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He stood a good four inches above the older man who stood faithfully by his side, and whilst his voice was cool and low pitched it had a timbre that made Sadie shiver sensually, as though a soft, scented velvet glove had been slowly stroked over her bare skin.
Trapped where she was by the sudden surge of people trying to move down the narrow tented corridor that led from one part of the trade fair to another, Sadie wobbled perilously on her unfamiliar high heels - the shoes, like the heavy make-up, were her cousin Raoul's idea - and found herself being inexorably pushed closer to the arrogant stranger. So close, in fact, that she could have put out her hand and touched him. Not that she had any intention or desire to do such a thing. Had she? Wasn't she secretly thinking ... wanting ...? Frantically Sadie made agrab for her reckless thoughts.
He, the man she was tensing her body into denying its reaction to, had lifted his hand to look at his watch, its fingers lean, tanned, the nails neatly cut and clean, but still very masculine. It was a hand that belonged to a man who was fully capable of dealing competently with any number of manual tasks, whilst the suit he was wearing clearly identified that he was equally capable of writing a cheque to pay someone else to do them!
Oh, yes, he would be very good at writing cheques, Sadie decided. He had that kind of arrogance. A wealthy man's arrogance. It was there in the cool look of hauteur he was slanting over her; a slow, thorough visual inspection that was a disturbing combination of sensuality and slicing assessment.
Another rough push as someone else fought their way through the tightly packed crowd almost sent Sadie straight into him, so that their bodies might have meshed in a shared physical exchange that would sting her blood and stop her breath.
What was the matter with her? Why should she feel so alarmed, so unnerved, so ... affected by the knowledge that beneath the cool silk mohair of the immaculate suit he was wearing surely lay a body that was all raw masculinity, solid hard muscle and sinew, all ...?
Immediately Sadie froze, pushing away her unwanted and disruptive thoughts.
Irritated with herself and her uncontrollable reaction to him, she seized the opportunity provided by the thinning of the crowd and made herself walk away.
Hot-faced, she hurried back down the corridor in search of her cousin Raoul.
"Come here, Sadie, and let the guys get a whiff of our scent."
Stony-faced, Sadie turned to face her cousin and co-director.
She was still furious with Raoul for the trick he had pulled on her this morning, in persuading her to wear the perfume house's current scent. This was a scent created in Raoul's father's time - when he had briefly managed the small family-owned business. And even she was more annoyed with herself, for being gullible enough to fall for it. She should have listened to her own instincts and refused to go along with Raoul's plans the moment she had smelled the appalling concoction which was now offending her own olfactory senses! Instead, she had given in to a bout of sentiment and told herself that she wanted to do everything she possibly could to mend the breach in their family!
She had assumed that she was simply going to accompany Raoul to the trade fair. But Raoul had other ideas! The clothes, the make-up and the 'big' hairstyle he had bullied her into were bad enough, and just not 'her' at all, but she had bitten on her lip and given in - in the interests of cousinly harmony. But, oh, how she wished now she had not done so!
For the last few interminable hours she had been subject to a barrage of leering looks, suggestive remarks and totally unwanted physical intimacies from the would-be male buyers Raoul had persisted in inviting to sample the perfume she was wearing on her skin!
She loathed the scent. It was everything that Sadie detested most about modern synthetic-based perfumes, completely lacking in character and subtlety, with no staying power, and thin and cold where a perfume should be rich and warm, lingering on the senses like good chocolate or a lover's caress. And, even worse, this perfume had a brashness about it, a sexuality - there was really no other word - that Sadie personally found so loathsome that she now actually had a nauseating headache from wearing it!
"That's it. I've had enough. I'm going back to the hotel right now!' Sadie told her cousin grimly, as she evaded the unwelcome attentions of the red-faced overweight buyer who had been trying to nuzzle the side of her throat.
"What's wrong?' Raoul demanded, grinning slyly at her.
"What's wrong?' Sadie took a deep breath.
Eighteen months ago, on the death of her much loved maternal grandmother, Sadie had inherited a thirty per cent shareholding in the small prestigious French perfume house of Francine, which had been in her grandmother's family for several generations, along with the secret recipe for what had been the house's most famous scent.
Her awareness of the rift that had existed between her grandmother and her brother, Sadie's great-uncle and Raoul's grandfather, which had caused her grandmother to distance herself from the business and take no part in it, had initially coloured Sadie's reaction to her inheritance. But Raoul, who owned the remaining shares in the business, had invited her to heal the rift which had developed between the two branches of the family during her grandmother's time and not only take her place on the board but also put her skills as a perfumier to good use and work in the business.
But then she'd had no idea just how far from her own idealistic imaginings and dreams Raoul's plans for the business were!
Raoul, with his shrewd business acumen and lack of sentimentality, seemed determined to use every means he could to promote the perfume house, no matter how unsavoury or out of keeping with the house's history and traditions!
"What's wrong?' Sadie repeated furiously, her wide-set topaz eyes appearing pure gold with emotion. "Do you really need to ask me that, Raoul? Can't you see how this ... this publicity gimmick of yours is cheapening not just me but our perfumes as well? Do you really think that what I have just had to endure will encourage women to buy our scent? That by being pawed over by ... by -"
"By the world's most influential megastores' perfume buyers?' Raoul cut in, the humour gone from his voice and his face set.
"I don't care what you say, Raoul," Sadie told him.
"I'm going back to the hotel!"
Without giving him the opportunity to reopen the argument, she spun round on her heel and headed for the exit.
Excerpted from The Mistress Purchase by Penny Jordan Copyright © 2004 by Penny Jordan. Excerpted by permission.
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