The Billionaire's Trophy

By: Lynne Graham

CHAPTER ONE

SEBASTIANO CHRISTOU, KNOWN as Bastian to his many friends and acquaintances, studied the huge emerald ring in his hand with seething frustration blazing in his dark golden eyes, his lean darkly handsome features settling into forbidding lines of hauteur. He was holding the Christou betrothal ring, which had, until very recently, adorned the hand of his intended wife, Lilah Siannas.
Ironically, Lilah had not voiced a single word of reproach concerning the terms of the pre-nup agreement presented to her lawyer. Instead, while leaving the pre-nup unsigned, Lilah had become irritatingly unavailable and distant but her burning resentment had ultimately triumphed, culminating in her public statement that the engagement was over and the wedding cancelled. And ever since then Lilah had been noisily painting the town red in the company of a good-looking toyboy millionaire.
Bastian was well aware that Lilah was throwing down a gauntlet she expected him to pick up. He was supposed to be jealous: yet he was not. He was supposed to feel foolish: but he did not. He was supposed to want her so much that he would forget about the pre-nup: only he did not. No, Lilah was playing a losing game for Bastian would never marry a woman without first securing his wealth with a pre-nup agreement. That was a lesson learned well at his grandfather’s knee.
His father had married four times and his three incredibly expensive divorces had decimated the Christou family fortune. Bastian’s grandfather had taught his grandson that love was unnecessary in a successful marriage and that shared goals and principles were more important. Bastian had never been in love but he had often been in lust. Lilah, a tiny exquisite brunette, had excited his need to chase and possess but he had never kidded himself that he loved her. Indeed before he proposed, he had evaluated Lilah’s worth much as though she were an investment. He had recognised the advantage of their similar backgrounds; he had admired her unemotional outlook, excellent education and her skills as a society hostess. But, as he now grimly reminded himself, he had seriously underestimated the strength and pulling power of his fiancée’s avarice.
Bastian thrust the ring back in its case and put it in the safe, angry at the months he had wasted on Lilah, a woman demonstrably unfit to be his wife. He was thirty years old, more than ready to marry and have a family, bored with casual affairs. He had not realised that finding a wife would be such a challenge and he was already wondering how the hell he was supposed to avoid a scene at his sister, Nessa’s wedding in two weeks’ time because Lilah was one of Nessa’s bridesmaids. Lilah would be outraged when Bastian didn’t, at least, try to win her back. She would relish being the focus of all eyes at the wedding and would delight even more in a confrontation, but Bastian did not want his baby sister to be embarrassed or upset on her special day. The only way of avoiding that danger would be for him to arrive with another woman on his arm, for Lilah was too proud to overlook such a statement.
But at this late stage where on earth would he find another woman to act as his partner throughout a weekend of family festivities? A woman who wouldn’t try to trap him into a relationship and who wouldn’t read more than he meant into his invitation? A woman nonetheless capable of pretending to be intimately involved with him, for nothing less would keep Lilah at a distance. Did such a perfect woman exist?
‘Bastian...?’ He spun round as one of his directors strode in with a laptop beneath his arm. ‘I’ve got something amusing to show you—are you in the mood?’
Bastian was not in the mood but Guy Babington was a good friend and he forced a smile to his hard mouth. ‘Always,’ he encouraged.
Guy opened the laptop on the desk and spun it round to display the screen to Bastian. ‘There...recognise her?’
Bastian studied the photo of a stunning blonde with bright blue eyes in a party dress. She was laughing into the camera. ‘No...should I?’
‘Take another look,’ Guy urged. ‘Believe it or not, she works for you.’
‘No way...I would’ve noticed her,’ Bastian instantly declared because she was such a beauty. ‘What’s her picture doing on the Internet? Are you on Facebook?’
Amused, Guy shook his head. ‘I’m on a website advertising a business called Exclusive Companions. It’s an escort agency for professionals, very exclusive,’ he said, rolling his eyes suggestively.
Bastian frowned, his sensual mouth curling a little with distaste. ‘Do you use escorts?’
‘I wouldn’t mind using this blonde,’ Guy confided, ducking the question with a lascivious look.
Bastian elevated an ebony brow. ‘You said she worked for me—’
‘She does—as an intern on a three-month placement on this floor. Emmie...she does research for your PA.’
