His by Design(4)

By: Dani Wade



She viewed his father’s memory and Eternity Designs as hers; Sloan was a threat to her reign as queen. His frustration had been building over this situation for years and he let it out for once.

“We need to shake things up,” he said. “We can’t afford to lose our biggest account because we’re afraid to break out of the mold. Reliance on tradition is getting you nowhere. Eternity Designs needs a modern edge, a new designer, a revamped portfolio. Pronto.”

That was exactly what Vivian didn’t want to hear. “Your father prided himself on the tradition inherent in this company and its designs,” she said, elegantly restrained anger sharpening her tone. “This discussion demonstrates exactly why he chose me to continue the legacy of Eternity Designs.”

Not you.

The wedding gown design firm had been in his family for three generations—if his current 40 percent share of it counted for anything. With Vivian, it didn’t. But the words of the accountant told him now was the time to insist on the control she’d denied him for so long.

“The whole company will go under if something isn’t done immediately.”

“Sixty percent ownership doesn’t mean you’re God,” he said, ignoring the burn of betrayal. “It’s a good thing dear ol’ Dad isn’t alive to see how you’ve run it into the ground.” Yep. Payback was a bitch.

A quick glance revealed Ziara stiffening, in surprise or defense he wasn’t sure. If she knew what the posture did for her magnificent breasts, she’d hunch in on herself for eternity. He paced back and forth in front of Vivian’s desk, arousal and frustration fueling his restlessness. The business expert in him was tired of talking.

The man in him begged for a totally different kind of action.

Watching Ziara’s reactions to his and Vivian’s little fight fascinated him more than he would have thought. Her exotic, raven-haired beauty brought to mind sensual, spice-scented nights. What would she look like with that thick bun let loose around her shoulders? With that suit jacket loosened up a few buttons? Seducing her out of her loyalty to Vivian was going to be such guilty fun.

He’d avoided getting involved with his employees like a contagious disease, to the point that he hadn’t even had an assistant for six months. But his desperation called for outrageous actions—like storming into Vivian’s office this morning. Finding out Ziara had given up company loyalty for carnal indulgence would probably mean a quick dismissal, but he couldn’t let that stop him. For Ziara this was a job; she’d find another one soon enough.

For Sloan, Eternity Designs was a legacy.

Vivian’s haughty belle persona reappeared. “You’re awfully sure of yourself, Sloan. Overconfidence leads to nasty downfalls. Those unconventional methods of yours won’t work in such a traditional company.”

“Those unconventional methods are just what Eternity needs. Less tradition, not more.” He turned to Ziara. Might as well put her to the test first thing. “What do you think? Is Eternity’s current path leading to success?”

“I…I…” Her almond-shaped eyes flicked back and forth between him and her mentor, panic darkening their chocolate color. After a moment she said, “Our designers do beautiful work, enough to build a loyal following. Families come here generation after generation to commission their dresses. Our motto, our focus has built a legacy. I have no proof otherwise.”

Test number one: fail.

Vivian echoed Ziara’s words. “Eternity Designs is truly where tradition and style forever align.”

Quoting the company’s motto as a defense ramped up Sloan’s anger. He needed to save this business. His father had worked hard to build it. He’d loved it just as Sloan did. Despite their differences at the time of his death, the 40 percent he’d gifted to Sloan in his will told him his father had wanted him to have some small part of his family’s heritage. He had to believe that, had to believe Vivian hadn’t poisoned every ounce of their father-son bond.

He glared at them both. “Maybe our motto needs to change.”

Ziara held very still, the only movement the frantic pulse beating at the base of that silky throat. But Vivian sighed heavily, with a touch of drama. She would have called it flair. He knew he wouldn’t like what came next.

“I’ve been thinking about options to get us through this little slump. I have a few friends who might know potential backers. That should tide us over until spring.”

Shock immobilized Sloan for a moment. Then a sharp spike of panic sliced through the numbness. Then another…and another. “We’re not letting an outsider buy into this company.”

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