A night in his arms, but it comes at a price. Will her heart survive?
Billionaire Marc Castell, owner of the Castell Hotel Group, isn’t looking for love. His jet-set lifestyle means he’s a ‘love them and leave them’ type of guy…that is, until Kate McKenna walks into his life.
Kate is on the warpath. Her underage sister is planning to spend a weekend in Paris with Marc’s nephew, and she’s determined to put a stop to the affair before it begins.
Marc has a plan of his own. He promises to save Kate’s sister from his nephew, but there’s a condition attached. Kate has to travel to Cannes with him and play the part of his girlfriend―including spending the night in his bed. Marc hopes this will solve the problem of the unwanted advances he’s been receiving from his friend’s wife. But whenever Marc takes Kate in his arms his world is turned upside down, and he discovers he wants more from her than a casual weekend fling.
Kate has no time for sexy, powerful playboys. She’s too busy building her career and expanding her catering business. But when she gets to know the man behind the façade, she wonders if she can resist the sensual attraction growing between them. Will she be seduced by his charm and sacrifice everything she believes in for one night of passion in his arms?
Marc has a battle on his hands as he strives to win Kate’s love…and her heart.
Marc Castell had known many women. He was the head of the large family firm, and was in the billion-dollar bracket of successful. As an eligible bachelor he was much sought after, and some women connived, cajoled, or bribed their way into his social circle in order to meet him. Their aim was always the same. They all wanted to get to know Marc on an intimate level, hoping for a lasting relationship. But Marc wasn’t into long-term commitment. When it came to women and matters of the heart he was a ‘love them and leave them’ type of guy. Over the years he’d become cynical. He’d had to harden his heart against the women of the world, and he’d grown cold to their needs, and uncaring to the point of callousness.
Inheriting the Castell fortune at an early age Marc soon learned what the women in his life wanted from him. It was one thing and one thing only—his money.
He knew it was the erotic pull of his wealth that was the main attraction. He’d had lots of affairs and been approached or propositioned in many ways before, but so far none of the women had used their sister as an excuse to get close. He found it fascinating, even intriguing, and he wondered what Kate’s next move would be.
Kate had a sensuality that was breathtakingly beautiful. The soft curves of her body and the full roundness of her breasts had him wanting to reach out and touch her. But that wasn’t all. There was also an elusive quality that made him want to possess her. As a connoisseur of fine art he knew perfection when he saw it, and as a collector of fine things...he wanted.
When Kate had mentioned Cannes she had reminded him of where he had to be this weekend. It was somewhere he didn’t particularly want to be, but there was no avoiding his responsibilities. This weekend he was spending time with the Anistons, and although they were good friends, this wasn’t a social occasion. This was business.
Marc was in the middle of negotiating a hotel-travel deal, and there was to be an informal party to which the Aniston’s board of directors had also been summoned. They needed to discuss some of the finer details of the proposed contract, and negotiations were going to be tricky.
With Kate’s unexpected suggestion, Marc decided he could use a woman at his side while he was in Cannes. And he wanted this woman.
“How dare you?” Kate said, as if she was infuriated he would even suggest that she go to Cannes with him.
It was obvious Kate had great difficulty controlling her temper, and he wondered if she was about to lash out and strike. She didn’t.
“Oh, I dare,” he said, and he took a step nearer.
He was now so close to her that he was able to run an exploring finger along her soft cheek and then down her slender neck until he reached the hollow at its base. Surprisingly, she didn’t flinch away, and by the hot flush on her cheeks he could tell that his touch was having the desired effect. He was burning her with caresses. Her skin was warm, and as he continued to stroke he felt her tremble in anticipation.
Kate took a step back, but he followed, taking two steps forward so that their bodies were lightly connecting. He could feel her erect nipples pressing against the material of his shirt, and he had to stifle a groan.
Kate’s breathing quickened, and he saw desire flash briefly in her eyes before it was replaced with anger. He wrapped his arms around her and pressed their bodies even closer together. She struggled, pushing against his shoulders, but her struggles were half-hearted at best.
Capturing her hands, he moved them behind her back, holding them imprisoned. Then Marc heard a soft moan of longing escape her lips. The fight had left her, and as she rested her head against his chest he knew she was silently conceding defeat. He had won.
Cradling her in his arms, slowly, ever so slowly, he lowered his lips down to meet and caressingly touch hers. Her lips were soft and pliant, and as he held her helpless against his onslaught her mouth parted, forming an anguished, “No.”
“No what?” he asked, whispering the words as he nuzzled against the delicate shell-like lobe of her ear.
With one hand still holding hers behind her back, his other hand began gently caressing the line of her jaw. Moving to her mouth, he parted her lips with his thumb, and with a light, delicate touch he explored. Kate gave a strangled whimper.
