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The meeting between Bond Steel and Zagorakis Inc evolved like a polite game of tennis, with the tactical ball being passed with exaggerated politeness between the two sides. Meanwhile, Lisa concentrated her mind on the subtext: Zagorakis had identified a company he thought a good match with his own; the small portion she was prepared to sell didn’t interest him; he wanted it all.

When a lull came in their discussions, he stood up. It was barely noon. ‘Are you leaving so soon? I’ve arranged for a buffet to be laid out next door. I thought we could discuss some of the finer details.’ He wasn’t interested in making small talk over canapés—and it was time to lose the charm. ‘We haven’t finished, Mr Zagorakis—’

‘I have.’

Lisa felt the blood drain out of her face. She wasn’t used to being looked at the way Zagorakis was looking at her. She wasn’t used to anyone going against her wishes. She made the rules; everyone else lived by them—that way they all stayed safe. But Tino Zagorakis had made it clear that as far as he was concerned she had no rank. He would do exactly as he pleased, and she could go hang. Bond Steel was just a tasty snack… the company, the people who worked there, counted for nothing.

‘I regret I have another appointment.’ He held her gaze.

Regret? Lisa didn’t think so. That deep, husky voice was pitched to make it sound as if there were some type of understanding between them, an intimacy almost. It unsettled her, and must have unsettled her team—they had to be wondering what was going on. Without raising his voice Zagorakis had scored a telling point by subtly undermining her authority. And then she saw that his eyes were hard and calculating, and even slightly mockingly amused.

Scraping back her chair, she stood to face him. She wasn’t about to let Bond Steel be gobbled down by some ravenous tycoon—a tycoon who thought her company was just a set of numbers. Bond Steel wasn’t a counter to be risked. And if Zagorakis had come down from his ivory tower to measure her, and judged her no threat, he had miscalculated. She would defend Bond Steel to the last.

After her experience in the commune Bond Steel had been her salvation. While other teenagers had longed for freedom, she had craved discipline and boundaries so she could sleep safe at night. Jack Bond had given her that. Before she’d started to work for him he had sent her to a school where even the rigid order had been welcome. It had provided her with a framework within which she had felt safe, and she had excelled. When she had returned home she hadn’t cared that her father had shown her no favouritism; she had never expected any. Jack Bond had only ever wanted a son, and she accepted that too. She had worked her way up her father’s company from the bottom. When he’d died, she’d taken his place thanks to sheer dint of effort. By then she had discovered the key to his success. It was nothing more than hard work and focus. Jack Bond had never allowed anything as time-wasting as emotion to stand in his way.

‘Why, Ms Bond, you seem distracted.’

Those eyes—those incredible black-gold eyes—were dancing with laughter. Sucking in an angry gulp of air, Lisa felt her hands ball into fists. ‘Not a bit of it, Mr Zagorakis.’ Her gaze flicked over him dismissively. ‘As your decision to attend this meeting was clearly last-minute, I won’t keep you. I’m sure our people can arrange another time for us to meet if there are any outstanding details—’

‘Shall we say dinner at nine to discuss those outstanding details?’

Lisa’s cheeks flamed red. She was sure the double entendre was intended. In spite of her slender frame her breasts had always been regarded as her most ‘outstanding’ feature. And now her nipples had hardened into bullets, which, from the expression in Zagorakis’s eyes, she guessed he knew.

‘I’ll have my chauffeur pick you up around nine at your apartment—’

‘No—’ Before she could say more Lisa found herself staring at an open door. ‘Gentlemen, this meeting is over,’ she said, quickly recovering her self-possession. ‘Tomorrow morning at ten would suit me for the follow up. Arrange it for me, will you, Mike?’