Authors: Abby Green
‘Well? You haven’t answered my question. What are you going to do when my security team locate the GPS signal on my mobile phone and track me to here?’ He glanced at the heavy platinum watch encircling one broad wrist. ‘I’d say all hell is breaking loose right about now …’
Jesse sent up a sigh of relief that she’d had enough time to store his personal effects in a locked security box which was now locked inside the boot of the Jeep.
She hitched up her chin and faced him. ‘I disabled the GPS device on your phone
laptop. There’s no other way your location can be centred to here.’ She could see his jaw clench ominously and rushed on. ‘And I hacked into your account to send e-mails to your assistant and your security team, to alert them to a change of plan in your schedule. I said that you were not to be disturbed under any circumstances until you contacted them.’
Jesse could see his brain clicking into gear … sorting through what she’d said … searching for a way out. Then she saw realisation hit, and he stalked around the front of the Jeep, seriously intimidating now.
‘You’re one of the only people in the world who could do such a thing because you devised the software.’
Jesse gulped. She might have felt proud in other circumstances, but not right now, when she said, ‘Yes.’
If he hadn’t already gone nuclear this just might have done it.
Jesse spoke again—as much to distract him as anything else. ‘I’m aware that you are known for abrupt changes in
plan—as much to keep your employees on their toes as to keep an eye on your myriad business interests—so I don’t think your staff will be too surprised at your sudden deviation.’
Jesse could see how his cheeks suffused with colour, making his cheekbones stand out even further, only adding to his intensely masculine appeal. His voice was supremely controlled when he spoke, but it wasn’t fooling Jesse for a second. She could see a muscle twitching in his hard jaw.
‘You certainly seem to have thought of everything. For now.’
‘For the next ten days, Mr Sanchis. I’ve … you’ve already sent out instructions to back out of the deal with O’Brien.’
‘Kidnapping; hacking into my accounts; pretending to be me … Your crimes are mounting, Ms Moriarty. And all because you’re so desperate to be the one to save O’Brien from the abyss.’
Jesse wanted to scream.
I want to be the one to send him into the abyss. For ever!
She lifted one shoulder in a small movement, scared of that flat, emotionless look in Luc Sanchis’s eyes. With his tie rakishly askew and his shirt open he might have been a pirate. He spat out words contemptuously, taking Jesse by surprise.
‘Women like you make me sick. You’re more ruthless than any man. In light of your determination to succeed in this matter I don’t doubt you’d buy and sell a family member to get what you want.’
Jesse was unaware of how she paled in that instant, or of how Luc Sanchis’s eyes narrowed on her. She stepped back abruptly avoiding his eyes, more than aghast at how easily he’d cut her to the quick. It was because of treacherous family that she was in this position. That she even knew what ruthlessness felt like.
‘Let me show you around the villa.’
Tension quivered between them, and Jesse knew that Luc Sanchis was realising he simply had no option right now except to do as she said. She walked around him and up some steps into the main hall.
The house throughout was white, with exposed stone walls, bright and comfortable furnishings. The main hall floor was marble, but the rest of the ground level had wooden floors, softened by faded oriental rugs. It was truly a home, loved and tended by its owners—a Greek billionaire named Alexandros Kouros, his wife, Kallie, and their three children.
Jesse had done some business with Kouros in the past, and he’d told her about his island and villa and suggested that she use it if she ever felt like getting away, if it was free. She’d automatically said thanks but no thanks; leisure was not something she indulged in.
She’d remembered the island when she’d thought of this audacious plan to stop Luc Sanchis, and had wondered where on earth she could take him.
She gestured to the vast expanse of a plush living room, with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves along one wall and comfortable couches and chairs. ‘This is the main living area. There’s a TV and DVDs in the cabinet …’
His voice dripped sarcasm. ‘You mean I’m allowed to move freely throughout the house? You’re not locking me in the tower with only a daily bowl of gruel to keep me alive?’
