“Your new lover?”
Silent, Marcos stood at the living room window and broodingly watched the car pull away with Virginia inside it.
From the penthouse, the Lincoln looked like a sleek black beetle, slipping into the intermittent traffic before the apartment building.
The pressure in his chest mounted with the distance. His heart still pumped hot inside his veins and his head swam with a thousand thoughts, all of them X-rated.
“Or a mistress maybe?”
Twisting around, he faced his newest guest, the inquisitive Jack Williams—ex corporate spy and now self-made millionaire. Helping himself to a bag of nuts he obtained from the bar.
“My assistant,” Marcos said tonelessly, swirling his newly poured scotch in his hand. The cubes clinked in the glass.
Jack had promptly arrived at eleven as promised—the tall blond Texan was never late, and like a golden retriever listening to a particularly silent whistle, had cocked his head when he spotted Virginia almost in Marcos’s arms, whispering goodbye in a way Marcos’s instincts had flared to life and whispered that she wanted to stay.
But when ‘Williams the Bastard’—as the pressed had dubbed him—said he’d deliver, he delivered. And unfortunately what Marcos expected couldn’t wait.
Still, he couldn’t allow his friend to get the wrong impression of her, so he lifted his glass in a mock toast. “She makes good coffee.”
Jack popped an almond into his mouth and munched. “Aha. In bed?”
Marcos crossed the living room and headed back into the office, Jack trailing behind.
He set the glass atop a stack of papers on his desk and sank into the high-backed leather seat—cranky, frustrated, exhausted. “I’m not that man, Jack. Never mix business with pleasure, remember?”
But Virginia’s sweet, fragrant scent lingered in the air. A torment to his straining body. A mockery to his words.
He respected his employees, took pride in being regarded as a man with moral fiber. And yet when it came to Virginia Hollis it seemed he was reduced to the instincts of a caveman.
His friend’s smooth, easy chuckle from the threshold somehow cranked up his frustration. “I remember. But the question is: do you? Should I fetch a spoon, buddy, you looked ready to eat her.”
Marcos would have scoffed. He certainly didn’t welcome the canny twinkle in Jack’s eye. But then he remembered the desperate urge he’d had to kiss her…the exquisite scent of her skin, so close to his…the surprisingly fine feel of her in his arms, stirring and enticing beyond belief…
His chest cramped with emotion as he dragged a hand down his hot face. “Perhaps the old adage is true, and some rules are meant to be broken—especially if you’re the moron living by them.”
“Don’t go there, Marcos.” Jack pushed away from the door, dead serious. “I’ve been there. Not fun, man. Not fun for you, definitely not fun for her. Office affairs always end badly—no matter how well you plan them when you begin.”
Marcos pondered the massive, crowded bookcase on the wall across. A near bursting sensation was lodged in the pit of his gut. He didn’t want to hurt her. Hell, he hadn’t wanted to want her.
Diablos, but he’d been sexually frustrated since the day he’d hired her. Demure, desperate and determined, Marcos had feared she’d be a distraction—he merely hadn’t counted on the absurd level his primitive response to her would reach.
“I’ve never gotten involved with an employee in my life—but she’s different, Jack. And yes, I am aware of how that sounds.”
Reclining in his seat with a grimace, he opened his cuff buttons and rolled up his sleeves.
He was actually considering, perhaps he was even past considering—determined. To give them both what they’ve wanted for months.
He was a man, flesh and blood like all the others. There was only so much he could stand. And Virginia… No matter how energetically she tried to conceal her reactions to him, she responded. Viscerally, primitively—a woman underneath the tidy assistant after all. A sweet, lovely woman who knew instinctively when a man wanted her. No, not wanted, Marcos burned for her.
And now he’d asked—practically demanded—she spend a week with him. Pretending to be his lover. At a time when all his energies, all his attention, needed to be on the one prize he’d sought to gain for so long.
He hadn’t been certain whether to ask her as escort. She was too much a temptation to play lovers with, and in order to successfully achieve his goals, focus was key.
But tonight his men had informed him of Hank Hollis once again trying to strike it rich—and failing. Alone and financially abandoned by her family, Virginia could’ve come to him for help some time ago, but Marcos knew she was proud, and she wanted no favors.
She’d accept his help, he knew, but not without giving him her quarter.
Tonight as he’d gazed into her bright, fierce eyes, he couldn’t deny himself any longer, fool himself no longer.
He wanted her.
He offered her a position for a week, true, but that was merely a guise for what he really wanted to do.
