Authors: Sarah O'Rourke
Inescapable Eye of
By Sarah O’Rourke
Text copyright © 2012 Sarah O’Rourke
Dedicated to our
husbands who have patiently endured the past few years as we both accepted this
new role called “writer”.
Leaning against the steel wall behind
him, Colin Storm felt the demons of his past taunting him in the confined
Why the hell had he insisted that his
beautiful Chief Operating Officer join him on this so-called business
trip? He could have handled the merger with Hastings & Company
alone. After all, he’d done all the legwork on this venture, purposefully
keeping his motives from all but a chosen few.
Obtaining Hastings & Company
had been the sole mission in his life for the past six months. Destroying
the company of the man that had singlehandedly torpedoed his marriage had been
a goal that had nearly consumed his every waking moment, but watching Taggert
Hastings’ face today when recognition had flashed behind his hooded grey eyes
had made the effort worth the cost paid.
Colin had to admit that Hadley McGovern Storm
had painted him in an exceedingly unsavory light during their ugly, public
divorce. Accusations of desertion and abandonment had been bandied about
with startling frequency. She’d attacked his reputation with a ferocity he’d
never thought her capable, making him appear to be a cold, unfeeling monster
that had used her for sex on demand and as a brood mare.
And yet, in spite of the shocking
disgust that now filled him, he still loved her. Almost twenty years of
marriage and a beautiful son had made it impossible for him to turn off the
emotion. God knew, he’d tried to stop himself. Hadley had done
everything short of writing him a message in the sky to convey to him that
whatever feelings she might have once possessed were gone now.
Colin might not have been able to
punish the woman that had ravaged his heart, but he’d taken down the guy that
had instigated the affair that had mangled his marriage. That would have
to be enough.
He could only hope.
The fact that he’d brought the
self-contained Abigail Donavan to witness the feat wasn’t something Colin was
particularly proud of doing. For some reason, he’d just felt the need to
illustrate to her just how far he’d go if he was pushed. Perhaps he was
trying to warn her. Or maybe he just needed her to see him as a dominant
male willing to go to any lengths to prove his superiority.
“Colin?” Abigail murmured softly,
lifting one dark brow as she eyed the man standing beside her. “Are you
Hearing the husky cultured voice
of his companion, Colin turned his head toward the sound. Feeling his
body automatically tighten in response to her words, he ruefully admitted that
while his ex-wife might still have a claim on his heart, this woman beside him
definitely affected his libido.
Thank God Hadley hadn’t
“Fine,” Colin replied evenly, his
eyes lifting to the lighted numbers above the sliding steel doors when the
elevator seemed to falter beneath their feet. “The storm must be
affecting the electricity,” he noted when the numbers seemed to dim for a moment
and the fluorescent lights briefly flashed on and off inside the car.
“Great,” Abigail muttered under
her breath. Inwardly cursing the soaring temperatures and the muggy heat,
Abigail blew a strand of dark hair that was plastered to her forehead out of her
eyes. The humid weather had assured her that her hair was a categorical
mess that no amount of mousse or hair spray could help.
Abigail wouldn’t have categorized
herself as one of those women that was always concerned about her
appearance. She simply recognized the power of a first
impression….how could she not, considering the field she had chosen?
Advertising was based on appearances and creating the perfect illusion.
And since the world was powered by the visions of so-called beauty, she’d been
forced to conform. She had promptly taken advantage of the wisdom
of an image consultant early in her career who had given her valuable advice
regarding the tools of the trade, so to speak. Any woman worth her salt
knew how vital it was to use her femininity to her best possible
advantage…mostly, to lull unsuspecting men into doing her bidding without even
realizing they were under her spell.
And speaking of spells, she was fairly
certain that she had been the victim of just such a machination herself.
From the moment she had first laid eyes on the tall, dark headed man standing
beside her, she had known that she was out of her league. He had been
everything he had been rumored to be….demanding, exacting, ruthless, and
cutthroat in business. She honestly hadn’t expected anything less,
considering he had made the sneakiest backdoor deal in advertising history to
steal her away from his largest competitor two years ago.
Perhaps steal was too harsh of a
term. She hadn’t exactly been playing hard to get. She had wanted
out of Chicago as much as Colin Storm had wanted her to move to New York.
Why stay after a failed engagement to a fiancé who was more concerned about how
he was going to explain to his trust-fund family that he had been caught in
flagrante more times than either of them could count? Circumstances had
ensured that she’d be amenable to a change in zip code. After all, even a
strong woman like herself had to draw her line in the sand somewhere.
And that line had led her directly into
the life of Colin Storm.
And to this unexpected detour that
Mother Nature had decreed they must suffer.
Relieved when the elevator came to a
faltering stop, the floor beneath her feet trembling ominously as the wind
outside howled, Abigail pressed her lips together and stepped out into the
dimly lit hallway. A quick look toward the window at the end of the
corridor confirmed her worst suspicion. The hail pounding against the
glass testified that the storm outside had definitely shifted into high gear.
Seeing the direction of Abigail’s gaze,
Colin smiled faintly. Her distress was obvious. From the
dilated pupils and rapid rise and fall of her chest, it was clear that she had
an aversion to bad weather.
