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Technically, Libby Tennent lied.
She had made it through the gold glass revolving doors and had walked across the impressive marble floor and was just at the elevators when a uniformed security guard halted her and asked where she was going. 'I have an appointment with Mr Zverev,' Libby said.
'Perhaps you do, but before you can take the elevator, first you have to sign in at Reception.'
'Oh, of course,' Libby responded airily, trying to look as if she had simply forgotten the procedure.
Everything about the place was imposing.
It was a luxurious Mayfair address and, even before the taxi had pulled up at the smart building, Libby had realised that getting in to see Daniil Zverev might not prove the cinch that her father had insisted it would be.
Libby walked over to the reception desk and repeated her story to a very good-looking receptionist, saying that she had an appointment to see Mr Zverev, silently hoping that the woman wouldn't notice that the appointment was, in fact, for her father, Lindsey Tennent.
'And your name?'
'Ms Tennent.' Libby watched as the receptionist typed in the details and saw that her eyes narrowed just a fraction as she looked at the computer screen. 'One moment, please.'
She picked up the phone and relayed the information. 'I have a Ms Tennent here. She says that she has an appointment with Mr Zverev.' There was a moment's pause and then she looked at Libby. 'Your first name?'
'Libby,' she said, but then, realising that given the way the security was in this place she was likely to be asked for official ID, she amended, 'Short for Elizabeth.'
Libby tried to appear calm and avoided curling a stray strand of her blond hair around her finger or tapping her feet, as she did not want to appear nervous.
She was nervous, though. Well, not so much nervous, more uncomfortable that she had agreed to do this.
Maybe she wouldn't have to because the receptionist shook her head as she replaced the phone. 'Mr Zverev cannot see you.'
'Excuse me?' Libby blinked, not only at the refusal but that it came with no apology or explanation. 'What do you mean, I have?'
'Mr Zverev only sees people by strict appointment and, Ms Tennent, you don't have one.'
'But I do.'
The receptionist shook her head. 'It is a Mr Lindsey Tennent who has a 6:00 p.m. appointment. If he was unable to make it then he should have called ahead to see if sending a replacement was suitableMr Zverev doesn't just see anyone.'
Libby knew when she was beaten. She had rather hoped they might not notice the discrepancyas most places wouldn't. She was almost tempted to apologise for the confusion and leave, but her father had broken down in tears when he'd asked her to do this for him. Knowing just how much was riding on this meeting, she forced herself to stand her ground. She pulled herself as tall as her petite five-foot-three frame would allow and looked the receptionist squarely in the eye.
'My father was involved in an car accident earlier today, which is the reason that he couldn't make it, and sent me as a replacement. Now, can you please let Mr Zverev know that I'm here and ready to meet with him? He knows very well the reason for my visit, or perhaps you'd like me to clarify that here?'
The receptionist glanced at whoever was standing behind Libby and then to the left of her. Clearly Libby had a small audience. The receptionist must have decided that the foyer wasn't the place to discuss the great man's business because she gave a tight shrug.
Another phone call was made, though out of Libby's earshot, and eventually the immaculate woman returned and gave Libby a visitor's pass. Finally she was permitted past the guarded barrier that existed around Daniil Zverev.
The elevator door was held open for her and she stepped in.
Even the elevator was luxurious. The carpet was thick beneath her feet. There was no piped music, just cool air and subdued lighting, which was very welcome on a hot summer evening after a mad dash across London to get here.
She should never have let her father talk into this, she thought.
In fact, she hadn't. When Libby had said yes to trying to persuade this man to come along to his parents' fortieth wedding anniversary celebration, it had been a Daniel Thomas she had expected to be meeting.
But just as she had been about to leave her father had called her back.
'Oh, there's something I forgot to tell you.'
Her father, who had been begging Libby to the point of tears, had then looked a touch uncomfortable and evasive. 'He goes under a different name now.'
'Sorry?' Libby had had no idea what he was talking about.
'Or rather it would seem that Daniel Thomas has recently reverted to his real nameDaniil Zverev. He was adopted.'
'Well, if he's gone back to his birth name, clearly there's a serious rift. I'm not going to interfere
'Libby, please,' her father begged. 'All Zverev has to do is show up and make a speech.'
A speech? The list of demands for Daniil had again increased. Show up, dance with aunts, be sociable, and now she had to ask him to make a speech!
No, Libby was not comfortable with this at all. She lived in her own dreamy bubble where the role of negotiator didn't exist. She was very forthright, in that she had an expressive face and a tendency to say what she was thinking. She also, to her parents' disquiet, had always refused to quietly toe the line.
'You never said anything about him having to make a speech.'
'Can you just talk to him for me, Libby? Please!'
Why the hell had she said yes?
Of course, she had looked Daniil up on her taxi ride here. Her father had said that face-to-face he was sure that Libby would be able to appeal to his conscience but it would seem, from her brief skim through several articles, that the esteemed financier previously known as Daniel Thomas didn't have one.
It was, one article observed, as if he saw everyone as the opposition and would step over whomever he had to if it meant he achieved his aim.
As for womenwell, it would take far longer than a thirty-minute taxi ride to read up on that part of his history! The word heartbreaker was thrown around a lot. User. From what Libby could glean, his longest, for the want of a word, relationship had been a two-week affair with a German supermodel, who had been left devastated by their sudden ending.
Well, what did these women expect? Libby had thought when she'd read how some considered the break-up to have been cruel.
Why would anyone ever get involved with him?