Astonishment gripped Bastian as he turned his attention back to the screen. ‘That’s Emmie?’ he queried in disbelief, mentally flicking up an image of the young woman as she looked at work: hair tied back, specs anchored on her nose, dowdy clothes. Still frowning, Bastian zeroed his attention in on the dark mole on the centre of the blonde’s cheek as he recalled that the intern had the same beauty mark in the identical place. ‘Diavelos...that is her! She’s actually moonlighting as an escort?’
‘Evidently...but what I’d really like to know is why she dresses to look like the ugly duckling when she comes into work here,’ Guy confided.
‘Her name is Emerald according to the site...’
Sebastiano flipped open his own computer and hit several buttons to access the list of his staff. Yes, it wasn’t Emmie short for Emily or Emma as most people would assume; her true name was indeed Emerald. So, weird and unbelievable as it seemed to him, it was the same woman.
‘Doesn’t she clean up amazingly well?’ Guy chuckled lecherously.
Bastian would not have described the intern as an ugly duckling although he had to admit that on the few occasions she had been around him she had thoroughly irritated him.
‘Sugar is bad for your teeth,’ she had told him when she handed him his coffee, strong and sweet the way he liked it.
‘Manners maketh man,’ she had quipped when he strode through a door ahead of her and they almost collided in the doorway.
But he had noticed that, even clad in the ubiquitous black tights, she had incredibly long legs, the sort a man thought about wrapping round his waist. An escort, he ruminated thoughtfully, a woman whose company was available for hire. If she cleaned up as well as she did in that photo, she would make a very presentable piece of arm candy and, after all, it would be in her own best interests to meet his expectations. Possibly she wasn’t fully aware of the terms of her temporary employment, one condition of which specified that she must do nothing to bring the company into disrepute. And working a lucrative sideline as an escort for rich men definitely didn’t fit the bill of acceptability. He had never used an escort service before, nor would he have considered doing so in normal circumstances, but for this particular occasion he liked the idea of a woman he could hire to accompany him to his sister’s wedding. He would not have to ask anyone for a favour, nor would he have to pretend an interest in a woman that he didn’t feel anything for and there would be no room for misunderstandings in such an arrangement: he would pay Exclusive Companions and she would deliver the act he told her to deliver. In fact the more he thought about it, the more he liked that idea; she would be as much under his control as a robot.
* * *

Emmie swallowed back a yawn with difficulty while Bastian Christou’s PA, Marie, gave her exhaustive details on the company she wanted her to research. Her hand unwittingly rubbed at her aching leg, which always bothered her when she was on her feet too much. Her right leg had been badly injured in a car crash when she was twelve and for years afterwards Emmie had been disabled, initially forced to use a wheelchair and only later recovering sufficiently to get around on crutches. Indeed, without experimental surgery she would never have walked unaided again and so grateful was she still for that surgery that she always shrugged off the occasional ache as unworthy of note or fuss.
Unfortunately, her tiredness made concentration a virtual impossibility and, not for the first time, Emmie marvelled that she had ever believed that an unpaid internship would be the perfect solution to her unemployment crisis. After months working a temporary dead-end job in the local library, Emmie had been willing to try anything to get her career out of the doldrums. She had jumped, however, from the frying pan straight into the fire. Although she had several friends working for no money to gain some experience for their all-important CVs they were all, without exception, still in receipt of parental financial support.
Emmie was rather less fortunate in that field. Although she had an excellent business degree the economic downturn meant there were few graduate jobs and the few that there were went to applicants with the skills and practical know-how that were only attainable from actual employment. After countless unsuccessful applications, Emmie had known that she needed work experience to improve her chances and she had initially been ecstatic when she got through a tough assessment centre and first won the internship at Christou Holdings, one of the most aggressive and successful software companies in London.
Never having lived in the city as an independent adult, she had not initially appreciated what a challenge it would be simply to make ends meet. And then, her estranged mother, Odette, had got in touch out of the blue and had offered Emmie her spare room and Emmie had snatched gratefully at the opportunity for cheap lodgings without which she could not have hoped to accept the job. It had not once occurred to her that Odette might have an ulterior motive in inviting her to stay. Naively, Emmie had simply been eager for the opportunity to get to know the mother she had last seen when she was twelve years old. From that age Emmie and her two siblings had been raised by her eldest sister, Kat, in the Lake District and, although she had recognised Kat’s dismay when she learned of the London scheme and Emmie’s plan to live with their mother, Kat had not interfered and had merely warned her sibling that Odette could be ‘difficult’. Well, the word difficult didn’t begin to cover the problems she was having, Emmie reflected heavily, hoping that she wasn’t in for yet another long-running row when she got home later.
