A hunger for the forbidden
Even before he strides into Rose's London shop, billionaire restaurateur Gene Bonnaire's merciless and seductive reputation precedes him. Antiques dealer Rose Heathcote has encountered men like him before and is determined never to give in to one again!
Charismatic Gene always gets what he wants, and what he wants now is Rose's shop space for his new restaurantand its current alluring owner in his bed! Securing the shop will be easy; Rose can't deny the benefits of his business offer. But seducing this defiant beauty will be more of a challenge and Rose stands to be his greatest acquisition yet!
Seven Sexy SinsThe true taste of temptation!
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Read an Excerpt
Rose was standing by the window, mesmerised by the steady rain that hadn't let up all morning, when a gleaming black Mercedes drew up in front of the antiques shop and effortlessly glided to a stop.
It was just like a scene from a movie and she was immediately riveted. Inside her chest her heart thumped hard, because she knew it was the visitor she'd nervously been anticipating Eugene Bonnaire.
Even the name gave her chills. He was one of the country's wealthiest restaurateurs, with an uncompromising reputation for getting what he wanted, and when Rose's boss, Philip, had put the beautiful Thames-side antiques shop he owned up for sale the businessman had wasted no time in declaring his interest.
Not for the first time that morning she wished Philip could be there alongside her, but sadly his already failing health had deteriorated and he was now in hospital. In his absence, he had asked Rose to handle the property's sale on his behalf.
The responsibility was a bittersweet one. Not just because he was ill, and she feared he might not recover, but because she'd nurtured a secret hope to take over the business herself one day. Having spent ten enjoyable years working with Philip, and training as a dealer, she'd honestly grown to love the place. Consequently, she wasn't predisposed to warming to their potential buyer.
Her first glimpse of the man, after his chauffeur had opened his door and he'd stepped out into the rain, was of a pair of classy Italian brogues, followed by a flawless charcoal suit that was no less than stunningly perfect. Rose caught her breath. As soon as she saw his arrestingly sculpted features, the cut-glass jaw and crystalline blue eyes that were frequently described by the press as 'unflinchingly piercing', she had the disturbing sense that she was coming face to face with her greatest fear andinexplicablyher greatest desire
She irritably chided herself for the thought. Snapping out of the near trance she'd fallen into watching him, she smoothed her hands down her smart navy dress and made herself walk calmly to the door. It was then she saw that the businessman's height dwarfed hers.
Lifting her head to gaze up at him, she said, 'Eugene Bonnaire? Please come in. I'm Mr Houghton's assistantRose Heathcote. I've been asked to conduct the meeting with you on Mr Houghton's behalf.'
The handsome Frenchman stepped inside. Charmingly polite, he shook Rose's hand with a slight bow of his head and she immediately sensed the reined-in strength he exuded.
'I am delighted to meet you, Miss Heathcote. But I have to confess I was sorry to hear that your boss has been taken ill. Might I ask how he is?'
Before answering, Rose pulled the door shut behind him and adjusted the sign that hung inside the glass to read 'closed'. She was glad of the chance to compose herself before she turned round again. Not only had his firm handshake made her far too aware of him as a man, but the deep bass timbre of his arrestingly attractive voice made her skin feel as though he'd brushed it with gossamer. She prayed that the blood that had heatedly rushed into her face didn't too obviously reveal the fact.
'I wish I could say he was a little better, but the doctors tell me it's going to be a while before we see any improvement.'
'C'est la vie. It is the way of things but I wish him well.'
'Thank you. I'll tell him you said so. Anyway, would you like to come with me into the office, Mr Bonnaire, and we can start our meeting?'
'Before we discuss anything I would like you to show me round the building, Miss Heathcote. After all, that is the reason I am here.'
Although there was a faultlessly charming smile on his lips to accompany this statement, Rose realised that here was a man who wouldn't be diverted by small talk, however polite and concerned. Nothing would take precedence over pursuing his goals, and his goal today was clearly deciding whether he wanted to buy the antiques shop or not.
'Of course,' she replied. 'It will be my pleasure.'
Rose led him upstairs to one of the three spacious rooms that, although elegantly arranged, were stacked to the rafters with a mixture of antiques and collectables. The air smelled faintly musty because there was a generous amount of furniture on display, although it was tempered somewhat by the scent of beeswax.
