Prince of Secrets

By His Royal Decree, Royal Brides

Harlequin Presents #3163

ASIN: B00BNRHKG6

ISBN-10: 978-1460316658

Originally published: 08/01/13

With his royal identity and intent disguised, Demyan sets about a ruthless seduction designed to make Chanel lose her mind with ecstasy. But when he discovers she is a virgin, he uncovers something in himself—a conscience. Now his plan takes a shocking turn—one this dark-hearted prince had never anticipated!

Also available in Manga.


Ebook:

Reviews

“I am a sucker for the “Cindrella” romances where the girl falls for the Prince. If you love these classic romance stories too then you HAVE TO read “The Prince of Secrets”~Goodreads reviewer

“Watch as Demyan shifts from protector of his country to protector of Chanel. The characters come alive in the hands of Lucy Monroe. This was the first I have read of her writings and will be looking for more.”~Goodreads reviewer

“PRINCE OF SECRETS is a swift paced, more deeply emotional romance than expected.”~Annetta FreshFiction Reviewer

 

Excerpt

PROLOGUE

“What am I looking at?” Demyan asked his uncle, the King of Volyarus.

Spread before him on the behemoth antique executive desk brought over with the first Hetman to be made Volyarussian king was a series of photos. All were of a rather ordinary woman with untamed curly red hair. Her one arresting feature was storm cloud grey eyes that revealed more emotion in each picture than he would allow himself to show in an entire year.

Fedir frowned at the pictures for several seconds before meeting Demyan’s matching espresso dark gaze.

Those who mistook Demyan for Fedir’s biological son could be forgiven, the resemblance was that strong. But Demyan was the king’s nephew and while he’d been raised in the palace as the “spare heir to the throne”, three years older than his future king, he’d never once gotten it confused in his own mind.

Fedir cleared his throat as if the words he needed to utter were unpalatable to him. “That is Chanel Tanner.”

“Tanner?” Demyan asked, the coincidence not lost on him.

“Yes.”

The name was common enough, in the United States anyway. There was no immediate reason for Demyan to assume she was related to Bartholomew Tanner, one of the original partners in Tanner Yurkovich.

Except the portrait of the Texas wildcatter hanging in the west hall of the palace bore a striking resemblance to the woman in the pictures. They shared the same curly red hair (though Bartholomew had worn it shorter), high forehead and angular jaw (though hers was more pleasingly feminine).

Her lips, unadorned by color or gloss, were a soft pink and bow-shaped. Bartholomew’s were lost beneath the handlebar mustache he sported in the painting. While his eyes sparkled with life, hers were filled with seriousness and unexpected shadows.

Bartholomew Tanner had helped to found the company on which the current wealth of both Volyarus and the Yurkovich family empire had been built upon. At one time, he had owned a significant share in it as well.

“She looks like Baron Tanner.” The oilman had been bequeathed a title for his help in locating oil reserves and other mineral deposits on Volyarus by King Fedir’s grandfather.

Fedir nodded. “She’s his great-great-granddaughter and the last of his blood line.”

Relaxing back in his chair, Demyan cocked his brow in interest, but waited for the king to continue rather than asking any questions.

“Her step-father, Perry Saltzman, approached our office in Seattle about a job for his son.” Another frown, which was unusual for the king, who was no more prone to emotional displays than Demyan. “Apparently, the boy is close to graduating university with honors in business.”

“Why tell me? Maks is the glad hander on stuff like this.” His cousin was also adroit at turning down requests without causing diplomatic upset.

Demyan was not so patient. There were benefits to not being raised a Crown Prince.

“He is on his honeymoon.” Fedir’s words were true, but Demyan sensed there was more to it.

Otherwise this could have waited. “He’ll be back in a couple of weeks.”

And if Mr. Saltzman was looking for a job for his son, why were there pictures of his stepdaughter all over the conference table?

“I don’t want Maks to know about this.”

“Why?”

“He will not agree to what needs to be done.” Fedir ran his fingers through hair every bit as dark as Demyan’s, no strands of grey in sight. “You know my son. He can be unexpectedly…recalcitrant.”

