Too Proud to be Bought

Too Proud to be Bought

by Sharon Kendrick

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The humble waitress and the Russian billionaire…

Waitress Zara Evans doesn't belong in glittering high society. That is until she finds herself unexpectedly at an exclusive party, and manages to captivate the most sought-after man in the room—Russian oligarch Nikolai Komarov.

For Nikolai, there's something about Zara's beauty that makes her stand out from the first-class crowd. Experience has taught him all women have their price, but he has never encountered anyone like Zara—a young woman who is too proud, too independent, too willful to be bought…

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781459212084
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 09/01/2011
Series: Harlequin Presents Series , #3013
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 88,929
File size: 262 KB

About the Author

Sharon Kendrick started story-telling at the age of eleven and has never stopped. She likes to write fast-paced, feel-good romances with heroes who are so sexy they’ll make your toes curl! She lives in the beautiful city of Winchester – where she can see the cathedral from her window (when standing on tip-toe!). She has two children, Celia and Patrick and her passions include music, books, cooking and eating – and drifting into daydreams while working out new plots.

Read an Excerpt

It was like looking at a stranger.

A glamorous, sexy stranger.

Zara blinked in disbelief at the image which gleamed back at her from the long mirror—all curves and shadows and expanses of unaccustomed bare flesh. How long since she had looked like this—like a real woman instead of a drudge? Though come to think of it, she could never remember looking quite like this before.

The acid–green satin dress clung to her body like syrup, delicate fabric pooling to the floor in a silken stream. It was light years away from her usual jeans and sloppy T–shirts—but the differences didn't stop there. Her eyes looked huge and sooty above carefully highlighted cheekbones and her usual ponytail had been replaced with a slick and grown–up chignon, leaving her bare neck feeling curiously vulnerable. Fake diamonds sparkled at her throat and hung in glittering waterfalls from her ears. She narrowed her eyes. Didn't she look just a little…ostentatious?

Resisting the urge to chew on her carefully manicured nails, she looked down at her friend, who was kneeling on the floor at her feet. 'Emma, I can't,' she croaked.

'Can't what?' Emma gave the silken hem of the dress a final tug.

'I can't gatecrash this party—I'm a waitress, not a socialite! I can't target some mystery Russian billionaire because you think he'd be good for your business. And I can't carry off wearing the kind of outfit which makes me feel as if I'm not wearing anything at all. Shall I go on?'

Emma took the pin out of her mouth. 'Rubbish! Of course you can. You'll be doing us both a favour. I get to showcase one of my dresses to one of the world's richest men—and you get your first night out since heaven only knows when. Believe me, Zara, chances like this don't come along very often. Nikolai Komarov owns department stores in every major city in the world and he's a connoisseur of beautiful women. He's itching to have me design a collection for him or to clothe his latest mistress—he just doesn't know it yet!'

Zara glanced down at the gossip magazine which was open to reveal a black and white photo of the Russian oligarch and more doubts pricked over her skin as his pale and strangely intense eyes seemed to bore straight into her like twin laser beams. 'And I'm supposed to give him your business card?'

'Why not?'

'Because…because it's like I'm going to be touting for trade at a social occasion.'

'Nonsense. They'll all be doing it. It's what's known in the business world as networking. It isn't as if you're hurting anybody, is it? And anyway, you could do with something like this. How long is it since you had any real enjoyment?'

Enjoyment? Zara's fingers tightened around the little feathered concoction of a handbag she was holding because her friend's question had touched a nerve. And maybe the nerve was rawer than she'd thought. It did seem an eternity since she had been out anywhere— unless it was to the grocery store or pharmacy at the end of the road. Her beloved godmother's final illness had dragged on and on until death had seemed like a release from all the little indignities and sadnesses she had borne along the way.

For months, Zara's life had been dominated by the sickroom while she had nursed the woman who hadn't even been a blood relative. But her loyalty to the lady who'd taken her in after the death of her parents meant that she'd dropped her studies to care for her without a second thought. Day and night she had juggled meals, care, bills and medicines—and waitressing for Emma's mother's catering company whenever she could squeeze it in.

