Hot Nights with an
The Master Player
Overtime in the Boss’s Bed
The Billionaire Boss’s Innocent Bride
MILLS & BOON
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About the Author
Initially a French/English teacher, EMMA DARCY changed careers to computer programming before the happy demands of marriage and motherhood. Very much a people person, and always interested in relationships, she finds the world of romance fiction a thrilling one, and the challenge of creating her own cast of characters very addictive.
I dedicate this book to all the readers who have travelled through my worlds and shared the smiles and the tears with me.
HE watched her. The launch party for the new hit television show was packed with celebrities, many of the women more structurally beautiful than the one he watched, but to Maximilian Hart’s mind, she outshone them all. There was a lovely simplicity about her that attracted both men and women, a natural quality that evoked the sense she would never play anyone false. The quintessential girl next door whom everyone liked and trusted, Max thought, plus the soft sensuality in her femininity that made every man want to go to bed with her.
There was nothing hard, nothing intimidating about the way she looked. Her blonde hair was in a soft short flyaway style that invariably seemed slightly ruffled, not sprayed into shape. There were dimples in her cheeks when she smiled. Her face had no sharp lines. Even her nose ended in a soft tilt. And her body was how a woman’s should be—no bony shoulders, no sticklike arms, every part of her sweetly rounded and curved, not voluptuously so, not threatening to other women but very inviting to any man.
Though her eyes were the real key to her attraction, their luminous light blue colour somehow suggested that her soul was open for listening to and empathising with anything you wanted to tell her. Nothing guarded about those eyes. They drew you in, showing every emotion, transmitting an almost mesmerising vulnerability that stirred a man’s protective instincts as well as the more basic ones.
The wide generous mouth was almost as expressive as the eyes, its soft mobility reflecting the same feelings from a grimace of sympathy to a scintillating smile of shared joy. She had the gift of projecting whatever you wanted from her and you believed she truly felt it, not an actress playing a part. It was a gift that could turn her into a huge star, and not just in the television show he’d bought and had rewritten to showcase what he’d seen in her.
Oddly enough, he wasn’t sure she wanted to be one. Her domineering mother wanted it. Her ambitious script-writer husband wanted it. She did what they wanted, never raising any objection to it but there had been occasions when Max had glimpsed a lost look on her face—moments when she thought no-one was watching, when she wasn’t required to be someone else’s creation, when she was not on show.
She was on show tonight and the party people were flocking to her, wanting to share her spotlight, fascinated by her unique charisma whether they wanted to be or not. The crowd around her kept shifting, changing, forced to give way to others who wanted a piece of her if only for a little while. Although Max noted that those most closely connected to her life left her to shine alone.
It didn’t surprise him. Neither her mother nor her husband enjoyed the role of background person, which they inevitably became if they attached themselves to her in public. He tore his gaze away from her to glance around, unsurprised when he spotted her mother schmoozing up to a group of television executives, increasing her network of contacts she could use. Max had disliked dealing with her. Unavoidable since she had appointed herself her daughter’s agent. He kept any business meeting with her short and coldly rebuffed any attempt at a more personal connection with him.
Pushy, full of her own ego, Stephanie Rollins was the worst kind of stage-mother. Her vividly dyed carrot-red hair yelled notice me, remember me, even without its butch shortness, which accentuated her abrasive attitude of I’m as good as any man and better than most. Though there was nothing butch about her body, which she dressed with in-your-face sexiness; cleavage on show, tight skirts, extremely high heels to bring attention to her shapely legs.
Everything was used as a weapon in her fight to win her own way and there was nothing Max liked about her. Even the name she’d chosen for her daughter—Chloe—seemed deliberately artful, aimed at being remembered. Chloe Rollins. It rolled off the tongue, yet it always struck a false note with Max. It seemed too contrived for the person he saw in Chloe. Something simple would have suited her better.
His mouth twitched with amusement at the fanciful addition of his own surname. Marriage had never appealed to him. He didn’t want a wife. Sexual urges were satisfied with one woman or another and his butler and cook did everything else a wife could do. Besides, Chloe Rollins already had a husband and Max didn’t believe in poaching other men’s wives, not even for a casual affair. Having a messy private life had no more appeal than having a messy business life. Max stayed firmly in control of both.
He wondered what use her husband was making of this party and his gaze roved around the crowd, seeking the handsome charmer Chloe had married, Tony Lipton. He was well named. The guy was full of glib lip but Max didn’t think much of his writing ability. None of the lines he came up with had any emotional punch. They invariably had to be edited, sharpened by other writers on the script-writing team for the show. Tony Lipton wouldn’t be on the team at all but for his inclusion in the deal with Chloe.
Interesting … he was not currying attention. He was right off at the edge of the party crowd, half-turned away from it and having what looked like a very tense exchange with Chloe’s personal assistant, Laura Farrell. Angry frustration on his face. Angry determination on hers. Tony grabbed her arm, fingers digging in with a viselike grip. She wrenched herself free of it and whirled away from him, her face set in seething resentment as she barged through the crowd, making a beeline for Chloe.
Max’s instinct for trouble was instantly alerted. There were media people here. He did not subscribe to the view that any publicity—however bad—was good publicity. Any distraction from the success of the show was not welcome, particularly anything unpleasant centred on the star.
He moved, carving his own way through the crowd, but he was coming from the opposite side of the room—impossible to intercept Laura. She reached Chloe first, shoving past the cluster of people surrounding her, moving into a stance