Harlequin Presents #2526
Originally published: 03/01/06
The instant Angelo Gordon sees model Tara Peters he’s certain she will share his bed. But her beauty isn’t the only attraction—he wants vengeance!
Tara is not an easy conquest. When she pushes Angelo away he realizes he can only win her over by playing a different game. Angelo will raise the stakes and take the ultimate revenge: marriage
Also available in Manga.
“Lucy Monroe has once again taken her readers on a journey of tenderness by creating exceptionally likeable characters that sizzle. Be prepared to put the time aside you need to read this book.” 5 Stars – A Romance Review
“I truly enjoyed this book. I highly recommend it and any of the numerous others she’s written. Thank you, Lucy, for again taking me away from reality and giving me a Happily Ever After to enjoy.” 4.5 out of 5 (because it was short) – Holly’s Blog review
“Lucy Monroe delivers another exciting Presents guaranteed to wow readers. Sensual and emotional, WEDDING VOW OF REVENGE is a nicely written and well-crafted story about two strong but lonely people struggling to overcome the darkness in their pasts. In doing so, they find each other and their future.” 4 Stars – Debora Hosey, The Romance Reader Connection
“Have a box of Kleenex ready because this is just another Monroe book you won’t be able to put down!” ~ Marilyn, We Write Romance
“Monroe can weave a tale that draws you in, so get ready to sit down and prop your feet up and not get up until you finish this book, because once you start it, you won’t be able to stop until you finish.” Recommended Read – Cinny’s Reviews
“Lucy Monroe pens a hypnotic tale of love and vengeance in WEDDING VOW OF REVENGE. 4.5 Stars” – Donna Zapf, CataRomance Reviews
“The attraction between Angelo and Tara has heat coming off of the pages.” ~ Helen Slifer, Writers Unlimited Reviews
“I read “Wedding Vow Of Revenge” in my free time. I loved it. Dang you’re good Lucy. Keep at it. Whatever you write we will all read. Cheers. <G>” ~ Mark
“I haven’t bought a Harlequin Presents since I first discovered the “Romance” genre in the 1980’s. But this was to good to pass on…a wonderful book, beautifully written. I couldn’t put it down. Good thing I had the next day of from work, and I could sleep in…Thanks.” ~ Cindy
“Wedding Vow of Revenge is just Wonderful!! Just like all your books! I m waiting for the one with the Sexy cover!! Yumm!! Oh and And Able!! Cant Wait!!” ~ Niny
“Just finished reading one of your books Titled “Wedding Vow of Revenge” from Harlequin Presents. I really loved this book/story. Once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down till I got to the end. I just wanted to let you know you are a great writer and I really enjoyed reading your book. Hope you have many more good books like this one for everyone to read. Thank You!” ~ Margie
Wedding Vow of Revenge is passionate, provocative, and sensitive. I couldn’t put it down, once I began Angelo and Tara’s journey. Yet again, Lucy Monroe entertains her reader’s with another incredible story. – Marilyn
“Lucy, I finished Wedding Vow of Revenge and I have to say once again what another spectacular read from you! I loved how you worked the revenge situation in that it was more a subtle way than outright viciousness as most revenge tactics that are acted out are! Very smooth…You done good Woman!!!” ~ Joni
“Just a quick note to say I absolutely LOVED ‘Wedding Vow of Revenge.’ A great read with a really, REALLY hunky hero – Angelo is so yummy.” ~ Elvina
“Hi Lucy – I’ve just finished reading WVoR…can I just say WOW! I love it, I would have made him suffer a little more if I’d have been Tara but what an awesome read. Another winner Lucy.” ~ Karri in Australia
Angelo Gordon’s blue eyes narrowed with interest.
“You’re sure of this information, amico mio?” he demanded, his American accent spiced with Sicilian overtones that denoted his reaction to the news more strongly than words could have.
Hawk nodded. “Positive. Baron Randall has been keeping tabs on Tara Peters since their affair ended two years ago.”
“How did you find out?”
