Authors: Mia Sheridan
I sat at my computer in my pajamas, tapping a pen against the edge of my desk before dropping it in frustration. I'd started to write a draft of the email I intended to send Brogan, but decided typing it out might be easier. And then I could just go ahead and press send. I picked up his business card—a thick, white cardstock with black print. Elegant and strong, just like the man. Or at least just like the
of the man. Setting the card aside, I placed my fingers on the keyboard, typing in his email address. Stuart's voice rang in my head, the words he'd yelled when I'd told him what Brogan had offered.
He said WHAT?
He wants my sister to whore for him as payment for my loss? Who the fuck does he think he is? I'll kill him!
Empty words when he was completely at Brogan's mercy, when he had absolutely nothing to bargain with. Still, the look on his face had told me he meant what he'd said. If he could get away with murder, he would.
I find your vague, arrogant offer disgusting and vile. Nonetheless, I have no choice but to accept it if—
I deleted what I'd written, frowning. Did I really think Brogan wanted me as his whore? I had the feeling he didn't. In fact, the way he'd looked at me—with disgust—told me all he wanted was to humiliate me. And I had to believe he had plenty of
candidates, if he was looking for sex. He was a gorgeous man. I sat up straighter. I could do it. I could take some humiliation if it meant saving the company my father had loved. If it meant saving the jobs of those we employed. I didn't have to be happy about it, but perhaps playing the game would be the best plan.
More game playing.
I'd grown up and washed my hands of playing games with people years ago. But apparently Brogan had not.
My only other option was to wipe my hands of this mess, go out and get a new job and move on. My heart sank. Could I really move on like that without even trying to convince Brogan to let us have our company back? To
our company back on some sort of payment plan? If it was even the most remote of possibilities, I had to try. I had to find out what Brogan required of me and what he was willing to give—if anything. I had to. For myself . . .
for my father
I appreciate the offer you have so generously presented—
Delete. I brought my foot up on my chair, hugging one knee for a moment, closing my eyes and picturing Brogan as he'd been as a teenager, picturing those light blue eyes, all the more stunning because of his dark coloring. They seemed like a trick of nature—something that made his male beauty impossibly stunning. Thinking of them now brought a strange ache, as did the memory of the way he'd always looked at me with those piercing eyes of his. It had been . . .
It had appealed to my teenage vanity, of course, but it had also appealed to something else—something deeper, something I’d wanted to explore. Why had he adored
of all people? The boy who seemed to never, ever make a decision lightly, to never do anything without
That day in the stable I'd begun to understand that whatever it was between us was far more than superficial. The strength of it had startled me. And as much as I hated to admit it, I still felt pulled to him, at least physically. Of course, I had to figure most women were. "Gah," I said, putting my knee down and sitting up straight.
The thing was, despite everything . . . despite this terrible situation, despite that Brogan hated me, that he wouldn't allow me to apologize much less accept it, despite that he'd decided to use his money to take ownership of our company, I couldn't help the feeling that had swirled in my gut when I'd seen Brogan earlier—not just shock and confusion, and distress, but . . .
of his obvious success even though he apparently intended to use it to destroy me. I hardly knew how to organize my own emotions. I was
I accept your offer. Please let me know where I should be and when.
I paused only momentarily before hitting send. Taking a deep breath, I stood, walking to the bathroom off my bedroom to brush my teeth. As I was finishing, I heard a ding from my computer and returned to see I'd received an email. I walked slowly to the screen and inhaled a sharp breath when I saw who it was from. I'd assumed he'd make me wait. With shaking hands, I opened the email.
I'm pleased. You may start tomorrow at four p.m. Below is my address.
Oh holy hell.
I frowned, chewing on my lip as I noted the address of his home in Greenwich.
He lived in Greenwich?
How long had he lived there? It had to be only recently that he'd bought the house. Greenwich was a small town—surely I'd have heard? And suddenly it hit me—the man I'd seen at the garden party recently. That man had been Brogan.
"Oh my God," I whispered. I
recognized him. I had just been too discombobulated and shocked since everything had happened this morning to revisit that moment at the garden party. God, I'd
it was him, and I'd talked myself out of it. The smooth way he walked, the controlled way he held his body. The way in which he had always stood just a little farther away from other people.
But not me
, he had never held himself away from me. Things had apparently changed though. In the most dramatic way possible.
Anxiety assaulted my nerves, and I took several calming breaths. Okay, this was fine. I could do this. And even
that I'd be in a town I was familiar with—where I had friends. Well, sort of. I supposed classifying the girls I'd gone to high school with as friends might be stretching the definition.
Quite a bit.
I had Daisy. At least I had her. But would I tell her about this? God, the humiliation. How could I? I'd cross that bridge when I came to it because as of now, I really had little idea what I was getting myself into.
Brogan and I would have to discuss terms once I got there. Certainly he didn't intend for me to "work" for him for some interminable timeframe. Surely he'd grow weary of this game, too? Or would he? He couldn't possibly expect me to be some sort of slave labor forever.
All right, I wasn't going to worry about this tonight. I was going to get a good night's sleep and not imagine scenarios that may or may not come to pass. I climbed into bed and shut off the light, laying my head back on the pillow, the vision of pale blue eyes drifting through my mind.
