The Sinful Art of Revenge - By Maya Blake
AFTER THREE HUNDRED YARDS, turn right.
Damion Fortier ignored the sultry voice of his satellite navigator and accelerated his Bugatti Veyron past the floodlit tree-lined lane that led to Ashton Manor. The aging Duke he’d liberally plied with Krug and caviar all evening at his exclusive London private gentlemen’s club had supplied Damion with directions to a less well-known entrance to Sir Trevor Ashton’s Surrey country residence—one Damion fully intended to use.
Turn around when possible.
The veiled reproach barely registered. A quarter of a mile up the road he slowed down and turned into a narrower lane. Ahead of him he could see the rear of the aging Manor. The gardens on this side of the estate were remarkably less manicured than the showcased frontage cultivated to fool the less discerning. With an impatient hand he shut off the navigator’s repeated entreaty to turn around. He had reached his destination.
Satisfaction oozed through him even as confusion threaded doubt through his mind. Considering the money he’d spent to achieve what he wanted, this whole situation should have gone much more smoothly. He’d learnt very early on in life that some people responded only to cold, hard cash, and he’d expected it this time, too.
But his investigators had already been to Ashton Manor once before and been stonewalled. Which was unacceptable.
He stopped the car at the bottom of the back garden and stepped out.
Annoyance made his movements jerky as he climbed the stone steps and approached the ivy-trellised Manor. Despite being cloaked by the inky-black night, its dilapidated status couldn’t be hidden.
As he drew nearer he heard female laughter, interlaced with several deeper tones. He skirted a bramble-choked rosebush and felt it snag on his trouser leg. Jaw tightening, he stared down at his ruined trousers.
He reached down to free himself and hissed with anger when a thorn bit into his thumb.
Pressing his tongue to the torn flesh to stem the blood flow, Damion stepped up to the tall double windows of the Georgian mansion. Several couples stood outside the drawing room, preparing to take their leave. It was obvious they’d been partying a while; one or two of them weren’t quite steady on their feet.
Damion scanned the crowd but didn’t immediately spot her.
He stepped back onto the overgrown path, abandoning his previous intention of stealth. About to stalk round to the front of the Manor, Damion paused as a figure nudged into his peripheral vision.
Her presence was unobtrusive, her movements graceful, unhurried, intended not to draw attention to herself. And yet as if drawn by her magnetism, the group turned at her approach.
The light from the room spilled over her. The air snagged mid-breath in Damion’s chest and his whole body clenched in remembrance.
On any other woman the white kimono-style gown that lightly hugged her body would have looked simple and elegant—sexy but not sexual.
But on her the body-skimming design immediately drew the eye to her plump breasts, the tiny indentation of her cinched-in waist and the voluptuous curve of her hips. Damion followed the flow of the silk dress. If his memory served him right, she would either be wearing a very tiny thong or nothing at all underneath that silk.
Recalling her proclivity for designer thongs—and how he’d been obsessed with taking them off—he felt a pulse of heat shoot through him, surprising him with it intensity.
His frowning gaze rose to her face. She wore her hair differently now. A heavy fringe slanted over one temple, covering most of the right side of her face, while the rest of her long, dark hair hung thick and luxurious down her back. Her make-up was a little more on the heavy, dramatic side than he remembered her favouring, but even without those camouflaging accessories Damion recognised her immediately.
The woman he’d been hunting for weeks. The woman who’d become so skilled in camouflage and subterfuge she’d eluded his security experts. And almost eluded him, too, save for a chance conversation with a drunken duke …
Damion’s gaze travelled over her as she moved through the small gathering. She was still a strikingly beautiful woman … if you preferred your women pocket-Venus-size and duplicitous to the core.
People changed. He knew that. Hell, the five years since he’d last seen Reiko had taught him fresh life lessons he would willingly unlearn. But he’d never thought she would end up this way …
The epitome of all he despised.
Tightening his fist, he reminded himself of why he was here—because of his grandfather, the last of his blood relatives. The