“The owner of the security agency Randall has on retainer talks more than he should after a couple of whiskey sours.” Hawk didn’t make those kinds of mistakes, but didn’t mind taking advantage when someone else did.
“I thought so.”
“Okay. Give me the scoop and don’t leave anything out.”
Hawk tossed the file on Angelo’s desk and waited for the tall Sicilian-American to open it.
He pointed to the news story on top that showed his client’s enemy with his arm around a woman more than a decade his junior. “Randall and Miss Peters met four years ago at a trunk show in New York . He was there with his then paramour, but left with Miss Peters. By all accounts, he swept the young woman off her feet and into his bed. She gave up modeling and started taking college courses. They were together eighteen months and broke up when he became engaged to his current wife. Rumor suggests he asked Miss Peters to remain his mistress.”
“She was stronger than my mother.” Grudging respect laced Angelo’s voice. “Why is he having her watched?”
“According to my informant, Randall still wants her. He’s given instructions to scotch any possible romantic entanglements. So far, my colleague hasn’t had to make the effort.”
Angelo surged to his feet and turned to look out the window behind his desk. His brooding six-foot-two-inch frame blocked the light and Hawk’s view of upper Manhattan . “What the hell does he expect to accomplish? That’s what I want to know.”
“Obviously re-entrance into her life.”
Angelo turned back, his patrician features creased with a frown of disbelief. “That doesn’t make any sense. She said no and apparently meant it.”
“Right. It makes one wonder how long Baron Randall expected his marriage to last in the first place. When they married, his wife’s father had been recently diagnosed with an inoperable heart condition.”
“But good living and exercise have given him a clean bill of health, or at least a new lease on life.”
Hawk smiled cynically. “Much to Randall’s dismay no doubt. The marriage has never been a happy one.”
For which Angelo could take some credit.
Tara wasn’t the only woman Randall had propositioned for the role of his mistress. Others had accepted and thanks to some judicious behind the scenes handling on both Hawk and Angelo’s part, the young Mrs. Randall knew it.
“According to my sources, she will be filing for divorce within the month.”
Angelo inclined his head in acknowledgement of information that would not have come as a surprise. “You think he wants to take up where he left off when he’s free?”
“I can see no other explanation for his behavior. Miss Peters is the only long term relationship Baron Randall has had in more than a decade that did not profit him business wise. He cheated on her only when he was away from her. For an amoral womanizer like him, that is bloody significant.”
Hawk had never before seen Angelo Gordon wearing that particular expression. “You think he loves her?”
“Love?” Hawk flicked his hand in a dismissive gesture. “Not bloody likely, but I do think he’s obsessed by her. From what information I can gather, she is unique, if only in her ability to walk away from him. My instincts tell me it’s more than that though. She was very career minded as a model. He was her first serious boyfriend.”
“You think she was a virgin when they met? How old is she?”
“Twenty-four and yes, I think Randall’s the only affair she’s ever had.”
“That does make her unique, especially in Randall’s jaded world.”
“You aren’t going to believe this.” Hawk had had a damn hard time believing it himself. “It is simply too damn perfect.”
“And it is?”
“She graduated with her degree in business six months ago and has been in Primo Tech’s management training program for the past four of those months.”
Angelo had bought the hi-tech company in Portland , Oregon three years ago. Just like all the other companies he bought and resuscitated, it was becoming a lead player in its industry. However, the success of his company was no doubt not nearly as interesting to him in that moment as the fact Tara Peters was employed there.
Hawk’s laugh was every bit as skeptical as Angelo’s. “That is one way of looking at it.”
Angelo sat at his desk after Hawk left, perusing the file on Tara Peters. Hawk had included still shots from several of her trunk shows. They showed a woman of ethereal beauty, shrouded by innocence, but wearing clothing that would tempt a saint to sin. On her tall, model slim body, that nevertheless had curves in all the right places, they were more than a temptation…they were downright provocation.
Her dark brown eyes in the perfectly proportioned oval face, surrounded by a cascade of silky chestnut hair intrigued him…even knowing she had once been Baron Randall’s.
