Excerpt: The Billionaire's Virgin Temptation

Excerpt: The Billionaire's Virgin Temptation

Contemporary Romance

Chapter One

The theme on the gold-leaf invitation for Sydney’s most renowned masquerade ball this year had been daring, romantic,seductive…’

Tick, tick and tick, Ruby thought, stifling a yawn and giving a smile she hoped conveyed Having a great timeand not I wish I was sipping this glass of Riesling at home on my sofa in front of the latest instalment of Lawand Order.

And wearing comfy pyjamas, Ruby mused longingly as she took in the packed ornate ballroom.

A lavish ball was the last place she wanted to be after a gruelling eighty-hour working week that had gone from bad to worse and still required more hours to be put in, but she was here in support of her sister, so leaving wasn’t an option just yet.

And she supposed it was an interesting interlude from her everyday life sitting in her poky little law office, fighting the good fight. When else would she get the chance to join the who’s who of the theatre world in a multimillion-dollar Point Piper mansion with unrivalled harbour views beyond the infinity pool?

Everywhere Ruby looked there was a dazzling display of elaborately costumed guests milling about and talking in a profusion of excitement and colour. It was like stepping back in time with women in wigs and masks and men with feather-plumed hats drinking impossibly elegant flutes of champagne that sparkled like liquid gold beneath the light of a thousand chandeliers. Frescoes of cherubs and deer stared down from the ceiling and the iconic gunmetal-grey Sydney Harbour Bridge glowed through the open French doors, reminding everyone that they were in fact in Sydney and not visiting some Venetian mansion on the banks of the Grand Canal during Carnevale.

Ruby surreptitiously adjusted the neckline of her fitted gown, which kept slipping to reveal a little too much cleavage for her liking. She was supposed to be Marie Antoinette but her mirror had deemed that she looked more like Little Bo Peep on steroids, making her thankful she was well-hidden behind an elaborate black lace mask.

‘You know I really appreciate you coming along with me tonight, don’t you?’ Molly murmured.

Thanks to live music from the twenty-piece band where a well-known pop star was belting out her latest hit, Ruby had to lean in close to catch her sister’s words.

‘I’m enjoying myself,’ she fibbed, not wanting Molly to feel guilty about roping her into accompanying her. Molly was on a personal quest to waylay some in-demand director and convince him that she really needed to star in his next award-winning Hollywood epic. Molly had paid her dues at drama school and appeared in small-to-medium theatre productions and TV shows, and Ruby would do anything to help make her sister’s dreams come true.

‘No, you’re not,’ Molly said, shrugging good-naturedly. ‘But I appreciate the lie. I’m also under strict instructions to make sure you have fun and relax for once.’

‘Let me guess.’ Ruby gave her sister thatlook, knowing full well where her instructions had come from. ‘Mum told you to find me a nice man I can fall in love with so I can produce lots of grandbabies.’ Nothing new there. ‘Which is so not going to happen, and, for the record, I take serious umbrage at the insinuation that I don’t normally relax and have fun because I do. All the time!’

‘Oh, did I only insinuate that last bit?’ Molly feigned a shocked expression. ‘I meant to say it outright.’

‘Ha-ha.’ Ruby narrowed her eyes menacingly. ‘I know how to relax.’ She had a yoga class booked the following morning, didn’t she? ‘Andhow to have fun.’

‘You work,’ Molly corrected. ‘But that’s okay. Tonight I will ply you with drinks and ensure that you meet some tall, dark and handsome man to while the evening away with.’

Ruby grimaced. As any self-respecting lawyer knew, weekend work was par for the course. Particularly with the big cases, and Ruby had just embarked on one of the biggest of her career, so men were not a priority for her right now. If they ever had been.

‘You can’t tell if a man is handsome or not while he’s wearing a mask,’ Ruby pointed out, ‘and you already know that I don’t hold to Mum’s mantra that a woman isn’t complete without a man on her arm.’

‘Mum is old-school,’ Molly agreed; ‘you can’t hold that against her.’

‘I don’t hold it against her. I’m just not intending to follow in her footsteps.’

‘By not dating at all?’

‘I date,’ Ruby defended, tucking a recalcitrant strand of her blonde hair back under her poufy white wig. ‘When I have the time.’

Molly gave her a good-natured eye-roll. ‘The last time you went on a date, dinosaurs roamed the earth.’

Ruby laughed at the visual. ‘I’m not a romantic like you and Mum. I don’t see “the one” in every man who looks my way.’

‘That’s because you never give any guy a decent chance. You find something wrong with all of them and quickly move on. But seriously, Rubes, just because Dad left Mum for another woman it doesn’t mean every man will do the same to us.’

