Mistresses: In His Bed: The Billionaire's Trophy / Strictly Temporary / Whose Bed Is It Anyway?. Robyn Grady
the economic downturn meant there were few graduate jobs and the few that there were went to applicants with the skills and practical know-how that were only attainable from actual employment. After countless unsuccessful applications, Emmie had known that she needed work experience to improve her chances and she had initially been ecstatic when she got through a tough assessment centre and first won the internship at Christou Holdings, one of the most aggressive and successful software companies in London.
Never having lived in the city as an independent adult, she had not initially appreciated what a challenge it would be simply to make ends meet. And then, her estranged mother, Odette, had got in touch out of the blue and had offered Emmie her spare room and Emmie had snatched gratefully at the opportunity for cheap lodgings without which she could not have hoped to accept the job. It had not once occurred to her that Odette might have an ulterior motive in inviting her to stay. Naively, Emmie had simply been eager for the opportunity to get to know the mother she had last seen when she was twelve years old. From that age Emmie and her two siblings had been raised by her eldest sister, Kat, in the Lake District and, although she had recognised Kat’s dismay when she learned of the London scheme and Emmie’s plan to live with their mother, Kat had not interfered and had merely warned her sibling that Odette could be ‘difficult’. Well, the word difficult didn’t begin to cover the problems she was having, Emmie reflected heavily, hoping that she wasn’t in for yet another long-running row when she got home later.
Her first unsettling discovery after moving in with Odette had been the disturbing revelation that her mother made her very comfortable living through an Internet-based escort agency. The even bigger shock that followed had been Odette’s firm conviction that Emmie should join her list of escorts and earn her keep that way. When Emmie had refused and had instead taken on waitressing work five nights a week, Odette had been furious and, even though Emmie was handing over every penny of her meagre earnings to her mother, Odette was still angry and dissatisfied with her daughter.
Perhaps the most upsetting experience of all for Emmie had been the dawning awareness that her mother didn’t love her, cherished no fond wish to get to know her better and certainly didn’t regret having left her to her sister’s care at twelve years old. That learning curve had been steep and painful and had made Emmie appreciate that she had gone to live with her mother in the hope of reviving a relationship that had only ever existed in her own imagination. Sadly, Odette was not the maternal type. Her children were simply the by-products of relationships that had gone wrong and it honestly seemed as though Odette had never managed to form an attachment to any of her daughters.
‘Ah, Marie…’ a familiar dark accented drawl pronounced from the doorway. ‘The meeting is about to start. Emmie can take the minutes for us.’
Emmie spun round, faint colour blooming in her cheeks as she focused on Bastian Christou’s tall powerful frame. The Greek entrepreneur was a popular choice for profiles in leading business publications and she had read all about him long before she came to work for him. He took a brilliant photograph but was even more eye-catching in the flesh, where his height and breadth and the gleaming luxuriance of the ruthlessly cropped black hair that framed his lean, darkly handsome features were disturbingly noticeable even in a crowd. Of course he was taller than most men, something Emmie tended to notice because she was five feet nine inches tall but he topped her by a comfortable six inches. In truth he had the charisma and looks that no woman could ignore, added to a sun-kissed complexion the shade of dulled gold and the perfectly formed features of a fallen angel. His mother, she had read, had been a famous Italian film star and he looked exactly like her, right down to the burnished dark eyes that were currently engaged in roaming over her as though she were edible and he were starving. Startled by that analogy and the intensity of his continuing appraisal, Emmie tensed and jerked her chin up while throwing him a look of frowning enquiry, for he had never looked at her in that way before. Perhaps his reaction was an illustration of the strange mood that Marie had warned her that her boss was in, doubtless fallout from the broken engagement that nobody had yet dared to mention in his presence, she reasoned uncertainly.
‘Of course,’ Marie responded equably. A slender, efficient brunette in her early forties, she rose from her seat to follow her boss back out of the office.
Bastian surveyed his quarry, Emmie, and wondered what her first smile would look like. He was accustomed to women smiling at him, not at all accustomed to one scowling and challenging him with her head tilted at a scornfully unimpressed angle. Yet there was something familiar about her, some quality that nagged at him, making him feel that he must have seen her or met her before somewhere. That niggling awareness irritated him, for he was well aware that she did not move in his social circles but indeed hailed from some hayseed background in the north. Unless, of course, he thought abruptly, he had previously come across her when she was acting as an escort to someone he knew…Now that was a genuine possibility, he acknowledged with distaste, wondering what on earth she was doing getting involved in such a seedy way of life at her age. Or was he being naïve? Beautiful women could reap rich rewards and an enviable lifestyle from such pursuits. Indeed if she was to meet the right rich man and marry him, she could set herself up for life.
Bastian had learned at a young age that most such women used their beauty like a commodity, expecting it to work for them and win them special treatment. His own mother had belonged to that group. Why should Emmie Marshall be any different? He watched her take notes during the meeting, noting the faint dark shadows circling her eyes and the translucent quality of her skin. He did not think he had ever seen skin that perfect on anyone other than a child. She propped her chin on an upturned hand, head at a slant that defined her slender neck and delicate jawline. A fine strand of corn-gold hair had escaped from her ponytail to trail across her cheekbone. He marvelled that he hadn’t noticed the quality of her looks sooner. But then the loose shirts and trailing mid-length skirts she wore with the specs provided an off-putting disguise and the attention had to linger to note that soft, full pink mouth with its delicious pout and very slight hint of an overbite, and appreciate that the eyes behind the unattractive spectacles were a truly dazzling bright blue. In some astonishment, Bastian registered that he was developing a hard-on while he imagined those pillowy lips pouting just for his benefit. And for how many others had she performed that arousing trick as part of her escort duties? he asked himself grimly, squashing his arousal at source, for while he never bedded innocents he had an innate aversion to sex being traded for a price. And he already knew what her price was, didn’t he?
‘Emerald’s rarely available. She’s very much in demand,’ the voice at the other end of the phone had informed him smoothly when he phoned the escort agency. ‘I can offer you Jasmine or—’
‘It has to be Emerald,’ he had countered. ‘She’s the only one I want. I’ll make it very well worth her while to choose me as a client.’
And then Bastian had negotiated, a skill at which he excelled, and he had learned once again—had he ever doubted it?—that for the right price he could have anything he wanted, including the rarely available and already fully booked Emerald currently falling asleep across the table from him. He had bought her services for the weekend and he had paid an enormous price for the privilege. It amused him that she evidently had not the slightest idea of the fact and yet he marvelled that any woman could so irresponsibly sell her time and attention to strangers, who might abuse her trust. Her curling lashes were down on her cheekbones, her slim shoulders drooping as she sank lower into her seat. He stretched out a long leg below the table, found her feet and nudged them sharply with the toe of one shoe. She jolted awake again, her wide startled blue eyes flying straight to him in dismay, her full lips parting, cheeks reddening with embarrassment. He wondered who she had entertained the night before and whether sex had figured. Nine out of ten men would expect sex for what he had paid for her services. He wondered how she would feel about that and how he felt about that…no, never, no way was he going there, he thought in disgust.
Emmie collided slap-bang-crash with smouldering dark golden eyes that reminded her of a tiger’s eyes and that fast her ability to breathe vanished while a humming warmth prickled and then pulsed between her legs. Shock rippled through her in reaction to that sexual response, for it had been a long time since she had felt like that. Emmie was wary and seldom reacted