He flipped through the photos until he came to those included with the tabloid articles that had sensationalized her breakup with Randall. The difference between the two sets of pictures wrenched at something inside Angelo he thought long dead. Those same Hershey dark eyes now reflected the pain of betrayal and lost innocence.
Just like his mother’s had.
He needed to assimilate this piece of information and decide how best to act on it. He didn’t have much time either. If for no other reason than that Baron Randall would go looking for Tara Peters the minute his wife filed the divorce petition.
That gave Angelo a month, maybe less to act on his newfound knowledge of Randall’s unexpected weakness.
The man who had stolen his company and driven his mother to suicide deserved to be destroyed on every level and Angelo was going to make damn sure that happened.
Tara Peters laughed at the other junior execs around her, at least the female ones. They were primping for the arrival of Angelo Gordon like he was a rock star or something.
“Aren’t you even going to put on lipstick?” Danette Michaels demanded with her usual forthrightness after glossing her own lips and putting her compact mirror away in her desk drawer. “He’s supposed to do a tour of this floor sometime today.”
“No lipstick.” Tara had spent years wearing just the right make-up, dressing with flair, and flaunting the assets that had made her a top trunk show model at the age of twenty.
They had also brought her to the notice of Baron Randall and for that alone, she would spend the rest of her life sans make-up and dressing in conservative business attire.
She straightened the papers on her desk. “My only interest in impressing Mr. Gordon is with my work and I don’t need lipstick to do it.”
Danette rolled her eyes. “You are such an all work and no play kind of girl. Did you ever hear that makes you boring and can give you ulcers before you’re thirty?”
Coming from a woman who had her first serious boyfriend at the age of twenty-one, that was pretty funny.
“My twenty-four year old stomach is just fine, thank you and better boring than stomped on I always say.”
“Not every man in the world is like that jerk, Baron Randall.”
Like most people, Danette had read the tabloid accounts of Tara getting dumped by Baron so he could marry the oil heiress. However, unlike most people, the younger woman had not let the stories color her view of Tara . She thought Baron was a world class pig and that her friend was better off without him.
Tara agreed. Now.
But two years ago, she’d felt like she would die from the pain and humiliation of the too public break-up.
“Of course they aren’t,” she said, trying stave off another lecture about getting back on the horse so she wouldn’t forget how to ride. Between Danette and her mother, she’d heard it about six times too many. “But right now I’m not interested in finding out. I don’t have time for a man in my life and honestly, I don’t see how you can either.”
Danette shrugged, her amber cat eyes twinkling.
“Some of us are better at multi-tasking than others,” she said with a grin. “Anyway, even if your career is all you care about, you should want to make a good impression on Angelo Gordon. He owns this company and several like it.”
“I do want to impress him…with my business acumen.”
“He’s already impressed, Tara .”
She spun in her chair to face her boss, surprised Mr. Curtiss was here instead of in the schmoozing session with the upper managers and the company owner.
“Mr. Gordon wants to speak to you privately.”
Tension stiffened her spine as the words reminded her of a similar conversation she’d had with her modeling agent. The woman had told her that Baron Randall wanted to meet her. Tara, naïve idiot that she had been four years ago, had been both flattered and impressed.
If her boss thought that an odd question, he didn’t let it show. “He’s impressed with your report on workplace effectiveness. He wants to discuss it with you.”
Relaxing, she smiled. Business. It was just about business, nothing like that other time when the introduction had been a prelude to seduction.
“That’s great, Tara ,” Danette said, “I heard the guy is a genius. If he appreciates your brains already, I guess it’s true.”
“Does he want to see me right now?” she asked, feeling a little light headed.
Sure, she’d daydreamed about the owner of the company being so impressed with her recommendations he wanted to talk to her. What junior executive didn’t? But that kind of stuff didn’t happen in the real world.
Her boss looked at his watch and frowned. “Five minutes ago, actually. I got waylaid by a phone call on my way to tell you.”
Tara Peters walked into Angelo’s temporary office with her back straight and a credible expression of confidence. The only giveaway to her nervousness at being summoned by the owner of the company was the tight clenching of her fingers into small fists at her sides.
