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Zagorakis Inc had made an offer for one of Bond Steel’s subsidiaries, a small engineering works that had done some good things in the past. The company no longer fitted her strategic vision for the core business, and the cash injection resulting from the sale could save Bond Steel.

Family-run businesses had dropped out of favour in the City, and the Bond Steel share price had taken a dive. The situation was critical. There were no other serious offers, and if she didn’t nail the deal with Zagorakis she stood to lose Bond Steel, ruin the lives of those who worked for her, and face the type of humiliation that would put back the cause of women in industry a hundred years. Everything was riding on this deal.

Zagorakis Inc was cash rich and could move fast, which suited her perfectly. But that didn’t explain why Constantine Zagorakis was taking a personal interest in the deal. It was peanuts on the scale of his usual acquisitions. So, why was a world-class predator sniffing around? Because he wanted all of Bond Steel? That was where her suspicion dial was pointing.

When she found him staring at her, the rumour she had heard about him sprang to mind—he liked to look his prey in the eyes before devouring them. She’d laughed at the time—but now it didn’t seem so funny.

She resented the Zagorakis-effect. He was like some vast power source that drew everyone’s attention. A typical tycoon— he was ruthless, driven, and utterly heartless. She was no marshmallow herself, which explained the buzz in the building. This was one battle no one wanted to miss.

Some sixth sense had told him she never sat at the head of the table, but in the middle of her team. Unerringly, he had chosen to stand behind her chair as if he was already poised to take her place. And then he directed one of his minions to the seldom-used chairman’s seat at the head of the table. Who the hell did he think he was? Who was in control here?

‘Good morning, gentlemen.’ She didn’t need to raise her voice to command attention, though there was one dark gaze she could have done without. Zagorakis threw off sexual vibes with every move. And with treachery typical of the female body she was already longing for a slice of that high-octane maleness—something she had to get over fast.

Fortunately, she found that easy. She was Jack Bond’s daughter, after all.

A bitter smile grazed Lisa’s lips. Thanks to her father she had seen the depths of degradation to which a man could bring a woman. She had no intention of suffering her mother’s fate, of being tossed around like some uncared for rag doll… She had to be in control.

Tino was immediately aware of the shadow dulling Lisa’s gaze. He had been anticipating a glint of challenge, or some proof of her wild nature. This new, subdued expression was a real disappointment. The hunt was spoiled before it began if the prey was wounded.

He was relieved when she quickly recovered. His imagination was in overdrive. She had probably missed an appointment at the beauty salon.

Lisa consciously relaxed her shoulder. It was dangerous to let Zagorakis see how shaken she was, but something about him reminded her of the past…

It was his presence, his strength—his overwhelming physical strength. Yes, that was it. She shook her head in a fast, instinctive gesture to close the door on those memories that were safer locked away. But for a few seconds the old film replayed in her head. The leader of the commune had been a powerful, awe-inspiring figure, but he had been an evil man, who had grown ever stronger by feeding on the insecurities of his flock.

It had been Lisa’s misfortune to come to his notice when her body had started developing faster than the other girls’, and she would always be grateful to her mother for helping her to run away before the obscene initiation ceremony he had planned especially for her could take place.

She glanced around quickly just to check that no one had noticed her brush with the past. No one had. They were all too busy preparing for the meeting. And now the blood was flowing freely through her veins again, and she could feel her cheeks warming up. The past would always be with her, Lisa reflected grimly. And thank goodness for it, it kept her wary, kept her safe.

‘Ms Bond.’

She came to abruptly. Zagorakis was offering to shake her hand in greeting, yet all she could think was how threatening he was. She thought about her father, remembering how his icy control had proved too much for his much younger wife, causing her mother to bolt from the endless round of coffee mornings and race days to the promised freedom of the commune. Her father might have been the mainstay of every charitable committee in the area, but he had remained blind to the fact that her mother’s fragile psyche had been falling to pieces in front of him…

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