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Taming the Tycoon
By Amy Andrews, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2012 Amy Andrews
All rights reserved.
Nathaniel Montgomery was not amused. He was surrounded by a bunch of tree-hugging, placard-carrying hippies who were standing between him and his place on Billionaires Row.
Nobody stood in Nathaniel Montgomery's way.
He rubbed at his temple and winced as the harsh squawking from the cheap loudspeaker pointed directly at him jarred through his already throbbing frontal lobe. The woman wielding it was tall and very vocal. But his gaze was drawn to the waif-like woman beside her. She was wearing huge, purple-tinted sunglasses and intricately plaited hair ending in colorful beads.
He'd never seen such a completely impractical style. All right for a beach in Bali, but not so much London, despite the glorious Indian summer they were currently experiencing.
He took a deep, cleansing breath as advised on the ridiculous relaxation tapes his mother kept sending and tried to go to his "happy place." He shut his eyes behind his Italian-designed shades.
A tropical island. A balmy breeze. The calm swish of sea against sand. Women in bikinis. Drinks with little umbrellas.
His headache twinged again and he opened his eyes. What a load of airy-fairy, mumbo-jumbo.
As was this stupid protest.
He was losing patience. Fast.
"Now, please, everyone just stay calm," begged a local government representative from his position on the elevated podium.
Nathaniel raised his eyebrows at the ineffectual address. The boy/man didn't look much out of his teens, the wobble in his voice totally screwing with his projection. Bloody hell! Had they sent the work-experience kid?
"Mr. Montgomery has generously agreed to address this community forum and listen to your concerns. Please let him have his say."
Nathaniel stood to a chorus of boos. He brushed them off as easily as he brushed the creases from his Savile Row suit. He really didn't have time for the goodwill his PR people insisted his appearance at this protest would generate. And he really didn't care. These people may have had plenty of time on their hands, but he had a huge deal to close, and a company to run.
He plunged his hands in his pockets and looked out over the crowd. He stood silently, feet evenly spaced apart, and waited. The warm September sunshine beat down on his neck and he suppressed the urge to adjust his collar.
Nathaniel Montgomery did not show weakness to his opposition.
"Well? What have you got to say fer yerself," a man at the back called out at Nathaniel's continued silence.
Nathaniel's gaze shifted to the heckler and his placard. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.
The insult slid easily off the armor he'd erected against such slights years ago. Although today, for the first time, he was beginning to see the appeal of creeping in under the cover of darkness and doing what had to be done.
That's what his father would have done.
He gave a sardonic smile. "Just waiting for silence," he announced, his deep voice effortlessly projecting to every corner of the two-hundred-year-old walled garden.
"You've got to be joking," someone else yelled.
Nathaniel shook his head. "No. I listened to you without saying a word. I expect it to be reciprocated."
The crowd heckled again, but that was okay. As busy as he was, Nathaniel would wait them out.
Or die trying.
He rocked on his feet and prepared himself for a long haul.
Addie Collins lost her breath for a moment. "Is it wrong to lust after Evil Tycoon?" she whispered to her fellow protest organizer, Penelope of the loudspeaker.
Penny looked down at her friend, outraged. "Yes," she hissed.
Yes. Right. Of course. But he looked utterly magnificent. Like a feudal prince looking down his patrician nose upon his serfs. Which really should have annoyed her. But somehow, pulled into the sticky web of his very tangible charisma, it didn't.
She'd seen him before, of course. Pictures in newspapers and magazines, interviews on the television. But none of them had done him justice. None of them had captured the raw sexuality of one of the UK's youngest and most successful businessmen.
The sun shone on his hair, crowning the glorious charcoal waves with a blue-black hue. Wisps brushed the tops of his ears and his collar and fell across his forehead in neat layers.
Sleek, dark sunglasses hid his eyes, but only drew attention to the sharply chiseled cheekbones on which they sat, and the interesting hollows beneath. His square jaw was classic movie-star material with a wickedly arrogant cleft in his chin that only added to his regal air.
His perfectly cut, dark-gray suit showcased broad shoulders, slim hips, and powerful quads. His unbuttoned jacket gaped with his hands-in-pocket stance to reveal a waistcoat buttoned over one very flat abdomen.
A Bluetooth wireless headset nestled snugly against his ear looking very Secret Service.
Looking very James Bond.
He was the whole package. From the dark glory of his devilish hair to the tips of his expensive-looking shoes. Not to mention those fallen angel lips. His mouth looked like it could drive a woman mad with passion one moment and verbally eviscerate her with one cruel twist, the next.
An eternity in purgatory had never looked so appealing.
"Hello? Hello? Earth to Addie."
Addie dragged her gaze away from the devil incarnate. "What?"
