Shackled by Diamonds

By: Julia James



Jenny stood frozen.

‘I can’t.’

The photographer stared at her.

‘Are you deaf? Remove your dress. Now!’

The stylist he’d pointed at was obediently undoing the fastenings down the back of Jenny’s dress.

‘I’m not taking the dress off!’

Jenny’s voice sounded high-pitched with tension.

Anna saw Tonio Embrutti’s face darken. She stepped forward to intervene.

‘No strips,’ she announced. ‘It’s in the contract.’

The photographer’s face whipped round to hers.

‘Shut up!’ He turned back to Jenny.

Anna walked up to her, putting a hand out to stop the stylist. Jenny was looking as tense as a board.

Another voice spoke. A new voice.

‘Do we have a problem?’

The voice was deep, and accented. It was also—and Anna could hear it like a low, subliminal tremor in her body—a warning.

A man had stepped out of the shadows consuming the rest of the vast hall beyond the brilliantly illuminated space they were being photographed in.

Anna felt the breath catch in her throat. The man who had stepped into the circle of light was like a leopard. Sleek, powerful, graceful—and dangerous.

Dangerous? She wondered why the word had come into her mind, but it had. And even as it formed it was replaced by another one.

Devastating.

The breath stayed caught in her throat as she stared, taking in everything about the man who had just appeared.

Tall. Very tall. Taller than her.

Dark hair, olive skin—and a face that could have stepped out of a Byzantine mosaic. Impassive, remote, assessing.

And incredibly sexy.

It was the eyes, she thought, as she slowly exhaled her breath. The eyes that did it. Almond-shaped, heavy-lidded, sensual.

Very dark.

He spoke again. Everyone seemed to have gone totally silent around him. He was the kind of man who’d have that effect on people, Anna found herself thinking.

‘I repeat—do we have a problem?’

He doesn’t like problems—he gets rid of them. They get in his way…

The words seemed to form in her mind of their own accord.

‘And you are…?’ Tonio Embrutti enquired aggressively.

Stupidly.

The man turned his impassive heavy-lidded eyes on him. For a moment he said nothing.

‘Leo Makarios,’ he said.

He didn’t say it loudly, thought Anna. He didn’t say it portentously. And he certainly didn’t say it self-importantly.

Yet there was something about the way the man who owned Schloss Edelstein, whose company owned every jewel that she and the other three models were draped with, and who owned a whole heap more besides spoke. Something about the way he said his name that almost—almost—made her feel sorry for Tonio Embrutti.

Almost, but not quite. Because Tonio Embrutti was, without doubt, one of the biggest jerks she’d ever had the displeasure to be photographed by.

‘Yes,’ she announced clearly, before the photographer could get a word out. ‘We do have a problem.’

The heavy-lidded eyes turned to her.

How, she found herself thinking, could eyes that were so impassive make her feel every muscle in her body tighten? As though she were an impala—caught out on a deserted African plain, with the sun going down.

When the big cats came out to hunt.

But she wasn’t an impala, and this Leo Makarios was no leopard. He was just a rich man who was having a fun time getting his latest rich-man’s toy some media attention. Starting with publicity photos, courtesy of four models specially hired for the purpose.

But not hired to strip.

‘Your photographer,’ she said sweetly, ‘wants us to breach the contract.’ Her voice changed. Hardened. ‘No nude work. It’s in the contract,’ she informed him. ‘I made sure it was. Check it out.’

She went on standing protectively beside Jenny. The other two girls—the amateurs—had, she noticed, instinctively closed in on each other as well. Both were looking uneasy.

Leo Makarios was still looking at her.

She was looking back.

Something was happening to her.

Something deep down. In her guts.

Something she didn’t like.

Slime. Was that it? Was that what it was about the way Leo Makarios was looking at her that she didn’t like?

No, she thought slowly. Definitely not slime. That she could handle. She’d had to learn how, and now she could.

But this was worse. What Leo Makarios was doing to her hit somewhere completely different.

She could feel it happening. Feel the slow, heavy slug of her heart rate. Feel the blood start to pulse.

As if for the very first time in her life.

Oh, no, she thought, with the kind of slow-motion thinking that came with great shock. Not this.

Not him.

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