While the sound of the rain against the leaded windows made for a cosy ambience it was a little chilly too, and the dress she wore was sleeveless. Wishing she'd collected her cardigan from the office, she briskly rubbed her arms to warm them.
'The rooms are generously sized, considering it's such an old building,' she remarked, 'which is why we can house so many antiques. I hope you like what you see, Mr Bonnaire.'
Looking faintly amused, her visitor lifted his gaze.
Rose privately attested to spending the most electrifying few seconds of her life as her glance met his. It struck her that she could have chosen her words better. Not in a million years would she invite a man like Eugene Bonnaire to look at her. Did he think that she would? He had a reputation for liking exceptionally beautiful women, and Rose knew she was a long way from being in that particular category.
'So far I like what I see very much, Miss Heath-cote,' he answered, not moving his gaze.
Now she really did feel hot and bothered. 'I'm I'm glad. Take as much time as you want, looking over things.'
'Trust me, I will do exactly that.' 'Good.'
Hastily averting her glance, she crossed her arms over her chest, not wanting to draw any more attention. But it wasn't long before she found herself surreptitiously observing him as he walked round, his keen-eyed gaze carefully examining the layout and proportions of the room, every so often dropping down into a crouch to examine the durability and condition of the timbered walls and crevices. It was fascinating to watch him stroking his large but slim hands over the wood and occasionally tapping it with his knuckles.
Whilst Rose understood that it was important the man knew what he would be getting for his investment, he didn't give the impression that the room's contents interested him at all, and she began to be concerned. Philip had told her it was imperative he sell the business as a going concern, because his poor health meant that he now had to retire, as well as pay for his aftercare when he left the hospital.
He had added sadly, 'I'm afraid that pensions aren't worth a light these days '
The weight of the responsibility she'd taken on in agreeing to make the sale for him hit Rose even harder.
She was still frowning when the preoccupied Frenchman pivoted and remarked, 'Forgive me, but I saw you shiver a couple of times. Are you cold? Perhaps you'd like to go and get your jacket, Rose?'
Even as he asked another small shiver ran up her spine. But it wasn't due to the less than comfortable temperature it was because it had sounded disturbingly intimate when he'd used her name.
Last night, ahead of her interview with him, she had looked up Eugene Bonnaire on the internet, and as well as reading about the numerous plaudits he had earned in his career thus far she had also learned that he could be quite ruthless in his dealings and had an insatiable appetite for success. He was cited as a man who went after the very best of everything, no matter what the cost, and his penchant for stunning women suggested he was quite the playboy.
Rose knew she couldn't afford to let her guard down round him for an instant. She didn't want to be persuaded to agree to the sale of the business against her better judgement just because he was so attractive.
Deciding that she couldn't and wouldn't let that hap-penshe knew from bitter experience the danger that men like him could poseshe unwaveringly returned his gaze and said, 'I think I will go and get my cardigan. If you want to look at the other rooms on this floor, be my guest. I'll be back in a minute.'
With a polite but inarguably knowing nod, Eugene Bonnaire glanced away.
A short while later she returned upstairs to find that he'd gone into the furthest room at the back. This was where the more valuable items were displayed and where jewellery was housed behind secure custom-made glass cabinets. Much to Rose's surprise, she found Eugene staring transfixed into one of the cabinets and wondered if she'd misjudged him. Maybe he did admire some of the artefacts and maybe he would buy the business as well as the building?
She couldn't help but smile as she stepped up beside him, curious to see what he was examining so avidly.
When she saw that he was staring at the exquisite pearl and diamond ring from the nineteenth century that was the centrepiece of the display, her curiosity was even more piqued.
'It's pretty, isn't it?' she commented.
'Yes, it is. It looks very similar to the ring my father bought my mother when their business first started to take off.' He was lost in thought for a moment. Then, with a heartfelt sigh, he turned towards her. 'But the pearls and the diamonds weren't real. They were just costume jewellery He couldn't afford to buy her anything expensive back then.'
There was definitely a glimmer of pain in his eyes as he related this, and Rose found herself warming to him probably more than was wise, because he suddenly seemed oddly vulnerable.
