The Ruthless Magnate's Virgin Mistress(8)

By: Lynne Graham

‘So what happened to you last night?’ Abbey demanded of her brother when she walked into his office the next morning. He had red hair like her and blue eyes, and was a tall man who wore metal-framed spectacles. At thirty, he was five years her senior and a qualified accountant.

‘I wanted to finish the accounts before the tax man comes calling,’ Drew responded. ‘There’s a lot of extra work to do around here since we expanded our client base. Don’t forget that I have to wear two hats. I’m the firm accountant as well as your partner.’

‘I know.’ Abbey resisted the temptation to point out that he had been the biggest advocate for expanding the business when both she and his wife had been content with the status quo. ‘Perhaps we should take on someone to help you with the accounts—’

‘No!’ Her brother disagreed with a vehemence that made her look at him in astonishment. ‘Sorry, but I have my own way of doing things,’ he added tautly when he intercepted her questioning glance.

‘Fine.’ But Abbey studied him, wondering why he was so determined not to accept help when he was obviously finding the financial side a burden. Not for the first time she wished she had a better head for juggling figures. ‘I just feel that you should have had the time to come to the fashion show—’

‘I’m not into fund-raising and stuff. That’s Caroline’s territory. I would’ve been a fish out of water,’ he asserted.

‘Caroline’s lonely,’ Abbey responded gently. ‘You’ve been working late a lot recently.’

Drew shrugged. ‘Caroline and I live and work together,’ he reminded her. ‘Sometimes it feels suffocating. I’m not always here in the office working when I’m late home. Sometimes I just like to go out on my own.’

Abbey was dismayed by the tenor of that admission. Suffocating? That was not a healthy word to describe a marital relationship. ‘Is there anything wrong?’

‘Why should there be?’ Drew frowned with annoyance at his sister. ‘Why should there be anything wrong?’

‘You just seem very jumpy and defensive all of a sudden.’

‘You’re imagining things.’

Abbey was unconvinced. ‘Is there anything up with the business?’

‘I’d soon tell you if there was. We could do with some more customers—’

‘You told me business was brilliant—’

‘Our new fancy office premises are swallowing up more of our income than I expected,’ Drew admitted ruefully.

Abbey was proud that she didn’t say, ‘I told you so’. She was very fond of her big brother and she could see that he was under strain. He was pale, there were bags under his eyes and his nails were badly bitten, which was always a sign to the knowledgeable that Drew was stressed. ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’

‘Chat up the Russian billionaire. He might throw some trade our way and he must have amazing connections.’

‘Caroline has already told you about Nikolai Arlov?’

‘It brought some excitement into our suburban lives, didn’t it? A billionaire making a move on my little sister? It doesn’t happen every day.’

Abbey compressed her lips. ‘I didn’t like him.’

‘What mortal man could match up to Jeffrey the Saint?’

‘Don’t call Jeffrey that!’

‘Sorry, but I was never one of the devoted fans. I always thought that Jeffrey took advantage of you. You were only a kid,’ Drew said in a tone of disapproval. ‘If he’d been anyone other than Dad’s colleague and a judge in the making, Dad would have told him to get lost.’

‘Jeffrey would never have taken advantage of me. He loved me,’ Abbey argued with quiet conviction. ‘Look, I’d better get down to some work.’

Caroline, who worked for Support Systems from home, had faxed Abbey her appointments for the day and Abbey devoted her first hour of work to organising a housesitter for a couple going on holiday and booking their car in for a service. She was due to meet a client to chat about the arrangements for a christening party when a knock sounded on the door and heralded the delivery of flowers. Abbey got up to whisk the card out of the glorious basket of old-fashioned white and pink roses. It was not a surprise for her to see Nikolai’s name on the card, but she felt almost threatened by the fact that he included his phone number. With extreme reluctance, as she did not want to encourage him, she texted him a cool, polite thank-you for the roses.

Barely a minute later, he phoned her. ‘Lunch?’ His dark deep voice sent a sensitised shiver down her taut spinal cord.

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