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Breaking love broken lov.., p.7
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       Breaking Love (Broken Love #4), p.7

           B. B. Reid
 
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  Four years ago, I had become adept at reading her like an open book, and right now, it read that she is in trouble, or at the very least hiding something. For Willow, maybe the latter was much more dangerous.

  Now that I had her, I had no idea what I was going to do with her. I haven’t seen her in four years because I let her have her way. That wasn’t a mistake I was willing to make again. I wasn’t aware of what life she made for herself these last four years, but it wasn’t relevant anymore.

  She was never going back.

  I entered the private office suite and put my game face on. Celesha flashed me a friendly yet taunting smile as I bypassed her wordlessly. I ripped away my suit jacket as if it were on fire and threw my body into the chair.

  “You did something illegal.”

  I lifted my head from my hand to find my assistant in the doorway with her hand on her hip. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

  “Care to share?” she asked with a wide grin. I got the impression that she had a bit of a wild streak when she was younger, which only spilled over now when she was mischievous.

  “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

  “You could try me. If you share, I’ll share.”

  “Oh?”

  “But you have to promise not to fire me.”

  “You drive a hard bargain, but I’ll have to take a raincheck. If there is anything pressing that needs my attention, it will all have to be taken care of by a quarter to six. I have a meeting with Richard Simon at six.”

  “Richard Simon? How do I not know about this?”

  “Because I arranged it myself.”

  “Isn’t he the competition?”

  “Not for long.”

  “You mean like…” She dragged her finger across her throat in a cutting motion.

  “Would I have bothered with my favorite suit?”

  She snorted. “It’s not like you couldn’t afford more favorite suits. So, where are you going? Should I arrange a car?”

  “There’s no time. I’m walking. It’s just up the street at Pete’s.”

  “That’s a little informal for a business meeting.”

  “I figured I’d take my time and woo him a little. You know, with dinner and a movie?” I wasn’t actually taking him to dinner and a movie, but the concept was the same. My father had always used a take-charge approach and frankly, could be a bit of dick. My specialty was finesse. First, I’d get Richard to trust me.

  She returned my sarcasm with some of her own. “Aren’t you the charmer.”

  “That’s what they tell me. I’m hoping if I can win him over and take over Simon Acquisitions, then I can get my old man off my back. My father has always only believed in the divide and conquer method.”

  “It’s a wonder he’s managed to stay married for so long.”

  “My mother is much worse.”

  “Wow. I guess the Chambers are a family of cutthroats.”

  “My sister is the exception. The black sheep. She has a gentler touch when it comes to getting what she wants.”

  “Is that your subtle way of saying she’s spoiled?”

  “You’re becoming too good at your job.”

  “That’s why you’re going to give me a big fat raise at the end of the year.”

  “Or I could fire you and save the money,” I returned. I smiled, but she didn’t return it nor did she use her sharp tongue to answer with her customary quips. Instead, she fidgeted in her seat.

  “Something wrong?”

  “I, uh… have some news.”

  “Go on.”

  “I’m… pregnant.”

  “Congratulations. Why do you look like your mother died instead?”

  “Because I will need to take leave, and I know I’ve only been here a short time and don’t qualify—”

  “Done. It’s not a question. Take the three months—”

  “I need more than three months.” I was unable to hide my surprise so she rushed on. “I’m not expecting pay. It’s just that I’ve had difficulties in the past with pregnancy, and the doctor advised that I remain on bed rest if I hope to carry this baby full term.”

  Her hands shook with physical signs of upset, and I realized my silence was contributing to her nervousness. Legally, since she hadn’t worked for me long enough, she wasn’t protected under FMLA and even so, it only covers three months leave. What she was asking for was something most employers would not grant.

  “I don’t see a problem with that. You will be missed, of course, but I can assure you your position will remain intact.”

  She released a loud sigh and held her chest. “I don’t know how to thank you.”

  “You’ve impressed me immensely in a short amount of time. Just let me know how long I have to find a temporary assistant.”

  “I think I’m safe to stay on for another month. I’m not very far.”

  “Great. Write up a two-week training schedule. You’ll be training the temp yourself. I’ll notify human resources so they can contact a temp agency and prepare you for disability leave.”

  “Thank you, again.” She stood from her seat and crossed the room to the door. I watched her hesitate and then turn back. “You’re very kind.”

  “I’m not—”

  “You’re nothing like your father…” her head tilted and a sad smile crossed her lips, “…no matter how many times you punish yourself by thinking so.”

  She left and the rest of the day was a blur. Before long, I was leaving the office building and stepping into the dusk. Ten minutes later, I was walking into the dimly lit bar and grill.

  I was starting to feel tightly confined in my suit but didn’t have the time to change. For the next few minutes, I silently rehearsed what I would say. I did my homework on the man who was the only one who managed not to give in to my father’s selling or intimidation tactics.

