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The Tycoon's Ultimate Conquest

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«The Tycoon's Ultimate Conquest» - Кэтти Уильямс

His plan is simple…The ultimate seduction!Billionaire Arturo da Costa is furious when lawyer Rose Tremain places his latest business deal in jeopardy. He plans to counter her in the boardroom—but when he meets spirited Rose, the sizzling connection between them is irresistible! Now seduction is his greatest asset. He’ll ensure Rose is so overwhelmed with pleasure she forgets all about the deal. Until he finds himself equally addicted—to her!
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His plan is simple...

The ultimate seduction!

When lawyer Rose Tremain places Arturo da Costa’s latest business deal in jeopardy, the billionaire plans to challenge her in the boardroom. Yet when he meets spirited Rose, the sizzling connection between them is irresistible! Now seduction is his greatest asset. He’ll ensure Rose is so overwhelmed with pleasure she forgets all about the deal. Until he finds himself equally addicted—to her!

Experience the chemistry in this captivating billionaire-boss romance!

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.

Seduced into Her Boss’s Service

A Virgin for Vasquez

Snowbound with His Innocent Temptation

Bought to Wear the Billionaire’s Ring

The Secret Sanchez Heir

Cipriani’s Innocent Captive

Legacy of His Revenge

A Deal for Her Innocence

The Italian Titans miniseries

Wearing the De Angelis Ring

The Surprise De Angelis Baby

Discover more at

The Tycoon’s Ultimate Conquest

Cathy Williams

ISBN: 978-1-474-07261-8


© 2018 Cathy Williams

Published in Great Britain 2018

by Mills & Boon, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers 1 London Bridge Street, London, SE1 9GF

All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. This edition is published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, locations and incidents are purely fictional and bear no relationship to any real life individuals, living or dead, or to any actual places, business establishments, locations, events or incidents. Any resemblance is entirely coincidental.

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Back Cover Text

About the Author


Title Page







html#litres_trial_promo"> CHAPTER SIX






About the Publisher


‘THERE’S A PROBLEM,’ the middle-aged man sitting in the chair in front of Arturo da Costa stated without preamble.

Art sat back, linked his fingers on his stomach and looked at Harold Simpson, a man who was normally calm, measured and so good at his job that Art couldn’t think of a time when anything had been a problem for him. He ran the vast legal department of Art’s sprawling empire with impeccable efficiency.

So at the word problem Art frowned, already mentally rescheduling the meeting he was due to attend in half an hour as he anticipated a conversation he wasn’t going to enjoy, about a situation he would not have foreseen and which would be tricky to resolve.

‘Talk to me,’ he said, his deep voice sharp, knowing Harold was a rare breed of man who wasn’t intimidated by his clever and unashamedly arrogant and unpredictable boss.

‘It’s the development in Gloucester.’

‘Why is there a problem? I’ve got all the necessary planning permission. Money’s changed hands. Signatures have been put on dotted lines.’

‘If only it were that simple.’

‘I don’t see what could possibly be complex about this, Harold.’

‘I suppose complex wouldn’t quite be the right word, Art. Annoying might be the description that better fits the bill.’

‘Not following you.’ Art leaned forward, frowning. ‘Don’t I pay you to take care of annoying problems?’

Harold deflected the direct hit with a reprimanding look and Art grinned.

‘You’ve never come to me with an annoying problem before,’ he drawled. ‘Perhaps I was rash in assuming that you dealt with them before they could hit my desk.’

‘It’s a sit-in.’

‘Come again?’

Instead of answering, Harold opened up his laptop and swivelled it so that it was facing his boss, then leaned away as if waiting for the reaction he was expecting, a reaction which would have sent strong men diving for cover.


Art looked at the newspaper article staring him in the face. It was from a local paper, circulation circa next to nothing, read by no one who mattered and covering an area where sheep probably outnumbered humans, but he could immediately see the repercussions of what he was reading.

His mouth tightened and he reread the article, taking his time. Then he looked at the grainy black-and-white picture accompanying the article. A sit-in. Protestors. Placards. Lots of moral high ground about the wicked, cruel developers who planned to rape and pillage the countryside. Him, in other words.

‘Has this only now come to your attention?’ He sat back and stared off into the distance with a thoughtful frown, his sharp mind already seeking ways of diverting the headache staring him in the face and coming up with roadblocks.

