Only on His Terms(6)

By: Elizabeth Bevarly

 “I, um, that is...” she began. She inhaled a deep breath and released it, and then shifted her weight nervously from one foot to the other. She forced a smile she was sure looked as contrived as it felt and tried again. “Actually, I mean... The thing is...”

 Gah. At this rate, she would be seeing Harry in the afterlife before she was able to make a complete sentence. Just spit it out, she told herself. But all she finally ended up saying was “Um, actually, I don’t have to go back to work after this.”

 Well, it was a start. Not to mention the truth. Go, Gracie!

 Immediately, Harrison Sage’s expression cleared. “Excellent,” he said. “Do you like Thai? Because there’s this great place on West Forty-Sixth that just opened. You’ll love it.”

 “I do like Thai,” she said. Still being honest. Forward, Gracie, she told herself. Move forward.

 “Excellent,” he said, treating her again to that bewitching smile. “I’m Harrison, by the way,” he added. “Harrison Sage. If you hadn’t already figured that out.”

 Gracie bit back a strangled sound. “Yeah, I kinda did.”

 “And you are?”

 It was all she could do not to reply, “I’m the trashy, scheming, manipulative gold digger. Nice to meet you.”

 “I’m—I’m Gracie,” she said instead.

 She was hoping the name was common enough that he wouldn’t make the connection to the woman he probably hated with the burning passion of a thousand fiery suns. But she was pretty sure he did make the connection. She could tell by the way his expression went stony, by the way his eyes went flinty, by the way his jaw went clinchy...

 And by the way the temperature in the room seemed to drop about fourteen billion—yes billion with a b—degrees.


 Harrison Sage told himself he must have misheard her. Maybe she hadn’t said her name was Gracie. Maybe she’d said her name was Stacy. Or Tracy. Or even Maisey. Because Gracie was a nickname for Grace. And Grace was the name of the woman who had used her sexual wiles to seduce and manipulate a fragile old man into changing his will to leave her with nearly every nickel he had.

 This was that woman? he thought, taking her in again. He’d been expecting a loudmouthed, garishly painted, platinum blonde in a short skirt, tight sweater and mile-high heels. One who had big hair, long legs and absolutely enormous—

 Well. He just hadn’t expected her to look like something out of a fairy tale. But that was exactly the impression he’d formed of this woman when she first walked into the room. That she was some fey, otherworldly sylph completely out of her element in this den of trolls. She was slight and wispy, and if she was wearing any makeup, he sure couldn’t see it. Stray tendrils of hair, the color of a golden autumn sunset, had escaped their twist, as if all it would take was a breath of sorcery to make the entire mass tumble free.

 And when had he become such a raging poet? he asked himself. Golden autumn sunset? Breath of sorcery? What the hell kind of thoughts were those to have about a woman who had robbed his family of their rightful legacy? What the hell kind of thoughts were those for a man to have, period? Where the hell had his testosterone got to?

 On the other hand, he was beginning to see how his father had been taken in by her. Obviously, she was the kind of grifter who got better results as a vestal virgin than a blonde bombshell. Harrison had almost fallen into her trap himself.

 It didn’t matter how she’d conned his father. What mattered was that she’d swindled one of the last century’s most savvy businessmen and convinced him to turn his back on everyone and everything he’d loved in life. Well, as far as his father could have loved anyone or anything—other than his fortune, his commercial holdings and his social standing. But then, what else was there to love? Money, power and position were the only things a person could count on. Or, at least, they had been, before everything went to hell, thanks to this, this...

 Harrison took a step backward, and met Grace Sumner’s gaze coolly. “You’re the trashy, scheming, manipulative gold digger?” he asked. Then, because something in her expression looked genuinely wounded by the comment—wow, she really was good—he tempered it by adding, “I thought you’d be taller.”

 She mustered a smile he would have sworn was filled with anxiety if he hadn’t known she was a woman who made her way in the world by conning people. “Well, I guess zero out of five isn’t bad.”

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