Shattered by the CEO(2)

By: Emilie Rose

Whatever game you’re playing, old man, I will win this time.

Even if it meant facing Tara again.

He squared his shoulders and looked his brother straight in the eye. “I’ll do it. I’ll come back to KCL, and I’ll make Tara Anthony an offer she can’t refuse.”


T he doorbell echoed through the two-story foyer, stopping Tara Anthony in the process of kicking off her shoes. An ivory sandal dangled from her toe.

Tightening her grip on the newel post, she debated ignoring her visitor and then groaned, stabbed her foot back into her shoe and rolled her tense shoulders. Whoever was out there had very likely watched her walk inside thirty seconds ago and knew she was here. As if to prove her point, the bell chimed twice more in quick succession.No doubt she’d find another developer on the other side of the door, one who wanted to buy her lot, demolish her old house and build a minimansion in its place as had happened with so many of the neighborhood properties. This section of Miami had become an increasingly desirable location lately. But she couldn’t sell. She’d promised her mother she’d hold on to the house. Just in case.

Tara pushed back her hair and sighed. She wanted this rotten day to end, and she wasn’t up for a pushy sales pitch tonight. But apparently, her hot bath and the pint of Ben & Jerry’s she’d planned to have for dinner would have to wait.

Not for long.

Tomorrow she’d buy a bigger No Soliciting sign.

Resolved to deal with her uninvited guest as quickly as possible, she crossed the foyer and yanked open the door. She reeled back in shock at the sight of the tall, broad-shouldered man filling the opening.

“Rand,” his name poured from her in a lung-deflating whisper.

An evening breeze ruffled short, straight hair the color of dark chocolate, and his narrowed hazel eyes raked her from head to toe and back.

Emotions tumbled over her like raging river rapids. Shame. Pain. Anger. But something warm and welcoming spurted through her, too. Love? Could there be a lingering trace of that misplaced sentiment in her veins?

Surely you aren’t still stuck on a man you haven’t seen or spoken to in five years?

“May I come in?”

So polite, that deep, rich, goose-bump-raising voice. He hadn’t been polite the last time she’d seen him. That day his tone had been cold, cutting and cruel.

You didn’t waste any time, did you? You couldn’t hook me so you went after deeper pockets. But the joke’s on dear ol’dad. He wants you because he thinks I do. But I’ve already had you, Tara. And finished with you. He’s welcome to my leftovers.

The chill that had seeped into her bones that night at Kincaid Manor returned. Wrapping her arms around her chest, she crammed the memories back into their dark closet and focused on the man in front of her.

“What do you want, Rand?”

He looked stiff and perturbed in his perfectly tailored dove-gray suit, white shirt and burgundy raw silk tie, as if he didn’t want to be here any more than she wanted him on her front porch. “To discuss my father’s final demands.”

Everett Kincaid. One of the low points in Tara’s life. “I heard he’d passed away. I’m sorry for your loss.”

Rand didn’t look mournful. “His will involves you.”

Everett always had been kind to her, but why would her former boss leave her a bequest? Especially after the way they’d parted. “He left me something?”

Rand’s lips flattened into a thin line and his square jaw shifted to an antagonistic angle. “No, but unless you agree to his terms we’ll lose everything.”

Talk about dramatic. She barely managed not to roll her eyes. And then, puzzled, she frowned. Rand had never been the over-the-top kind. He’d been very straightforward about what he wanted. And what he didn’t.

She tucked a curl behind her ear and wondered if he noticed she’d cut her hair or that she’d lost weight since they’d been an item. Or had he slept with so many women that the features blurred together into a homogeneous female form? Had she even left a mark in his memory?

His lousy relationship track record hadn’t kept her from falling in love with him five years ago, but back then she’d been young, shy and an impossibly naive twenty-four. She wasn’t any of those things anymore. Watching her mother die slowly and painfully had aged Tara what felt like decades.

She should boot Rand and the memories associated with their brief affair right off her property, but curiosity got the better of her. She opened the door farther. “Come in.”

His brisk stride carried him past her and straight into the den. The same cologne he used to wear encircled her like a long-lost friend. A friend who’d stabbed her in the back.

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