Home > Because You Are Mine (Because You Are Mine #1)

Because You Are Mine (Because You Are Mine #1)
Author: Beth Kery

Part I

Because You Tempt Me

Chapter One

Francesca glanced around when Ian Noble entered the room, mostly because everyone else in the luxurious restaurant bar did the same thing. Her heart jumped. Through the crowd she saw a tall man dressed in an impeccably tailored suit remove his overcoat, revealing a long, lean body. She immediately recognized Ian Noble. Her gaze lingered on the elegant black overcoat draped over his arm. The random thought hit her brain that while the black coat was right, the suit was all wrong. He belonged in jeans, didn’t he? Her observation made no sense whatsoever. He looked fantastic in the suit, for one, and for another, according to a recent article she’d read in GQ, he was reputed to almost single-handedly keep London’s Savile Row thriving. What else would a businessman who was the scion of a minor branch of the British monarchy wear? One of the men who had entered with him reached to take his coat, but he shook his head once.

Apparently, the enigmatic Mr. Noble wasn’t planning on doing more than making a cursory appearance at the cocktail party he was hosting in Francesca’s honor.

“There’s Mr. Noble now. He’ll be so pleased to meet you. He loves your work,” Lin Soong said. Francesca heard the subtle note of pride in the woman’s voice, as if Ian Noble were her lover instead of her employer.

“He looks like he has far more important things to do than meet me,” Francesca said, smiling. She took a sip of club soda and watched as Noble spoke tersely on a cell phone while two men stood nearby, his overcoat remaining slung in the crook of his arm in readiness for a quick getaway. The subtle slant of his mouth told her he was irritated. For some reason, this all-too-human display of emotion relaxed her a little. She hadn’t revealed it to her roommates—she was known for possessing a whatever, bring it on attitude—but she’d been strangely anxious about meeting Ian Noble.

The crowd returned to their conversation, but the energy level of the room had somehow amplified with Noble’s arrival. Odd that such a distinctive, sophisticated man would become an icon for a tech-savvy, T-shirt-wearing generation. He looked to be thirtyish. She’d read Noble had earned his first billion with his breakthrough social-media company years ago, before he’d put it up for a public offering, made thirteen billion more, then promptly started another hugely successful Internet retail business.

Everything he touched turned to gold, apparently. Why? Because he was Ian Noble. He could do anything he damn well pleased. Francesca’s mouth curved in amusement at the thought. It somehow helped to think he was arrogant and unlikeable. Yes, he was her benefactor, but like artists throughout history, Francesca had a healthy dose of distrust for the patron shelling out the money. Sadly, all starving artists needed their Ian Nobles.

“I’ll just go and tell him you’re here. As I’ve mentioned, he was quite taken with your painting. He chose it hands down over the two other finalists,” Lin said, referring to the competition Francesca had won. The winner would be granted the prestigious commission to create the centerpiece painting for the grand lobby of Noble’s new Chicago skyscraper, which they were in. The cocktail reception in Francesca’s honor was being held in a restaurant called Fusion, a trendy, pricey restaurant located inside Noble’s high-rise. Most importantly to Francesca, she would be awarded a hundred thousand dollars, something she could sorely use as a struggling master of fine arts graduate student.

Lin magically materialized a young African American woman named Zoe Charon to converse with Francesca in her absence.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Zoe said, flashing an orthodontist’s dream smile as she shook Francesca’s hand. “And congratulations on your commission. Just think: I’ll be looking at your painting every time I walk into work.”

Francesca suffered an increasingly familiar pang of discomfort over her clothing in comparison to Zoe’s suit. Lin, Zoe, and just about every person at the reception in her honor were appareled in the height of sophisticated, sleek fashion. How was she to know that boho chic wouldn’t work at a Noble cocktail party? How was she to know that her brand of boho chic wasn’t really chic at all?

She learned Zoe was an assistant manager for Noble Enterprises, in a department called Imagetronics. What the hell was that? Francesca wondered distractedly as she nodded in polite interest, her gaze flickering again toward the front of the restaurant.

Noble’s mouth softened slightly when Lin reached him and spoke. A few seconds later, a detached, bored expression settled on his features. He shook his head once and glanced at his watch. Clearly, Noble didn’t want to go through the ritual of meeting one of the many recipients of his philanthropic efforts any more than Francesca wanted to meet him. This cocktail party in her honor had been one of the onerous activities that accompanied the winning of the commission.

She turned to Zoe and grinned broadly, determined to enjoy herself now that she’d confirmed her anxiety about meeting Noble had been a waste of time.

“So what’s the deal with Ian Noble?”

Zoe started at her bald question and glanced toward the front of the bar where Noble stood.

“The deal? He’s a god, in a word.”

Francesca smirked. “Not much for understatement, are you?”

Zoe broke into laughter. Francesca joined her. For a moment they were just two young women giggling over the most handsome man at the party. Which Ian Noble was, Francesca conceded. Forget the party. He was the most arresting man she’d ever seen in her life.

Her laughter ceased when she noticed Zoe’s expression. She turned. Noble’s gaze was directly on her. A hot, heavy sensation expanded in her belly. She didn’t have time to draw breath before he was stalking across the room toward her, leaving a surprised-looking Lin in his wake.

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