Her first unsettling discovery after moving in with Odette had been the disturbing revelation that her mother made her very comfortable living through an Internet-based escort agency. The even bigger shock that followed had been Odette’s firm conviction that Emmie should join her list of escorts and earn her keep that way. When Emmie had refused and had instead taken on waitressing work five nights a week, Odette had been furious and, even though Emmie was handing over every penny of her meagre earnings to her mother, Odette was still angry and dissatisfied with her daughter.
Perhaps the most upsetting experience of all for Emmie had been the dawning awareness that her mother didn’t love her, cherished no fond wish to get to know her better and certainly didn’t regret having left her to her sister’s care at twelve years old. That learning curve had been steep and painful and had made Emmie appreciate that she had gone to live with her mother in the hope of reviving a relationship that had only ever existed in her own imagination. Sadly, Odette was not the maternal type. Her children were simply the by-products of relationships that had gone wrong and it honestly seemed as though Odette had never managed to form an attachment to any of her daughters.
‘Ah, Marie...’ a familiar dark accented drawl pronounced from the doorway. ‘The meeting is about to start. Emmie can take the minutes for us.’
Emmie spun round, faint colour blooming in her cheeks as she focused on Bastian Christou’s tall powerful frame. The Greek entrepreneur was a popular choice for profiles in leading business publications and she had read all about him long before she came to work for him. He took a brilliant photograph but was even more eye-catching in the flesh, where his height and breadth and the gleaming luxuriance of the ruthlessly cropped black hair that framed his lean, darkly handsome features were disturbingly noticeable even in a crowd. Of course he was taller than most men, something Emmie tended to notice because she was five feet nine inches tall but he topped her by a comfortable six inches. In truth he had the charisma and looks that no woman could ignore, added to a sun-kissed complexion the shade of dulled gold and the perfectly formed features of a fallen angel. His mother, she had read, had been a famous Italian film star and he looked exactly like her, right down to the burnished dark eyes that were currently engaged in roaming over her as though she were edible and he were starving. Startled by that analogy and the intensity of his continuing appraisal, Emmie tensed and jerked her chin up while throwing him a look of frowning enquiry, for he had never looked at her in that way before. Perhaps his reaction was an illustration of the strange mood that Marie had warned her that her boss was in, doubtless fallout from the broken engagement that nobody had yet dared to mention in his presence, she reasoned uncertainly.
‘Of course,’ Marie responded equably. A slender, efficient brunette in her early forties, she rose from her seat to follow her boss back out of the office.
* * *

Bastian surveyed his quarry, Emmie, and wondered what her first smile would look like. He was accustomed to women smiling at him, not at all accustomed to one scowling and challenging him with her head tilted at a scornfully unimpressed angle. Yet there was something familiar about her, some quality that nagged at him, making him feel that he must have seen her or met her before somewhere. That niggling awareness irritated him, for he was well aware that she did not move in his social circles but indeed hailed from some hayseed background in the north. Unless, of course, he thought abruptly, he had previously come across her when she was acting as an escort to someone he knew... Now that was a genuine possibility, he acknowledged with distaste, wondering what on earth she was doing getting involved in such a seedy way of life at her age. Or was he being na?ve? Beautiful women could reap rich rewards and an enviable lifestyle from such pursuits. Indeed if she was to meet the right rich man and marry him, she could set herself up for life.
Bastian had learned at a young age that most such women used their beauty like a commodity, expecting it to work for them and win them special treatment. His own mother had belonged to that group. Why should Emmie Marshall be any different? He watched her take notes during the meeting, noting the faint dark shadows circling her eyes and the translucent quality of her skin. He did not think he had ever seen skin that perfect on anyone other than a child. She propped her chin on an upturned hand, head at a slant that defined her slender neck and delicate jawline. A fine strand of corn-gold hair had escaped from her ponytail to trail across her cheekbone. He marvelled that he hadn’t noticed the quality of her looks sooner. But then the loose shirts and trailing mid-length skirts she wore with the specs provided an off-putting disguise and the attention had to linger to note that soft, full pink mouth with its delicious pout and very slight hint of an overbite, and appreciate that the eyes behind the unattractive spectacles were a truly dazzling bright blue. In some astonishment, Bastian registered that he was developing a hard-on while he imagined those pillowy lips pouting just for his benefit. And for how many others had she performed that arousing trick as part of her escort duties? he asked himself grimly, squashing his arousal at source, for while he never bedded innocents he had an innate aversion to sex being traded for a price. And he already knew what her price was, didn’t he?
