From the book
Leon Maranz lifted a glass of champagne from the server standing just inside the entrance to the large, crowded first floor salon of the exclusive Regent's Park apartment that he'd just been shown into by one of the household staff and surveyed the scene before him. It was the type of social gathering he was very familiar with. A cocktail party in one of London's premier residences, ITS guests, however disparate, unified by one common factor. Wealth.
A great deal of it.
A casual flick of Leon's opaque eyes could tell him that, simply by seeing the unbroken sea of designer outfits the women were wearing, let alone the glint of precious gems at their throats, ears and wrists. The women uniformly had a look about them of pampered, sleek felines, and the men were also uniformly alike in their projection of self-assurance and self-worth in the eyes of the world.
Leon's mouth tightened infinitesimally. That projection was not always a guarantee of the solidity of the worth behind it. Probingly, his dark eyes lanced through the throng, seeking its target. Alistair Lassiter's back was turned to the entrance of the salon, but Leon recognised him instantly. Recognised, too, what he wanted to see. Probably invisible to the rest of the guests, but not to him: a discernible tension in his stance. For a moment longer he held his gaze. Then, his assessing surveillance done, he lifted his glass of champagne to his mouth. But even as he did so he stilled. A woman was looking at him.
She was nowhere near Alistair Lassiter, but Leon could see her at the periphery of his vision. Every finely tuned antenna told him she was levelling a stare at him that had an intensity about it that demonstrated she had no idea he was aware of her scrutiny. But Leon had been on the receiving end of female interest for close on two decades--even long before he had made the fortune which he knew, cynically, was high prime attraction for women these days. Far and away more attractive to them than the six-foot frame and strong, saturnine looks that had been his appeal when young and impoverished. Years of enjoying all that beautiful females had to offer meant he knew when a woman was looking at him.
And this one was most definitely looking at him.
He took a mouthful of champagne, turning his head slightly as he did so, to move the woman into the central frame of his vision.
She was in the English style, with a fine-boned face, oval, contoured with a delicate, narrow nose and wide, clear eyes. Her chestnut hair was drawn off her face into a chignon that would have looked severe on any woman less beautiful, just as her indigo raw silk cocktail dress would have looked plain on a woman with a less than perfect body. But this woman's body was indeed perfect: slender waist, gently rounded hips and, Leon could see, despite the modest decolletage, generous breasts. The bracelet sleeves of her cocktail frock showed the length of her forearms, and her elegant hands were cupping a glass of mineral water. The hem of her dress skimmed a little way above knee length, displaying long, slender legs lengthened by high heels.
The total impact was, despite the severity of her style--or perhaps because of it--stunning, making every other woman present appear overdressed and flawed. Leon felt anticipation fizz through him. Against all his expectations, the evening ahead was clearly not going to be only about business after all...
He narrowed his eyes and let his gaze rest on her, acknowledging what she made him feel. The flare of desire...
His gaze swept back up to her face, intercepting her scrutiny, ready to make eye contact and register his interest in...