Authors: Abby Green
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‘Well, well, Ms Moriarty, fancy meeting you here. Are you going to tell me where the hell I am?’ His voice dripped with ice.
Luc could see Jesse’s slim throat work as she swallowed. The fact that she wasn’t as cool as she was obviously striving to appear did nothing for his temper levels. Weakly she supplied, ‘Greece. This is a privately owned Greek island, which I’m renting.’
‘That’s nice. And you felt compelled to bring me along to join you on your holiday?’ Jesse didn’t answer immediately, and Luc inserted caustically, ‘If I’d known how desperate you were for my company we could have come to some arrangement.’
He could see her cheeks flush red, and she bit out, ‘It’s not … not like that. That’s not why you’re here.’
‘Well? Are you going to tell me what the hell I’m doing here?’
‘I …’ She gulped visibly, and then said more forcibly, ‘I’ve kidnapped you.’
got hooked on Mills & Boon
romances while still in her teens, when she stumbled across one belonging to her grandmother in the west of Ireland. After many years of reading them voraciously, she sat down one day and gave it a go herself. Happily, after a few failed attempts, Mills & Boon bought her first manuscript.
Abby works freelance in the film and TV industry, but thankfully the four a.m. starts and the stresses of dealing with recalcitrant actors are becoming more and more infrequent, leaving her more time to write!
She loves to hear from readers, and you can contact her through her website at www.abby-green.com. She lives and works in Dublin.
Recent titles by the same author:
ONE NIGHT WITH THE ENEMY
THE LEGEND OF DE MARCO
THE CALL OF THE DESERT
THE SULTAN’S CHOICE
Did you know these are also available as eBooks?
This is especially for my father Martin Green
who is a poet, scribe and playwright.
He was also a publisher and a biographer.
Thank you for passing onto me, a love of words
and books and a smidgeon of your talent.
is that?’ Luc Sanchis’s voice was artfully bored, belying his sudden irrational spiking of interest. The woman who had caught it wasn’t even remotely his type.
‘The short-haired strawberry-blonde?’
Luc nodded curtly, irritated that he’d even asked the question now, and by the fact that she’d caught his eye. Why? His solicitor knew him too well—knew that Luc never asked a question that wasn’t utterly relevant in some way.
‘That’s Jesse Moriarty. Of JM Holdings.’
Luc frowned, taking in the slim figure of below average height. She was turned sideways to him through the thronged room, and unlike every other woman there was dressed in a dark grey trouser suit. She stood out precisely because she was dressed differently and because she looked acutely self-conscious on her own.
Even from here he could see the pained expression on her face and the almost white-knuckled grip on her glass of champagne—which she wasn’t drinking. She was staring fixedly at something in the distance.
His solicitor must have assumed Luc hadn’t heard of JM Holdings and was explaining. ‘When she does decide to float it, the rumour is that it’ll be worth upwards of fifty-five million. Not bad for someone who emerged onto the jaded IT scene just a few years ago.’
Luc asked now, ‘What’s her background?’
‘She got a scholarship to Cambridge and while she was studying computer science and economics she patented the anti-hacking system that’s now being used as the highest level of security within companies across the globe—not to mention your own company. Some say she’s a genius.’
Luc’s eyes narrowed on the slight figure. She didn’t look like a genius. She looked lost, fragile. Alone in the crowd. He was surprised by a surge of something that felt curiously protective within him, as if he wanted to go over there and take her hand.
His solicitor was saying in a low voice, ‘She’s known by those who work for her as The Machine. In her personal dealings she’s rumoured to be positively arctic—no mention of love affairs … my money says she’s gay—’
His solicitor broke off as he was accosted by someone he knew; he shot Luc an apologetic glance as he was led away. Luc welcomed it. He didn’t care for that kind of lazy commenting on women, and wasn’t the kind of man who felt uncomfortable standing alone. He was aware of the sudden interest in the women nearby now that he
alone, but he still couldn’t take his eyes off Jesse Moriarty.
He’d heard of JM Holdings. Of course he had. The supposedly unhackable security system she’d devised
genius. He’d just never imagined that the notoriously publicity-shy person behind JM Holdings would be this slight and very young-looking woman.
At that moment she broke her gaze from whatever she’d been staring at and turned to face towards where Luc stood. His whole body tensed. In contrast to the slightly mannish clothes she wore she had a pretty face: heart-shaped, with huge eyes. She looked pale, slightly shellshocked. He saw her put the still full glass onto a passing waiter’s tray and she started to move towards him through the crowd.