‘Emerald’s rarely available. She’s very much in demand,’ the voice at the other end of the phone had informed him smoothly when he phoned the escort agency. ‘I can offer you Jasmine or—’
‘It has to be Emerald,’ he had countered. ‘She’s the only one I want. I’ll make it very well worth her while to choose me as a client.’
And then Bastian had negotiated, a skill at which he excelled, and he had learned once again—had he ever doubted it?—that for the right price he could have anything he wanted, including the rarely available and already fully booked Emerald currently falling asleep across the table from him. He had bought her services for the weekend and he had paid an enormous price for the privilege. It amused him that she evidently had not the slightest idea of the fact and yet he marvelled that any woman could so irresponsibly sell her time and attention to strangers, who might abuse her trust. Her curling lashes were down on her cheekbones, her slim shoulders drooping as she sank lower into her seat. He stretched out a long leg below the table, found her feet and nudged them sharply with the toe of one shoe. She jolted awake again, her wide startled blue eyes flying straight to him in dismay, her full lips parting, cheeks reddening with embarrassment. He wondered who she had entertained the night before and whether sex had figured. Nine out of ten men would expect sex for what he had paid for her services. He wondered how she would feel about that and how he felt about that...no, never, no way was he going there, he thought in disgust.
Emmie collided slap-bang-crash with smouldering dark golden eyes that reminded her of a tiger’s eyes and that fast her ability to breathe vanished while a humming warmth prickled and then pulsed between her legs. Shock rippled through her in reaction to that sexual response, for it had been a long time since she had felt like that. Emmie was wary and seldom reacted to attractive men, having found them invariably vain and self-serving. She was very picky, so picky she had yet to choose a first lover, although she had come very close to losing her virginity at university when she fell in love. Of course that relationship had gone pear-shaped the instant Toby looked at her and said, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to bed with a girl the living image of Sapphire...’
Wham, that astonishing admission had hit Emmie right where it hurt, crushing her confidence and her faith in the love he had pledged. Being the sister of a world-famous supermodel and, even worse, her identical twin had often made Emmie feel as though she had no identity or individuality of her own. Time after time men had made her feel like an imperfect copy or stand-in for her flawless sister and the resemblance between the two women was so strong that, to sidestep that humiliating association being made, Emmie generally played down her best assets and avoided her twin’s company. Now she wondered what it was about Bastian Christou that got to her. Lashes cloaking her gaze, she studied him, her heart beating very fast. Why had he looked at her like that? All right, his engagement was over and he was supposedly a free agent again, but what was he playing at? Men didn’t, as a rule, see beyond the plain, unflattering clothing she wore. And his former fiancée was as different from Emmie in appearance as to be almost another species, being tiny, dark and glittery rather like a manic fairy, Emmie recalled from her one fleeting glimpse of the imperious little Greek socialite. Lifting her chin, Emmie gazed steadily back at him.
Reluctant amusement rippled through Bastian’s powerful frame. She had nerve and he liked that; he liked that very much.
‘In my office—five minutes,’ he told her coolly, thrusting back his chair and rising to his full intimidating height.
‘He must want to check the minutes. I hope you kept pace,’ Marie commented. ‘At one point there, I was afraid you might be falling asleep.’
Emmie winced. ‘It was a possibility...’ Until your boss kicked me awake. The awareness that Bastian Christou had noticed that she was dropping off made her want to cringe and she wondered if that was what he wanted to speak to her about. After all he had never bothered to speak to her before except in passing and he channelled any instructions through Marie.
‘Is there no way you can chuck in the waitressing?’ Marie enquired in an undertone.
‘Sadly not, but I do have only another few weeks to go here,’ Emmie pointed out, relieved she had chosen to be honest with the older woman about the fact that she was working two jobs to survive.
‘I hope the long hours you’re working to do this pay off,’ Marie retorted wryly.
And from the tone of that remark, Emmie gathered that Marie saw little prospect of her being offered a full-time position with the company. In truth Emmie hadn’t really expected the internship to lead to a permanent job but naturally she had hoped to be proven wrong in that assessment. She knew that it was much more likely that another unpaid intern would be offered the position she had vacated. Why should employers take on extra staff and pay them when they could get young eager workers for nothing?
