The Billionaire's Ruthless Intrusion (Billionaire Knights Book 1) (3 page)

Chapter 4

F
inally Kirsty managed
to regain her composure sufficiently to venture outside and join her parents’ party. She was dreading the moment she would bump into Stuart, after what had happened between them. She hoped he wouldn’t tell anyone about ‘the incident’, and had a fairly good notion he wouldn’t. Stuart and his brothers were scrupulous about protecting the family name, especially after what had happened to their father and after their grandfather’s admonition to prevent any repetition of that horrid disaster.

The entire family had suffered when the tabloids had pounced on them following the disastrous escapades of Kirsty’s uncle. After becoming a widower the man had been snagged by Caroline Popping of dubious
Big Brother
and
Temptation Island
fame, who hadn’t hesitated to use his good standing in the community and his wealth to cement her own position in the world of showbiz.

One tragic accident later, the three Knight brothers were fatherless as well as motherless, and had been forced to weather the storm the disaster had created.

It had been their grandfather who’d started to pull the family out of the hole—induce them to close ranks against a hostile outside world, buckle down and turn the family business, focused on telecommunications solutions, to reconnect with the success story it had been before Miss Popping had entered their lives.

No, she thought as she scooped up a glass of sangria from the table and scanned the crowd. Stuart wouldn’t spill the secret of what had just happened between them. Least of all because he wouldn’t want it to be known that he had kissed her, even if it had been in an obvious show to teach her a lesson.

Her eye caught his, and the blood momentarily froze in her veins. He was eyeing her intently from across the lawn, a drink in his hand, while he chatted up a leggy blonde. His glowering gaze pinned her to the spot, and she swallowed with difficulty. If ever she’d thought for a single moment that he might like her she’d been sorely mistaken. And still she was unable to look away, her eyes caught in his contemptuous gaze. The pure hate flowing from him was so powerful and all-consuming that she felt her legs start to tremble and an odd sensation roil in the pit of her stomach. Fear, no doubt. But then why suddenly did her lower belly twitch so treacherously, flooding her panties with pure, unadulterated need, and why did her nipples harden, tenting her dress?

She didn’t have time to question her body’s outrageous response to Stuart’s scrutiny, for a glass was being tapped, the tinkling sound breaking the invisible thread connecting her to Stuart. She looked in the direction of the sound and saw that Geoffrey had momentarily commandeered a chair and was mounting it.

“Hear ye, hear ye! Gather round!” he called out, his round face quirked into a happy smile. “I wish to impart some rather important news to you all!”

At the sight and sound of the man she loved, Kirsty fully expected her heart to describe its usual gentle leap and her tummy to flutter with butterflies. Instead, as her eyes registered Geoffrey’s jocular grin and the way a lock of his hair flopped over his brow, she felt… nothing. She frowned when she noticed that the leggy blonde who’d been conversing with Stuart had joined Geoffrey, and was looking as happy as he did. And what was even more disconcerting: she’d reached out a hand and entwined her fingers with Geoffrey’s. Well, she knew they’d been dating off and on, of course, but…

“Don’t make a scene,” suddenly a harsh voice spoke in her ear.

She didn’t have to turn around to know that it was Stuart, who must have snuck up behind her. She could feel the warmth of his breath on the tender spot behind her ear, and a shiver of anticipatory pleasure trembled through her. Interpreting the sensation as righteous anger for this unwanted intrusion, she hissed, “I don’t need you to tell me what to do or not to do!”

“Oh, but you do,” he grated out, before grabbing her upper arm and giving it a tight squeeze. “If you so much as say one word…”

She didn’t understand why he was being suddenly so extra mean to her. But then Geoffrey cleared his throat and launched into his impromptu speech, and as she listened with rising panic, her mind caught on the words ‘engagement’ and ‘summer wedding’ as if on barbed wire and she emitted a startled cry.

Geoffrey—the love of her life—was announcing his engagement!

If she wanted to wail out her shock and despair, Stuart’s tight grip prevented her from doing just that. His fingers dug into the tender flesh of her arm and she was painfully aware of his presence when he warned, “Not a single word!”

She tore her arm away from him, and before Stuart could stop her, she was running toward Geoffrey, streaking past the crowd of friends and well-wishers descending upon the happy couple to congratulate them on their engagement.

Stuart cursed under his breath when he saw Kirsty move away from him and make a beeline for Geoffrey and Giselle. Goddammit! She was going to mess up this day and he was to blame. His fingers curled into fists as he went in pursuit of her. He’d faced insurgent suicide bombers and jihadi snipers. He could handle one lovesick woman intent on making an absolute fool of herself and her family!

