The Russian's Acquistion(5)

By: Dani Collins

Forget her, he ordered himself again, but it wasn’t easy. Her type was usually fair game. He didn’t mess with marriageable women, just the types who enjoyed physical pleasure and material wealth over love. Clair had obviously fallen into that category, asking if he was offering a package. She’d been royally peeved when he turned her down, displaying the kind of passionate anger that suggested an equally passionate—

Stop it. He was here to take ownership of one more acquisition. That was all.

He keyed in the entry code to the firm’s penthouse and stepped into generic opulence. The plants looked very well tended. Unfortunately that was the only thing recommending the place. It was the height of modern convenience. No expense was spared in the white leather furniture or silk rugs over marble tiles, but it lacked…

Traces of her.

Absently stroking his thumb along the raised line on his chin, he strolled through a dining room that held no fresh flowers. The white duvet on the master bed was undented. The bathroom was not decorated with intriguing lingerie. In the kitchen, the pantry shelves were bare of all but the minimum staples. She’d vacated so completely, it was as if she’d never lived here at all.

How, then, would he find—

He caught the faint sound of a feminine voice through a wall and cocked his head, instantly alert. Moving past the refrigerator, he found an unlocked door to a laundry room. On the opposite side another door opened into a narrow kitchen, where the scent of toast lingered. Beyond, in a modest lounge peppered with colorful throws, unopened mail and abandoned shoes, Clair Daniels stood. She had her back to him as she finished a call. Her pert bottom and slim thighs were mouthwateringly silhouetted by clingy yoga pants.

The internal wolf that had been pacing restlessly inside him leapt to the fore, exploding his heart in his chest and slamming hot blood through his limbs. He was furious to find her here, but he smiled.

She hung up, turned and screamed.

* * *

Clair clapped a hand over her mouth as she recognized the Russian. As forbidding as he looked, as frightening as it was to have a man appear in her private space, she instantly knew she wasn’t in real danger. At a very deep level, she’d been expecting him. That unnerved her, but she ignored it.

Dropping her hand, she accused, “You scared the life out of me!”

“It wouldn’t have happened if you’d left as you were told.” He no longer wore the suit jacket and tie from earlier. His fog-gray shirt strained across his chest, barely containing his big shoulders and thick biceps. He’d turned up his sleeves, revealing strong flat wrists and a ruthlessly simple gold watch.

She had an urge to touch his arm to see if it was as hard as it looked, which was ridiculous. Men fell into two categories for her: Get lost and Friends is friendly enough. She’d never been silly over boys and had always found women who went hormonal a bit irritating. She was capable of noticing a man with nice abs or a handsome smile, but she didn’t get hot and weak-kneed. Ever. Especially over men who came on so strong. This quivery, oversensitized version of herself was not her.

And yet she watched with fascination as he moved with masculine grace, bending his arm and glancing at his exclusive watch, then flicking his gaze toward her bedroom door where her unpacked suitcase stood against the wall. “You’ve packed at least.”

“I haven’t unpacked from being away.” She shouldn’t take such pleasure in throwing defiance at him when she was falling into desperation, but it gave her ego a boost to let him know she wasn’t bowing and scraping under his every word. She didn’t like what he was doing to her and wanted to make it stop. Under no circumstances did she want him to know how much power he was wielding over her.

“Well, that saves time, doesn’t it?” he said with false pleasantry.

“Whose? Yours? Are you here to throw me out?” It wasn’t even five o’clock. She’d started calling hotels but had wasted precious hours trying to find a workable solution for the foundation first. She had survived starting with nothing before, but she couldn’t bear to let down people whose hopes she’d already raised. The trustees needed to run the home, not spend all their time scrambling for funding. She was stuck, but she didn’t want him to know how desperate she was. “Why didn’t you just send the clown who threw me out of my office?”

His arrogant head went back. “You can’t mean Lazlo?”

“The lowbrow who said, ‘I’m to assist you if you require it’? He might as well have grabbed me by the collar and thrown me into the street.”

Although she had to admit it had been less humiliating to stuff her few personal items into her laptop bag and make a quick exit than try to explain while saying goodbye to everyone. She’d been shaken by what she’d read in the memo and hadn’t wanted to speak to anyone while it sank in. Victor, the man she’d put so much stock and trust in, had put on far more fronts than having a young blond mistress.

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