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Excerpt from Cassia
“Those two will go blind for cash bribes,” he explained with a subtle nod of his head to the two armed men standing at the door. “I’ll settle for dinner with you.”
Her wary glance held him at a small distance. She paused, then simply asked, “How much is the bribe?”
He named a figure that would have had her laughing if she were watching the situation on television. Surely, she thought, the execs carried sufficient cash to cover the bribes. Or maybe not; they seemed to believe in the ultimate efficacy of credit cards. Even prostitutes accepted credit cards. In any case, she didn’t have the money.
“Dinner? You’ll require nothing more?”
“I demand nothing more.”
“But you’ll ask,” she shot back with disgust.
He grinned at her and said, “A man cannot help himself. I give you my word that I shall do nothing you do not want.”
She harrumphed and thought it over, then asked, “When?”
She shrugged and glanced pointedly at his elegantly proportioned hand still lightly grasping her arm. He released her and immediately felt bereft of the softness of her flesh.
“I’ll be back in a moment,” she said and walked back to her group of impatient businessmen.
Vladislav appreciated the view of her swaying backside as she walked. He could have listened to the debate between the woman and her clients, but chose not to. Like any predator, he could easily filter out those sounds that did not interest him. What did interest him was that he could not read her mind. His delicate probe slid off surprisingly strong, smooth mental shields. It was a rare person who had such a strong mental defense.
The businessmen grudgingly dug into their pockets and withdrew cash from their wallets even as the woman extracted all the cash from her own purse. There was some additional, loud debate about reimbursement that he could not help overhearing. And then he heard her clearly, “Frank, you’ll have to run the awards banquet this evening. You have the script and you can confer with my assistant, Amelia, to keep the ceremony and the hotel staff running on schedule.”
An older man upon whose meaty shoulders sat secular power and authority nodded and shrugged and answered in a gravelly voice, “It can’t be that hard.”
The woman’s shoulders stiffened at the casual insult, but she only muttered a stony thank-you and returned to Vladislav with a fistful of cash. She counted it out carefully and handed it to him. The total was several hundred dollars short.
“That’s all we have in cash,” she explained. “Unless there’s an ATM near here, I’ve no way of acquiring any extra money right now.”
Vladislav shrugged, a ripple of muscle that could have meant anything. He counted the cash and divided it evenly. “I’ll persuade them to accept it,” he said.
“Thank you,” Cassia replied politely and watched pensively as he took her group’s accumulated cash to the two paramilitary men guarding the door.
“I’ll meet you in the lobby. What time?”
“Seven o’clock,” he said decisively. “Do you have an evening gown with you?”
“Yes,” she bit through gritted teeth.
She nodded curtly. He held out his hand as though to shake it. Without thought she clasped it. He drew her hand upward and opened her palm to his mouth. There was a sharp sting, then a sizzle that shot up her arm and down her spine and radiated through her body, then the soothing swipe of his tongue. Cassia gasped and pulled, but her hand was surely caught in his. He swiped her palm again with his tongue and kissed it. The moment his grip eased she snatched her hand back.
“Dinner. Nothing more. I’m buying,” she snapped angrily and mentally vowed to charge an outrageously expensive dinner to the corporate credit card. She hadn’t eaten since a quick banana snatched in early morning of the previous day. She was absolutely ravenous.
“Don’t be late,” he replied and turned to the other two mercenaries who watched with interest.
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