The Ruthless Magnate's Virgin Mistress(3)By: Lynne Graham
‘Love the make-up, Sally,’ Caroline remarked, wheeling to a halt beside them. ‘You’ve done Abbey proud.’
‘It wasn’t difficult. She’s got great bones and eyes.’
‘You look wonderful,’ Caroline told her sister-in-law warmly.
Abbey studied her reflection. She thought she looked outrageous with her violet-coloured eyes smothered in exotic plum shades and glitter and diamante shimmering in an artistic arc across her cheekbones, but she supposed that the spectacular heavy make-up was all part and parcel of the illusion of glamour. ‘Is Drew here yet?’ she enquired.
Caroline’s face shadowed. ‘No. He was still at the office when I called.’
Abbey felt Caroline’s disappointment and wondered what her brother was playing at. Nobody had worked harder than Caroline to get this show on the road and she deserved for her husband to take respectful notice of her achievement. But, then, the family concierge business, Support Systems, had recently moved to upmarket premises in Knightsbridge and hired more staff, substantially increasing overheads. As a result, all of them were working longer hours and dealing with more clients. Abbey adored the busyness and variety of her job. Customers hired them to take care of everything they could not find the time to do for themselves—wide-ranging tasks that ran from walking the dog and picking up dry cleaning to booking holidays, shopping for presents and finding domestic staff and repairmen.
It was all a far cry from the life her snobbish sexist father would have chosen for her. He had refused to allow her to go to university or to train for a profession. Abbey remained painfully aware that, next to her brother, she had been a nobody in her father’s eyes. The older man had often treated his only daughter as an irritation and a disappointment. In fact only on the day Abbey married Jeffrey had her father looked at her with approval and pride as if marriage to a successful man was her biggest achievement.
‘You look like the Queen in Snow White,’ her niece, Alice, whispered, big eyes fixed in fascination to her aunt’s face.
‘The baddie who thought she was gorgeous and cracked the magic mirror she was always talking to?’ Abbey groaned.
‘She may have been bad but she was really beautiful,’ Alice lisped.
‘Watch your face,’ Sally warned when Abbey bent down to hug the six-year-old with easy affection. Across the room, Alice’s twin brother, Benjamin, was as usual fully engrossed in a book. Abbey was very close to her brother’s children. After the car accident she had moved in with the family to help out while Caroline was undergoing an intensive physiotherapy programme. She had soon discovered that the children’s needs and her own unrelenting grief had been best met by keeping busy for as many hours of the day as possible.
Nerves were making Abbey as tense as an over-stretched piece of elastic. Sally removed the protective cape she wore and Abbey got up to go and peer out at the audience from behind the curtains that shielded the catwalk from the dressing area. ‘I don’t know why I agreed to do this,’ she muttered.
‘Because it’s for a good cause,’ Caroline piped up cheerfully at her elbow. ‘And all our lucky stars came out tonight. Guess who’s out here?’
‘One of the A-list celebrities you invited?’ Abbey guessed.
‘Nikolai Danilovich Arlov.’
‘For goodness’ sake, Abbey. You’ve got to know who he is! Only a Russian billionaire—’
‘The one whose vigorous sex life is always giving the tabloids headlines and centre spreads?’ As Caroline gave a reluctant nod of confirmation Abbey grimaced. ‘The guy’s only one step removed from a barnyard animal. He’s sleaze personified.’
‘His donation will still be welcome. Don’t be so judgemental, Abbey,’ her brother’s wife scolded. ‘Rich single men always have loads of girlfriends—’
‘He always picks sluts willing to spill all their bedroom secrets in print for a hefty payment. It tells you all you need to know about him—’
‘That the poor guy is a target for the greediest and most unscrupulous gold-diggers in town?’
‘Are you talking about Nikolai Arlov?’ Sally chimed in. ‘He’s been on his mobile phone ever since he arrived. He is absolutely gorgeous. If I got the chance to sleep with him I’d want to kiss and tell as well!’
Caroline giggled. ‘Are you serious?’
‘I’d be proud to tell the world that I had caught his eye,’ the beautician insisted. ‘And according to what I’ve read about his generosity, it would be well worth my while to be one of his harem.’