Her bone structure was delicate for a woman of her height, which no doubt explained her success as a runway model.
Yet, she looked very different from the still shots of her trunk shows that Hawk had included in the Tara Peters file. Nor did she resemble the pictures that had accompanied the tabloid articles after her break-up with Randall.
All the photos had shown a stunning woman who made the most of her beauty, but no one would accuse this Tara Peters of trading on her beauty to succeed in her job.
She had confined the glorious length of her signature chestnut hair in a tight French braid that fell down her back. She wore no make-up and the small ovals of her nails were unpolished, but buffed. The navy blue slacks and blazer she wore disguised her figure very well.
He hadn’t been sure what to expect, but her current no-nonsense, almost androgynous attire fit Hawk’s report on her behavior since Baron Randall married another woman.
Tara didn’t date and appeared uninterested in attracting men. Was she still hung up on the monster? The thought did not sit well with Angelo and his usually impassive face creased in a frown before he realized it.
“Mr. Gordon?” The voice was questioning, but not hesitant and he liked that.
He admired strength because weakness…of any kind…cost far too much.
He looked up and met her faintly quizzical brown eyes. “Miss Peters. Please take a seat.”
She moved across the room and slid gracefully into a chair opposite his desk. His opinion changed on the suit. The jacket dipped in at her waist. Her movement had revealed curves that were neither pronounced nor were they so slight her blouse could disguise them completely. The way the clothes tried to hide, but could not help hinting at her femininity made him want to strip them off and see the beautiful body beneath.
It did not help that pictures from her file of her clad in bikinis and other almost-there outfits flashed in his mind’s eye.
Desire vibrated through him with shocking swiftness and urgency, making him glad for the concealment of his desk. He hadn’t responded with this level of physical intensity to the mere sight of a woman since puberty.
He forced his mind through the mental exercises he had learned in the Aikido training he had started as a young boy with his father. He continued to train, using it as a way to keep his body fit and mind focused. Normally, it worked without him even having to think about.
This time, he had to wait for the stunning response of his body to subside breath by breath before could begin to concentrate on his agenda. “I’ve been reading your report on workplace effectiveness. You’ve drawn several interesting conclusions and made an equal number of suggestions that are worthy of note.”
Her eyes lit with pleasure and she smiled, her feminine fragrance teasing his nostrils as she leaned forward. “There’s a wealth of data to be analyzed and interpreted from recent studies on the subject, much of which has been ignored by current management theory.”
He nodded. Whatever else Miss Peters was, she had shown herself to be a natural in her chosen field. “I particularly found your suggestions regarding vacation time of interest.”
“Several studies have shown that employees who put in less overtime, take their vacation yearly and don’t consistently work through their lunch hours are actually more productive than their counterparts who work the longer hours and never take any time off.” She smiled. “Healthier too. They have fewer heart attacks and are less likely to develop ulcers.”
“You’ve definitely done your homework.”
She blushed at the compliment and he filed the reaction away for future reference. From the way she presented herself, he had to assume her beauty was of much less significance to her than doing well at her job.
“Many of your suggestions fly in the face of corporate policies the world over.”
She leaned further forward in her chair, her oval face animated and flushed in a way he’d like to see somewhere besides the boardroom. “Those management styles are as outdated as the all-male executive staff. They don’t work in today’s dynamic workforce, particularly the organic environment found in the hi-tech industry.”
“Why did you go for a job in hi-tech? Your resume shows a strong liberal arts background for your business degree.”
She looked disconcerted by his question and settled back in her chair, biting her lip uncertainly. “The job description did not include a requirement in technological education.”
“I’m aware of that, but you did not answer my question.”
She smiled slightly. “Sorry. You’re right.” Her smile grew and her demeanor relaxed. “I like the stimulating atmosphere. Things are always changing, not just the products, but the face of the workforce as well. The job is challenging. But most importantly, I wanted to work someplace I could make a difference.”
“And you thought Primo Tech would be it?”
He lifted the report that would have caught his attention even if it hadn’t been the ideal conduit for their first meeting. “I would say you are well on your way to doing so.”