‘It’s been simmering,’ Harold said as he shut the lid of his computer, ‘but I thought I could contain the situation. Unfortunately, the lawyer working on behalf of the protesters has got the bit between her teeth, so to speak, and is determined to put as many obstacles in the way of your development as she can. Trouble is, in a small community like that, even if she loses the case and of course she will because, as you say, all the crosses have been made in the right boxes, the fallout could still be...unfortunate.’

‘I admire your use of understatement, Harold.’

‘She can rally the community behind her and the luxury development that should, in normal circumstances, sell in a heartbeat with the new train link due to open a handful of miles away, could find itself sticking on the open market. She’s anti building on green fields and she’s going to fight her corner, win or lose and come what may. Expensive people moving into expensive houses like to fancy themselves as mucking in with the locals and eventually becoming pillars of the community. They wouldn’t like the prospect of the locals going quiet every time they walk into the village pub and pelting eggs against their walls in the dead of night.’

‘I had no idea you had such impressive flights of fancy, Harold.

’ Art was amused but there was enough truth in what his lawyer had said to make him think. ‘When you say she...?’

‘Rose Tremain.’

‘Miss...Mrs...or Ms?’

‘Very definitely Ms.

‘I’m getting the picture loud and clear. And on the subject of pictures, do you have one of her? Is she floating around somewhere on the World Wide Web?’

‘She disapproves of social media insofar as it personally pertains to her,’ Harold said with a trace of admiration in his voice that made Art’s eyebrows shoot up. ‘No social media accounts...nothing of the sort. I know because I got one of my people to try to find out how we could follow her, try to get a broader picture of her, but no luck. There’s the bones of past cases but no personal information to speak of at all. It would appear that she’s old-fashioned like that.’

‘There’s another word for it,’ Art drawled drily.

‘I’ve only had dealings with her over the phone so far, and of course by email. I could give you my personal impressions...’

‘I’m all ears.’

‘Can’t be bought off,’ Harold said bluntly, instantly killing Art’s first line of attack.

‘Everyone has a price,’ he murmured without skipping a beat. ‘Have you any pictures of her at all?’

‘Just something in one of the articles printed last week about the development.’

‘Let’s have a look.’ Art waited, thinking, as Harold expertly paged through documents in his pile of folders before eventually showing him an unsatisfactory picture of the woman in question.

Art stared. She looked like a Ms. The sort of feminist hippy whose mission might be to save the world from itself. The newspaper article showed him a picture of the sit-in, protesters on his land with placards and enough paraphernalia to convince him that they weren’t going anywhere any time soon. All that was missing was a post office and a corner shop, but then summer was the perfect time for an impromptu camping expedition. He doubted they would have been quite as determined if those fields had been knee-deep in snow and the branches of the trees bending at ninety-degree angles in high winds.

Whatever the dark-haired harridan had said to them to stoke up public outrage at his development, she had succeeded because the untidy lot in the picture looked as self-righteous as she did.

The picture he was now staring at, of Ms Rose Tremain, showed a woman jabbing her finger at someone out of sight, some poor sod unfortunate enough to be asking her to answer a few questions she didn’t like. Her unruly hair was scraped back into something, leaving flyaway strands around her face. Her clothes beggared belief. Art was accustomed to dating women who graced catwalks, women who were best friends with cutting-edge designers and spent whatever time they had away from their modelling jobs in exclusive salons beautifying themselves.

He squinted at the picture in front of him and tried to get his head around the image of someone who looked as though she had bulk-bought her outfit from a charity shop and hadn’t been near a hairdresser in decades.

No. Money wasn’t going to get her off his back. One look at that jabbing finger and fierce scowl was enough to convince him of the rashness of going down that road.

But there were many ways to skin a cat...

‘So, she can’t be bought,’ Art murmured, half to himself. ‘Well, I will have to find another way to convince her to drop her case against me and get those protestors off my land. Every day lost is costing me money.’ With his dark eyes still on the picture in front of him, Art connected to his PA and told her to reschedule his calendar for the next fortnight.

‘What are you going to do?’ Harold asked, sounding alarmed, as if he couldn’t make sense of his workaholic boss taking two weeks off.

‘I’m going to take a little holiday,’ Art said with a slow smile of intent. ‘A busman’s holiday. You will be the only one privy to this information, so keep it to yourself, Harold. If Ms Tremain can’t be persuaded to my way of thinking by a generous contribution to whatever hare-brained “Save the Whale” cause she espouses, then I’m going to have to find another way to persuade her.’

‘How? If we’re talking about anything illegal here, Art...’

‘Oh, please.’ Art burst out laughing. ‘Illegal?’

