When I completed and submitted my thirtieth book, I decided to celebrate by offering a taste from each one. Enjoy!
One of the most common feedback I received on The Russian's Acquisition was that readers wished there was an epilogue--so I wrote one! It's a short story that takes place at Christmas and shows them with their new young family. The link is below the excerpt. I hope you'll check it out.
Aleksy has taken over all the assets of his enemy, including Clair's home, and believes he has 'acquired' her as well. Here Clair negotiates her terms. (Brighter Days is a charitable foundation she's trying to get off the ground.)
~ * ~
“What makes you think I want to sleep with you?”
“You’ve managed to convince me you’re capable of honesty, Clair. Don’t start lying now. You want me.”
He could tell? How? Humiliated, she avoided her own eyes in the mirror opposite, not wanting to see the flush of awareness he obviously read like a neon sign.
“That bothers you, doesn’t it?” he mocked. “That you’re attracted to more than my fat wallet?”
“What wallet?” she scoffed, ducking an admission that she was reacting to anything. “All I heard was an offer for one night in exchange for what, one more day here? You said I was selling myself short earlier. Surely a man in your position could do better than that.”
Her words didn’t take him aback, only provoked a disparaging smile. “You want the penthouse.”
“I didn’t say that,” she protested.
“Good, because the sale closes tomorrow.”
Her insides roiled. She really was homeless. She didn’t let him see her distress, only blurted, “You work fast.”
Her belly tightened at the resolute way he said it, and quivered even more when she saw the gleam of ownership in his eye.
“Well,” she breathed. “I can hardly ask you to share this bed if you can’t arrange for me to stay in it, can I? Pity.” Her false smile punctuated her sarcasm.
“I’ll provide you a bed. One that’s bigger and…sturdier.”
A jolt of surprise zinged all the way to the soles of her feet. He wasn’t supposed to take this seriously. She wasn’t.
She clenched her hand around the edge of the laundry basket as if it were a lifeline that would lift her out of this conversation, but for some stupid reason, her gaze dropped to his open collar where a few dark hairs lay against his collarbone. She imagined he was statue perfect under that crisp fabric, with sharply defined pecs and a six-pack of abs. His hips—
Good grief, she’d never looked at a man’s crotch in her life. She jerked her gaze away, mind imprinted with a hint of tented steel-gray trousers. She blushed hard and it was mortifying, especially when she heard him chuckle.
“I don’t even know you,” she choked, wanting it to be a pithy rejection, but it was more a desperate reminder to herself that this was wrong. She shouldn’t be the least bit interested in him.
“Not to worry, maya zalataya. I know you.”
That yanked her attention back to him and his supremely confident smirk.
“You’re waiting for me to meet your price. Let’s get there,” he said implacably.
“That’s so offensive I can’t even respond.”
“It’s realistic. If you were looking for love, you wouldn’t be living off an old man, allowing people to think you belong to him. I don’t need hearts and flowers either, but I like having a woman in my bed.”
“Your charm hasn’t landed you one?”
He shrugged off her scorn. “I’m between lovers. The takeover has kept me busy. Now I’m tallying up my acquisitions, preparing to enjoy the spoils.”
“Well, I don’t happen to come with this particular acquisition.” She kneed the side of the mattress. “I didn’t have to share this bed to sleep in it and I had a paycheck besides. Don’t throw that look at me!” she snapped, hackles rising when he curled his lip. “Victor was going to underwrite the foundation, and it—”
“By how much?” he broke in.
“How much was he going to donate toward ‘brightening your day’?”
“He— You— Oh…” She ground her teeth, glaring at his impassive expression. Planting her hands on her hips, she stood tall and said clearly, “Ten.” That ought to make him realize how seriously Brighter Days had been taken.
“Million?” His eyebrows shot toward his hairline.
“Thousand,” she corrected, startled. She could dream of having millions at her disposal, but Victor’s promised funds would have been enough to keep the doors of the home open until she raised more.
Aleksy removed his mobile from his pocket. “You do sell yourself short. We’ll add a zero to that and call it a deal.”
“What?” she squeaked, but he was already connecting to someone, speaking Russian, then switching to English.
“Daniels, yes. You have her details through payroll? Perfect.” He ended the call.
“What did you just do?” she gasped.
“The transfer will complete in the morning.” He pushed his mobile back into his pocket. “Come here, Clair.”
She stayed where she was, aghast. Infuriated. Was it wrong to be dazzled and elated, as well? Oh, what she could do at Brighter Days with a hundred thousand pounds!
“That’s—” She cleared her throat, recalling he was under the impression he’d just bought her. Her stomach turned over, except…well, it wasn’t with the repulsion she expected. It was like peaking on a roller-coaster track and feeling the car drop away while she hung suspended and breathless. She bottomed out quickly, though, rattled by the way the world began whirring by as the situation picked up speed. She didn’t know which way was up. She wanted off.
“That’s a very generous donation,” she choked, blindly scrabbling up her folded T-shirt. She snapped it out and creased it into a messy rectangle against the bedspread. “I’ll issue a proper receipt for the full amount after I’ve moved it into the trust account.”
“Do whatever you want with it. It’s yours. Now let’s find more pleasant surroundings. I’ll send someone to finish packing your things.”
“The transfer hasn’t cleared.” Terror provided the quick retort, but it felt incredibly good to lob it at him. Better than revealing how thoroughly he mixed her up. “And given that you repulse me—”
“Do I?” He launched from his lazy slouch in the doorway. She only had time for one backward stumbling step before he’d clamped hard arms around her, pulled her into the wall of his chest, then crushed her mouth with his.
Claw his eyes out, she told herself, but aside from the fact that her arms were trapped between them, the sensation of his mouth closing on hers was too remarkable to reject. He was domineering and inexorable, but this wasn’t punishment or force; it was—
Hot. Sexy. Enticing. She instinctively parted her lips under the angle of his firm ones, and his tongue speared wetly into her mouth, shooting such a jolt of pleasure through her that her knees buckled.
~ * ~
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