Come away with me, p.1
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       Come Away With Me, p.1

         Part #1 of The Andrades series by Ruth Cardello
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Come Away With Me


  Come Away With Me

  The Andrades

  Ruth Cardello

  Author Contact

  website: RuthCardello.com

  email: Minouri@aol.com

  Facebook: Author Ruth Cardello

  Twitter: RuthieCardello

  Gio Andrade:

  Rich, powerful, sexy. A man who thinks he has everything . . . until he meets Julia.

  Julia Bennett:

  Sweet, spontaneous, and desperate to sell her jewelry line in New York City. She takes a night job as a security guard to pay the rent.

  Sparks fly when she mistakes her boss for an intruder.

  He can’t get her out of his head. She can’t find the strength to deny him.

  Will lies bring them together, or tear them apart forever?

  COPYRIGHT

  Come Away With Me copyright 2014 by Ruth Cardello

  An original work of Ruth Cardello.

  All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

  This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, places, events, business establishments or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Cover art provided by Gilded Heart Design

  www.gildedheartdesign.com

  Dedication

  I am so grateful to everyone who was part of the process of creating Come Away with Me. Thank you to:

  Christy Carlyle at The Gilded Heart Design for my new cover.

  My very patient beta readers: Luci Hurd, Yeu Khun, Karen Lawson, Renita Lofton McKinney and Cynthia Pak.

  My editors: Karen Lawson, Janet Hitchcock, Nina Pearlman, and Margaret Rainforth.

  My three year old daughter who feels that she’s helping when she sits on my lap while I review edits. Although she doesn’t understand a comma’s function, she’s sure I need more of them.

  Melanie Hanna, for helping me organize the business side of publishing.

  My Roadies for making me smile each day when I log on my computer.

  Thank you to my husband, Tony, who listens to the story so many times he dreams about the characters.

  To my niece, Danielle Stewart, for joining me in self-publishing and brainstorming with me along the way. Always better together.

  A note to my readers:

  The Andrade family has had a special place in my heart since they first appeared in For Love or Legacy. I’m the youngest of eleven children. Although we didn’t have money, I based the Andrades on what it was like for me to grow up with so many relatives.

  My parents are no longer with us, but they were happily married for almost sixty years. My mother was the storyteller in our family. She was notoriously funny. My father was much more reserved, but he loved her sense of humor. Even when they were in their eighties, if my mother told a joke, my father would look on with a smile.

  Our dining room table was a long L-shaped counter that was actually purchased from a local diner that had gone out of business. With so many children, one would think that my parents wouldn’t allow us to bring friends home with us for meals, but they believed the exact opposite—friends were family to us. I often had meals with twenty or more people. For those who have read the Legacy Collection, that’s where I got my philosophy that love is a fountain—where there is always enough for those who have stayed and those who return to it.

  My parents taught me that family and friends are what matters the most, children should always be valued, and forgiveness is the greatest kindness you can give one another. I miss them every day, but I like to think that they live on through how I am raising my own children.

  No family is perfect.

  Gio, Nick, Luke and Max are on a difficult journey that will test what they think they know about loyalty and love. I hope you enjoy this series. I’ve fallen in love with these lost Andrades and the story of how they find their way back to their family.

  Table of Contents:

  Dedication

  A note to my readers

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Epilogue

  Other books by Ruth

  Author Biography

  Chapter One

  If you want a dose of reality, come home a day early.

  Gio Andrade walked through his secretary’s empty office and into his, shaking his head with disgust as he went. He double-checked the time on his watch. Barely seven o’clock. She should still be here. Someone should be here. Rather than call her, he sank into the antique leather chair placed behind the custom Carpathian elm desk that had sat in this office for generations.

  Perhaps it was the combination of three weeks of travel and spending so much time in hotel rooms, but he was tired. Bone tired and in a foul mood. He’d gone on site in northern Canada to make sure the project met its deadlines, and it did—something that normally would have energized him. Instead, he felt distracted.

  He didn’t consider himself an emotional man. Ever since he’d taken over the family’s company, his success had come from his ability to remain detached. Cogent Energy Solutions had been born in the oil wells of Texas, but Gio had taken it in a much different direction. He was an investor, not a developer. He found potential energy sources—like the Utica Shale veins recently discovered in North America—that others considered economically unfeasible to reap, financed the breakthrough technologies that would make harvesting them possible, contracted with companies who needed those sources, made a huge fortune, and then got out before the environmentalists even knew his name.

  Clean.

  Calculated.

  Satisfying.

  Until this past trip.

  What is wrong with me?

  His cell phone vibrated in his breast pocket. He checked the caller ID and groaned. It was his cousin Madison Andrade. Again. Her calls were becoming more frequent. He’d answered the first couple. Forwarded the next few to his secretary, Rena. Now he let her calls ring through to voice mail. Part of him was beginning to admire her tenacity, even as he remained unwilling to consider her request.

