Becoming Dante(6)

By: Day Leclaire



 “If you insist.”

 “I don’t insist. In fact, I don’t want to sleep with you or any other man.” Her carefully constructed façade cracked and passionate intensity lashed through her words, increasing his curiosity. “All I want is to satisfy my grandmother’s request.”

 “And all I want is Heart’s Desire. You were the one who suggested an engagement as a means to achieve our mutual goals.”

 “That doesn’t mean we have to—” She broke off, her lashes sweeping downward to conceal her expression. One of distaste, if he didn’t miss his guess.

 “I believe that’s something we’ll need to negotiate. And as you mentioned, I’m an expert negotiator.” He leaned in, his voice barely above a whisper, yet filled with dark demand. “You put yourself in my path. You possess something I want. Why act surprised when I take what you so foolishly dangle in front of me, even if it means you get more than you bargained for?”

 “That wasn’t my intent,” she protested. A hint of panic edged her words. “You know it wasn’t.”

 “But it is the result. Now we’re going somewhere private, somewhere we won’t be overheard or interrupted, and we’re going to figure out precisely what it will take to seal this devil’s bargain. Because nothing—not our engagement, not consummation of our engagement and definitely not my late wife’s infamous cousin—will stand in the way of my getting that necklace. Are we clear?”

 Kat’s uneven breathing shattered the sudden silence between them and her creamy complexion grew stark. She stared at him, her brilliant eyes dark with frustration. He expected her to cave. She didn’t. Somehow she found the presence to gather her self-control and confront him with a look of total defiance. “No man tells me what to do. Not even my future fiancé.”

 In that moment Gabe realized he would do whatever it took to have this woman, regardless of who and what he knew her to be. How was that possible? His late wife had gone into explicit detail about her notorious cousin. He’d witnessed Kat’s fall from grace with his own eyes. She was precisely the sort of woman he avoided at all costs. He attempted to put his attraction down to the superficial resemblance between the cousins—both fine-boned and sable-haired. But Jessa had possessed eyes as black as ink, her hair equally so, lacking that hint of fire buried deep within the dark strands. And her features were cheerleader pretty versus elegantly stunning. She’d also lacked the womanly curves that gave Kat’s Dior suit such eye-catching definition. In addition, his late wife’s sweet, compliant personality couldn’t have been any more dissimilar from her cousin’s prickly defiance. Not that who—or what—this woman was made the least difference. Only one thing mattered to him and nothing would come between him and his Heart’s

Desire.

 “If you want to squirm your way back into Matilda’s good graces as much as I want my family’s necklace, you’ll do whatever is required. And if that means a legally consummated agreement, than that’s what you’ll do.” She started to protest and he cut her off without compunction. “Anything you have to say can be said in a more private setting than this.”

 “But—”

 “Not. Here.”

 She folded her arms across her chest. “Well, I’m not going to your place. So, it looks like it’ll have to be your office, or nowhere.”

 “Fine. If you want to do it in my office, my office it is. Just let me lock the door and we can get this over with. Which do you prefer, desk or couch?”

 She backed up a telling step. “Neither.”

 “Then I suggest we go somewhere private in order to discuss the situation. And that would be my place. It has the added advantage of giving the impression that my future wife has just flown in from overseas and we can’t wait to be alone to...consummate our engagement.”

 “Which I have no intention of doing,” she shot back.

 He gestured toward the door. “Shall we?” She hesitated and he fought for patience. “By all means stand up for yourself. But I suggest you choose your battles. Fighting over every single issue is going to be exhausting, and frankly, it’s pointless. If we can’t agree on something as simple as where to hold our discussion, we might as well put an end to this farce right now.”

 “Fine. We’ll go to your place. But all we’ll be doing is talking.”

 “An excellent place to start.”

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