  Richard Simon had no wife or kids. He rarely spent time in the company of others except to golf every Sunday. He had a passion for boats and expensive whores. I also knew he weighed over two hundred pounds and founded his company five years before my father but was now on the verge of bankruptcy. Like a proud man, he refused to sell or close his company, which could mean thousands of people would be out of a job unexpectedly. I wasn’t going to let that happen.

  On cue, Simon walked through the double doors searching. His eyes narrowed when he spotted me sitting at the bar alone. “Dash Chambers. You finally left the sandbox, huh?”

  “I’m definitely out, but I don’t know much about leaving.” My bitterness was hard to hide even to a stranger.

  “Your father isn’t known for being patient. I think it was a big mistake making you the head of the company, but I guess it’s better for business… at least for me.”

  What business? Wisely, I left the question to bounce around in my head.

  “You can settle down and have a drink. I’m not here to take your company. Not tonight anyway.”

  “Then why am I here, son?” If he narrowed his eyes, anymore, they’d be completely closed.

  “To drink.”

  “To... What?”

  “Drink. I need one, and I don’t want to drink alone.”

  His bushy eyebrows furrowed as they reached for his receding hairline. “Don’t you have some college friends you can drink with? I’m almost three times your age, boy. Besides, you wouldn’t keep up.”

  Two hours later, I led him to his victory. I’d stopped drinking after the fifth shot and got him nice and drunk at ten shots in two hours.

  He clapped me hard on the back and slurred, “I said you wouldn’t be able to keep up.”

  “Yeah, you got me.”

  “Not to worry, boy. You’ll get better with age.” His grin spread even wider as he sat back with a look of content.

  “It seems like you’ve had a lot of practice.”

  “When you get to be my age with money and power, sometimes a good drink is all you need to keep from throwing it all away.”


  “Something troubling you?”

  “You mean besides your father trying to steal my company?”

  “My father is retired.”

  “Your father will never retire, and I think you know that. He made you the head of the company, but he will never relinquish the power. He’s hungry for it.”

  I was the one to signal for a drink. “He can’t control me.”

  “Then why are you here?”

  “He doesn’t know about this meeting, Richard.”

  “And your VP?”

  “James has nothing to do with this.”

  “Now you’ve got my attention. You want to work for me?”

  “Don’t flatter yourself. I want to help you.”

  “Help me? How the hell do you think you can help me? I have the experience. You’re just a fresh-faced kid out of college whose daddy handed him his success.”

  Bingo.

  “Is that so bad?”

  “You may be an heir, but proper preparation is still required.”

  “I think my childhood can attest to the fact that my father has been preparing me for some time now.”

  “You know your father and I were best friends once.” I shook my head no and managed to hide my surprise. “We were college buddies and roommates. We shared everything together, even women.”

  I shifted feeling uncomfortable at the possible direction this conversation was headed. “I don’t need to hear about my father’s sexcapades.” Or yours.

  “Your father is a thief. It’s why our friendship ended. He first took something I thought was valuable to me, but I forgave, and then he tried to steal my company when I wouldn’t sell.”

  I knew my father had attempted a hostile takeover, but what I hadn’t known was that he did it while they were friends. Sometimes I couldn’t believe the lengths my father would go to for money.

  “So, you believe you are ready?” he asked, breaking me from my thoughts.

  “I believe I don’t have much choice.” Simon was searching for a weakness. Dissension between my father and me.

  “I always thought I’d have a son to pass everything to, but now it looks like there are two things that won’t ever happen.”

  “Don’t beat yourself up. Your company can prosper for many more years if you can defeat your ego and accept help.”

  “Help? There’s no help. I’m a pawn to feed your father’s greed.”

  “I told you I’m not here following orders.”

  “No. You’re here to rebel.”

  “Then we can help each other.”

  “I’m curious. How do you plan to help me?”

  “A merger. The merger will consist of Chambers M&A Holdings purchasing fifty percent of Simon Acquisitions—”

  “You’re out of your mind.”

  “And you’ll get to keep your company name on the front door.”

  “Impossible. Your father will never go for it.”

  “It’s no longer my father’s company.”

  “I imagine he still has some power. He’s head of the board, is he not?”

  “Chambers M&A Holdings will not own Simon Acquisitions. What does a name matter?”

  “It matters because I won’t do it.”

  “What about your own board members?”

  “What about them?”

  “Will they agree?”

  “Are you threatening me?”

  “I’m pointing out that soon the decision will no longer be yours to make. Do you think I’m the only one who thought of a secret rendezvous in a bar? How long before your stakeholders demand results? Your company is broke. I’m willing to sponsor.”

  “Forty-nine percent.”

  “Fifty.”

  * * *

  My phone rang in my pocket as I left the warmth of the bar for the frigid air of the night. The alert sounded more like an alarm than a ring, feeling like a bad omen. I studied the caller ID seeing Fisher’s name flash on the screen. I swiped to answer and was immediately greeted by daunting words.

  “Boss, we have a situation.”

  “Is she okay?”

  “They took her.”

  “I’m on my way.”