  He placed the phone down on his desk and started sifting through the large pile of mail that had accumulated in his absence. Rena had opened and dealt with most of it, but one square ivory envelope was still sealed. He picked it up and turned it in his hand. He already knew what it was. Madison had told him to expect an invitation to Stephan Andrade’s wedding.

  An Andrade wedding.

  What a joke. We may share the same last name, but that’s all we have in common.

  Gio crushed the invitation, still unopened, into a ball and threw it in the wastebasket beside his desk. My mistake was reopening any communication with that side of the family. I have Luke to thank for that.

  Gio didn’t speak to Luke often, but that lack of contact had more to do with their schedules than anything else. Of his three brothers, Luke was the easiest to get along with. He was a respected doctor and someone who never asked for anything, so Gio had been hard-pressed not to accept his request
to join him at a high-profile function a few months earlier.

  The event ended up being an engagement party for a couple he didn’t know, much less care about. The unpleasant bonus had been the presence of two uncles he’d spent nearly a decade avoiding. He’d left as early as he could without seeming rude, and had made his excuses while interacting as little as possible with any of his extended family.

  I should have told Luke I was out of the country that week.

  I should have lied.

  Gio’s phone beeped to announce the message his cousin had left. By going to that party, I mistakenly gave some family members the wrong idea.

  Now they think I care. I don’t.

  The days when what they do or say have any relevance to me are long gone. He would have said as much to Madison, but she had done nothing to him. As the frequency of her calls increased, however, he began to feel pushed into an uncomfortable situation. No one likes to shove a puppy away, but when it starts humping your leg, you have to.

  Gio covered his eyes with one hand at the image. Oh, my God. I am tired.

  Still too tense to consider heading home to bed, he loosened his tie and strode over to the office bathroom. His office was his home away from home, and the shower and assortment of clothing in its large closet was evidence of that.

  He changed from his Kiton suit into his workout clothes and running sneakers. He’d had a full gym installed on the top floor of the Cogent Building, and he’d made it available to all his employees.

  Not that anyone would be taking advantage of it that night, since the building was apparently empty. He took that irritation to the treadmill and started running, welcoming the initial discomfort as his tight muscles were pushed to stretch and perform. Pain is weakness leaving the body. Best to work through it.

  As I always have.

  An hour later, after completing a long run and doing a circuit of weights, Gio grabbed a towel and headed back down to his office. His blood was pumping and his mood had improved. Half-smiling, he considered calling one of his usual friends with benefits.

  He reentered his secretary’s office, then swore when he realized he had closed the door to his office, effectively locking his cell phone, keys, and everything else inside.

  What the hell?

  He picked up Rena’s phone and called down to the security desk, but it rang repeatedly without being answered. Heads would roll the next morning.

  Looking down at his secretary’s desk, he noted the calendar. September 1. Labor Day. No wonder the offices are empty. It didn’t explain the absent security, but it did reinstate his opinion of his usually dedicated secretary.

  Angry for allowing himself to become distracted enough to lose track of the day, he impatiently searched the top of her desk. Rena must have a key to my office.

  He tried the drawers of her desk but they were locked. Which made sense, he supposed. He wouldn’t have appreciated if the key proved easily accessible. Still, her competence wasn’t helpful at the moment.

  Losing patience, he tugged at the top drawer more aggressively.

  Seated at a security console in a small room on the Cogent Building’s first floor, Julia Bennett neglected watching the monitors in favor of checking her makeup in her compact mirror. She hoped her brown hair held a sophisticated amount of curl. She still had the top of her security uniform on, but there wasn’t much she could do about that for—her eyes flew to the clock on the wall—thirty more minutes.

  She let out a nervous breath and smoothed her hands down the tight black skirt that ended a few inches above her knees. She glanced down at her Marc Jacobs four-inch heels, shoes that would not pass dress code, but would have to for one night. In twenty minutes, she would replace her tan blouse with a much bolder red silk one.

  Red was a power color.

  And she needed all the mojo she could muster.

  The door to her security cave opened and Paul, one of the front-desk security men, shuffled in. He was a couple of years older than Julia and, due to the number of hours he put in at the gym each day, nearly twice her size. “Julia, can you cover the front desk for me for a few minutes? I have to run across the street to the pharmacy. I won’t be long.”

  Shit.

  “Paul, I don’t even know how to sign someone in.”

  “You won’t have to. It’s a holiday. No one is here. No one is coming. Listen, normally I would never ask you to do this, but you know that I’m on by myself tonight. Tom has a stomach bug.” The six-foot-six giant of a man looked more like a sad little boy when he added, “I think he gave it to me. I probably have a fever. Feel my head. Do I?”

