Forbidden Merger(4)

By: Emilie Rose



“It was great meeting you…” Without releasing her hand he looked down at the card and then his gaze, shocked and wary, jerked back to hers. “Aubrey. Aubrey Holt?”

How did he know her name? Confused by his reaction, Aubrey flipped the card in her hand and read the embossed letters. Her stomach plunged to her pumps.

“You’re Liam Elliott?”

“Yes.”

She snatched her hand away and cursed her luck. She’d finally met an intelligent man with whom she’d like to pursue a relationship and she not only had to lie to him, but she also had to pry confidential information out of him.

Not the way to win friends or lovers, A.

She fought the urge to scream in frustration.

The sexiest man she’d ever met was totally taboo.

Damn. Double damn, Liam swore silently. Between work difficulties and his mother’s battle with breast cancer he hadn’t had time to look twice at a woman since January and here he was turned on by the enemy’s daughter.

Confusion replaced desire in the most extraordinary violet-colored eyes he’d ever seen. “But you were early.”

He stomped on his disappointment. “So were you.”

“I…I wanted to familiarize myself with the establishment.”

And he’d been driven to drink by this morning’s disaster of a meeting between his warring family members—a battle his grandfather had deliberately started nine months ago when he’d announced his pending retirement at the family’s New Year’s bash. Patrick Elliott’s idiotic method for choosing his replacement had pitted his children and grandchildren against each other as they vied for the top spot at EPH.

Worse, Liam suspected his grandfather had used the information Liam had inadvertently shared in devising his plan. Liam was closer to his grandfather than anyone in the family. He and Patrick ate together, golfed together and worked out side by side in the EPH gym. They talked about anything and everything, but Liam now wished he’d kept his mouth shut and had treated his grandfather more like an employer than a relative or a friend. But he’d never expected someone he loved to use his confidences to betray the family.

Why hadn’t he seen this coming and found a way to head off disaster? The family counted on him to be the peacemaker. Over the past months Liam had watched his uncles, aunts and cousins become competitors instead of teammates. His

grandfather continued to turn a deaf ear to Liam’s prediction that the backbiting and squabbling would take EPH down instead of making the company stronger, as Patrick predicted. Liam used to enjoy working in the family business, but the current discord made him dread going to work each day.

He knocked back the last of his drink and considered his options. He could leave, but curiosity kept his feet nailed to the floor. Why had Aubrey Holt called this meeting? Option two: order another drink and join her. But he’d had two in the past hour, breaking his personal code of ethics. He rarely drank during working hours—even though the idea appealed more each day, given the current battlefield where he worked—and he never consumed more than two drinks.

Ever. If he did order a third now, he’d probably say to hell with the family, work and ethics and invite Aubrey back to his apartment to see where this attraction would lead—a decision that would cause more trouble than it was worth.

“I—Well.” Aubrey visibly switched gears from flirtatious woman to business acquaintance. The spark in her eyes died and determination squared her shoulders and her chin. Her lips firmed, concealing the lush softness.

The thought had crossed Liam’s mind that Aubrey might have known who he was when she’d been checking him out at the bar and maybe she’d come on to him to soften him up and worm information out of him, but her obvious horror at discovering his identity erased it.

“Please, have a seat, Mr. Elliott, and let me buy your lunch.”

“Liam.” Damn, he repeated silently, and slid back into the booth. This time when his knee brushed Aubrey’s the fire shooting up his thigh filled him with frustration rather than the heart-racing anticipation he’d felt moments ago.

Nothing could come of this attraction. Nothing. Matthew Holt wasn’t the kind of adversary to whom you revealed your weaknesses. That meant his daughter wasn’t either.

“What made you call my office for an appointment, Aubrey?” He’d be damned if he’d call her Ms. Holt when minutes ago he’d been savoring the idea of getting her out of her clothes and exploring every inch of her long, lean body. With his hands. With his tongue.

He’d been watching her since she walked in. Aubrey might be as tall and slender as a model and not his usual type, but when she’d shimmied out of her black blazer her moves had been worthy of a top-notch stripper. Smooth. Seductive.

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