For the first time in a very long while, Demyan had to admit, “You’ve lost me.”

There was very little his cousin would not do for the country of his birth. He’d given up the woman he wanted rather than marry with little hope for an heir.

Fedir stacked the pictures together, leaving a candid shot on top that showed Chanel smiling. “In 1952, when Bart Saltzman agreed to help my grandfather find oil on or around the Volyarussian islands, he accepted a twenty percent share in the company in exchange for his efforts and provision of expertise, a fully trained crew and all the drilling equipment.”

“I am aware.” All Volyarussian children were taught their history.

How Volyarus had been founded by one of Ukraine’s last Hetman, who had purchased the chain of uninhabited and most believed uninhabitable islands with his own personal wealth from Canada. He and a group of peasants and nobles had founded Volyarus, literally meaning free from Russia, because they’d believed it was only a matter of time before Ukraine fell under Russian rule completely.

They had been right. Ukraine was its own country again, but more people spoke Russian there than their native tongue. They had spent too many years under the thumb of the USSR.

Hetman Maksim Ivan Yurkovich, the First had poured his wealth into the country and become its de facto monarch. By the time his son was crowned King of Volyarus, the House of Yurkovich’s monarchy was firmly in place.

However the decades that followed were not all good ones for the small country and the wealth of its people had begun to decline, until even the Royal House was feeling the pinch.

Enter wildcatter and shrewd businessman Bartholomew Tanner.

“He died still owning those shares.” Fedir’s frown had turned to an all-out scowl.

Shock coursed through Demyan. “No.”

“Oh, yes.” King Fedir rose and paced the room, only to stop in front of the large plate glass window with a view of the capitol city. “The original plan was for his daughter to marry my grandfather’s youngest son.”

“Great Uncle Chekov?”

“Yes.”

“But…” Demyan let his voice trail off, nothing really to say.

Duke Chekov had been a bachelor, but it wasn’t because Tanner’s daughter broke his heart. The man had been gay and lived out his years overseeing most of mining interests with a valet that was a lot more than a servant.

In the 1950s, that had been his only option for happiness.

Times had changed, but some things remained static. Duty to family and country was one of them.

King Fedir shrugged. “It did not matter. The match was set.”

“But they never married.”

“She eloped with one of the oilmen.”

That would have been high scandal in the 50s.

“But I thought Baron Tanner left the shares to the people of Volyarus.”

“It was a pretty fabrication created by my grandfather.”

“The earnings on those twenty-percent of shares has been used to build roads, fund schools…damn.”

“Exactly. To repay the funds with interest to Chanel Tanner would seriously jeopardize our country’s financial stability in the best of times.”

And the current economic climes would never be described as that.

“She has no idea of her legacy, does she?” If she did, Perry Saltzman wouldn’t bother to ask for a job for his son, he’d be suing Volyarus for hundreds of millions. One of the few countries in the world that did not operate in any sort of deficit, that kind of payout could literally break the Volyarussian bank.

“What’s the plan?”

“Marriage.”

“How will that help?” Whoever she married could make the same claims on their country’s resources.

“There was one caveat in Bartholomew’s will. If any issue of his ever married into the Volyarussian royal family, his twenty percent would revert to the people less a sufficient annual income to provide for his heir’s wellbeing.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“It does if you know the rest of the story.”

“What is it?”

“Tanner’s daughter ended up jilted by her lover, who was already married, making their own hasty ceremony null.”

“So, she still could have married Prince Chekov.”

“She was pregnant with another man’s child; she’d caused a well-publicized scandal. He categorically refused.”

“Tanner thought he would change Uncle Chekov’s mind?”

“Tanner thought her son might grow up to marry into our family and link the Tanner name with the Royal House of Yurkovich for all time.”

“It already was, by business.”

“That wasn’t good enough.” King Fedir sighed. “He wanted a family connection with his name in-tact if possible.”

“Family was important to him.”

“Yes. He never spoke to his daughter again, but he provided for her financially until she remarried with only one caveat.”

