Authors: Carole Mortimer
Jonas continued to look up at her in seething annoyance for a mere fraction of a second before following her, taking the stairs two at a time until he stood directly behind her. âYou and I need to talk,' he bit out between gritted teeth.
âWrite me a letter,' she advised as she unlocked the door before stepping inside and turning to face him, her expression one of open challenge.
Jonas placed his hands on either side of the door-frame. âI've already written you half a dozen letters. Letters you haven't bothered to reply to.'
She grimaced. âThere's always the possibility that I'll reply to the seventh.'
âI doubt that somehow,' Jonas accepted grimly. âI don't think so!' He put his booted foot between the door and the frame as she would have closed that door in his face.
She opened it again to glare at him, those smoky grey eyes glittering darkly, bright colour in her normally pale cheeks. âRemove your foot, Mr Buchanan, or you'll leave me with no choice but to call the police and have you forcibly removed from the premises!'
It was all too easy for Jonas to see that she was more angry than alarmed by his persistence. âI only want the two of us to sit down and have a sensible conversationâ'
âI'm asking for two minutes of your time, damn it!' Jonas exclaimed.
Mac really wasn't being difficult when she said she was busy; she had a major exhibition at a gallery on
Saturday, only two days away, and she had one more painting to finish before then. Besides, no amount of talking to Jonas Buchanan was going to make her change her mind about selling the warehouse she had so lovingly worked on to make into her home.
Her grandfather had left this property to Mac when he died five years ago. It had been one of many warehouses by the river that had fallen into disuse as the trade into the London dock had fallen foul of other, more convenient transportation. Three floors high, it had been the perfect place for Mac to make into her home as well as her working studio. From the outside it still looked like an old warehouse, but inside the ground floor consisted of a garage and utility room, the second floor was her living quarters, and the third floor made a spacious studio.
Unfortunately, the area where the warehouse stood had recently become very attractive to property developers such as Jonas Buchanan, as they bought up the rundown riverside properties to put up blocks of luxurious apartments that had the added allure of a magnificent and uninterrupted view of the river.
It was this man's bad luck that Mac's own warehouse home stood on one of those sites.
She sighed. âI've already given my answer to your lawyer, your personal assistant, and your builder,' she reminded him pointedly. âI don't want to sell. Not now. Not in the future. Not ever. Is that clear enough for you?'
Jonas Buchanan's expression was one of pure exasperation as he gave an impatient shake of his head. âYou must realise that the area around you is going to become a noisy building site over the winter months?'
She shrugged. âYou've fenced off this area for that purpose.'
He frowned. âThat isn't going to lessen the noise of lorries arriving with supplies. Workmen constantly hammering and banging as the buildings start to go up, followed by huge cranes being erected on site. Exactly how do you expect to still be able to work with all that going on?'
Mac's eyes narrowed. âThe same way I've continued to work the last few months as you've systematically pulled down all the buildings around this one.'
Jonas's mouth firmed at the implied criticism. âI offered several times to relocate youâ'
âI have no wish to be “relocated”, Mr Buchanan,' Mary McGuire growled out between clenched teeth. âThis is my
. It will remain my home still, even once you've built and sold your luxurious apartments.'
And, as Jonas was only too aware, be a complete eyesore to the people who lived in those exclusive multimillion-pound apartments! âIn my experience, everyone has a price, Maryâ'
He frowned. âSorry?'
âEveryone who actually knows me calls me Mac, not Mary,' she explained. âAnd maybe the people you're acquainted with have “a price”, Mr Buchanan,' she said scathingly, smoky-grey eyes glittering with contempt. âI happen to believe that my own family and friends have more integrity than that. As do I!'
Jonas now fully understood the frustration his employees had previously encountered when trying to talk to Mary âMac' McGuire; he had never before met a more stubborn, pigheaded and unreasonable individual than this particular woman!
His mouth thinned. âYou know where to reach me when you change your mind.'
I change my mind,' she corrected firmly. âWhich I won't. Now, if you will excuse me, Mr Buchanan?' She raised ebony brows. âI really am very busy.'
And Jonas wasn't? With millions of pounds invested in one building project or another all over the world, Jonas's own time was, and always had been, at a premium. He certainly didn't have any more of it to waste tonight on this woman.