Sleep never came. I crawled out of bed the next morning at seven a.m. after I'd tossed and turned through the night. After a long, hot shower, I blew my hair dry and dressed in a pair of white pants with thin pin stripes and a green blouse. I was going to go into the office for a couple hours to get things settled. I paused as I slipped on my pumps. Was Brogan going to
me to work at my office during the day—even remotely? I groaned—I supposed,
, it wasn't even my office anymore. But that was the purpose of this. The
of this was that I was going to play by his rules, allow him to exact his revenge, take back his power, whatever he considered it, and then we'd part ways, me in possession of my family company. I would do as he asked me to do, and I'd persuade him to do the right thing. Okay, admittedly, it was a long shot. Perhaps an
long shot. But somewhere deep inside, I had to believe there existed the sensitive boy I'd once known, even if only a shred of him was left. I
to believe as much, and I had to believe having access to Brogan was going to allow me to convince him to give back what was rightfully mine. If I didn't have hope, I basically had nothing.
Another thought made me pause. What if whatever "work" Brogan Ramsay asked me to do was of an illegal nature? I frowned, recalling his place of business. He'd said he was in life insurance and yet, I'd seen nothing that would indicate that was true. There hadn't been as much as a sign on the door or a computer on his desk. And his only employee had been a frisky adolescent. I'd had the impression that whatever his "business" was, it was sketchy at best. Insurance salesman, my ass.
Attempting to turn off my mind, I drove to De Havilland Enterprises and made my way quickly to Stuart's office. Surprisingly, I found him standing in front of the window, looking out at the city beyond. I was surprised to see him there—unless we had a meeting, I usually didn't expect to see him until after ten. I wondered how long it would be until one or both of us were escorted off the premises.
Stuart turned when he heard me enter, and I caught sight of the flask in his hand, and his bloodshot eyes.
Now I understood why he was here so early. He'd never gone to bed. Well at least if I was losing sleep, he was, too.
"Would you like some coffee with that?" I asked sarcastically. "To at least
He turned, his expression tight. "No." He took another swig.
I dropped my purse onto a chair. "How is this helping anything? I'm the one who has to go live with a virtual stranger who is looking to make our whole family pay for something that happened seven years ago. The least you could do is present a semblance of strength for me today." I loathed that my voice sounded overly high-pitched. I took a deep breath and removed some files from my briefcase. "I need you to take care of something for me later this afternoon. I'm leaving early and this needs to get done. You're the only one who can do it besides me. Do you think you can manage it?"
"Stop the condescending bullshit, Lydia. Just tell me what you need done and it'll get done." Stuart was back to staring out the window and didn't turn around. I gritted my teeth. As usual, Stuart had gone from livid anger to sulky self-pity. I wasn't surprised, but I also didn't need to contend with it. Not today.
"Okay, thanks," I said, feigning nonchalance. "I'll text you when I know more."
I picked up my briefcase and my purse and went to leave his office when Stuart said, "Did you know our father planned to give him a job here? Said he was some kind of math genius, and we'd be lucky to have his talent at De Havilland Enterprises." I turned, one hand on the doorknob. Stuart laughed softly, no humor in the sound. "Ironic, no?" He took another long draw on his flask.
I regarded my brother, a small frown tipping my lips down. He continued to stare out the window, his shoulders bent, looking broken. I hadn't realized—he'd been
of Brogan Ramsay. All those years ago, he'd been green with envy because our father had recognized something in Brogan that had impressed him. My father with the incredibly strong work ethic and business savvy had never been impressed with his lackadaisical son. My father was a good man, but when it came to my brother, he'd noticed every weakness, every
and more often than not, looked at him with disapproval. "Take care of your brother, Lydie," my mother had said right before she'd died. "I know he's older, but he's not strong like you." Stuart had only been fifteen at the time and she'd known. I couldn't help the small spark of sympathy that ignited in my chest. There were many things I didn't appreciate about Stuart, but he was still my brother. In actuality, he was the only family I had. And my mother had asked me to look out for him.
He turned toward me. "Take care of yourself. Be . . . safe."
I nodded, offering him a small smile. "I will. I promise. Things will be fine." I walked out and closed his office door softly behind me.
I spent the rest of the day wrapping up loose ends, telling my secretary I was taking at least a few vacation days. In actuality, I had no idea what was going to happen, or whether Brogan was going to allow Stuart and me to have jobs here in any capacity. If I was here next week, all the better. I could continue on, trying my best to pull the company out of the mess it was currently in, just as my plan had been the day before.
By two p.m. I was leaving the office. I refused to say goodbye to anyone as if I wouldn't be returning. To do so would be to abandon hope. Plus, as far as I could tell, none of the staff had any idea anything was different than it'd been yesterday, so I'd have to wait for Brogan to clue me in on exactly how that was going to be handled. Of course, I could only hope he could be taken at his word as far as ensuring the rest of the staff stayed on, whether that was true of Stuart and me or not.
A large part of my job was managing the department heads, and they were all competent in their roles. They would do just fine without me there. Reminding myself of this as I left De Havilland Enterprises put my mind at ease.