"I said, are you going to be okay to do this? Because if you're not going to go through with it, I will."
Addie shook her head, the beads in her hair clacking. They were here to save the garden, not to ogle the man who wanted to destroy it. "I'm fine."
She looked behind her at the loyal band of supporters still booing and heckling. Then she turned back to where Nathaniel Montgomery stood, hands in pockets, calmly watching.
"You're going to have to quiet them down, Penny. He's not going to budge until they do."
Penny pursed her lips. "Arrogant bastard," she muttered before turning the loudspeaker toward the crowd and calling them to order.
The protestors fell silent and Addie momentarily lost her breath as Nathaniel Montgomery inclined his head toward her.
"Thank you," he said, addressing the crowd. "I understand that there is opposition among the community. I thank you for your petition and your" — he paused and looked back at the chairs where the tome he'd been handed sat on his assistant's lap — "extensive alternative proposals. I give you my word, they will be considered."
Addie was mesmerized by the movement of those sinful lips and the deep, smooth timbre of his voice oozing over her like double cream and warmed Belgian chocolate.
In fact, everyone seemed to be mesmerized. In the middle of Wapping and amidst a crowd that had been a rowdy rabble only a moment ago, Addie swore she could hear the dropping of two-hundred-year-old rose petals.
She guessed it was true what the papers said — when Nathaniel Montgomery spoke, people really did listen.
Then someone from the crowd demanded to know why the St. Agnes's garden had to go and then they all began to chant, "Saved, not razed. Saved, not razed."
Penny turned to Addie. "Go," she whispered as she nodded to a man with an impressive camera hanging from his neck.
Addie looked around her and then back to the stage, where Nathaniel Montgomery had turned away and was gathering the rather austere-looking woman who'd accompanied him, preparing to leave.
The handcuffs dangled from her wrist and she grasped the chain hard. She squared her shoulders and hurried toward the podium, tripping up the last step and stumbling to a halt disturbingly close to the enemy. A hint of something that took her back to the spice markets in Marrakesh filled her nostrils.
She looked up, way up, into his uncompromising face. His hidden gaze was disconcerting, as was the unimpressed slash of his full mouth. He seemed cold and haughty, despite the heat radiating from him to far-flung parts of her body. In the face of such naked irritation, her commitment faltered.
She became aware of the hushed crowd looking at her expectantly, waiting for the big moment to unfold. Drawing herself up to her full five-foot-two inches, Addie looked him directly in the eye. At least she hoped it was his eye — who could tell with those damned blackout sunglasses obstructing the view?
"Nathaniel Montgomery," she announced, her voice calm and clear as she grabbed his hand. In two seconds, she had the other handcuff snapped around his wrist. "I arrest you in the name of the citizens of London and the Save St. Aggie's Garden Campaign for willful destruction, and gross disregard for the city's heritage."
Pandemonium broke out. The crowd broke into a chorus of jubilant cheers then resumed their chanting. A camera flash strobed. The council representative called for calm.
Addie looked down at the cuffs. She was bound to him.
The thought sent a shiver right through her middle.
He raised a haughty eyebrow at her. "Fluffy pink handcuffs? Seriously?"
Addie could hear the derision lacing his voice despite the noise around them. She stood her ground. "Worried pink trim will ruin your image?"
"Not at all." He shook his head. "Are they yours?"
The suggestive note in his voice slipped down her spine like a bead of warm water. She shrugged, trying to be nonchalant and pretend she wasn't locked into a set of sex-shop handcuffs with the devil personified. "Well, that's for me to know and you to find out."
"Indeed," he murmured, his voice low. "And trust me, in private I'm sure you and I could have a lot of fun with these. But now that you've had your moment in the sun and have your front-page story for the morning tabloids, could you please unlock me?"
He lifted his shackled arm, dragging hers with it, and Addie would have to have been deaf not to have heard his impatience. "Unlike you," he continued as more wild clapping and camera flashing ensued, "I have work to do. Where are the keys?"
Addie, stuck back at the part about the fun they could have in private, took a moment to catch up with his insult. Her first instinct was to sink to his level with a petty rebuke or dazzle him with her CV.
But it was obvious that a man like Nathaniel Montgomery would never understand her life choices, and she'd learned long ago what other people thought didn't matter. So she found her center and shot him her best beatific smile. "In the car."
"Good. Take me there now. Margaret?"
Addie's gaze flicked to the woman who stood slightly behind and to Nathaniel Montgomery's left. The slight twitch of her lips and her almost bored reply didn't fit with her ultra-efficient image — fiftyish, plump, conservative suit, graying chignon at her nape, wire half-moon glasses.