Her powerful effect on him had surpassed the walls of his office. He thought of her continually, every hour. He relived their encounters in his mind sometimes, enjoyed hearing her laugh with Lindsay’s antics when his office doors were parted, could not push her image away at night and loathed to see her in trouble when she seemed to seek so little of it for herself.
He’d made a mental list long ago with plenty of valid reasons to leave her alone.
She was an innocent, he was not. She was vulnerable, he could hurt her. She was his employee, he was her boss. There were dozens of reasons to stay. The hell. Away from Virginia.
The ways she’d looked at him tonight pulverized them all.
“Here. I have just the thing to cheer you up.” Jack stepped outside and returned rummaging through his leather briefcase. He yanked out a manila folder and held it out. “There you go, big man. Your wish is my command.”
Marcos plucked the file from his hand and immediately honed in on the name printed across the tab. Marissa Galvez.
He smiled darkly. “Ahh, my rainmaker. Everything here, I assume?”
“Everything on Marissa and her sleazy little deals. Took me a while, as you can see. She’s quite a busy little killer bee—riveting reading, you’ll find—but I did give you my word to have it ready by tonight.”
Marcos skimmed through the pages, not surprised that the file was as thick as the woman was scheming.
Marissa Galvez. A shaft of anger sliced through him. The lady had hopes of a reconciliation before discussing numbers?
Of course she did. She read Forbes. Was smart enough to realize the son was worth more than the father she’d left him for, not thousands or millions but billions. She knew the company which should have rightfully been his was prime for takeover and it wouldn’t take much but a few savvy connections to learn it had been Marcos who’d been buying the outstanding stock.
Unfortunately, insulting Marissa’s renewed interest in him wouldn’t do to accomplish his goals. But a beautiful, smiling lover would slowly and surely take care of her dreams of reconciliation—and let them get down to the real business at hand.
“Mind telling me how you’re going to convince the delectable redhead to sell? Without succumbing to her request for some personal attention from Marcos Allende before discussing numbers?” Jack queried.
Marcos lunged to his feet, waving the evidence in the Texan’s face. “With this. It’s my game now, my rules.” He met his friend’s sharp blue-eyed stare and his lips flatted to a grim, strained line. “Allende is in a vulnerable position. Sooner or later, she’ll have to sell.”
“Not to you, she doesn’t.”
Marcos shrugged disinterestedly. “She knows she’s game for a hostile takeover. And she knows I’m the shark after her. She wouldn’t have called if she didn’t want to get on my good side.”
And I’ve got my pretty, green-eyed ‘lover’.
And her pretty little mouth. “What?”
“Get on your good side?”
“When you start wearing a tutu, Jack. Of course not.”
Distaste filled him as he recalled her phone call. Dangling Allende up to him like bait, proposing they discuss it in her bed. She’d played with a naïve, noble seventeen year old boy, but it would be an Ice Age in hell before she played with the man.
“She called because she wants you back,” Jack pointed out.
“Fortunately I have an escort,” he said and headed to the window, a part of him somehow expecting to see the Lincoln. “Being I will be conveniently taken, we’ll have to forego the personal and get down to the numbers.”
“I see now. So the lovely lady is key.”
Those eyes. Big, bright, clear green, and so expressive he thought she’d pummeled his gut when she’d looked at him so adoringly. She made him feel…noble. Decent. Desperate to save her ten times over in exchange for another worshipful gaze.
When she’d called to request a ‘moment of your time’ only hours ago, he’d allowed himself a brief moment of fantasy. He fantasized she’d been ready to succumb to him, ready to admit what already threatened to become inevitable. Even as he allowed himself the luxury of the fantasy, he knew she was too cautious and respectable for that.
It was up to him now. What was he going to do?
He shot Jack a sidelong look. “Marissa will get what’s coming to her.” And Virginia…
Jack swept up his briefcase with flair. “The devil on a Falcon jet, yes.” He saluted from the threshold and flashed his signature I’m-Jack-the-Ripper grin. “I’ll let you pack, my friend.”
“My gratitude to you, Williams. And send the bill to Mrs. Fuller this week, she’ll take care of it.”
When Jack said an easy “will do” and disappeared, Marcos swallowed the last of his scotch, his eyebrows furrowing together as he thought of the demure strand of pearls around Virginia’s neck tonight. His woman wouldn’t wear such little pearls. She’d wear diamonds. Tahitians. Emeralds.
With a swell of possessiveness, he brought to mind the lean, toned form of her body, watched countless of times across his office desk, countless of times when it had been by sheer determination that he’d forced his scrutiny back to his work.
A six, he predicted, and promptly pulled his contact list from the top drawer and flipped through the pages.
If she was playing his lover, then one thing was certain: Virginia Hollis would look the part.