The evocative aroma of his skin hit her like a shot of adrenaline and made hunger skyrocket inside her. The strength of her desire to get closer, to feel his beautiful mouth take hers again, to feel the weight of him over her, shocked her rigid.

Nikolai surveyed her dazed face with cool satisfaction. He wondered why it was that when other women looked at him like that he wanted to ditch them, but when Abbey stood there fighting not to look at him like that he simply wanted to smash her self-control and encourage her to cling. ‘Stop fighting this,’ he urged.

‘I have to.’ The strength of her own physical response to him, allied to the see-sawing state of her emotions, scared Abbey. ‘I must have my own life, my own space—’

Long fingers delved into her hair to tip up her face and her breath tripped up in her throat, anticipation leaping through her in a wild surge. He covered her mouth, his tongue darting deep into the moist interior beyond, and she shuddered violently, a stifled whimper wrenched from her struggling lungs. ‘No, not here,’ she protested.

Nikolai lifted his arrogant dark head. He ached for her. He couldn’t keep his hands off her or his thoughts on business. Tawny eyes smouldering he hauled her up into his arms and strode to the chair behind his desk, sinking down with her on his lap.

‘Nikolai…’ Abbey argued in a ragged plea.

Shimmering eyes hotly intent on her, he laid his fingertips against her reddened lips to silence her. ‘I am not made of stone…’

Fiercely aware of his arousal, Abbey was engulfed by the demanding heat of his mouth in a kiss that fired her every skin cell with awareness. Her fingers smoothed the roughened skin of his jaw line where stubble was beginning to mar the close shave he had had earlier that day. The familiar scent and the sensual feel of him sent her pulses racing. As he unbuttoned her shirt she was remembering the night that had passed. He had woken her up a couple of times, his desire for her flatteringly intense and his sexual expertise compelling. Then, as now, his sheer passion and unbridled masculinity exhilarated her.

Nikolai bent her back over his arm to plunge his mouth down on the pouting pink nipple he had uncovered for his pleasure. Abbey looked down at the ripe curves of her bare flesh and shame overwhelmed her. She flung herself off his lap and began to right her clothing in a series of jerky desperate movements. ‘Not during working hours!’ she breathed shakily.

‘Where’s your sense of adventure?’ Nikolai growled, furious with her for once again limiting his pleasure in her as a lover. ‘What does it take to make you break the rules?’

Love and commitment, she might have told him, for only then would she have had the trust and confidence to respond to him regardless of boundaries. But Abbey knew that neither love nor commitment was on offer, which severely limited any desire on her part to break rules. ‘I have to get back to the office—’

‘You could join me for lunch and we could go on from there to the house viewing,’ Nikolai breathed curtly, already foreseeing a negative answer in the tense down curving of her generous mouth.

Abbey was convinced that lunch would end up being a polite blanket term for a bout of sex somewhere and she cringed for herself when she felt a pulse of wickedly responsive heat throb in her pelvis. ‘You want me to view the house with you?’

Nikolai dealt her a sardonic appraisal. ‘Of course.’

‘Give me a time and we’ll meet there.’

Nikolai was like a brooding thundercloud when Abbey departed after a brief chat with Sveta. Abbey was uneasily conscious that she had dissatisfied and disappointed Sveta’s employer in every possible way. Her insistence on striving to be professional during the hours of daylight pleased her Russian lover as much as a slap in the face. She was beginning to get the message about what he wanted from her. He didn’t handle rejection well. He expected to come first in her life in every way and in every situation. Argument, disagreement, working ethics that interfered with his sex life and independence were all very unpopular responses.

On the way back to the office, Abbey received an urgent call from her PA about a man waiting to see her, who insisted that it was important that he speak to her rather than to her brother. New clients did occasionally arrive at Support Systems with very set ideas and required tactful handling. With a sigh, Abbey picked up her messages from her PA’s desk and invited the smartly dressed older man in reception to come into her office.

‘I’m Abbey Carmichael, Mr…Bailey. Is that correct?’ Abbey prompted as the man took a seat.

‘Yes. DonBailey. I won’t keep you long, Mrs Carmichael. I don’t know how much you know about your brother’s debts, but I’m afraid the operation that I represent is not prepared to wait indefinitely for settlement.’