Authors: Railyn Stone
A Secret to Keep
This is a fictional work. The names, characters, incidents, places, and locations are solely the concepts and products of the author’s imagination or are used to create a fictitious story and should not be construed as real.
5 PRINCE PUBLISHING AND BOOKS, LLC
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A Secret to Keep
Copyright Railyn Stone 2015
Published by 5 Prince Publishing
Front Cover Viola Estrella
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations, reviews, and articles. For any other permission please contact 5 Prince Publishing and Books, LLC.
First Edition/First Printing June 2015 Printed U.S.A.
5 PRINCE PUBLISHING AND BOOKS, LLC.
Many thanks to my family. You are the ones I always know I can come to for the truth, love, support and reaffirmation that God can do anything.
To five young ladies who’ve made a tremendous impact on my life. Never give up on your dreams. With faith, the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains. Love you Jocelyn, Mariah, Ashley, Ayanna, and Elise. You girls are going places.
A Secret to Keep
Sloane walked briskly down the hallway to her boss’s office. She wasn’t quite sure why Antony wanted to see her first thing this morning, but she knew it must be pretty important for him to leave her a voice mail before she was scheduled to be in the office. She paused at the door, smoothed her black pencil skirt and straightened the collar on her cobalt satin blouse. Peering into the edge of the chrome frame hanging outside the beveled glass door she checked her teeth for any remnants of her breakfast before knocking softly and turning the knob.
“Antony, you wanted to see me?” Stepping into the beautifully decorated office, she fully expected to see Antony sitting behind the huge mahogany desk he’d purchased on his last trip to Brazil and typing away on the antiquated
typewriter he refused to give up. Instead, she froze in her tracks and held onto the brass doorknob as she came face to face with her ex-fiancé, Gates McCall, one of the biggest names in real estate development on the East Coast. Her breath caught in her throat as he and Antony both stood from their seats to greet her. “Gates? What…what’re you doing here?” She wanted to move, but her feet felt like anchors and her heels sunk deeper into the plush burgundy carpet affixing her to the floor.
“I like personally checking in on my investments.” She watched a slow sly grin grace his majestically tanned perfect face. He was still as handsome as ever and time had done nothing but enhance his appearance. He stood tall and commanding and the expensive suit he wore hung on his frame as if the designer had him in mind when he drew the sketch. Every dark hair on his head knew its place and she sucked in a breath as his brooding hazel eyes, curtained by dark thick lashes, locked on hers.
She licked her parched pouty lips and heard her own voice betray her as it squeaked out. “Your investment?”
“Ah, yes, Sloane, I’m glad you’re here. McCall International has purchased Boston Developers and Mr. McCall took time out of his busy schedule to personally stop in to visit our Foundation. They’re going to hold a meeting for all of the companies that were working with Boston to let them know the status of their projects. But, I wasn’t aware you two knew one another.” Sloane broke her intense gaze with Gates to turn a bewildered look towards her jovial employer as he walked around his desk.
“We uh…” Still shocked by Gates’ presence, Sloane scrambled to think of exactly what to say to Antony. It wasn’t like she could just broadcast to her boss she was once engaged to the man who would determine if their project would be built or not. Nor could she reveal she’d kept Gates’ nearly nine month-old son, Brayden, a secret from him. In a matter of seconds, the carefully crafted life she’d orchestrated was hitting a sour note. Here she stood in front of a man she had once loved more than life, but with no way to reveal the truth that could easily destroy her entire world.
“Yes, Antony, I know Sloane.” Sloane diverted her vision to look at anything other than Gates. Her eyes traveled from the exquisite tapestries hanging on the wall Antony and his wife, Isabella, brought back from their trip to France, to the family photos lining the mahogany shelves behind his desk. However, nothing worked and she found her eyes sweeping back to his indomitable frame. Gates was magnificent and it was taking everything in her not to crumble under his glare. “We have a few mutual friends.” His cool demeanor and statement slashed her soul. In all honesty, he had no reason to feel anything for her anymore after she’d walked out on him. But his quick dismissal of their relationship cut her to the quick like it hadn’t mattered at all.
“Well, I guess that’s a plus for us. Sloane and Aliyah have been working diligently on this project and if anyone can give you the ins and outs, it would be Sloane.” She listened quietly to Antony’s glowing commendation and waited for Gates’ response.
“I look forward to it.” His expression never changed and she felt overexposed and horribly unenlightened to what Gates may be planning. “Antony, it was good to meet you and see the Foundation. Looks like you’re doing a lot of great work here. I apologize, but I do need to visit a few more places before I head back.” She watched the men shake hands and head towards the door as she teetered closer to the desk to fasten herself upright.
“Well, of course. I do appreciate your time this morning Mr. McCall. Let me walk you out.” Sloane glanced up with a start when Gates shifted his attention to her leaning against the desk. She quickly pulled herself up to stand somewhat unsteady on the three inch black pumps she wore.
“Sloane.” She felt chills run down her spine at the way her name rolled off his tongue and she mustered what little wits she had left.