He could see as she came closer that she wore a white shirt under her jacket. The look was very classic and cool, and yet utterly unfeminine—especially compared to the women decked out in
finery around her. It was as if she’d wandered into the wrong place, and yet the intent in her expression told him she was definitely in the right place.
She was so close now that he could see just how tense she was, the faint sheen of perspiration on her brow. She wore no make-up, but she didn’t need it with that perfect skin, and that made a jolt of awareness run through his body. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen a woman with no make-up. It was curiously intimate.
Luc didn’t move a fraction, but as Jesse Moriarty came alongside where he stood someone stepped backwards into her path and she pitched sideways helplessly. Luc’s hands had stretched out even before he knew what he was doing and wrapped around slender upper arms.
Huge eyes widened and stared up into his. They were so dark grey they looked almost navy blue, and for a second Luc forgot everything. Who he was. Where he was. All he could see were those huge eyes and this woman under his hands. He saw two pink flags of colour come into her cheeks, the way her eyes darkened even more. There was something so inexplicably appealing about her that it snuck right under the iron-clad guard Luc had built up over years, which had become like a second skin … When he realised that he jerked back, all but thrusting her away from him as he did so.
He was reacting on a very deep and primitive level to this moment and to how effortlessly she’d managed to enthral him. The only women who enthralled him were women he
to enthral him. There was little that was spontaneous about it. So this whole bizarre interlude with a complete relative stranger made his voice unintentionally harsh. ‘You should watch where you’re going.’
He saw hurt and chagrin flare in those huge eyes before her expression cleared and became completely cold. The words of his solicitor came back to him:
She stepped back. Her eyes darted up and down once, quickly, and then she said with a husky tone which caught at Luc’s pulse, ‘It was an accident.’
The look she left him with could have frozen over the Sahara. And then she disappeared into the heaving throng and Luc had an even more curious impulse to snatch her back and—
? Apologise? His conscience mocked him. Was he getting soft in his old age? He knew well that the women who populated his world, whether they be business colleagues or more mercenary types searching for a rich meal ticket, were not vulnerable creatures who wore their hearts on their sleeves or in their huge expressive eyes. Oh, he knew those kind of women existed, but more often than not they were an illusion designed to entrap. He had been entrapped once. But never again.
When he recalled the way Jesse Moriarty had frozen him out so effectively he knew for a fact that she was one of the most
vulnerable kind. So why was it so hard for him to get those huge eyes and that slight figure in the unflattering suit out of his mind?
One Year Later …
‘Just what exactly is your interest in JP O’Brien Construction, Mr Sanchis?’
Luc Sanchis sat back in his chair and regarded the bristling woman in front of him, who had just marched into his office as if she owned it and now stood with her hands on his desk, chin stuck forward pugnaciously. The fact that
ever did this caused a frisson of surprise to run through him.
It had been one year since he’d seen her, and in that year
the huge eyes which were looking at him now, spitting dark grey sparks, had proved to be annoyingly memorable. But he was realising that his imagination didn’t live up to reality.
Irritation surged at the unwelcome reminder of momentary human weakness. Even though this was only their second meeting Jesse Moriarty was proving to have a knack for rubbing him up the wrong way. He too stood and placed his hands on his desk, effortlessly asserting his vastly superior height and strength.
Moriarty, I suggest that you sit down if you want this conversation to go any further.’
Across the wide oak desk Jesse looked into brown eyes so dark they looked black, and just like last year, when she’d bumped into him at that function, she felt as if she were losing her balance.
The emotional turmoil that had galvanised her to come here and confront him seemed to dissipate, leaving her feeling shaky and very aware of her surroundings. She straightened up and then sat down abruptly in the chair behind her.
She watched as Luc Sanchis took his hands off the desk and sat down too, not taking those remarkable eyes off her for a second. All of a sudden Jesse felt boiling hot in her buttoned-up shirt and jumper. She’d only realised who he was when she’d seen him in a newspaper a few months ago and had put a name to the enigmatic stranger she’d bumped into at that function. The fact that his features had been memorable enough for that to happen had been very disconcerting.
He was half-French, half-Spanish. CEO of Sanchis Construction & Design, one of the most successful construction/architect design hybrid companies in the world. He was renowned globally for marrying innovative design with cutting edge, environmentally friendly construction practices.
She remembered how exposed she’d felt when he’d looked
into her eyes more deeply than anyone ever had before. The cool distance she’d surrounded herself with for years had spectacularly deserted her for precious seconds when he’d caught her in his hands. She’d felt the brand of those hands on her arms for days afterwards. More disturbingly, she’d not been able to forget her curious hurt when he’d practically thrust her away from him, as if the very sight of her had repulsed him.
