Shattered by the CEO(5)

By: Emilie Rose

Unable to concentrate with his intense stare nailing her in place and compelling her to accept, she turned away. She’d never expected to see Rand Kincaid again, and she could have survived without him in her life. But here he stood in her home. It seemed as if fate were offering her a second chance to make this right—to make them right.

Did she dare try?

It would be a huge gamble. She might fail and get her heart shattered all over again, but at least she’d have the satisfaction of knowing she’d given it her best effort.

But how? How could she reach a commitment-phobic man who’d walked away once already? How could she prove to him that good relationships could and did happen?

She peeked at his reflection in the mirror that hung behind the sofa and caught his gaze raking her body. Heat flared in his eyes and kicked her pulse into a faster beat. And then he realized he was under scrutiny and masked his desire. He held her gaze dispassionately, but the raw hunger she’d glimpsed gave her the answer she needed.

She’d start with the one thing that had always been good between them—the sex—and build from there. And this time she wouldn’t blurt out her feelings prematurely and scare him away.

Her skin flushed and her heart pounded at the possibility of sleeping with Rand again. She would, ironically, be offering him almost the same deal his father had offered her. Move in, be her partner in every way, and she would help him with his problem.

Would Rand have the courage to accept where Tara had failed?

Blinking to break the connection, she wiped her damp hands on her dress, exhaled slowly—shakily—and faced him. “I’ll come back to Kincaid on two conditions.”

“Name them.”

“One, I want a glowing recommendation from you in writing. In advance.” If this gamble didn’t work out, she didn’t want to be forced into another low-paying, dead-end job. She had bills to pay and an obligation to keep this house.

“If I give you the letter now, what’s to keep you from walking before the year’s up?”

“My word.”

He hesitated, his square jaw shifting. “Done. What else?”

Chaos clamored inside her. She licked her dry lips and smoothed her damp hands on her hips again. “You. I want you, Rand. In my life. In my home. In my bed. Exclusively. For that year.”

Rand recoiled as if she’d slapped him. “That offer is not on the table.”

She fought to conceal her pain.

Did you expect him to be thrilled?

Maybe not thrilled, but something less than appalled would have been nice.

But without their intense physical chemistry on her side, the odds of succeeding in this quest were next to nil. She might as well give up now and save herself the false hopes and heartache. Mentally and physically, she backed away. “Then I can’t help you.”

His eyes narrowed suspiciously and the gold flecks in his irises glittered dangerously amidst the green. “What is this? Another attempt to get a ring out of me? I’ve told you before, I don’t do commitment.”

No, and he never would if she couldn’t get past the boundaries he guarded so carefully. Last time he’d never spent an entire night in her bed or even met her mother. If she wanted her plan to succeed, she had to find a way to slip past his defenses and make him a part of her life. But she’d have to be careful. Rand would bolt if he thought she entertained even the faintest hope for wedding bells in their future.

She held his gaze and forced a lackadaisical smile even though her nerves stretched as tightly as piano wires.

“I’m not asking for forever. Just twelve months. You’re not so irresistible that every woman wants to marry you, Rand. You and I both know this job is going to take long hours and involve a lot of overnight travel. I already have no social life—and therefore no sex life. Whatever else may have been lacking between us, the sex was always good.”

Raw, urgent hunger exploded in his eyes and his chest expanded on a swiftly drawn breath. Her heart missed a beat.

He remembered their passion.

And that subtle reaction gave her hope and the grit to press on. She lifted her chin and squared her shoulders. “When do we start?”

What man in his right mind would refuse sex with a beautiful woman he desired?He would.

“I can’t give you what you want.” Rand forced the words through a locked jaw.

Tara lifted a hand and tucked a golden curl behind her ear. Rand clenched his fingers on the memory of how soft her hair had been against his skin and tangled around his hands and wrists. While part of him mourned the long, loose curls, he had to admit the way the chin-length style bared her neck and shoulders was sexy as hell. Professional, but just tousled enough that a man knew she wouldn’t mind him messing her up.

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