Sara Montgomery thought her days as a debutante were over. But when top-level businessmen connected to an oil conspiracy began disappearing, her undercover work returned her to the spotlight—and forced her into the arms of Kyle Prescott. Could this millionaire playboy be the mastermind behind the investment scheme?
Just when she thought she had Kyle pegged, he stepped in front of a bullet meant for Sara…then insisted on playing protector. And although relying on the charming bad boy 24/7 was good for the mission, spending long nights together was never part of the plan. But what about falling for the very man she'd been assigned to investigate?
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Ten minutes into the party, Sara Montgomery knew she'd been spotted by a potential target. And she couldn't be more pleased.
She stole a glance at Kyle Prescott as he worked the large birthday party for his stepfather. He wound his way through the society and corporate types gathered at the Turner ranch as if he'd done so all his life.
Sara laughed softly to herself. He had done so all his life.
She noted the sideways glance he sent her way. One corner of his mouth lifted, as if he knew she watched him.
She smiled, hoping the man would read her expression as a sign of interest and not for what it really was—a smile of satisfaction. Satisfaction that she'd found a potential means to infiltrate TCM, her latest assignment for Prescott Personal Securities and the true reason Sara found herself at TCM CEO Stephen Turner's birthday party.
After being briefed on the investigative findings to date, Sara had developed several options for achieving her goal. Oddly enough, charming her way into Kyle Prescott's life had fallen somewhere toward the bottom of the list.
As the man mingled with other partygoers, circling ever closer to where she chatted with a TCM employee, Sara realized she should have put Kyle Prescott at the top of her list.
He was the perfect in, assuming she played her cards right. Which she would.
The playboy represented everything she loathed about the society scene, but what did it matter?
Sara had a job to do, and she'd do it well. She always did. She wasn't about to let the sour taste left in her mouth by a polite society gathering such as this one distract her from her objective.
Access enough inside information on TCM to find out who was operating the bogus Kingston Trust and the scheme to buy up land for the oil beneath—no matter what the ultimate cost.
Considering the rising body count of Kingston Trust investors, Sara knew she had to work quickly, and effectively.
If Kyle Prescott represented the pawn she needed to get inside the workings of TCM, so be it.
She had every intention of stopping the conspiracy before the next victim fell.
The mission called for her to blend in with the society crowd, so blend in she would.
She took a sip of her champagne, noting the weight of the crystal flute in her hand. The ballroom at the Turner ranch had been decked out from corner to corner in only the finest linens, flowers and crystal.
Candles, which Sara understood to be handdipped by children at a local charity Stephen Turner supported, adorned each table as centerpieces.
While the glitz and glamour of the entire scene made the small hairs at the base of Sara's neck lift, the presence of the candles provided a tender, human touch that made the entire visual tolerable.
While Sara had always hated the party scene, her older sister, Annemarie, had lived for it. She'd died for it, as well, being murdered at a party days before what would have been her coming–out ceremony.
Sara had refused to attend the same party and her parents had never forgiven her, as if somehow Annemarie's death wouldn't have happened had Sara been in attendance.
Sara's heart gave a sharp twist, the familiar ache squeezing her chest. Maybe they were right. Maybe she could have made a difference, had she only been there for Annemarie.
Sara had gone through with her own debut a year after they buried Annemarie—part of the Montgomery family plan to prove the unsolved murder of their oldest daughter hadn't destroyed them.
Attending the debutantes' ball was the last thing Sara ever did to please her parents. They certainly didn't approve of the life she'd created for herself since then.
She blinked away the memories as Kyle Prescott neared. Now was the time for razor–sharp focus on the present, not blurry–edged memories of the past.
She studied the man casually, yet carefully, as the TCM employee by her side blathered on and on about global marketing.
Sara didn't feel guilty about partially tuning out the man's words. She was more than capable of listening closely enough to respond when necessary, but she'd already determined his position in the company could lend nothing to her investigation.
She had no problem being blunt and, truth was, she had no use for him.
Kyle Prescott, on the other hand, was an entirely different story.
As head of TCM's international rights division and stepson to Stephen Turner, he was no doubt privy to key corporate information and accounting.
Perfect. Just the foot in the door Sara needed. Kyle Prescott kept his distance from where Sara stood, chatting and shaking hands with those gathered, but she felt his focus on her. Felt his gaze on her.
She'd always had a sixth sense about being watched, and that sixth sense was working overtime right now.
She glanced down at her dress. A dress she would have never voluntarily chosen, but one that was obviously having the intended effect now that she'd set her sights on Kyle.
While the other women present dripped diamonds and sequins, Sara had chosen a classic, yet seductive, red, silk dress. The sleeveless style showed off her lean shoulders, while the surplice front revealed just enough skin to hint at the curves that hid beneath.
She'd pulled her one piece of real jewelry out of its storage spot in the bottom of her jewelry box. The diamond choker encircled her neck, small starshaped pendants dangling toward her cleavage.
The skirt of the dress stopped precisely at her knees, revealing nothing but the long expanse of her bare legs, supported by her sexiest pair of three–inch heels.
Kyle began to make his move, and Sara adjusted her stance, working to send the signal she waited for his approach. He shifted his course through the crowd, casually moving straight for her.
His black hair shone in the room's subtle lighting, his blue eyes so light they glowed like beacons from the handsome lines of his suntanned face. A day's worth of stubble lined his jaw and Sara wondered how hard he had to work at maintaining the slightly unkempt look.
