Claimed for Makarov's Baby: Christmas at the Castello (bonus novella) (The Bond of Billionaires)

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9780373133758: Claimed for Makarov's Baby: Christmas at the Castello (bonus novella) (The Bond of Billionaires)

Stop the wedding! 

Dimitri Makarov's former secretary is getting married, but instead of congratulating the happy couple, the masterful oligarch plans to stop the wedding... For he's just discovered that the blushing bride is also mother to his secret son! 

Erin Turner thought her luck was changing until Dimitri dispatches her convenient groom with his signature ruthlessness. But in other ways the high-flying businessman seems completely reformed from the disreputable bad boy she once knew.  

The chilling truth: whether it's business, billions or bedding women, Dimitri doesn't do anything by halves; he's not just here to claim his child, but Erin, as well!

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Sharon Kendrick started story-telling at the age of eleven and has never stopped. She likes to write fast-paced, feel-good romances with heroes who are so sexy they’ll make your toes curl! She lives in the beautiful city of Winchester – where she can see the cathedral from her window (when standing on tip-toe!). She has two children, Celia and Patrick and her passions include music, books, cooking and eating – and drifting into daydreams while working out new plots.

Amanda was born and raised in an Irish- Italian family in the suburbs of County Dublin, Ireland. Her passion for writing developed at a young age as a necessary outlet for an overactive imagination. She now splits her time between being a stay at home mom and writing love stories. 

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

It didn't mean anything. It was just a means to an end. A few words and a signature on a piece of paper and then afterwards...

Erin swallowed as the silky white dress brushed against her bare ankles. Afterwards she would be able to create a better future. A different kind of future. Most of all, she would be secure—and wasn't that the whole point of this? That she would be safe.

But she could feel her palms growing clammy as she clutched the bouquet of flowers her groom had insisted she buy—'It will add authenticity...'—and wondered if her bright, forced smile would add the same kind of authenticity. She doubted it. As she walked towards the registrar's desk her face was reflected back in a mirror—a face almost as white as her dress. Beside her stood a man—a kind man and a dear friend whom she must pretend to love, at least until the ceremony was over. And that was the hardest part of all.

Because she didn't believe in love. She'd tried it once and it had only reinforced what she'd already known. That love was for fools, and hadn't she been the biggest one of all? She'd picked the worst kind of man. A man who was not worthy of love. Of anyone's love.

The two witnesses were sitting quietly and the registrar was smiling, too, but Erin was certain she could see suspicion in the smart middle-aged woman's eyes. Did she guess? Did she have any kind of inkling that Erin Turner was about to break the law for the first time in her life?

Beside her, Chico reached out and curled his fingers around her wrist, giving it a comforting squeeze as the registrar began to speak.

'You are here to witness the joining in matrimony of Chico and Erin.'

There was a pause as Erin heard a door behind her open and the sound of footsteps, but her heart was thumping too loudly to care who had just walked in. Her smile felt as brittle as glass. Her hand was now so slippery that she was afraid of dropping the flowers. And then the question was being asked. The question she had practised not reacting to over and over again.

'If any person present knows of any lawful impediment to this marriage, he or she should declare it now.'

She watched the registrar give a quick nod—as if this particular query always got the same silent response—when suddenly a voice shattered the quiet of the institutional room.

'Da. I do.'

For a split second Erin froze and then she whirled round as she heard the Russian accent, her head refusing to believe what her heart and her body were telling her. That it was nothing but a mistake—a mistake with especially bad timing.

And then she was caught and captured—lasered by the brilliance of a pair of icy blue eyes—and Erin's heart plummeted, for this was no mistake. This was real. As real as the silk flowers which stood on the registrar's desk. As real as the sudden thunder of blood to her heart. Like a fizzing firework thrown into the blackest night, Dimitri Makarov was dominating the room with his unique blend of sex appeal and power, just as he always did.

Her fingers bit into the fleshy stems of her flowers as she stared at him. He was wearing a silvery-grey suit which emphasised his powerful build, and the artificial light from the cheap chandelier had turned his hair to molten gold. Prestige and privilege pulsated from every pore of his muscular body as he flicked his icy gaze over her.

But something about him was different. Gone was the bloodshot glow which had sometimes marred the beauty of those spectacular eyes. And gone, too, was the faint stubble which had habitually darkened his jaw and made him look slightly disreputable. This man was clean-shaven and his eyes were bright and clear and... .penetrating.

