A Wager Most Wild
With businesses to conquer in Singapore and a centuries-old family heirloom to find in Scotland, investor James Drummond is no stranger to a challenge. But making the mysterious Fiona Lam his represents his riskiest power play yet. When he offers her the moon and stars, Fiona counters with a proposal of her owna bet, to be exact.
Winning a high-stakes horse race against James is Fiona's best chance at reclaiming her family's factory and her father's honor. Seducing James is just a means to that end until they end up in bed together! Then all bets are off .
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Her enemy was handsome. Slate-gray eyes, dark hair and aristocratic featuresevery inch the Scottish laird.
She shook his offered hand. "Nice to meet you. I'm Fiona Lam."
I know. She smiled sweetly. His handshake was firm and his skin cool to the touch. Her own hand suddenly felt hot and she struggled not to pull it back. The glitzy cocktail party hosted by an international bank hummed around them, bright young things in expensive suits meeting and greeting each other, but somehow they all faded into the background. "I'm new to Singapore. Just moved here from San Diego."
"Really?" One elegant eyebrow raised.
"I sold my first business and I'm looking around for new opportunities. Do you work here?"
"Sometimes." He still held her hand. Cheeky devil.
No wonder he had a reputation as a ladies' man. "I have a place in Scotland."
The grand estate she'd heard about. She didn't care about that. She did want her hand back, though. It was getting hotter, and an unpleasant tingling sensation had started to trickle up her arm. She gave a firm tug and he released her fingers with the ghost of a smile.
She tried not to shake out her hand. "I've heard Scotland's beautiful."
"If you like mist and heather." His steely gaze was totally unblinking. No wonder he intimidated his business rivals.
"I inherited them. Don't really need to have an opinion. Can I get you a drink?"
"Champagne." She sagged with relief as he turned to find a waiter. This guy was pretty intense. Which was fine. She didn't have to like him.
She just needed him to like her.
He returned with two bubbling glasses and handed her one. No one had warned her he was so good-looking. It was more than a little disconcerting. In her experience venture capitalists were usually men in their sixties with hair growing out of their ears. She sipped, then tried not to sneeze as the bubbles tickled the back of her throat. She wasn't a big fan of booze, but she wanted to look as if she fit into James Drummond's rarefied world.
He raised his sculpted chin. "What brings you to Singapore?"
"I'm looking into a couple of business opportunities." Again, his brow lifted. "I'm in business myself. What do you do?"
"I just sold a company that makes decals. Smileworks." The name usually made people smile. It made her smile and she was still sad to have sold it. But not sad about all the money she'd made on the deal.
"I read about the buyout. Congratulations. That was quite a coup."
The sparkle of interest in his eyes had intensified. She felt a tiny rush of poweror was it pleasure? "Thanks. It was fun building Smileworks but I'd taken it as far as I could."
"So what's next for you?" He leaned forward, clearly intrigued.
She shrugged, annoyed to notice that her nipples had tightened beneath her black cocktail dress and hoping he wouldn't notice. "Not sure yet. I'll have to see what sparks my imagination."
In his dark gray suit and dark gray tie, James Drum-mond was sparking her imagination in all kinds of undesirable directions. He was so buttoned down that the prospect of tearing off his crisp white shirt or running fevered fingers through his carefully combed hair seemed an intriguing challenge.
Was it wise to bed an enemy? Probably not, but a little flirtation couldn't hurt. She needed to gain his trust, then figure out how to buyor stealher father's factory back.
She managed another sip of the unfamiliar champagne. She had to stay focused. Her dad needed her and at last she could prove to him she cared. It wasn't her fault she'd grown up nine thousand miles away, calling another man Daddy. She hadn't planned the first two decades of her life but she was in charge of the rest and she intended to right some of the wrongs that had been committed against Walter Chen. Starting with the wrongs committed by one James Drummond.
They left the cocktail party together, and James's driver took them to Rain, the hottest new restaurant, where even he had to pull strings to get a reservation.
"This place is stunning. I had no idea Singapore had so much nightlife." She stared around at the minimalist decor with its cool green lighting. "Clearly, I need to get out more."
"Got to keep the worker bees happy or we'd all fly off somewhere else."
He sat opposite her, pleased by the surprise of having dinner with a beautiful woman who'd been in his life for only one hour. Fiona had his attention. Her company, Smileworks, had created an international splash with its funky graphics and new concepts for things to stick decals tolike walls. That she'd already sold it and banked more money than most people made in a lifetime was impressive.