And when it had all been over, and the last of the all–too–few sympathy cards had been read, Zara had felt lonely and bereft. As if too much had happened for her to ever contemplate returning to the carefree student life she'd known before. There were still debts to be settled, too—and her grim determination not to lose the little house she'd been bequeathed seemed to dominate her thoughts. An unknown future lay ahead of her, and it was scary.

'So why not have a little fun, Zara? Why not be a Cinderella for the night and dance all your cares away? You know you'll be doing me a huge favour.'

Zara gave a wry smile as Emma's voice butted into her thoughts. Could she? If only cares could simply be danced away—how much simpler the world would be. Yet maybe her friend was right. What was stopping her from having a little light–hearted diversion? Unless she was secretly yearning for the alternative scenario of yet another night spent worrying about the stack of unpaid bills, which wouldn't seem to go away…

'Okay,' she said, drawing her shoulders back and taking one last look at her reflection. 'I'll go. I'll enjoy wearing this exquisite gown you've created and try to enjoy being on the other side of a tray for once—drinking the champagne instead of handing it out! And I'll walk up to this Russian oligarch of yours and give him your card. How's that?'

'Perfect! I've primed the other waitresses about it and they think it's a wonderful idea. I guess they can't really object, since my mum is the one who's employing them and she's not even in the country! Now go! Go on—go!'

Clutching the crumpled money her friend had thrust at her, Zara walked out of the small studio in too–high heels and hailed the welcoming light of a black cab before she had time to change her mind about a scheme which seemed to be growing crazier by the second.

The summer evening was still light and every flower in the capital seemed to be in bloom, but as the taxi drew up outside the Embassy her heart began to race. What if she was discovered—a humble waitress masquerading as a bonafide guest? An imposter who had no right to be there. Wouldn't they throw her out and kick up the most tremendous fuss in the process? Yet the man who collected her ticket at the door did nothing other than flick her a quick, admiring glance and Zara drew a deep breath as she walked into the gleaming ballroom.

The vast room looked spectacular. Glittering chandeliers threw diamond lights over tall vases of scarlet roses and a string quartet was playing on a raised dais in front of a shiny, bare dance–floor. She glanced at the other guests and thought how amazing they looked.

Especially the female guests. Their diamonds were the real thing and surely that stood out by a mile. Was the rich Russian really going to be impressed by what she was wearing—a hand–crafted gown made by an ambitious young fashion student—when there was so much screamingly expensive couture in this room?

She could see a couple of men turning round to glance at her and their women partners following suit. Could they guess that she was operating outside her comfort zone—that she was actually trespassing? Suddenly, Emma's mad scheme seemed destined to fail and, nervously, Zara grabbed a glass of champagne from a girl she'd worked with on countless occasions and took a mouthful of cold wine. The alcohol relaxed her a little— especially when a couple of the other waitresses she knew winked and murmured hello in passing.

But something was making her feel uncomfortable—some sixth sense, which told her she was being watched.

Now you're just being paranoid, she told herself.

Yet the sensation persisted as she moved through the glamorous throng until she found her eyes being drawn unwillingly to a man who was standing at the far end of the ballroom.

And suddenly, she couldn't stop looking.

It was like seeing a drop of blood on virgin snow— because he stood out from everyone else in the room. His hair was the colour of beaten gold, his eyes were glacially blue and he possessed a hard and arrogant mouth, which spoke of experience and sensuality. Zara realised that the man's high, sculpted cheekbones and piercing eyes were oddly familiar—and then she realised why. She felt a shiver whisper over her skin. It was Nikolai

Komarov—the Russian oligarch, and the man she was supposed to be targeting.

Her first thought was that his photo hadn't done him justice—on the page he had been appealing but in the flesh he was perfect. And her second thought was that he was the most intimidating man she had ever seen. His face made her think of a diamond—with its hard, sculpted angles and those cold, glittering eyes. And as for the rest of him.

Zara swallowed down an unfamiliar kind of hunger. Powerful, wealthy tycoon he might be, but, more than anything, he was pure and unbridled masculinity.