Jesse tensed at his dark humour. She was surprised … she’d not been sure what to expect. In her experience billionaires and titans of industry could be petulant when things didn’t go their way. And Luc Sanchis so far had barely balked at his fate … he was very angry, yes, but not disconcerted. As if he was merely biding his time, getting the lie of the land.
She didn’t fool herself into believing she could be complacent. Luc Sanchis was preternaturally intelligent and cunning.
She wouldn’t trust for a second that he wasn’t looking for a way out, or a way to manipulate her.
She turned around to face him, struck all over again at his immense physicality. She didn’t like how it made her feel weak. He had to understand how futile any attempt on his part to leave would be.
‘There is a perimeter fence around this villa that is permanently electrified and alarmed with infra-red sensors. That airstrip is the only way on and off the island.’
Jesse crossed her fingers behind her back, because she knew there was a small boathouse tucked away on the southern tip which held a speedboat. She didn’t like the way Luc Sanchis’s eyes narrowed on her contemplatively.
He crossed his arms, legs spread. Supremely comfortable in his skin even now. ‘I’m a champion swimmer.’
Why am I not surprised?
Jesse thought caustically.
She crossed her arms too. ‘The waters here are treacherous, known for their volatile currents. I checked the weather forecast and a storm is possible. Even if you did make it through the perimeter fence, no matter how good a swimmer you are you’d never last.’
Luc cast a glance through the open French doors and the gently billowing white curtains. The scene outside was idyllic, but even as he thought that the faintest whisper of a cool breeze whistled through the room. He knew only too well from his experience as a seasoned sailor how the weather could change in an instant.
He looked back down into those serious grey eyes and had a fleeting thought:
why so serious?
He shook his head, as if that would obliterate the insidious question. ‘How did you persuade my pilot to change course?’ He had been wondering about that. He had still been on the phone when he’d embarked on the plane, right up until they’d
been about to take off. Undoubtedly that had added to the ease with which they’d carried out their subterfuge.
Jesse avoided his eye again, looking down for a moment, blushing furiously. ‘I … ah … sent his company an e-mail too. From you … explaining that you wanted to change your flight plan from Switzerland to here. And that you didn’t want to discuss it once you got on board … because the trip was of a romantic nature.’
She looked back up. ‘I contracted the steward separately and paid him to administer the sleeping aid, and he took your things as well,’ she admitted. ‘It was all done under the impression that it wasn’t serious but for a
’ Jesse’s voice trailed off with embarrassment, but then she got herself together. ‘I also said that you’d inform them when you wanted to book your return flight.’
Luc gritted his jaw so tightly it hurt. She’d simply but effectively re-routed his entire schedule—and with the best anti-hacking software protecting his systems who would assume for a second the messages weren’t coming from him? He was hoist by his own petard because, exactly as she’d pointed out, his staff
used to his last-minute changes. She’d obviously sent all these missives at the last possible moment, and worded them in such a way that they didn’t encourage discussion. Something he was apt to do when he wanted to focus on something.
Jesse had no idea what was going on in his head now, but she was sure it wasn’t pretty and had a lot to do with hating her. She backed away towards the stairs, which led up to the upper rooms and away from the living space. After a few taut seconds she heard Luc Sanchis sigh and come after her.
A carpeted runner led up the stairs to a corridor on the first level that had rooms leading off in each direction. Jesse stopped outside one and opened the door, standing aside so Sanchis could look inside.
She’d felt funny about using the Kouroses’ master bedroom, so she’d picked the next largest for Luc Sanchis and taken a modest one for herself, instinctively feeling more comfortable in less opulent surroundings. Although, she thought wryly,
in this villa meant a palatial bedroom with plush carpets and a queen-sized bed. Her huge
bathroom had a decadent sunken bath, and led out to a balcony with a stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea.
She walked into the bedroom she’d assigned for Luc Sanchis, her feet sinking noiselessly into the carpet. The view from this room and its
bathroom were even more spectacular than that from Jesse’s room.
She was cursory when she spoke, suddenly uncomfortable here with this man in such luxurious surroundings. ‘This is the main bedroom with
bathroom. It’s stocked with all the necessary toiletries.’