And with that, he departed the podium, dragging Addie with him. The jostling and jibes from the crowds as he passed seemed to glide straight off him, as did the profuse apologies of the trailing council rep.
Addie, who'd been barely able to keep up with his long stride, almost crashed into him as he came to an abrupt halt outside the disputed garden.
"Where?" he demanded, scanning the street.
"There," she said pointing to the lurid green Kombi van parked illegally farther up on the corner. It had seen better days, but Penny had been convinced that painting a rainbow on the side panel would give the faithful old girl the lift she needed.
Addie saw his wince as he took in the vehicle and heard his deep sigh. "That is your car?"
"No. It's Penny's car."
He cast the vehicle a disparaging glance and Addie was about to launch into a lecture about not judging books by their covers, but his abrupt, "Let's go, then," cut her off as his quick nod dismissed the boy/man from the council.
She struggled to keep up with him again on the gentle incline as he stalked toward the van. Margaret followed behind, the tap of her heels against the pavement setting the pace.
"Here we are," Addie announced, slightly out of breath as they drew level with the Kombi. She noticed that her fellow prisoner didn't seem to be similarly affected by the pace or the incline.
He ignored her chirpy announcement. "Keys."
Addie thought about delaying, using her time productively to talk about the cause as Penny would most certainly have done, but his grim face wasn't encouraging. And then he got a phone call, touched his earpiece, and began a conversation, turning away from her, tuning her presence out altogether.
She rolled her eyes and pulled open the Kombi's unlocked door, leaning across the front seat to access the glove box on the other side. For someone as short as her, it was quite a stretch, especially with one arm shackled to another human being. Reaching across, she unknowingly dragged him closer.
Nathaniel, engrossed in his conversation, felt the tug on his wrist. A strong smell of paint assailed him and he turned to investigate, still not quite able to believe the way the situation had degenerated into a comic farce. He found himself positioned perilously close to the woman's bottom.
She was head first in the car, her torso pressed along the bench seat, one sandal-clad foot raised on its toes, barely maintaining contact with the ground, the other sticking out like a ballerina in arabesque. The fabric of her tie-dyed fringed skirt had fallen against her body, leaving nothing to the imagination. It outlined petite buttocks and slender thighs.
Hers wasn't the sort of figure he usually took notice of. He preferred women with curves. Waifs had never been his thing and in her hippie blouse, scatty plaited hair, and ridiculous saucer-sized sunglasses, she definitely wasn't his type.
Yet despite that, images of what he could accomplish in these handcuffs with this woman in this position assailed him and had a predictable effect. He even lost his place in the conversation.
Annoyed that he had to ask his lawyer to repeat himself, he frowned down at her. "Hurry up."
"Hang on," came her grouchy response as he watched her groping blindly in the glove box. "It's here somewhere."
He tapped his foot as he spoke on the phone, watching her and that fascinating wriggle as she continued the search. He ground his teeth as the seconds dragged on, relieved when she finally announced, "Found it!" holding the keys triumphantly above her head.
She backed out of the van, straightening as she went. Nathaniel stopped mid-sentence as a tie-dyed bottom brushed his thighs, followed by a body that had grown more and more fascinating as it had wiggled and shifted in his direct line of sight. For a brief moment, her entire body settled against his and he suppressed the rather surprising urge to slide his free hand around her waist and pull her in closer.
Nathaniel heard the hitch in her voice and his shackled hand involuntarily brushed against her hip. "Carmichael, I'll call you back," he said before hitting the end button on his earpiece.
Addie stilled as the heat from his thighs seemingly burnt a hole in the skirt Penny had loaned her and insisted she wear. Hell, it was burning a hole right through her knickers! She shivered. Maybe he really was the devil.
His nearness had totally scrambled her senses. Her experience with men like this — the type that made her pulse race and jumbled her normally logical thoughts — was nonexistent. The guys she'd been with since her brush with mortality had been easygoing and undemanding. They'd made her laugh and think and look at the world differently.
They'd been gentle souls.
Surrounded by Nathaniel Montgomery's overwhelmingly virile presence, she was forced to admit that they'd all been boys by comparison.
A strange jittery feeling coursed through her body as he stood in close and tight. The horrifying possibility that she was going to be chained to this suffocatingly male man for life beat frantic wings at her brain and she hated how it felt, rising in her chest, threatening to choke her, her heart tripping along frantically.
This lack of control was too reminiscent of years gone by and she reached for the old techniques.
Take a breath.
Find your center.
One, two, three, five, seven, eleven ...
She listened to the voice as she took several deep breaths in and out. "Would you ..." Her voice was embarrassingly husky and she cleared her throat. "Would you mind moving, please?"
Excerpted from Taming the Tycoon by Amy Andrews, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2012 Amy Andrews. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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