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.
“Mr. Castell, there’s a Ms. Kate McKenna to see you, sir.”
The door to Castell’s office was ajar, and from across the spacious foyer Kate could hear the receptionist asking him if he would see an unexpected visitor.
Kate heard his firm response. It was a loud, clear, and decisive “No.”
Before Kate had time for second thoughts, she sprung from her chair, grabbed her handbag, and made a beeline across the hall toward the lion’s den. She was like a torpedo on a self-destruct mission. Nothing was stopping her. Not even the defenseless receptionist guarding the door to the inner sanctum of Castell’s office.
Barging into the room, Kate stood her ground. At last she was facing Castell—the man she’d come to see—and she wasn’t moving...at least not until she’d said what she’d come to say.
The enemy was before her, and with an impatient, defiant toss of her head she waited undaunted for his reaction. None came. There was no backlash of anger and no verbal assault of harsh, insensitive words. The man remained silent.
A stony quietness filled the room, and without commentary, he observed her as if making a cold, calculating assessment of her. Sitting at his desk, he leaned backward, relaxing into the backrest of his swivel chair, and with dark, mysterious eyes he examined Kate from the top of her head to her feet, and he wasn’t missing a thing.
Kate was dressed in a pair of faded jeans that was a size too small, and a skimpy cotton top which was a little too short. Some people might think her outfit looked casual and too sexy for such opulent surroundings, but today she didn’t care what she looked like. She was in no mood to worry one iota what others thought.
She wasn’t there to impress. She was there, at Castell House in Grosvenor Square, the headquarters of the Castell Hotel Group in London, to deliver her message and get her point across. She was going to make it crystal clear to Mr. “Casanova” Castell that he was to keep his hands off her sister Nikki.
Adrenaline was pumping through her veins, and she was ready to do battle. Even though her heart was hammering fiercely in her chest, she was holding her nerve.
She guessed Castell must be in his early thirties. Power and authority was oozing from him, and against her will, she found herself physically drawn toward him. There was an instant attraction, a compelling pull. And she didn’t know if her anger was fueling her emotions or if it was his magnetism.
Now she understood why Nikki was attracted to him. She could see and feel the chemistry he radiated for herself. Castell was an impressive figure of a man and one look from those dark, piercing eyes left her enthralled.
Jet-black hair touched the collar of his crisp, white shirt. He was clean-shaven, bronzed, and an uber-smart dresser. At a guess she’d say he was wearing a hand-made Savile Row suit, but she could be wrong. His suit jacket was draped around the back of his chair, but it didn’t really matter, because she knew that whatever Castell wore he would look like the high-powered finance magnet he was.
Standing in front of his desk, she was aware of his penetrating gaze. There was no mistaking the attraction in his eyes. He was assessing her, weighing her up, and Kate could tell by the slow, seductive smile showing on Castell’s face that he was interested.
It had taken a lot of effort and nerve on her part to get past the barrage of security personnel protecting him. But she’d done it. And she was sure that was something very few people had managed to achieve.
In the stillness of the room Kate felt something stir deep within her, and for a brief moment she thought she saw a flicker of the same desire mirrored on his face.
Castell was the most magnificent looking man she’d ever seen, and as he shuffled the papers he’d been reading, she wondered what it would be like to feel those strong, masculine hands on her body. She could only imagine the heated torture they would inflict, but it was a heated torture she was certain any woman would be willing to endure.
He was sex on legs, and with his potent looks she could understand why, and how, any woman, including her sister, would feel sexually drawn to him. She sensed it would be so easy to succumb to his wishes and bend to his will.
“That will be all, Clair,” Castell said to the receptionist in his deeply emphasized French accent.
Tingles ran up and down Kate’s spine at the sound of his voice. That sexy voice was enough to make any woman go weak at the knees.
Clair left the room, and as the door closed behind her Castell pointed to a sofa at the far end of the room, indicating for Kate to sit down.
“Take a seat. I shan’t be long,” he said. Then, ignoring her as if she were no longer present in the room, he returned to the pile of paperwork in front of him.
Looking at the man working behind the desk, Kate realized he wasn’t at all what she’d expected. She’d thought Eduardo Castell would be nearer Nikki’s age. This man wasn’t, and it made the situation worse than she’d originally thought it was. Castell was no young adolescent. He was a mature adult who was, at a guess, at least twice her sister’s age.
“I need to talk to you about Nikki,” she said with resolution in her voice. She wasn’t going to be brushed off or dismissed out of hand. She was going to make herself heard.
“And I said sit.” He didn’t even look up.
Kate opened her mouth to protest, but then thought better of it. On trembling legs she went to the far side of the room, tossed her handbag carelessly onto one of the sofas, and taking a seat, waited for the overbearing, obnoxious Mr. Castell to finish what he was doing.