A beautifully cut suit moulded his body, emphasising wide shoulders, solid torso and narrow hips, which tapered down to long, muscular legs. He held himself tall and very straight, and stood so still that for a moment Zara thought he might almost have been made from wax, rather than from flesh and blood. But waxen eyes did not gleam like that, did they? And nor did they focus with unmoving scrutiny on their subject—the way he was doing with her. It felt like having all the breath punched from her body as she found herself captured in his cold yet searing gaze.

From his position at the far end of the room, Nikolai saw the woman glance over at him and felt his body tense, although a woman looking at him was nothing new. Women looked at him all the time. Though not usually like that, he conceded. Like a startled little deer who'd just spied the big, bad hunter deep in the forest.

Who the hell was she? He'd noticed her the moment she'd walked into the ballroom in that clinging green gown and he had been watching her ever since. His expression grew thoughtful. Something about her made her stand out from the crowd of overdressed women and he couldn't work out what it was. How come she'd ignored everybody in the room except to smile rather nervously at the waitresses?

With the practised look of the connoisseur, his eyes swept over her in lazy assessment. Unlike most of the women here tonight, her face wasn't stiffened with Botox and her hair had the natural shine of youth. But it was her body which was the real showstopper. He felt a sudden flare of lust as he acknowledged that her body was absolutely amazing. All curves and seductive hollows and none of the gaunt look of the over–dieted. He let his gaze drift downwards over her bare shoulders—at skin which gleamed as softly as silk—to where her pert and luscious breasts formed a cleavage which was like an open invitation to a man's lips.

He put down his barely touched glass of champagne onto a passing waitress's tray. Nikolai's interest was piqued. He quirked her a smile he only ever used sparingly, and waited for the inevitable. Any minute now and she would start walking towards him with a hopeful little look of expectation on her face.

She didn't.

Nikolai's eyes narrowed as the woman seemed to hesitate, before turning away and beginning to walk in the opposite direction. And for a moment he couldn't quite believe it.

She had turned her back on him!

Now his interest was definitely alerted. All the hunter instincts which usually lay dormant—made redundant by modern women who preferred to do the chasing—rose to heat his blood. Was she playing games? Had she turned away simply to give him the opportunity to feast his eyes on the delectable swell of her buttocks? Nikolai's gaze was drawn irresistibly to the twin satin–covered globes and he swallowed. Because nobody could deny that it was a very delectable bottom indeed.

Like a puppet who was having his strings twitched by some unseen fingers, he began to tail her.

Zara could feel the little hairs on the back of her neck prickling and the sudden race of her heart as she moved through the ballroom. She wasn't being paranoid and she wasn't imagining it. He was following her! The intimi–datingly handsome Russian with the icy stare who had been standing as still as a waxwork was now pursuing her across the room with a sure stealth.

She swallowed. Had he rumbled her? Guessed that she was an imposter with no earthly right to be here? In which case, wouldn't it just be best if she headed for the door, grabbed a bus and then phoned Emma with the news that her idea had been a disaster and that they should never have entertained it for more than a second? Because suddenly, the idea of waltzing up to him and presenting him with a business card seemed the height of crassness. What had given her the idea that she would have the nerve to do something like that?

Risking a quick glance over her shoulder, she could see that he had been swallowed up by the crowd and she speeded up as much as her impractical shoes would allow. Shielded by a cluster of guests, she ducked behind a huge marble pillar and stayed there for long enough to convince herself that she'd shaken him off. And when she came out, there was no sign of him. That rather daunting presence and those piercing eyes were nowhere to be seen. Quashing down an unmistakeable pang of disappointment, she glanced around, realising that she could make her escape, and.


Zara froze as a deep accent she'd never heard cut through the jumble of her thoughts, some bone–deep instinct telling her that it was him. It could only be him. And reflecting how unfair life could be—that a man who looked like some sort of golden and dangerous god should have the kind of voice which sent tingles down a woman's spine just by uttering a word which managed to sound like both a command and a question. Ignore him, she told herself. Pretend you haven't heard him and carry on walking.