  I cursed myself for leaving my car behind and ran the entire distance back to the office. Once I was in my car, I sped home, twisting the steering wheel and eating up the miles between me and whoever had the lack of fucking brains to touch what’s mine.

  The building and surrounding area was alive with police and ambulances. People stood around clutching one another in the midst of the terror that took place.

  Angel.

  The elevators were shut down so I took the stairs all the way to the top of the high rise. I barely noticed the pounding of my heart that had nothing to do with the physical labor of the stairs and everything to do with the unknown.

  Fisher was waiting at the top of the stairs with a grim expression. He was never one to give into smiles, but the stress lining his face was the first indication of the damage. The blood and bruises on his skin also told me he fought hard and for that reason only, I wouldn’t fire him for losing Angel.

  “Who?” I moved straight into an interrogation. I didn’t have time for pleasantries without information.

  “I didn’t get a good look. It was hard and fast.”

  “How did they get in?” I bit out through clenched teeth.

  “One of the men folded.”

  “I want him dead.”

  “He already is.” Fisher cracked open the door and pointed to the body bag being led out. “Their people took care of him once they were in.”

  “Video?”

  “We were able to snag the feed before the police arrived.”

  “Good. I want the videos as soon as this place clears out and make that happen quickly. Assist anyway you can, and whatever information we don’t have, get it.”

  I stopped barking orders for a moment and remembered I was capable of sympathy. “How many did you lose?”

  “Only one. I won’t be shedding tears over him.”

  “Injured?”

  “Marks and Cavers were both shot trying to retrieve the girl.”

  “How bad?”

  “A bullet in the leg and the other in the arm. They’ll be fine.”

  “Have you notified their families?”

  “I have.”

  “Good and the other men?”

  “I sent two to the hospital and the others are searching the city.”

  “Let’s get this over with, then.”

  Fisher pushed open the door and led me into the chaos that was my penthouse suite. “Are you Dasher Chambers?” a middle-aged officer with gray sideburns questioned.

  “I am.”

  “We have a few questions to ask about what happened here tonight. Witnesses say a girl is missing.”

  “Willow Waters.”

  “She was your guest?”

  “What else would she be?”

  “We need to know your exact relationship with the victim.”

  I struggled to answer for many reasons. Our relationship was complicated, and the thought of her as a victim was hard to swallow. “She’s a friend,” I offered.

  “Do you have any idea of who might have done this?”

  “No.” My short answer led to the skeptical look on the officer’s face. “If I did, you can believe I wouldn’t be standing here talking to you.” That seemed to do it when the officer’s gaze traveled from me to his notebook.

  “Whoever did this meant business. If you can think of anything that would help, call me.” He handed over a card, which I took and stuffed in my pocket without reading.

  “Will do, Officer.”

  Another half hour and my place was finally cleared. I headed for my office with Fisher on my heels. I needed to see what was on those tapes. I was near to combusting from the pent up need to kill someone.

  With a few taps, I had the feed of the apartment minutes before Willow was taken. The video showed her walking around the penthouse. I wa
tched her look over the many pictures of Ken and could even see the smile on her face as she ran her finger down the glass. The second feed showed the door as it burst open, erupting the calm into chaos. The traitor’s lifeless body fell inside the doorway. The silent alarm would have been triggered by the forced entry of the stairway leading to the private corridor where the guard had been stationed. None of the security measures established could have protected her from my unknown enemy.

  But, what if it wasn’t my enemy?

  Helplessly, I watched them swarm, gripping the wood under my fingers with rage as if it were happening in real time. Angel fought and even got the best of them if for only a moment. She was surrounded but held her own, and I couldn’t tamp down the pride that swelled in my chest as I watched her slam that wicked knee into the balls of one of the men. Unfortunately, he was able to bring her down with him with a harsh backhand that had me ready to put my own fist through the screen. Another man produced a cloth that he used to smother her. Seconds later, her body slumped into what I could only assume was a drugged sleep.

  “Find her.”

  CHAPTER TEN

  NOVEMBER 24TH

  WILLOW

  I RUBBED SWEATY palms down jeans that I have become too familiar with wearing and glanced around nervously. I wasn’t in Six Forks yet, and already, I was ready to turn and flee to safety.

  My uneasiness wasn’t a surprise. I made many trips just like this. Always on the third Saturday, every other month, but this trip felt different. It might have been the way my heart pounded and my skin heated to an unbearable temperature, but it was definitely everything to do with the feeling of being watched. It followed me from the airport all the way to the bus that I boarded not five minutes ago.

  My backpack with only a change of clothes and toiletries was my only source of comfort. I dug inside and retrieved the pack of gum I purchased before the plane ride and popped one in my mouth before clutching my bag tighter.

  The bus was nearly empty with only five passengers including myself. I glanced around and found no reason to be suspicious of any of them. There were two men seated at the very back. One appeared to be sleeping while the other read. A woman and her son sat three rows in front of them and an elderly woman sat across the aisle. I shook the feelings off and realized I was being silly.

 
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