Emmie walked into Bastian’s office for the first time and glanced around, taking in the cool contemporary furnishings and artworks, the almost palpable opulence of a décor where no expense had been spared. But then Bastian Christou had no need to count the cost of anything. A genius in the field of software development and an exceptional businessman, he had single-handedly built an international company out of the best-selling program he had developed before he even left university and had become an enormously wealthy man while still very young.
‘Close the door,’ he told her, his deep voice setting up a vibration along her spine. He was a very masculine man and it had nothing to do with his physical size. Raw masculinity was etched in his hard bone structure, shrewd eyes and the authority and assurance with which he spoke. Although he was always perfectly groomed there was nothing metrosexual about him. One had only to see Bastian Christou with his sleeves rolled up on his strong forearms, his tie torn off and collar unbuttoned to show a slice of bronzed flesh to know that he was all male in a way so few men still dared to be.
Emmie pressed the door shut and turned back, a shiver of disconcerting awareness filtering through her tall, slender length as she met his keen, intelligent eyes. Beautiful eyes, she thought absently, as arrestingly bright as starlight in that strong face. Her body betrayed her instantly as if, having found the chink in her armour with this one man, it had forced that tiny loophole into a dangerous crack, for her breasts stirred and swelled heavily within her bra so that it felt tight and uncomfortable. Her colour fluctuated as her nipples stung into straining peaks and suddenly she was as tongue-tied as an awkward adolescent.
‘Miss Marshall,’ Bastian drawled, tracking her every change of expression. ‘Or may I call you Emmie?’
‘Emmie’s fine,’ she muttered at the height of a drawn-in breath.
‘Or do you prefer Emerald?’
Taken aback by that rare use of her baptismal name, Emmie hovered uncertainly. ‘I don’t use that name...’
‘You...don’t?’ A winged ebony brow climbed as though she had surprised him and when he bent his head over the laptop on the desk, it was a relief for her to have a moment to catch her breath again while watching the light from the window behind her gleam over the glossy sheen of his luxuriant black hair.
Catching herself on that thought, she didn’t know what was wrong with her and only wished she could kick her brain back into gear. Yes, he was a good-looking guy but that didn’t impress her, it being her experience that handsome men were usually very aware that they were handsome and invariably offended if a woman didn’t react with admiration. Not that Bastian Christou struck her as belonging to that category, she acknowledged grudgingly. She was of such minuscule importance on his scale that she was sure he couldn’t care less how she reacted to him. No, it was her own self and her pride that were affronted by her breathless, nervous state in his presence. A grown woman didn’t lose her ability to reason around an attractive man, at least not if she expected to be taken seriously as an employee in an executive office that was still very much a man’s world.
‘No, I don’t use that name...never have,’ Emmie proclaimed with a strained smile, recalling that he could only have got that name from her job application because she only employed it when officialdom required it. Perhaps it had lingered on his mind because it was unusual.
Bastian Christou looked up with a slight smile and inexplicably that smile of his suddenly chilled Emmie to her bone marrow. ‘But that’s not quite true, is it?’
Frozen there in front of his desk, Emmie blinked rapidly, unnerved by the ESP promptings that were warning her of a threat when there was no possible threat that she could see. ‘Sorry?’ she questioned uncertainly, having lost the thread of the conversation.
‘It’s untrue that you don’t use the name Emerald,’ Bastian declared, swivelling his laptop round for her to view what was on the screen.
Emmie’s soft mouth fell wide when she saw the picture he was referring to, shock and disbelief vibrating through her from head to toe because she could not imagine how a personal photograph of hers could have ended up on the Internet for anyone to see. It had been taken at her graduation party on one of the very rare occasions when she dressed up and threw caution to the wind and the photo was still in her digital camera...or at least she had thought it was. ‘What’s this? Where did you find that photo?’ she gasped strickenly.
‘On the website belonging to the Exclusive Companions escort agency,’ Bastian confided, noting that she had turned as white as a sheet at his admission and experiencing an entirely unexpected pang of conscience because she contrived to appear genuinely shattered by his discovery. Of course, he reasoned, that merely proved that she had the useful skill of being a good actress in a challenging situation.
‘Exclusive C-Companions?’ Emmie stammered, for it was her mother’s business and she knew that her photograph could not have been uploaded to that website without her mother’s involvement. She was absolutely appalled and stared fixedly at that colourful image with a sinking heart. How on earth could Odette do that to her? Her mother knew she wanted no involvement with her business. ‘How did you find this?’
‘Not because I was visiting the website,’ Bastian asserted with dry emphasis. ‘Someone else who works here drew it to my attention.’
