Shattered by the CEO(3)

By: Emilie Rose



No, that wasn’t right. Rand had told her before their first date that he wasn’t interested in forever. She was the one who’d broken the rules by getting emotionally involved. But how could she help herself when he’d been everything she’d ever dreamed of in a man? Fun, sexy, intelligent, attentive, gentle, good in bed. Correction. Amazing in bed.

She couldn’t help wondering if she could have changed his mind about their future had she kept her mouth shut and let the love and trust sneak up on him. But she’d never know because three months into their affair she’d slipped up after making love and blathered out her feelings for him and her dreams for their future like the besotted twit she’d been.

Her ill-timed words had launched the next Ice Age and the fastest dumping in history. Rand had left her apartment so fast it’s a wonder he hadn’t burned tracks in her carpet. And then he’d left the country.

A frown line formed between his eyebrows as he examined the room’s furnishings. “This looks nothing like your old place.”

So he did remember. Her stupid heart skipped erratically. She scanned the room. The traditional furnishings were not the light-and-airy wicker and chintz she’d had in her apartment. “It’s my mother’s house and it was my grandparents’ before it became hers.”

His gaze sharpened and shot to the archway leading to the kitchen. “Is your mother at home?”

Tara’s heart squeezed with pain and guilt that seemed like they would never end. “She’s dead.”

“Recently?”

She gave him points for trying to be civil, but she didn’t want to discuss her mother with him. The wound was still too raw. “A year ago. But that’s not why you’re here. Could you get to the point, please? I have plans tonight.”

Sad, solo plans, but that was the story of her life these days. Other than a few regrettable exceptions in those lonely months immediately after her mother’s death when Tara had needed someone to hold her, someone to keep the loneliness at bay, men had been a nonissue for her since Rand had dumped her. She’d never found the passion or the connection she’d experienced with Rand with another man, nor had she found the solace she’d been seeking on those lonely, regrettable nights. The physical acts with near-strangers had left her feeling emptier and more alone than before, so she’d quit looking.

Tension crackled in the air between them. Rand didn’t sit. Neither did she. “Everett’s will requires me to return to KCL as CEO—”

“Return? You left Kincaid Cruise Lines? When? Why? The company is your life, your legacy.”

“Yes. I left.” His expression turned even more formidable. The lines bracketing his mouth carved paths through his five o’clock shadow. She used to love to feel that stubble beneath her fingertips and on her breasts. The memories made her pulse quicken and her skin flush.

“My father insists you come back as my PA for one year.”

Rand’s shocking revelation made her willing to overlook the fact that he hadn’t answered all of her questions. “Me? Why? And why would I want to?”

“If you don’t, then Mitch and Nadia will lose their home, their jobs and everything else.”

Regret settled heavily in Tara’s chest. For three years Nadia had been her friend, probably the closest one Tara had ever had. But a fissure had formed between them when Rand abruptly ended his and Tara’s affair, and then Everett’s proposition had finished what was left of the relationship. Tara had been so filled with shame and self-loathing she hadn’t been able to face Nadia—or any of the Kincaids for that matter—again.

“I don’t understand. Why would Everett insist on me returning to my old job? And why now?”

“Who knows what was going through his twisted mind? He has each of us jumping through hoops. He’s harassing us from the grave.” Bitterness and fury vibrated in Rand’s voice.

What had happened to drive the men apart? Rand and his father had always been competitive, but she didn’t remember Rand hating Everett. It sounded as if he did now.

“Can’t you do something about the will?”

He shook his head. “I had a team of top-notch lawyers go over every word. The will’s airtight. I’ll pay you ten thousand a month, plus benefits.”

Her mouth dropped open. “You’re joking.”

“No.”

That was double what she’d made when she last worked at KCL and more than three times her current salary.

It had taken Tara four months after she’d left Kincaid to find a job. It hadn’t been easy without a reference, but she hadn’t dared ask for one after the way she’d left without giving notice, without even returning to empty her desk. Her replacement had done that and shipped Tara’s belongings to her.

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