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The Seduction Bid
By Amanda Browning
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneKARI MAITLAND was so hopping mad, she was ready to spit nails. The cause of this fury was an article printed in the newspaper presently crumpled in the tense grip of her right hand. The selfsame newspaper whose offices she now strode through so purposefully. The angry rat-tat-tat of her stilettos on the linoleum floor was an audible measure of the tempest brewing inside her. Heads would roll, or she would want to know the reason why.
Oblivious to the sudden silence her entrance generated, along with the raised heads and frozen figures of the staff, she cut a swathe through to the office which was her goal. Nobody attempted to stop her, for to a man they held the conviction that, had they tried, she could have hurled them clear across the cluttered room. Dressed though she was in a fashionably styled sapphire-blue suit, she looked like nothing so much as an avenging angel.
Not in the least interested in the impression she was creating, Kari fixed her eye firmly on the male figure she could see through the window of the door. Lounging in the chair behind the desk, he had his feet propped comfortably on the window sill. The sight aggravated her to no end. She had found her friend Sarah in tears because of this man, and he couldn't care less about the mayhem he had caused!
Poor Sarah had worked so hard to put the scandal her father had created behind her. Now that she had made something of her life, and found a man she could love and trust, the editor of this ... scandal-sheet had seen fit to resurrect it all again!
Anger tightened her face as she thought of her friend, but that couldn't hide the sheer stunning beauty of it. Today her blonde hair was caught back in an intricate plait which showed her swan neck to perfection. She had a fine English rose complexion which she had inherited from her mother. The translucent porcelain skin, tinged with just a hint of damask, was stretched over cheek-bones which were fine to the point of fragility. Her eyes, long-lashed and deeply blue, generally greeted the world with genuine warmth, and her mouth was a gentle curve which easily tilted into a smile.
Not today, however. The only emotion in her eyes was a fulminating anger. She thought of Sarah, and her lips tightened. Arriving at her friend's apartment for their weekly get-together over lunch, it hadn't taken Kari more than one glance to know her friend was upset, and scarcely more time to discover why. That damned article. Typically, Sarah hadn't wanted to make a fuss, but Kari couldn't let it go. Somebody had to be taken to task, and she was just the person to see that they were.
Having reached the office unopposed, she didn't bother to knock but sailed right in. From this vantage point she could see that the man at the desk had his eyes shut, and she spared a second to study him. He was an unedifying sight. His thick dark hair was an unruly mess, and he was wearing what appeared to be a dress suit. A slept-in dress suit, if she wasn't much mistaken. Her original anger was instantly bolstered by scorn, and without a qualm she slammed the door shut.
'What the hell?'
Lance Kersee came awake with a jerk that sent a jolt of pain shooting through the roof of his skull. His head shot round. Bloodshot grey eyes blinked open and locked blearily onto the face of a Botticelli angel. He frowned. Correction, a very angry Botticelli angel who looked as if there was a very nasty smell in the room, and it was emanating from him. Not exactly the sort of reaction he was used to getting from women - they generally wanted to get to know him better. Notwithstanding, he responded instinctively, giving her the once-over with a practised eye. She was taller than average, about five feet eight or nine barefoot, and curved in all the right places. There was a classy, refined look about her that hinted at old money. Without doubt she was the most stunning woman he had seen for a long while, and those legs ... Hell, they just kept on going. His interest was instantly aroused, until he connected with her expression again, then he winced, closing his eyes. Great, just what he needed in his condition. A golden-haired virago breathing fire at him!
Damn, but he could do with some coffee! He'd been forced to take the red-eye because he had missed the flight he had intended to catch, and the result was every bit as bad as he had expected. Now this ... Ordinarily, he would have done his best to soothe her anger and find out what was going on, but having had very little sleep in the last forty-eight hours he was in no mood to be charming.
'Have you ever heard of knocking and waiting to be invited in? Or is that only for the hoi polloi?' he growled, rubbing a hand over his eyes and wishing they didn't feel as if they had a ton of grit in each of them.
Kari observed these signs of frailty unmoved, and tossed the mangled newspaper down onto the desk with all the force of her anger. 'I presume you're the editor of this rag,' she said in a voice cold enough to freeze water from twenty paces.
Lance frowned at her, and instantly regretted even that small movement. Damn it, there had to be some aspirin around here somewhere - if he dared move to search for it. With more care he looked from her to the door with its declaration that the occupant of this room was the editor. Which it would have been had his cousin been present. Lance was only making use of it in his absence.
He was actually a financial expert, a troubleshooter who was called in to save businesses both small and large. Sometimes by ruthless measures, and sometimes by a little judicial tweaking. He had developed quite a reputation over the years for his high success rate. He was in Maine to have dinner with an old friend, and had taken the opportunity to drop in to see Nick on his way north. Unfortunately Nick had had to attend a meeting, so while Lance waited for him to return he had taken the opportunity to sleep off some of his jet lag.
None of which this angry beauty was aware of. She had made a reasonable assumption, but a wrong one. He knew he ought to put her straight before she went any further, but a spark of devilment kept him from correcting her. He justified this lack of courtesy easily. She'd burst in without a by-your-leave, so she could just stew for a while longer. He'd tell her in his own good time.
'You can presume what you damned well please, so long as you do it quietly,' he told her shortly, and watched her cross her arms. He'd just bet she was tapping an elegantly shod foot, too. She certainly was a passionate creature. It was a shame she didn't channel it into something infinitely more pleasurable - something the two of them could enjoy.
Excerpted from The Seduction Bid by Amanda Browning Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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