Billionaire Alexander Kazankov always wins. But he didn’t count on high-heeled, drop-dead sexy Lily Bennett getting in the way of his latest deal. She’s a distraction he doesn’t need, not when he’s so close to making things right for his family.
Lily may walk and talk like a Southern piece of fluff, but she’s been underestimated
before. She’s determined to succeed—and no entitled, arrogant asshole, especially the too-gorgeous-for-his-own-good-kind, is going to get in her way.
Oil, meet water. Gasoline, meet spark. It’s all-out war as these two enemies go toe-to-toe in an ugly, take-no-prisoners battle to prove they’re the right choice to be CEO of the same company. All too soon, playing dirty in the boardroom leads to playing even dirtier in the dark. It’s destined to end in personal and professional disaster. So why the hell can’t they stop?
Each book in the Billionaire Bad Boys series is STANDALONE:
*Besting the Billionaire
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Memorial services. When the divide between life and death is stark. When emotions run high. When seizing whatever joy is available seems especially poignant and right ...
Easiest time in the world to get laid.
If he was interested. Which he wasn't.
Movements brisk, Russian-born Alexander Kazankov — Alexi to his friends, which was why most people called him Kazankov or, if he was honest, asshole — removed the blonde's hand from his suit lapel. "I appreciate the offer, but I'm here on business."
And business always came first.
Her lips turned down in a pretty pout — the same one that had made her famous in several movies — and behind him the cameras clicked away with greater urgency.
The late Russell Winslow might have been a bastard, but he'd been a flashy, well-connected one, running an investment firm that specialized in high-end resorts before finally dying at the ripe old age of seventy-six.
As a result, his passing was a big deal, and his memorial service a year later, even bigger. The well-manicured, New York Hampton lawn packed with senators, models, actresses, and moguls. All here to see and be seen. And, of course, photographed. Talking, posing, their voices appropriately pitched for such an alleged somber event. But the fact was few of them had given a single thought to the man who'd died a year ago.
Of course, none probably hated Winslow as much as he did.
Realizing his grip on the blonde's wrist had gone tight, Alexi let go.
"Don't say no." Instead of being deterred, the actress moved closer, pressing her impressive breasts against his chest hard enough to leave a mark. "We would be good together. The press would love us."
Yeah. Somehow that wasn't much of a selling point. Nor was the faint dusting of powder at the tip of her nose. Drugged up was his least favorite look on a woman.
Deciding a reply wasn't worth it, he sauntered past, giving his head of security, Carlos Morales, a nod. One planned shoulder bump later, a few choice words, and the cameras were all clicking in the direction of the impending fight between his security and some beefed-up poser standing next to one of the senators, tomorrow's headline already made.
With phase one accomplished and the paparazzi distracted, Alexi cut through the crowd, amused at how easily it parted even without his usual bodyguards in tow.
"Sorry, buddy." Blocking the back door, the guard's beefy hand hovered inches from Alexi's chest, his Brooklyn accent making every word sound as if he was talking with a mouthful of rocks. "House is off-limits. Guests need to remain in the yard."
Ah, Mr. Jeffries. Right on time.
Alexi eyed the rent-a-cop. The man's cocky stand gave away none of the fact that he'd failed to pass his police entry exams and been fired from his last two security jobs. But Alexi knew. Just like he knew the guy's weaknesses. He always did his research.
It was why he'd chosen this particular door.
"Listen carefully," Alexi shifted, ensuring his wide shoulders blocked their interaction. He might have inherited his French mother's dark brown hair and blue eyes, but his hide-your-women build was all Cossack brute, care of his father. "Your uncle knows about the ring you swiped during that last security job."
He spoke over the man's curse. "This is your last day here. But I'm offering you an opportunity." See? Not always such an asshole. "I need a private, harmless word with the family. You need a little nest egg to deal with what's coming."
He reached into his pocket and pulled out five crisp one hundred–dollar bills. "You have ten seconds to decide."
Three seconds later, he was straightening his tie as he slipped through the ornate solid oak door. Five hundred dollars lighter, sure. But that was chump change compared to the priceless treasure he'd have reacquired by the end of the hour.
"You should be bent over that desk. Not sitting behind it pretending to be boss."
The ugly threat floated down the corridor, stopping Kazankov in his tracks.
What the fuck?
He snapped into action, sailing down the stretch of hallway double-time, his wide strides eating up the carpet.
He'd made it only halfway before the next insult came.
"No bimbo is going to run this company." It was the same bully.
"And no sexist pig will be working here tomorrow," came a second voice, one that was feminine, Southern — and impressively calm, "if he speaks to me like that again."
Not your typical memorial banalities.
His sharp rap on the barely open door brought instant silence. Followed by a low burst of whispers and the shuffle of feet.
The door swung wider. A male face dominated by tired, bloodshot hazel eyes, a pointed chin, and a mop of unruly brown hair peeked out.