And she was beautiful as well as smart, with dramatic dark eyes framed by slightly arched brows, and a full mouth that begged to be kissed. Her American accent had surprised him, and added to the layers of intrigue. She was exactly the kind of woman he could see himself marrying.
And he needed to marry.
The waiter gave them shiny black menus. He watched her eyelashes flick lower as she scanned hers. Then she looked up and transfixed him with those bright eyes. "What do you recommend?"
"I've heard it's all good, but I can lend my personal recommendation to the sea urchin."
Her eyes widened. "I had no idea those were edible."
The waiter showed him a bottle of his favorite wine and he nodded. When the waiter had filled their glasses and left, he leaned in. "Last time I had the pigeon. That was good, too. All depends on whether you want to eat creatures of land, sea or air."
She laughed. "How about a pond?"
"The duck is very tender." He smiled and lifted his glass to her. "And I expect they could even make pond weed taste good if they wanted."
"A little salt and pepper, saute it with garlic?" Humor sparkled in her lovely eyes. Then she raised her glass and took a sip. "That's some good wine."
A smile tugged at his mouth. "At four hundred dollars a bottle it should be. I like it."
"You spend more time in Singapore than Scotland?" She unfurled her napkin as she asked.
"I do. Scotland's not exactly an international business hub." Funny how she hadn't even asked him what he did yet. That was refreshing. Being new to Singapore, she obviously had no idea of his reputation, which was also a plus. It got tiresome explaining to people that you weren't a vulture, orlatelythat vultures played an important role in the circle of life. "You can work from anywhere these days. I do most of my work over the internet."
"I do, too, but nothing beats meeting people face-to-face." Fiona's face was lovely. Smooth skin with a radiant glow that contrasted with thick dark hair that swept to her shoulders. He wanted to run his fingers through that hair.
And if all went according to his current plan, he would.
"It's funny that you have a Scottish first name, when there's nothing Scottish about you."
She lifted her slim brow with a slightly defiant air.
"I do like plaid. I even bought a pair of plaid shoes the other day. What's Scottish about you?"
"Good question. I'm not sure anyone's ever asked it before. I'm probably the only person I've ever met who actually enjoys single malt whiskey."
She wrinkled her nose. "You're certainly the only one I've met. I tried it once and I won't be doing that again."
"I treat it with a healthy respect, myself, as it's killed a lot of my forebears."
"They were drinkers?"
"Drinkers, fighters, fast drivers, the type of men who go out looking for the end of a sword to run into."
Curiosity sparkled in her eyes, and stirred the arousal gathering low inside him. "And you're not like that?"
"I prefer to be holding the sword."
He expected a laugh, or at least a smile, but she simply seemed to consider his words for a moment. "I suppose that is a better position to be in. Are you afraid of ending up like your ancestors?"
"Can't say I am. Though I keep getting emails and letters from my American cousin who's decided it's her mission to save the Drummond family from an ancient curse by reuniting three parts of a lost chalice."
Her eyes widened. "A curse? Do you think there's anything to it?"
"I don't believe in that kind of nonsense. Hard work and common sense are the cure for most so-called curses I've heard about."
"You did say your ancestors kept wading into trouble." She raised a slim brow. "Maybe there's something to the legend. Where is the chalice supposed to be?"
"According to my cousin's last rather breathless email, she's already found two pieces. One was in the family home where she resides in New Yorkshe's a Drummond herself by marriageand the other was found in the ocean off an island in Florida, where it sank in a pirate ship three hundred years ago. She thinks the third piece was brought back to Scotland by one of my ancestors."
"How intriguing." She leaned forward, giving him a tantalizing whiff of her soft floral scent. "Are you going to look for it?"
Her obvious excitement stirred a trickle of interest in the idea. He'd almost forgotten about Katherine Drummond and her pleas for him to join in the hunt. He'd been so busy lately he couldn't remember if he'd even responded. "I don't know. Do you think I should?"
"Absolutely." Her eyes shone. "It's so romantic."
Romantic was good. He was already entertaining romantic thoughts about Fiona, whose black cocktail dress wrapped her slim, athletic figure like a glass around a shot of single malt. "She's convinced the third part of the cup is hidden somewhere on my Scottish estate. She's even offered a reward for the person who finds it. I've had to hire security to keep treasure hunters from digging up the lawns and climbing the battlements."
She laughed. "And you've never looked for it at all?"
"Nope. I know easier ways to earn a few thousand dollars."