Jesse fought not to flinch when Luc Sanchis joined her in the bathroom and inspected the shelves, picking things up and putting them down again. She noticed that he must have dropped his jacket and tie somewhere. A minute ago the rooms had felt enormous. Now Jesse felt positively claustrophobic. All she could see were those big hands and long fingers making everything look tiny.
She backed out into the bedroom and noticed the jacket and tie strewn on the bed. She looked away hurriedly, suddenly hot when she thought of him ripping that tie off.
She walked over to the doors leading into a walk-in closet. She could sense Luc Sanchis and his bristling energy close behind her, and hated the little shiver of
she felt inside.
With the doors open wide she indicated to where a vast array of clothes was laid out. Suits, trousers, shoes. Casual clothes, pyjamas. Luc Sanchis stepped up to the door and his mouth opened … and closed again. Eyes flashing he looked
at Jesse and muttered grimly, ‘I suspected you might be gay, but not if these belong to the last gigolo you brought here.’
Jesse’s face flamed and she fought for control. He thought these were for her
? The idea would have been laughable if Jesse had been in the mood to laugh. And she was stung somewhere very vulnerable to think that he’d assumed she was gay.
Luc watched Jesse. Myriad expressions chased across her face—uppermost something looking like shock. He was surprised at this prudish aspect of her but then recalled the buttoned-up look she’d sported in his office. She was more casual now, but equally unrevealing. He didn’t like to admit to the stab of something incomprehensible in his gut when he thought of these clothes belonging to another man.
She got out in a slightly strangled-sounding voice, ‘They’re all new. For you. I knew your meeting was only for a couple of hours and you wouldn’t have clothes with you … so I ordered some.’
Luc walked into the space and fingered some of the clothes. There was enough to dress him for a month, encompassing the entire spectrum of casual to formal wear.
Jesse said hesitantly from behind him, ‘Mr Sanchis, I know I’ve brought you here against your will, but it really is my intention to let you go … just as soon as I’m assured you won’t be in a position to resurrect your deal with O’Brien …’
Sounding more hopeful than he’d ever heard her, she went on, ‘If you could tell me now that you’re willing to sign a contract stating that you’ll walk away from the deal then I can have a plane or a helicopter here within the hour.’
Luc held the material of a black tuxedo jacket between thumb and forefinger. He stopped himself from gripping the material in his fist and squeezing with all the strength in his body. He looked at her.
And then he dismissed her by looking back to the clothes. Most disturbingly, they were all in his exact size.
‘Don’t tell me—you hacked into my assistant’s brief on what to order from my tailor?’
Luc could hear Jesse shift uncomfortably.
‘The information was easy to find. I wanted to make sure you’d be as comfortable as possible, Mr Sanchis.’
Luc dropped the jacket and stalked towards Jesse. He placed an arm above her head against the doorframe and saw how her eyes widened. Her cheeks flushed and her breathing grew more rapid.
. Much to his chagrin, his own breathing felt a tiny bit more laboured.
Disgusted with himself, Luc dropped his arm and said curtly, ‘I think we’ve skipped enough levels of social niceties to earn first-name status don’t you? Luc is my name.’
Jesse felt as if she was floundering badly. When he’d stalked over to her just now she’d felt a drowning sensation. Her insides had tightened while simultaneously feeling as if they were melting. And her nipples were as hard as bullets against the lace of her bra.
Before she could react he was stalking away from her and out of the room. Jesse started after him, calling, ‘Where are you going?’
He said, without turning around, ‘To find a phone so I can call someone and arrange to get off this godforsaken island and away from
. This ridiculous charade has gone on long enough.’
He stopped abruptly at the bottom of the stairs and Jesse almost careened into his back. She stopped herself just in time. He was looking from left to right and then he strode off, opening and closing doors to various rooms. Jesse’s heart was thumping, and she held her breath when he came to the door of the study. He opened it and went in, and she winced when she heard a very crude curse.