Jim Winslow, youngest son of the deceased Russell Winslow and Chief Financial Officer of Winslow Industries. Though they'd never had the displeasure of a face-to-face meet, Alexi's dossier described the man as having impressive financial skills, but no backbone to speak of. It was clear from the hesitant wobble of Jim's chin as he looked up — and up — that the dossier was 100 percent correct.
This was definitely not the guy hurling insults.
"The family is taking a private moment." Jim gave it his best shot. "Mourners are gathering around back. We appreciate your coming and will join you shortly."
"I'm no mourner." Alexi stalked forward.
True to expectations, the man shuffled out of the way.
Only to reveal a second obstacle: Paul Winslow, Russell's oldest son and the Chief Operating Officer of Winslow Industries. He might have had the same muddy hazel eyes and brown hair as his brother, but he possessed none of the bookishness. A head shorter than Alexi, the pride of the Winslow family was stout with a flat nose that gave him the look of a fighter. Alexi had gone up against him on several deals and won every time, except on the one that mattered most — and that smug knowledge danced in Paul's eyes.
Alexi's fists curled.
"You? I've told you before, you're not welcome here." Paul's meaty hands landed on his hips, his expensive gray mourning suit bulging around the belly.
Here was the d-bag who'd hurled the insults.
"Last I checked you're not in charge."
Paul's jaw ground together. Better still, the smug look that had been there two seconds before? Gone.
It almost brought on a smile ... until he remembered the name-calling.
"Nothing to say?" He crowded close, the stink of old cigar irritating his nose. "Because you couldn't seem to shut up a few moments ago, mudak."
Some words, like asshole, just sounded better in his first language.
He dropped his voice to a lethal whisper. "I imagine it stings to have been passed over by your own father, but you better speak respectfully toward your new boss from here on out. In Russia, threatening a woman can have serious consequences."
"We're not in Russia," snapped Paul.
"One phone call, one dose of chloroform, and you could be."
He liked the way Paul's face paled.
"Okay, that's enough." Delivered in the same no-nonsense tone as the sexist pig comment, the Southern drawl reverberated with the power of a shout — and traveled straight to Alexi's dick. What could he say? That kind of sweet-as-honey, good-girl-sounding charm brought out the dirty in him. "Paul, step out of the way. I don't need rescuing, especially from hypocrites."
Ouch. He really did admire that kind of spirit. Even if he was about to crush it.
"You heard the lady." With a hard, calculated shove, Paul Winslow sailed through the open door. He greeted the wall with a satisfying thump.
After that, all it took was a pointed glare and Jim Winslow ran past, ostensibly to check on his brother. They both knew he was running for his life.
"That's one way to make an entrance." The sexy, feminine voice challenged. "Come any closer and I'm calling the police."
"Why bother?" Alexi flicked the lock. "I did you a favor. You and I have negotiations to discuss. Those idiots would only have gotten in the way."
He swiveled around.
The large blue and gold study he'd fought his way into was clearly intended to be a copy of the oval office, which fit the delusions of grandeur of the man who'd once presided behind the ornate oak desk.
But standing there now was another figure altogether. One indelibly imprinted on Alexi's brain, though he'd only seen her once before, hanging off her late husband's arm at some charity fundraiser.
Like last time, the sight of Lily Bennett hit with the force of a fist. He might have hated Russell Winslow with a passion that bordered on obsessive, but Alexi couldn't fault the man's taste in women. His young American wife — make that widow — was still the hottest thing Alexi had ever seen. A mix of cool class and insanely hot curves he would have loved to sample if he didn't have a different — way more vital — itch to scratch.
But he did. And business always ruled.
"You shouldn't have done that to Paul." His newest adversary gripped the phone receiver like a weapon.
He stalked forward anyway. "He deserved it."
"True." There was a slight pause. "But I don't." She hefted the phone higher. "If you're planning to try and throw me out next, you'd better think again."
"I'd never hurt a woman." Bury his head between those sweet thighs until she begged him to fuck her raw? Absolutely. But lay a hand on her? Never. He wasn't his dad, and he never would be.
There was a slight pause. Then she surprised him by slipping the phone back into its cradle. "This ill-timed appearance seems unusually bad-mannered even for you, Mr. Kazankov. What are you doing here?" It pleased him to know she remembered him. And hearing those prim, formal words from those hot-as-fuck lips? That pleased him in a whole different way. "If you know who I am, then you know why I'm here."
"You're wasting your time."
"I don't think so."
He'd been full of rage when Russell Winslow died. Even an entire bottle of vodka and a decimated punching bag hadn't been enough to quiet the heckling voices in his head. Everything he'd been close to achieving snatched away by something as random and unpredictable as death. Again.
But now ... his gaze swept Lily Bennett from her glorious, defiant face to her long-legged, lush body ... now he had hope.
Because even swathed in mourning black, her chocolate-colored hair tamed back in a glamorous knot, taut lines tightening the corners of her lush, red mouth, Lily Bennett looked youthful and stunning and sinful. Her mouthwatering curves displayed to perfection in an elegant black dress that screamed expensive, funeral chic.