He stepped back. âAs I said, you know where to reach me when you've had enough.'
âGoodnight, Mr Buchanan,' she shot back with saccharinâand pointedâsweetness, before quietly closing the door in his face.
Jonas continued to scowl at that closed door for several minutes after she had carried out her threat to turn off the outside light and left him in darkness apart from the lights visible inside the warehouse itself.
He had already invested too much time and money in the building project due to begin on this site in the New Year to allow one stubborn individual to ruin it for him, or Buchanan Construction.
Obviously the money he had so far offered for this property wasn't enough of a reason for Miss McGuire to agree to move. Which meant Jonas was going to have to come up with a more convincing reason for her to want to leave.
up, Mac,' Jeremy Lyndhurst teased as the first of the guests invited to this evening's viewing began to come through the gallery. The fifty-something co-owner of the prestigious Lyndwood Gallery continued, âA few hours of looking good and being socially polite this evening, and tomorrow you can go back to being reclusive and dressing like a tramp!'
Mac chuckled huskilyâas she knew she was meant toâat this reminder of the affront it was to Jeremy's own impeccable dress sense whenever she turned up at his gallery in her paint-smeared working clothes. Which she had done a lot the last few weeks as she came to deliver the individual paintings due to be exhibited at this evening's âinvitation only' showing of her work.
Jeremy's partnerâin more ways than oneâMagnus Laywood, a tall, blond giant in his forties, was at the door to âmeet and greet' as more of those guests began to arrive; mainly art critics and serious collectors, but also some other individuals who were just seriously rich.
There were twenty of Mac's paintings on show this evening, and all of them expertly displayed by Jeremy and Magnus, on walls of muted cream with their own
individual lighting so that they showed to their best advantage.
It was the first individual exhibition of its kind that Mac had ever agreed to doâand now that the evening had finally arrived she was so nervous her knees were knocking together!
âHere, drink this.' Jeremy picked up a glass of champagne from one of the waiters who were starting to circulate amongst the guests in the rapidly filling room, and handed it to her. âYour face just went green!' he explained with a chuckle.
Mac took a restorative sip of the bubbly alcohol. âI've never been so nervous in my entire life.'
âOh, to be twenty-seven again,' Jeremy murmured mournfully.
Mac took another sip of the delicious champagne. âWhat if they don't like my work?' she wailed.
âThey can't all be idiots, darling,' Jeremy drawled. âIt's going to be a wonderful evening, Mac,' he reassured her seriously as she still looked unconvinced. âI know how hard this is for you, love, but just try to enjoy it, hmm?'
The problem was that Mac had never been particularly fond of exhibiting her work. Selling it, yes. Showing it to other people, and being âsocially polite' to those people, no. Unfortunately, as Mac was well aware, she couldn't make a living from her paintings if she didn't sell them.
âI'll tryâ Oh. My. God!' she gasped weakly as she saw, and easily recognised, the man now standing beside the door engaged in conversation with Magnus.
He was as tall as Magnus, and dark and dangerous where the other man was blond and amiable, there was
no mistaking that overlong dark hair and those hard and chiselled features dominated by piercing blue eyes that now swept coldly over the other guests.
Mac's heart hammered loudly in her chest as she took in the rest of his appearance. Dressed like every other man in the room, in a tailored black evening suit and snowy white shirt with a perfectly arranged black bowtie at his throat, Jonas nevertheless somehow managed to look so much more compellingly handsome than any other man in the room.
âWhat is it?' Jeremy followed her line of vision. âWho is that?' he murmured appreciatively, his longstanding relationship with Magnus not rendering him immune to the attractions of other men.
Mac dragged her gaze away from Jonas to look accusingly at the co-owner of the Lyndwood Gallery. âYou should knowâyou invited him!'
âI don't think so.' Jeremy's eyes were narrowed as he continued to look across at Jonas. âWho is he?'
Mac swallowed hard before answering. âJonas Buchanan.'
Jeremy looked impressed. â
As far as Mac was aware there was only one Jonas Buchanan, yes!
âAh, I understand now.' Jeremy nodded his satisfaction as a puzzle was obviously solved. âHe's with Amy Walters.'
Mac turned back in time to see Jonas Buchanan placing a proprietary hand beneath the elbow of a tall and beautiful redhead, the two of them talking softly together as they crossed the room to join a group of guests, Jonas easily standing several inches taller than the other men. Mac turned away abruptly.