‘Maybe I don’t mean illegal. Maybe a better word might be unethical.

‘Well, now, my friend. That depends entirely on your definition of unethical...’

* * *

‘Someone here to see you, Rose.’

Rose looked up at the spiky-haired young girl standing by the door of the office she shared with her co-worker, Phil. It was little more than a large room on the ground floor of the Victorian house which was also her home but it was an arrangement that worked. The rent she got from Phil and from the occupants of the other two converted rooms—who were variously the local gardening club twice a week, the local bridge group once a week and the local children’s playgroup twice a week—covered the extensive running costs of the house she had inherited when her mother had died five years previously. Well, alongside the sizeable loan she had had to take out in order to effect urgent repairs on the place.

She occasionally thought that it would have been nice if she could have separated her work life from her home life but, on the other hand, who could complain about a job where there was no commute involved?

‘Who is it, Angie?’ Bad time. Middle of the afternoon and she still had a bucketload of work to do. Three cases had cropped up at precisely the same time and each one of them involved complex issues with employment law, in which she specialised, and demanded a lot of attention.

‘Someone about the land.’

‘Ah. The land.’ Rose sat back, stretched and then stood up, only realising how much she’d cramped up when she heard a wayward joint creak.

The land.

No one called it anything else.

Between Phil’s property law side of the business and her labour law, the land had become the middle ground which occupied them both, far more than either had expected when the business of some faceless tycoon buying up their green fields to build yet another housing estate had reared its ugly head.

Phil was a relative newcomer to the area, but she had lived in the village her whole life and she had adopted the cause of the protestors with gusto.

Indeed, she had even allowed them to use her sprawling kitchen as their headquarters.

She was unashamedly partisan and was proud of her stance. There was nothing that stuck in her throat more than big businesses and billionaire businessmen thinking that they could do as they pleased and steamroll over the little people so that they could make yet more money for themselves.

‘Want me to handle it?’ Phil asked, looking up from his desk, which was as chaotic as hers.

‘No.’ Rose smiled at him. She could never have hoped for a more reliable business partner than Phil. Thirty-three years old, he had the appearance of a slightly startled owl, with his wire-rimmed specs and his round face, but he was as sharp as a tack and won a breathtaking amount of business for them. ‘If they’ve actually got around to sending one of their senior lawyers then I’m ready for them. It’s insulting that so far they’ve only seen fit to send junior staff. Shows how confident they are of being able to trample us into the ground.’

‘I like your faith in our ability to bring a massive corporation to its knees,’ Phil said with a wry grin. ‘DC Logistics pretty much owns the world.’

‘Which,’ Rose countered without skipping a beat, ‘doesn’t mean that they can add this little slice of land to the tally.’

She tucked strands of her unruly hair into the sort of bun she optimistically started each and every day with, only to give up because her hair had a will of its own.

She glanced at the sliver of mirror in between the bookshelves groaning under the weight of legal tomes and absently took in the reflection that stared back at her every morning when she woke up.

No one had ever accused her of being pretty. Rose had long accepted that she just wasn’t, that she just didn’t fit the mould of pretty. She had a strong, intelligent face with a firm jaw and a nose that bordered on sharp. Her large eyes were clear and brown and her best feature as far as she was concerned.

Everything else...well, everything else worked. She was a little too tall, a little too gangly and not nearly busty enough, but you couldn’t concern yourself with stuff like that and she didn’t. Pretty much.

‘Right! Let’s go see what they’ve thrown at us this time!’ She winked at Phil and made approving noises when Angie said that she’d stuck their visitor in the kitchen—it would do whoever it was good to see the evidence of their commitment to the cause—and headed out of the office.

She didn’t know what to expect.

Overweight, overfed, overpaid and over-confident. Someone at the height of his career, with all the trappings that an expensive top job afforded. Angie had given nothing away and wouldn’t have. She was gay and paid not a scrap of attention to what members of the opposite sex looked like.

Rose was only twenty-eight herself but the young people who had been sent to argue the case had seemed so much younger than her.

She pushed open the kitchen door and then stood for a few moments in the doorway.

The man was standing with his back to her, staring out at the garden, which flowed seamlessly into open land, the only boundary between private and public being a strip of trees and a dishevelled hedge of sorts.

He was tall. Very tall. She was five eleven and she guessed that he would be somewhere in the region of six three.

And, from what she was seeing, he was well built. Muscular. Broad shoulders tapering to a narrow waist and legs that moulded perfectly to the faded jeans he was wearing.

What sort of lawyer was this?

