The Highest Stakes of All. Sara Craven

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Название The Highest Stakes of All
Автор произведения Sara Craven
Жанр Современные любовные романы
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Издательство Современные любовные романы
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      Modern™ Romance are pleased to present this new and exciting mini-series!

      

       MEN WITHOUT MERCY

       Arrogant and proud, unashamedly male!

      Modern™ Romance with a retro twist …

      

      Step back in time to when men were men—and women knew just how to tame them!

      ‘What kind of barbarian are you?’ Joanna asked, her voice shaking.

      ‘A rich one,’ he said flatly. ‘And one whom it is unwise to cross—unless you are prepared to suffer the consequences. But perhaps, thespinis, you thought you were immune?’

      ‘How could I possibly have crossed you?’ she protested. ‘Twenty-four hours ago I—I didn’t know you existed.’

      ‘Whereas I have been aware of you for the past year,’ he said. ‘And have looked forward to our meeting. I do not think I shall be disappointed.’

      The dark eyes went over her. Slowly and quite deliberately stripping her naked, she realised dazedly.

      ‘Please me,’ he went on, ‘and you will find me generous.’

      ‘And if I don’t please you?’

      He shrugged. ‘Then you will learn to do so, and quickly,’ he returned, almost indifferently. ‘You have no other option, as I am sure you will come to see when you have considered the matter further.’

      He paused. ‘Your clothes and other possessions have already been packed, and tonight you will be flown to Greece, where you will wait for me on my island of Pellas.’

      His slow smile made her shiver.

      ‘I find anticipation increases the appetite—don’t you …?’

      About the Author

      SARA CRAVEN was born in South Devon and grew up in a house full of books. She worked as a local journalist, covering everything from flower shows to murders, and started writing for Mills & Boon® in 1975. When not writing, she enjoys films, music, theatre, cooking, and eating in good restaurants. She now lives near her family in Warwickshire. Sara has appeared as a contestant on the former Channel Four game show Fifteen to One, and in 1997 was the UK television Mastermind champion. In 2005 she was a member of the Romantic Novelists’ team on University Challenge—the Professionals.

       Recent titles by the same author:

      HIS UNTAMED INNOCENT

       RUTHLESS AWAKENING THE SANTANGELI MARRIAGE ONE NIGHT WITH HIS VIRGIN MISTRESS

      

      

       THE HIGHEST STAKES OF ALL

      SARA CRAVEN

      

       www.millsandboon.co.uk

      CHAPTER ONE

       South of France, 1975

      ‘PICKINGS,’ Denys Vernon said with immense satisfaction. ‘And very rich pickings by the look of it.’

      Stifling a sigh, Joanna put down the tartine she was buttering, and followed her father’s gaze to the new yacht that had appeared overnight in the bay below the Hotel St Gregoire.

      It was certainly large and extremely opulent, effortlessly diminishing the lesser craft anchored nearby. A floating palace, she thought, of gleaming white paint and chrome. Very swish. And suddenly there. Out of nowhere.

      ‘A wealthy sheikh, perhaps.’ Denys continued his musings aloud. ‘Or even foreign royalty.’

      ‘Or merely someone sheltering from last night’s storm,’ Joanna suggested more practically. She paused. ‘And, speaking of storms, the manager stopped me last night and asked when our bill would be settled. And he wasn’t smiling.’

      ‘Infernal bloody cheek,’ Denys snorted. ‘Gaston Levaux is becoming obsessive about cash. If he’s not careful, the whole place will become insufferably bourgeois.’

      ‘Just because he wants to be paid?’ Joanna asked mildly. ‘I thought making money was our sole reason for being here, too.’ She gave him a level look. ‘And the fact that we haven’t been doing so well lately must have been reported back to the office.’

      ‘I’m still ahead of the game,’ Denys said sharply. ‘All I need is one good night.’ His eyes strayed back to the yacht. ‘And one wealthy idiot who thinks he can play poker.’

      ‘And maybe Monsieur Levaux is concerned about his job,’ Joanna continued reflectively. ‘People are saying openly that the entire BelCote chain is being sold off. He won’t want any bad debts on his books when the new owners take over.’

      ‘Well, I’m sure he doesn’t need your concern.’ Denys looked her over. ‘I think you should visit the hotel boutique, my pet. Buy a new dress as a demonstration of good faith.’ He nodded. ‘Something short and not too sweet to show off your tan.’

      ‘Dad, I have plenty of clothes.’ Joanna spoke with a touch of weariness. ‘Besides, we have no money to waste on empty gestures.’

      ‘Not waste, darling. Investment. And please keep your voice down when you call me—that,’ he added irritably. ‘Someone might hear.’

      ‘And draw the correct conclusion that I’m actually your daughter instead of your supposed niece?’ She shook her head. ‘How long can we keep this farce going?’

      And, in particular, how long before you grow up? she wondered in unhappy silence as her father’s mouth tightened petulantly. Before you acknowledge that you haven’t been forty for some time. That your hair is only blond because it’s tinted, and you’re not wrinkled because you’ve had an expensive facelift.

      ‘It’s working very well. For one thing, it explains the same surname on our passports,’ Denys retorted. ‘And, as I told you at the outset, it doesn’t suit my image to have a daughter who’s nearly nineteen.’

      And it doesn’t suit me at all, Joanna thought bitterly. How long will it be before I can have a real life—the life I once planned?

      Teaching languages had been her aim. She’d been studying for her A levels prior to university when her mother had been taken suddenly ill, and diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Two months later she was dead, and Joanna’s relatively stable existence up to that point ended, too.

      Denys, summoned home from America as soon as his wife’s condition became known, had been genuinely grief-stricken. It had been his inability to settle rather than any lack of caring that had kept them apart for so much of their married life. Gail Vernon wanted a permanent home for her only child. Denys needed to gamble much as he needed to draw breath.

      However, he was a generous if erratic provider, and, to Joanna, he had seemed an almost god-like being, suntanned and handsome, whenever he returned to the UK. A dispenser of laughter and largesse, she thought, his cases stuffed with scent, jewellery and other exotic gifts as well as the elegant clothes he had made for him in the Far East.

      ‘If he ever gets stopped at Customs, he’ll end up in jail,’ his older brother Martin had muttered.

      Yet, somehow, it had never happened. And perhaps Uncle Martin had been right when he also said Denys had the devil’s own luck. But lately that luck had not been much in evidence. He’d sustained