âAmy's the art critic for
sup plied dryly as he saw the blankness of Mac's expression.
A completely unnecessary explanation as far as Mac was concerned; she knew exactly who Amy Walters was. It was the fact that the other woman had brought Jonas with her this evening, a man Mac was predisposed to dislike, that made things more than a little awkward; Mac was only too aware that she would have to be polite to the beautiful art critic if the two of them were introduced. Something that might be a little difficult for her to do with the arrogantly self-assured Jonas Buchanan standing at Amy's side!
The reason for that current self-assurance was obvious; invitations to this exhibition had been sent out weeks ago to ensure maximum attendance. Meaning that Jonas Buchanan had to have known, when they had met and spoken so briefly together two evenings ago, that he was going to be at her exhibition at the Lyndwood Gallery this evening.
If he thought he could intimidate her by practically gatecrashing her exhibition, then he couldâ
âHow nice to see you again so soon, Mac.'
Mac stiffened, her earlier nervousness completely evaporating and being replaced by indignation as she recognised Jonas Buchanan's silkily sarcastic tone as he spoke softly behind her.
Jonas kept his expression deliberately neutral as Mary âMac' McGuire slowly turned to face him.
To say that he had been surprised by her appearance this evening would be a complete understatement! In fact, if Amy hadn't teasingly assured him that the delicately lovely woman with her ebony hair secured
on top of her head to reveal the slender loveliness of her neck, and wearing a red Chinese-style knee-length silk dress with matching red high-heeled sandals that showed off her shapely legs to perfection, was indeed the artist herself, then Jonas wasn't sure he would have even recognised her!
She looked totally different with her hair up, older, more sophisticated, those mysterious smoky-grey eyes surrounded by long and thick dark lashes, the paleness of her cheeks highlighted with blusher, those full and sensuous lips outlined with a lip gloss the same vibrant red as that figure-hugging red silk gown and three-inch sandals.
In a word, she looked exquisite!
Whoever would have thought it? Jonas mused ruefully. From bag-lady to femme fatale with the donning of a red silk dress.
Although the challenging glitter in those smoky grey eyes as she glared up at him was certainly familiar enough. âMr Buchanan,' she greeted dryly. âJeremy, this is Jonas Buchanan. Jonas, one of the gallery owners, Jeremy Lyndhurst.'
Mac watched through narrowed lashes as the two men shook hands, finding Jonas's appearance even more disturbing tonight than she had two evenings ago. He was one of the few men she had met who wore the elegance of a black evening suit rather than the clothes wearing him, the power of his personality such that it was definitely the man one noticed rather than the superb tailoring of the clothing he wore.
âHave you managed to lose Miss Walters already?' Mac asked sweetly as she saw that the other woman was talking animatedly to another man across the room.
Those electric-blue eyes darkened with sudden hu
mour. âAmy pretty much does her own thing,' Jonas Buchanan replied with a singular lack of concern.
âHowâ¦understanding, of you,' Mac taunted. Really, she was nervous enough about this evening already, without having to suffer this particular man's presence!
âNot at all,' Jonas drawled with deepening amusement.
âI do hope you will both excuse meâ¦?' Jeremy cut in apologetically. âSomeone has just arrived that I absolutely have to go and talk to.'
âOf course,' Jonas Buchanan accepted smoothly. âI assure you, I'm only too happy to stay and keep Mac company,' he added as he took a deliberate step closer to her.
A close proximity that Mac instantly took exception to!
One or other of this man's associates had been hounding her for months now in an effort to buy her homeâbut only so that it could be knocked down to become part of the area of ground landscaped as a garden for the new luxury apartment complex. The fact that Jonas Buchanan himself had now decided to get in on the act did not impress Mac in the slightest.
âYou're looking very beautiful this eveningâ'
âDon't let appearances deceive you, Mr Buchanan,' she interrupted sharply. âI'll be back to wearing my dungarees tomorrow.' Mac had made the mistake of dating a prestigious and arrogant art critic when she was still at university, and she wasn't about to ever let another man treat her as nothing but a beautiful trophy to exhibit on his arm. âExactly what are you doing here, Mr Buchanan?' she asked him directly.
