“I HAVE A proposition for you, Jasmine, that would allow you to pay off your brother’s debt within a year.”
Fear was a cold fist clamped over her spine, but Jasmine Douglas forced herself to stare steadily into the chilly green eyes of Noah King.
That word proposition from any other man of her acquaintance, while wholly unwelcome but an awful reality of her life, was something she was used to.
The clientele of the club where she worked, owned by Noah, was constantly under the impression that her scantily clad, gyrating-around-a-pole body was up for sale. That she was for sale.
She wasn’t and never would be.
Only soul-wrenching fear of the consequences of owing a debt to this man who owned three underground gambling clubs in London, and who was even now contemplating her future without blinking, had forced her into it.
She had barely buried her brother Andrew when she had learned of the debt he had piled up with Noah King, of all people. Desperation to resolve this debt and a need for survival forced her every night to take the stage.
So coming from Noah, that dangerous word turned the very blood in her veins into ice. “I’ve not missed a single payment, Noah,” she finally said through a dry mouth.
“Yes, but you’re barely making a dent. You have no assets that you could sell off, either.”
Her skin turned cold in the comfortably warm warehouse that was the headquarters of Noah’s empire. A couple of completely harmless-looking men had showed up at her flat this morning and very politely accompanied her to see Noah here.
Sweat pooling over her neck, Jasmine realized how foolish she was to assume that anything related to Noah King was harmless.
“Am I a prisoner, then?” she said, before she could hold back the reckless question.
Noah didn’t even blink as he casually peeled an orange and offered her some. “Until we find a satisfactory resolution, yes.”
Her gut dropped and she fought the instinct to turn around and run. No phrase had ever scared the daylights out of her like satisfactory resolution.
Why, oh, why hadn’t Andrew thought of where his debt would lead him one day? How could he have left her to deal with this dangerous man?
How, after all the promises he had made to her, could he have left her even worse than they had already been?
She had slaved for five years and was still stuck in this man’s power, like a fly stuck in a spider’s web. The more she tried to get out, the more she was ensnared.
On the heels of that thought came instant guilt. Andrew’s face flashed in front of her, his eagerness shining in his eyes, his expression so kind, lodging a lump in her throat.
We’ll get out of this dump one day, Jas. You just wait and watch. I’ll get us out of here.
Her brother had only wanted what was best for her, had only wanted to improve their lot in life. Had watched out for her for years.
Equipped with no skills, saddled with their mother’s drinking and responsibility for Jas, he had seen no other way out of the hellhole they had been born into except by trying his luck in Noah’s gambling den.
Not his fault that he had died
so suddenly at only twenty-nine in an accident. Not his fault that everyone they had counted on had disappointed them.
And just like that, as though he was a thorn forever lodged under her skin, like a memory that had been burned into her brain, Dmitri came to mind.
Dmitri Karegas—godson of Giannis Katrakis, textile tycoon and internationally renowned playboy, collector of expensive toys like yachts and Bugattis and...beautiful women.
Dmitri, who had grown up along with them on the streets of London after his English father’s business went into bankruptcy, whom Andrew had shielded from his alcoholic father numerous times, Dmitri, whom Andrew had treated like a brother, Dmitri, to whom Andrew had gone in need and who had refused to help an old friend while he led a filthy rich life, who had looked at her so coldly at Andrew’s funeral and offered her cash.
Dmitri, whose exploits she followed with something bordering on obsession.
Thinking of Andrew would only weaken her; thinking of the man who might have helped was definitely a certain waste of her energies now.
It was as if there was glass in her throat as she looked back at Noah. “How much do I owe?”
“Thirty thousand pounds. It would take you another decade to pay it off if you continue as you do. But if you added a little something more personal to your menu at the club, then I see this going somewhere. You’re a huge hit, Jasmine, and I’ve been getting offer after offer...”