The Redemption of Darius Sterne

By: Carole Mortimer

CHAPTER ONE

‘WHO IS THAT?’ Andy exclaimed as she glanced towards the doorway of the exclusive restaurant and bar, Midas, in which she was currently celebrating with her sister and brother-in-law.

Her glass of champagne raised halfway to her lips, Andy openly stared across the elegant restaurant at the man standing just inside the doorway. Tall and grimly unsmiling, he removed his dark outer coat, before handing it off to the waiting maître d’.

Andy estimated him to be in his early to mid-thirties, and he was so dark and arrestingly handsome that Andy couldn’t have looked away if her life had depended on it.

Everything about the man was dark, she noted as she continued to watch him.

The elegant black suit and the shirt and tie he wore under it, the perfect tailoring emphasising rather than hiding the muscled perfection of his well over six feet height.

His tousled hair gleamed the colour of dark mahogany under the light of the overhead crystal chandeliers.

His complexion was olive.

As for his expression...

The longer she stared at him, the more Andy realised that grim didn’t even begin to describe the look on that hard and chiselled face. He had a high, intelligent forehead, glowering dark brows over narrowed eyes, blades for cheekbones, a sculptured and firmly unsmiling mouth, his jaw square and arrogant.

Overall the combined effect was best described as electrifying.

There really was no other word that quite described the man as he now glanced disinterestedly about the elegant restaurant, while at the same time continuing his conversation with the man accompanying him. A piercing glance, which now moved over and past Andy, and then slowly moved back again, before stopping.

Andy’s breath caught in her throat, her mind going completely blank as she found herself the focus of that piercing gaze.

For some reason Andy had expected that the man’s eyes would be as darkly arresting as the rest of him, but instead they were a clear and beautiful topaz in colour, with darker striations fanning out from the pitch-black pupils.

They were mesmerising eyes, which continued to hold Andy’s gaze captive even as he raised one questioningly dark brow at her obvious interest.

‘Aha!’ her sister murmured beside her as she saw the direction of Andy’s gaze and realised the reason for her earlier comment. ‘Absolutely gorgeous, isn’t he?’

‘Sorry?’ Andy was still held captive by that compelling gaze as she answered Kim distractedly, her heart pounding in her chest, her pulse racing.

‘The man you’re currently ogling, darling,’ her sister teased dryly. ‘Don’t you just want to rip his clothes off and—?’

‘Hello? Husband sitting right next to you,’ Colin reminded Kim ruefully.

‘That doesn’t stop me from window-shopping, my love,’ his wife replied pertly.

‘There’s window-shopping, and then there’s just completely out of your price range!’ Colin muttered teasingly.

‘That’s the whole point of window-shopping, silly!’ Kim chuckled affectionately.

Andy was barely aware of the bantering between her sister and brother-in-law, the stranger’s gaze continuing to hold hers captive for several more, heart-stoppingly long seconds, before he gave a curl of his top lip in the semblance of a smile. Then he turned away, as he and his dining companion now followed the maître d’ to their table.

Andy drew in a ragged breath, although her heart was still pounding, her pulse racing.

A small shiver waved over her body, a reminder of her unexpected physical reaction to that darkly delicious man.

And she was far from the only one watching the two men as they made their way through the restaurant, nodding acknowledgement to several acquaintances as they passed, before stopping at a table for four near the window. They greeted an older couple already seated there, before the maître d’ himself pulled back the two empty chairs so that the two men could join them.

In fact, now that Andy was no longer completely under his spell she realised that the other diners weren’t just surreptitiously watching those two men, but that conversation in the room had become a hushed whisper; the very air seemed to be filled with tense expectation.

Which, considering this fashionable restaurant, was frequented only by the rich and the famous, who were usually too full of their own self-importance to be aware of anyone else’s, she found distinctly intriguing.

In fact, Andy had been slightly overwhelmed by the clientele when she’d first arrived.

The only reason that Andy and her sister and brother-in-law were able to dine in such exalted company at all was because Colin worked in the London office of Midas Enterprises. As an employee of Midas he was allowed to book a table at one of the Midas restaurants for himself and three guests once a year, and given an employee discount; none of them would ever have been able to afford to eat here otherwise!