'Dimitri,' Erin breathed.

'Da. The very same,' he said, his voice mocking her, but the look on his face sent a shiver down her spine. 'Pleased to see me, Erin?'

He knows, thought Erin.

He knows.

She told herself that he couldn't possibly know. It was over six years since she'd last seen him, when he'd made it clear how little she had meant to him. His attitude towards her had been insulting and dismissive—reminding her all too clearly that she'd only ever been a minion in his life. Somebody he could just shove aside when she got too close. And that was what had happened, wasn't it? She'd got way too close.

She thought of Leo and why she was here. Of everything she was fighting for, and she forced a smile onto her lips. Because if she showed the slightest sign of weakness, Dimitri would leap on it.

And devour her.

'This is rather bad timing,' she said lightly.

'I disagree. The timing could not have been better.'

'I'm just about to get married, Dimitri. To Chico.'

'I don't think so.' His gaze flicked over Chico, who was standing with his mouth gaping open and a distinct look of alarm in his eyes.

'Is there a problem?' asked the registrar pleasantly, but Erin could see her glancing at the telephone which sat on the desk beside the silk flowers, as if convincing herself that a line to the outside world lay within easy reach.

'A problem of a purely emotional nature,' answered Dimitri smoothly as he began to walk towards Erin.

Erin stiffened as he closed the space between them and even as her body started going into some sort of automatic meltdown at his approach the irony of his words did not escape her. Was Dimitri Makarov really claiming something to be of an emotional nature— when he was about as familiar with emotion as a shark was to sitting around a fire and warming its fin?

'Miss Turner?' said the registrar, fixing Erin with a questioning look, as if she was eager for the unexpected floor show to be over.

But it wasn't over. It was nowhere near over. Because Dimitri had now reached her and his tall shadow was enveloping her, like a stifling cloud which seemed to have sucked all the air from her lungs. She told herself to stop him—to scream out her protest or shove at that broad chest with one indignant hand—but she seemed powerless to do anything. And suddenly it was too late, because he was pulling her against him and his hands were wrapped around her back as he held her close. Trapped against his body, she could feel his fingers imprinting themselves on the thin silk of her wedding dress and it felt as if he were touching her bare skin. With a shuddered breath she lifted her face to his, to the icy glitter of his eyes, which studied her for a long moment before he bent his head to kiss her.

Erin could sense the contempt underpinning his action, but that didn't stop her lips from opening automatically beneath his, or her body starting to tremble the moment he touched her. Weakly, she recognised that this was not a kiss driven by affection or lust, but a mark of possession—a stamp of ownership. Yet it was a kiss too potent to resist and stupidly—even now—it made her start longing for the things she was never going to have.

He was pulling her closer, bringing her up against the proud jut of his hips and the unmistakable hardness at their centre, which was hidden from everyone in the room but her. She thought how... .outrageous it was for him to push his erection against her quite so blatantly when there were other people around, but that didn't stop her from reacting to it, did it—from wanting him deep inside her? She could feel the melting heat of desire and the betraying prickle of her breasts as she tried to stop her body from pushing so insistently against his. Her breathing was shallow as it mingled with the warmth of his and she felt the moist flicker of his tongue, which promised so much pleasure. Oh, why was it Dimitri and only Dimitri who could ever make her feel this way? she thought despairingly.

Fleetingly, she wondered if Chico would do anything to stop what was happening—but what could he do, even if he was that kind of man? How could he tell Dimitri to back off when they were about to commit a crime? That this was nothing but a sham marriage, so that Chico could get his work permit.

She felt the bouquet slide from her nerveless fingers to the ground and she was afraid she might do the same when, suddenly, Dimitri terminated the kiss. His shadowed features tensed as he drew away from her—but not before his eyes had glittered out a warning and Erin knew exactly what that warning meant. She had worked for him for years. She knew how his mind worked—at least, some of the time—and the message in their icy blue depths was as clear as day. Leave this to me, they said, and something inside her rebelled.

Did he really think he could waltz back into her life and start taking over, after all the grief he'd given her in the past? Because Dimitri was a man who took, she reminded herself grimly. Who took and took and never gave anything back. And he wasn't going to take anything else from her. Not any more. There were good reasons why he was no longer in her life—and even better ones why it should stay that way.

'How dare you?' she spat out, her voice shaking. 'What the hell do you think you're playing at?'