Kirsty reached Geoffrey, and before he could stop her clasped his hands warmly in hers, her face twisted into an awkward smile. She felt the tears sting behind her eyes as she told him brokenly, “Congratulations, Geoffrey. This is such great news!”

He eyed her hesitantly. “Thanks, Kirsty. Have you met Giselle?”

He gestured to the blonde, and from up close Kirsty saw that she wasn’t as young as she looked. In fact, judging from the wrinkles around her eyes she was well into her thirties, a good deal older than Geoffrey, which surprised her.

Another surprise came when the woman directed a genuine smile at her. “You must be Kirsty. Geoffrey has told me so much about you.”

Kirsty blinked uncertainly. What had Geoffrey told his fiancée? That she was some crazy lovelorn girl always stalking him and chasing his tail?

“Geoffrey tells me you have quite the knack for PR—that one day you’ll be indispensable to Knight Enterprises.”

Kirsty’s lips curled into a hesitant smile. “That was… very nice of Geoffrey.”

The woman rolled her eyes. “I can’t help but admire you people. I’m a total dunce at that kind of stuff. In fact that’s how I met Geoffrey. I run a chain of flower stores and we were on the lookout for a new internet solution. Geoffrey was the one who sold me on the Knight product and I haven’t regretted it since.”

She smiled sweetly at Geoffrey, linking her arm through his. The man was actually beaming, Kirsty saw with a touch of heartache. He’d always been the consummate salesman, one of Knight’s best, actually. Interning at the company for the past six months while she continued to study her masters in marketing she’d heard stories about his sales record and it had cemented her conviction Geoffrey was some kind of superman and the only man she would ever love. She’d secretly harbored the hope to be assigned to his sales team but an unseen hand—she now suspected belonging to Stuart—had quashed that dream.

Instead of joining the sales department, she’d been relegated to the main office, doing odd administrative work for the secretarial pool that assisted the three Knight brothers who now ran the company. Not that she’d seen a lot of her cousins. Mike was too busy cleaning up his father’s mess and rarely came in these days, Steve was keeping a low profile since he got back from the war, apparently still licking his wounds and allowing his multiple scars to heal, and Stuart, who now ran the day-to-day business side of things, kept very much to himself.

Kirsty realized she was staring when she caught Stuart’s death-ray look. He was watching her closely. She pulled herself together with some effort. Adamant to prove that she was holding her own and that she wasn’t about to go into total meltdown as he seemed to fully expect, she took Giselle’s hand and shook it.

“I’m sure you and Geoffrey will be very happy together. He’s a great guy.” After a pause, she added, “And I should know—I’ve known him all my life.”

She was dazzled by Giselle’s smile and even more by her warm embrace. “Thank you,” the woman said softly. “I’m glad you think so. The approval of Geoffrey’s friends and family means the world to me.” She hesitated, then intimated, “I don’t have any family of my own, you see, and you all seem like such a warm and close-knit bunch that I feared I would never fit in.”

Kirsty, overwhelmed by the woman’s obvious kindness, gave her hand a squeeze. “Then I’d like to be the first to welcome you into the family.”

Geoffrey might not be family, per se, but he’d been in their lives for so long he might just as well be. If it had been up to her he would have been, of course. She watched how Giselle returned to Geoffrey’s side, and was surprised by the equanimity she felt. Why? She should be heartbroken. The man she loved had just announced his engagement to another woman! It was because Giselle turned out to be such a lovely person, she told herself. She couldn’t really be jealous of her, could she? Wasn’t that what love was all about? If you truly loved a person you should celebrate their happiness, even if it meant accepting the unacceptable: that they didn’t love you back. She even managed to spirit a smile onto her face and join in the impromptu applause for the newly engaged couple.

She would never stop loving Geoffrey, but now it was time to let him go.

Her eyes briefly flitted back to Stuart, who still stood eyeing her intently, and she shivered, goosebumps forming on her skin. If only he would fold her in his arms right now, she thought, and tell her everything would be all right.

Gritting her teeth, she whirled around and started heading back toward the house. She needed to get away from her cousin and these disconcerting thoughts she kept getting about him. He hated her and she hated him. That’s the way it had always been, and these unwanted desires were exactly that: not wanted.

Stuart narrowed his eyes. He’d been on the verge of injecting himself into the conversation between Kirsty and Giselle, fearful that she might cause a terrible scene. Actually he was surprised by the way she’d responded. Composed and serene. Was she finally getting a grip on herself? Had she finally managed to tamp down that embarrassing infatuation with a man so obviously wrong for her?

