‘Could I have a word with you?’ Abbey asked Nikolai in a civil tone as she passed by the middle-aged manservant on the doorstep of his penthouse apartment.
A moment later, she was in a spectacular high-ceilinged reception room decorated in opulent shades of cream and gold and furnished with polished antiques. Nikolai closed the door and quirked a questioning black brow. ‘What’s the problem?’
‘The problem? I heard what you said to your driver when you told him you wouldn’t need him again this evening. I’m not sleeping with you tonight and how dare you assume that I will!’
Nikolai dealt her a frowning appraisal.
‘You’re not about to persuade me otherwise, so don’t waste your time trying!’ Abbey continued furiously, her temper rising at the uneasy suspicion that her conduct in the limo had given him every reason to hope that she might well share his bed without any further ado…
‘I WASN’T aware that I had been guilty of making any assumption, so your attack is somewhat premature and excessive,’ Nikolai imparted very drily.
Abbey stabbed the air between them with an emphatic finger. ‘I agreed to dine with you this evening—that’s all! Perhaps you feel that you’re entitled to more for a charitable donation of half a million, but my body was never on the table…’
Steady dark eyes rested on her. ‘The table would be a little hard on both of us,’ he murmured with sardonic amusement. ‘Where did you get the impression that I have to buy women into my bed?’
‘You held your donation to Futures over my head!’ Abbey condemned hotly. ‘You told me that you would use any angle to get what you want, didn’t you?’
‘But I don’t pay for sex,’ Nikolai spelt out cool as ice. ‘I don’t ever under any circumstances pay for sex.’
Abbey lost colour, her freckles standing out against her pallor. His conviction washed over her like a bucket of chilling water, dousing her anger and leaving her uncertain of her position. ‘What about the dress, the shoes and the jewellery?’
‘I’m a generous guy. The women I meet enjoy and expect that sort of gesture from me.’
‘You meet the wrong kind of women.’
‘Perhaps. But it is offensive to suggest that I need to use my money to persuade a woman into my bed.’
‘Let’s not get bogged down in the irrelevant!’ Abbey broke in. ‘I heard you dismiss your driver for the evening.’
‘Perhaps I was planning to drive you home later myself,’ Nikolai murmured silkily, although the faintest tinge of dark colour demarcated his high cheekbones, for her assumption about his expectations had been one-hundred-per-cent accurate. He had assumed that she would share his bed that night. Her absolute lack of sophistication and tact on that score amazed him. He had never in his life endured such a clumsy scene with a woman. But then, sex had never, ever been something withheld or denied to him. His healthy libido was unaccustomed to the practice of patience. He thought that she was remarkably naïve for a married woman who might have been expected to know how to handle sexual matters a little more smoothly and without this odd undertone of prudish hysteria.
Abbey went pink at that easy explanation, which should have occurred to her as a possibility but which for some reason had not. ‘It’s just…I hardly know you…’
Nikolai was amused by her embarrassment. Suddenly she seemed much younger than her twenty-five years and almost as awkward as a leggy schoolgirl. His stunning dark eyes unusually warm with amusement and his annoyance evaporating fast, he extended a shapely brown hand. ‘Let’s eat, milaya,’ he suggested.
After tonight, Abbey promised herself that she would never see him again. She didn’t like what he made her feel. She still recalled her first glimpse of Jeffrey at the age of fifteen. Her father had brought him home for dinner one evening and she had been so mesmerised by Jeffrey’s classic blond good looks that she had barely eaten a mouthful. In retrospect she was ashamed of herself—how superficial she had been in those days! That same year Drew had got engaged to Caroline and set a wedding date, so Jeffrey and his parents had become a regular feature at family events.
Abbey had fallen head over heels for the handsome barrister in her father’s chambers, impressed as much by Jeffrey’s keen intelligence and the rumour that his success and reputation in court had already ensured that he was earmarked to become a judge. She had been content to love him from afar and console herself with occasional brief conversations. He had never seemed anything more than polite and pleasant to her until the day he asked her out to dinner, surprising her with that invitation as much as his move seemed to surprise everyone else in their respective families. How many weeks had it been before Jeffrey even kissed her goodnight? There could be no comparison between the two men: Jeffrey, who had genuinely loved and respected her, and Nikolai Danilovich Arlov to whom she was simply another potential sexual conquest. How could she have responded to such a man? Where were her pride and self-respect?