His sardonic mouth quirked with amusement. Abbey and her kitten, Lady, were truly inseparable because Abbey, for all her steely efficiency, was a total pushover for her tiny pet. He had watched her get out of bed during the night without complaint to comfort the lonely animal when she’d cried, and strive to meet her constant demands for attention. It had struck him that Abbey would make a terrific mother. It was easy to imagine her with a baby in her arms and the very fact he had imagined such a thing for the first time in his life with a woman had seriously spooked Nikolai. He had got in too deep. It was time to back off.

He was happy to admit that the nights had been amazing and that his hunger for her voluptuous body had yet to abate. Between the sheets, for all her innocence at the outset, she had proved to be a fast learner, who was surprisingly willing to fulfil his every fantasy. Indeed, sexually she was gradually surrendering her inhibitions to become his perfect match. He enjoyed showing her off as well. Abbey was his in a way no other woman had ever contrived to be—an intelligent partner, who could talk on a business level, and a stimulating companion who never bored him. He thought he would miss her when there was no longer any need for their pretence. He had yet to muster the interest to look out for her replacement in his bed, a lack of forward planning which was most unlike him.

The one aspect of Abbey’s nature that he knew he would not miss, however, was her reserve. Throughout their time together he had been aware that something was amiss and that she was seriously worried about that something, but despite the many opportunities he had given her she had steadfastly refused to confide in him and, indeed, had continued to infuriate him by insisting that nothing was wrong. Nikolai did not appreciate being treated as though he were stupid. He had always believed that it was a man’s fundamental right and responsibility to look after his woman, but it was not a role that Abbey seemed willing to extend to him. He had no doubt that her late husband, Jeffrey, had enjoyed more preferential treatment.

And he knew that Abbey’s attitude was influencing his own, because although he had that morning received an extraordinary visit from the Greek tycoon, Lysander Metaxis, Nikolai had no plans as yet to share the amazing content of what had been discussed with Abbey. Was it even remotely possible that he could be related to an Englishwoman? For about the tenth time Nikolai brought up a photo of Lysander’s wife, Ophelia, on his laptop and studied her with a frown. She was very small and blond and pretty. Physically there was no resemblance whatsoever. It was most probably a wind-up, not a deliberate one, of course, for Metaxis was not the joking type, Nikolai acknowledged wryly. But someone somewhere might well have got their wires crossed and screwed up the investigation into the history of Ophelia’s troubled mother. Even so, Nikolai was still keen to go to the party Lysander had invited him to this evening and interested in meeting Lysander’s wife and looking over the documentation that had been mentioned.

A gift bag in one hand, Nikolai strode down the corridor to the bedroom where he knew Abbey would be waiting for him. After a day apart from her he could never resist the need to immediately reacquaint himself with the allure of her warm, willing body and, after being carried off to the bedroom or ambushed on the sofa day after day, she had given up trying to interest him in food and good conversation when he first came through the door. When he saw her standing across the room, her glorious body fetchingly attired in sexy green lingerie, he was entranced. Setting the gift bag down by the bed, he moved towards her.

‘Nikolai.’ Abbey turned round the minute she heard the door open. Her violet eyes were luminous, her soft full mouth settling into a radiant smile. He still stole the breath from her body every time she saw him. It wasn’t humanly possible for him to get more gorgeous but her response to him never lessened. In a spectacularly elegant Italian designer suit, his lean, darkly handsome visage roughened by a faint masculine shadow of blue-black stubble, he looked stunning from the brilliance of his dark golden eyes to the sensual slant of his beautiful mouth.

‘You look really hot, lubimaya,’ Nikolai husked, running his smouldering gaze over her with bold appreciation.

Nikolai reached for her without hesitation, folding her slim, shapely body into his with sensual thoroughness. He found her generous mouth and kissed her with a slow erotic skill and hunger that sent heat hurtling through her quivering length like a fizzing firework of energy. He turned her round, long fingers curving across her stomach to ease her hips into contact with his erection. As a whimper of sound left her lips, he lifted his hands to caress her breasts through the fine fabric of her bra, catching the pink-topped peaks between thumb and forefinger to tease them to prominence.

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