New Free Harlequin Online Read: The Secret Billionaire’s Mistress by Dani Collins
For Billionaire playboy Sebastien, marriage was never an option. Until his mistress Monika gives him an ultimatum, and he risks losing everything…
Monika Lundquist was still processing the way a simple handshake with Sebastien Atkinson had left her entire arm tingling, when he asked, “Shall we dance?”
“I—” She was at this mixer atop a London hotel to network, not entertain the biggest player in the room. She couldn’t be rude, though. “Thank you. That would be lovely.”
Neither could she deny that she’d been intrigued from the second she’d spotted him prowling the room like a mountain lion, athletic and aloof, gaze missing nothing. Women went mad for more than his bank account. He oozed sex appeal, making her hyper aware of his light touch in the small of her back as he guided her toward the dance floor.
She silently bemoaned no longer owning Paris originals, only a nice-quality black velvet skirt from the consignment store and a sleeveless silk top. Her pearls were fake, her hair and make-up done over the sink in her very modest flat.
He knew how to waltz, leading firmly, arms caging her close without being fresh. It was oddly reassuring, but she knew better than to think a man in his position offered a woman any security beyond jewels she could pawn to make rent after he moved on.
Even so, she couldn’t help appreciate the hard shoulder beneath his bespoke suit. Her senses heightened as his thighs brushed hers, sending butterflies through her abdomen and making her blood sing with awareness. It took effort to dance smoothly and betray none of it.
“You spoke very passionately,” he said. “I’m one of those types you mentioned. I know I can do more to help the less privileged, but I don’t know where to start.”
Their hostess was the wife of a politician who ran a foundation alongside Monika’s employer, Raise For Rights. She had kindly offered Monika a few minutes at the podium to speak about RFR and their ability to tailor programs for corporations.
She lifted her gaze, thinking to add something intelligent to what she’d said in her speech, but found herself mesmerized.
People called her Nordic looks angelic, but with his short blond hair and clear gray eyes, Sebastien was the fallen angel. He had aristocratic bone structure, even though she knew he came from peasant roots. Flat broke, on the dole, hard-life roots. He had built his fortune on adventure clubs, starting with extreme sports, filming them for niche markets. Eventually he branched out to mainstream excursions and, now his fortune was made and the sky was the limit. He turned up on television, owned specialty media channels, had his own line of sporting gear among other interests and a net worth in the billions.
“Will you give me your number? I’d like to have dinner.”
The invitation was so smooth, she caught her breath. And she was tempted, despite having learned at nineteen not to let men like him take advantage of her.
“To develop a program?” She deliberately misunderstood him.
His gave her a hooded look of reassessment. “You’re not here as a spokesperson? You work for Raise For Rights?”
She wasn’t surprised he dismissed her as their pretty face, but she was disappointed, especially as she realized, “You recognize me. Let me guess. Swimsuit catalogues fall within your scope of interest.”
Inside the dark gold frame of groomed stubble, his sexy mouth tilted into a self-deprecating smirk. “Sports of every kind. Purely professional.”
“I’m sure. But I left modeling. This is my career.” She was not a supermodel trophy, she took pains to say. She was a low-paid office clerk. By choice. “Most of my duties are administrative. I presented tonight because my boss was unavailable.”
“That seems to be doing things the hard way. You could fund your organization for a year on a single photo shoot.”
“There are legal considerations.” She’d been asked this more than once and her tone cooled to subzero, every single time. “My stepfather earns a cut from income off my image and he’s made enough as it is. Plus, it’s tasteless to use luxury underwear to benefit the underprivileged.”
He didn’t say anything.
“Are you picturing me in my underwear?” she guessed.
“Also wishing I’d thought to take my clothes off for a camera back when I was borrowing money from loan sharks. I can’t stand a missed opportunity.”
“There’s still time.” And darn him, now she was imagining him naked. In his mid-thirties, he was in his prime, probably sculpted like a Greek god. She’d bet that tan on his throat didn’t stop between his flat abs and the tops of his thighs.
He knew what she was thinking. Their gazes met and held. Behind the humor, sexual awareness crackled and sparked, holding them pinned as the music stopped.
“Let’s go for dinner now.” His hand at her waist shifted in the smallest, most subtle of caresses. It sent a rush of heat to her loins and made her breasts grow heavy and prickly.
She blushed, embarrassed that he aroused her, easily, and she couldn’t hide it. “You’re very good.” It came out husky.
“I thought we were seducing each other.”
Oh, he was dangerous. She dropped her hands and stepped back, then wished she’d stayed in his arms. Which was insane.
“I’m here to work.” She stopped herself from adding a pithy, Some of us do. Despite herself, she found the self-made in him intriguing. Oh heck, she found all of him utterly fascinating.
“Let me introduce you around then.”
He knew almost everyone and smoothly approached anyone he didn’t. It was remarkable to watch people react to him in varying degrees of awe. At the same time, she saw how he let people assume they were together. He didn’t throw his arm around her, or make any outward claim, but she was not available, he telegraphed. She weakly let it happen and, for the next hour, understood what it meant to be a ‘power couple.’
