The Russian's Acquisition(5)

By: Dani Collins

“It’s wrongful dismissal. Unless you’re offering a package?” She hated that she tensed in hope. She knew exactly how marketable her skill set was: barely adequate. Going back to low-end jobs, scraping by on a hand-to-mouth existence made her insides gel with dread. This job had been her first step into genuine security.

The Russian tilted his head to a patronizing angle. “We both know you’ve enjoyed the full package long enough, Miss Daniels. If you haven’t set aside something for this eventuality, that’s not my concern.”

“Stop talking like I was—”

“What?” he demanded, baring his teeth. “Victor Van Eych’s mistress? Stop acting like you weren’t,” he snarled with surprising bite. In a few long strides he was at his desk, flipping open a file, waving a single sheet of paper. “Your qualifications are limited to typing and filing, but you’re occupying an executive office.” Another sheet flapped in the air. “You’re paid more than his personal secretary, but he still needed one because you were dedicated to ‘special projects.’” He cracked out a laugh as he snatched up the next record. “You live in the company flat—”

“In the housekeeper’s wing because it’s one of my duties to water the plants,” she defended, hearing how weak it sounded even though Victor had made it sound so logical.

“The janitors who dust the place can water the plants. You’re a parasite, Miss Daniels. One who’s being pried off the host. Take the day to pack your things.”

A parasite. She was doing everything in her power to pay back the system! This job had been a golden egg, but she’d tried not to take advantage of Victor’s generosity. Now she was finally on the brink of being able to help others instead of focusing on her own struggles—something she wanted not for the recognition, but to support children like what she’d once been—and he was calling her a parasite?

“You reprehensible, conscienceless…” Her voice dried up, which was probably best. She was shaking and liable to get personal. Mention that scar, for instance.

“Conscienceless,” he repeated through lips that peeled back in a snarl. He closed her file and took up a memo of some kind. “Do you even know what you’ve been sleeping with? Read that, then tell me who is conscienceless and reprehensible.”


ALEKSY TOLD HIMSELF he was only confirming that she’d actually left. He was not looking to run into her. Nevertheless, the part of him still prowling with a sense of anticlimax would leap on another chance to verbally tussle with her. Until she’d read the memo, paled, then walked out in stunned silence, Clair Daniels had been—

Forget her, he ordered himself again, but it wasn’t easy. Her type was usually fair game. He didn’t mess with marriageable women, just the types who enjoyed physical pleasure and material wealth over love. Clair had obviously fallen into that category, asking if he was offering a package. She’d been royally peeved when he turned her down, displaying the kind of passionate anger that suggested an equally passionate—

Stop it. He was here to take ownership of one more acquisition. That was all.

He keyed in the entry code to the firm’s penthouse and stepped into generic opulence. The plants looked very well tended. Unfortunately that was the only thing recommending the place. It was the height of modern convenience. No expense was spared in the white leather furniture or silk rugs over marble tiles, but it lacked…

Traces of her.

Absently stroking his thumb along the raised line on his chin, he strolled through a dining room that held no fresh flowers. The white duvet on the master bed was undented. The bathroom was not decorated with intriguing lingerie. In the kitchen, the pantry shelves were bare of all but the minimum staples. She’d vacated so completely, it was as if she’d never lived here at all.

How, then, would he find—

He caught the faint sound of a feminine voice through a wall and cocked his head, instantly alert. Moving past the refrigerator, he found an unlocked door to a laundry room. On the opposite side another door opened into a narrow kitchen, where the scent of toast lingered. Beyond, in a modest lounge peppered with colorful throws, unopened mail and abandoned shoes, Clair Daniels stood. She had her back to him as she finished a call. Her pert bottom and slim thighs were mouthwateringly silhouetted by clingy yoga pants.

The internal wolf that had been pacing restlessly inside him leapt to the fore, exploding his heart in his chest and slamming hot blood through his limbs. He was furious to find her here, but he smiled.

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