Of course not. When her eyes met his again, he knew that it was simply his presence and the threat of his punishment that kept her in line. And as she tossed her long red mane and gave him the cold shoulder, walking away from the small gathering, he watched her leave with mixed emotions. The swing of her hips and the shift of that dress around her shapely buttocks once again caused him to experience a powerful surge of desire, his erection hard as steel at the thought of going after her and meting out the kind of punishment that would leave them both sweaty, breathless and in the throes of an after-coital glow. Enough! he told himself. This was Kirsty, and if he was so hard-pressed to scratch that sexual itch, he’d better find himself another outlet.

But then she glanced at him—gave him the kind of sultry look that ignited another explosion of need—rightly or wrongly he interpreted it as an obvious invitation to join her and insert himself deeply within her flesh, rock her core and leave her screaming his name while he took her to the heights of pleasure.

She was simply doing this to punish him, he knew. Punish him because he was all that stood between her and the man she professed to love. But he wouldn’t yield. He wouldn’t let her drag down this family the way his father had by succumbing to La Popping’s treacherously seductive wiles. He’d rather die than allow that little scenario to play out ever again. The words his grandfather had uttered on his deathbed suddenly echoed in his ears.

When you take a wife, put family first. Choose a wife who will be a credit to the Knight name—not an encumbrance aspiring to squander the family fortune.

Suddenly an idea popped into his head. An idea so crazy and outrageous he instantly discarded it as pure folly. What if he took Kirsty Walker as his wife?

Chapter 5

K
irsty stepped
from the elevator and onto the main office floor, head held high, chin aloft. She knew that people would talk about the engagement, possibly even poke fun at her, and she was determined not to let it affect her in the least. She passed the gaggle of secretaries seated in the open-office area and noticed how they all fell silent the moment they caught sight of her. Grim-faced, she knew she was the topic of choice, just as she’d surmised. Everyone knew about her infatuation with Geoffrey, of course, especially since she’d made that play for him at the office party last year, when she’d danced with him and had tried to kiss him. To her disappointment he’d skillfully avoided her flirtations, but the humiliating scene had started tongues wagging and jokes flying.

She took a seat at the desk she’d been assigned and stared, aghast, at the post-it attached to her computer screen. The message was brief and to the point.

‘My office. Now.’

Only one man wrote terse messages like this. Stuart. It had become one of his favorite modes of communication, since he usually came in before anyone else did, and for some reason abhorred the use of email, preferring the less conspicuous but more intrusive use of post-its instead.

She glanced around, wondering if anyone else had seen the note, but her colleagues all looked away. Her cheeks burned as she rose from her seat. She’d opted for formal office attire today, choosing to wear the cream blouse and charcoal pencil skirt her mother had bought her when she’d first landed the internship. Even though her mother was a Knight, that didn’t mean it was a given Kirsty would work at the family company, her cousins insisting she pursue other options first, lest she limit herself to a job she disliked. But of course she’d never wanted to work anywhere else, and not just because her own personal crush worked at Knight’s, but also because she took pride in her family’s heritage and wanted to add her bit.

Checking her look in the glass wall of the conference room, she tried to quell the twinge of nervousness making her stomach churn and saw to her surprise that Stuart’s office door was open. She rapped the jamb and watched his chair swivel round to face her.

“You—you wanted me?” she asked in a voice that sounded strangely brittle. “I mean, you wanted to see me?” she quickly corrected with a weak smile.

He didn’t return her smile, opting instead to glower at her from behind his desk, then rumble quietly, “Close the door.”

He was dressed in his customary bespoke suit, though he’d draped the vest over his chair and had rolled up the sleeves of his white twill shirt with invisible stripe. The shirt was stretched taut over his bulging chest and massive shoulders, his square jaw cleanly shaven this time and his dark hair slightly mussed. He looked positively dangerous and intoxicatingly sexy. What was more, the telltale hardening of her nipples the moment they were alone sent ripples of alarm and rising heat coursing in equal measure through her veins.

The effect of the office air-conditioning, no doubt.

Her eyes lowered from his tan face to his throat and lower, to the hint of dark body hair she could detect through the shirt. It wasn’t hard to imagine what his chiseled chest would look like, or the ridges of his stomach. He was a very manly man, she decided, and wondered why she’d never been affected by his powerful presence before. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t been aware.

They’d been kids together, after all, even though Stuart was seven years her senior. Over the years she’d watched him mature into one of the most handsome and muscular men she knew. Geoffrey had always been the joker of the small band of boys and girls who would spend their summer vacations together on the family estate in Oxfordshire, his sense of humor his best feature in Kirsty’s book.

