The Only Woman to Defy Him

By: Carol Marinelli

The fine line between professional…and personal!

Standing outside legendary playboy Demyan Zukov’s penthouse suite, shy personal assistant Alina Ritchi is shaking with nerves—she should never have agreed to this job. She’s out of her depth, and that’s before she’s met her delicious new boss.

Demyan’s wicked reputation doesn’t disappoint—she might be a virgin, but surely one hot glance from Demyan shouldn’t make her feel so…naked? Exposed, she finds that his gaze ignites her defiance, and soon she’s challenging him every step of the way!

But when every shared touch sizzles, how long can Alina keep saying no when her body wants to scream yes…?

Be appalled, Alina, Demyan thought.

Gather your things now and we’ll head back to the car, he half hoped, for she was innocent and he was far from that.

Instead Alina took another drink of water.

He watched her tongue lick over her lips, and it was not a seductive move, but he felt it in his groin.

“Is that why nothing shocks you?” Alina asked, and he watched as her cheeks turned to fire.

“What do you mean?”

“Well…” Alina didn’t know how to voice it, so she spoke about herself. “Everything shocks me. Maybe I was too sheltered. I mean…”

“We’re taking about sex, yes?” Demyan needlessly checked. He loved that even her throat was red, and then he thought of her breasts.

And whether or not it was convenient, Demyan was turned on at the thought of her shyness giving way to defiance.

All about the author…Carol Marinelli

CAROL MARINELLI finds writing a bio rather like writing her New Year’s resolutions. Oh, she would love to say that since she wrote the last one she now goes to the gym regularly and doesn’t stop for coffee and cake and a gossip afterward; that she’s incredibly organized and writes for a few productive hours a day after tidying her immaculate house and a brisk walk with the dog.

The reality is, Carol spends an inordinate amount of time daydreaming about dark, brooding men and exotic places (research), which doesn’t leave too much time for the gym, housework or anything that comes in between, and her most productive writing hours happen to be in the middle of the night, which leaves her in a constant state of bewildered exhaustion.

Originally from England, Carol now lives in Melbourne, Australia. She adores going back to the U.K. for a visit—actually, she adores going anywhere for a visit—and constantly (expensively) strives to overcome her fear of flying. She has three gorgeous children, who are growing up so fast (too fast—they’ve just worked out that she lies about her age!) and keep her busy with a never-ending round of homework, sport and friends coming over.

A nurse and a writer, Carol writes for the Harlequin Presents® and Harlequin Medical Romance lines and is passionate about both. She loves the fast-paced, busy setting of a modern hospital, but every now and then admits it’s bliss to escape to the glamorous, alluring world of her Presents heroes and heroines. A bit like her real life actually!



Demyan Zukov looked out the window of his private jet as his plane began its final descent into Sydney, Australia.

It truly was a magnificent view and Demyan owned part of the skyline. His dark eyes located his penthouse then he moved his pensive gaze to the numerous inlets that beckoned as temptingly as a sensual finger. The water was a stunning deep blue and was filled with boats, ferries and yachts that streaked their way through the harbour, leaving long white tails behind them. Always the view both exhilarated and excited Demyan. Always there was the prospect of good times ahead as his plane came in to land.

Just not today.

As he gazed down, for once unmoved by the spectacular sight, Demyan recalled the very first time that he had come to Australia. It had been in far less grand style and certainly there had been no press waiting to greet him. He had entered the country unknown, yet quietly determined to make his mark. Demyan had been just thirteen years old when he had left Russia for the first and last time.

He had sat at the back of a commercial jet in economy, beside his aunt, Katia. As he had looked out the window, as he had glimpsed for the first time the land that awaited him, and Katia had spoken about the farm in the Blue Mountains that would soon be his home, Demyan had scarcely known how to hope.

Demyan’s upbringing had been brutal and harsh. He had not known who his father was and Demyan’s single mother had found herself trapped in a downward spiral of poverty and alcohol. The small support she had received from the government had gone towards feeding Annika’s habit.

When Demyan had been five and his mother had lost her spot at the market, it had been Demyan who had taken on the responsibility of providing for them. Demyan had worked hard, and not just at school. At evenings and weekends he’d teamed up with a street boy, Mikael, and cleaned car windows at traffic lights uninvited, as well as begging tourists for spare change.

When necessary he would rummage through the garbage at the back of restaurants and hotels. Somehow, most nights, there had been a meal of sorts for himself and Annika. Not that his mother had bothered with eating near the end of her life—instead it had been vodka and more vodka as she’d grown increasingly paranoid and superstitious and demanded that her son conform to the rituals that she’d felt kept her world safe.

On her death, Demyan had fully expected to join Mikael on the streets but instead his mother’s sister Katia had come from Australia, where she’d lived, to Russia for her sister’s burial.

‘Annika always told me that you were both doing well.’ Katia was appalled when she found out how her sister and nephew had been living. ‘In her letters and phone calls...’ Katia’s voice trailed off as she looked at the sparse living conditions when she entered their flat, and then she looked properly at her desperately thin nephew. His black hair and grey eyes were such a contrast to his waxy pale skin and though Demyan refused to cry, confusion, suspicion and grief were etched on his face—never more so than at Annika’s burial.

Despite Demyan’s best efforts to ease his mother’s mind by obliging and going along with her many superstitions and rituals it had not been considered a good death. At the burial the two mourners stood silent beside Annika’s grave. The bleak service took place well away from the church and Demyan could almost hear his mother’s protesting screams as the coffin was lowered into unconsecrated ground.

Her final resting place would have been Annika’s worst nightmare.

‘Why didn’t she tell me just how bad things were?’ Katia asked as they walked away from the graveside.

‘Slishkom gorda,’ was Demyan’s flat response as he turned and looked at his mother’s grave. Yes, Annika Zukov had been too proud to ask for help from anyone and yet, Demyan thought bitterly, she had been too weak to change for herself or her son.

‘Things will get better now,’ Katia said, putting her arms around her nephew’s shoulders, but Demyan shrugged her off.

They flew from a harsh St Petersburg winter into an Australian summer. Dark, sullen and quietly grieving, for most of the trip Demyan sat beside Katia, staring unseeing out of the small oval window, yet he was hauled from his dark thoughts by the majestic beauty of the land beneath. He had heard that Sydney had one of the most naturally beautiful harbours in the world.