"But it sounds like an adventure." Fiona glowed, and he found his own body temperature rising in response. He resisted the urge to loosen his collar, which suddenly felt tight. "I think you should search for it. Who knows what fabulous things might happen if you find the missing piece and put the chalice back together?"
"My life is pretty good right now."
"I bet there's at least one aspect of it that could be improved."
I do need a wife. He certainly wasn't going to tell her that. Singapore's conservative culture frowned on a man who was thirty-six years old and still playing the field. It was beginning to affect business. He'd been turned down by a potential partner in a very compelling project who let him know he didn't approve of his lifestyle.
Lifestyle? Just because he liked to mind his own business and control his own destiny didn't make him a womanizer. On the other hand, even serial monogamy began to look a bit flaky after nearly twenty years of dating, simply because of the sheer number of women involved.
There was no shortage of women ready, willing and able to marry him. They usually threw themselves at him once they got wind of the Scottish estate or the millions in investments. What he needed was a cool-headed and congenial business partner. Someone he could trust in the kind of legally binding contractual situation that modern marriage really was.
Someoneperhapslike Fiona Lam.
She licked a droplet of champagne from her upper lip, sending a surge of heat crashing through him. Breathing deep, he shrugged out of his jacket. Fiona was a very attractive woman, and her high intelligence was even more of a turn-on than her lush lips or shapely legs.
"Or maybe I'm wrong?" She leaned back in her chair, eyes appraising him coolly. "Is there anything you want that you don't already have?"
He laughed. "Always. That's what gets me out of bed in the morning."
"The thrill of the chase?"
"Makes my venture capitalist heart pump hard."
"Maybe you're not so different from your Scottish ancestors. You're just excited by different quarry."
"You could be onto something. They wanted a stag, or the neighbor's estate, I want a nice international conglomerate with growth potential."
She smiled. "You're funny."
"I'm not so sure about that, but I am pretty predictable."
She tilted her head, sending a fall of shiny black hair to one shoulder. "Why haven't you ever married?"
He stilled. "How do you know I haven't?" Did she know more about him than she was letting on?
"No ring. And no tan line where the old ring used to be."
He relaxed slightly. Being somewhat notorious, he tended to be on guard when meeting new people. Besides, anyone reading a business magazine could know the basic facts of his life. It was hardly top-secret information. "Never met the right woman."
"Something like that. A marriage isn't like an investment, where it's worth taking a chance on because you can always get out."
"You can always get out, for the right price." A smile tilted her soft mouth.
He grimaced. "Usually the highest price the market will bear. Not attractive to a careful investor."
"You're too cautious to get married, aren't you?"
He nodded. "Or maybe it's just the family curse."
She laughed aloud, a pretty ringing sound, like the bells they used to play in the church back on the estate when he was a kid.
Where did that thought come from?
"I think you need to find the last part of that chalice and put it back together. Think of it as a hunt." She leaned forward, rested her elbows on the table and her neat chin on her interlocked fingers. "It'll be a great story to tell."
A crazy idea flashed into his brain. "Come look for it."
"What?" Her eyes widened.
"Come to Scotland. I have to take a trip back myself right now to deal with some estate matters. You said you'd like to visit. Take a break from the rat race and breathe some highland air."
She was silent, and he could almost hear the cogs turning in her brain. Her eyes sparkled and he could see the idea intrigued her. "But I don't even know you."
"I'm pretty well-known around town. Ask people about me."
"What will they tell me?" She looked deadly serious.
"That I play by my own rules, but always stand by my word." He hesitated, knowing what else she would hear. "That I'm happiest when sinking my teeth into a new business." He deliberately avoided the part about his alleged Casanova ways.
Her eyes had narrowed slightly, and she appeared to be considering his proposal. His pulse ratcheted and he realized how much he wanted her to accept. Even the usually unwelcome prospect of returning to the grim and vast baronial castle and the manager's endless to-do list seemed less daunting with the prospect of the lovely Fiona in residence.
"Okay." She spoke quietly, but without hesitation.
"You'll come?" He couldn't believe it.
"I will." She sat back in her chair, expression still serious. "I've always wanted to go to Scotland, I love the idea of looking for an ancient relic, and I have nothing better to do right now. Why not?"
"Why not, indeed?" They discussed dates for a minute or two and he sent a text to his pilot while the waiter served their food. For the first time in as long as he could remember, his nerves crackled with excitement over something other than an intriguing business deal. "Done. We leave tomorrow."
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