The Russian's Ultimatum(3)

By: Michelle Smart

Her pretty heart-shaped face glared at him, defiance pouring off her.

It was hardly surprising he hadn’t recognised her from the camera that piped to a small screen in his private room. When he’d met her at his buy-out party, she’d been dressed in a long, black lace dress with ruffles, complemented by a pair of black biker boots and dark, dramatic make-up. All the black had contrasted sharply with her porcelain skin.

While the other women at the party had made an effort with their attire, Emily had deliberately set out to subvert. All she’d needed was a black veil sitting atop her long, dark ringlets which had spilled out in all directions and she’d have been the perfect gothic bride.

Today, though, she had tamed her curls into a bun—although tendrils were falling round her face—and was dressed in ordinary business attire of a knee-length navy skirt with a matching blazer and a delicate cream blouse. On her feet were ordinary, businesslike black court shoes and her face was make-up free. No wonder he hadn’t recognised her, not until she’d raised those dark-brown eyes to meet his.

He would have recognised those eyes anywhere, dark but with flickers of yellow firing through them. Under the light of the function room the party had been hosted in, the colours had melded together, glimmering like a fire opal.

Those same eyes were staring at him now, loathing radiating from them.

He held his hand out and waited. If necessary, he would wait all day.

It wasn’t necessary. Emily slipped her hand into her back pocket and pulled out a small silver device. She dropped it into the palm of his hand and stepped straight back, away from him.

As he’d suspected: a memory stick.

He strolled round to his seat, still warm from her bottom, and folded his arms. ‘Sit down.’

After a beat, Emily grabbed the chair opposite him and dragged it to the other side of his office, literally as far away from him as she could get it.

‘So, Emily, it is time for you to start talking. Why were you trying to steal the files from my laptop?’

‘Why do you think? I’m trying to prove my father’s innocence.’

‘By stealing my files?’

‘I had to do something. According to my sources, you haven’t even started the investigation into the missing money you’ve accused him of taking. The stress of it all is making him seriously ill.’

Emily would do anything in her power to clear her father’s name. Anything. She had to give him something that would make his life—make him—feel as if it were worthwhile again.

As much as it pained her heart, Emily knew she would never be a good enough reason for her father to go on.

She’d watched him go through these dark times as a child, long periods where he wouldn’t get out of bed for weeks on end. It had been terrifying. Back then, her mother had held them all together: had held him together. But now her mother was dead. The rock they’d all relied upon was gone.

In the space of three months her father had lost the wife he’d adored and been suspended from the job he’d taken such pride in. The threat of the police knocking on his door and a subsequent prison sentence loomed over him. With hindsight, it had been obvious he would try to kill himself. He’d very nearly succeeded.

Losing her mother had been the single most devastating thing that had ever happened to her, a fresh, open wound that couldn’t begin to heal while her father’s mental and physical health were so precarious. If she were to lose him too...

Pascha gathered the file Emily had been reading when he’d caught her. So she had sources within his company, did she? That was something to think about later on. There was a much more important factor to consider first, namely how much of the file she’d read. He had no way of knowing how long she’d been in his office before he’d caught sight of her on the monitor. No longer than ten minutes, that was certain, as that had been the length of time since he’d left it. But long enough to read about things she had no business knowing.

‘We will move on to the subject of your father shortly,’ he said. ‘In the meantime, tell me what you read in this file. And don’t say you didn’t read anything, because you were engrossed in it.’

For long moments she didn’t answer, simply stared at him, her eyes squinting as if in thought. As if she were weighing him up... ‘Not much. Only that a company called RG Holdings is buying out Plushenko’s.’

Plushenko’s was a Russian jewellery firm whose trinkets were regarded as some of the most luxurious in the world and came with a price tag to match, the Plushenko brand rivalling that of the other famous Russian jeweller, Fabergé. At least, it had been regarded as such. In recent years the jewels had lost much of their lustre and sales were a fraction of what they had been a decade ago. Amidst the highest secrecy, Pascha was gearing up for a buyout, using a front company.

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