He’d put his foot on the throat of success and forced it to cough up what he wanted.
Over two decades, his small real estate holdings had grown into an international conglomerate. He’d bought up beachfront properties in Croatia, factories in Eastern Europe, spreading to Western Europe, then the Americas, Asia and, most recently, Africa.
In the last few years, as Boris Kuznetsov’s oil company had run into trouble, he’d pounced, quietly buying up his loans and distressed assets, vacation homes around the world, his jet, the yacht. Kuznetsov still did not realize whom he’d lost them to, and why. But all the man had left now were the two things he cared about most: control of his flailing company, and the gaudy pink villa on Cap Ferrat, a luxurious enclave thirty minutes outside Monaco.
No, Kassius hadn’t built his empire because he wanted luxury. He’d wanted power. He’d wanted revenge.
Occasionally, however, the luxury that could be purchased with unlimited money did bring unexpected pleasures. Such as right now.
“Are you sure?” Standing in front of the designer boutique’s three-way mirror, Laney looked anxiously back at her deliciously ample backside in the tight, short red dress.
Sitting on a nearby sofa, holding a flute of expensive champagne brought to him by a salesgirl, Kassius stared at her. “You are exquisite.”
And she was. The clingy red dress revealed the shape of her hourglass figure to perfection. Kassius couldn’t look away from the glory of her wide hips, tiny waist and—he took a quick, shallow breath—those full breasts—
Frowning, Laney turned back to look at herself in the mirror, her lovely heart-shaped face uncertain, her long dark hair tumbling down her shoulders. She bit her full pink lip. “My grandmother would chew me out if she ever saw me walk out of the house in this.” Her cheeks turned pink as she looked at the short hem. “I’m embarrassed just to let you see me in it!”
Kassius set down the barely tasted champagne. Rising to his feet, he walked a half circle around her. And he smiled.
Money was magic. It had made this all possible.
Designer boutiques and salons had opened just for them, eager for the patronage of the ultrawealthy, mysterious Kassius Black.
Laney had been reluctant to let him buy her anything. So he’d persuaded her with military precision, using logic. First, he’d bought her a replacement phone. That had been relatively easy, because after all, he owed her one. But he’d replaced her old, cheap phone with a top-of-the-line smartphone at ten times the price.
Next, he’d taken her to the most famously exclusive jeweler in Monaco to buy her an engagement ring. As she’d browsed the plain gold bands, he’d quietly purchased in her size a twenty-carat diamond engagement ring set in platinum. He’d overridden her protests that she didn’t need anything so expensive. Of course she needed it. She was going to be his bride.
He’d made sure she didn’t know how much it cost, however. If she’d known, she would have certainly rebelled at the thought of wearing a sparkling rock on her finger that cost approximately the same as three average houses.
After buying the ring, they’d gone for an elegant lunch near the harbor overlooking the yachts, a slight respite before he’d taken Laney to a salon, where a world-famous hairstylist had left his own New Year’s Day house party in Nice to trim and style Laney’s dark, lustrous mane. As a manicurist and pedicurist buffed her nails, a makeup artist shaped her brows, adding just the right shade of lipstick, eye shadow and creamy blush.
Laney had never been pampered in quite this way before. As far as he could tell, she’d never been pampered at all. Obviously. She’d been a virgin who’d—incredibly—believed herself to be frigid until he’d seduced her. She’d been unnoticed by men till now and spent all her time working, providing for her family.
After the salon, she no longer put up a fight. He took her to expensive designer boutiques, buying her clothes, shoes, handbags, an entirely new wardrobe, replacing her thrift store bargains with the chic, sophisticated outfits her new life would require. He’d particularly enjoyed selecting her lingerie. But this—
He lost his breath looking at his bride-to-be.
“Leave us,” he said hoarsely.
The two salesgirls and boutique manager hovering in the background glanced at each other uncertainly. Kassius turned to the manager with a cold glare.
The manager gave a swift nod and clapped his hands at the two salesgirls, who fled before he followed them out. A second later, they heard the bell of the door as they went out into the cold twilight.
