The Pursuit of Pleasure

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Chapter 18

Victoria insisted on driving her Sedan. Although to Nikolai's liking, he had preferred that she had rode in with them.

But she was still ever so stubborn, he thought.

The road was narrow and curvy. Nikolai took the turns easily, tucking the Porsche into the curves so that it held the road as if it was nailed to it.

Sneaking a quick glance at the review mirror, he caught sight of her car right behind them and a muscle in his jaw knotted.

He couldn't understand why the more he saw her, the deeper an enigma she became. Her on and off sexuality was driving him insane and it made him angry at himself because for years he had managed to escape the charms and spells of women, determined women who wanted to cage him, only now, with her - he couldn't seem to get rid of this need to make love to her again, to taste her over and over.

"Jesus, Nikolai! Slow down!" Daisy yelled. Her eyes flew wide open when she saw the speedometer needle skyrocket.

The sound of her voice seemed to snap him out of the daze that he was in. He turned and caught her peering at the dash, her fingers clenched around her seatbelt for dear life.

"Sorry about that, Daisy." He said, casting her a sympathetic look and eased the car down to the speed limit. "I tend to forget your fear of speed."

"It's fine." Daisy replied, drawing in a lung full of air then released it through her mouth. She repeated the act twice and when her heart rate had returned back to normal, she glanced at him and asked, "do you think we lost her? You were going pretty fast."

Nikolai's eyes instantly flew to his rearview mirror and his brows jolted up. At the same time, Daisy turned around and her eyes widened and lips spread over her teeth into a wide grin. "Well, I'll be damned!" She said, amazed at what she saw. "She's just as crazy as you, Nik."

But Nikolai made no move to reply. Instead, he cranked up the volume on his stereo.

"She seemed sad, didn't she, Nik?"

Nikolai frowned. "Sad?"

Sadness wasn't something that he had seen in her eyes but if she was, then he had certainly missed it.

"Yeah, or maybe lonely. I mean, who would blame her? Chad was her first and he cheated on her so publicly."

"How did she find out?" Nikolai asked with quickened interest.

"Well, based on hear-say, Tanya told me that she walked in on Chad doing the dirty deed with Melissa in his office. Everybody knew, even the security guards at the entrance. Everybody except for her. "

Nikolai recalled hearing a few rumours here and there. And that how he treated them, as rumours.

"She couldn't have been that hurt. Wasn't it an arranged engagement? I mean, she couldn't possibly have had deep feelings for him." Nikolai said, wondering whether it sounded as though he was trying to convince himself.

"Of course, she loved him, dummy. He was her first and a girl never forgets her first. Plus, he was going to be her husband, so it's only natural that she grew to love him."

Nikolai had to force himself to ease the brakes as the road began its descent. His brows stayed knitted in a definite lock and he mind went back to that night at the auction.

Was that why she had come on to him the way she had that night? He wondered. Because she was heartbroken over the loss of that her ex?

His jaw twitched at the possibility. He could only imagine a woman's despair to erase the memories of another man by running in the arms of another.

Oh Hell!

He didn't want to think of himself as a damn second-best substitute for a guy that had been so damn stupid to lose this woman.

But then again, why would somebody bet all that money on a stranger if she did have something to prove. Then he recalled their last conversation whereby she mentioned that she did make the bet to prove something to herself.

Was it whatever she was still in love with her ex?

"What's with the sudden interest?" Daisy asked.

"Oh, no interest." He replied with a shrug, not wanting to run the risk of saying something that he would regret or something that he would catch on.

"Just making polite conversation."

He wasn't sure whether Daisy believed him or not, she was too well-trained to show it.




Nikolai took them to The Oasis restaurant on lake Travis. It was the sunset capital of Texas, and thought that both Daisy and Victoria would enjoy the most spectacular sunset that he had heard about.

They settled at a table on the deck and had a perfect panoramic view of the lake. Daisy excused herself and told Nikolai to order the biggest stake on the menu.

The waiter came and to take their drinks order and Nikolai ordered a bottle of wine for the table. He then asked Victoria whether she wanted anything else, to which she shook her head no and offered a polite smile at the waiter before he disappeared from their table.

Victoria bend her head and tried to concentrate on her order but the silence screamed at her, until finally, she looked up and saw Nikolai looking back at her.