“I feel like a fake,” she admitted as they went back onto the dance floor. “Like I rode your coattails. Were you humoring me?” Part of her didn’t care. It felt good to be held by him again.
“I respect a work ethic and understand the value of connections. It’s how I’ve come as far as I have.”
“I saw a program once about your adventure club. The Armchair something. It said you deliberately targeted well-connected young men when you were starting out. With a zip-line in Costa Rica, if I recall correctly?”
“I invited a few women, but yes, mostly rich young men who liked the appeal of an elite club and the risk of extreme sports. I played to their egos and dared them to accept. Very calculated, knowing I might cash in on the social connections later.” His lip curled with a hint of disdain, but there was disparagement for himself. “I didn’t expect we’d all love it and still be doing it fifteen years later.”
“You still do the challenges yourself? Are they dangerous?”
“The last was a race on wild horses across eastern Russia. Danger is the point.”
“You accused me of doing things the hard way!” She was oddly concerned for him, but had to ask, “Did you win?”
“Not that one.” He made a face that told her he hated losing. “A long-time member, Alejandro Salazar, is a wizard with horses. Unbeatable. I was happy to come away with a broken finger. Other injuries were worse.”
“I don’t understand the appeal. All of the members are rich? Why build a fortune, then risk your life and limbs?”
“Self-reliance, I suppose. And it levels life’s playing field. We’re all equals there.”
She suspected he meant it proved he was equal to, sometimes even better than, the people he’d once aspired to become. No wonder he thought her odd for not making the most of the advantage she’d been handed with modeling.
At the same time, the primitive female in her reacted to his well-tested strength. A fresh beat of want thrummed for the alpha male resourceful enough to slay tigers and provide for his mate and offspring.
“Plus, you never know what you can achieve until you try.”
She lifted her face to meet his gaze, feeling as though he saw into her soul. Those were exactly the words she’d clung to, when she had sought the courage to leave modeling and discover if there was more to her than long limbs and the ability to hold a pose.
As if she had invited him with her uplifted face, he stopped dancing and kissed her.
Distantly she wondered if he was taking advantage of an opportunity, or seeing what he could achieve, but between heartbeats, ceased to care. She only wanted more.
Part of her understood they were making a spectacle, but his mouth on hers was both carnal and tender. Here was the man who climbed rock walls with his bare hands, understanding patience and finding the right fit, the right spot to settle in while he explored all that was within reach with an unhurried touch.
Wildfire rolled through her, not tame enough to be called seduction. This delirium was… What had he called it? An expensive high, but an addictive one.
When he lifted his head, she was altered. Emptied of the old Monika, glowing with a new, brighter sense of possibility.
“Shall we go?”
She nodded jerkily, knowing she was agreeing to go home with him. Eager to. Yearning for more with him, whether it was the light brand of his splayed hand against her spine, or another kiss, or his no doubt thorough and skilled possession.
Yes , she thought. Yes and yes and yes.
* * *
Sebastien wasn’t afraid of speed, but he’d never felt this sort of craving for a woman. It was all he could do to keep his hands on the wheel as he made the short drive to his penthouse. What was it about her? Beautiful women weren’t even low-hanging fruit for him. They dropped into his palm out of the sky.
This one was wary, though. He imagined men came onto her all the time. There was obviously something with her modeling past that still grated. He was objectified enough for his wealth and fame to understand how annoying that was.
But none of that explained why, from the moment she had walked to the microphone, he’d been spellbound. She had a lovely voice, but her conviction had been what struck him. She was a woman of substance, but those weren’t that rare in his life either. He knew many attractive women with brains.
“I don’t do this,” she said with a skittish look around his slate and ivory décor, clutching her handbag in two hands while she moved to stand at the wall of windows, taking in the lights across the Thames. “Not even when men do buy me dinner.”
She shot him an askance look over her shoulder, the low lights turning her blue eyes navy and somber. They were filled with a longing that caught in his gut, painful and inexorable.
“Are you hungry?” He could barely find his voice.
She swallowed, watching him approach with eyes that widened before she shook her head, making her hair shimmer in sparks of gold. “Not for food.” A pained wince reflected in her expression before she looked to the window again. “You’ll have to lead here, too. Not just the dance floor.”
That , he thought. The honesty of her. She might be disconcerted by the depth of her attraction toward him, but she didn’t try to hide it. Or use it.
He gently turned her, then let his fingertips edge the lapels of her light jacket, offering a slow caress against the silk above her breasts.
With an exhale of surrender, she dropped her hands to her sides. Her jacket slid easily off her shoulders and down her arms, joining her handbag as it also landed at their feet. “You’re very—”
He kissed her, cutting off what she might have said, but thinking, yes, he was. Very hot. Very aroused. His being expanded, wanting to envelop her. He ought to take it slow, but the way she melted, the way she dashed her tongue against his, spurred him on, inflaming him.
With an animalistic growl, he scooped her up and carried her to his bedroom. Wanting her in his bed. Naked. So desperate, he was nearly blind with it.