“Her son keep the Tanner name.” It made sense.

“Exactly.”

“And he presumably had a son.”

“Only one.”

“Chanel’s father, but you said she was the only living Tanner of Bart’s line.”

“She is. Both her grandfather and father died from dangerous chemical inhalation after a lab accident.”

“They were scientists?”

“Chemists, just like Chanel. Although they worked on their own grants. She’s a research assistant.”

The woman with the wild red hair in the pictures was a science geek?

“And no one in the family was aware of their claim to Tanner’s shares?”

“No. He meant to leave them to the people of Volyarus. He told my grandfather, that was his intention.”

“But he didn’t do it.”

“He was a wildcatter. It’s a dangerous profession. He died when his grandson was still a young boy.”

“And?”

“And my grandfather provided for the education expense of every child in that line since.”

“There haven’t been that many.”

“No.”

“Including Chanel?”

“Yes. The full ride and living expenses scholarship she received is apparently what gave Percy Saltzman the idea to approach Yurkovich Tanner and trade on a connection more than half a century old.”

“What do you want me to do? Find her a Volyarussian husband?”

“He has to be from the Yurkovich line.”

“Your son is already married.”

“You are not.”

Neither was Demyan’s younger brother, but he doubted Fedir considered that fact important. Demyan was the one who had been raised as “spare to the throne” almost a son to the Monarch. “You want me to marry her.”

“For the good of Volyarus, yes. It need not be a permanent marriage. The will makes no stipulations on that score.”

Demyan did not reply immediately. For the first time in more years than he could remember, his mind was blank with shock.

“Think, Demyan. You and I both know the healthy economy of Volyarus sits on a precarious edge, just like the rest of the world. The calamity that would befall us were we to be forced to distribute the funds to Miss Tanner would be great.”

“You are being melodramatic. There’s no guarantee Maksim the First’s duplicity would ever be discovered.”

“It’s only a matter of time, particularly with a man like Perry Saltzman in the picture. His kind can sniff out wealth and connections with the efficiency of a ferret.”

“So, we deny the claim. Our court resources far exceed this young woman’s.”

“I think not. There are three countries that would be very happy to lay claim to Volyarus as a territory and the United States is one of them.”

“You believe they would use the unclaimed shares as a way to get their hands on a part of Volyarus.”

“Why not?”

Why not indeed. King Fedir would and come to it, Demyan wouldn’t hesitate to exploit such a politically expedient turn of events himself.

“So, I marry her, gain control of the shares and dump her?” he asked, more to clarify what his uncle was thinking than to enumerate his own plans.

He would marry one day. Why not the heir to Bartholomew Tanner? If she was as much a friend to Volyarus as her grandfather had been, they might well make an acceptable life together.

“If she turns out to be anything like her grasping step-father, yes,” Fedir answered. “On the other hand, she may well be someone you could comfortably live with.”

The king didn’t look like he believed his own words.

Frankly, Demyan wasn’t sure he did either, but his future was clear. His duty to his country and well-being of his family left only one course of action open to him.

Seduce and marry the unpolished scientist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

Demyan slid the black rimmed nonprescription glasses on before pushing the door open to the lab building. The glasses had been his uncle’s idea, along with the grey Armani cardigan Demyan wore over his untucked dress shirt – no tie. The jeans he wore to complete the “geeky corporate guy” attire were his own idea and surprisingly comfortable.

He’d never owned a pair. He’d had the need to set the right example for his younger cousin, Crown Prince to Volyarus, drummed into Demyan from his earliest memory.

He’d done his best, but they were two very different men.

Maksim was a corporate shark, but he was also an adept politician. Demyan left politics to the diplomats.

For now though, he would tone down his fierce personality with clothes and a demeanor that would not send his prey running.

He knocked perfunctorily on the door before entering the lab where Chanel Tanner worked. The room was empty but for the single woman working through her lunch hour like usual, according to his investigator’s report.

Sitting at a computer in the far corner, she typed in quick bursts between reading one of the many volumes spread open on the cluttered desktop.

