A Virgin to Redeem the BillionaireBy: Dani Collins
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, we’ve had a surprise offer for the entire estate by Mr. Kaine Michaels. A figure has been accepted by the family for the house and all the contents. We will not be auctioning individual items. Thank you for coming, but no further bidding will take place.”
“What? No.” Gisella Drummond barely heard her own gasped words over the babble of discontent that rose from the crowd seated around her. They all let their bidding paddles droop in shock.
She instinctively looked to the tall stranger who had appeared in the room moments ago. He had captivated her as he entered to confer with the officials on a small dais near the fireplace. He was sinfully sexy in a suede jacket worn with casual elegance over black jeans and a button shirt without a tie.
Her first impression had been that his renegade appearance didn’t fit this setting at all. The Manhattan mansion was a gorgeous ode to French Renaissance style, full of antique furniture placed with care on fading silk rugs under crystal chandeliers. Marble columns held up the low ceilings, and heavy velvet drapes blocked out the view of Central Park. That man was too rough around the edges for such a pristine, refined space. Had he really bought it, lock, stock and barrel?
Beside her, Mr. Walters cursed the man. He was one of her uncle’s longtime business associates, had asked after her family and had confided he intended to buy the house.
Gisella was here only for an earring, but she was equally disappointed by this turn of events, probably more so. “Do you know him?”
“He owns Riesgo Ventures.” Mr. Walters spoke with a disparaging sneer. “It’s a tech company out of San Francisco. If he thinks he’s earning any goodwill in this city with a move like that...”
She was curious what else Mr. Walters knew about him, but through the confusion of people rising and talking, she saw Kaine Michaels was leaving.
Urgency gripped her. She quickly excused herself and jostled as politely as she could through the milling bodies toward the door.
For a second, she thought she’d missed catching him. He wasn’t exiting through the front doors of the entry foyer, though. His long legs had carried him up the wide, carpeted stairs to the gallery. He was moving along it with an auction house official hurrying to keep up.
She trotted up after him and pursued them down the hall. They paused at a pair of open double doors. The official spoke to the security guard standing watch.
“This is Mr. Michaels. He has just purchased the house and all of its contents. You can allow him to take anything he likes.”
“Just the one piece,” he said, indicating something on the clipboard in the official’s hand. “The rest can go into storage.”
“Mr. Michaels,” she called, wanting one piece herself before everything was sent to a remote, humidity-controlled facility.
He glanced back at her, then drawled to the guard, “Actually, you can go downstairs and show everyone the door.”
The guard gave her a hard look, as if he meant to include her in his sweep.
She held up a hand. “I only need a moment.”
Kaine jerked his head to dismiss the guard, then glanced at the official. The other man nodded and moved quickly into what looked like a sitting room. The jumble of paintings and sculptures wore numbered tags. So did a handful of furniture and other items. This was clearly the staging area for the auction.
The earring was probably among that collection, practically within reach. Butterflies of excitement batted around her midsection.
“Your moment is almost up,” Kaine said.
She looked to him and lost her voice as she confronted his handsomeness up close. His dark hair was short and thick, his brows bold statements above golden-brown eyes. His swarthy cheeks were smooth, but underlined by a precise border of stubble along his jaw. A goatee framed a mouth too full-lipped and sensual for words.
Men didn’t usually affect her. Not even very good-looking ones, but a funny squiggle in her midsection teased with intrigue, especially when his eyelids lowered in lazy, male appreciation.
She extended her hand. “Gisella Drummond.”
His relaxed demeanor altered. His expression tightened with dismay and he raked her with a more disparaging glance. It went down to her open-toed heels and came back to her snug top with the shoulder cutouts.