Shackled by Diamonds

By: Julia James

CHAPTER ONE




LEO MAKARIOS paused in the shadows at the top of the flight of wide stairs leading down to the vast hall of Schloss Edelstein, one hand curved around the newel post of the massive carved wood banister, his powerful physique relaxing as he surveyed the arc-lit scene below with a sense of satisfaction.

Justin had chosen well. The four girls really were exquisite.

He stood a moment, looking them over.

The blonde caught his eye first, but despite her remarkable beauty she was too thin for his tastes, her pose too tense. He had no patience with neurotic women. The brunette beside her wasn’t too thin, but for all her glorious swathe of chestnut hair her expression was vacant. Leo’s gaze moved on. Unintelligent women irritated him.

The redhead’s pre-Raphaelite looks were stunning indeed, but they had, Leo knew, already caught the attention of his cousin Markos, under whose protection the girl was living. His gaze moved on again to the final girl.

And stopped.

His eyes narrowed, taking in the picture she made.

The hair was sable. As black as night.

The skin was white. As pale as ivory.

And the eyes were green.

As green as the emeralds she was wearing.

Wearing with an air of such total boredom that a sudden shaft of anger went through him. What business had any female to look bored when wearing a Levantsky necklace? Did she not realise what a miracle of the jeweller’s art the necklace was? And the earrings and the bracelets and the rings she was adorned with?

Evidently not. Even as he watched her lips pressed together and she gave a conspicuously heavy sigh, placing one hand on her hip and very obviously shifting her weight from one leg to the other beneath her long skirts.

Leo stilled, the anger draining out of him. As she’d given that heavy sigh her breasts had lifted. Already lush from the tightly corseted black gown she was wearing, the movement had made their soft dove-white mounds swell delectably.

Through Leo’s lean, powerful frame a familiar and pleasurable sensation started.

So the sable-haired, green-eyed beauty was bored, was she?

Well, he would be happy to remedy that.

Personally.

He started to walk down the stairs.



Anna felt her mood worsening. What was the hold-up now? Tonio Embrutti had gone into a huddle with his assistants, and she could hear the static hiss of vituperative Italian. She gave another sigh, feeling the low-cut décolletage digging in. She hated wearing it—it was far too revealing, and it invited the usual sleazy male attention she tried to avoid.

Her lips pressed together again. Mentally she forced herself to go through one of her karate katas. It both calmed her and reassured her, knowing she could fight off any physical harassment—even if she couldn’t stop men leering over her.

She shifted her weight again minutely in the heavy dress. Modelling wasn’t as easy as people thought it was, and she could tell that the two amateurs here—Kate and Vanessa—were finding it hard and tiring. Anna’s eyes travelled to them. The brunette, Kate, looked vacant without her lenses in—but at least, thought Anna, it meant she couldn’t see the lecherous looks aimed at her. The redhead, Vanessa, had other protection—word had gone round that her boyfriend was the cousin of the guy who’d set up this shindig and owned this medieval mansion. Though why, Anna mused, a Greek should own a castle in the Austrian Alps was beyond her. Maybe he just wanted to be close to the private Swiss bank he kept his loot in.

He certainly had a whole load of cash, that was for sure. Schloss Edelstein was vast, perched halfway up a mountain and surrounded by forests and snowfields.

Anna’s bored expression lightened suddenly with remembered pleasure. The view from her bedroom was breathtaking: sunlight sparkling on the pristine snow, down to the frozen lake below, ringed by mountains. Very different from the view of the gasworks she’d had when she was growing up.

But then Anna had been lucky, she knew—spectacularly lucky.

Spotted in a shopping mall when she was eighteen by a scout for a modelling agency, she’d been incredibly suspicious at first. But the offer had proved genuine. Not that it hadn’t taken non-stop hard work to succeed at modelling. Now, even though she was not in the supermodel bracket, and at twenty-six was already facing up to her limited remaining shelf-life, she made a living that was light-years away from what she’d been born to.

She’d learned a lot along the way. Not just how the other half lived—which had opened her eyes big-time—but about how to survive in one of the toughest careers around. And do it without letting the slime get to you.

Because slime, she had swiftly discovered, was a big, big feature of a fashion model’s world. Some of the girls, she knew, did every drug they could, and slept with every man who could help their career. And a lot of the men in the fashion world weren’t any better either.

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