There was something about the way that he was looking at her that made her pulse quicken. She sat back and folded her hands in her lap and searched the restaurant in hopes of seeing Daisy making her way back to their table.

"Your fiancé," he said abruptly.

Victoria swung her head toward him. "My ex-fiancé."

"Yeah." Nikolai's jaw tightened. "Him. Who left who?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Did he break up with you or was it the other way around?"

Victoria's brows touched. " I don't see what this has to do with the sale of Hawks ranch."

His grey gaze caught and held hers. "I just want to know if that ex of yours was in bed with us when I made love to you."

Victoria's eyes widened and her cheekbones had a sudden crimson stain to them. "I never said that I was thinking about Chad when we --" she swallowed dryly, "that is, when you and I --"

"Made love." Nikolai offered, his eyes never leaving hers. "Were you thinking about him when you cried out in my arms? Wishing that he was there instead of me?"

She stared at him for a while. Confused. He had no right to ask her that and she had every right to refuse to answer him. Or the very least, she could lie and tell him yes, just so that he would hate her and that would be the last they would see of each other.

"Victoria?"

Nikolai wasn't touching her but she could almost feel the strength of his hands on her. She wanted to feel them on her.

She heard him mutter a low curse and for a moment she thought that she had spoken the words aloud. Then he got up, reached for her with a hand clasped it securely behind her head and kissed her. It was a long and deep kiss that made her heart race. And when it ended it left her shaken.

"I need to know," he said, cupping her face and looking deep into her eyes. "Was it me or him?"

Truth be told, she hadn't even thought about that. And now, come to think of it...

She felt his fingers slip from her chin as he sat back down and his eyes shifted from hers.

"Have you guys ordered yet?" Daisy asked, once she had reached their table.

"Not yet." He replied, leaning back against his chair.

The waiter came back with their drinksand took their dinner orders. Daisy began laying out the overall condition of the ranch, how surprisingly fertile the land still was even after years of not being tended to. Victoria tried to focus her gaze on Daisy, offering her a few polite smiles here and there, letting her know that she had her full attention. But twice, she broke character and her eyes ventured off to Nikolai, and to her surprise, both times, he seemed far lost in his own thought to even notice her staring.

"Well, I'm stuffed." Daisy announced, pushing back empty plate.

"Me too." Victoria said, placing her glass of water on the table.

"Good," Nikolai said, "I'll settle the bill then we can leave."

"Crap!" She cursed, fishing for her ringing phone inside her bag. Once she found it, she glanced at the screen then back to Nikolai. "Sorry, guys. I'm going to have to take this."

Nikolai nodded his head in approval and watched as she made her way out of the restaurant.

He heard a small gasp coming from Victoria and when he turned to her, he saw her beautiful eyes widened in awe as she watched the gorgeous sunset over the lake.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" She said.

"Why?"

She glanced at him and tried to smile. "Why is it beautiful?"

"Why did you tell me to leave?" He asked, " I wanted to stay to make love to you and I could tell that you wanted it too. Everything about you told me you did."

She flushed. "Nikolai, please. I don't want to talk about this now."

"Then when? Because I can't get it out of my head. The way it was with us. How you felt in my arms."

"Nikolai," she whispered. "Don't. What happened, it was wrong."

He reached for her hand and caught it in his. "Listen to me, I'm telling you that something incredible happened between us. How can you say it was wrong?"

"Because...." she tugged her hand free from his grasp.

"Guys, I'm going to have to leave before I miss my flight back." Daisy announced , grabbing her bag from the floor.

"I'll drop you off." Nikolai said, leaning back against his chair.

"You're not leaving?" Daisy asked, causing Victoria to frown lightly in curiosity.

"I'm going to spend the night and head back tomorrow." He replied but his eyes held Victoria's as if secretly asking her to stay.

The message couldn't be any clearer. Victoria's cheeks coloured at the thought of staying behind and spending the night with him. A shiver ran down her spine as she thought about all things that he would do to her.

She swallowed on a dry throat.

She couldn't possibly do such a thing, she thought.

"Excuse me," she said, jolting up from her chair. " I'm going to go for a walk. It was really nice seeing you again, Daisy."

Daisy smiled. "You too."

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