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A Virgin for His Prize

By:Lucy Monroe

Russian heritage was one of a select few Maxwell called friend.

Considering the fact that both people appeared to be entering the agreement with poorly hidden—to him at least—romantic aspirations and a long-term future together as their goal, Maxwell hoped it worked out for them.

He didn’t believe in permanent romantic ties. He considered marriage like any other contract—to be kept in place for the duration of the benefit of both parties.

His mother had taught him from an early age to see romantic relationships as a means to an end. Natalya Black had always told her son that love was the biggest fairy tale of all.

She’d believed in Maxwell and told him he could do anything he set his mind to, but never give in to “so-called” love. It only weakened the afflicted and made them lose their focus.

Maxwell didn’t know where his mother’s life lessons had come from, but he knew his own and he’d discovered early on she was right.

Leaving Russia and her disapproving relatives for a new start in America had not included Natalya giving up her tendency to line her nest with the golden straw of cleverly chosen bed partners of defined duration.

The transience of the men in his mother’s life had taught him one thing. There was no such thing as forever and anyone who believed in it was a fool.

They’d only come close one time. One man had made Natalya glow with something besides satisfaction in a well-chosen partner. The man had also taken a paternal interest in Maxwell as none of his mother’s other affairs ever had or been allowed to.

For three years, Maxwell had a father figure show up at his activities, someone as interested in teaching him what it was to be a boy raised in America as his mother and those at the cultural center had been in exposing him to bits of his Russian heritage, someone besides a neighbor the school could call when Maxwell needed to go home early with the flu.

Then Carlyle’s estranged wife had returned, along with his real son and daughter, and Maxwell never saw the man again. Natalya lost her glow, but not her determination to give Maxwell every chance life in America had to offer.

“Madison said she thought something about Perry’s claims intrigued you.” Romi frowned, her gaze searching.

Broken out of the unexpected reverie, Maxwell took a moment to catch up. Then he said, “You know I like control in bed.”

“I figured.”

Yes, he hadn’t hidden his preferences during their kisses and the touching. “I had no desire to take her to bed, therefore it follows my preference for control wasn’t my reason for intrigue.”

“Oh.” Romi’s frown turned to puzzlement. “Then why?”

“I found it interesting that Perry made the claims he did.”

“The more salacious the story, the more money they would pay for it.” The lovely heiress’s tone dripped cynicism.

Maxwell’s was a bit more derisive when he said, “Perry Timwater isn’t capable of upholding a more dominant role in sex.”

“How would you know?”

“I’ve met him.” And what Maxwell had seen of the other man had neither impressed, nor inspired a desire to further their association. “He has neither the confidence, nor the attention to the needs of others to succeed in that role.”

“I’m sure he’s a selfish lover,” Romi said with her customary direct honesty. “He was a very selfish friend.”

“You are probably right.” Maxwell felt his lips quirking as they often did in her presence.

Romi Grayson always entertained him, even when she didn’t mean to. She intrigued him as much because of the attraction he felt for her as the fact she was so unlike him. He didn’t understand her.

That was not something Maxwell was used to.

Understanding what motivated people was what made him so good in the business world. He knew how to identify a need and exploit it, without compromising his own sense of honor.

It might not be as shiny and uncomplicated as Viktor’s, but Maxwell did have one.

Romi’s mercurial nature made her an enigma. He’d been sure she would go for his offer of monogamy of limited duration, but she hadn’t. Even more inexplicably, her reaction had told him the offer had hurt her in some way, which he hadn’t expected and found he did not like.

“So, why were you intrigued?”

“Why do you think?” he prodded, wondering how much she’d really learned about him during their brief time of dating.

She paused and thought, which wasn’t something anyone else would have expected from her. She came off as passionate and impetuous, but he’d learned that as much as she might appear to act without thought, Romi rarely ever did.

Finally, she said, “You’ve got more curiosity than any man I’ve ever met. The situation didn’t make sense to you, something you aren’t really on a first-name basis with. So you wanted to understand it.”

He nodded, not really surprised she guessed his reaction so easily. He’d learned that she studied him with as much attention as he had any business rival in his career.

“The stories themselves were a puzzle,” Maxwell agreed. “Despite both you and Madison Archer’s penchant for making it into the media spotlight, neither of you are known for sexual exploits.”

Something he should have paid closer attention to before making his offer to her. He should have realized that the reason her sex life was never speculated on in the media was because she didn’t have one.

That innocence wasn’t going to leave her open to the kind of liaison Maxwell was used to negotiating with his lovers.

Which meant that if he wanted Romi, and the year apart had shown him that at present no one else would suffice, he would have to figure out a different arrangement.

One they could both live with.

If his plans included a measure of what he thought might well be irresistible persuasion, well, his honor didn’t require a level playing field.

Winning was key. Full stop.

CHAPTER TWO

“AND YOU FOUND that intriguing?” Romi demanded.

Max was amused by the fact she and Madis

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