Kate couldn’t relax. She was too on edge to sit still. Restless, she stood and wandered over to the high Georgian windows to look out at the elegant town houses in Grosvenor Square.
Most of the buildings were tall, resplendent structures, and Castell House was no exception. In fact, Castell House was one of the most elegant, imposing town addresses she’d ever been to. On the front façade of the house were two magnificent columns. There was also a lintel doorway and a porch entrance under which sat two imposing stone lions. When she first arrived at the Square she’d known it was a grand address in Central London, but she hadn’t realized exactly how chic and impressive Castell House would be.
Looking across the road to the Square’s splendid gardens, she noticed some mothers playing with their children near the fountain. Young lovers lay stretched out on blankets on the well-kept lawns, basking in the heat of the glorious afternoon. Seeing that, Kate wished she was anywhere but here. She didn’t want to witness the pleasures and enjoyments of others when she was in such a horrible mood.
As the London traffic of cars and buses drove by, a flitting thought passed through her head that she ought to be spending her precious time in a better way. She should be working, not running around after Nikki’s amorous admirer.
It had taken Kate several years of hard work to build up her catering business, and she was doing well. She was a successful business woman, and she was achieving what she’d set out to do. Her business was flourishing, and she was slowly but surely gaining a reputation as being one of the best events caterers in the business.
McKenna Catering had several on-going contracts with a select group of clients. The majority of her clientele were the rich elite of London, and they were willing to spend substantial amounts of money for the services she provided.
There were always parties and bookings to organize, and although Kate had an excellent team of workers covering events, she liked to be on hand to make sure things ran smoothly. Her clients were also keen to see her at their parties. Even if she only made a brief appearance before disappearing, they liked to know she was in charge and holding the reins.
Gazing out of the office windows there was time enough for Kate to surreptitiously study the man sitting at the desk. Castell was concentrating on the work in front of him, and she assumed he was unaware of her scrutiny from beneath her lashes. Looking him over, Kate couldn’t find fault with his appearance.
He was incredibly gorgeous. The sharp, chiseled lines of his face and the thick mass of black hair were things she found attractive in a man. His body looked lean, strong, and powerful, and with his bronzed, sun-kissed skin and his dark looks, he looked almost princely.
When he moved to turn the pages of a document, or he reached for a file, the silky material of his shirt stretched, rippling across his wide shoulders, accentuating the muscles in his arms. Even though he was seated she could tell he was more than six-foot tall.
This man wasn’t just a pen-pusher. He was fit, and it showed. He was also very sexy. There was no denying his magnetism, and although her sister might be a young, vulnerable teenager who had fallen head-over-heels for those dark, sensual eyes, Kate wasn’t.
At twenty-four, Kate wasn’t such an easy target when it came to men. Even though she’d never met this man before, she knew his type. She could spot a womanizer and playboy a mile off, and she avoided them like the plague.
She wanted nothing to do with men who used people, especially women, for their own pleasure. These men always discarded their lovers because they were no longer the flavor of the moment. Shallow, temporary relationships were something Kate had no time for, and with this type of man emotional investment was generally absent. Kate suspected she was looking at trouble, and it was trouble spelled with a capital “T”.
As Castell reached up to loosen the knot of his tie he turned his head in Kate’s direction. His piercing eyes locked onto hers. He held her spellbound and Kate’s stomach flipped, sending her heart pulsating with unexpected excitement.
There was no protection from his penetrating gaze. He was looking her up and down, and it was as if his eyes were stripping her naked. Exposing her, and revealing all for his satisfaction and pleasure. And there was nothing she could do about it.
Castell was obviously enjoying the fact that the t-shirt she was wearing was too short. She’d been planning to take the morning off to catch up on some chores at home. Things that she never seemed to have time for. These days taking time off from her business was almost impossible. But then Nikki and her problems had intervened with her plans, and now she was here…in Castell’s plush, stylish office dressed totally inappropriately in a t-shirt and jeans.
The short, skimpy t-shirt she was wearing left her feeling vulnerable and exposed. Although it covered her body, it didn’t conceal her curves. And no matter how hard she pulled or tugged on the shirt it couldn’t cover the small amount of exposed midriff that was showing. But that wasn’t the worst of her problems. Gradually, Kate became aware that her nipples were beginning to show.
Compared to the warm heat of the spring sunshine outside, Castell’s office was a cool haven from the balminess. The air conditioning was on full blast, and although it was cooling her overheated skin, that wasn’t all it was cooling.
Kate wasn’t wearing a bra, and as the cool air wafted gently over her body she discovered her nipples were hardening. The fabric of her top made the hard peaks obvious. Crossing her arms over her breasts, she hoped to conceal what was becoming visible, but it was to no avail. It didn’t help. Castell had a clear view, and he was examining every detail of her body.
