His Ultimate Prize

By: Maya Blake

CHAPTER ONE

‘PUT YOUR ARMS around me and hold on tight.’

The rich, deep chuckle that greeted her request sent a hot shiver down Raven Blass’s spine. The same deep chuckle she continually prayed she would grow immune to. So far, her prayers had gone stubbornly unanswered.

‘Trust me, bonita, I don’t need guidance on how to hold a woman in my arms. I give instructions; I don’t take them.’ Rafael de Cervantes’s drawled response was accompanied by a lazy drift of his finger down her bare arm and a latent heat in ice-blue eyes that constantly unnerved her with their sharp, unwavering focus.

With gritted teeth, she forced herself not to react to his touch. It was a test, another in a long line of tests he’d tried to unsettle her with in the five weeks since he’d finally called her and offered her this job.

Maintaining a neutral expression, she stood her ground. ‘Well, you can do what I say, or you can stay in the car and miss your nephew’s christening altogether. After agreeing to be his godfather, I’m sure you not turning up in church will go down well with your brother and Sasha.’

As she’d known it would, the mention of Sasha de Cervantes’s name caused the atmosphere to shift from toying-with-danger sexual banter to watch-it iciness. Rafael’s hand dropped from her arm to grip the titanium-tipped walking stick tucked between his legs, his square jaw tightening as his gaze cooled.

Deep inside, in the other place where she refused to let anyone in, something clenched hard. Ignoring it, she patted herself on the back for the hollow victory. Rafael not touching her in any way but professionally was a good thing.

Recite. Repeat. Recite. Repeat—

‘I didn’t agree...exactly.’

Her snort slipped out before she could stop it. ‘Yeah, right. The likelihood of you agreeing to something you’re not one hundred per cent content with is virtually nil. Unless...’

His eyes narrowed. ‘Unless what?’

Unless Sasha had done the asking. ‘Nothing. Shall we try again? Put your arms—’

‘Unless you want me to kiss that mouth shut, I suggest you can the instructions and move closer. For a start, you’re too far away for this to work. If I move the wrong way and land on top of you, I’ll crush you, you being such a tiny thing and all.’

‘I’m not tiny.’ She moved a step closer to the open doorway of the sleek black SUV, stubbornly refusing to breathe in too much of his disconcertingly heady masculine scent. ‘I’m five foot nine of solid muscle and bone and I can drop kick you in two moves. Think about that before you try anything remotely iffy on me.’

The lethal grin returned. ‘Dios, I love it when you talk dirty to me. Although my moves have never been described as iffy before. What does that even mean?’

‘It means concentrate or this will never work.’

Rafael, damn him, gave a low laugh, unsnapped his seat belt and slid one arm around her shoulders. ‘Fine. Do with me what you will, Raven. I’m putty in your hands.’

With every atom in her body she wished she could halt the stupid blush creeping up her face, but that was one reaction she’d never been able to control. In the distant past she tried every day to forget, it had been another source of callous mirth to her father and his vile friends. To one friend in particular, it had provoked an even stronger, terrifying reaction. Pushing away the unwelcome memory, she concentrated on the task at hand, her job.

Adjusting her position, she lowered her centre of gravity, slid an arm around Rafael’s back and braced herself to hold his weight. Despite the injuries he’d sustained, he was six foot three of packed, lean muscle, his body honed to perfection from years of carefully regimented exercise. She needed every single ounce of her physiotherapist training to ensure he didn’t accidentally flatten her as promised.

She felt him wince as he straightened but, when she glanced at him, his face showed no hint of the pain she knew he must feel.

The head trauma and resulting weeks-long coma he’d lain in after he’d crashed his Premier X1 racing car and ended his world championship reign eight months ago had only formed part of his injuries. He’d also sustained several pelvic fractures and a broken leg that had gone mostly untreated while he’d been unconscious, which meant his recovery had been a slow, frustrating process.

A process made worse by both his stubborn refusal to heed simple instructions and his need to test physical boundaries. Especially hers.

‘Are you okay?’ she asked. Because it was her job to make sure he was okay. Nothing else.

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