When he stood her on her feet, she looked to him as one victim of a storm to another, helpless and hoping he would be her savior. Had she said something about a seduction routine? He bit back a jagged laugh as he tore open his shirt. This wasn’t something he could control!
She kicked off her shoes and made a scrabbling motion against the middle of her back. He touched her shoulder, urging her to pivot, and was nearly unmanned by her simple act of gathering her hair and holding it out of the way. He longed to shred every stitch she wore, but forced his unsteady hand to find the tiny tab and lower the zip.
He touched her elbows, keeping her holding up her hair, and watched her shoulder blades flex, drawing his mouth down to the creamy skin he’d exposed. He kissed her spine at the base of her neck, heard her gasp, then opened his teeth against her nape.
Her knees started to buckle and he caught her with a hard arm at her waist as he ravaged all the hot, downy skin he could reach until she cried out and let her hair fall across his face, spinning in his arms.
He chuckled roughly. “Take it off.”
She did, slowly, the witch, revealing glorious breasts in a scrap of lavender. With a pinch of her fingers between her breasts, she released the cups and let them crawl open.
He might have snarled. His hands were fighting with his belt, but he had to give himself a squeeze to cement his control before he abruptly swept away the bra and dragged her soft curves into his frame. A sensual punch took his breath as her hot skin met his.
She was perfect in every way. Tall enough to be eye level with his mouth, matching his flagrant invasion of her mouth with open lips and a lusty groan of invitation. Hot and rubbing eagerly against him, as though she wanted inside his skin.
Somehow, as they kept their mouths fused, as passion raged to breaking point, they stripped the last of their clothes and fell on the bed. He wanted to lick every inch of her, but she was so ready, she wrapped her legs around his waist before he’d finished applying the condom. She took him deep with his first thrust.
He claimed her—the feeling so visceral it sheared through him in a near-painful bolt. Danger. Signals blasted in his periphery, warning him she posed risks he couldn’t name, but he didn’t give a damn. Mine.
* * *
Sex fell somewhere between awkward and pleasant for her. It wasn’t immersive. Monika had never clung to a man and made guttural noises because speech was impossible. Because she needed his thrust more than she needed air.
She was burning up, glorying in the relentlessness of him, pleasure rolling in ever more intense waved from her core until she thought she wouldn’t survive it. Acute tension pulled her taut. She wanted the culmination, but feared the power of it. Nothing would be the same after this, but all she could think was, More. Yes. Please.
She met each thrust, not following him. Matching him. She was made for him and him for her. It was so natural and beautiful and perfect, she wanted it to last forever.
But it couldn’t.
They released jagged cries, clinging as their world imploded, leaving them nothing except the other’s heartbeat slamming against their own.
* * *
Sebastien should have been comatose for a week, but he was so attuned to her, he woke the second she slid toward the edge of the mattress.
“Where are you going?”
“Home.” She sat up with her feet on the floor, but kept the sheet across her lap and picked up her phone.
Her shoulders slackened as though she sighed. “The reason I don’t do this is because I know how it works. Commence notching your bedpost. I’ll skip the awkward promises to call that don’t actually manifest.”
“Hey.” He tumbled her back beside him so he could see her in the colored glow off her phone. “Women are not a challenge for me.”
“I meant I don’t view women as something to conquer. Look up. No notches.”
She kept her frowning gaze locked with his. “So this isn’t just…tonight?” Her tone covered the spectrum from uncertain to indecisive to the barest glimmer of hope.
He swallowed and kept his hands still, even though he itched to burrow against her silky skin, weighing the heft of her breast, learning her taste all over again.
“There are three things I never risk. Disease, and by that I mean drinking dodgy water as well as other, more intimate dangers. Pregnancy, because I don’t want children, and marriage, because I don’t want a vengeful ex-wife to decimate what I’ve worked so hard to build.”
“As I suspected. That’s why I’m leaving.”
“It doesn’t mean I don’t want female companionship. I’m not afraid of a long term, exclusive arrangement.” He let his thumb move in caress against her ribs.
She covered his hand, stilling his touch.
“You’re not afraid to keep a mistress, you mean. I’ve been kept.” Her voice hardened while her words kicked him in the chest. “But instead of sex, I earned my supper by smiling and arching my back, standing in next to nothing on a windy beach, taking an extra year to complete my O levels because education was wasted on a dumb blond like me.”
He frowned. “Who said that?”
Her chin tucked. “No one important. I’m just saying I am afraid of that sort of ‘arrangement.’ I have a job and support myself. I’m not going to drop everything because you want a week of sex on your yacht.”
“We can keep it to long weekends if that works better.”
She tsked and pushed at his chest, but he stayed looming over her.
“Think about what you said earlier,” he cajoled, voice growing husky at the memory of pleasuring her until she nearly wept. “You said, ‘Don’t ever stop.’ Whether it’s on a yacht or not, you want the sex, Moni.” He lowered his head to nibble her earlobe. “So do I. Because it’s really good sex.” Mind-blowingly good.
She gasped and arched against him, making a helpless noise before she said, “You won’t expect me to quit my job?”
“So long as you don’t ask me to quit mine.”
They sank back into the well of sensuality, sealing the deal.