The Executive's Vengeful Seduction(10) by Maxine Sullivan

Long moments later he broke off the kiss. She watched a pulse beat wildly in his throat, her mind staggered with incredulous wonder. She hadn’t known it until now, but she’d missed this feeling of sharing and being one.

With him.

And then reality hit at the sound of the others coming back into the living room.

He stepped back and gestured for her to precede him through the patio doors. “After you,” he murmured, the huskiness still lingering in his voice, affecting her, making her legs feel shaky as she hurried inside.

After that, the rest of the evening was nerve-racking for Gabrielle. Damien appeared to enjoy his friends’ company, but whenever he looked at her, the desire in his eyes made her heart thud against her ribs.

Yet knowing she’d tapped a raw nerve back there on the patio gave her strength. She was glad their kiss had affected him as much as it had her. It made her feel not so needy. The downside was that it made her vulnerable. How could a woman not feel stirred knowing she’d touched a chord inside a man like Damien?

She breathed easier when he left the room to take a call on his cell phone, but his return sent a flutter of panic through her. There was an odd look in his eyes.

It was hard.

And determined.

She tried to ignore an uneasy feeling, but her heart jumped in her throat when not long after he suggested they leave. He didn’t mention to the others she was staying with him. Not that it was anyone’s business, and certainly Damien would never find the need to explain such a thing to anyone. Not even to his friends.

He didn’t speak on the way home, either, but the tension increased within the confines of the car. Would he try to get her in bed? It certainly wouldn’t worry him if he did, of that she was certain.

As soon as they stepped inside his apartment, the door to the spare bedroom appeared to be far too close for her liking. She darted a look at him beneath her lashes and saw a muscle ticking in his jaw. Her stomach tied itself in knots.

“Don’t worry. I’m not going to seduce you,” he mocked, striding over to the bar.

Her brows rose. “You’re not?”

“Not yet anyway.” He poured himself a small amount of scotch.

She moistened her lips, all at once certain there was something else going on here. “How…generous of you.”

There was a moment’s pause, then, “I’ve decided to wait until our marriage.”

Frustration clawed through her. “Damien, will you please stop—”

“Tomorrow.”

The air whooshed out of her lungs. “Wh-what?”

He took a swallow of his drink. “We’re getting married tomorrow, Gabrielle, like it or not.”

She gasped. “Look, I told you—”

“Keiran just lost a three-million-dollar contract.”

Her head reeled back. “Say that again.”

“That phone call I took was from James. Keiran lost a deal your father had been working on for the past year.” He paused as he slammed the glass down on top of the bar. “Now. Don’t you think it’s time we got married?”

Five

T he next afternoon Gabrielle married Damien in a simple ceremony held in his apartment, and Damien signed over eleven percent of Kane Property and Finance Group shares to her.

The only “family” Damien wanted to invite were his two best friends and their wives, and his attorney. No one else knew. Everything had to be kept secret so that Keiran wouldn’t get wind of the marriage and do something underhanded to prevent it, if indeed there was anything he could do about it.

As for her parents, Damien suggested it was best not to tell them about the wedding until afterward. The excitement might not be good for her father, and her mother might let something slip to Keiran, especially since Damien had said later that Caroline had no idea about the shares.

Still, it had been hard for Gabrielle to visit her parents earlier that morning and act as if nothing momentous was about to happen. Thankfully, her father had been sleeping and her mother had asked Gabrielle to sit with him while she went home to shower and change. It had been a blessed relief not to have to put on a brave face. Nor was Gabrielle sure she wouldn’t have begged her mother to stop her from doing a crazy thing like getting married two days after returning home.

And it was a crazy thing to do, she kept thinking when Kia and Danielle arrived carrying a gorgeous white sheath of a dress with a miniveil, and a posy of glorious miniature yellow roses. Suitably horrified at the speed Damien had arranged everything, they gave him a scolding about rushing the bride off her feet, yet they all knew why.