Stuart was the complete opposite. Darkly sardonic, while still powerfully male, she imagined he was in even better shape now than before his return.

“I have a proposal for you,” he announced, folding his hands on his desk while eyeing her from under his dark lashes. He was regarding her sternly, as if everything about her repelled and disgusted him, as she knew it did.

“What do you mean?” she asked, and was annoyed by the tremor in her voice. She wasn’t usually this affected by Stuart. But the memory of yesterday’s kiss had haunted her dreams, visions of her hands pressed up against his chest, his legs inching apart her own while he pushed her down onto her bed, his lips assaulting her breasts, his hands pinning hers over her head before he finally plunged his towering erection into her quivering… No! she admonished herself, and gave herself a mental shake. This was Stuart, not Geoffrey. Stuart, who despised her. She couldn’t possibly be entertaining these fantasies about him.

“From now you’ll be working directly for me,” he announced, lifting a sardonic eyebrow.

“But I already work for you,” she countered, not comprehending.

“I’m appointing you my personal assistant for the time being.”

“But… Jenny…”

He shook his head, the frown creasing his brow deepening into a violent groove. “Jenny is taking a leave of absence. Her mother is not well and she wants to stay home to take care of her for a while.”

“But I can’t be your PA,” she pointed out helplessly, a wave of emotion engulfing her. Being Stuart’s PA would mean working closely together with him—being at his beck and call—answering his every need… It was the worst thing that could happen! So why was she suddenly feeling weak at the knees at the thought of working side by side with her cousin? Because this was a huge career opportunity, she knew. This was Stuart grooming her for management.

“If it’s your studies you’re worried about—”

“No, it’s not that,” she was quick to respond. She was in her final year, and only sporadically had to go in to attend classes.

“What is it, then?” he demanded gruffly, abruptly rising to his feet and rounding the desk. “If this is about Geoffrey again…”

As he came face to face with her, she cried, “No, it’s not!”

He studied her for a moment, then his lips twisted into an expression of contempt. “He’s getting married next month, you know.”

Startled, she responded, “Next month? But I thought—”

“You thought the engagement would be a long affair,” he growled. “You thought you would have time to create a rift between Geoffrey and Giselle.”

“No!”

“Yes! Admit it,” he grunted, taking hold of her shoulders and giving her a vigorous shake. “Get a grip, Kirsty, and face facts. Geoffrey doesn’t love you.”

She shook her head, in the grip of a powerful surge of emotion. Her sex clenched violently as she caught a whiff of his male scent, and felt an almost uncontrollable urge to reach out and curl her fingers into his chest.

“I’m going to keep you close to me so I can keep an eye on you,” he announced viciously. “Prevent you from making a spectacle of yourself,” he growled as he drew her near, his breath warm on her skin, his powerful fingers digging into her upper arms. Her breasts were so tight now, her nipples swollen, that they painfully abraded against her cotton and lace bra. She was aware of the fact that he was so close now she could feel the heat of his skin radiating erotically against her own, and wrestled to escape the confines of his arms before she succumbed to the irrational need wrecking her defenses—the insane urge to feel his lips on her, his touch, his body pressing into her, skin on skin.

The urge to kiss Kirsty was now so powerful that he had to use every last ounce of willpower not to succumb to this outrageous desire battling for control. The moment she walked into the office he’d seen the way the darkly rosy peaks of her breasts were clearly outlined beneath her blouse, puckering against the darker shade of her areolae. What the hell was she thinking, strutting about the office dressed like that? Was this part of her ploy to win Geoffrey’s affections? Would she walk into his office like this, hoping to make him lust after her?

Her hair was like a shower of lustrous russet around her luminous face, and her chin was tilted in that expression of mutiny he knew so well. Even as a child she’d had a mutinous streak and always wanted to have things her own way. Well, he would make damn sure she didn’t this time. She wanted Geoffrey and she would never have him—he would see to that. The violence of the jealous rage suddenly cutting through him caught him unawares. Jealous? No way!

But before he could stop himself he’d caught hold of her arms and was drawing her near—or pushing her away?

“I’m going to Nice tomorrow and you’re joining me,” he snapped.

“No,” she breathed weakly.

As he caught a whiff of her scent—lemony with a hint of something wild and feminine—he bit, “Yes! Until Geoffrey’s wedding I’m not leaving you out of my sight. Both for your own good and that of the family. Is that understood?”

She was looking at him with such fury in her clear blue eyes that a lesser man might have wilted. But not him. He’d faced down more formidable foes than her. “Is that understood?!” he roared, giving her a vigorous shake.