“Hello.” He pitched his voice low, not wanting to startle her.

No need to worry on that score. She simply waved her hand toward him, not even bothering to turn around. “Leave it on the bench by the door.”

“Leave what precisely?” he asked, amused in spite of himself by her demeanor.

“The package. Do you really need to know what’s in it? No one else ever asks,” she grumbled as she scribbled something down.

“I do not have a package. What I do have, is an appointment.”

Her head snapped up, red curly hair flying as she spun her chair to face him. “What? Who? You’re Mr. Zaretsky?”

He nodded, impressed by the perfect pronunciation of his name.

“You aren’t expected for another half an hour.” She jumped to her feet, the pocket of her lab coat catching the edge of a book and knocking it to the floor. “And you’re going to be late. Corporate types interested in funding our research always are.”

“And yet, I am early.” He crossed the room and picked up the book to hand to her.

Taking it, she frowned, her small nose scrunching rather charmingly. “I noticed.”

“Eventually, yes.”

Pink stained her cheeks, almost washing out the light dusting of freckles. “I thought you were the UPS guy. He flirts. I don’t like it, so I ignore him if at all possible.”

The woman was twenty-nine years old and could count the number of dates she’d had in the last year on less than the fingers of one hand. Demyan would think she might welcome flirting.

He did not say that, of course. He gave her the smile he used on women he wanted to bed. “You have no filter, do you?”

“Are you flirting with me?” she demanded, her grey eyes widened in shock.

“I might be.” Awkward and this woman were on very friendly speaking terms.

Her brows furrowed and she looked at him with evident confusion. “But why?”

“Why not?”

“I’m hospitably inept, not desperate.”

“You believe you are inept?”

“Everyone believes I’m socially awkward, particularly my family. Since not one of them has trouble making friends and maintaining a busy social life, I bow to their superior knowledge in the area.”

“I think you are charming.” Demyan shocked himself with the knowledge he spoke the truth.

An even bigger, but not unwelcome surprise was that he found the geeky scientist unexpectedly attractive. She wasn’t his usual cover model companion, but he would like very much if she would take off her lab coat and give him the opportunity to see her full figure.

“Some people do at first, but it wears off.” She sighed, looked dejected for a few short seconds before squaring her shoulders and setting her features into an expression no doubt meant to hide her thoughts. “It’s all right. I’m used to it. I have my work and that’s what is really important.”

He’d learned that about her, along with a great deal else from the investigation he’d had performed on top of the dossier his uncle had provided. “You’re passionate about your research.”

“It’s important.”

“Yes, it is. That is why I am here.”

The smile she bestowed on him was brilliant, her grey eyes lighting to silver. “It is. You’re going to make it possible for us to extend the parameters of our current study.”

“That is the plan.” He’d determined that approaching her in the guise of a corporate investor was the quickest way to gain Chanel’s favor.

He’d obviously been right.

“Why are you here?” she asked.

“I thought we’d been over that.”

“Most corporations donate without sending someone to check our facility over.”

“Are you offended Yurkovich Tanner did not opt to do so?”

“No, just confused.”

“Oh?”

“How will you know if this is a good setup, or not? I mean even the most fly-by-night operation can make their lab look impressive to a layman.”

“The University of Washington is hardly a fly-by-night operation.”

“No, I know, but you know what I mean.”

“You really have no filter, do you?”

“Um, no?”

“You as good as called me stupid.”

“No.” She shook her head for emphasis.

“The implication is there.”

“No, it’s not. No more than I consider myself stupid because I could stare at my car’s engine from dawn to dusk and still not be able to tell you where the catalytic converter is.”

“It’s under the engine.”

“Is it?”

“Point taken, but you knew your car exhaust system has one. Just as I know the rudimentary facts about lab research.”

“I know about the catalytic converter because my mother’s was stolen once. I guess it’s a thing for young thugs to steal them sell them for the precious metal. Mom was livid.”

“As she had a right to be.”

“I suppose, but getting a concealed weapons permit and storing a handgun in her Navigator’s glove box was taking it about sixty-million steps too far. It wasn’t as if she was in the car when they stole the thing.”