Libby had never been one for one-night stands but it would seem Daniil Zverev was a master of them. She was cautious in relationships, never quite believing men who said that her dancing wouldn't get in the way and that they had no issue with the hours she devoted to her art.
Always she had been proved right to be cautious. Invariably the reasons for the break-ups were the samethat she was obsessed with ballet, self-absorbed and hardly ever free to go out.
She'd told them the same at the start.
Libby got back from dwelling on her disastrous love life to trying to fathom Daniil.
Surprisingly, there had been little made of his name changeit was as if even the press was wary of broaching certain topics around him.
So, too, was Libby. She certainly didn't relish the prospect of asking him to play 'happy families.'
Of course, she felt like David going into face Goliath as she came out of the elevator and walked along a corridor, only to face another seriously beautiful woman who ran her eyes over Libby as she approached the desk.
'I'm here to see Mr Zverev,' Libby said, but her smile wasn't returned.
'Perhaps you would like to freshen up before you go through.'
'Oh, I'm fine, thank you.' Libby shook her headshe really just wanted to get this over and done with.
'You will find the ladies' room just down the hall and to your right.'
To her sudden embarrassment Libby realised that it was being suggested, and strongly so, that she needed to tidy herself up.
Could the great Daniil Zverev only lay eyes on perfect people? Was he only prepared to hold court with women at their coiffed best?
She held back the smart retort, though, and instead, blushing to her roots, took herself off to the ladies room. As she stepped inside and saw herself in a full-length mirror she was, though she would never admit it, rather grateful for the advice to take a little time before seeing Daniil.
It was a warm and windy August day and she had the hair to prove it.
Determined to keep practising and to maintain her skills, without the delicious routine of dance class and rehearsals, Libby had been home, warming up, when word had come in that her father had been involved in a car accident. Of course, she had just pulled on some leggings and a wrap over her leotard, grabbed her workbag and raced to the accident and emergency department.
Her head was still spinning with all her father had revealed that afternoon. The family business was in serious trouble and they needed this anniversary party to go ahead next month. For that to happen, though, Daniil's acceptance of his parents' invitation must be secured.
Libby couldn't think about her father's business troubles now.
She went through her huge bag and pulled out a fresh ivory wrap and put that on over her leotard and changed from leggings into a grey tube skirt. Her blonde hair was already tied back but messy so she brushed and retied it and pinned it up. Her face was devoid of make-up and she looked far younger than her twenty-five years. Somehow she didn't think fresh-faced would appeal to such a sophisticated man but Libby didn't have an awful lot in her make-up bag to work with. Some mascara made her blue eyes look bigger and she added some lip gloss too.
She'd just have to do.
Libby knew she didn't stand a hope with him. A man who had cut ties with his family so dramatically that he'd changed his name was hardly going to want to turn things around on her say-so.
And, anyway, Libby was the last person to tell someone else what they should do.
She, herself, didn't like free advice.
She'd be working in the family business if she did.
Resigned to being sent away even before she'd got out the first sentence almost took away the fear of meeting him.
Yes, she'd just say what she had to and then walk away. She would not allow herself to be intimidated.
Snooty Pants at Reception must have deemed Libby looked suitable now because she picked up the phone and informed him that his 6:00 p.m. appointment was here. 'However, as I said it is' He must have interrupted her because she didn't finish explaining again that it was Libby rather than Lindsey who was there. 'I'll send her in.'
As Libby finally went to head for the door it would seem that she'd jumped the mark.
'You can leave your bag here.'
She was about to decline but again she realised it wasn't a suggestion so she put her bag down and headed for the door. As she was about to raise her arm she was halted.
'Don't knock, it irritates him. Just go straight through.' Libby felt like knocking just for the hell of it! And knocking again. And then knocking again. The thought made her smile.
And that was how he first saw her.
Smiling at some secret joke, because, Daniil knew, nothing his PA would have said would have put her at ease.
She was a dancer.
He knew that not just from her attire but from her posture as she closed the door behind her, and she was fighting her dancer's gait as she walked a little way towards him and then paused.
As she stepped in Libby blinked. She was standing in a postcard view of London. She might just as well have bought a ticket for the London Eye, though there would never have been someone quite as delicious sitting opposite her there!
He had dark hair, dark eyes and pale skin and there was a livid scar across his left cheekbone. He sat straight in his seat at a very large desk, watching her with mild interest.
Despite the huge office, despite the vast space, he looked so formal and imposing that he owned every inch of it.
'Thank you for agreeing to see me, Mr Zverev,' she said, while privately, such was his impact, she rather wanted to turn and run.
'My, my, Mr Tennent,' Daniil said. 'What a high, clear voice you have.'
His own voice was deep and his words were dipped and richly coated in a chocolaty Russian accent, and as she realised he was alluding to the appointment being with her father her smile stretched further and she lost her fear.
'And, oh, Mr Tennent,' Daniil continued, his eyes taking in her slender bare legs, 'what smooth skin you have.'
She stood before him and, no, Libby wasn't scared in the least. Still she smiled.
'I think we both know, Mr Zverev
' she started, and then halted as she properly met those cold grey eyes that pierced her. She sent a silent apology to the women she had so merrily scorned for getting involved with him. She had never understood women who could simply leap into bed with a man but she had to wrestle to hold on to her conscience, for he was so beautiful, his stare so intense and so sexy that he could possibly have had her then.
She had to clear her throat so she could continue speaking, and she had to recall their words just to find her thread.
Yes, that's right
'I think we both know, Mr Zverev,' Libby said, 'that you 're the big bad wolf!'