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Harlequin Presents
ISBN: 0373133340
April 2015
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Mills & Boon
ISBN: 0263257738
April 2015
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Excerpt from Olivero's Outrageous Proposal

CHAPTER ONE

ALYSE had almost given up on her plan, and was on the verge of deciding that the whole thing was a crazy, downright dangerous idea, when she saw him. She was actually thinking about leaving before this dazzling charity ball had really got started, suffering second and even third thoughts about the wild scheme she had come up with when the crowd before her parted slightly and the pathway that created led straight from her to the tall, dark male on the opposite side of the room.

Her breath caught, snatching inward, and she knew that her eyes had widened even as she pushed back a fall of golden blonde hair so as to see him better. He was . . .

'Perfect . . .'

The word slipped past her lips, escaping her control and actually whispering into the over-heated air.

The man on the far side of the room looked so different, alien almost. He stood out as vividly as a big black eagle in the middle of a bunch of glorious, sparkling peacocks. Of the same species but somehow totally unlike everyone else.

And that difference was what caught her eyes and held them, finding it impossible to look away. She even froze with her champagne flute halfway to her lips, unable to complete the movement.

He was stunning. There was no other word for it. Tall and strong with a lean, powerful physique encased in the sleek sophistication of the formal clothes in a way that somehow made him look dangerously untamed in contrast to the elegant silk suit, the pristine white of his shirt. His tie had been tugged loose at some point by impatient, restless hands, and it now dangled limply around his throat where the top button of his shirt had been wrenched open too, as if he needed space to breathe. The fall of his black hair was worn longer than any other man's there, like the mane of a powerful lion. High slashing cheekbones were etched above the lean stretch of his cheeks, long dark lashes concealing the burn of his eyes as he stared out across the room, the faint smile on his sensual mouth one of cold derision rather than any real sign of warmth.

And it was that that made him perfect. The faint but obvious sign that, like her, he didn't quite belong here. Of course, she doubted that he'd been pushed out into the public world for a change as she had. Her father had insisted that she came here tonight, when she'd much rather have stayed at home.

'You need to get out after spending your days stuck in that poky little art gallery,' he'd said.

'I like my days in the gallery!' Alyse had protested. It might not be the job in fine art she'd hoped for, but she earned her own money and if nothing else, it gave her a break from the stresses at home when the demands of her mother's illness seemed to throw a black cloud over everything.

'But you'll never meet anyone, unless you socialise more.'

For 'anyone' read Marcus Kavanaugh, Alyse thought wryly. The man who had made her life hell recently with his unwanted attentions, his persistent visits and determination to persuade her to marry him. He'd even started turning up at the 'poky little' art gallery so that she had no peace from him. Then just recently for some reason Alyse's father seemed to have decided that the marriage would be a match made in heaven.

'He might be your boss's son and heir, but he's just not my type!' she'd protested but it was obvious that her father wasn't listening. He wasn't actually pressing her to accept Marcus's proposal, but all the same it was plain that he thought it was unlikely that she'd do better with anyone else.

In the end, exhausted by feeling harassed and oppressed, she'd resolved to come to the ball tonight and use the event as a way to break out of the predicament in which she found herself. Which was where the stranger across the room came in.

Of course, this man obviously wasn't slightly out of his depth like her. His height and stature the fine cut of his clothes were the match of anyone here, and his expression showed that he wouldn't give a damn what anyone thought of him. Which gave him an added advantage as the necessary partner in what she had hoped for tonight.

Her partner in crime as it were.

It was as that thought crossed her mind that it seemed it had reached out and touched the man opposite. Because he stirred as if something had alerted him. That leonine head swung round, and his eyes clashed with hers.

It seemed that in the moment that her eyes met his the world suddenly tilted, lurching dizzily, so that she actually reached out a hand to press against the wall beside her and keep herself upright.

Danger.

Excerpt from Olivero's Outrageous Proposal © Kate Walker

 

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