“There will never be a no between us, Kate,” he said softly, his words a promise. “There will only ever be yes.” He smiled slightly as his gaze searched her face, and then he saw the desperate longing shining in her eyes.
“You can’t...I won’t let you,” she murmured as she trembled against him.
But her protests were futile. He wasn’t taking no for an answer. Touching her full, moist lips with his, he began a raw, bruising invasion of her senses. His kisses were intentionally rough as he searched for a response from deep within her...and he found it.
Kate’s protests were silenced as he plundered her mouth, taking the kisses he wanted, and she surrendered to him.
Marc released his grip on her hands, and with her hands now free, Kate clutched at the material of his shirt. Marc locked his hands around her bared, slender waist, and with long, slow, drawn-out movements he moved upward, cupping the soft mounds of her breasts over her shirt. He heard a sharp intake of breath, and he knew it to be a gasp of pleasurable delight. He was turning her on, and it was giving him a sense of power.
From the first moment they had laid eyes on each other there had been an instant attraction, a sort of electric chemistry between them. And he suspected he was affecting Kate as much as she was affecting him.
Marc Castell—the cold, calculating, playboy billionaire with a heart of steel—was melting. He craved Kate with an urgent need, and he knew by her reaction the feeling was mutual.
“What is it you want from me?” she asked as she tried to break free. Her protests were ineffectual.
“I think you know what I want,” he said. “I want you. I want everything you have to offer.” He knew his words were brutal; they had to be, because he was serious.
“I’m not available, and I have nothing to offer you.”
“Well...we’ll have to try and change that, won’t we?” he said, and he wasn’t joking.
Kate blinked as if she was trying to wake from a dream, and then from somewhere in the room the sound of a cellphone’s ringtone broke the silence.
The continual ringing was claiming Marc’s attention, and with great reluctance he released Kate from his embrace, but not before he had given her another long, possessive kiss.
“Stay where you are,” he commanded, and then running his hands through his hair in frustration, he walked over to his desk.
Picking up the cellphone, he flicked open the case.
“Castell here,” he said. Then looking directly at Kate he continued to talk. “Yes, this is Marc Castell speaking.”
Marc heard Kate’s shocked gasp as the penny drop. She was processing the fact that she’d been talking to the wrong man and that he wasn’t Nikki’s boyfriend, Eduardo. Kate had finally discovered he was Marc Castell.
Marc continued talking on the cellphone, and by the way he paced back and forth across the room it was obvious something was worrying him.
“Thanks, Hal. Good work. Have the jet fueled and on stand-by. I’ll let you know what we’re doing on this end. As far as I’m concerned, I’m still scheduled to fly to Cannes this afternoon, but who knows? I’ll get back to you when I know what’s happening.”
After a short pause Marc clicked off the cellphone and turned to Kate.
“Which do you want first? The good news or the bad?” he asked, and it was done in such a manner that it sent shivers of dread down Kate’s spine.
His chiseled features were hard, like granite, and there was a visible pulse throbbing along the angle of his sharp jawline. Something was wrong.
“You’re not Eduardo?”
“But your secretary said...”
“Clair showed you in here and you assumed I was Eduardo. As I’ve already told you, I’m not him. He’s my nephew.”
“Ohhh...” Kate was at a loss for words.
“That’s the good news,” he stated bluntly.
Marc didn’t return to his office chair. Instead, he walked around to the front of his solid, oak desk, leaned back against it, and with his arms folded across his chest, he waited.
“And the bad news?” she asked, wanting to know the worst.
“That was my pilot on the phone. He thought he saw Eduardo at the airport...with a girl. Hal’s made enquiries and he’s found out Eduardo’s booked two seats on a commercial flight to Paris. Knowing how I’d react, Hal phoned to tell me. You see, Eduardo’s had previous entanglements with women and he’s not always come off unscathed. Until now I’ve had no reason to intervene or meddle, but there was one woman who―”
“I don’t believe what I’m hearing. What do you mean his entanglements with women? Actually, don’t bother answering that. I think I get the picture,” she told him with a disgruntled tone. “You’ve told me all I need to know about Eduardo, and all I can say is—it must run in the family. Like nephew, like uncle. The Castell womanizers.”
Now more than ever, Kate was determined that Nikki was to have nothing to do with the Castell dynasty.
“It sounds worse than it is,” he said, dismissing her concerns as he shrugged his shoulders. “Boys will be boys, and men will be men.”
“What makes you think it’s Nikki who’s with Eduardo? It might not be her.”
Kate was hopeful, but she suspected that when she’d left the house that morning her worst fears had come true. More than likely Nikki had disobeyed instructions to stay at home and had rushed to be with Eduardo.
