Devoted:A Masters and Mercenaries Novella(2)

By: Lexi Blake

She bit back tears as she looked at him. There was no crying in CEO land. “I do and I thank you for it, babe, but unless you know John Adler, Jr. and can force your will on him, I think I’m screwed.”

“Let me look into it. Will you at least let me look into him?”

She winced. It wasn’t the first time he’d offered. The trouble was she didn’t want to play the way her dad did. Her father had kept dirt on every single business rival he’d had. He’d had files on all his perceived enemies. When she’d taken over the company, she’d inherited all of them and promptly burned them.

Her father kept files on everyone, including her and her sister, Bridget. She could still remember looking through her own file.

Amy is weak. All it would take to deal with her would be to send in a man who could make her feel pretty. With the right man in place, she will be completely controllable.

Lucky for her the “right man” in her father’s words had been the one who could make him money. He’d made a deal with Frankie’s father that would benefit the both of them, and neither gave a damn that their kids had plans of their own. It had worked out for her and Frankie in the end.

But she’d learned to never trust a man like her father.

Frankie was different, but he could be just as ruthless when it came to someone he loved. She was determined to never behave like that. If she won, she would do it fairly.

“I don’t want to come at him personally,” she said. “He’s done nothing like that to me.”

“You don’t think he’s playing dirty?”

“I don’t think he’s coming after me on a personal level,” she clarified. “This is business, babe. You know as well as I do that it can be cutthroat and nasty and not personal.”

“So if you met this asshole, you wouldn’t slap him?”

She had to laugh at that. “I would buy him a drink and ask him what the hell my father had done to his. Seriously, I would do that in a heartbeat. And I would flirt shamelessly with him.”

Of course, he was very likely thirty years older than she was and probably married with kids or even grandkids. His father had been eighty when he died. If he’d been like her parents, he’d had kids in his twenties and that would make them in their fifties or sixties, so her flirtation likely would be for naught.

Frankie grinned. “And he would fall madly in love with you and all of this would be over.”

He could also be an optimist at times. “I doubt that, but I would ask. Unfortunately, I’m not likely to sit across a table from him. He won’t meet with me and I’m not flying back to California to force a meeting. We’ve got another shot in a month. If we can get the Clannahan account, we’ll be in the black for another six months. And I can flirt with those men.”

They were an Irish company looking for an American company to make a deal with. They had all the access to European markets that Slaten needed to grow. In exchange, Slaten could give them a position in the States. It would be a win-win for both companies.

If she could only convince them. Everything was on the line. Everything she’d worked for. All the jobs she’d tried to save. They would be gone if she didn’t manage to make this work.

“You know I want to help you in any way I can. I love you, honey,” Frankie said quietly.

Tears misted her eyes. After her sister had left home, she’d thought she would never find another person she could count on, but she’d met Frankie in college. She’d had boyfriends and lovers and a couple of wild nights she didn’t wholly remember, but she’d only loved one man. Unfortunately, he was attracted to men. She’d accepted that a long time ago.

“I love you, too, but you can’t force my father to drop the lawsuit. We sincerely pissed him off and he won’t give up easily.”

“How about the other issue?” Frankie asked, his eyes trained on her as though attempting to detect any untruth she might give him.

He had good reason for that. She’d been trying not to worry him. It was her problem after all, and she was a big girl. “Are you talking about Ray Paulsen? I’ve got lawyers working on that, too.”

Frankie leaned forward. “He’s unstable, Amy.”

“Which is one of the reasons I had him fired.” Ray had been her father’s head of security. Amy had considered him little more than the asshole who intimidated everyone so that her father got his way. She’d been more than happy to show him the door the minute she’d taken over the company.

“He swore he’d get you back for that,” Frankie pointed out.

“And he’s suing me, too,” she said. She was so tired of lawsuits.

Frankie didn’t seem convinced. “I’m going to look into that asshole. He’s not the type of man who would be content with simply suing you. I want you to be careful. The minute anything feels wrong, you call me.”

And have a bodyguard put on her ass? “I promise. But he’s not an idiot. He knows if he harasses me and I catch him it won’t help his case. Besides, the last time I checked, he was still in California, half a continent away. Aside from Ray and my father, the good news is we’re truly the best fit for Clannahan. I think after we meet next month they’ll understand it, too. Then I’ll be in a better position to deal with all of dear old Dad’s crap.”

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