But he needed time to calm down before he walked back into the boardroom, or he had the feeling he’d say something he regretted. He’d always been the one who was in control. Calm when he needed to be. Decisive. A man of action.

But then Emily stormed into his life and no matter what decisions he made he still couldn’t achieve the results he needed. He remembered how he’d felt on the boat in Key West when he’d looked over at Emily and realized he loved her. He’d been so focused on everything else that the love part seemed to have gotten lost.

His mom had told him when she left to never compromise with himself, because once that happened true happiness would never be his own. As a young adult he’d taken that to mean that he should live by his moral compass and not make business deals that were underhanded. But since meeting Emily he had the feeling that his mom had meant that sometimes making the right decision in society’s eyes would be the wrong choice for the person he was.

He stood up and walked slowly back to the boardroom. He opened the door to find everyone still sitting around the table, but they were no longer all talking at once. Rafe knew that they had settled something while he’d been gone and he realized as king his choices were never going to be his own. He was always going to have to compromise and go to the committee before he could do anything.

“Good, you’re back,” Juan Carlos said.

“I am. What have you all decided?” Rafe asked as he walked to the head of the table and took his seat. “I think you should know that Emily and I will not be marrying.”

“See, this just underscores my point,” one of the officials from Alma said. “He can’t control his personal life. He’s a PR liability.”

PR liability? He’d always played by the rules. He had a double degree in business management and geology—because of Montoro Enterprises’ interests in oil—and he’d always known that without a good understanding of where they got their product he wouldn’t be able to lead the company.

He’d worked hard for his family to build up the company so that there was no fear that this generation or the ones that followed would ever want for anything, and this was the thanks he got.

“A liability?” he asked. “Do you all feel this way?”

Juan Carlos nodded; Bella looked down at her fingers; his father just tightened his jaw. Gabe wouldn’t make eye contact with him. Screw them. But he knew he was angry in general. He’d tried to please everyone—his family, the Alma delegation, Emily—and ended up not doing a good job of it for anyone.

He stood up and walked out of the boardroom and straight to his office. Jose was waiting there as always. “What do you need, sir?”

“I need to get to Key West. I’m afraid the chopper might not be a good option,” Rafe said. He didn’t want to take the company helicopter in case his services were no longer needed as CEO. “Can you have my car brought around?”

“Right away.”

“Jose?”

“Yes, sir?”

“You’ve been a great assistant,” Rafe said. “I’m not sure what is going to be happening at Montoro Enterprises. Please know that I will always have room for you on my staff wherever I am.”

“Yes, sir.”

Jose didn’t ask any further questions and Rafe was grateful. He really didn’t know how to explain anything other than that.

There was a knock on the door and he looked up to see Gabriel standing there. “Damn, I’ve never seen a man say so much with just a look.”

Rafe shook his head as he finished gathering personal effects from his desk.

“There wasn’t really anything else to say. I mean when your entire family thinks you’ve let them down, that’s a horrible place to be.”

Gabriel came farther into the room and leaned his hip against the desk. “You haven’t let me down. I’ve never seen you so...alive as you’ve been in the last few weeks. I think that’s because of Emily. If you can have her and be happy, you should go for it. That is what you’re doing, right?”

“Yes,” Rafe said. It had felt wrong to just let her walk away and now that he knew there really was no pleasing everyone, he was going to take care of himself and Emily first. He loved her and he was determined to convince her of it.

“Are you abdicating?”

“I am.”

Gabriel cursed.

“I can’t be king of Alma when my heart is here. I guess it never felt right to me being a monarch. I’m not aristocrat material.”

“I’m sure as hell not either, but I think this means I’m going to have to clean up my act.”

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