The Ultimate Playboy

By: Maya Blake


New York

NARCISO VALENTINO STARED at the box that had been delivered to him. It was large, made with the finest expensive leather, trimmed with velvet rope, with a horseshoe-shaped clasp made of solid twenty-four-carat gold.

Normally, the sight of it brought anticipation and pleasure.

But the ennui that had invited itself for a long-term stay in his life since he’d turned thirty last month leached excitement from him as the stock market leaked money after a juicy disaster.

Lucia had accused him of turning into a boring old man right before her diva exit out of his life two weeks ago.

He allowed himself a little grin of relief. He’d celebrated her departure with a boys’ weekend ski trip to Aspen where he’d treated himself to a little palate cleanser in the form of a very enthusiastic Norwegian ski instructor.

But much too quickly, the jaded hollowness had returned.

Rising from his desk, he strode to the window of his seventieth-floor Wall Street office and stared at the New York skyline. Satisfaction eased through him at the thought that he owned a huge chunk of this city.

Money was sexy. Money was power. And The Warlock of Wall Street—as the newspapers had taken to calling him—never denied himself the pull of power and sex.

The opportunity to experience two of his favourite things lay within the package on his desk.

Yet it’d remained unopened for the last hour...

Shrugging off the lethargy, he returned briskly to his desk and flipped the clasp.

The half mask staring up at him from a bed of black satin was exquisite. Pure silver edged with black onyx and Swarovski crystals, its intricate design and flawless detail announced the care and attention that had gone into creating it. Narciso appreciated care and attention. It was what had made him a millionaire by eighteen and a multibillionaire by twenty-five.

His vast wealth was also what had gained him admission into Q Virtus, the world’s most exclusive gentlemen’s club, whose quarterly caucus invitation was the reason for the mask. Two four-inch-long diamond-tipped pins held the mask in place. Pulling them out, he flipped it over to examine the soft, velvet underside, which held the security microchip, his moniker—The Warlock—and the venue, Q Virtus, Macau. He ran his thumb over the smooth surface, hoping to summon a little enthusiasm. Failing miserably, he set the mask down and glanced at the second item in the box.

The List.

Zeus, the anonymous head of Q Virtus, always provided club members with a discreet list of business interests who would be attending the caucuses. Narciso had chosen not to attend the last two because he’d already dealt with those lists’ major players.

His gaze skimmed the heavily embossed paper and his breath caught. Excitement of a different, dangerous kind sizzled through him as the fourth name jumped out at him.

Giacomo Valentino—Daddy dearest.

He perused the other names to see if anyone else on the list would make his attendance worthwhile.

His lips twisted. Who the hell was he kidding?

One name and one name only had become the deciding factor. There were one or two business interests worth cultivating during the two-day event, but Giacomo was who he intended to interact with.

Although perhaps interact was the wrong word.

Setting the list down, he fired up his computer. Entering the security codes, he pulled up the file he kept on his father.

The report his private investigator updated on a regular basis showed that the old man had rallied a little from the blow Narciso had dealt him three months ago.

Rallied but not fully recovered. Within minutes, Narciso was fully up to speed on his father’s latest business dealings.

He didn’t fool himself into thinking it gave him any sort of upper hand. He knew his father kept a similar file on him. But the game wouldn’t have been this interesting if advantages had been one-sided. Nevertheless Narciso gained a lot of satisfaction from knowing he’d won three of their last four skirmishes.

He was contemplating the latest approach to his annihilation campaign when his phone buzzed.

Allowing the distraction, he thumbed the interactive surface and read the message from Nicandro Carvalho, the closest thing he had to a best friend.

Still caught in premature midlife-crisis mode, or are you ready to shake off that clinging BOM image?

Boring old man. A corner of his mouth lifted as his gaze slid to the list and his father’s name. Suddenly energised, he whipped back a response.

BOM has left the building. Care to get your ass whopped at poker?

Nicandro’s response—Dream on but bring it on—made him laugh for the first time in weeks.

Powering down his laptop, he slammed it shut. His gaze once again fell on the mask. Picking it up, he stashed it in his safe and shrugged into his suit jacket.

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