‘I was hoping you’d tell me as he’s one of your biggest sponsors.’ Bianca, still concerned at the paleness of Allegra’s face, poured them both a glass of wine, a little alarmed when even that didn’t interest her. ‘He’s a Russian billionaire who wants me to represent his company. He’s quite insistent about it. A little too much, to be honest. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he’s made a sizeable donation to the charity just to follow me here.’
Allegra’s gaze met hers. ‘And the problem with that is?’
‘To start with, I’m representing ICE and Liev Dragunov is a competitor. But there’s something else. I’m not sure what. There’s just something about him.’ It was something wild, as if life hadn’t yet tamed him. Bianca was shocked by her thoughts, irritated he’d slipped inside her mind so easily.
‘Other than his good looks?’ Allegra teased. ‘You really shouldn’t shut every handsome man out of your life, Bianca. What happened with Dominic was ten years ago.’
‘Then you will be pleased to know I have agreed to have dinner with him—to discuss representing his company, that is.’
‘I see.’ Allegra smiled and Bianca was relieved to see she looked more herself. It still didn’t mean she could burden her with too much worry over their grandfather. Once they were back in New York there would be time to talk properly.
Bianca shook her head in mock reprisal. ‘Don’t, Allegra. I guess I’m preoccupied with Grandfather’s failing health and his latest request. He’s talked of the Lost Mistresses so often over the years they’ve become part of our childhood. I wonder why they are so important now.’
‘I don’t know, but Matteo’s necklace and my Fabergé box don’t seem connected in any way. How did Grandfather ever manage to have such priceless objects? He was so pleased to see the box, caressing it as if it really was a lost mistress.’
‘I’ve had people looking into the whereabouts of the bracelet and it’s coming up for auction in New York next week.’ Bianca remembered the elation she’d felt at tracking down the bracelet. ‘I did approach the owner and offered to buy it privately, but they were adamant as it was such a unique piece it would go to auction.’
‘At least it will be easy for you to get. You will only need to bid for it,’ Allegra said quickly, and again Bianca was curious about her sister’s time in Dar-Aman, where the Fabergé box had been found.
‘None of this makes any sense,’ Bianca said, wondering if she should question Allegra further. ‘But if it makes Grandfather smile whilst he is so ill, then I’ll do anything for that.’
‘Hadn’t you better go?’ Allegra looked at her watch, ever the mother figure. Or was her sister evading the questions which she longed to ask her?
Doubts began to creep into Bianca’s mind about having agreed to dinner with Liev Dragunov. She had no intention of representing his company, and the fact that he was so persistent made her uneasy. There was something about him, something she couldn’t quite pin down, and it was just one more thing to worry about that she really didn’t need.
‘Yes, I suppose I’d better not keep such a wealthy and persistent man waiting.’
By the time Bianca arrived at the bar that was exactly what she had done. She spotted him immediately. He stood out from all other men around him, not just because of his height and undeniable good looks. Even among other wealthy businessmen he had a commanding presence which dominated the room.
He was sat at the bar, his back to her as she walked up to him, which gave her time to take in his broad shoulders and the way his suit jacket fitted with perfection, emphasising strength without showing what she knew would be a body envied by men and admired by women.
His short brown hair, which she guessed had lightened in the sun, gave him a hardness she was convinced lurked beneath the surface of his show of wealth. There was no mistaking this man’s success, displayed with tailored suits to expensive watches.
There was also a rawness about him which hinted at danger and was probably exactly what he exploited to attract women. But not her. She wasn’t going to fall for that kind of destructive charm—not again.