  Dutifully, Julia stood, walked over, and touched his forehead, noting that he did feel overly warm. She glanced at the clock. Twelve past. Shoot. “You might. Tell me what you need. I can run over and get it.”

  He shook his head. “No. I have symptoms I don’t want to discuss.” He gave her a sheepish smile. “I’ve been in the bathroom half the night.”

  Although Julia had only worked at Cogent for a little more than a month, Paul and Tom felt like old friends. Working overnight shifts had given them many opportunities to bond over the coffee breaks Julia still needed to keep awake. Normally her job consisted of nothing more than watching a panel of monitors and reporting anything unusual to Paul or Tom. Not the most exciting job, but one that paid the bills.

  Everyone had been so nice to her that she felt guilty about not instantly agreeing to Paul’s request. “Okay, go. But hurry back. I put in to leave early. I feel awful, but I’m meeting that buyer tonight. This could be it—what I came to New York for.”

  “Is this the same guy you told me about the other day?”

  “Yes. He works for Platinum and Onyx. It has stores all over the world. An order from him could change everything for me. Now, go. I’ll watch the desk.”

  When she walked by him, Paul said, “That skirt is short for a business meeting.”

  She frowned over her shoulder at him. “I’m not going to sell to anyone if I keep dressing like a small-town bumpkin. Trust me, I’ve researched power outfits. This one says, ‘I’m a strong and vital woman. Buy my jewelry.’ ”

  Paul looked unconvinced. “If you’re meeting a guy, that skirt says, ‘I’m hot, buy me.’ ”

  Julia stomped one of her high heels in frustration. “To win in business, you have to take advantage of all of your assets. If he gets a little distracted by my skirt . . . well, that’s the way of the jungle.”

  Shaking his head, Paul said, “Call me if he turns out to be a creep. One of my buddies will meet you.” Having met some of his beefed-up friends, Julia had no doubt they would. They were brawn looking for a brawl.

  “I won’t have to because I’m fierce. I have my whole presentation ready. He will be so wowed by the items I show him, he won’t have drool left for my legs.” She hovered behind Paul’s seat at the front security desk cautiously. What are the chances he sanitized any of it?

  With a grunt of disapproval, Paul headed toward the large glass-door exit.

  Julia couldn’t stop herself from calling out, “Hurry, Paul. I can’t be late.”

  Julia paced behind the desk and watched the clock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Crap, I should have brought my clothes out here. I could change in the ladies’ room while waiting.

  She sprinted back to the surveillance room to gather her things. While scanning the area to make sure she wasn’t forgetting anything, she noticed something on one of the monitors: a door to one of the administrative offices was open. All offices were supposed to be closed and secured after the cleaning staff left. Paul would hear about it in the morning if nothing were done. Don’t forget to tell Paul about it. Don’t forget. Crap, I’m going to forget.

  Back at the front desk, Julia couldn’t stop thinking about that open door. I can get up and back before Paul returns.

  She rushed to the elevator bank and pushed the button to the highest office floor. She flew across the carpeted hallway to the open off
ice and had her hand on the doorknob when she noticed a tall man in sweatpants trying to break into the desk in the outer office.

  She said the first thing that came to her head: “Halt right there.”

  The man slowly straightened to an impressive height and turned. Julia gripped the door handle tighter. Eyes as dark as coal slowly raked over her, as if they had every right to. Gorgeous eyes. Thick, dark hair that was tussled just enough to set a woman’s imagination afire. Who knew burglars could be hot? Yes, officer, I did tackle him, but I had to. It had nothing to do with those perfectly muscled shoulders and that flat stomach. I admit, we rolled around on the floor once or twice together, but purely so I could restrain him.

  Julia shook her head to clear it. Down, libido, down. This is not one of those dreams where someone like him kisses someone like me, and I wake up frustrated and reach for my vibrator. This is reality, and even though he’s gorgeous, he could still be dangerous.

  One of his beautiful eyebrows arched at her prolonged appraisal of him, then his gaze settled appreciatively on the exposed length of her legs. “And you are?”

  “Security.” She referenced her uniform and name tag. “You don’t belong in here.”

  “You’re security?” he asked incredulously. “The singing or the stripping kind?”

  Instantly angry, Julia put a hand on one hip and demanded, “Do I look like a stripper?”

  His eyes slowly, ever so slowly, roamed over her high heels, short skirt, and riotous head of hair.

  She stomped a foot at his lack of appropriate response. “This is a power outfit.” She looked down and tugged at her uniform top. “Not this. But it’s coming off.” When his eyes widened, her ire rose. “Not for you. And that’s not what I meant. I have a beautiful red shirt that goes with this skirt. A nice conservative shirt. And this skirt is a perfectly appropriate length for a business meeting, according to Entrepreneur Today.” She took a deep calming breath. “Why am I justifying my outfit to a possible criminal? I don’t know what you’re doing here, but you need to leave.”

 
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