The last thing that Benedict Duval needed to worry about was becoming a father. He had not foreseen this particular turn of events. With a sigh, he carelessly raked his fingers through his dark brushed back hair and let his eyes roam the face of his tough as a rock bodyguard relaying the shocking news. His shoulders felt like steel under his dark pinstripe suit and his jaw felt tight. All he could do was keep a straight face. Only doing so took all his energy.
‘Do you mean to say she gave birth to my child?’
Benedict cursed in French.
‘Why would she lie?’
Benedict’s bodyguard shrugged.
‘Is she seeing someone else?’
‘A man is with her though she seems to not have any sexual interest in him.’
‘How would you know that she doesn’t tumble in the sack with him?’ Benedict held Yanic’s stare and the other man stood his ground. Benedict knew he could be a pain in the ass at times but Yanic knew him well enough to be unbothered about his erratic temper. ‘My gut feeling tells me she is going to come to me for money.’
‘From the looks of it she doesn’t need your money.’
Benedict’s eyes turned ice and he glared at his most trusted employee. Yanic knew better than to question him.
‘My gut instinct is always right. I have a knack for knowing such things.’ A smile as roguish as a rake crossed his mouth. ‘I don’t need you to tell me what she doesn’t need. And I pay you to do what I tell you to do. Not the other way around.’
Yanic nodded. ‘You suggested a thought and I simply told you what I saw.’ Benedict’s cell phone rang just then. He slipped it from the desk before waving Yanic off. ‘We will talk later about this debacle.’ He watched Yanic leave before hitting the green button.
‘Speak,’ he commanded in a stern tone.
‘We’ve got a problem.’
Benedict counted to ten. ‘Tell me,’ he said.
‘Arman Qureshi refuses to sell the plot of land in India.’
Neha Qureshi doesn’t expect much from her father. Nevertheless, later that day, she knew his throng of lawyers will read his final will and she knew there was much haste for him to set his rules down firmly. Arman Qureshi may well be India’s première billionaire, but for Neha her father was anything but soft and loving. Arman fought his battles with words dictated in fluent English whilst wearing the classiest hand stitched shoes and custom-made designer suits and most expensive diamond watches, but for her, her father was a heartless, cruel man who took over weak businesses without offering some form of help.
How does taking over a struggling company be anything but doing another man a favor? And what’s the use having wealth when you cannot assist someone who is struggling?
As Neha slipped on a white t-shirt and denims, she could not help but think back on the relationship she shared with her father. As an only child and the daughter of the wealthiest man in India, her parents showered her with an endless array of expensive toys. But after her mother left her father and her forever when she was barely ten, leaving billions behind, Neha began to wonder why her mother would just pick herself up and go. Fast forward fifteen years later and Neha just knew the answer without even having to ask a single soul.
Her father had no time for family. For him it was all about work. Over the years, Neha grew out of love with her father because after her mother left, her father had no time for her. She grew to detest his work, his money and his affiliations. So no wonder when Benedict Duval called the home number for dearest Arman, she told him just what she thought about her father and his business partners. Her response had shocked her but Neha felt good on the inside telling off the man who had been bugging their phones for the past two days.
‘My father has an office. Call him there if you must,’ she had barked down the line.
The man had paused for a moment then said in an equally dark voice, ‘Excuse me miss but I had called the office and Qureshi ignores my call.’
‘Take a hint,’ she offered brusquely. ‘My father does not wish to speak to you.’
He had responded in some foreign language she’d never heard before cutting the call. When Neha had replaced the handset, she had felt a sense of victory that she put a bad impression on the man who conceived her into this world.
‘What did you tell Benedict Duval yesterday,’ her father asked in a firm voice when she bounced down the curving staircase a few minutes later after having dressed and heaped her hair atop her head in a messy ponytail.
Neha gave her father an innocent look. ‘I only told the man that you did not wish to speak to him.’
Her father shook his head.
‘Did you?’ a deep masculine voice questioned and when Neha looked up, her mouth fell apart. For the love of God, who is he, she wondered as she stared with wide eye disbelief at how impossibly gorgeous the man was. He was tall—very tall and the finest suit she had ever seen draped his tough masculine frame. The suit was black as night and encased his hot body in a daring and lethal way. A classy designer watch glimmered on his wrist and as her eyes travelled the length of his long, long legs, Neha could not help but notice the glint in his charcoal shoes. This man was a replica of her father—money wise. He dripped wealth and sexuality that sent a shiver of awareness skittering up and down her spine.
Did such men exist in real life or was she dreaming?
‘Did I pass the test?’ he drawled.
He pulled her out of her reverie as her father glared at her from where he stood at the foot of the stairs.
Neha shook her head. ‘What makes you think I was eyeing you up?’ Her eyes narrowed and when the man smiled, she could not help but envy the gleam of even white teeth. His onyx eyes glittered and she stood her ground.
‘I think you were.’
‘Do you wish for us to debate about that?’ Neha was not aware that she had clenched her palms at her sides or that she had been holding her breath. It was not until she sighed and shook her head did she realize that this man challenged her without even doing anything manly.
It was a simple response yet it held the weight of an anchor. She felt that heavy and deep voice settle in her soul, stamping its imprint like a dark halo on her heart. Her throat dried and not wanting to seem flustered in the presence of both men, she took a few steps closer to the front door. ‘If you excuse me, there is some place I need to be.’ It was a lie. Her duties at home were complete for the day and the only thing left for her to do was visit the orphanage where she was tasked reading a Harry Potter novel to a few dozen eager Harry Potter fans. If she could just escape the hard sensuality that this man released then Neha knew she would well be on her way to doing what she loves.
‘Where do you need to be?’ he asked.
‘That is none of your business,’ she snapped and sent an icy glare his way.
He smiled. It was a seductive smile. The sensuality of it curled its way in her belly and Neha could feel hot fingers of awareness spike through her blood, gripping her body like an unseen ghost. She hated that this stranger wielded such power over her body. She hated that she responded to such power too! Her nipples hardened under her bra and her knees felt watery. How had she not buckled under her weight yet? How had she not buckled under this man’s silent appraisal of her body?
‘You know, it is very rude of me not to have introduced myself.’ A roguish smile tilted the corners of his mouth and furrow lines marked his forehead.
‘I know for sure that you are one of my father’s many business partners if not a mere acquaintance of his. And it would not be necessary for the introduction of names because honestly, I have no intention to meet you again much less remember your name.’ Her words sounded harsh and clipped in her own ears. Neha however felt unprepared for her father’s guest to remain cool even after her thwarting coldness sizzled between them. How can he remain so composed, so unaffected?
‘Darling,’ her father interrupted.
Neha turned to look at her father. ‘Yes…’
‘I would like to introduce you to Mr. Duval.’
‘Nice to meet you too Ms. Qureshi,’ Benedict said, offering an outstretched hand.
Neha offered a dark look Benedict’s way and ignored his hand. ‘You’re that man!’
‘It is all my pleasure…’
Her face heated. Neha could feel a fire razing through her from inside out. She all but turned away guilty yet not sorry for telling him off.
‘Why are you here?’
‘Sweetheart,’ her father cut in. Neha glanced at him sparingly. ‘We need to talk about that land in Mumbai that you own.’
‘I will not sell. Tell this man I am not doing business with him.’ She pointed her chin and lifted her shoulders in a proud and defiant way. ‘If he thinks I will sell and if you think I will sell then you are wrong.’
‘Neha…’ her father trailed.