“How is a man supposed to concentrate with you staring at him?” he asked while running a hand through his hair in frustration.
Shrugging her shoulders, Kate remained silent. She didn’t care if he couldn’t concentrate. And she hadn’t been staring at him. Or had she? At least, she didn’t think she had.
“Mr. Castell...” She uncrossed her arms and straightened to her full height of five feet, four inches.
“Yes...Ms. McKenna.” He sat back and threw down the pen he’d been holding, giving Kate his full attention.
“We have to talk.”
“So you told me. If I remember correctly, it has something to do with someone by the name of Nikki.”
“Of course it’s about Nikki. Who else would it be about?” Kate snapped.
He looked startled at her heated outburst, but he waited silently for her to continue.
Kate was a confident woman with plenty of self-assurance, but in this instance she sensed she was out of her depth. She knew she had a fight on her hands. There was a battle to win, and even though her confidence was ebbing she knew she had to stay strong. She had to fight this arrogant man and bring Nikki back from the brink of a disastrous affair with Eduardo Castell.
Although the Castells had amassed a huge amount of real estate and wealth over the years, it was still classed as new money. Kate knew of the Castells―anyone who read glossy magazines or daily newspapers knew who they were. They were a global name. Royalty of the hotel world. And surprisingly, Nikki was working for them as part of her school work experience.
The Castells were the elite. The crème de la crème. Out of reach. And with Nikki starting at the bottom, supposedly learning the ropes, Kate hadn’t expected her sister to actually come into contact with any of them.
It was now beginning to look like the work experience, which was meant to be such a positive and educational encounter, was backfiring. Kate’s worst fear was that Castell was abusing his authority and using his privileged position to influence Nikki into acting inappropriately. She thought he’d persuaded Nikki into having an affair, and nothing and no one was going to prevent her from stopping this man taking advantage of Nikki. She was on the war path.
Still standing beside the window Kate thrust her trembling hands behind her back, hiding them from view. She didn’t want to reveal how nervous she was, but her action was a big mistake, because it only accentuated her breasts even more.
“You do understand that I can’t let Nikki go with you, don’t you?” she asked.
The man looked ruthless. She thought reasoning with him was her best option. She was certain she wasn’t going to become emotional or fly into a temper, which she tended to do when championing a cause, but she knew anything was possible; and anything could happen. The situation was volatile.
“You must see how impossible this is,” she said, searching his face for a reaction. “You can’t take a young teenager away with you, even if she does work for you.”
Kate had inherited her teenage sister when their parents died in a car crash, and until a short while ago things had been going well between them. They had a good sisterly relationship. As the older sister, Kate had always looked after Nikki, and although there was almost a seven-year age gap between them, they were close and shared their adventures with each other. That was...until now.
It was only after Nikki went to work at The Castell Hotel on schoolwork experience that things started to take a turn for the worse. Her sister had gone into rebellion mode, and Nikki’s unexpected defiance was causing Kate concern.
When she’d learned of Nikki’s plans, she’d gone straight to The Castell Hotel with the intention of confronting Eduardo. She was going to call a halt to the romance that was blossoming between Eduardo Castell and Nikki, but Castell wasn’t at the hotel.
Having spoken to hotel reception, telling them that she’d like to see Mr. Castell, the reply from a very curvy receptionist at the front desk had been a mumbled, suggestive, “Who wouldn’t?” And with those words ringing in her ear, Kate was left in no doubt that Castell was a heartthrob and a heartbreaker extraordinaire.
“So...Nikki’s a teenager, is she?” he asked.
“Yes, she is, and I’m still her legal guardian until she turns eighteen, which won’t happen for several months. If you take her to Cannes, you do realize I’ll have to report you to the authorities, don’t you?”
“Me? Take a woman to Cannes? Now there’s an idea.”
“Yes. Your secretary said that’s where you’re headed.”
“Ah, yes. Of course...Cannes and the Anistons.”
“Nikki said she was going away with you. I hadn’t realized you intended to take her out of the country.”
Standing up from his desk, he walked toward her like a panther zoning in on his prey. He came to a stop in front of her. The man towered above her, and she had to tilt her head back to look up at him.
He was close. Dangerously close. They were face-to-face, and sparks were flying. She could feel the palpable tension pulsating between them.
“Ms. McKenna...Kate. It wounds me to think you believe I’m capable of having an affair with a teenager. Let me put your mind at rest. It’s not my intention to take Nikki out of the country...especially now that I’ve seen you.”
“You mean you’re not taking Nikki to Cannes?”
“No, but I’m quite willing to take you along for the ride instead. That is...if you’d like to accompany me,” he said, arching an eyebrow in a suggestive manner.
Kate took in the full meaning behind his evocative words and was shocked beyond belief. How dare he proposition her in that way. Surely he was joking? And did he think she was the type of woman who would do that? The audacity of the man!
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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