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Seducing the Enemy
By Noelle Adams, Liz Pelletier, Ruth Homrighaus
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Noelle Adams
All rights reserved.
Marietta Edwards climbed out of a taxi and stared at the crowd of people hoping to get into the trendiest new dance club in Monte Carlo. The line meandered down the city block, occasionally spilling over the curb. "We're never going to get in."
"Sure we will," Anne replied, leaning over to pay the driver. "I know people. You're not going to get out of this so easily. We had an agreement. I pick out the man. You pick him up."
Marietta gave her friend an impatient look, disguising the knot of both excitement and fear in her belly. "I'm not trying to get out of it. I'm going to do this."
Anne had been a friend in the private school they'd both attended in Aix-en-Provence, but a few years ago Anne had moved to Monte Carlo to work as an assistant to a fashion designer. She was far more stylish and cosmopolitan than Marietta would ever be. "It's just about picking him up, though. You don't have to actually take him anywhere. Don't do anything that makes you uncomfortable."
"I'm not going to jump into bed with some random guy on a silly dare. But I want to do this. Just to prove I can move on."
She was twenty-five and done with an existence on the sidelines.
Anne led Marietta around the line of wannabe club-goers. The bouncer recognized Anne immediately and waved them past the rope, much to the chagrin of the well-dressed couple at the front of the line, who had probably been waiting hours to get inside.
The loud music slammed excitement into Marietta as they stood at the entrance. Every square foot of the dance floor was packed with gyrating bodies. The bar was barely visible beyond the crowd that surrounded it, and the shuddering strobe lights made the elegant, old-fashioned décor look bizarrely anachronistic.
A flare of panic sliced through her spine when she saw drinks in everyone's hands. She looked over at Anne with a silent question.
Anne understood. "The club is famous for a mixed drink called the Speakeasy. Almost everyone orders that, or else wine or champagne. There's not much beer served. I wouldn't have brought you here otherwise."
Relief unclenched Marietta's chest. All her life, she'd suffered from an inexplicable reaction to the smell and taste of beer. It made her ill. It made her panic. One of the reasons she'd never been much of a partier — even after she'd been able to walk again — was that she couldn't stand being around beer.
She squared her shoulders. No more living a quiet, sheltered life. Maybe it was natural — she'd been in a wheelchair for thirteen years after a car accident as a child, and she'd only started walking again two years ago. With the lawsuit against the Damons settled, it was time to go out and have fun, like other women her age.
She wanted to meet new people. Do new things.
She wanted to have sex.
Well, having sex tonight wasn't part of the plan, but she could take a first step and flirt with a stranger. The lights, the crowd, the music buoyed her with the thrill of freedom and promise of the night.
Anne had come up with the pick-up plan.
"Let's get a drink," Anne said, pulling Marietta by the arm as they entered the main room and maneuvered to the bar.
They stayed close to the wall, since there was no way to get through the press of bodies on the dance floor. In the confusion and the flashing lights, Marietta tripped on someone's foot, nearly falling on top of a man in a business suit who'd managed to snag the best of the few tables in the club.
She reached out to brace herself, clutching his shoulders and ending up almost in his lap.
The man muttered a surprised exclamation and grabbed her, either to keep her from hurting herself or to keep her from landing on the state-of- the-art tablet he'd been working on.
"Sorry," she gasped, half-laughing and half-embarrassed. She spoke in English instead of French, which she spoke as well, since that was the language the man had used.
"No problem." Even in the pulsing lights, she could see his eyes were an unusually soft chocolate brown color. The most beautiful eyes she'd ever seen. They flickered over her briefly but didn't linger.
Anne helped Marietta regain her feet and continued dragging her toward the bar.
Marietta's gaze returned to the man. He was tall and lean, with dark hair and a clean-cut, handsome face. He'd focused on his tablet again and had evidently forgotten her existence.
What the hell was he doing at a dance club if he was just going to work?
It took a while to get their drinks and then another few minutes to find a place to stand against the wall with a decent view of the floor. "Now," Anne said, loud enough to be heard over the music and roar of voices, "I'm going to find you a man to practice your charms on."
Marietta's attention strayed to the man she'd tripped over. There was something commanding, almost intimidating about him. As if he had some latent power beneath his fine body, expensive suit, and absolute composure.
Maybe it was just because he was working in such a strange setting, as if the noise and chaos all around didn't affect him.
She wondered what he'd be like in bed — if he'd turn all of that intense focus onto her.
"What about him?" Anne gestured toward a good-looking man on the dance floor. Women were obviously interested in him, since four of them danced in his space.
He seemed fine — attractive, in good shape, and not too flashily dressed — but he didn't capture her interest. Without thinking, she looked back to the man in the business suit.
Anne must have followed her eyes this time. "Whoa, ambitious, aren't you? He doesn't seem to be here to hook up. I wonder what he's doing here at all."
