CAUGHT IN HIS GILDED WORLD
Harlequin Presents...
The show must go on…

For burlesque dancer Gigi Valente, L'oiseau Bleu is not just a cabaret club or a job… It's the only home she's ever known.  She won't let new owner Khaled Kitaev destroy it, even if her body trembles in his magnificent presence…

Though he admires her passion, Khaled believes Gigi is just another gold digger.  But when her attempts to get his attention are caught on camera, the powerful Russian must usher Gigi into his world.

With Gigi at his side, Khaled's womanizing reputation is down and his stock is up!  But how long can he keep this free-spirited bird in his gilded cage?

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excerpt

L'oiseau Bleu had its first full house in months according to an excitable Jacques Danton.  They'd never seen anything like it.
       'Mr Kitaev, we know members of the press are in the audience, we can't do anything about it if they have tickets.'  Martin Danton was wringing his hands as Khaled shouldered his way along the perimeter of the auditorium.
       'Who sold them tickets?'
       There was an uncomfortable to-ing and fro-ing between the brothers.
       Buffoons.


       On stage an act was in full swing involving the tank he'd seen put to a different use yesterday.  Tonight it was full of bubbling water like a cauldron and inside two monstrous Burmese pythons glided to and fro.
       There was a girl in there but he hadn't been paying it much attention, more interested in finding Gigi as unobtrusively as possible.  Where in the hell was she?
       Impatiently he glanced at his watch.  He didn't have time for this.
       His attention was diverted when he noticed one of the monsters appeared to have wrapped itself around the swimming girl and dragged her down to the base of the tank.
       'Is that monitored?' he snarled.
       'The handler is ready to intervene if there's a problem, Mr Kitaev,' Jacques Danton scrambled to assure him.
       'It looks like they're having a problem.  Those snakes, what size are they?'
       'Almost three metres,' stuttered Martin Danton.
       'Then they're capable of crushing the life out of a human being.'
       'Only a small human being,' Jacques Danton countered, 'and Gigi is a robust girl, she's stronger than she looks.'
       Gigi?
       Khaled shoved the smaller man out of his path and made his way to the stage.  He was about to breach the safety rail when the swimmer broke free and shot through the water, breaking the surface to emerge gracefully from the tank, seemingly no worse for wear, dripping water.
       It was Gigi all right.  Painted gold from neck to toes.  With the lights strobing over her body and the music as seductive as any snake-charmers medley.
       She was also naked.
       There was an appreciative intake of breath from the audience as she struck a pose and the lights slid over her gold-painted body in what was frankly an erotic tribute.
       Only Gigi posed as if she was Ethel Merman and this was MGM.
       From the darkness of the audience came a shout, 'Kitaev's whore!'
       He went cold and something hot and virulent licked up from below.
       Gigi, instead of vacating the stage, climbed down from her perch and began to demonstrably search the darkness for the origin of the slur.
       In a moment she had gone from the glorious, sensual goddess bewitching the audience, to the sturdily game girl who had chased him down the Champs Elysees and stood up to his detractors like Liberté defending the people.
       Khaled had already discovered he really liked that girl.
       It galvanised him.
       He vaulted up onto the stage, stepped over the footlights and strode for her.  Gigi's expression was one of total bewilderment as she saw him coming for her.
       That's right, his id growled, worrying about me is the first smart thing you've done all night.
       Such was her shock she didn't so much as utter a squeak as he hoisted her up over his shoulder.  She only began to struggle and scissor her legs as they came off stage, shouting something about him being a madman and to put her down and he'd ruined the act.
       On the contrary, this felt like the sanest he'd been in years.

From "CAUGHT IN HIS GILDED WORLD" by Lucy Ellis
Harlequin Presents - December 2015
ISBN: 9780373133987
 
Text Copyright © 2015 Lucy Ellis
Cover Art Copyright © 2015 Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.  Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited.  All rights reserved.  ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

Lucy Ellis