A Ruthless Proposition

By: Natasha Anders



She tried to empty her mind of everything and focus only on the view. From her fortieth-floor vantage point, the shimmering lights looked as pretty as a Christmas tree, but she wondered at the constant frenetic activity in this crazy city that didn’t seem to have slowed down at all, despite the lateness of the hour. She knew she should try to get some sleep. It was after three in the morning, and Dante Damaso would undoubtedly be up, dressed, and disgustingly alert by seven. She crawled into the king-size bed, which was positioned so she could still see the skyline. She curled up on her side and stared down at the blinking lights of the traffic far, far below before drifting into a restless sleep.



Dante woke as he usually did, fully aware of his surroundings and not the slightest bit groggy despite the lack of sleep and jet lag. For once that ability wasn’t a blessing, not when he was immediately bombarded by the memory of the colossal error in judgment he had made the night before.

“Shit,” he hissed beneath his breath, wasting a brief moment of his very precious time on a twinge of regret before shrugging that smidgen of conscience away. Instead he attempted to focus his attention on a solution to what could definitely become a problem. The sex had been quite good, really, and just what he’d needed to blow off the frustrations of the day. But the girl was his employee, a very junior employee—and Dante hardly ever went there. Plus, she was his friend’s sister, and Dante for damned sure never went there. And yet he’d gone there last night and had no one to blame but himself.

To give Chloe her due, she had never looked at him in that way, never hinted at wanting any form of sexual relationship with him. If anything, until last night, she had been indifferent toward him and even seemed to dislike him at times. He snorted at that last thought, dismissing it as unlikely. When women pretended indifference, they were usually playing hard to get, and she was definitely the type to play ridiculous games like that. Look how easily she’d fallen into his bed last night. Surely that was proof she’d been harboring some sort of attraction for him all along.

He just hoped she didn’t think it would be the start of something; he really didn’t need the complication of breaking Luc’s sister’s heart. He liked the guy and they had been friends for a long time—and even though Dante had known of her existence, he had never actually met Luc’s sister until she applied for this job. He hadn’t been too enthused by the idea of giving her the position—especially in light of his unexpected physical response to her presence. But he wasn’t about to offend one of his few real friends by refusing to give the man’s precious sister a job—no matter how woefully underqualified she was on paper.

He shook himself impatiently, irritated that he had already wasted this much time on the incident when he had to figure out how to approach the precarious situation with the Shinjuku metropolitan government. He resented having to devote any of his time to considering the possible ramifications of his ill-advised sexual encounter with a woman. Not when he had so many other pressing issues to deal with.

He shook his head as he rose from bed and crossed to the bathroom for a quick shower. He had the utmost confidence he would handle this incident in the best way possible; it was just sex, after all. By the time he was dressed and ready to face the day, he had already dismissed the episode and was focused on other, far more important matters.



When Cleo joined Dante in the living room, he greeted her with his usual morning grunt, keeping his focus on his laptop.

“Miss Knight, I need you to send an urgent e-mail to Miles Kinross for the Phase One original blueprints,” he said without looking up.

“Right now?” she asked, and he lifted his gaze from the computer screen to frown at her.

“Yes, right now. I wouldn’t use the word ‘urgent’”—he used mocking air quotes—“if I didn’t want it right now.”

Cleo gritted her teeth, bit back the sarcastic retort hovering on the tip of her tongue, and settled for saccharine sweetness instead.

“Well, I only ask, sir, because it’s midnight in South Africa, and Mr. Kinross may not be checking his e-mails. I thought you might prefer the direct approach of a phone call instead.”

“Then make yourself useful and get him on the line. Be proactive for a change.”

She lifted her brows and picked up her company phone. She really wished she hadn’t fallen into bed with this man so easily. But having regrets now—while she still sported patches of stubble burn on her inner thighs and her breasts tingled tantalizingly—was a waste of energy. His sultry mouth had trailed over every inch of her skin, and his heavy stubble had left a pale pink trail in some of the places he had lingered. There was even a faint sting in the small of her back, telling her she probably wore the same naughty stubble burn just above her butt.

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