Nausea curled in her sensitive tummy. Who else knew? How many people? Inwardly she cringed in embarrassment. Who else was now convinced that she worked as an escort outside office hours? My goodness, was everyone she worked with talking about this behind her back? Humiliation clawed at her and she cursed the day she had moved in with her mother. What on earth was her picture doing on the website when she didn’t work as an escort? But who on earth would ever believe that now?
‘It is you, isn’t it?’ Bastian Christou pressed.
In silence, Emmie gritted her teeth and nodded agreement, unable to see how she could lie on that score. ‘But it’s not what you think—’
‘Allow me to know what to think,’ Bastian Christou murmured, smooth as glass.
‘It’s none of your business!’ Emmie told him, her mortification yielding to a sudden rush of resentment.
‘I’m afraid it is my business,’ Bastian countered levelly. ‘Your employment contract with this company states that you’re not allowed to do anything which might bring the company into disrepute and I’m afraid that advertising yourself on the Internet as an escort would fall within that category.’
Emmie lost colour. She could not believe that a foolish action of her mother’s might have put her job at risk, but she could also understand that it was an association that any employer might consider distasteful and suspect. ‘I’ll deal with it,’ she said flatly, her full lips compressing with determination.
‘How will you deal with it?’ Bastian asked, glittering dark eyes pinned to her with growing curiosity, his attention lingering on that soft full mouth. He wanted to rip off the spectacles and tug her hair out of that ugly ponytail and see her beauty as nature had intended it to be seen: that mane of golden hair, clear, flawless skin and glorious eyes. When most women went to great lengths to look the best they could, why the hell did she hide her beauty as though it were something to be ashamed of? And then unveil that beauty to be an escort? Had she been afraid from the start that someone in the office might recognise that photo and realise she was leading a double life? It was the only explanation he could see that made sense of such a disguise.
‘I’ll have the photo taken down from the website. It shouldn’t be there,’ she declared defensively. ‘I don’t actually work as an escort—’
‘But clearly you have a connection to the agency,’ Bastian pointed out, amused by her vehemence, her eagerness to persuade him that he had somehow misunderstood. She had little hope of getting far with that objective when he had so recently booked and paid for her services, he conceded grimly.
Emmie squirmed, determined not to admit the degrading truth that her connection to the escort agency was through her mother. ‘I promise you that I’ll deal with it and that photo will be taken down as soon as I can get it organised.’
‘If you’re tied into an employment contract with the agency it won’t be that simple a matter,’ Bastian warned her and he pushed a business card across the desk towards her. ‘Feel free to contact this lawyer if you need advice or assistance on that score.’
‘There is no contract. I told you...I don’t work as an escort,’ Emmie repeated doggedly, her colour high because she knew he didn’t believe her and she didn’t really blame him for that when her photo was on the website for all to see. She was mortified by the entire conversation but surprised that he was offering her a legal contact who could help her cut ties that didn’t actually exist. Fortunately, the only tie Emmie had to Exclusive Companions was her blood tie to her manipulative mother.
‘Tell me, why isn’t the HR department dealing with this?’ she queried.
‘I felt the issue needed to be dealt with immediately and without spreading the news round the office.’
Exerting self-control, Emmie clenched her teeth together. ‘Thanks. I appreciate that,’ she felt forced to say with very real gratitude.
‘Take the rest of the day off to handle this business,’ Bastian advised, further surprising her with his consideration. ‘I’ll clear it with Marie.’
Thoroughly disconcerted by that generous suggestion, Emmie stiffened, but she was very grateful for the chance to go straight home and confront her mother about what she had done as it was scarcely something she could ignore.
‘A stitch in time saves nine,’ Emmie muttered shakily, taut with rage and embarrassment and frustration that she could not clear her own name but, on another level, very grateful to have discovered that her face was on that website, so that she could demand it be removed forthwith.
Bastian elevated a satiric brow. ‘Another one of your funny little homilies?’
‘I was talking to myself,’ Emmie breathed curtly, flushing slightly because she had picked up the habit of uttering proverbs when she was a child and tended to blurt them out mindlessly when she was nervous or apprehensive.
So far, so good, Bastian reflected cynically when she had left his office, having reacted exactly as he had expected her to and engaged in a frantic cover-up. Even so, she would get that photo down from the site and cut her ties to the agency, which would perfectly suit his requirements. He had no desire for anyone to discover that he was keeping company with an escort and once she was removed from the site there would be less risk of that happening.

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