Shackled by Diamonds

By: Julia James



Leo stilled, the anger draining out of him. As she’d given that heavy sigh her breasts had lifted. Already lush from the tightly corseted black gown she was wearing, the movement had made their soft dove-white mounds swell delectably.

Through Leo’s lean, powerful frame a familiar and pleasurable sensation started.

So the sable-haired, green-eyed beauty was bored, was she?

Well, he would be happy to remedy that.

Personally.

He started to walk down the stairs.



Anna felt her mood worsening. What was the hold-up now? Tonio Embrutti had gone into a huddle with his assistants, and she could hear the static hiss of vituperative Italian. She gave another sigh, feeling the low-cut décolletage digging in. She hated wearing it—it was far too revealing, and it invited the usual sleazy male attention she tried to avoid.

Her lips pressed together again. Mentally she forced herself to go through one of her karate katas. It both calmed her and reassured her, knowing she could fight off any physical harassment—even if she couldn’t stop men leering over her.

She shifted her weight again minutely in the heavy dress. Modelling wasn’t as easy as people thought it was, and she could tell that the two amateurs here—Kate and Vanessa—were finding it hard and tiring. Anna’s eyes travelled to them. The brunette, Kate, looked vacant without her lenses in—but at least, thought Anna, it meant she couldn’t see the lecherous looks aimed at her. The redhead, Vanessa, had other protection—word had gone round that her boyfriend was the cousin of the guy who’d set up this shindig and owned this medieval mansion. Though why, Anna mused, a Greek should own a castle in the Austrian Alps was beyond her. Maybe he just wanted to be close to the private Swiss bank he kept his loot in.

He certainly had a whole load of cash, that was for sure. Schloss Edelstein was vast, perched halfway up a mountain and surrounded by forests and snowfields.

Anna’s bored expression lightened suddenly with remembered pleasure. The view from her bedroom was breathtaking: sunlight sparkling on the pristine snow, down to the frozen lake below, ringed by mountains. Very different from the view of the gasworks she’d had when she was growing up.

But then Anna had been lucky, she knew—spectacularly lucky.

Spotted in a shopping mall when she was eighteen by a scout for a modelling agency, she’d been incredibly suspicious at first. But the offer had proved genuine. Not that it hadn’t taken non-stop hard work to succeed at modelling. Now, even though she was not in the supermodel bracket, and at twenty-six was already facing up to her limited remaining shelf-life, she made a living that was light-years away from what she’d been born to.

She’d learned a lot along the way. Not just how the other half lived—which had opened her eyes big-time—but about how to survive in one of the toughest careers around. And do it without letting the slime get to you.

Because slime, she had swiftly discovered, was a big, big feature of a fashion model’s world. Some of the girls, she knew, did every drug they could, and slept with every man who could help their career. And a lot of the men in the fashion world weren’t any better either.

Not that everyone was like that, she acknowledged. Some people in the fashion world were fine—there were designers she respected, photographers she trusted, models who were friends. Like Jenny, the blonde of the quartet, her best friend, draped now in white, with a diamond tiara and bracelets up to her elbows.

Anna’s eyes narrowed.

Jenny didn’t look well. She’d always been thin—what model wasn’t?—but now she was on the point of looking emaciated. It wasn’t drugs—Jenny didn’t do drugs, or Anna would not have been friends with her. She hoped it wasn’t just under-eating—especially not if some jerk of a photographer had been telling her to shift some non-existent weight. Illness? A shudder went through Anna. Life was uncertain enough, and you could die in your twenties all right. Hadn’t her own mother not made it past twenty-five, leaving her fatherless baby daughter to be brought up by her widowed grandmother?

Whatever it was that was pulling Jenny down, Anna would try and catch some time with her, when today’s shoot had finished. If it ever did. At least the huddle around Tonio Embrutti seemed to be ending. He was turning his attention back to the models. His little eyes flashed in his fleshy face, which a cultivated designer stubble did not enhance.

‘You!’ He pointed dramatically at Jenny. ‘Off!’

Anna saw Jenny stare.

‘Off?’ she echoed dumbly.

The photographer waved his hands irritably.

‘The dress. Off. Down to the hips. Peel it off. Then I need the hands crossed over in your cleavage. I want to shoot the bracelets. Hurry up!’ He clicked impatiently at a hovering stylist and held out a hand for his camera from his assistant.

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