“I’m glad you think so.” She beamed and he found himself smiling in return, something he rarely did.
His phone buzzed at exactly the moment he had instructed his secretary to ring through.
He lifted the receiver. “Gordon here.”
“Mr. Gordon, I’m ringing as instructed.”
“Thank you. And my other instructions?”
“The reservations are made. Dinner at 7:30 in the restaurant of your hotel.”
“Hold on just a moment.” He pressed the hold button and schooled his face into an apologetic expression, another one he used infrequently. “I’m sorry, I have to take this call.”
She stood hurriedly. “Of course.”
She was halfway to the door when he said, “Miss Peters.”
She turned. “Yes?”
“I would like to discuss the report further. Can you meet me this evening for a business dinner at my hotel?”
Despite the fact he had specifically referred to it as a business contact, her eyes filled with wariness. “Dinner?”
“Yes. Is that a problem?” he asked, inflecting his voice with just the right amount of superiority and disapproval to remind her who he was.
She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders, her lips flattened in a determined line. “No. I’ll be there. What hotel and what time?”
He told her and then watched her walk out of his office, his attention on the way her slacks outlined her heart shaped behind. This aspect of his plan for revenge was shaping up to be more pleasure than work.
Seducing Tara Peters would be no hardship at all.
Tara got ready for dinner, her nerves more on edge than they had been in two long years. Why? Because the minute another magnetic, sexy tycoon came on the scene, her body had started reacting. She couldn’t believe it and was thoroughly disgusted with herself.
Worse, she’d seen immediately the unexpected feelings of attraction were mutual. She might have very little practical experience with men, but she’d been on the receiving end often enough to identify animal attraction in the male of her species. She’d learned early in her modeling career to recognize and avoid it.
Her one failure being both spectacular and devastating.
She hadn’t spent the last two years avoiding men and entanglements just to fall for another Baron Randall. No way. She was smarter than that.
Even brief contemplation of a relationship with a man like Angelo Gordon would be stupidity itself.
Right. Remember that.
Only instincts that had nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with emotion were sending all sorts of messages to her brain. They urged her to put on a little make-up, change into a more feminine dress and brush out her long hair for goodness sake! She’d done her best to sublimate such impulses for two years.
Her mind said now was not the time for a resurrection, but her heart and body said otherwise.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, she muttered under her breath as she put the final pin in the sleek French roll on the back of her head and surveyed her appearance. She’d changed her slacks for a black skirt and her blouse and blazer for a matching jacket meant to be worn buttoned up as a top.
With her understated black heels and sheer stockings, she had a distinctly Jackie-O appearance without the feminine softening of lipstick and accent jewelry.
No way could her boss misinterpret her outfit as any sort of attempt to entice him on a personal level.
She didn’t care if Angelo Gordon affected her in ways she’d thought deadened by Baron’s betrayal. Wanting him scared her far more than it enticed her and she wasn’t giving into it.
Desire was an emotion that encouraged smart women to make dumb decisions.
Hadn’t she seen that enough growing up with her mom bouncing from one destructive relationship to the next? Mom had never understood why none of the men stayed. She hadn’t comprehended that the type of powerful, charismatic male she was attracted to traded on those very traits to get what he wanted – sex with a beautiful woman.
However, they’d all been incapable of giving her mom what she needed…love.
Mom had only broken the cycle by default when miracle of miracles, a strong, sexy man also turned out to have a heart.
It was Darren Colby’s influence in Tara ’s life that had led her to believe that kind of man wasn’t always bad news. She was no longer so naïve. Darren was an anomaly in the male species, an alpha male with a heart…but she didn’t figure anomalies like that came along more than maybe once a millennium.
She would stay focused on her job and not the way Angelo Gordon’s dark good looks affected her libido.
Tara walked into the posh downtown hotel, projecting an unshakable confidence that was only skin deep. Inside, she was as nervous as she’d been her first day on the job. More even, because then all she’d been fighting was a fear of the unknown. Tonight, she fought her fear of being weak.
