Terms of Engagement

By: Ann Major

Only On His Terms

He’s set his plan into motion. Billionaire Quinn Sullivan is so close to taking over his enemy’s beloved company. He simply has to marry his rival’s youngest daughter. But when Kira Murray begs him not to seduce her sister, Quinn can’t help being intrigued.

Here is a woman who dares to challenge him. A woman who ignites feelings far more exciting than those he holds for his intended bride. Now the tycoon has a new agenda. He’ll set aside his wedding plans…but only for a price the lovely Kira must willingly pay.

“Surely There Is Some Sacrifice You’d Be Willing To Make To Inspire Me to Change My Mind.”

“I…don’t know what you mean.”

“My hypothetical marriage to your sister is a business deal, after all. As a businessman, I would require compensation for letting the deal fall through.”

Quinn’s blue eyes stung her, causing the pulse in her throat to hammer frantically.

“Maybe…er…the satisfaction of doing a good deed for once in your life?” Kira said.

He laughed. “That’s a refreshing idea if ever I heard one—but, like most humans I’m driven by the desire to avoid pain and pursue pleasure.”

“And to think—I imagined you to be primarily driven by greed. Well, I don’t have any money.”

“I don’t want your money.”

“What do you want then?”

“I think you know,” he said silkily, leaning closer.



One

No good deed goes unpunished.

When would she ever learn? Kira wondered.

With her luck, never.

So, here she sat, in the office of oil billionaire Quinn Sullivan, too nervous to concentrate on her magazine as she waited to see if he would make time for a woman he probably thought of as just another adversary to be crushed in his quest for revenge.

Dreadful, arrogant man.

If he did grant her an audience, would she have any chance of changing his mind about destroying her family’s company, Murray Oil, and forcing her sister Jaycee into marriage?

A man vengeful enough to hold a grudge against her father for twenty years couldn’t possibly have a heart that could be swayed.

Kira Murray clenched and unclenched her hands. Then she sat on them, twisting in her chair. When the man across from her began to stare, she told herself to quit squirming. Lowering her eyes to her magazine, she pretended to read a very boring article on supertankers.

High heels clicked rapidly on marble, causing Kira to look up in panic.

“Miss Murray, I’m so sorry. I was wrong. Mr. Sullivan is still here.” There was surprise in his secretary’s classy, soothing purr.

“In fact, he’ll see you now.”

“He will?” Kira squeaked. “Now?”

The secretary’s answering smile was a brilliant white.

Kira’s own mouth felt as dry as sandpaper. She actually began to shake. To hide this dreadful reaction, she jumped to her feet so fast she sent the glossy magazine to the floor, causing the man across from her to glare in annoyance.

Obviously, she’d been hoping Quinn would refuse to see her. A ridiculous wish when she’d come here for the express purpose of finally meeting him properly and having her say.

Sure, she’d run into him once, informally. It had been right after he’d announced he wanted to marry one of the Murray daughters to make his takeover of Murray Oil less hostile. Her father had suggested Jaycee, and Kira couldn’t help but think he’d done so because Jaycee was his favorite and most biddable daughter. As always, Jaycee had dutifully agreed with their father’s wishes, so Quinn had come to the ranch for a celebratory dinner to seal the bargain.

He’d been late. A man as rich and arrogant as he was probably thought himself entitled to run on his own schedule.

Wounded by her mother’s less-than-kind assessment of her outfit when she’d first arrived—“Jeans and a torn shirt? How could you think that appropriate for meeting a man so important to this family’s welfare?”—Kira had stormed out of the house. She hadn’t had time to change after the crisis at her best friend’s restaurant, where Kira was temporarily waiting tables while looking for a museum curator position. Since her mother always turned a deaf ear to Kira’s excuses, rather than explain, Kira had decided to walk her dad’s hunting spaniels while she nursed her injured feelings.

The brilliant, red sun that had been sinking fast had been in her eyes as the spaniels leaped onto the gravel driveway, dragging her in their wake. Blinded, she’d neither seen nor heard Quinn’s low-slung, silver Aston Martin screaming around the curve. Slamming on his brakes, he’d veered clear of her with several feet to spare. She’d tripped over the dogs and fallen into a mud puddle.

Yipping wildly, the dogs had raced back to the house, leaving her to face Quinn on her own with cold, dirty water dripping from her chin.

Quinn had gotten out of his fancy car and stomped over in his fancy Italian loafers just as she got to her feet. For a long moment, he’d inspected every inch of her. Then, mindless of her smudged face, chattering teeth and muddy clothes, he’d pulled her against his tall, hard body, making her much too aware of his clean, male smell and hard, muscular body.

“Tell me you’re okay.”

He was tall and broad-shouldered, so tall he’d towered over her. His angry blue eyes had burned her; his viselike fingers had cut into her elbow. Despite his overcharged emotions, she’d liked being in his arms—liked it too much.

“Damn it, I didn’t hit you, did I? Well, say something, why don’t you?”

“How can I—with you yelling at me?”

“Are you okay, then?” he asked, his grip loosening, his voice softening into a husky sound so unexpectedly beautiful she’d shivered. This time, she saw concern in his hard expression.

Had it happened then?

Oh, be honest, Kira, at least with yourself. That was the moment you formed an inappropriate crush on your sister’s future fiancé, a man whose main goal in life is to destroy your family.

He’d been wearing faded jeans, a white shirt, his sleeves rolled up to his elbows. On her, jeans looked rumpled, but on him, jeans had made him ruggedly, devastatingly handsome. Over one arm, he carried a cashmere jacket.

She noted his jet-black hair and carved cheekbones with approval. Any woman would have. His skin had been darkly bronzed, and the dangerous aura of sensuality surrounding him had her sizzling.

Shaken by her fall and by the fact that the enemy was such an attractive, powerful man who continued to hold her close and stare down at her with blazing eyes, her breath had come in fits and starts.

“I said—are you okay?”

“I was fine—until you grabbed me.” Her hesitant voice was tremulous…and sounded strangely shy. “You’re hurting me, really hurting me!” She’d lied so he would let her go, and yet part of her hadn’t wanted to be released.

His eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Sorry,” he’d said, his tone harsh again.

“Who the hell are you anyway?” he’d demanded.

“Nobody important,” she’d muttered.

His dark brows winged upward. “Wait…I’ve seen your pictures… You’re the older sister. The waitress.”

“Only temporarily…until I get a new job as a curator.”

“Right. You were fired.”

“So, you’ve heard Father’s version. The truth is, my professional opinion wasn’t as important to the museum director as I might have liked, but I was let go due to budget constraints.”

“Your sister speaks highly of you.”

“Sometimes I think she’s the only one in this family who does.”

Nodding as if he understood, he draped his jacket around her shoulders. “I’ve wanted to meet you.” When she glanced up at him, he said, “You’re shivering. The least I can do is offer you my jacket and a ride back to the house.”

Her heart pounded much too fast, and she was mortified that she was covered with mud and that she found her family’s enemy exciting and the prospect of wearing his jacket a thrill. Not trusting herself to spend another second with such a dangerous man, especially in the close quarters of his glamorous car, she’d shaken her head. “I’m too muddy.”

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