The gym is rarely busy on Saturdays—when folks come in on weekends, it’s usually to work, not to work out—so I’m able to get to the women’s locker room without being noticed. As with everything Stark, the place is completely decked out, rivaling the most high end of Los Angeles fitness centers. I take a shower, put on the spare skirt and blouse I keep for wardrobe emergencies, along with the matching pumps, then take some time with my makeup. I doubt Damien is on-site—he tends to work weekends from his Malibu house these days—but if I do see my boss, I want to look professional and in control.

With any luck, my research will only take a few hours. Then I can call the house, arrange to meet with Damien there this evening or, worst case, schedule an in-office appointment for first thing in the morning.

Either way, time is running out, and I can only pray that luck is on my side.

I take the elevator to the penthouse, which houses Damien’s private office on one side and his residential apartment on the other.

The elevator opens to the office side. I see Rachel at my desk, her head bent as Damien’s voice filters through the intercom. “Try her at home.”

“I did,” Rachel says. “I got her voice mail there, too. I’m guessing she’s out and the battery on her phone is dead, but I’m sure she’ll check her messages once she realizes—Oh! She’s here!” Rachel looks up and then sags in obvious relief. “I’ll send her right in.”

She disconnects the intercom as I approach, then shoves a folded newspaper section at me. “Look at it later,” she says, “but you look fabulous.”

“What’s going on?”

“He’s in there with Aiden. Go!”

“With Aiden?” As the VP of Stark Real Estate Development, he’s my immediate supervisor on this project, and the fact that he’s in with Damien—and that they are both looking for me—knocks me sideways. “What happened?” I’m certain she’ll know. Being at this desk means being aware of pretty much everything.

“Aiden got a call from one of the island’s investors.”

“Aiden did? Who? When?”

“I don’t know. He called Damien and they met up here. Damien’s been here for about half an hour and Aiden was right behind him.”

“Shit.” I glance at my phone. Sure enough, it’s dead. I shove it at her. “Charge, please.”

“On it,” she says, then thrusts her arm out toward the door again. “Go,” she adds frantically.

I go.

“Good, you’re here,” Damien says without preamble. He stands by his wall of windows, looking out at the spread of downtown. Aiden is on the small couch in the sitting area and he acknowledges me with a nod. Originally from London, he moved with his family when he was a teen. I confess I love the way he talks, very East Coast with just a hint of British accent.

Despite his years in the States, he’s got that upper crust Brit thing going for him. Bearing, class, the whole nine yards. Someone told me that he’s number one hundred and something in line for the throne. Looking at him, I believe it, though I doubt he’s holding his breath.

Now, he pours me a glass of water, then sets it on the table across from him. I take the chair closest to the water, then sip it gratefully. “Rachel told me the bare bones,” I say. “What happened?”

“Dallas Sykes called me at home,” Aiden says, referring to the CEO of one of the country’s largest department store chains. “He was rather discombobulated.”

I raise a brow at his choice of word. Dallas Sykes is gossip rag material—a sexy bad boy who inherited his position and spends most of his time bouncing from woman to woman. Somehow, “discombobulated” doesn’t fit. And I can’t imagine what could have happened to bother him anyway. I say nothing, though. I’m certain either Aiden or Damien will elaborate.

I’m proven right when Damien turns from the window to face us both. “Apparently a reporter called Dallas just after dawn this morning. Word is out the project is dead.”

“What?”

Damien meets my eyes, but doesn’t pause. “The reporter knew that Glau quit—which can be attributed to Glau’s own people—but he also heard that our first potential alternative said a big fuck you to working for Stark International.”

I feel a sharp pain in my chest, as if someone has thrust in a knife. “That’s—” I start to say ridiculous, but it really isn’t. Jackson pretty much had said that. And he’d given me only one way around it—a way I have no intention of taking.


Tags: J. Kenner Stark International Trilogy Romance
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