'You know exactly what I'm playing at, Erin.'

'You can't do this,' she said, meeting his gaze with a rebellious tilt of her chin. 'You can't.'

'No?' His pale eyes glittered in response. 'Just watch me.'

'Would someone mind explaining exactly what is going on?' asked the registrar, her polite tone not quite hiding her growing irritation. 'We have a number of weddings following yours and this unexpected interruption is—'

'There isn't going to be any wedding,' said Dimitri softly. 'Is there, Erin?'

They had all turned to look at her. Chico. The two witnesses. The registrar. But the only face Erin could see was Dimitri's and the icy challenge in his eyes. And suddenly it wasn't so easy to be rebellious. Suddenly, her certainties began to crumble as she recognised the glint of danger in the Russian's eyes.

She opened her mouth—so dry that it felt like parchment—before shutting it again with a snap. She looked at the faint frown on Chico's brow. Was he perceptive enough to know that if he dared confront Dimitri, he risked everything—that it would be like a centipede preparing to do battle with a lion? Or had the Russian effectively humiliated him by kissing his bride-to-be in full view of everyone, thus silencing any objections for ever?

But none of this mattered. Not really. Only Leo mattered and she didn't dare put his livelihood at risk. A mother being dragged in front of the courts for participating in a sham marriage could not really be deemed a fit mother. Imagine the shame and the terror and the very real threat of a fine—or even jail. Her mouth set into a determined line, because nothing like that was ever going to impact on her beloved son. Wasn't she only doing this to guarantee him a secure future and the feeling of safety which had always eluded her?

Tm afraid it does look as if we might have to postpone the wedding,' she said, as apologetically as she could—though nothing in her vocabulary seemed a suitable response for such a bizarre situation. What could she say? She looked around nervously, like a stage compère facing a hostile audience. 'Dimitri is—'

'The only man she really wants—as her public capitulation has just proved,' said the Russian with cool arrogance and an even more arrogant smile, which only emphasised the rage in his eyes. 'Isn't that right, Erin?'

And now she saw something more than danger in his eyes. She saw the dark flicker of knowledge and Erin's heart twisted with pain. He did know! He must know. Had he somehow found out about Leo?

Her instinct was to get away from him and she wondered what would happen if she just picked up the skirts of her long dress and ran as fast as her feet could take her. The anonymous grey of the autumnal London day would swallow her up, leaving Dimitri far behind. She could take her wedding dress back to the same thrift shop from which she'd bought it. She could pick up Leo from school herself and tell him that Mummy wasn't going away on holiday after all and that they wouldn't be moving to a big house in the country.

If she ran away from him, she could cope—somehow. True, none of her immediate problems would have been solved, but she felt as if she could deal with anything as long as it wasn't beneath the Russian's unforgiving scrutiny and the fear of what he might or might not know.

But he had placed his hand at the small of her back—a light but proprietorial gesture which somehow managed to send out conflicting reactions of desire and dread. And she knew she wouldn't be running anywhere, any time soon.

'I'm sure this kind of thing happens all the time,' he said smoothly. 'The bride getting cold feet when she realises she's making a big mistake.'

The registrar put her pen down. 'Perhaps you would all like to leave the building,' she said quietly, 'and sort out your problems somewhere else?'

'My sentiments entirely. Do you happen to have a room we could use to talk in private?' questioned Dimitri in a pleasant tone which didn't quite conceal the steely note of determination. And then he smiled and it was like the moon appearing from behind a dark cloud. 'Please?'

The registrar looked up at him, her disapproving expression melting away beneath the sensual impact of that unexpected smile.

'There is somewhere you can use,' she said grudgingly. 'But please don't be long.'

'Oh, we won't be long. It won't take long for me to say what I need to say,' said Dimitri softly, his hand still at the small of Erin's back. 'That I can promise you.'

'Come with me, then.'

They all followed the registrar out into the corridor and the two witnesses who'd been plucked from the street shrugged their shoulders and headed for the exit, probably to the nearest pub. Erin saw the shell-shocked expression on Chico's face as Dimitri ushered her past and her feelings of powerlessness only increased.

The registrar was opening the door to a featureless-looking room, but now that some of the initial shock was leaving her system Erin started to recover some of her equilibrium. Remember why you were doing this, she reminded herself fiercely. There were good, solid reasons why you did what you did.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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