She looked like a high-priced Christmas gift begging to be unwrapped. Like a pinup girl come to life. Like the exquisite, dewy-eyed, trophy fuck toy of a rich man who had acquired everything else in life. Lavish. Beautiful beyond belief. Entirely frivolous.
Which was absolutely perfect.
In a purely business sense, of course.
Because what Lily Bennett did not look like was the new head of a nearly bankrupt multibillion-dollar investment company who could hold her own against a shark like him.
And the fact that Russell Winslow had shocked the business world, his two ex-wives, his sons, and his board by leaving his full estate, once-thriving company, and all his remaining holdings to wife number three gave Alexi an opening he never expected.
One he intended to capitalize on before anyone else.
Because he didn't give a damn what the gorgeous widow did with the rest of her estate as long as she gave the company to him.
Promise to Lena fulfilled.
Debt repaid — as much as was possible.
Past behind him.
He rounded the desk until he loomed over his quarry, her long legs ensuring the top of her head almost brushed his chin, the surprisingly subtle scent of honey and peaches radiating from her creamy skin.
"Bad mannered or not," he announced, "I want Winslow Industries."
Instead of backing down, she glared upward, challenge flaring in her emerald gaze. "Well, I'd get comfortable with a little deprivation because I have no intention of selling the company to you or anyone else."
White-hot lust hit hard. Followed by a flare of respect.
He shoved the distracting feelings aside.
He'd done his research. An up-and-coming model who'd been working in Paris when she hooked Winslow and paved her way to easy street, she was out of her league. She'd fold soon enough.
Justice was about to be served. And maybe, if he was lucky — after all the hell, after all the pain — a little redemption gained.
Best of all, it was going to be easy. Like taking candy from a baby.
A gorgeous, in-over-her-head, gold-digging baby.
What an ass. An outrageous, too-beautiful-for-his-own-good ass.
Lily took a deep breath and fought to remain unruffled. Sandwiched between six feet three inches of notorious muscle and her late husband's leather desk chair was not at all how she'd imagined this day going.
She was already rubbed raw. Sorrow over Russell's passing mixing with resentment over the mess he'd left to poke at her at every turn. Add on the ugly words Paul had just unloaded as well as her exhaustion over the last year of legal battles and you got a woman tottering on the edge. The last thing she needed was this run-in.
But a scandal would be even worse.
"If you want to discuss business, make an appointment with my secretary."
"I tried." The precise, low delivery of each faintly accented syllable echoed with a thousand years of disdain, pedigree, and power. "Apparently, there's a no-appointment policy when it comes to me."
"I can't imagine why."
"Do you want to trade sarcastic comments or negotiate?"
"Neither." She fiddled with her wedding band. "I buried my husband a year ago today." The words hurt even to say.
"And yesterday the judge settled the estate in your favor, making you the official head of Winslow Industries." Kazankov stepped impossibly closer. "There are no days off at the top."
"Apparently, there's little empathy as well."
He blinked slowly. Like he hadn't expected her to be able to string together three words, much less utter a comeback.
Surprising him brought a flare of satisfaction. It was the first time she'd felt something besides grief or fear since Russell told her he was dying.
Unfortunately, the man everyone called the Iceman — and not because he'd grown up right outside of Siberia — recovered fast. "Would you rather I pretend I'm sorry he's gone like those other fakers trampling your lawn? They'll hit you up for what they want tomorrow, I promise. At least I'm doing you the courtesy of being honest from the start."
"Oddly enough, it doesn't feel like courtesy." Though maybe, while she'd never admit it aloud, it was somewhat refreshing.
Stepping around him, she drew back the curtain to peek outside. A never-ending stream of glamorous black- and gray-clothed bodies surged across the yard, their faces somber, their voices hushed.
Despite his delivery, she didn't doubt Kazankov's words. Her husband had once been rich enough to acquire many acquaintances, but he hadn't been liked. By his own admission, he'd been a terrible husband to his first two wives, and an even worse father, putting work and profit above everything else. He'd had his reason, but the excuses didn't change the fact that he'd done a lot wrong in his life.
Including with her.
Until last year. When he'd tried to make things right.
She dropped the curtain and turned around — to find Kazankov looming behind.
He moved quietly for such a big man, the subtle, sexy scent of clove and cinnamon spice a dizzying contrast to his bull-in-a-china-shop demeanor.
She tipped her chin and gave him her coolest stare. "Care to take a step back?"
"Care to sell me the company? I know Winslow Industries is nearly bankrupt."
"Thanks to you."
"Perhaps." His smirk was pure wolf. "But I'm not your only problem. You've also inherited a nervous board that doesn't want you."
"I have supporters."
"Enough for a majority should the board call for a vote to oust you?" She fumed in silence. No point acknowledging what he already knew.
"Exactly." He punctuated his victory with a single nod. "And the next board meeting is coming up fast."
"Does this rehashing of the obvious have a point?"
He laughed. Flat out laughed. His gaze sweeping the length of her, something raw and reckless flaring in his gaze. Something she had no business noticing.
Excerpted from "Besting The Billionaire"
Copyright © 2018 Alison Aimes.
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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