Excerpt: Russian's Ruthless Demand

Excerpt: Russian's Ruthless Demand

Book 14: The Chatsfield

You’re breaking up Petra. Who did you say quit?

Lukas Kuznetskov frowned down the phone line, straining to hear as his PA explained the latest issue with the supposedly creative genius who had been hired to build his ice hotel. Apparently the man had stormed out after Lukas had questioned his latest offering, complaining that he was too controlling and stifled his creativity.


He swore under his breath.

So far Lukas had come up with the overall concept of the hotel himself while the architectural wizard had done little more than fill in the technical details and organise the preliminary build. With only a month left until the most anticipated project in Russia was due to open it was fair to say Lukas was a little agitated. ‘Please tell me he at least redesigned the interior of the guest bedrooms like I asked,’ he growled, grinding his teeth when Petra confirmed that no, he had not.

Useless, lazy, good for nothing… Lukas sucked in a sharp breath as he strove for calm and told Petra he’d handle it. As if he wasn’t busy enough.


Having momentarily forgotten his Italian ship engineer was in the room Lukas turned away from the splendour of Italy’s Adriatic coastline and glanced at the plans laid out on a scored wooden table. They had just finished going over his design for a supertanker that could carry twice as much cargo as any other on the market and go at twice the speed. If they could pull it off it would be another feather in Lukas’s already well plumed cap.

Tomaso Coraletti was as close to a friend as Lukas had ever allowed himself to have and the older man stroked his neat beard as he listened to the problem.

‘Biscotti, Lukas?’

Turning, Lukas replaced his scowl with a smile when he saw Tomaso’s sweet wife Maria standing before him with a silver tray of freshly made biscotti in her hands. Tomaso reached across and took a piece before Lukas could respond and got his hand swatted for his efforts. ‘Bah!’ she scolded. ‘Lukas is a growing boy. He needs it more than you.’

Tomaso scoffed and Lukas chuckled. He’s stopped growing a long time ago and they both knew it. ‘Grazie mille, Maria.’ He took a slice of the treat even though he didn’t want it and pocketed his phone.

‘It is the best biscotti in the whole of Italy.’ Tomaso boasted. ‘Maybe one day you will be lucky enough to have someone make you biscotti like this if you’re good.’

Lukas had known Tomaso ever since he joined his first container ship as a deck boy. In fact it had been Tomaso who had gotten him the job. He had been the ship’s engineer and had convinced his brother, the Captain, to give Lukas a trial. He’d been sixteen year old troublemaker at the time but still different from the other street kids from the putrid sector of town he’d grown up in because he had ambition. Something the older man had recognised when Lukas intervened while a group of young thugs tried to fleece Tomaso of his pocket change.

Of course Lukas hadn’t trusted his good will straight away. While most of his peers sought safety in numbers, joining or forming gangs to keep them safe, Lukas kept to himself, learning at a young age that needing others was a one way street to misery.

His loner days had started at the age of five when his mother had put him on a train from St Petersburg to Moscow and told him she’d meet him there. At the time he’d been terrified and young enough to believe she’d meant it. It had taken him another five years to make his way back to St Petersburg in his search for her. A wasted trip if ever there was one. But why dwell on all that now? So his architect had quit. It wasn’t the worst that could happen and he’d succeed in the end. He always did. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

‘No doubt you are indeed a lucky man, Tomaso,’ he concurred patting the old man on the shoulder. But really Lukas knew that he was the lucky one. He was footloose and fancy free and if he wanted biscotti he could go down to Harrods when he was in London or Gostiny Dvor in St Petersburg any time he wanted and buy an enormous amount. Not that it would be warm. And maybe not as flavoursome but he was sure, if he ever wanted it, it would be decent. Biscotti was biscotti no matter how many ways you sliced it.

Maria stuffed another threes slices in his hand, told him he worked too hard and needed to make babies instead of ships and left. He could have laughed. His last mistress had muttered the same complaint as she’d accepted the diamond necklace and Porsche Carrera on their final night together.

‘I might know someone.’

Tomaso’s statement brought Lukas’s mind back to the job at hand. ‘To make biscotti?’

‘No.’ He gave him a look. ‘I leave the baby making comments to mia moglie. I mean to help with your ice hotel.’

Lukas set the biscotti aside. ‘At this point I’d hire Mickey Mouse if I thought he could do the job.’

Tomaso laughed. ‘She’s not a cartoon character I can assure you, but she is good.’

Lukas’s ears pricked up. If the woman had designed an ice bar then she understood the concept behind such an endeavour and as he had the build in hand and only needed someone to fine tune the design and do the internal fit out she might just be what he was looking for.

And he respected Tomaso more than he did a lot of people which was why, five hours later and despite some reservations as to her suitability, he was making a detour to Singapore on his way back to St Petersburg.

He glanced at the employee profile he’d pulled up on Eleanor Harrington en route. She was marginally pretty with her clear skin and browny coloured eyes; her wide smile that had probably financed some dentist’s second holiday house. There was something infinitely refined about her features that spoke more to hosting dinner parties in large houses than designing them. Then getting naked in some man’s bed.

She was marginally pretty with her clear skin and browny coloured eyes; her wide smile that had probably financed some dentist’s second holiday house.

His brows drew down at the rogue thought. Where had that come from?

There was nothing special about Eleanor Harrington and he never mixed business with pleasure. Why complicate his place of solace with a woman bemoaning his perceived weaknesses as a man. ‘You’re too cold’, ‘you’re completely heartless’, ‘you care about nobody but yourself’. All true and nothing he hid from any woman who occupied his bed. The trouble was they hid who they were and what they wanted from him. Until the end when they accepted his gifts and looked for another rich man to milk. Frankly the whole experience had started to pall.

He read further down Eleanor Harrington’s profile. Graduated university with a major in architecture and a minor in interior design she had worked in her family’s company from the get go. Personal interests were reading, art, history, collecting shoes and volunteering at her local animal shelter.

Fascinating, Lukas thought dryly, thankful that he wasn’t interested in her personally. She’d bore him to tears within minutes.

‘We’ve started our descent into Singapore, Mr Kuznetskov. Can I get you anything else before we land, sir?’

Nyet.’ He stared out the window as the bright lights of Singapore came into view and hoped he wasn’t wasting his time He had a personal interest in making this venture a success so if Eleanor Harrington was half as good as Tomaso claimed she was he’d pretty much give her anything she wanted to get her on board.