Pulling the thick sheathes of paper out of the file, she turned the top sheet over and began to read...

‘Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my office?’

Emily froze. Literally. Her mind went blank, her brain filling with a cold mist. The sheets of paper held between her fingers fell back into place while her immobile hands hovered inches above the file.

Her gaze still resting on the papers before her, she forced her chin up to meet the stony glare of Pascha Virshilas.

Cold grey eyes narrowed. ‘You,’ he hissed, his chiselled features contorting.

She didn’t know what was the greatest shock—that he’d caught her in the act, or that he recognised her. The one time she’d met him she’d looked completely different, so different she would have been hard pressed to recognise herself in the mirror.

With great effort, she forced her features to remain neutral. Now was not the moment to reveal her utter loathing of the man; she had to stay calm.

She’d met him six weeks ago at an event, optimistically billed as a party, thrown to celebrate the acquisition of Bamber Cosmetics by Virshilas LG and to allow the employees to meet their new boss. Emily had only attended as a favour to her father who, since her mother’s recent death, became crippled with nerves at social events. Being a senior executive, his presence had been a requirement.

When she’d been forced to shake Pascha’s hand, his only response had been a slight flicker of disdain before he’d looked through her and moved on to the next person. If he’d bothered to wait and talk to her, she could have apologised for her inappropriate attire and explained that she’d rushed over from work without having time to change. She’d been busy at a fashion show and it was mandatory for the designers of the house she worked for to dress the part.

Emily and her father had stayed at the party for a polite hour before making their escape.

She doubted her escape from Pascha’s office would be as successful.

‘I asked you a question, Miss Richardson. I suggest you answer it.’

‘But you’ve just answered the question of who I am yourself,’ she answered with more bravado than she felt. Her memory of Pascha Virshilas was vivid, yet in this office he appeared magnified. Impossibly tall and broad, even the crispness of his white shirt and impeccably pressed grey-striped trousers couldn’t hide the muscularity of his physique. If anything, it enhanced it. And that face... Chiselled perfection a sculptor would struggle to replicate.

‘Don’t play games with me. What are you doing in my office?’

Her gaze flickered to the small stick poking out of the side of the laptop. From Pascha’s vantage point, he would only be able to see the upright lid. He might not see the stick at all. If she was lucky, she might just be able to escape with the data.

Using all the nonchalance she could muster, Emily leaned forward so her chest rested on the desk. ‘I was passing and thought I would pop in to see how you’re settling in.’ As she spoke, she inched her fingers forward, placed her knuckles either side of the memory stick and tugged it out, enfolding it into the fist of her hand.

If he saw what she’d done, he gave no visible sign.

She got to her feet and casually placed her hand in her back pocket, releasing the stick into its tight confines. She had no choice but to brazen this out, whatever its conclusion may be. ‘As I can see you’ve settled in fantastically, I shall leave you to it.’

‘Not so fast. Before I let you go anywhere, empty your pockets.’ Pascha’s English was delivered with curt precision but with a definite trace of his Russian heritage in its inflection. Deep and rich with a hint of gravel, it sent the most peculiar tingle whispering over her skin.

‘No chance,’ she said, inching her way round his desk, slowly closing the gap between herself and the door to her side. She silently cursed herself for not paying more attention to the internal door Pascha had appeared through. She’d seen it when she’d first stolen into the office but had barely registered it; she certainly hadn’t given it more than a cursory glance.

‘I said empty your pockets.’

‘No.’ Her eyes darted to the door. She might be twenty-six but she’d been a nimble runner in her school days. She was half his size and figured she must be quicker than him...

It didn’t surprise Pascha in the least when Emily made a run for it, shooting to the door and tugging on the handle.

‘It’s locked,’ he informed her calmly.

‘I can see that,’ she snapped.

‘It won’t open until I press the button to release the lock, and I won’t do that until you give me what’s in your pocket.’

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