Jonas studied her through narrowed lids. Two evenings ago he had thought this woman looked like a
starving waif with absolutely no dress sense, but her exquisite appearance tonight in the red silk dressâwhich Jonas realised almost every other man in the room was also aware ofâindicated to him that she must actually dress in those other baggy and unflattering clothes because she wanted to.
He shrugged. âAmy asked me to be her escort this evening.'
Those red-glossed lips curled with distaste. âHow flattering to have a woman ask you out.'
Jonas's gaze hardened. âI'm always happy to spend the evening with my cousin.'
Those smoky-grey eyes widened. âAmy Walters is your cousin?'
He arched a mocking brow at her obvious incredulity. âIs that so hard to believe?'
Well, no, of course it wasn't hard to believe, Mac accepted uncomfortably. But it did mean that Jonas wasn't here this evening on a date with another woman, as Mac had assumed that he wasâ¦
And why should that matter to her? She had no personal interest in this man. Did sheâ¦?
Lord, she hoped not!
The fact that he was one of the most compellingly attractive men Mac had ever met was surely nullified by the fact that he was also the man trying to force her out of her own home, by the sheer act of making it too uncomfortable for her to stay?
She steadily returned Jonas's piercing gaze as she shrugged. âI don't see any family resemblance.'
He smiled wickedly. âMaybe that's because Amy is a woman and I'm a man?'
Mac was well aware that Jonas was a man. Much too aware for her own comfort, as it happened. At five feet
two inches tall, and weighing only a hundred pounds, in stark contrast to Jonas Buchanan's considerable height and powerful build, she was made totally aware of her own femininity by this man. And, uncomfortably, her vulnerabilityâ¦
Her mouth firmed. âI really should go and circulate amongst the other guests,' she told him as she placed her empty champagne glass down on a side table with the intention of leaving.
âMaybe I'll come with you.' Jonas Buchanan reached out to lightly grasp Mac by the elbow as she would have turned away.
His touch instantly sent a quiver of shocking awareness along the length of her arm and down into her breasts, causing them to swell inside her bra and the nipples to engorge to a pleasurable ache against the lacy material.
It was a completely unfamiliarâand unwelcomeâfeeling to Mac. After that one brief disaster of a relationship while at university, she had spent the following six years concentrating solely on her painting career, with little or no time to even think about relationships. She wasn't thinking of one now, either. Jonas Buchanan was the last manâpositively
last man!âthat Mac should be feeling physically attracted to.
Her body wasn't listening to her, unfortunately, as the warmth of Jonas's hand on her arm began to infiltrate the rest of her body, culminating uncomfortably at the apex of her thighs as she felt herself moisten there, in such a burst of heat that she gasped softly in awareness of that arousal.
She raised startled eyes to that hard and compellingly handsome face above hers, Jonas standing so close to her now she was able to see the individual pores in his
skin. To recognise the lighter blue ring that surrounded the iris of his eyes, which gave them that piercing appearance. To gaze hypnotically at those slightly parted lips as they slowly lowered towards hersâ
Mac jerked herself quickly out of his grasp. âWhat are you doing?' Yes, what
he doing? Jonas wondered frowningly. For a brief moment he had forgotten that they were surrounded by noisily chatting art critics and collectors. Had felt as if he and the exquisitely beautiful Mac McGuire were the only two people in the room, surrounded only by an expectant awareness and the heady seduction of her perfume.
Damn it, Jonas had been so unaware of those other people in the room that he had been about to kiss her in front of them all!
Her appearance this evening was an illusion, he reminded himself. Tonight she was the artist, deliberately dressed to beguile and seduce art critics and art collectors alike into approving of or buying her paintings. The fact that she had almost succeeded in seducing him into forgetting exactly who and what she was only increased Jonas's feelings of self-disgust.
His mouth thinned as he stepped away to look down at her through hooded lids. âI really shouldn't keep you from your other guests any longer.'
Mac trembled slightly at the contempt she could hear in Jonas's tone. As she wondered what she had done to incur that contempt; he had been the one about to kiss her and not the other way around!
Her gaze returned to those sensually sculptured lips as she wondered what it would have felt like to have them part and claim her own lips. Jonas's mouth looked hard and uncompromising now, but seconds ago those
firm lips had been soft and inviting as they lowered to hersâ