Angelo waited for her at a table in a small private alcove of the hotel restaurant. A historic landmark, the hotel’s rich décor of carved wood paneling leading to cavernously high ceilings was original to its nineteenth century construction. Despite the distance to the ceilings, the rich detail of the da Vinci like scenes painted there caught her attention.
But even the artwork’s beauty could not keep her focus when she could feel Angelo’s regard across the restaurant. He watched her with unreadable blue eyes as she made her way toward him between linen topped tables graced by well dressed diners. Even from this far away, he exerted an aura of masculine power that sent her heart tripping.
Just like Baron.
Only unlike Baron, she would not allow herself to be fooled into believing Angelo was more than what he appeared on the surface, a ruthless corporate shark.
He stood when she reached the table, his height startling at close quarters. At five-foot-nine, she was no shrimp, but the top of her head barely reached his shoulder.
She had to tilt her head back to look him in the eye. It was a very odd feeling. “Good evening, Mr. Gordon.”
He waited for the maitre d’ to seat her before sitting down again. “Angelo, please. I prefer a more relaxed environment in my companies.”
“Your approach appears to be quite effective. You’ve never lost a company yet.”
Something swirled in his indigo gaze as he poured her a glass of wine from the bottle already sitting on the table. “Actually, I have lost one, but that was a long time ago.”
Sensing he had no desire to discuss it further, she took a sip of the fruity wine and then asked, “Angelo is an Italian name?”
Other than the blue eyes, which were not entirely uncommon in Italian men – with his dark hair and tanned good looks, he had a very Mediterranean appearance.
“My mother was Sicilian.”
That explained a lot, but remembering a shooting she’d done outside of Palermo one summer, she said, “Most Sicilian men are a lot shorter than you.”
“My father was American.”
“And tall,” she guessed.
He smiled, making her breath catch. This man was beautiful.
“Yes. According to my mother, that was one of the first things she noticed about him. There was more than a foot disparity in their sizes, but I can never remember them seeming like they did not fit.”
“I’ve heard love can be a great equalizer,” she said with a tinge of mockery she wished she didn’t feel.
But after her childhood and one disastrous personal affair, she had little belief in the emotion so many touted as the panacea for all ills.
“So they say.” His tone was no less cynical than her own.
The waiter came to take their order and she made a point of selecting her own meal. This was not a date and even if it was, she didn’t go in for the old world custom of the male ordering for the female. She’d spent too many years taking care of herself.
“You wanted to discuss my report?” she asked after the waiter left.
“First, I think I should like to know a little more about you, Tara.”
“I’m sure all the pertinent information is in my employee record.”
“Perhaps I prefer to hear it first hand.”
“I was under the impression this was supposed to be a business dinner.” She kept her tone light, not wanting to offend her boss, but not so light he wouldn’t take the comment to heart.
His midnight gaze caressed her with tactile force and it was all she could do not to shiver. “My closest friends started as business associates.”
“You don’t strike me as a man with a lot of close friends.” She’d meant the words to come out worldly and sophisticated, but instead her voice was two octaves lower than normal and sounded flirtatious, darn it.
“You’re very perceptive.” He cocked his head slightly, his expression challenging her. “That does not mean you could not become one of them.”
“You’re very bold.”
“I didn’t get where I am hesitating to go after what I want.”
“If you want my business expertise, you can have it. If you’re looking for a personal relationship with an employee, I decline.” She couldn’t be more direct than that, but then this man apparently needed blunt.
He nodded, his expression showing no offence. “I can respect that.” Then he smiled. “That does not mean I won’t try to change your mind.”
“I would prefer if you didn’t.”
“I would prefer you did not treat me like a pariah simply because I own the company you work for.”
“Wanting to stick to business is hardly treating you like an outcast.”
“And denying me the possibility of friendship?”
“You don’t need my friendship.”
“You are wrong.” And the intensity in his expression said he was telling her the truth, but how could that be?
Unless his definition of friendship and hers were not quite the same thing. Maybe he was between girlfriends at the moment.
“I have no interest in becoming a business tycoon’s pillow friend.”