He looked at her, his hard gaze piercing into her soul, as if he could see everything she’d ever run from. She didn’t like it, not one bit. There were enough worries on her mind without Liev Dragunov and his persistence adding to them.
‘Have dinner with me tonight, Ms Di Sione. If after that you still do not want to represent my company, then I shall leave you in peace.’
Dinner? With this man? Why did the idea of sitting at a table over a glass of wine and dinner set her pulse racing so wildly?
‘My answer will still be the same.’ She kept her air of indifference, desperate to hide the rush of strange emotions which were now flowing through her. She hadn’t had dinner with a man for a long time.
‘Then nothing will be lost and we will have had the pleasure of one another’s company.’ A hint of a smile played on his lips and she wondered how he would look if he really smiled. Would that hard expression soften? If it did, he’d melt every female heart in the vicinity.
‘If I agree,’ she began, not knowing where the words were coming from or why she was playing with fire in such a reckless way, ‘you will find you have had a wasted evening, Mr Dragunov.’
‘That is a chance I’m prepared to take.’ He smiled at her, confirming her suspicions. He was lethal and already she could feel the innocent woman within her stirring, imagining things that would never be possible. Not with this man.
‘What I’m saying, Mr Dragunov, is that I will not, under any circumstances, change my mind.’
‘Just dinner, then? You are staying at this hotel, are you not?’ He glanced at his watch and she found herself studying his strong hands, blushing slightly as he looked back at her.
‘Yes, I am.’ Suspicion raced through her. He seemed to know just a little too much about her, but she dismissed the idea as far-fetched, deciding she would uncover the reasons for his persistence.
‘I will meet you in the lounge at seven-thirty.’ His clipped tones, made harsh by his accent, brooked no argument, but she wasn’t about to allow him to dominate her. If he still wanted her company to represent his, he had to realise she called the shots.
‘I’m not sure it’s such a good idea.’ Bianca remained forceful, keeping her words strong. He was like no other man she’d met; he was indomitable, but there was something else. When he’d left her office she’d made her usual client searches, but nothing had shown up. No reason to refuse his business other than the fact that he was a potential competitor of her brother’s company, ICE.
‘A business dinner, Ms Di Sione.’ The broad width of his shoulders rose as he drew in a deep breath, the only hint that he was working at keeping up the cool aloofness which almost dripped from him. ‘It is still my hope that I can persuade you to represent my company.’
‘That isn’t possible,’ she began, but to her disbelief he cut her off midsentence.
* * *
Liev watched Bianca Di Sione look around the room as the speaker finished to a rapturous applause. He couldn’t help a smile of satisfaction. Finally, he’d begun to crack the ice princess. His previous attempts, all businesslike and professional, had missed their target, but it seemed that, like most women and one in particular from his past, fine wine and candlelight dining were all that was required. The auction brochure on Bianca’s desk last week had given him that clue; if sparkling jewels caught her attention, then so would dinner, even if it was offered and accepted under the guise of a business meal.
As they’d spoken he’d had to fight off the image of Bianca, long dark hair flowing freely around her shoulders as she sat opposite him at dinner, candles glowing, highlighting her beauty. The image filled his mind and fired his body with heat. No, he couldn’t allow anything to threaten his plans. Even an attractive woman...and he knew well enough just how distracting and destructive a beautiful woman could be.
He’d slammed the door shut on such thoughts, pushing them roughly from his mind. Physically wanting the haughty Bianca Di Sione was not part of his plan. His strategy was to ensure her company represented his, allowing him to get closer to his ultimate goal. She was a necessary means to an end. Nothing more.