'I'm sure your mum loved the ring just as much as if it were the genuine article. Surely it's what it represented, not how much it cost?' When Eugene failed to comment, and turned back to examine the jewel broodingly, she said softly, 'You might be interested to know that this ring was given to a girl who was a nurse in the Crimean War by the grateful family of a wounded soldier.'
His crystal blue gaze meandered interestedly across her features. Then he gazed deeply into her eyes. Rose's mouth went dry as a sun-bleached plain She was glad she was wearing her navy wool cardigan so he wouldn't see her shiver again.
'Every picture tells a story, so they say,' he mused. 'No doubt it's the same for jewellery. But let me ask you this: do you think the nurse who was gifted it was very pretty and the wounded soldier a handsome officer?'
The roguish twinkle that accompanied his question took her by surprise and all but made Rose's knees buckle. Flooded with heat, she congratulated herself on quickly regaining her equilibrium and not glancing away too soon. Instead, she made herself steadily hold his gaze and her lips curved in a gentle smile.
'Whether he was handsome or not, shortly after they met he died from his wounds. It's a terribly sad story, isn't it? Whether the two of them had feelings for each other we can only wonder, but the giving of the ring was documented in the soldier's family archives. That's how we were able to trace its provenance.'
'I am guessing that you like to imagine the couple did have feelings for each other, Rose.' Eugene's expression was suddenly intense.
Feeling strangely as if she was under siege, she shrugged. 'Why not? Who could begrudge them the little bit of happiness they may have had in the midst of such a terrible situation? But the truth is we'll never know what really happened.'
What Rose did know was that she had to engineer some space between her and Eugene. She might at one point have felt a chill, but now she was definitely warmer. too warm.
'If you've finished having a look round up here we should go downstairs and have that meeting don't you think?'
'I agree. Perhaps you could make us some coffee?'
'Of course How do you take it?'
'How do you think I might take it, Rose? Humour me.'
If his tactic was to disarm her and lull her into a false sense of security because he'd decided to be playful, Rose couldn't deny that on another day she might have succumbed to his charm. After all, what woman wouldn't feel flattered by his exclusive attention? But today she wouldn't be so easily swayed. Not when she had an important task to fulfil. She had to sell the antiques shop on her boss's behalf and secure the very best deal she could. Nothing could distract her from that goal.
Leading the way back downstairs, in an attempt to let Eugene see that she wasn't rattled by his friendly repartee, she breezily threw over her shoulder, 'Okay, then. I'm guessing you probably like it strong and black. But I'm also guessing you like a couple of spoons of sugar to sweeten it. Am I right?'
'I'm impressed. But be careful not to assume you know what I like in any other respect, Rose. You might find that you've bitten off a little bit more than you can chew.'
Even though she'd heard a smile in his voice, Rose didn't doubt the comment carried a warning. No man became as successful as Eugene Bonnaire without carefully assessing anyone who might put obstacles in the way of him getting what he wanted.
When she returned to the office with the tray of coffee she'd made Eugene had his back to her, and she couldn't help but let her gaze linger for a moment on the impressive breadth of his shoulders. In the better lit room she also saw that his hair was a rich dark brown, with dulled gold lights glinting here and there.
As if that wasn't enough to capture her attention, the scent of his classy cologne drifted beguilingly on the air and made her insides turn over. With the tip of her tongue she moistened her suddenly dry lips and placed the tray on the gracious Victorian desk in front of him. Then she walked round to the beautifully carved chair that her boss usually occupied.
Coming face to face with Eugene's features again was not something any woman with a pulse would soon forget He was chisel-jawed and handsome as a Michelangelo sculpture. But she was perturbed when she saw that his dazzling blue eyes didn't seem as warm as they had upstairs, when she'd met his gaze over the jewellery cabinet and he'd shared that touching story about the fake pearl and diamond ring his father had bought his mother.
In fact, as they swept over her they brought to mind a once sunlit ocean frozen under ice. A little alarmed, Rose sensed hot colour flooding into her cheeks. Was he assessing the way she looked?
Having never considered herself a beauty, she was painfully disconcerted at being scrutinised by the businessman so penetratingly. Friends had often remarked that her best features were her eyes and her cheekbones, but other than that she knew she was quite ordinary. Disturbed that she should waste even a second fretting over what the man's opinion of her might be her instinct was to be doubly wary of him.