Confused, Rose cleared her throat to give notice of her presence and the man turned around slowly.

‘My secretary didn’t tell me your name, Mr...’

‘Frank.’ The stranger took his time as he walked towards her, which annoyed Rose because this was her house and her kitchen and yet the man seemed to dominate the space and own it in a way she didn’t care for.

‘Well, Mr Frank. You’re here about the land, I gather. If your company thinks that this ploy is going to work, then I hate to disappoint you but it won’t.’

Alarmed because he had somehow managed to close the distance between them and was standing just a little too close for comfort, Rose sidestepped him to the kettle, only offering him something to drink seemingly as an afterthought.

‘You can sit,’ she said crisply. ‘Just shove some of the papers out of the way.’

‘What ploy?’

Rose watched as he looked at the placards in the making on the kitchen table, head politely inclined. After some consideration, he held up one and examined it in reflective silence before returning it to its original position on the table.

‘What ploy?’ he repeated.

‘The lawyer-in-jeans ploy,’ Rose said succinctly. She shot him a look of pure disdain, but only just managed to pull it off because the man was just good-looking that her nervous system felt as though it had been put through a spin cycle and was all over the place.

He’d sat down but not in a lawyer-like manner, which was also annoying. He’d angled the pine chair, one of ten around the long rectangular table, and was sprawled in it, his long legs stretched right out in front of him, one ankle over the other. He looked effortlessly elegant and incredibly cool in his weathered jeans and faded polo shirt. Everything clung in a way that made her think that the entire outfit had been especially designed with him in mind.

She pushed the coffee over to him. He looked just the kind of guy to take his coffee black, no sugar.

‘Does your company think that they can send someone who’s dressed down for the day in the hope that we might just soften our stance? Maybe be deluded into thinking that he’s not the stuffed shirt lawyer that he actually is?’ She narrowed her eyes and tried and failed to imagine him as a stuffed shirt lawyer.

‘Ah...’ Mr Frank murmured. ‘That ploy.’

‘Yes. That ploy. Well, it won’t work. My team and I are committed to the cause and you can tell your employers that we intend to fight this abhorrent and unnecessary development with every ounce of breath in us.’

‘You overestimate my qualifications,’ Mr Frank said smoothly, sipping the coffee. ‘Excellent coffee, by the way. I’m no lawyer. But were I to be one, then I would try very hard not to be a stuffed shirt one.’

‘Not a lawyer? Then who the heck are you? Angie said that you were here about the land.’

‘Angie being the girl with the spiky hair and the nose ring?’

‘That’s correct. She also happens to be an extremely efficient secretary and a whizz at IT.’

‘Well, she was certainly right in one respect. I am here about the land. Here to join the noble cause.’

* * *

Art’s plan had been simple. It had come to him in a blinding flash shortly after Harold had informed him that money wasn’t going to make the problem of squatters on his land go away.

If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em.

Naturally he’d known what to expect but somehow, in the flesh, the woman staring at him through narrowed eyes wasn’t quite the hippy he had originally imagined.

He couldn’t put his finger on what was different and then, in the space of a handful of seconds, decided that it was a case of imagination playing tricks because she was certainly dressed in just the sort of attire he’d expected. Some sort of loose trousers in an assortment of clashing colours. Practical, given the hot weather, but, in all other respects, frankly appalling. A shapeless green vest-like top and a pair of sandals that, like the trousers, were practical but ticked absolutely no other boxes as far as he was concerned.

Her hair seemed to be staging a full-scale revolt against its half-hearted restraints. It was very curly and strands of it waved around her cheeks.

But the woman emanated presence and that was something he couldn’t deny.

She wasn’t beautiful, not in the conventional sense of the word, but she was incredibly arresting and for a few seconds Art found himself in the novel situation of temporarily forgetting why he was sitting here in a kitchen that looked as though a bomb had recently been detonated in it.

And then it all came back. He would join the band of merry protestors. He would get to know the woman. He would convince her from the position of insider that she was fighting a losing battle.

He would bring her round to his way of thinking, which was simply a matter of bringing her round to common sense, because she was never going to win this war.

But strong-arm tactics weren’t going to work because, as Harold had made perfectly clear, storming in and bludgeoning the opposition would be catastrophic in a community as tightly knit as this one clearly was.

He was simply going to persuade her into seeing his point of view and the best and only way he could do that would be from the inside, from the position of one of them. From the advantageous position of trust.

