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Diego stood by the window of his penthouse suite and gazed out over the traffic on Park Lane and across to the dark mass of Hyde Park beyond. Through the soundproofed windows the roar of the traffic was silent, the endless procession of red tail-lights and white headlights streaming along the busy road.

His mind slipped away to another city. Another time. The stench. That was what he remembered most about San Cristo. The stench of poverty, destitution, despair.

The stifling heat of the day and the chill of the nights as he lay, arms crossed over and hands tucked into his armpits, knees drawn up, sleeping in filthy doorways, with the perpetual gnaw of hunger in his belly. And blackness in his soul. Like a shutter, he closed the past away from him and turned away from the window.

He never allowed himself to remember. All he ever allowed himself to do was send money to Father Tomaso, who spent his life gathering up the unwanted street children, day after day, little by little earning their trust, reaching out to them until they turned to him and came with him to the refuge he offered them.

Shining the first ray of light into their unbearably dark lives. Now, thanks to money from the Saez coffers, more and more street children could be taken into refuge, given the chance that he had been given so long ago to become something other than human detritus thrown away on the midden of unspeakable poverty—as he had been, before Father Tomaso had found him and rescued him.

Deliberately he summoned another memory, a far more recent one, to replace the dark horror that lay haunting him, deep within his mind. His expression hardened. How could anyone born to that have been so careless with it? Tom Lanchester was a fool.

Still, he should be glad of it. He poured a shot of whisky into a glass, feeling his body enter that most pleasurable state of imminent sexual arousal. She would be here soon.

Another memory slid into his mind, mingling with the sensations beginning to stir in his body. The material of the dress had been silky, but slightly stretchy, grazing her breasts and outlining the delicate sculpture of her shoulders. Her pearls had leant their sheen to her skin, giving it a translucence that had been almost tangible. What would she be wearing when she came to him now? As he lifted the whisky glass to his mouth he found himself hoping that she would not signal her intentions too obviously.

But he did not want her to do so dressed for that role. The glass stilled at his lips, and he found himself lowering it slowly.

Something moved in his mind. Some emotion. He wondered what it was, and then he realised. It was regret. Regret, he knew, that his pursuit of Portia Lanchester should end in this fashion. It was not what he had intended. He had intended a quite different affair. One in which Portia Lanchester succumbed to his desire for him simply because— Because all women he desired did so. He cast his mind around. Had there ever been a woman who had resisted his desire for her?

He could remember none. He had only to indicate his interest and she was his. Nor was it just his wealth that made them so responsive. All his life, even while clawing his way out of poverty, women had come easily to him. Except Portia Lanchester. That, of course, had been part of her allure—that she had resisted him. A frown entered his darkening eye. But she had gone on resisting him, and allure had begun to turn to impatience.

So he had called time. Her contempt for his origins. Dismissing him as not worthy of her illustrious breeding and ancestry. Not good enough for her. And in that instant the game had changed. He lifted the whisky glass to his lips and took a generous mouthful, letting the complex fiery liquid burn around his palette, savouring the sensation.

Portia Lanchester had changed the game, and now it was being played out with new rules. She had made clear her values to him—all that was important to her was her money and her social status. To protect that she would do whatever she had to. Including coming to his bed. Slowly Diego let the whisky glide down his throat, kicking into his system. It felt good. His body felt taut, and fit, the first tightening of sexual anticipation was tensing through him.

He glanced at his watch. The gold gleamed in the lamplight. He took another mouthful of whisky, and waited. He had waited a long time for Portia Lanchester. But soon, very soon, the waiting would be over. Portia could hear her heels click on the marble floor of the luxury hotel fronting Park Lane. Once the site had been the lavish townhouse of an aristocratic family, torn down after the First World War to be replaced by an even more lavish art deco luxury hotel. The one that Diego Saez patronised was one of the very best—in fact, one of the best hotels in the world.

Well, for a man of his wealth—who could afford to buy a failing bank just to make sure of a woman he wanted—the outrageous cost of a suite here would be negligible. She reached the front desk.

If there was a tremor in her voice she would not acknowledge it. She stood, poised and elegant, in a pale blue cocktail dress just right for this early hour of the evening. In the tea lounge opening off the main lobby she could hear a grand piano playing quietly. Chopin, she recognised absently. She felt strange. Frozen somehow. As if none of this were real. For a moment, as she stepped out of the lift and the bellboy went ahead to rap on the door of the suite, she could not even remember what Diego Saez looked like.

Then the door opened and he was there. She walked in. It closed silently, with only the barest click. It was a very final click. Somewhere deep, deep inside her, she felt her heart begin to thud. A sense of satisfaction went through him. She looked exactly the way he wanted her to look. She had resisted the temptation to come on too obviously to him, by wearing some seductive, sexy number.

Instead she was wearing a dress that was the very opposite of that. It was the colour of pale water, very plain, but beautifully cut, gliding over her fine-boned body, revealing nothing, baring only her arms.

Her hair was dressed exactly the way he liked it. A low, elegant chignon nested at the nape of her neck, the hair swept back from her face, exposing her sculpted features, her wide-set grey eyes.

She had used minimum make-up, and he liked that too. It was subtle, like the scent she wore. In fact, h e mused, he doubted she was wearing perfume at all. The fragrance was so faint it was probably just soap and face cream. Her lipstick was barely there, just a slight gloss, and there was nothing more than a sweep of mascara and the merest hint of shadow to deepen her eyes. There was no foundation or powder on her flawless skin. He went on looking at her, taking in her whole appearance—from her freshly washed hair, down over her slender body to the cool blue material of her dress, down her slim legs to her small feet in modestly heeled shoes that exactly matched the colour of the dress.

She looked exactly what she was. A woman born into a world of Old Masters and vintage port, of landed estates and old money, of heritage and bloodlines—privileged, protected. Protected from men like him.


Bedded by Blackmail

The short version: The H wants the h who is a frigid snot. She insults him and he gets her back by buying her stupid brothers bank so shell have sex with him. True love ensues. The long version: How dare you touch me! Wow, the heroine is one cold, frigid entitled bitch.





Bedded by Blackmail by Julia James


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