As if he hadn’t suffered enough humiliation lately, Ben Barsi was forced to endure a pity-offer of a job. The suggestion he take control of the American arm of a European corporation, with a focus on developing new markets for specialized metals, smelled heavily of familial interference served with a side of love and obligation on both sides.
“Did Rozi put you up to this?” Ben asked his new cousin-in-law, Viktor Rohan. He tracked his gaze to the man’s bride, Rozi, glowing as she chatted to their grandmamma. “You realize I’ve been fined twice my net worth by the securities commission for fraud?” He had narrowly avoided jail time.
“I’m aware.” Viktor gave a circumspect nod. “But Rozi believes in your innocence. That’s enough for me.”
“It’s still a terrible business decision. I’ve researched you enough to know you don’t make terrible decisions.” Ben tilted a meaningful stare at the man, letting him know he might be bruised by recent events, but he wasn’t beaten. He looked out for his family, especially his favorite cousins when they suddenly decided to marry tycoons from afar.
At least Gisella was only going to San Francisco with Kaine Michaels. Viktor was stealing Rozi to Budapest. Their grandparents had been born there, but the rest of them were American and tightly knit enough that Rozi’s absence would be deeply felt.
“I would view it as a personal favor if you would consider it.” Viktor glanced toward his new wife. His stark features grew surprisingly tender. “I’m embarrassed I wasn’t more supportive when Rozi first learned of your troubles. Her pregnancy hasn’t been easy. I should have done what I could to ease her mind.” His gaze came back, clear of sentiment, all business. “You’re not an idiot. I’ve researched you enough to know that. This will work in the long run.”
Ben would become an idiot if he refused. He was broke and had nearly ruined his entire family. He couldn’t afford pride. Gizi was marrying the man who had nearly been destroyed by Ben’s misplaced trust. That man, Kaine, had magnanimously bailed out Barsi on Fifth, saving the jewelry store that Ben’s grandparents had founded. Now Viktor was extending a hand that could pull Ben back onto solid footing.
“I’ll think about it,” Ben conceded, hoping his grandmother’s wise words to him when all of this started, “This too shall pass,” would prove true.
For the moment, Eszti Barsi looked happy, surrounded by her extensive family. He hated himself for disappointing her. For jeopardizing all she’d sacrificed and worked to build. He silently vowed he wouldn’t cause her another moment of concern.
Which was when his gaze was caught by a new arrival.
Something ajar within him settled back into place as he took in her auburn hair shifting in loose waves around her sweetheart face. Big, innocent brown eyes searched the wedding reception. Perfect white teeth caught at her plump bottom lip. Her coral cocktail dress hugged her breasts, even more lush than he recalled, and draped to midway down the tops of her smooth thighs, teasing him with memories of having those long legs locked around his waist, both of them lost to indescribable pleasure.
“Who is that?” he heard Viktor ask at a distance.
The instrument of my downfall.
“An uninvited guest,” Ben said through gritted teeth. “Excuse me while I evict her.”
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