Russian's Ruthless Demand(9)

By: Michelle Conder

Deciding that the best way to go unnoticed was to act like she was just another guest coming in late for the night, she smiled confidently at the doorman as she strode past.

Once through the gleaming glass doors she crossed the acre of white-and-blue-veined marble floors toward the wall of gleaming elevators, hoping that none of the Chatsfields were in residence. Running into one of them would be truly humiliating!

If it was possible, she hated Lukas Kuznetskov even more for putting her in this nerve-wracking situation and only exhaled when the lift doors closed behind her, sealing her into its mirrored vault.

One mission accomplished without incident, she thought with a relieved breath. Maybe the rest of the night would go the same way.

She took a moment to study her reflection, smoothing out the lipstick she’d taken the time to reapply before leaving her hotel, and checked that her hair was still in place. No way was she meeting Mr Smooth-Talking Kuznetskov on his turf looking like one of Lulu’s wrung-out dish rags.

Satisfied, she raised her eyes to track the ascending numbers on the lift panel and wondered again if she shouldn’t have left this meeting until morning. Then she decided that no, she was unlikely to fall asleep with Lukas’s ‘opportunity’ hanging over her head and—some wicked side she never would have guessed she possessed—hoped she might interrupt his sleep as payment for his arrogance.

Unfortunately he wasn’t sleeping, he was on the phone when he answered the door, and he didn’t even pause in his conversation as he ushered her inside. She noticed that he’d rolled his shirtsleeves to his elbows and ignored the temptation to admire his impressive forearms. So the man had a good body. That didn’t make him an attractive person. A man needed a lot more than money and looks to get her attention.

‘Arrogant jackass,’ she murmured under her breath as she stalked past him, stopping in the centre of the spacious sitting room, her designer’s eye admiring the rich furnishings and sophisticated fittings.

Still talking on the phone he bent over the low coffee table between two large sofas and pressed a few keys on his laptop. Then he swivelled the computer toward her and indicated for her to take a seat. ‘Have a look at these,’ he murmured before returning his attention to his caller.

Rude was the only word that came to Eleanore’s mind and she resented the superior way he thought he’d won. She had half a mind to ignore his computer but that left only him to look at so she relented. And anyway, she reminded herself, she was here to stop him from offering someone at the Chatsfield Hotels a job until she had a chance to consider his proposal properly. Not that she imagined for one minute that Isabelle would be happy with her being here. Which made her incredibly uncomfortable because she adored her sister and would never do anything to upset her.

A minute later a fresh bottle of water was plonked down in front of her. She glanced up and a smile tilted the corner of his lips as if he knew exactly how disgruntled she was. Which was impossible. She wasn’t that easy to read. Was she?

‘Sorry about the phone call. Unfortunately business doesn’t sleep.’

The mention of sleep made her think of beds and tiredness and him and she shook off a wooziness probably brought about by the tequila slammer she’d inadvertently ingested.

‘Are you sure you don’t want coffee? You look like you could use it.’

‘Thanks,’ she said tartly, knowing that even if she was dying for a cup she wouldn’t take one from him after that. ‘I’m perfectly fine.’ Now if he’d offered her a chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream on the side she might have set her pride aside. Okay, she would have, but coffee would only keep her up anyway.

He shrugged at her response and sat down on the sofa beside her. The cushion bowed under his extra weight and she felt herself list toward him and had to put her hand down between their bodies to stop herself from touching him. Even so, her hand brushed the hard muscle of his thigh and she shifted away as if she was politely giving him more space when in reality his closeness seemed to addle her thinking. Or was that the cocktail and tequila? Either way Eleanore wanted to get this out of the way and get back to her bed. Alone.

Well, of course alone, she admonished the voice in her head. She had little time or inclination for a man as it was and this man would never make her top one hundred, let alone her top ten. ‘So tell me what I’m looking at,’ she said briskly.

He clicked the mouse a couple of times and a three-dimensional snowflake came onto the screen. ‘The hotel is designed to look like a snowflake. Five wings hold the guest bedrooms and one is the reception area and main restaurant.’ He scrolled through a few more images and despite her determination to be bored by the whole thing she wasn’t.