She nodded, and by rights he should have let go of her, but he found that he couldn’t. The tug of war between them had provoked such a buildup of longing inside him that he found himself incapable of resisting it when it finally crested and he drew her to him in a sudden jerking motion, ignoring the cry of distress escaping her lips, and claimed her mouth in a harsh dominion, his tongue demanding and finally penetrating the soft wetness of her mouth.

Stuart was kissing her again, she thought as she felt dizzy with… delight? No, revulsion, of course. He had no business kissing her. But then why did it feel so good? Why was her hand on his face, relishing in the smooth feel of his skin, so hot under her fingers, and why was she opening her lips to encourage his tongue to stab so furiously and erotically against her own? Why was she arching her back, lifting her breasts against the hardness of his chest, pressing into him, wanting him to rip off her clothes so they could be skin on skin? And why had she opened her legs to allow his thigh to brush against hers? With a soft moan of agonized desire she bucked her hips and became acutely aware of the hard evidence of his arousal surging between their bodies. Stuart’s girth!

She wanted to reach down and free the granite length from the confines of his slacks, to take him into her hand, feel all that power pulsate under her touch.

This wasn’t really happening, Stuart thought as he pressed his burgeoning male flesh against Kirsty’s soft loins, his hands cupping her buttocks to press her more firmly into the saddle of his sex while his tongue rode against hers in sync with the thrusts of their groins moving and grinding in ever rising heat.

Christ! She was his personal assistant, not his personal score!

His hand snuck up between them and firmly molded itself around her breast, reveling in the softness that fit so snugly and perfectly in his large calloused hand, his thumb stroking the rising peak while a deep groan of male possessiveness escaped his throat. He wanted her, all right—he wanted her badly and he wanted her now! Visions of her pushed down on top of his desk held him in its grip, and already they were moving toward the desk, her fingers curling into his chest, nails clawing at his pecs, when finally he was reminded that it wasn’t him she wanted—she was deeply in love with Geoffrey, and probably trying to numb the pain his engagement had caused her by engaging in mindless sex with any male who made himself available to her.

The viciousness of the searing pain this fact caused him had him withdraw from her with a wild snarl, pushing her back so that she almost stumbled.

Panting, she stood gazing at him, with something in her eyes he didn’t immediately recognize but which he assumed was disappointment her plan hadn’t worked. He stabbed a finger in her direction. “Don’t think this changes anything because it doesn’t. Our plane leaves tomorrow at seven. Be there.”

As she staggered from Stuart’s office, her whole body trembled violently. The moment she reached her desk her legs finally succumbed, and she had to scramble to deposit her quaking body into the chair. She pushed her hair from her face, which felt flushed. She was mortified. What had just happened? What had come over her to throw herself at Stuart like that? If he hadn’t stopped her she’d come dangerously close to losing her virginity right there in his office!

She thought she knew what had induced Stuart to behave like this. He wanted to teach her a lesson, of course; wanted to show her that she didn’t really love Geoffrey at all. That she was merely lusting after any male that offered himself to her. Her eyes narrowed, she brought her ragged breathing under control. She didn’t want Stuart, that much was obvious, and he didn’t want her. So why was her head now filled with images of the two of them together, their bodies grinding away against each other on his desk? And why was she suddenly filled with this powerful longing to go back to him so he could conquer her all over again?

She didn’t know. All she knew was that after saving herself for Geoffrey all these years she wasn’t going to offer herself to her cousin now. Sooner or later she was bound to fall in love again—logic told her so. And hopefully it would be with a man she could truly love the way she had always loved Geoffrey.

Had loved? But she still loved Geoffrey, didn’t she? Of course she did.

And for all she knew this engagement with Giselle would never result in a wedding at all. Couples broke up all the time. There was still a small chance that Geoffrey would be hers. She desperately tried to feel elated at this but found that she couldn’t. Each time she tried to conjure up the trusty image of herself with Geoffrey—as she had so many times before—Stuart’s face intruded, shattering the daydream into a torrid maelstrom of desire and need, flooding her core with so much heat she inadvertently pressed her thighs together.

She buried her face in her hands, and willed the tears at the loss of her teenage infatuation to finally burn her eyes and cleanse her soul.

Back in his office, Stuart gazed down at the city of London below. What the hell was going on? Why was he suddenly acting like a horny teenager each time he was around Kirsty? Not Kirsty, he was quick to correct himself. Any woman would likely be able to provoke this kind of response. It was all a matter of hormones, after all. He tried to remember if the shrink he’d seen when he’d returned from Iraq had mentioned this fact. He hadn’t paid attention to the man.

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