Demyan felt his lips twitching, the amusement rolling through him an unusual but not unwelcome reaction. “I am sure you are right.”

“Is English your second language?”

“It is.” But people rarely realized that. “I do not speak with an accent.”

“You don’t use a ton of contractions either.”

“I prefer precise communication.”

Her storm cloud gaze narrowed in thought. “You’re from Volyarus, aren’t you?”

He felt his eyes widen in surprise. “Yes.”

“Don’t look so shocked. My great-great-grandfather helped discover the oil fields of Volyarus. Did you really think I wouldn’t know that the Seattle office of Yurkovich Tanner is just a satellite? They paid for my university education. It was probably some long ago agreement with Bartholomew Tanner.”

She was a lot closer than was comfortable to the truth. “He was bequeathed the title of baron, which would make you a lady.”

“I know that, but my mom doesn’t.” And from Chanel’s tone, she didn’t want the older woman finding out. “Besides, the title would only pass to me if I were direct in line with no older sibling.”

“Do you have one?” he asked, knowing the answer but following the script of a stranger.

“No.”

“So, you are Dame Tanner, Lady Chanel if you prefer.”

Her lovely pink lips twisted with clear distaste. “I prefer just Chanel.”

“Your mother is French?” he asked, continuing the script he’d carefully thought out beforehand.

Demyan was always fully prepared.

“No. She loves the Chanel label though.”

“She named you after a designer brand?” His investigators had not revealed that fact.

“It’s no different than a parent naming their child Mercedes, or something,” Chanel replied defensively.

“Of course.”

“She named me more aptly than she knew.”

“Why do you say that?” he asked with genuine surprise and curiosity.

He would have thought it was the opposite.

“Mom loves her designers, but what she never realized was that Coco Chanel started her brand because she believed in casual elegance. She wore slacks when women simply did not.   She believed beauty should be both effortless and comfortable.”

“Did she?”

“Oh, yes. Mom is more of the ‘beauty is pain’ school of thought. She wishes I were too, but well, you can see I’m not.” Chanel indicated her lab coat over a simple pair of khaki slacks and a blue t-shirt.

The t-shirt might not be high fashion, but it clung to Chanel’s figure in a way that revealed her unexpectedly generous curves. She wasn’t overweight, but she wasn’t rail thin either and if her breasts were less than a c cup, he’d be surprised.

That information had not been in her dossier either.

“You’re staring at my breasts.”

“I apologize.”

“Okay.” She sighed. “I’m not offended, but I’m not used to it. My lab coat isn’t exactly revealing and the men around here, well they stare at my data more than me.”

“Foolish men.”

“If you say so.”

“I do.”

“You’re flirting again.”

“Are you going to try to ignore me like the UPS man?”

“Am I going to see you again to ignore you?”

“Oh, you will definitely see me again.”

As hard as Chanel found it to believe, the gorgeous corporate guy had meant exactly what he said. And not in a business capacity.

He wanted to see her again. She hadn’t given him her number, but he’d called to invite her to dinner. Which meant he’d gone to the effort to get it. Strange.

And sort of flattering.

Then he’d taken her to an independent film she’d mentioned wanting to see.

Chanel didn’t date. She was too awkward, her filters tuned wrong for normal conversation. Even other scientists found her wearing in a social setting.

Only Demyan didn’t seem to care. He never got annoyed with her.

He didn’t get offended when she said something she shouldn’t have. He didn’t shush her in front of others, or try to cut off her curious questioning of their waiter on his reasoning behind recommending certain meals over others.

It was so different than being out with her family that Chanel found her own awareness of her personal failings diminishing with each hour she spent in Demyan’s company.

She’d never laughed so much in another person’s company who wasn’t a scientist. Had never felt so comfortable in a social setting with anyone.

Tonight, they were going to a dinner lecture: Symmetry Relationships and the Theory of Point and Space Groups. She’d been wanting to hear this particular visiting lecturer from MIT for a while, but the outing had not been her idea.