“I didn’t say the woman with Eduardo was Nikki, but do you want to take that chance, or do you want to follow me to the airport and find out for sure?”
“I’m going call Nikki first,” she told him.
“Go ahead,” he said with indifference and passed his cellphone over for Kate to use. “I hope you realize we’re wasting precious time. And while you’re phoning, more than likely they’ll be boarding and taking off.” Digging his hands deep into his trouser pockets, Marc waited while Kate dialed Nikki’s number.
When Kate got no response and realized Nikki wasn’t going to answer her cellphone or pick up the house phone, she looked across at Marc as if it was his fault. Passing his cellphone back to him, she had to admit defeat.
Marc didn’t need Kate to tell him that Nikki wasn’t reachable. He could tell by the defeated look on Kate’s face. It seemed he was right after all. Nikki was with Eduardo...and they were gone.
Marc supposed it would now fall on his shoulders to track them down, but if he was honest with himself he didn’t want to become entangled in something that was none of his business. He had his own affairs to take care of this weekend. He had places to be, people to see, and things to do. He didn’t have time to babysit two young people who had disappeared somewhere for a clandestine destination and were off playing lovebirds.
“You have to stop him. Tell Eduardo to bring Nikki home,” she demanded.
So, Kate was expecting him to instantly solve the problem of the disappearing couple. But he wasn’t being backed into a corner, and he wasn’t being told what to do.
“Why should I do that? I’m not Eduardo’s keeper. He’s old enough to make his own decisions.”
“Eduardo might be old enough to decide what he wants to do, but in many ways Nikki is still a baby. All right, I admit that since the loss of our parents I might be overly protective of her, but it’s so hard to let go of someone you care for. Even though I know at some point I will have to let her move on, I can’t. Not just yet. My sister’s too young to experience the disappointments of adulthood, and she’s never had any real, true experience with men,” she told him anxiously.
“I thought you said she’s almost eighteen.”
“But that doesn’t make her an adult. Just because she looks like a woman doesn’t make her a woman. You men don’t understand, or you don’t want to understand.” Kate let out a frustrated sound of anger. “All men are the same. You’re only out for one thing. And if Eduardo should harm her in any way, I’m warning you now...I’ll make him pay for it.”
“And how will you do that?” Marc asked with disdain, but Kate ignored his cynical question, dismissing it out of hand.
“It’s obvious you’re not going to be of any help to me,” she said, sounding vexed.
“What exactly is it you expect me to do?” he asked.
What happened between Eduardo and Nikki was of no interest to Marc. He didn’t care one way or another if the young couple had flown to France for a brief affair or not. His only concern was that the Castell fortune, and in this particular instance Eduardo’s fortune, remained intact.
“I expect you to stop him. Tell him to leave Nikki alone,” was Kate’s frank reply.
Marc shrugged and raised his hands as if powerless to do anything. It was a typical French gesture.
He was reluctant to listen to Kate’s problems. He simply didn’t want to get involved. Being gallant and helping a stunning, beautiful woman was one thing, but taking on the problems of that woman’s sister was altogether another ball game.
“I can’t. Or rather I won’t try and stop him,” he said with brutal honesty.
Marc had no desire to curb Eduardo’s extracurricular activities, but if he had to, he was willing to put a stop to Nikki’s exploits. He had no idea what her motive was in striking up a friendship with Eduardo, but from his own experience women generally got involved with a Castell for one reason and one reason only—money.
“You have to stop them,” Kate insisted anxiously. “If Nikki and Eduardo leave the country, they will soon be out of reach, and it will be beyond my power to stop the inevitable from happening. You have to do something.”
“I don’t have to do anything.” His reply was candid and to the point.
“Talking to you is like banging my head against a brick wall. It’s obvious you’re a stubborn man. Why won’t you do something?”
Marc always kept his involvement with Eduardo to a strict minimum. Only once, when a gold digger got her claws into his nephew, bleeding him dry of his money and threatening to accept Eduardo’s proposal of marriage, did Marc step in and call a halt to the affair.
Usually he never interfered, so he didn’t know why he was considering doing just that. But thinking about it he decided that perhaps it was because of the way Kate’s beseeching, dusky eyes were looking at him. Seeing Kate’s distress made him want to help.
He had a sudden undeniable urge to protect her from anything that could cause anguish. He wanted to shield her, safeguard her, and save her from any hurt that might come her way.
“If you won’t do anything to help, I’ll have to go to the airport and find her myself.” Kate waited, expecting a response.
When Marc saw her genuine concern and apprehension for her sister he knew he couldn’t stand on the sideline any longer. He decided he would have to step in and take action.
“All right,” he said. “Let’s suppose I’m prepared to do what you ask—what are you willing to do for me in return? What would you sacrifice to get your sister back?”
