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Authors: Caitlin Crews

Shameless Playboy

BOOK: Shameless Playboy
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CAITLIN CREWS

 

 
          
BAD BLOOD

 

 
          
SHAMELESS
PLAYBOY

 

 

 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

 
          
CAITLIN CREWS
discovered her first
romance novel at the age of twelve. It involved swashbuckling pirates, grand
adventures, a heroine with rustling skirts and a mind of her own, and a
seriously mouthwatering and masterful hero. The book (the title of which
remains lost in the mists of time) made a serious impression. Caitlin was
immediately smitten with romances and romance heroes, to the detriment of her
middle-school social life. And so began her lifelong love affair with romance
novels, many of which she insists on keeping near her at all times.

 
          
Caitlin
has made her home in places as far-flung as York, England and Atlanta, Georgia.
She was raised near New York City, and fell in love with London on her first
visit when she was a teenager. She has backpacked in Zimbabwe, been on safari
in Botswana, and visited tiny villages in Namibia. She has, while visiting the
place in question, declared her intention to live in Prague, Dublin, Paris,
Athens, Nice, the Greek islands, Rome, Venice, and/or any of the Hawaiian
islands. Writing about exotic places seems like the next best thing to moving
there.

 
          
She
currently lives in California, with her animator/comic-book artist husband and
their menagerie of ridiculous animals.

 

 
CHAPTER ONE

 

 
          
GRACE
Carter glanced up from her computer, frowning at the figure that sauntered so
confidently into her office high above the cold, wet February streets of
central London, without so much as a knock on her door as warning.

 
          
And
then she went very still in her chair. Something that felt like fire rolled
through her, scorching everything in its path. She told herself it was indignation
because he had failed to knock as any decent, polite person should—but she knew
better.

 
          
It
was
him
.

 
          
“Good
morning,” he said in a low, richly amused and somehow knowing voice that seemed
to echo inside of her. He seemed to smolder there in front of her, like a
banked flame. She straightened in her seat in reaction.

 
          
“By
all means,” she said, her voice cool, ironic. “Come right in.”

 
          
He
was dressed in a sharp, sleek Italian suit that clung to the hard planes of his
celebrated body and looked far too fashion-forward for the staid and storied
halls of Hartington’s, one of Britain’s oldest luxury department stores, where
conservative
was the watchword in word,
deed and staff apparel. His too-long dark chocolate hair was tousled and
unkempt—rather deliberately so, Grace thought uncharitably—and fell toward his
remarkable green eyes, one of which was ringed by a darkening bruise. It
matched the split lip that failed, somehow, to dampen the impact of his
shockingly carnal mouth. His cuts and bruises gave him a faintly roguish air
and added to the man’s already outrageous appeal.

 
          
And
well he knew it.

 
          
“Thank
you,” he said, those famous green eyes bright with amusement, quite as if her
invitation was sincere. His decadent mouth crooked to the side. “Is that an
invitation into your office or, one can only hope, somewhere infinitely more
exciting?”

 
          
Grace
wished she did not recognize him, but she did—and this was not the first time
she’d seen him in person. Not that anyone alive could fail to identify him on
sight, with a face that was usually plastered across at least one or two
tabloids weekly, in every country in the world. Showcasing exactly this kind of
inappropriate behavior.

 
          
She
was not impressed.

 
          
“Lucas
Wolfe,” she said, as a gesture toward good manners, though her voice was flat.

 
          
He
was
Lucas Wolfe
, second son of the
late, notoriously flamboyant William Wolfe, darling of the paparazzi, famously
faithless lover to hordes of equally rich and supernaturally beautiful women—and
Grace could not think of a single reason why this creature of tabloids and lore
should be standing in her office on a regular Thursday morning, gazing at her
in a manner that could only be called
expectant
.

 
          
“All
six resplendent feet and then some,” he drawled, his dark brows arching high
above his wicked green eyes. “At your service.”

 
          
“You
are Lucas Wolfe,” she said, ignoring the innuendo that seemed to infuse his
voice, his expression, like some kind of molten chocolate. “And I’m afraid I am
busy. Can I direct you to someone who can help you?”

 
          
“Too
busy for my charm and beauty?” he asked, that wicked grin making his eyes
gleam, his expression somewhere between suggestive and irrepressible—and
surprisingly infectious. Grace had to fight to keep from smiling automatically
in return. “Surely not. That would require hell to freeze over, for a start.”

 
          
She
ignored him, rising to her feet to regain the appropriate balance of power.

 
          
“I
would invite you make yourself comfortable,” she said with a tight smile, close
enough to courteous, knowing her voice would make the words sound sweeter than
they were, “except that seems rather redundant, doesn’t it?”

