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A Virgin for His Prize

By:Lucy Monroe

CHAPTER ONE

FURY FIGHTING WITH the pain of betrayal, Romi Grayson set her phone down on the table beside her with careful movements. The temptation to throw the mobile device across the room was staggering.

That lying, manipulative, opportunistic tycoon!

Maxwell Black had made it very clear to Romi that he wasn’t in the market for a long-term relationship, but that hadn’t meant he wasn’t interested in something else. His generosity in and out of bed with his lovers had been the fodder for gossip for years. As were the unexpectedly amicable breakups.

Max had promised Romi sexual pleasure beyond the scope of her imagination.

He’d said she would be the sole focus of his interest.

Until he was done with her.

The über-wealthy tycoon-playboy had offered Romi absolute fidelity with a time limit.

She’d walked away.

From the promise. From the possibilities. From the certainty of a broken heart.

They’d only dated a few times, but he’d sparked a depth of emotion in her that was both immediate and frightening. Terrifying for its intensity, Romi had had no doubts that she wouldn’t survive a breakup down the road with her heart intact.

Walking away after their short, almost platonic association had been painful enough. Almost being the operative word. Max had given Romi her first taste of sexual pleasure with a partner.

Awed by the sensations he evoked, she’d been close to giving in to Max’s offer.

Ultimately, she’d had no choice, though. Not with his attitude.

For all her “free-spirited” ways, Romi was a traditionalist at heart. She wanted a home, a family and the man she loved to be looking at the future, not the expiry date on their relationship.

That same man had been prepared to marry Romi’s sister-by-choice, Madison Archer.

For a payoff!

Shares in Archer International Holdings and the prospect of taking over when Jeremy Archer retired had tempted Maxwell Black to break his “no commitments” rule.

The mercenary cad.

It was an old-fashioned word, but man, it fit.

“Ramona!” Her dad’s wavering call came from the den he spent most of his time in these days.

He only made it into the office about two days a week, his longtime director of operations running Grayson Enterprises in everything but name.

Some might have expected Romi to take over the family business, but not her dad. Harry Grayson had always made it clear he expected his daughter to follow her own dreams.

Filtered sunlight from the single window on the north side cast the den in gray light. Her father sat on the sofa facing the dark screen of a wall-mounted big-screen television. The highball glass in his hand was empty but for a couple of ice cubes. Bloodshot, red-rimmed hazel eyes testified to the fact it hadn’t been empty for long, or often in the past hours.

She walked forward and took the glass from his unresisting fingers. “It’s only afternoon, Daddy. You don’t need this.”

There was a time when he hadn’t picked up a drink with alcohol in it before the cocktail hour. He’d drunk steadily from that point so that he went to bed every night so inebriated, walking up the stairs was a danger.

But the drinking hadn’t gone on during the day.

Over the past few years, the drinking had gotten worse while she was away at school. Her father now started at lunchtime with a glass of wine that often became a bottle.

But drinking hard liquor this early in the day was still something new.

Recognition took seconds to register in his rheumy gaze. “Ramona.”

“Yes, Daddy. You called me.” Something he never would have done sober.

Graysons did not do common things like shout through the house for one another. They used the intercom system.

But Harry Grayson didn’t look in any shape to cross the room to the intercom. His brows drew together in an exaggerated effort at concentrating. “I did?”

“Yes, Daddy, you did.”

He looked with confusion around the room, like the answer might leap out at him. “I think I lost the remote.”

Romi bent down and picked up the small electronic device from the floor at his feet. “Here it is.”

“Oh, thank you.” He frowned. “It’s not working.”

She swiped her hand on the screen and spoke the command to turn the TV on. The sound of afternoon news commentary filled the room from the surround-sound speakers.

“It’s working just fine.”

“Wouldn’t turn on for me,” her father slurred.

She wasn’t surprised. The remote was programmed to take voice instruction with recognizable commands, not speech blurred by alcohol.

“You look upset, kitten.”

That was the thing about her dad. Even with his brain pickled by too much drink, he cared about her. He paid attention. She had no trouble remembering that even drunk, her dad was twice the father than a man like Maddie’s dad could ever hope to be.

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