There was a long silence as Kate digested what he’d said. She then looked at him as if wondering if she’d heard correctly.
“Why are we wasting time talking about what I would sacrifice? Surely it would be best if we both went to the airport and stopped the two runaways from leaving the country before it’s too late.”
“I’m still waiting for your answer. What are you prepared to forfeit to guarantee the safety of your sister?” Marc asked again.
“Anything,” she said innocently. “I’ll do anything. What is it you need me to do?”
“You promise to do anything? Are you sure you mean that?”
Marc wanted to make absolutely certain everything was clear between them. He needed to know Kate was willing to do whatever was necessary to get her sister back.
“Of course I’m sure. I would do anything for Nikki. She’s my sister.” There was a deep conviction in Kate’s voice as she said those words.
“Good. I’ll remind you of this conversation in a few hours’ time, but for now we’d better get moving.” Marc began clearing his desk of some papers and packing his briefcase. “We’ll stop off at your place to collect your passport. Where do you live?”
“Why do I need my passport?” she asked, puzzled. “Won’t we be able to stop them at the airport?”
“You’ll need your passport because if my guess is correct, they’re already on board the plane and on their way to Paris.”
“If we’re going after them—”
“No ifs,” Kate interrupted. “I’m following them even if you’re not. I have to go. You can stay here if you like. In fact, I’d prefer it if you stayed. I can manage on my own.”
Marc suspected Kate would be out of her depth when it came to reining in the two weekend elopers. He thought it best if he stepped in and tackled the situation, as he suspected his voice would carry more weight and effectiveness should there be problems.
He also thought it would be a good opportunity, during the flight, to get to know Kate a little better before presenting her with his proposal. And according to their agreement, and having promised she would do anything he asked, he knew it was a proposal she had no option but to accept. Little did Kate know what Marc had in store for her!
“You’re coming with me to Paris,” he told her, and his tone implied there would be no discussion on the subject.
“But I don’t want to go with you,” she persisted. Her protests fell on deaf ears.
“No buts. That’s the end of it. Now tell me where you live.”
He wasn’t going to back down. He was in business mode, and with an insistent look of determination in his eyes, Kate reluctantly conceded. She gave in.
“Our house is on the other side of London,” she warned as she went over to the sofa to collect the handbag she’d discarded earlier. “We’re in Eltham, which is south of the river. I’ll phone Patty, my assistant, and ask her to collect my passport and bring it to the airport. Which one are we flying from?”
“Heathrow. But it will be quicker if we drive over to your place. You can pack an overnight bag at the same time. Anything you forget we can always buy in Paris.”
Without ceremony he began ushering Kate out of the office, steering the way over toward reception.
“Would you have the car brought around, please, Clair? And would you phone the Anistons in Cannes? Tell them I’m delayed. Say I’ll be joining them sometime this weekend and that I’ll be there as soon as I can get away. You can also warn them I’m bringing someone with me.”
“Yes, sir. Anything else?”
Marc looked pointedly in Kate’s direction as he spoke.
“For some unknown reason the document I was working on hasn’t been completed. It’s on my desk with the other papers. If you could lock them away in the safe that would be great, and I’ll sign them when I get back. You can also tell Cade to cancel the Italian meeting. Put the deal on hold.”
“Yes, sir.” Clair looked at Marc as if amazed that he was leaving the building without having signed the takeover contract.
Marc was a little surprised by it himself. Cade Knightley, the company’s accountant and a good friend of Marc’s, was waiting for the all clear on the Italian takeover bid before going ahead with the deal. Time was of the essence. But it seemed this afternoon Marc had other pressing priorities to take care of.
While Marc was busy issuing instructions to Clair, he could see Kate was impatient to be on their way.
“Miss McKenna and I will be upstairs in my apartment. You can buzz me when the car arrives, and we’ll come down. Oh, and should anyone wish to contact us, we’ll be staying in Paris tonight.”
“Together?” asked Clair discreetly.
“Yes,” Marc said with conviction. “We’ll be together.” And there was no mistaking his hidden meaning.
Copyright © 2022, Arabella Sheen
Electronic Publication: January 2022
Editor: Pamela Tyner
Cover: Fantasia Frog Designs
eBooks are not transferable. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
About Arabella Sheen
Arabella Sheen is a British author of contemporary romance and likes nothing more than the challenge of starting a new novel with fresh ideas and inspiring characters.
One of the many things Arabella loves to do is to read. And when she’s not researching or writing about romance, she is either on her allotment sowing and planting with the seasons or she is curled on the sofa with a book, while pandering to the demands of her attention-seeking cat.
Having lived and worked in the Netherlands as a theatre nurse for nearly twenty years, she now lives in the south-west of England with her family.
Arabella hopes her readers have as much pleasure from her romance stories as she has in writing them.
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