Art didn’t need opposition. He needed to butter up the unruly mob because he had long-term plans for the land—plans that included sheltered accommodation for his autistic stepbrother, to whom he was deeply attached.

He hadn’t gone straight to the site though, choosing instead to make himself known to the woman standing firmly between him and his plans. He was good with women. Women liked him. Quite a few positively adored him. And there weren’t many who didn’t fall for his charm. Art wasn’t vain but he was realistic, so why not use that charm to work its magic on this recalcitrant woman?

If that failed to do the trick then of course he would have to go back to the drawing board, but it was worth a shot.

To this end, he had taken his unprecedented leave of absence. A few days to sort out urgent business that wouldn’t happily sit on the back burner and now here he was.

He was sporting the beginnings of a beard, was letting his hair grow, and the sharp handmade suits had ceded to the faded jeans and a black polo shirt.

‘Really?’ Rose said with a certain amount of cynicism.

‘Indeed. Why the suspicion?’

‘Because you don’t exactly fit the role of the protestors we have here.’

‘Don’t I? How so?’

‘Basically, I have no idea who you are. I don’t recognise you.’

‘And you know everyone who’s protesting?’

‘Everyone and, in most cases, their extended families, as well. You’re not from around here, are you?’

‘Not quite,’ Art murmured vaguely, unprepared for such a direct line of attack before he’d even started writing incendiary messages on a placard.

‘Well, where are you from? Exactly?’

Art shrugged and shifted in his chair. He was beginning to understand why the deputies sent to do this job had failed. Right now, Rose was staring at him as though he was something suspect and possibly contagious that had somehow managed to infiltrate her space.

‘Can anyone say exactly where they’re from?’ he threw the question back at her, which only made her look at him with even more suspicion.

‘Yes. Everyone on the site, for a start. As for me, I’m from here and always have been, aside from a brief spell at university.’

‘I largely live in London.’ Which was technically accurate. He did largely live in London. In his penthouse in Belgravia. He was also to be found in five-star hotels around the world, several of which he owned, or in one of the many houses he owned, although those occasions were slightly rarer. Who had time to wind down in a villa by the sea?

Strangely, that non-answer seemed to satisfy her because she stopped looking as though she had her finger on the buzzer to call for instant backup. ‘So what are you doing here?’ she asked with curiosity. ‘I mean, why this cause? If you’re not from around here, then what does it matter to you whether the land is destroyed or not?’

Destroy is a big word.’ Art was outraged but he held onto his temper and looked at her with an expression of bland innocence.

Definitely arresting, he thought. Exotic eyes. Feline. And a sensuous mouth. Wide and expressive. And an air of sharp intelligence which, it had to be said, wasn’t one of the foremost qualities he ever sought in a woman, but it certainly worked in this instance because he was finding it hard to keep his eyes off her.

* * *

Rose fidgeted. To her horror, she felt the slow crawl of colour stain her cheeks. The man was gazing at her with hooded eyes and that look was doing all sorts of unexpected things to her body.

‘It’s exactly the right word,’ she snapped, more sharply than she had intended, a reaction to those dark, sexy eyes.

Never had she felt more self-conscious, more aware of her shortcomings. The comfortable and practical culottes, which were the mainstay of her wardrobe on hot summer days, were suddenly as flattering as a pair of curtains and the loose-fitting vest as attractive as a bin liner.

She reminded herself that she wasn’t the star attraction in a fashion parade. Clothes did not the man, or woman, make!

But for the first time in living memory she had the crazy urge to be something other than the determined career lawyer who worked hard on behalf of the underdog. She had the crazy urge to be sexy and compelling and wanted for her body instead of her brain.

‘Too many developers over the years have whittled away at the open land around here.’ She refocused and brought her runaway mind back on track. ‘They’ve come along and turned the fields, which have been enjoyed for centuries by ramblers and nature lovers, into first a stupid shopping mall and then into office blocks.’

Rose half expected him to jump in here and heatedly side with her but he remained silent and she wondered what was going through that impossibly good-looking head of his.

‘And this lot?’

‘DC Logistics?’ She loosed a sarcastic laugh under her breath. ‘The worst of the lot. Certainly the biggest! They want to construct a housing development. But then I don’t suppose I’m telling you anything you don’t already know. Which brings me back to my question—why the interest in joining our protest?’

* * *

‘Sometimes—’ Art played with the truth like a piece of moulding clay ‘—big, powerful developers need to understand the importance of working in harmony with nature or else leaving things as they stand and, as you say, DC Logistics is the mother of all big companies.’ He succeeded in not sounding proud of this fact. When he thought of the work that had gone into turning the dregs of what had been left of his father’s companies, after five ex-wives had picked them over in outrageous alimony settlements, into the success story of today he was pretty proud of his achievements.