He was on his phone now, speaking in a deep, lightly accented voice, instructing his assistant to bring in some refreshments. She wanted to tell him not to bother with refreshments but she was afraid to speak; emotion was still high in her chest and she wanted to gather herself, not give him a hint of how badly he upset her equilibrium. Now and a year ago.
He put down the phone, those eyes still dark and unnerving. Unreadable.
‘So, Ms Moriarty, why don’t we start again?’
Jesse bristled at his tone, but quashed her reaction and forced words out. ‘Forgive me. I didn’t mean to appear rude.’
He arched a brow and she heard a noise which heralded the arrival of his assistant with a tray holding coffee. She welcomed the momentary respite and watched Luc Sanchis as he accepted coffee with a smile. Her heart kicked. His dark olive-skinned features were more rugged than prettily handsome, and that realisation sent a shockwave of sensation through the tense core of her body.
The assistant left and Jesse took a sip of coffee, willing her hand not to tremble. She put the cup back down, looked at Luc Sanchis and steeled herself.
‘I’d like to know what your interest is in JP O’Brien Construction.’
He put down his own cup and sat back in his big leather chair, steepling his hands over his chest. His shoulders were impossibly broad, and the white shirt and silk tie only gave
the illusion of civility. Raw masculinity oozed from this man like a tangible force. It made Jesse feel very prickly.
‘With all due respect,’ he pointed out, ‘I don’t think that’s any of your business.’
He might as well have inserted the word
into that sentence.
‘I think a far more pertinent question here, Ms Moriarty, is why the hell do you care about my interest in O’Brien Construction?’
Jesse was feeling pinned under his intent gaze, and it got worse when he sat forward. She stood up jerkily, needing to put some space between them. She never lost her cool like this. She had a reputation for being preternaturally collected. She grimaced inwardly. Along with a less flattering reputation for being emotionless. But in the past week all she seemed to have been feeling
emotions, and one very turbulent one in particular—which had led her here to this man’s office.
Agitated, Jesse walked over to the wall of windows which took in an astounding view of the London skyline. She could feel Luc Sanchis’s gaze boring into her back like a laser.
She heard movement behind her and then a very irritated sounding voice.
‘Perhaps you have time on your hands to pose questions that are none of your business, but I don’t.’
Jesse turned to see Luc Sanchis come around his desk and stand with an arm outstretched, indicating that she should leave. In that moment, to her absolute horror and chagrin, all she could see was his shirt pulled taut across his massive chest, the hard ridged muscles of his abdomen clearly delineated through the thin material.
Jesse was shocked to find herself so physically aware of a man she’d only recently discovered came with a reputed sexual prowess on a par with the world’s most legendary lovers.
His fierce privacy only compounded those rumours, but from where she was standing right now it was far too credible.
Forcing herself to get a grip, she focused on those black eyes. She had no intention of moving now—not when he was the only thing that stood between her and seeing JP O’Brien punished for his crimes. She’d worked too hard for this.
She took a deep breath. ‘Whatever you’re planning on investing in O’Brien to save him, I’m willing to match it.’
Luc Sanchis’s arm dropped. His eyes narrowed and Jesse forced herself to stand strong. Now that she knew who he was, and just how powerful, she knew that if he was determined to save O’Brien then he would be an immovable force.
With a deceptively bland tone in his voice, which didn’t fool Jesse for a second, he asked, ‘Now, why on earth would JM Holdings, the most successful IT company to emerge in Europe for years, be interested in a construction company? Wasn’t your last acquisition a gaming consortium?’
Jesse flushed uncomfortably and had to struggle not to look away for a second. The last thing she wanted was this man’s far too incisive mind questioning her motives. She tried to disguise her rattled composure. ‘My interest in O’Brien Construction is not up for discussion. You’re either willing to let me match your offer or not.’
‘And yet it’s up for discussion when you want to find out
Jesse flushed at having that glaring inconsistency pointed out. Something subtle changed in the air in that moment, and her skin puckered all over into goosebumps. Luc Sanchis had crossed his arms across that formidable chest and sat on the corner of his desk, one leg hitched up slightly. The material of his dark trousers stretched taut across one thigh, the awareness of which made Jesse’s hands clench into fists at her sides.
Luc looked at the woman who stood so tensely across his office. He could almost see her quiver with it. He hated to
admit it, because little piqued his interest these days, but she was intriguing him on a lot of levels after his initial shock in seeing her again.