"I don't know."
"He looks kind of familiar. Maybe I know him."
After a minute, Anne shrugged. "Maybe not. So should he be the one? Since he doesn't look to be here for a hookup, it might be more of a challenge."
"I like a challenge." Marietta sounded confident, but she didn't feel that way. She'd never picked up a man in her life — certainly not one as handsome and untouchable as this one.
"All right then. He's the one. Do you want to go right at it? Or maybe dance first, to get your momentum going?"
"Yeah. Let's dance first. And let me finish my drink." Marietta's pulse raced, and her cheeks felt flushed. "How do I look?"
"You look great. Just fix your necklace so the clasp is at the back again."
Marietta adjusted her necklace and finished her drink with a couple more swallows. Her dress was short, strapless, and silvery-blue. Since the club was hyped for offering a "modern experience" in "old-world elegance," patrons only got in if dressed appropriately. Marietta had actually bought a new dress for the occasion.
"I look sexy enough?" she asked. Her dress showed more skin than was her habit, but she couldn't pull off stylish and sultry like Anne.
"Yeah," Anne replied, stretching out the word in a way that made Marietta stiffen.
"What? I'm not sexy?"
"Of course, you are. You look gorgeous. You just always have this ... I don't know ... innocent look about you."
Despite her indignation, she lowered her voice so no one would overhear. "I refuse to believe that people can tell I'm a virgin just by looking at me. I'm perfectly capable of seducing a man."
"It's not that at all. It's not about having sex. It's just a certain look you have. Like you haven't let the world mess you up. It's nothing bad, I promise. You look gorgeous and sexy and any man would be lucky to be seduced by you."
Marietta was still frowning when Anne pulled her out on the dance floor. She didn't have a past like most twenty-five-year-old women. Her older sister had been killed in the car accident, and Marietta had spent a lot of her life in a hospital, going through a series of surgeries to fix her spine. The final one had succeeded two years ago. Since then, she'd tried to get her legs back under her — figuratively and literally. She hiked, biked, and worked in her over-protective grandfather's restaurant.
She'd done nothing beyond kissing her high school boyfriend and when he went off to college, they'd broken up by mutual agreement.
It was a nice life, and a safe one.
But she wanted more.
Marietta danced with Anna, trying to let go of her inhibitions and enjoy the motion and the music. Her eyes drifted to the handsome man in the suit. He looked up from his tablet, and their eyes met unexpectedly.
Excitement tightened in Marietta's gut. She definitely wanted more. She wanted him.
* * *
Harrison Damon couldn't keep his eyes off the blonde who'd fallen on top of him.
There wasn't anything overtly extraordinary about her. In her twenties. Average height. Average size. Flattering but not particularly expensive clothes. Very pretty, but not unusually so.
There was something about her, though. Something he couldn't stop looking at. Something fresh, alive, warm, real. Not like the women he was used to. Not like Grace at all.
He tried to focus on his inspection report for the dance club, the newest of the Damon properties in Monaco. He hated inspecting nightclubs, since it needed to be done during peak operating hours and taking notes was nearly impossible in the whirl of noise, lights, and moving bodies. But one of the reasons Damon Enterprises had been so successful for the last forty years was because the Damons were very hands-on in the managing of their hotels, restaurants, pubs, and tearooms spread across four continents. Someone from the central office inspected every property shortly after it opened to ensure it was up to Damon standards.
Usually, that person was Harrison.
He had to be in Monaco anyway to finally end the legal mess with the Edwardses, so he'd taken care of this inspection at the same time.
The blonde was on the dance floor now with her friend, which gave him a very good view of her body. His eyes lingered on her bare legs, her hips, her breasts.
He was almost certain she hadn't known who he was.
Being a Damon — one of the four nephews and heirs of billionaire and corporate mogul Cyrus Damon — Harrison was used to being noticed. He wasn't a celebrity, and he wasn't accosted by paparazzi everywhere he went. Most people recognized his name, however, and many recognized him by sight, thanks to occasional photos in newspapers and on the web. Women who wanted him for the money, status, and lifestyle that came with the Damon name often hit on him. They "tripped" over him all the time as a conversation starter. His former fiancée, Grace, had engineered an accident that had broken her leg, all to maneuver him into marriage.
It had almost worked.
This blonde, however, had looked genuinely embarrassed rather than flirtatious when she fell, and she'd made no attempt to engage him afterward. The few times he'd met her eyes, he'd seen interest but not recognition.
Harrison's smartphone vibrated in his pocket, and he pulled it out to look at the text message. His brother Andrew, checking in.
Andrew had checked in a lot since Harrison's engagement to Grace was called off eight months ago. His brother worried that Harrison was nursing a broken heart.
He wasn't. He was angry and mortified but not broken-hearted. It hadn't taken him long to come to the conclusion he'd never loved Grace. He'd never really known her, since he hadn't realized she was a manipulative liar and gold-digger.