Art had lived through the nightmare of his father’s mistakes, the marriages that had fallen apart within seconds of the ink on the marriage certificates being dry. He’d gritted his teeth, helpless, as each ex-wife had drained the coffers and then, after his father had died several years previously, he’d returned to try to save what little remained of the thriving empire Emilio da Costa had carefully built up over time.

Art had been a young man at the time, barely out of university but already determined to take what was left and build it again into the thriving concern it had once been when his mother—Emilio da Costa’s first wife and only love—had been alive.

Art might have learned from the chaos of his father’s life and the greed of the women he had foolishly married that love was for the birds, but he had also learned the value of compassion in his unexpected affection for his stepbrother, José—not flesh and blood, no, but his brother in every sense of the word, who had been robustly ignored by his avaricious mother. The land was integral to his plan to make a home for José—the reason for Art needing to shut this protest down as quickly and as quietly as possible.

‘Yes, it is,’ Rose concurred. ‘So you’re idealistic,’ she carried on in an approving tone.

The last time Art had been idealistic had been when he’d believed in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Witnessing the self-serving venom camouflaged as true love that had littered his father’s life right up until his death had taken whatever ideals he might have had and entombed them in a place more secure than a bank vault.

‘Well, you’re in the right place.’ Rose gestured to the paraphernalia in the kitchen. ‘Obviously I don’t devote all of my time to this cause. I couldn’t possibly, but I do try to touch base with the people out there on a daily basis.’

‘What’s your main line of work?’

‘Employment law.’ Rose smiled and, just like that, Art felt the breath knocked out of his body.

The woman was more than arresting. When she smiled she was...bloody stunning. He felt the familiar kick of his libido, but stronger and more urgent than ever. Two months without a woman, he thought, would do that to a red-blooded man with a healthy sex drive. Because this outspoken feminist was certainly, on no level, what he looked for in a woman. He didn’t do argumentative and he definitely didn’t do the let’s-hold-hands-and-save-the-world type. He did blondes. Big blonde hair, big blue eyes and personalities that soothed rather than challenged.

Rose Tremain was about as soothing as a pit bull.

And yet... His eyes lingered and his inconvenient erection refused to go away. The blood surging in his veins was hot with a type of dark excitement he hadn’t felt in a very long time. If ever.

‘Come again?’ He realised that she had said something.

‘Your line of work? What is it?’

‘I dabble.’

‘Dabble in what?’

‘How much time have you got to spare? Could take a while.’

‘Could take a while covering your many talents? Well, you’re far from modest, aren’t you?’ She raised her eyebrows, amused and mocking, and Art smiled back slowly—deliberately slowly.

‘I’ve never been a believer in false modesty. Sign of a hypocritical mind. I prefer to recognise my talents as well as’

‘Well, whatever you do is your business—’ she shrugged and stood up ‘—but if you’re good at everything, which seems to be what you’re implying, then you’re going to be very useful to us.’

‘How so?’ Art followed suit and stood up, towering over her even though she was tall. ‘Useful in what respect?’

‘Odd jobs. Nothing major so no need to sound alarmed.’ She looked around the kitchen. ‘Everyone lends a helping hand when they’re here. It’s not just a case of people painting slogans on bits of cardboard with felt tip pens. Yes, we’re all protesting for the same reason, but this is a small, close community. The guys who come here do all sorts of jobs around the house. They know I’m representing them for free and they’re all keen to repay the favour by doing practical things in return. There are a couple of plumbers behind us and an electrician, and without them I have no idea how much money I would have had to spend to get some vital jobs on the house done.’

‘So this is your house?’ Art thought that it was a bit hypocritical, clamouring about rich businessmen who wanted to destroy the precious space around her so that they could line their evil pockets when she, judging from the size of the house, was no pauper.

Accustomed to storing up information that might prove useful down the line, he sensed that that was a conversation he would have in due course.

‘It is, not that that’s relevant,’ Rose said coolly. ‘What is relevant is that most of the town is behind us, aside from the local council, who have seen fit to grant planning permission. I’ve managed to really rally a great deal of people to support our cause and they’ve all been brilliant. So if you’re a jack-of-all-trades then I’m sure I’ll be able to find loads of practical ways you can help, aside from joining the sit-in, of course. Now, shall I take you to the scene of the crime...?’


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