Demyan had secured hard to come by tickets for the exclusive gathering and invited her.

She’d only been too happy to accept, and not just because of the lecture. If he’d invited her to one of the charity galas her mother enjoyed so much, Chanel would have said yes too.

In Demyan’s company, even she might have a good time at one of those.

Standing in front of the full-length mirror her mother had insisted Chanel needed as part of her bedroom décor, she surveyed her image critically.

Chanel didn’t love designer fashion and rarely dressed up, but no way could she have been raised by her mother and not know how to put the glad rags on.

Tonight, she’d gone to a little more effort than on her previous two dates with Demyan. Chanel had felt the first two outings were flukes, anomalies in her life she refused to allow herself to get too excited over.

After all, he would get that glazed look at some point during the evening and then not call again. Everyone did. Only Demyan hadn’t and he had, called that is.

And maybe, just maybe, she and the corporate geek had a chance at something more than the connection of two bouncing protons.

He understood what she was talking about and spoke in a language she got. Not like most people. It was the most amazing thing.

And she wanted him. Maybe it was being twenty-nine, or something, but her body overheated in his presence big time.

She’d decided that even if their relationship didn’t have a future, she wanted it to have everything she could get out of it in the present.

Both her mother and step-father had made it clear they thought Chanel’s chance of finding a lifelong love were about as good as her department getting better funding than the Huskies football program.

Nil.

Deep inside, Chanel was sure they were right. She was too much like her father and hadn’t Beatrice said she’d only married him because she was pregnant with Chanel?

Chanel wasn’t trapping anyone into marriage, but she wouldn’t mind tripping Demyan into her too empty bed.

With that in mind, she’d pulled out the stops when dressing for their dinner tonight. Her dress was a hand-me-down Vera Wang from her mother.

It hadn’t looked right on the more petite woman’s figure, but the green silk was surprisingly flattering to Chanel’s five-foot-seven-inches.

The bodice clung to her somewhat generous breasts while the draping accentuated her waist and the line of her long legs.

It wasn’t slutty by any stretch, but it was sexy in a subtle way she trusted Demyan to pick up on. She would usually have worn it with sensible pumps that didn’t add more than an inch to her height.

But not tonight. Demyan was nearly six and half feet tall, he could deal more than adequately to a companion in three inch heels.

Chanel had practiced wearing them on and off all day in the lab.

Her colleagues asked if she was doing research for a physics experiment. She’d ignored their teasing and curiosity for the chance to be certain of her ability to walk confidently in the heels.

And she’d discovered it was like riding a bike. Her body remembered the lessons her mom had insisted on in Chanel’s younger years.

The doorbell rang and she rushed to answer it.

Demyan stood on the other side, his suit a step up from his usual attire on their dates too.

He adjusted his glasses endearingly and smiled, his mahogany gaze warm on her. “You look beautiful.”

Her hand went to the crazy red curls she rarely did much to tame. Tonight, she’d used the full regimen of products her mother had given Chanel on her last birthday, along with a lecture about not getting any younger and looking like a rag doll in public. “Thank you.”

“Do we have time for a drink before we leave for the dinner?” he asked, even as he herded her back into the small apartment and closed the door behind him.

“Yes, of course.” Heat climbed up her neck. “I don’t keep alcohol on hand though.”

The look in his eyes could only be described as predatory, but his words were innocuous enough. “Soda will do.”

“Iced green tea?” she asked, feeling foolish.

Her mother often complained about the food and drink Chanel kept on hand, using her inadequacies as a hostess to justify the infrequent motherly visits.

Demyan’s eyes narrowed as if he could read Chanel’s thoughts. “Iced tea is fine.”

“It’s green tea,” she reiterated. Why hadn’t she at least bought soda, or something?

“Green tea is healthy.”

“Lot’s of antioxidants,” she agreed. “I drink it all the time.”

He didn’t ask if the caffeine kept her up, but then the man drank coffee with his meals and had gotten a large size fully caffeinated Coca-Cola at the movie.