His manner of dress, however, had nothing unkempt about it.
The man's black tux fit as though it had been tailored just for his broad–shouldered build, and she had no doubt it had been. The expensive material hung flawlessly on him as he moved toward her, the white collar in sharp contrast to both his suntanned face and the tux itself.
He moved confidently, securely, proudly owning every inch of his well–built six–foot frame. It was there that she saw the resemblance to his late father. Robert Prescott had moved with the same selfassuredness.
She knew from her preparation for this assignment that Kyle was only a few years younger than she, but as far as Sara was concerned, they were a lifetime of differences apart from one another.
His had been a life of luxury and pampering. Hers had not. A choice she'd made. A choice her family had never forgiven her for.
But Kyle Prescott?
Kyle Prescott was a man used to getting his way, even at the tender age of twenty–eight.
He strode toward her now, his gaze riveted to hers. She stood her ground, not faltering in the least. She didn't rattle easily—never had.
She stiffened, resenting the man before he so much as made his first move, before he delivered his first line. And that first line was on its way. No doubt about it.
Sara was about to experience the legendary Kyle Prescott charm firsthand.
She could hardly wait.
KYLE HAD SPOTTED the petite but leggy brunette the instant she walked from the valet area toward the party. he'd been dreading his stepfather's birthday party, having never felt much more than obligation toward the man, but perhaps things were looking up.
he'd hoped to speak to his second in command at International, Dwayne Johnson, but the man had been a no–show. Big surprise there.
Kyle had left a none–too–kind voice mail about the call he'd received from a TCM investor in reference to a disturbing memo bearing Kyle's signature. A signature he had no recollection of writing.
Kyle might be fairly apathetic when it came to the day–to–day business of TCM, but he'd be damned if he'd let someone get away with transacting any sort of business under his name, at least not without him having final approval.
He laughed to himself.
Johnson had probably been so surprised by not only the voice mail, but also the fact Kyle had checked his messages, that he'd dropped on the spot.
he'd catch up to him later.
For now, Kyle had a fresh target in mind.
He watched as the woman shook hands with another guest then engaged in what appeared to be comfortable small talk.
Her red dress hugged all the right curves and left a little more to the imagination than he'd like, but perhaps that was what turned his head. She had plenty of sex appeal, but didn't flaunt her attributes like most of the other women at the party.
Kyle continued his casual conversation, all the while keeping one eye on the brunette, doing his best not to stare at the way her brown hair shone under the light from the chandeliers. Several loose tendrils had found their way out of her hairdo and brushed softly against her neck whenever she laughed or tipped her head.
Breathtaking. The woman was absolutely breathtaking. The expanse of bare leg between the hem of her skirt and her barely there sandals didn't hurt, either.
Since he couldn't seem to shake the playboy reputation that preceded him wherever he went, he might as well live up to it.
No time like the present to start.
He closed the space between them and extended his hand, enjoying the feel of her soft yet sure touch as she slid her hand inside his.
"Come here often?" he asked, a smile teasing the corners of his lips as he gave her hand one quick pump then held on tight.
The woman tipped her head sideways, exposing the length of her slender neck. "Does that line actually ever work for you?" Her eyebrows lifted coyly.
Kyle did nothing to contain his laughter. He had no idea who the beauty before him was, but he had every intention of finding out.
Her light green eyes sparked like those of a filly begging to be tamed, and her dark, wavy hair dared him to undo her twist and run his fingers through the thick strands.
"Why, yes, ma'am. It typically works like a charm." He glared at the TCM employee by the woman's side and the man slinked away, effectively dismissed with just one glance.
Kyle continued to hold the woman's hand, taking careful note of the way the front of the wrapped dress gaped under the strain of her outstretched arm.
"Kyle Prescott." He gave her hand another gentle pump, then released his grip.
"Sara Montgomery." She met his gaze unflinchingly. Kyle spotted her strong will instantly.
he'd bedded many a beauty in his days, yet there was something in this woman's eyes the others had lacked. A light he'd never seen before. A focus.
Lord knew he could use some excitement in his life. Maybe Ms. Montgomery would be just the thing to occupy his days—and nights—for a spell.
"How do you know my stepfather?"
"Family acquaintance." He watched as Sara gave a dismissive wave of her hand. "Tough work, isn't it?
One function after another. Fund–raisers. Birthday parties. Black–tie auctions."
She visibly caught herself, as if her comments might be offensive.
He grinned. "I didn't mean this particular birthday party." She let out a small sigh. "Just the circuit in general."
Kyle found himself mesmerized by the twinkle in her eyes. "I wouldn't know."
She narrowed her gaze. "Your reputation precedes you, Mr. Prescott. I'm sure you're at one party or another every night of the week."
Before Kyle could answer, his half brother Peter stepped between them, extending his hand toward Sara.
She took a step back, startled by the sudden movement.
Kyle bit back an unusual wave of jealousy. Let Peter find his own companion for the evening. Ms. Montgomery was obviously miles out of his league.
"You're as beautiful as your sister was."
An emotion Kyle couldn't quite put his finger on passed across Sara's features.
"You knew her?" she asked.
"I was a great admirer." Peter nodded. "She was the one person who took the time to talk to me when I was a kid. I remember her from some of the parties Mother and Father took me to."
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