The Russian's Acquisition(4)

By: Dani Collins

Especially when she quivered at his touch. She made a coy play at pretending it disconcerted her, but she’d been sleeping with a man old enough to be her grandfather. Acting sexually excited was her stock in trade. It made him sick, yet he still responded to it. He wanted to crowd her into the wall and kindle her reaction until she was helpless to her own need and he could sate his.

Disappointment seared a blistering path through his center. He wanted her, but she’d already let his enemy have her.

* * *

Aleksy Dmitriev released her hand and insultingly wiped his own on his tailored pants, as if her touch had soiled his palm.

Clair jerked her hand into her middle, closing her fist over the sensation of calluses and heat. He was hot. In every way. All that masculine energy and muscle was a bombardment. She didn’t want to react, especially to someone who wanted to fire her.

She dragged at her cloak of indifference, the one she’d sewn together in a school full of spoiled rich kids. “What gives you the right, Mr. Dmitriev, to take away my job?”

“Your ‘job’ is dead.” His curled lip told her what he thought her job was.

“I’m a PA,” she said tightly. “Working under the president. If you’ve taken ownership, I assume you’re moving into that position?”

“On top of you? A predictable invitation, but I have no use for his leavings.”

“Don’t be crass!” she snapped. She never lost her temper. Poise was part of her defense.

He smirked, seeming to enjoy her flush of affront. It intensified her anger.

“I do real work,” she insisted. “Not whatever you’re suggesting.”

His broken eyebrow went up. They both knew what he was suggesting.

“I manage special projects—” She cut herself off at his snort, heart plummeting, suddenly worried about her own very special project. The foundation was a few weeks from being properly launched. After last week, she knew the building she’d grown up in was badly showing its age. The home needed a reliable income more than ever. And the people…

“Clair, are you okay? You’re more quiet than usual,” Mrs. Downings had said last week, catching her at the top of the stairs where she’d been painting. They’d sat on the landing and Clair hadn’t been able to keep it all in. Mrs. Downings had put her arm around her, and for once Clair had allowed the familiarity, deeply craving the sense that someone cared she was hurting.

She’d come away more fired up than ever to get the foundation off the ground. She had to keep people like Mrs. Downings, with her understanding and compassion, available to children with the same aching, empty hearts that she had.

“Are you shutting down the whole firm?” Clair asked Aleksy with subdued panic.

He turned stony. “That’s confidential.”

She shook her head. “You can’t let everyone go. Not immediately. Not without paying buckets of severance,” she guessed, but it was an educated one. There were hundreds of clients with investments managed here.

“I can dismiss you,” he said with quiet assurance.

Another jolt of anger pulsed through her, unfamiliar but invigorating. “On what grounds?”

“Not turning up for work last week.”

“I had the time booked months ago. I couldn’t have known then that my employer would pass away right before I left.” And she would have stayed if Victor’s family hadn’t been so cutting. If someone, anyone, had said she was needed here.

“You obviously cared more about enjoying your holiday than whether your job would be here when you returned.”

The annual blitz of cleaning and repair at the home was the furthest thing from a holiday, not that he wanted to know. “I offered to stay,” she asserted, not wanting to reveal how torn she’d felt. With her world crashing around her here, she’d been quite anxious to escape to the one stable influence in her life.

“The VP granted my leave,” she continued, scraping her composure together by folding her arms. With her eyes narrowed in suspicion, she asked, “Would I still be employed if I’d stayed?”

“No.” Not a shred of an excuse.

What a truly hateful man! His dislike of her was strangely hurtful too. She tried hard to make herself likable, knowing she wasn’t naturally warm and spontaneous. Failing without being given a chance smarted.

“Mr. Turner assured me before I left that another position would be found for me. I’ve been here almost three years.” She managed to hang on to a civil tone, searching for enough dignity to disguise her fear.

“Mr. Turner doesn’t own the company. I decide who stays.”

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