“I keep both caffeinated and decaf on hand,” she offered anyway.

“I’ll take the caffeine. I have a feeling we’ll be up late tonight.” The look he gave her was hot enough to melt magma.

Suddenly, it felt as if all the air had been sucked out of her apartment’s cheerfully decorated living room. “I’ll just get our tea.”

He moved, his hand landing on her bare arm. “Don’t run from me.”

“I’m not.” How could two simple words come out sounding so breathless?

His hand slid up her arm and over and down again, each inch of travel leaving bursts of sensation along every nerve ending in its wake, landing proprietarily against the small of her back. “I like this dress.”

“Thank you.” Somehow she was getting closer to him, her feet moving of their own volition, no formed thought in her brain directing them.

“You’re wearing makeup.”

She nodded. No point in denying it.

“I didn’t think you ever did.”

“I stopped, except special occasions, after I moved away from home.”

“An odd form of rebellion.”

“Not when you have a mother who insists on image perfection. I wore makeup from sixth grade on, the whole works.”

“And you hated it.”

“I did.”

“Yet, you are wearing it now.” The hand not resting on her back came up to cup her nape. “For the visiting MIT professor?”

“No.”

“I didn’t think so.” Then Demyan’s head lowered, his mouth claiming hers with surprisingly confident kisses.

And she couldn’t think at all.

Sparks of pleasure kindled where their lips met and exploded through her in a conflagration of delight. It was only a kiss. He was barely touching her, just holding her really. And yet she felt like they were in the midst of making love.

Not that she’d actually done the deed, but she’d come close and it hadn’t been anything as good or intimate as this single kiss. She’d been naked with a man and felt less sensation, less loss of control.

Small whimpers sounded and she realized they were coming from her. There was no room for embarrassment at the needy sounds. She wanted too desperately.

She’d read about this kind of passion, but thought it was something writers made up, like werewolves and sentient beings on Mars. She had always believed that this level of desire wasn’t real.

Before meeting Demyan.

Before this kiss.

The hands on her became sensual manacles, their hold deliciously unbreakable. She didn’t want to break it. Didn’t want to take a single solitary step away from Demyan.

Their mouths moved together, his tongue barely touching hers in the most sensual kind of tasting. He used his hold on her nape to subtly guide her head into the position he wanted and she found it unbearably exciting to be mastered in this small way.

Demyan was one-hundred percent in control of the kiss and Chanel reveled in it with every single one of her sparking nerve centers.

The hand on her waist slid down to cup her bottom. He squeezed. The muscles along her inner walls spasmed with a need she’d never known to this intensity.

She’d been tempted to make love before, but never to the point of overcoming the promise she’d made to herself never to have sex – only to ever make love. In her mind, that had always meant being married and irrevocably committed to the man she shared her body with.

For the first time, she considered it could well mean giving her body to someone she loved.

Not that she loved Demyan. How could she? They barely knew each other.

The feelings inside her had to be lust, but they were stronger than anything she’d ever considered possible.

He kneaded her backside with a sensual assurance she could not hope to show. She tilted her pelvis toward him, needing something she wasn’t ready to give a name to. Her hip brushed the unmistakable proof of his excitement; they moaned into one another’s mouths, the sounds adding to the press of desire between them.

The knowledge he wanted her too poured through her like gasoline on the fire of her desire.

Her hands clutched at his crisp dress shirt as she rocked against him, wanting more, needing something only he could give her. He rocked back against her, the sounds coming from him too feral and sexy for the “normal corporate guy” he was on the outside.

The disparity so matched her own newly discovered sexual being inside the science geek, the connection she felt with him quadrupled in that moment.

Without warning, he tore his mouth from hers and stepped back, his breathing heavy, his eyes dark and glittery with need. “Now is not the time.”

Her own vision hazy with passion, all that she saw in focus was his face, the expression there an odd mixture of confusion and primal sexual need that could not be mistaken.

Even by someone as socially inept as she was.

Why was he confused? Didn’t he realize how much she wanted him too?

“We don’t have to go to the dinner,” she stated the obvious.

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