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HACKER SAFE certified sites prevent over 99% of hacker crime.

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A Virgin for the Taking [Secure eReader]
eBook by Trish Morey

eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: When Ruby Clemenger inherits half of the Bastiani Pearl Corporation, she knows that her life is about to get complicated. Zane Bastiani, the pearl master's son, wants rid of Ruby--he thinks she was his father's mistress and can be easily bought. But Ruby's price is high. Unable to pay her off with cash, Zane decides to seduce Ruby into submission. He has nothing to lose--until he discovers Ruby is innocent--in every way....

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Presents
Fictionwise Release Date: November 2006


37 Reader Ratings:
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CHAPTER ONE

ZANE BASTIANI stepped on to the tarmac of Broome International Airport and felt the late wet-season humidity close around him like a vice. He glanced skyward in irritation, to where the source of the melting heat shone so unforgivingly above.

He'd forgotten about the heat. Other things had slipped his mind, too—like the sharp blue of the sky, the clear salt-tinged air and the sheer quality of the light. Nine years of dreary London weather and grey concrete architecture had disarmed him completely. He felt like a foreigner in his home town.

Nine years.

Hard to believe it was so long since he'd left with just his name and the conviction to make it big time on his own. Not that he'd wasted a minute of it. Now, with a terrace house in Chelsea, a chalet in Klosters and the chairmanship of the most aggressive merchant bank in London, he was well on his way.

And for every one of those nine years he'd been waiting for his father to call and admit that he'd been wrong, but when the call had finally come it hadn't been from his father at all.

'Not critical,' the doctor had assured him, 'but Laurence asked to see you.'

He'd asked to see Zane.

It might have taken a heart attack, but after all the bitterness between them, any request had to be worth something.

So Zane had taken the first flight out of London to anywhere that might offer the fastest connection with this remote north-west Australian location. His platinum credit card had taken care of the details.

He shrugged the kinks out of his shoulders as he headed for the terminal, steeling himself for meeting his father once again. When Zane had been just a kid growing up, Laurence Bastiani had always seemed larger than life, always the big man with the big voice and the big ideas who'd never succumbed to as much as the common cold. It made sense that it would take something like a heart attack to stop him in his tracks. Even so, it was impossible to picture him now, lying ill in hospital. His father would hate it. He'd probably have checked himself out of there already.

Inside the arrivals' terminal, ceiling fans spun languidly overhead, stirring up barely more than a breeze as travel-weary passengers began to crowd around the luggage carousel.

His one hastily packed leather bag, its red Priority tag swinging, came through first. He reached down, hauling it from the carousel, then headed towards the exit, making for the line of waiting taxis, increasingly aware the fine cotton of his shirt was already heavy with perspiration.

How long would it take to re-acclimatise to Broome's tropical temperatures, given he'd been away so many years? Not that it really mattered, he thought dismissively as he curled himself into a taxi and snapped out a brisk command to the driver. He'd be back in London long before there was any chance of that happening.

CHAPTER TWO

THE CRASH TEAM had departed, the tubes and needles removed, the equipment turned off. Strange—she'd grown to hate that incessant beeping of the monitor over the last couple of days with its constant reminder of Laurence's increasingly frail condition. But right now Ruby Clemenger would give anything to have that noise back—anything to break the deathly quiet of the room—anything at all if it meant that Laurence was still really here.

But Laurence was gone.

Her eyes felt scratchy and swollen, but there were no tears, not yet, because it was just so hard to accept. And so unfair. Fifty-five was way too young to die, especially when you had the vision and energy of Laurence Bastiani, the now late head of the largest cultured South Sea pearl operation in the world.

Even now he looked like he was sleeping, his hand still warm in hers. But there was no tell-tale rise and fall of his chest under the sheet, no flicker of eyelashes as if he was merely dreaming, no answering squeeze of his fingers.

She let her head fall forward on her chest, her eyelids jammed together as she tried to see past the yawning pit of despair inside her. But logic had deserted her tonight just as swiftly as Laurence's unexpected departure. And now all she could think about were his final words to her, half whispered, half choked, his fingers pressing urgently into her flesh as the attack that had finally taken his life overcame him.

'Look after him,' he'd managed to whisper. 'Look after Zane. And tell him—I'm sorry…'

And then the monitor's note had changed into one continual bleep and her thoughts had turned to panic. A heartbeat later the doors to the room had crashed open to a flurry of blue cotton and trolleyed machinery and in one swift blur she'd been expertly manoeuvred outside.

By the time they'd let her back in it was over and she'd never had a chance to ask him what he'd meant and why the son who hadn't bothered to contact his father the best part of a decade should need looking after or why Laurence felt he was the one who should apologise for his son's neglect. And she'd never had a chance to demand to know why the hell Laurence would expect her to be the one to do it.

But she had no time to squander on the prodigal son. After the way he'd neglected his father, Zane was so low on her radar he didn't register. Right now she'd lost her mentor, a father figure and an inspiration. Most of all, she'd lost a dear friend.

'Oh, Laurence,' she whispered, her voice cracking under the strain. 'I'll miss you so much.'

Copyright © 2006 by Trish Morey.


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