He'd humiliated himself and wasn't used to the feeling. He'd dragged his family and Damon Enterprises into the tabloids, where they already spent too much time, and he'd never do it again. All women weren't like Grace, but he was in no hurry to jump back into the dating scene. Instead, he'd laid low and concentrated on his job.
He texted Andrew that he was doing an inspection of the nightclub, but it was so loud he could barely think.
Andrew, predictably, asked if there were any hot women who'd caught his eye.
Instead of giving this question the cool silence it deserved, Harrison found himself replying, One.
He glanced up and saw the blonde watching him as she danced. For a moment, he couldn't look away. His body reacted to her sensual motion.
He'd seen beautiful women dance before and had never been so fascinated.
When his phone vibrated with another message, he saw Andrew's reply. Well, make a move.
I'm working. Harrison was trying to work, but not doing a very good job of it.
Can't you do both?
Harrison looked back at the blonde, who now stared at him with unabashed interest.
Maybe he could.
* * *
It took Marietta two drinks and twenty minutes of dancing before she summoned the courage to make her move.
Her heart pounded painfully, and she couldn't catch her breath — although that could be excused by the dancing.
Anne said, "You can do it, Etta. Seduce the hell out of him." Then she gave Marietta a friendly shove in the right direction.
The man had gone back to work on his tablet, but his eyes kept flickering up at her, so he was aware of her existence. The worst thing that could happen was that he'd laugh in her face.
Her sister had died. She'd been paralyzed for thirteen years. She could survive a man mocking her attempt to be sexy.
He almost smiled — the corners of his mouth twitching slightly — when she approached.
It encouraged her enough to take the empty seat at his table.
He looked at her, those gorgeous eyes conveying an amused question and something that looked like interest.
"Isn't this a strange place to work?" Marietta asked, nodding toward the tablet he still held. It was hard to sound sexy while screaming over the music.
"I've worked in stranger places."
Genuine curiosity distracted her from her attempt to show her allure. "Really? Where's the strangest place?"
He paused. "Maybe a fishing boat on the Amazon."
"Seriously? What were you even doing on the boat?"
"Sports fishing. My brother's idea."
"Did you catch anything good?"
"A twenty-eight-pound Peacock Bass."
Marietta knew nothing about fishing — on the Amazon or anywhere else — but she assumed this was a remarkable catch. The man didn't appear to be trying to impress her, since he'd spoken in a dry, matter-of-fact tone. His mouth still quirked with that suppressed amusement she found so appealing.
"So you work all the time, even at clubs and on exotic vacations?"
He chuckled low in his throat. "You could say that."
"What do you do?"
He gave her a strange look, somewhere between searching and suspicious.
"Shouldn't I have asked? Don't tell me you're a secret agent." Despite her light teasing tone, the inquiry was real. He was a puzzle she wanted to solve.
He laughed openly this time, breaking his cool composure. The warmth transformed his face in a way that made Marietta's breath hitch.
"Yes, that's right," he said. "You found me out. I'm a secret agent."
His voice was masculine and cultured, American with an occasional British inflection. She hazarded a guess. "An American agent who went to university in the U.K. Oxford?"
"Nice try, but no. You'll have to improve your secret-agenting skills."
"Maybe you can teach me. Is your target someone at the club? Who is it? Maybe I can help." She widened her eyes and tried to look awestruck.
Her reward was seeing him laugh again. "You don't think I'm going to blow my whole mission because you ask me to, do you? I'm a better spy than that, no matter how beautiful the interrogator."
She wished she could pull off the blasé demeanor so many women mastered, but felt herself blush at his compliment.
This man didn't seem to mind. His gaze rested on her face with a smolder of hot admiration that stimulated jittery excitement low in her belly.
She searched desperately for something to say — something as witty and fascinating as Anne might say — but ended up asking lamely, "Did you want to dance?"
He arched his dark eyebrows. "Do I look like I'm in a dancing mood?"
Now or never. She stood and grabbed his arm. "Maybe not. But your mood might change. Besides, you'll have a better vantage point for spying on your mysterious target."
He grinned and let her pull him to his feet. He nodded to someone and she realized he was signaling for the woman to save his table and watch his tablet.
The woman must work here. Maybe he worked here. Maybe he was someone important.
She gave up her attempt to figure it out once he eased her onto the dance floor. Instead of the usual disconnected dance gyrations, he put his hands on her hips and pulled her against him. Instinctively, she wrapped her arms around his neck, the whole length of her body pressed against his.
He was about six inches taller than her, and she had to tilt her head up to meet his eyes.
They were hot, deep, intense. Absolutely mesmerizing.
Excerpted from Seducing the Enemy by Noelle Adams, Liz Pelletier, Ruth Homrighaus. Copyright © 2013 Noelle Adams. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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