An Heiress For His Empire(9)

By: Lucy Monroe


“Maxwell Black is a man worth knowing.”

While it might be true, Viktor didn’t appreciate Jeremy pointing it out. Two half-Russian boys, raised to appreciate a culture not fully American, Maxwell and Viktor had grown up together, their families close, their goals similar.

Friends of a sort, but too alike for comfort, both men were determined to make their mark on the world, to be at the top of the food chain.

Because of the different paths they took to dominant positions in the business world, Viktor’s and Maxwell’s interests had not conflicted before today.

Thankfully, Madison didn’t look impressed by her father’s words.

She shifted so she could make eye contact with the CEO of BIT. “Mr. Black, do not be fooled by Jeremy’s mistaken ignorance. Those articles are lies made up by a man I believed was my friend. Perry and I never had any sort of sexual relationship, much less a BDSM one.”

The pain underlying her measured tones prompted Viktor to make some plans in regard Perry Timwater.

“I believe you.” Maxwell’s assurance proved he was every bit as intelligent as Viktor had always known him to be.

Madison relaxed infinitesimally. “Good.”

“Regardless of the reason for our meeting, I would like to get to know you, Miss Archer.” Maxwell, damn his hide, smiled charmingly at Madison. “You seem like an interesting person.”

She inclined her head. “Thank you, but—”

“Don’t dismiss the possibility of our compatibility out of hand,” Maxwell interrupted her with another of his lady-killer smiles. “I bet I could teach you to like some of the things you’ve been accused of needing.”

Madison’s gasp said she was shocked by Maxwell’s words.

Whether the words themselves or where he chose to speak them, Viktor didn’t know and it didn’t matter. He wasn’t surprised. Maxwell played to his strengths and exploited the weakness of others.

Turning the lurid headlines into something forbidden but potentially exciting was a solid tactic for handling the current situation and the humiliation Madison had to be experiencing. Though she’d done nothing to let it show.

Unfortunately for Maxwell, Viktor wasn’t going to let the ploy succeed.

Nothing was standing between Viktor and control of AIH. Not even Madison herself, but particularly not Maxwell Black.

Clearly upset with Maxwell’s words, Jeremy made a sound of protest.

Before the older man could say anything Viktor was in front of Black, blocking his line of sight with Madison. “That is not something you are going to discuss here, or with Madison at all.”

“You think not?” Black challenged back.

“I know not.”

“I don’t need your protection, Viktor,” Madison said quietly from behind him.

He turned to face her, but didn’t move so Black would have to stand and sidestep to see her. “Nevertheless, you have it.”

She shook her head, whether in denial, or frustration, he didn’t know.

“I’m nowhere near taking him up on his offer. I’m pretty sure even the mildest form of that kind of relationship requires trust and I don’t have any. Not for men, particularly men with the same priorities as Jeremy Archer. Businessmen.”

She made the word sound like a slur.

Viktor didn’t believe her regardless. Madison trusted him. She always had; even if she no longer realized it.

And while Maxwell’s words hadn’t surprised him, Madison’s willingness to meet them head-on did. But then maybe it shouldn’t have. She’d already shown her willingness to stand against her father.

Maxwell got up, his pose too damned relaxed for Viktor’s liking. Even less did he like the way the other man moved around him to face Madison. “I see.”

“Good.”

“Nothing in the contract states we must share a bedroom.”

Madison’s eyes flared with...was it interest?

Viktor cursed under his breath. “In order to receive the shares stipulated, Madison and her husband must provide an heir for Archer International Holdings.”

Madison gasped, anger shimmering around her like electric currents.

Before she could say anything, Maxwell shrugged. “There is always artificial insemination.”

“While we live two entirely separate lives?” Madison asked in a tone Viktor recognized, but from the reaction of both Maxwell and her father, they did not.

Jeremy puffed up with renewed anger while the other Russian-American nodded with smug complacency. “Exactly.”

“We would be married in name only?” she asked, the disgust levels rising enough that the others should have recognized them.