A deal at the altar

By: Rachael Thomas

CHAPTER ONE



GEORGINA ENTERED THE sleek luxury of the office and knew she was being watched. Her every step scrutinised by a man who was revered and feared by businessmen and women alike.

‘Ms Henshaw.’ His deep voice, with a hint of accent, was firm and commanding. ‘I don’t think I need to ask why you are here.’

He leant against his desk, arms folded across his broad chest, as if he’d already decided he didn’t want to hear what she had to say. His black hair gleamed, but the intensity in his eyes nearly robbed her of the ability to speak.

‘I’m sure you don’t, Mr Ramirez.’ She injected as much firmness into her voice as she could, determined she wouldn’t be dismissed before she’d said all she had to say. ‘You are, after all, the cause of the problem.’

‘Am I indeed?’ Santos Lopez Ramirez locked his gaze with hers and for a moment she almost lost her nerve. Almost.

She studied his face, looking for a hint of compassion, but there was nothing. His mouth was set in a firm line that highlighted the harsh angles of his cheekbones, softened only slightly by his tanned complexion. His jaw was cleanshaven, but she didn’t miss the way he clenched it, as if biting back his words.

‘You know you are.’ She paused briefly before continuing. ‘You are the one person who is preventing Emma and Carlo from doing what they want.’

‘So what are you going to do about it, Ms Henshaw?’

As he raised his brows in question a flutter of nerves took flight in her stomach. But now was the time to be the woman the world thought she was—the cold and manipulative woman who took exactly what she wanted in life and discarded what she didn’t.

‘I will do whatever it takes to make it happen, Mr Ramirez.’

The butterflies dissipated as she thought of Emma, of all the dreams of a fairytale wedding her younger sister so often spoke about. Her own ideas of love and happiness had long since been shattered, but she wanted her sister to find that dream.

‘That’s a very bold statement.’

Bold. Stupid. It didn’t matter what he thought. All she cared about was Emma’s happiness—happiness was something neither of them had experienced much of in recent years.

‘I’m a very bold woman, Mr Ramirez.’

He smiled. An indolent smile that tugged at the corners of his mouth. Her breath caught in her throat and nerves almost swarmed over her as he unfolded his arms and took a purposeful step towards her.

‘I admire that in a woman.’

Tall and unyielding, he stood before her. And despite the spacious office, the wall of windows and the sparse furnishings, he dominated the room.

She stood her ground, refusing to move, to be intimidated. ‘Your admiration is not the reason I’m here.’

‘I don’t have time for games, Ms Henshaw.’

‘I have a deal to put to you, Mr Ramirez.’ He couldn’t dismiss her yet. It had been hard enough getting past his secretary, and she didn’t intend to waste the opportunity.

‘A deal?’

‘I meant what I said.’ She spoke firmly, determined he should never know just how anxious she was, how desperate to achieve her aim. ‘I will do whatever it takes.’

* * *

Santos took in the determined jut of the brunette’s chin. She looked so arrogantly sure of herself that he wondered if she was going to start the Paso Doble right there in his office.

Lust hurtled through his body at the images such thoughts brought to mind.

‘And why would you want to do that?’

Santos returned to his chair and sat down, his gaze running over her body. The charcoal skirt and jacket, although professional and businesslike, did little to disguise her womanly figure. The tantalising hint of a lace camisole beneath the jacket caught his eye, but it was the heels she wore that stole the show. Her designer leopard print heels not only spoke volumes about the real woman, but showcased the most fantastic pair of legs he’d seen in ages. He was entranced, but it was the attitude radiating from her glorious body that really intrigued him.

‘Emma is my sister and I want her to be happy.’

The intensity of her gaze as she spoke only aroused his interest further.

‘I’ll do anything to achieve that.’

He rose from his chair, his body suddenly restless, to stand in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows of his office. He surveyed the view of London glinting in the autumn sunshine, recalling all he’d discovered about the sister of quiet and demure Emma, the woman his half-brother Carlo was currently dating. A situation that had thrown everything into turmoil.

This woman certainly had a reputation. Widowed at twenty-three, and having been left a substantial fortune, she now led a socialite lifestyle and was never short of male company. A mercenary woman, if the circumstances of her marriage were to be believed.

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