Ruby couldn’t deny that their father’s desertion had left her somewhat jaded when it came to romance, but that wasn’t the only reason. In her experience men wanted more from a woman than they were prepared to give and she had yet to meet a man who challenged that theory.

Even Sam Ventura.

EspeciallySam Ventura—even if he now was her best friend’s brother-in-law.

And why did his name leap into her head every time the conversation turned to men and marriage? He was the very last man she should be thinking about in that way. Two years ago he’d charmed her and kissed her senseless before making a trite promise to call and then failing to follow through on it.

Not that she should have been surprised. She’d been taken in by his good looks and intelligent conversation, but neither of those things was a precursor to nice manners and true decency. At least not where he was concerned!

Lord, but it still made her blush to recall how she had invited him up to her apartment for coffee.


She might as well have just saidbedand been done with it.

His failure to call and the subsequent photo she’d seen of him with his arm around another woman the following day at a polo match had solidified for her that men weren’t worth the effort. The worst thing for Ruby was that she had let Sam inthat night. She’d let down her guard with him in a way she never had before, and worse, she’d thought they’d shared a connection. A connection that had transcended the physical.

Fool that she was.

She’d found out via a visiting LA attorney that Sam had a reputation for being a charming rogue who made Casanova look like a good bet. Something she wholeheartedly believed after how easily he had nearly seduced her that night. He’d made her feel like a besotted thirteen-year-old in the throes of her first crush, carrying her phone around for a whole week, waiting for a phone call he’d never intended to make.

Her extreme reaction to him was something that had scared her witless because she had always imagined herself immune to the romantic vagaries that governed her mother’s life. She supposed she had Sam to thank for showing her otherwise. Showing her that if she wasn’t careful she could be just as susceptible to a pretty face and buff body as the next woman.

Not that she wouldthank him. She didn’t want to have anything to do with him again. He was too big and too male and definitely too full of himself to be of interest to her. Something she hoped she’d made crystal clear by ignoring him at Tino and Miller’s wedding last year.

‘I don’t think every man is an EC,’ she denied to Molly now, using their shorthand for Emotional Coward. ‘But I do wonder how we’re even sisters. You’re like Snow White, talking to all the animals and skipping through the flowery fields, and I’m—’

‘The Wicked Queen,’ Molly filled in. ‘Only you’re not afraid of ageing, you’re afraid of commitment.’

‘I am not afraid of commitment.’

Molly’s eyebrow rose above her white mask as if to sayI’m not getting into that argument again. But it wasn’t true.

‘I’m cautious,’ Ruby countered. ‘I don’t feel the need to leap into something before I’ve had a chance to study it from all angles.’

‘You’re not supposed to study love,’ Molly laughed. ‘You feel it. You experience it. You liveit.’

Ruby shuddered. ‘You might. I don’t.’ And what would Molly say, she wondered, if she knew Ruby hadn’t even gone all the way with a man yet? That she was still a virgin like an old maid from the Victorian era!

Suddenly a loud honking sound drew her attention. Molly giggled as an irate swan cut a swathe through the glittering crowd and started pecking at the golden tassels hanging from an unsuspecting woman’s gown. The woman reeled back and would have slipped if the man standing beside her hadn’t put his hands out and swiftly caught her.

Ruby felt the breath back up in her lungs as she took in the man’s height and the breadth of his shoulders, the angle of his leonine head and dark hair styled in loose layers that could only have come from an upmarket salon.

‘Oh, my,’ Molly murmured. ‘Would you get a load of that?’

Ruby watched as the man wearing a masculine bronze mask competently corralled the indignant bird outside and returned to check if the woman was okay.

‘He’s gorgeous,’ her sister added on a sigh.

‘You can’t possibly know that,’ Ruby scoffed. ‘He’s wearing a mask that covers half his face.’

‘He carries himself like a man who doesn’t need to be handsome but is. Look at those shoulders—’


‘And the way his thighs fill out his dark suit trousers. No padding there, I’m guessing.’

Despite her protestations, Molly was right—the man exuded power and confidence and his square-cut jaw, smooth olive complexion and sensual mouth conveyed that he was likely very good-looking behind the bronzed mask. He was also very familiar…

It’s not him, she assured herself, her eyes taking in the way his lips twisted into a half-cynical, half-sexy grin as the grateful woman gripped his arm and whispered something into his ear.

It couldn’t be him. Sam Ventura lived in LA and, even if he was visiting Sydney, what would he be doing at a fancy-dress ball thrown by theatre people?

Well, he wouldn’t be here, she reasoned. It was her imagination running overtime. Again. ‘Men like that only want one thing from a woman,’ she told Molly with lofty finality.

‘I know.’ Molly sighed. ‘Do you think he would want it from me?’