Shackled by Diamonds

By: Julia James

For a full moment Leo did nothing but look, taking in the vision she presented. She really was quite exceptional…

Then, abruptly, a frown drew his brows together. He strode towards her.

She’d been standing on her own, a glass of champagne in one long black-satined hand, and she was gazing up at the snarling mask of a long-dead boar on one of the walls. There was an expression of strong disapproval on her face.

‘Why are you not wearing the rest of the parure?’ he demanded as he reached her.

Her head spun round.

There was that flaring of her pupils again, he could see it. But right now he wasn’t interested. He was interested only in why she was not wearing the tiara, earrings and bracelets that matched the necklace, as she’d been instructed to do that evening.

‘Well?’ he prompted.

She seemed to collect herself minutely.

‘One of the bulbs was on the blink,’ she answered.

Leo frowned more deeply.

‘What?’ he snapped.

‘As in Christmas lights. I mean,’ she asked him, ‘did you actually want me wandering around looking like a Christmas tree? It just looked ridiculously overdone wearing the whole lot together.’

‘And that was your decision, was it?’

The tone was mild, but it raised the hairs on the back of Anna’s neck.

There was no way she was backing down, though. She’d seen her reflection when she’d been wearing the whole lot, and she’d just looked like a glitterball.

‘It would,’ she riposted pointedly, ‘be the decision of anyone who had any taste.’

His eyes narrowed at her tone. ‘My instructions were quite clear.’

Anna knew exactly what she should say. Leo Makarios was paying her to model his jewellery, and he called the shots. She should say docilely, Of course, Mr Makarios. Three bags full, Mr Makarios.

But she didn’t.

‘Well, you were wrong,’ she said instead. ‘To wear any more jewellery than this necklace would be irredeemably vulgar.’

His face stilled. Something changed in the heavy-lidded eyes. She ought to back down; she knew she should. But she never backed down. If you did you got walked over.

For one long moment his eyes simply rested on her. She could feel the tension start to edge through her.

Then she realised what he was doing.

Out-psyching her.

So she took the battle into his corner.

‘Surely, Mr Makarios,’ she posed limpidly, ‘a man with all your money would not wish to appear vulgar?’

For one timeless second it hung in the balance. And for that moment Anna found herself hoping for something—and she didn’t even know why she was hoping for it.

But she got it all the same.

At the corner of his mouth, almost imperceptibly, she saw a quirk.

Something lightened inside her. She didn’t know what, or why, but it did.

Then the quirk vanished and the mouth was a straight, tight line once more, the heavy-lidded eyes quelling.

‘You live dangerously,’ said Leo Makarios softly. ‘Don’t do it on my time.’

He gave a brief indication of his head. ‘Go and put the jewels back on.’

He walked away. Cutting her out of existence.

For one intense moment an urge so strong almost overpowered her and she had to steel her whole body. She wanted to vault forward, lift her empty hand up and bring it slashing down. But, slowly, she stood, letting the aggressive urge drain out of her. Why on earth should she let a man like Leo Makarios get to her? He was just one more rich man who liked the world the way he paid it to be. And right now he was paying her to wear his jewels. All his jewels. However vulgar such an over-the-top display would be. She gave a shrug.

He wanted diamonds? She’d put on diamonds.

As she strode off, as fast as her narrow skirt would permit, she did not see a pair of heavy-lidded eyes flick past the shoulder of the chief executive Leo happened to be speaking to and rest narrowingly on her.

Then, as she disappeared from view, he went back seamlessly to discussing the implications of the latest G8 summit on world trade.

The chamber orchestra was tuning up, people were taking their seats in the ballroom. Unlike the medieval-style hall, the ballroom was pure rococo, lined with mirrors and with an extravagantly carved gilded ceiling. Set diagonally, like miniature wings either side of the orchestra, were two pairs of gilt fauteuils. They were for the models, so the audience could admire the Levantsky jewels in their massed splendour while they listened to Mozart. Three of the girls, noted Leo, as he entered, had just taken their places. His eyes flicked over them again as he made some conversational reply to the wife of one of the Austrian government ministers sitting beside him.

The redhead was gazing into the audience, openly searching for Markos. The brunette, Leo noted with mild surprise, had lost her vacant look and was talking animatedly to the musician closest to her.

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