“Gates.” Watching him exit the office with Antony she exhaled, realizing she’d been holding her breath the entire time.
Oh mercy, what am I going to do?
Pulling herself together enough to exit Antony’s office, Sloane raced down the hallway to her best friend and project partner, Aliyah Cross’s office. Just short of needing an inhaler, she struggled to catch her breath while holding on to the frame of the doorway. “Did you know about this?”
Aliyah looked up to see a seemingly frazzled Sloane plop down in the chair across from her desk. “You saw him huh?”
“Please tell me this is a joke?” Sloane slid lower in the chair and threw her head back. If it wasn’t a joke, it was definitely a problem. Gates had acquired the development company her non-profit had contracted to work with on their hospital project. But what really had her heart palpitations going at an ungodly rate was the fact she’d kept the child they conceived before she left him a secret. Gates McCall had no clue she’d given birth to his heir and she intended to keep it that way. As much of a tyrant as his father was, she knew Gates had become a lot like him. He valued money and power more than people and she didn’t want her child subjected to that. “Couldn’t he have just shown up in a tabloid getting married to some model or something? It’s not like he’s not always in the paper or on TV with some new woman on his arm. Couldn’t he have just done that? Why buy Boston Developers? Why now?” She reluctantly pushed herself up from her seat to walk over to the window. It was a gorgeous spring day and she wanted to be anywhere but in her own skin right now. She’d finally managed to push Gates out of her daily thoughts and now she was going to have to convince him to go through with the project; all the while holding onto her secret. “He can’t do this.” She murmured the words so softly Aliyah could barely hear her.
“Well, according to the email he can, and he did.” Sloane sighed as she listened to Aliyah read the first paragraph of the email.
“This is not happening. It can’t be happening.”
Aliyah sat back in her chair and watched Sloane pace back and forth in front of the window. “When’s the last time you talked to him? I mean, besides this morning?”
Sloane shrugged. She felt suspended in some crazy otherworldly dimension and was past the point of being able to think clearly. Every thought seemed to form and shape its nucleus around Gates, and her once dormant fears were awakened at the decibel level of a jet at takeoff. It was one thing for him to be in New York, but now he’d bought Boston Developers and was going to be in close proximity. Being this close, it was only a matter of time before he found out about Brayden. “I don’t know. I guess it was a little over a year ago.” She pivoted to focus in on Aliyah. “So wait, read that again, did you say Dawson & Stein are looking at our location?”
“Oh, yeah,” Aliyah looked back at the screen. “I guess with the shakeup, they’re looking to get our spot.” She looked up at Sloane who was now firmly planted in front of her desk with the most befuddled look on her face.
“This is just great. They want our spot and Gates is in control of who gets it.” Closing her eyes Sloane shook her head and quietly seethed. Her emotions were so out of whack; accelerating from worry to anger in a matter of seconds.
Why did he have to come here now?
She was trying to move on with her life; at least as much as she could without him in it. His presence was only going to mess up everything. Already his brief visit had her stomach in pretzel-like knots and it was a distraction she knew would interfere with her career; the one she’d worked so hard for to provide Brayden with the life she knew he deserved. She wanted to pick up the phone, dial Gates’ number and curse him from one end of the line to the other, but she knew it would do no good.
“Look, maybe it won’t be as bad as you think. Boston Developers were gung ho to go with our project. We have a good thing and Gates has to know that.” Aliyah tapped her pencil on the desk before turning to finish the email.
“You don’t get it, Liyah,” Sloane started, referring to her friend with the more shortened version of her name she always used. “Gates is married to his bank account. He’s going with whoever can make him the most money. And right now, that would be D&S. That’s one of the reasons I left him.”
“What do you mean?” Sloane could see the questions swirling around in Liyah’s face and she knew she was going to have to finally come clean with her friend. They’d known each other since high school and were closer than most sisters, but Sloane had kept this secret and all that transpired between her and Gates to herself.
“When we first started dating, we had so much fun together. But things started to change when he took over his father’s company; he slowly turned into his father. He went from sweet and caring to canceling plans and more focused on the money and the next deal. Just like Victor. It was like I never knew him.” She picked up a frame sitting on the edge of the desk of a picture she’d taken of Liyah and Brayden. The baby looked so much like his father, and she grimaced at the thought of the last encounter she’d had with Gates’ father.
“I hope you know you are merely a passing fancy for him,” Victor hissed as he sidled up to Sloane. “Something different for the time being.” She and Gates were attending another fundraising event and he’d been pulled away into a conversation with a few potential clients. No less part of his father’s design she was sure, seeing a voluptuous redhead playfully squeezing Gates’ arm as they stood across the room. Sloane had never felt quite comfortable at these events. There were always tons of people she didn’t know, far too many cameras flashing, nothing but talk of money and how more could be made, and of course, women. And they all wanted Gates. His father wasn’t helping the situation. He always took the opportunity to point out the fact that she wasn’t a ‘blue blood’ like Gates or many of the others. The people in his circle were either heirs or the dying patriarchs of old established money. It never mattered to her, but the way Victor needled her about it made her tremendously uncomfortable.