Thank goodness she didn’t have to play the blushing bride in front of everyone, Gabrielle told herself while she was dressing, with Kia and Danielle sympathizing over her predicament in the background. Brant and Flynn’s attitude was that Damien was doing the right thing, which made all three women smile wryly at each other in a moment of bonding.

Of course, once the ceremony was over and she stood next to the ladies beside a table covered with scrumptious food, she was on autopilot as she sipped at her champagne. The men had gone out on the balcony on the pretext of admiring the panoramic ocean view, but were deep in discussion instead.

“You know something, Gabrielle,” Kia said. “Damien reminds me so much of Brant and Flynn. Handsome. Gorgeous. And wonderful husbands once you get past the wall of detachment that’s inherent in men like them.”

Sudden despair wrapped around Gabrielle’s heart. She was sure Damien would be just like her father. And she would turn out just like her mother.

“Good heavens, your hands are shaking,” Kia exclaimed in a sympathetic tone. She squeezed Gabrielle’s arm. “Honey, we understand. Danielle and I felt the same way about our guys when we first met them.”

Danielle nodded in agreement. “That’s right. And one day we’ll tell you all about it, but not now. It would take too long to explain why Flynn thought I was after his money,” she said with rueful smile. “But I do want to say one thing—trust that it will work out for the two of you.”

Gabrielle appreciated their kindness, but there was so much that they didn’t realize. For one thing these women didn’t know about her and Damien’s past affair. Nor about her miscarriage—the one Damien didn’t know about, either.

Just then she looked up and saw the three men coming back inside the apartment through the sliding glass doors. Damien looked magnificent in a dark suit and white shirt and was grinning at something one of the others had said. It was a striking smile that curled her toes and sent her heart thudding against her ribs.

And then he saw her staring at him and he paused briefly, before his mouth tilted in a sardonic grin. “I hope you ladies aren’t plying my new bride with alcohol,” he said, walking toward them.

Kia gave a light laugh. “Of course we are.”

“I have something much better.” He nodded at the waiter, who proceeded to hand out fresh glasses of champagne.

Despite his relaxed air, those piercing eyes studied her thoughtfully for a moment, giving nothing away. And then she saw a hint of satisfaction lurking at the back of them, and fear rippled through her. Fear, not of Damien himself, but of where all this was leading. He may not have planned to marry her when he’d brought her back from Sydney, but he certainly intended to profit from all this…in more ways than one.

He held up his glass. “A toast. To my new wife.”

From somewhere deep inside her, she managed to raise her own glass and smile right back at him. “And here’s to my old husband.”

That evening, alone with Damien on his luxury yacht, Gabrielle ignored the man beside her and purposely focused her gaze on Darwin Harbor. In the remaining light, she watched as other boats sailed past them over the deep, calm water, the sound of laughter and clinking glasses sometimes drifting through the air, early evening being all about relaxing and having fun.

Not for them, of course. She didn’t want to be here. It was under duress and Damien knew it. So she wasn’t feeling particularly friendly toward him right now.

Okay, so he’d looked handsome and virile as he’d motored the vessel out himself, then dropped anchor, the cream polo shirt enhancing his well-built body as he’d moved, the black trousers molding perfectly to his long legs.

She’d always loved looking at his profile, and he looked even more attractive this evening with the water reflecting on his face. There was something very potent about the picture he made, and she felt a tremor inside knowing she was now married to him.

Her husband.

All at once he turned his head toward her. His moss-green eyes stared across the table and into her own with a burning intensity. “You were a beautiful bride.”

She realized she was gripping her wineglass so tight she might break it. She forced her fingers to relax. “Thank you.”

“You won my friends over well and truly,” he added.

She grimaced. They both knew Brant and Flynn approved because they thought she was doing the right thing for the business. “I’m sure Kia and Danielle feel a certain…empathy for me.”

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