Or maybe, just maybe, he was the one
that was proving to be her stressor. Her mood had darkened the moment the
clerk had informed them that there was only a single room left in their
establishment. No amount of cajoling from his gorgeous employee had
swayed the concierge. She’d tried for several minutes to wrangle another
room from the man to no avail.
There was no other available room to be
had in the very nice upscale hotel.
Tonight, they would be sharing a bed.
And Colin Storm’ day had taken a
definitive turn for the better.
Necessity was indeed the mother of
He'd heard that platitude many, many
times in his life before. But never had it rang as true as it did now as he
watched Abigail Donavan make yet another pass in front of the opened drapes of
the hotel’s rain-splattered window. If he didn't find a way to calm his
colleague, this was going to be a very long night. Every once in a while she
would pause to finger the thick gold tassels that tied back the heavy patterned
drapes as she stared quietly out the window. But mostly, her dainty feet that
were now clad in ballet slippers just kept moving.
"Abigail, please sit down,"
Colin requested tiredly as he watched her pause in front of the window once
more to gaze out at the ominous grey clouds swirling on the horizon.
"You're making me dizzy, and unfortunately, you can't stare those storm
clouds into submission, no matter how hard you try." Although, he’d be
willing to bet that if anyone could manage the feat, it would be her. One of
the primary reasons that he enjoyed Abigail’s company so much was that she
didn’t cower in the face of a problem. She faced it. It was a sight to
behold, watching the petite woman face down advertising giants inside the
boardroom. The more those foes discounted her, the more determined and
ferocious she became. And he had to wonder what it would be like to brave her
fire and tame the woman at the heart of her.
Turning on her heel to glare at the
unconcerned man sprawled in one of the two Queen Anne chairs in the room, Abigail's
lips tightened. "Don't start," she warned with glittering eyes.
"I'm about this close," she said, holding her thumb and forefinger
together for emphasis, "to losing it altogether."
Her expression would have quelled a
lesser man, but he was not naïve when it came to countering the Donavan glare.
Cocking his head, Colin replied evenly, "It's just a little weather,
Donavan. We've moved inland. We're going to be fine," he informed her
negligently, deliberately using her last name in an attempt to force her to
Colin," Abigail growled in exasperation, lifting her thumb over her
shoulder to indicate the darkening cloud cover above the building. "And
we're only thirty miles from the Coast!" How in the hell could such an
intelligent man make such exceedingly stupid comments? Or better yet, her
psyche smirked….how could she be
to such a man?
"We’re in a sturdily built hotel
outside in the way of Mother Nature's elements. Considering how
we in all likelihood may have gotten the last vacant hotel room in North
Carolina, we should be grateful," he noted impartially, grimacing as she
rolled her eyes and began to pace the carpet again. Probably not the best
thing to have said to her, his mind chided. Reminding her that she was for all
intents and purposes trapped inside a room with him wouldn’t exactly pave the
path into his arms.
"No," Abigail bit out as one
foot stepped in front of the other, "I would have been
you had listened to me last night and we'd had the company jet come and get us
as I’d originally suggested. While you might have experience with these kinds
of storms," she said, gesturing at the window, “I do not.”
"You know they'd already shut down the
airports," Colin remarked with a sigh, watching as she made another pass
near the window while glowering out the glass at the rapidly devolving
elements. "Frankly, I wasn't aware that you were afraid of a little
storm," he said casually, realizing too late that it was exactly the wrong
thing to say to her.
"I'm sorry," she hissed,
turning flashing eyes upon him as she stopped suddenly in her tracks. "Did
you say little storm, Colin? This isn't some thunder boomer coming our way, you
know! It's a hurricane. It even has a name. Irene!"
"I heard the same news report you
did, Donavan," Colin replied dryly, shaking his head. "I know she has
a name," he remarked, privately thinking how ironic it was that this
particular hurricane had been dubbed with a female name. Destruction, thy name
is woman. Trying to ignore the way her slim slacks hugged the curve of her perfect
ass, he shifted in the chair. Had they turned off the air conditioning already,
he wondered, glancing at the air vents in the ceiling. Suddenly, it felt hot as
hell in here. "Look, at least you'll have company to ride the storm out
with. Wouldn't it be worse if you were in here alone?" he asked, propping
his chin in his hand as he watched her turn toward the window again.
Now, there was a loaded question,
Abigail thought grimly. While she was, indeed, happy that the her boss was with
her...this wasn't exactly the fantasy she'd envisioned if she ever finagled her
way into a hotel room alone with him. The fact that they were sharing this
space together had been a result of necessity, not choice. "Oh,
yeah," she muttered almost to herself. "I'm thrilled," she mumbled,
her eyes on another black cloud rolling past the window.
How the hell could he remain so calm?
Based on her limited knowledge of the man sharing the room with her, he was a
pro at manipulating situations to his favor. She supposed that skill even
applied to weather anomalies. Spying him out of the corner of her eye, she
again let her mind wander over the facts she knew about the magnate currently
casually sipping a scotch he’d poured for himself.