admit, but I only arrived back from a lengthy business trip at six o’clock this morning.’

‘And no doubt you immediately thought of me!’ she dismissed scathingly.

‘What makes you think I ever stopped thinking of you?’ he challenged.

Andy found it hard to believe that Darius had given her a single thought after their first meeting, especially when he seemed to have been out of the country for the past week.

And yet he was asking her to believe that just hours after his return he had come here to see her?

Andy was determined not to read too much into that. ‘Arrived back from where?’

‘China.’

‘They don’t have telephones in China?’

His jaw tightened at her sarcasm. ‘You didn’t give me your telephone number or email address.’

‘I didn’t give you the address of my dance studio either, but you don’t seem to have had any trouble finding that out for yourself,’ she countered.

His eyes glittered his displeasure at the underlying sarcasm in her voice. ‘I thought you would prefer that I came here and made the invitation in person.’

‘Did you?’ Andy mused. ‘Or did you imagine I might find it harder to refuse you in person?’

Darius had convinced himself this past week that Miranda Jacobs couldn’t possibly be as intractable as he had thought she was being that night at his club. That maybe she had just been playing hard to get last week, in an effort to pique his interest. Just five minutes back in her infuriating company, and he knew that Miranda was every bit as stubborn as he had first thought she was.

He wasn’t used to being told the word no, by any woman. Not once, but twice!

Darius slid his hands into the pockets of his suit trousers, rather than reach out and touch Miranda, not sure which would win out if he did touch her: his need to shake her or kiss her!

‘You didn’t seem to have any problem with saying no to me in person last week.’

She gave a shrug of those slender shoulders. ‘Which begs the question, why are you bothering to ask me again, when you already know the answer?’

Darius breathed in sharply, his hands clenching in his trouser pockets, as he once again fought the need he felt to reach out and shake this woman. An impulse he resisted because he had every reason to believe he would then be tempted into kissing her. Senseless! ‘I thought the charity benefitting from the dinner might be of interest to you,’ he bit out between tightly clenched teeth.

.

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