Russian's Ruthless Demand(6)

By: Michelle Conder

When he’d first arrived he’d thought she looked quite dowdy sitting on the stool in a basic black dress, the only colour coming from a pair of bright orange ankle boots that tended to make a woman’s ankles look twice the size they were and some weird matching chopstick things sticking out of her neat bun. Then her interesting eyes had caught his in the mirror and briefly stalled his train of thought. Once he’d shaken off the weird feeling that a goose had just walked over his grave he’d studied her. He’d waited for her covetous gaze to signal the type of interest he was used to getting from women. But she hadn’t done that. Instead she’d grimaced as if she’d just been shown a bag full of eels and looked away.

His healthy ego had felt the immediate prick of her dismissal but he’d thought she didn’t know who he was. He’d assumed that when she found out she’d be more than happy to talk to him. And probably warm his bed if he was so inclined. Which he wasn’t. Under different circumstances he might have been drawn to her elegant features and full lips. Those cat-like eyes, but he had a different agenda tonight and it didn’t include taking her to his bed.

Still, he couldn’t fathom her negative response other than to think that she was one of those phony stuck-up rich girls who thought pedigree was everything. He’d learned the hard way that just because he now knew his fish fork from his fruit fork it didn’t mean instant acceptance from those with old money.

Fortunately he was sufficiently impressed with the overall effect and intricate detail put into Glaciers, not to mention being up against the clock, to set aside his own misgivings about her suitability for his project to offer her a job. First though he’d have to find a way to thaw her out. A not altogether displeasing concept.

‘Why do I get the feeling you dislike me, Miss Harrington?’

‘I don’t dislike you at all, Mr Kuznetskov.’ She gave him another false smile and squared her slender shoulders. ‘How could I when I don’t even know you? And I’m certainly not the type of person to make a snap judgement on such a brief acquaintance,’ she finished primly.

Da, she disliked him all right. ‘I think you’re lying, Miss Harrington,’ he said pleasantly.

The bartender pushed an ice glass across to him, interrupting Eleanore Harrington’s shocked gasp, and he downed the finger of vodka in one hit and welcomed the burn of it down the back of his throat.

‘I am not.’

‘Yes, you are. For some reason you’ve not only judged me, you’ve sentenced me as well, and yet by your own admission we don’t even know each other.’

‘Would that be like you passing judgement on our hotels two years ago when you had only stayed one night?’ she challenged.

Ah, Lukas was beginning to understand her animosity now. Somehow she’d heard about his comments after his brief stay at her Florida hotel. Not that he would apologise for them. He’d suffered a terrible night’s sleep on a lumpy mattress and then his morning coffee had been cold. On top of that the valet had misplaced his car and he’d been overcharged on his bill. All in all, not a great experience. ‘My comments were deserved, Miss Harrington. Your hotel offered substandard service and I said as much.’

‘To the press?’ She crinkled her pretty nose. ‘I could have respected your comments if you’d filled out a hospitality card but instead you had to announce your views to the world. You do know that our occupancy rate went down twenty percent for six months after that.’

Lukas could feel himself getting annoyed with her attitude. ‘I don’t believe I have quite that much influence in the world—though, of course, I’m flattered that you do. Perhaps your lower occupancy rate was due to management issues.’

‘Oh, you would take that view.’

‘If it helps, I didn’t mean for my comments to make it to the press,’ he offered. ‘In fact, I didn’t even know that they had.’

‘How could you not?’ She reluctantly perched on the edge of her stool when she realised they were drawing curious glances from nearby patrons.

‘I don’t read my own press. I pay someone to do that and to bring anything that needs addressing to my attention. Clearly that was not big enough to warrant my attention.’

‘Clearly not.’ Her pointy little chin rose between them. ‘Goodnight, Mr Kuznetskov.’

‘Hold on.’ Lukas put his gloved hand out and snagged her delicate wrist just above where her own dark gloves ended. ‘So, based on my truthful comments you’ve made an assumption that I’m a bad person, is that it?’