 
          
Every
instinct she had screamed at her to let this man know exactly what she thought
of his kind. Womanizing, useless, parasitic, just like all the men her poor
mother had paraded in and out of their trailer when Grace was a child. Just
like the father she’d never met, who from all accounts was yet one more pretty,
irresponsible wastrel in a long line of the same. Just like every other idiot
she’d had to slap down over the years.

 
          
But
as a member of the Wolfe family Lucas was considered royalty at Hartington’s,
given that his family had once owned the company. The Wolfes might not own
Hartington’s any longer, but Hartington’s board of directors loved to play up
the connection—and as the events manager who was in charge of Hartington’s
centenary relaunch in a matter of weeks, Grace was expected to act in
Hartington’s best interests at all times no matter the cost to herself.

 
          
“I
am always comfortable,” he assured her, his voice a symphony of innuendo, his
green eyes wicked and amused. “Making myself so at every opportunity is, I
confess, very nearly my life’s work.”

 
          
She
had a huge project to manage, which meant she had better things to do with her
time than waste it on this useless, if shockingly attractive, man. Grace hated
wasting time.
That
was the feeling
that expanded within her, she told herself, threatening her ability to breathe.

 
          
“I’m
sorry,” she began, the polite smile she was known for curving her lips, though
she knew her gaze remained cool on his. “I’m afraid I’m quite busy today. May I
help—?”

 
          
“Why
do I recognize you?” he interrupted her, languidly, because of course
he
had all the time in the world.

 
          
Grace
was horrified to feel that rich voice of his wash through her, sending tendrils
of flame licking all over her skin, coiling low in her belly. She
felt
it, and it panicked her. Surely she
should be immune to this man’s brand of practiced, cynical charm—she, who
prided herself on being absolutely unflappable!

 
          
“I
can’t imagine,” she said, which was a lie, but it was not as if she and Lucas
Wolfe would ever speak again, would they? She could not fathom why they were
speaking
now
—and why the cynical
boredom she’d sensed in him in a chic and crowded hotel bar the night before
had changed to something else, something dangerous and edgy. As if a dark fury
lurked within him, just out of sight, hidden beneath his well-known and
deliberately polished exterior.

 
          
But
surely not. She was being fanciful.

 
          
“I
know I’ve seen you before,” he continued, his green eyes narrowing slightly as
he looked at her, then warming as he let his all-too-practiced gaze drop from
her face to skate over the figure she’d dressed in Carolina Herrera and other
exclusive labels no doubt down-market to a man of his tastes. His lips moved,
sensual and inviting for all they were cut, seeming to …
suggest
things. “You have the most extraordinary mouth. But where?”

 
          
Heat
danced through her, simmering in every place his green gaze touched her: her
breasts, the indentation at her waist, her hips, her legs. Grace was forced to
remind herself that a man like Lucas Wolfe more than likely looked at every
single person he encountered in that very same way—that the promise of sex and
intrigue that seemed to heat his expression meant about as much to him as a
handshake meant to anyone else. Less.

 
          
She
felt a strange sort of echo sound through her, a deep alarm, reminding her of
that naive girl she’d been so long ago and had sworn she would never be again.
Not with another man like this one, who would render her just as pathetic and
deceived as her poor, trusting mother. Who would destroy her whole life if she
let him.

 
          
That
was what men like this did. Simply because they could.

 
          
Grace
knew that better than anyone.

 
          
“He’s
more than a bit of all right, isn’t he?” the fashion buyer from Hartington’s
had cooed to Grace last night, when she’d first seen Lucas—much drunker and far
more disreputable than he appeared now, if that was possible—at an
extraordinarily glamorous fashion show thrown by Samantha Cartwright, one of
London’s most beloved and avant-garde designers.

 
          
Mona
had sighed lustily, gazing at Lucas from across the trendy bar as he’d flirted
with Samantha Cartwright herself, oblivious to all the watching, judging eyes
around them, Grace’s among them. “And, of course, we’re to treat him like a
king should he so much as glance our way. Boss’s orders.”

 
          
Grace
had nodded, as if she’d had the slightest expectation of interacting with the
famous playboy, known as much for his devil-may-care attitude as for his long
and illustrious string of lovers. Not to mention his much-discussed allergy to
anything resembling work, particularly for Hartington’s, who had been after him
for years to take a figurehead position with the company as his equally
disreputable late father had once done.

 
          
She’d
felt a potent mix of awareness and disgust as she’d watched him. How could a
man like Lucas, who was unabashedly making a play for the much older, and very
much married, Samantha Cartwright right there in full view of half the city,
also manage to seem so …
alive
and
vibrant
, in the midst of London’s crème
de la crème, as if he were the real thing and they were nothing but fluff and
misdirection?

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