She made to take a step forward but he spoke again and she found her feet frozen into immobility by his silken question.

'Are you trying to run away from me?'

Short of being rude and causing a scene, Zara knew that she had no choice other than to brazen it out. Pinning what she hoped was a confident smile to her lips, she turned to face him, her heart hammering beneath the thin silk of her dress. 'Why, do you think I should run away from you?' she questioned calmly.

'Well, that rather depends,' he murmured as his eyes drifted over her body.

Yet even as Zara felt her skin tingle in response to his unashamed appraisal she knew that this was dangerous. Very dangerous. He was flirting with her—and in a way which was completely outside her comfort zone. Yet what could she do other than to play the part of the sophisticate she had been dressed to look like—even if inside she suddenly felt like a scared little girl who was out of her depth? She tried to remember the kind of things which seasoned flirts said on television programmes.

'Really?' She widened her eyes. 'On what?'

Nikolai's lips gave a flickering curve of satisfaction. This was better. Much better. For a moment back then, he had thought she meant it—that she was actually giving him the brush–off. And when had that last happened? Never, he reflected sagely. He might have been described as the world's biggest commitment–phobe, but he was a master at getting women into his arms. He felt the quick beat of pleasure as he realised that up close she was just as delicious. 'On whether you're any good at dealing with difficult and demanding men,' he mused.

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Too Proud to Be Bought 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
The-Ladies-Room More than 1 year ago
Too Proud to be Bought was just that and such a clever love story. I adored Sharon Kendrick's heroine, Zara Evans a proud and hardworking young woman. Zara at a very young age went to live with her Godmother after her parents died. In later years, Zara nursed her until she died and gave up her education to do so. She was a loyal daughter and very loyal to her friends. So much so that when her friend asked her to attend an embassy ball wearing one of her dress designs, she did so with the understanding that she would give her friends business card to the famous and sexy Russian billionaire, Nikolai Komarov. Usually at these sort of social events, Zara acted as a waitress, as she worked for her friends mother who owned a catering business. When she arrived at the ball, she recognized some of her co-workers and was a bundle of nerves. So much so, that when she realized he was coming after her, she retreated. However, this alpha Russian was determined, asked her to dance, flirted with her and offered her a ride home in his limo. That not all he did in that limo! From across the room Nikolai immediately watched the lovely Zara arrive. She was lovely and curvy and he wanted to meet her. Women usually fell at his feet and they always had an He knew that first hand and had learned the hard way when his mother left him behind in Russia to live with his sister and boyfriend. His mother never returned and he definitely had issues with women and he was very cynical. His mother was beautiful and she ended up with a rich man as his mistress. All I can say is their meeting was tense, Zara kept him at arms length and in the end retreated and returned to her home. Nikolai was so intrigued he found out who she really was, went to her employer and hired her for one of his personal events. Shocked didn't even describe the feelings Zara felt when she looked up and saw him again. Embarrassed would also describe her feelings because at their first meeting he had offered to take her home in his limo and let's just say there was more than kissing going on in that limos back seat. She was like a "drug" and Nikolai wanted to bed her and would do anything to make that happen. Money of course, he would offer her a job, make her an offer she couldn't refuse and invite her to his French villa to work as a waitress for a business meeting. What he didn't know was the reason why Zara would accept. She needed the money to pay off her Godmother's medical bills and to keep her home. Of course, things in the end, ended up with them making love. All I could think was this man didn't have a clue what a wonderful person Zara was and that he would misjudge her. Zara, well would her heart get broken because it was obvious while reading this beautiful love story, they couldn't get enough of each other. She captivated him. So much for a light and easy affair. It became so complicated, and Zara remained so strong, so proud and in the end she had to walk away. Could and would she survive? How about Nikolai, would he get over his issues about women and their need to take him to the cleaners? Would he realize what he had lost when she walked away? You'll just have to read this beautifully written romance by one of my favorite authors, Sharon Kendrick and you'll love their happy ending which was quite the surprise!
Dramaqueen78 More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this read! Zara was a great heroine! Buy this book!
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