Yes, Kassius thought. Money was magic.
As he turned back smugly to Laney, she was staring at him in disbelief.
“Does everyone always do what you say?”
He came closer to her, his eyes intent. He kissed her bare shoulder, brushing back soft dark tendrils of her hair. “Yes.”
He felt her tremble beneath his touch.
“You can’t be...thinking that we...” Laney sounded breathless as she looked up at him with big brown eyes. He saw the quick rise and fall of her breasts. But Kassius was past thinking anything.
Pushing her back against the three-way mirror, he roughly kissed her, cupping her magnificent breasts through the tight red dress.
“Not here,” she breathed, struggling. “They might walk in...”
“They won’t,” he whispered huskily, his lips brushing against her ear. “Benito is no doubt entertaining them outside in his lamentable French.”
“It’s rude kicking them out of their own store, out into the cold after we dragged them here on New Year’s Day...”
“They’re well paid to wait and not to see or hear anything.”
“But if they do—”
“Then let them hear,” he said coldly. “Let the whole world hear, and see, and wish you were theirs. Let them be jealous you are mine.”
He kissed her roughly, and with a sigh of surrender, she fell back against the mirrored wall. He was rock hard for her, his body straining, as he ran his hands along her hips in the red dress, her bare thighs, the cleavage of her full breasts pressing against the tight fabric.
He needed her. Now.
Roughly, he yanked her short red dress up to her hips, revealing her lace panties.
Kissing her passionately, he lifted her bare legs to wrap around his hips, her back against the mirror. Unzipping his trousers, he roughly yanked her panties aside and without asking permission, he thrust himself inside her with a groan, sheathing himself to the hilt.
She gasped, clinging to him, the tight red dress now pushed up to her waist. Her eyes were closed, her head tossed back with pleasure. She swayed her hips as he pushed inside her, thrusting hard and fast until he heard her cry out, until he felt her shake. Hearing that, feeling it, he exploded inside her.
For a moment, he just held her tight against the wall, her thighs still wrapped around his hips, and she held him. Then, slowly, the world intruded. He released her, and she slid back down to stand in front of him. He zipped up his trousers, smoothed her lace panties and pulled her dress back modestly over her thighs.
“I guess we’ll have to buy the dress now.” Reaching out, he rubbed smeared lipstick off her chin.
Self-consciously, she touched her skin, then looked up at him accusingly. “Whose fault is that?”
“For being too desirable.” He looked down at her seriously. “I can hardly wait to marry you.”
“When did you have in mind?” she said tartly. “You’ve taken charge of everything today. Are you planning to drag me from here straight to a justice of the peace?” She looked down at the expensive red dress, which hadn’t even been paid for yet but was already wrinkled. “Is this my wedding dress?”
He gave a low laugh. “We have dinner reservations at Le Coq d’Or. We can talk about wedding plans over wine.”
“Le Coq d’Or?” Her lips parted. “How on earth did you get reservations there? I heard the comtesse complain about how impossible it is to get in.”
He shrugged. “I called them today and gave them my name. They suddenly had space.”
“You always get everything you want, don’t you?” She sounded grumpy. “You never even have to wait.”
“I do sometimes,” he said grimly, thinking of the plans for revenge he’d first formulated twenty years before. At her searching glance, he gave her a bland smile. “Shall we tell the boutique staff it’s safe to come back?”
Ten minutes later, Benito and their sedan’s driver were stacking yet more of their shopping bags into the trunk. Kassius held the car door open for Laney, who was now wearing a long, expensive, belted black coat over her red dress, which he’d insisted she should wear, to keep off the cool air.
“You want to drive?” She looked surprised. “But it’s a lovely evening. Le Coq d’Or is just up the hill. Why not walk?”
“Just up the hill?” He snorted. “It’s a half-hour walk.”
He looked pointedly at her feet, now shod in wickedly expensive stilettos. “In those?”
Her ankle turned slightly on the sidewalk, proving his point. She regained her balance and glared at him. “So?”