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Hot Commodity

By´╝ÜLinda Kage

One


Las Vegas, Nevada



Olivia Donovan should’ve known better than to answer the door to her twelfth-floor suite at the Hyatt Regency when someone rapped on it. She knew that sharp knock; only a headache would follow if she opened up. But the repercussions would be even more severe if she didn’t.

She smoothed out the wrinkles on the black cocktail dress she wore, skimming her fingers over her waist and hips. Then with a sigh, she took a firm hold of the doorknob, stalling one last moment to brace herself. The smile she bestowed upon her caller was practiced and as fake as the implanted breasts of the woman who stood before her.

Vivian Helbrock-Donovan-Roark sniffed as she glanced at Olivia’s attire with a condescending pucker to her painted eyebrows. Before Olivia could greet her, Vivian stepped over the threshold and past her daughter, sweeping into the room with a box tucked under her arm. "You’re not wearing that dust rag tonight."

Olivia paused in the middle of shutting the door. "But—"

"You’ll wear this instead." Vivian flung the box on the bed with enough enthusiasm to make the lid slip off a few inches, showing Olivia a peek of silky red material.

Her mouth dropped open. "You bought me a new dress? Thank y—"

"Your appreciation is unnecessary. And unwanted." Vivian whirled around, her mouth stretched thin with annoyance. "There’ll be a man at the dinner tonight. His name is Cameron Banks. When I introduce you to him, I want you to—" she glanced at the red peeking out from under the skewed lid—"dazzle him."

Olivia glanced at the dress as well, blinked twice, and turned back to her mother, shaking her head. "I don’t understand. You want me to do what exactly?" She was used to schmoozing people her mother didn’t like yet wanted to remain professionally connected to. This didn’t sound quite like

one of those instances, however.

Vivian’s sigh was loud and irritated. "I swear you’re as dense as your father was. Listen and listen good. Banks is just the kind of man I’ve always wanted in my back pocket. And his being family could ensure that. He always finds the hottest commodities on the market and invests at the right time." Shaking her head, she murmured, "The lucky SOB must have connections I could only dream of. It’s too bad Nolan hasn’t keeled over yet, or I’d be all over him myself. Here."

She thrust forward a business-size envelope with a Hyatt Regency logo in the top left hand corner. "I’ve written up a small dossier on Banks. Know it inside and out by the time you two are introduced. I want it to appear like there’s some kind of brain in the empty head of yours when he meets you."

Still rattled by confusion, Olivia accepted the envelope and opened it. Noticing there was a foil container inside with the folded sheet of paper, she lifted the small package before realizing it was a condom.

"I want you to treat him good, Olivia," Vivian murmured with a bit too much evil glee. "Make him want you more than any other woman he’s ever wanted."

Olivia’s mouth fell open.

"And make sure he wears it," Vivian advised, giving an ominous shake of her finger at Olivia’s nose. "He’ll think you’re responsible and trustworthy if you insist upon protection. Later, however," she added with a shrug, "if we need more leverage, we’ll poke holes in the latex. A baby might be able to convince him to marry you more than you could."

Flabbergasted, Olivia stared at the condom. She wished she could be a smart ass and spit back something like, "What, couldn’t you at least find one ‘ribbed for my pleasure’?" But her mind went blank as she studied the prophylactic, rubbing it between her fingers as if it might vanish into thin air with enough chafing and cease to ever have existed.

"Meet me in the lobby at seven," Vivian said. "We’ll walk to the conference hall together." Whistling, she turned and strolled from Olivia’s room.

Olivia couldn’t believe it. Vivian had no respect whatsoever for her only child. Yes, the woman actually whistled as she commanded her only daughter to whore herself out for Vivian’s career advancement.

For twenty-four years, Olivia had been the perfect daughter, striving to become someone her mother could love. She’d done everything Vivian Helbrock-Donovan-Roark demanded of her. Sit up straight, Olivia. Run along and stay out of the way, Olivia. Hold your comments to yourself, Olivia. Lie to the police for Mommy, Olivia.

Olivia had always obeyed, longing for a single crumb of affection.

Her hand trembled, her fingers constricting around the condom until it crumpled in her fist. She sank onto the bed next to the red dress. Lost and confused, she clutched the foil the way someone drowning in the ocean would hold onto the only life preserver around.

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