And it wouldn’t stop there. The network of suppliers would lose contracts…and as for his staff, Nick didn’t want to think about the layoffs that would follow.

His anger roared into fury. Nick took a step closer to the devil behind the desk. Then he checked himself, drawing on the control that had always served him well and helped him thwart Desmond in the past.


A glance at his watch caused him to grimace inwardly. Damn. He’d lost all track of time. He’d been due to meet Candace at the doctor’s room fifteen minutes ago. He was going to miss the chance to talk to the doctor about how well Jennie had recovered. Hurriedly, Nick stuck his hand into his pocket searching for his cell phone.

It wasn’t there. Cursing silently, Nick remembered placing it in the holder between the front seats in the Ferrari before he’d left his office.

“We can discuss an alternative plan.”

Distracted by his thoughts, Nick turned his head. The triumph in Desmond’s expression glowed even brighter. Whatever the alternative plan was, it boded ill—Nick had no doubt about that. He had no interest in bargaining with the devil.

He wasn’t going to stay a minute longer. Already he’d allowed Desmond to consume too much of his time. A twinge of shame pierced him. He’d told Candace he would be at Jennie’s doctor’s appointment.

She was going to be furious—and how could he blame her?

If he left now, he’d make the tail end of the appointment and be able to speak to the doctor about Jennie himself. Snatching up his suit jacket from where he’d slung it over the chair back, Nick swiveled on his heel and headed for the door.

“Nick!”

He kept walking as Desmond’s voice called out from behind him, “If you don’t stop right now, I’ll start negotiating the stock sale.”

Nick cast a glance over his shoulder. Desmond had risen to his feet, his face red with frustrated anger. It gave Nick an immense amount of satisfaction to say, “Do what you must, but you’ll have to excuse me, I have something more important to deal with right now.”

Nick watched frustration and rage darken Desmond’s face to the color of a tomato. Quite suddenly, the other man no longer resembled Santa.

Four

Candace was furious with him.

It wasn’t apparent from what she said, but rather from the overly cool, calm manner in which she had greeted his arrival. Nick decided he would’ve preferred it if she’d raged at him. Instead he was conscious of the chasm of chilly disapproval that divided them.

After leaving the doctor’s rooms, Nick had given the keys to the Ferrari to Mr. Busby to take home and loaded Candace and Jennie into the more conservative Daimler, which at least provided space for Jennie’s car seat. Rather ironically, Nick planned to buy Candace coffee from the café at the closest Valentine’s—which had been the topic of his recent argument with Desmond.

Nick hoped the parklike surroundings and pretty gardens would pacify her—and he figured he owed her some sort of explanation.

“I’m sorry,” he said finally, stopping at a crossing to allow a group of boys to wheel their bikes across.

“Sorry?” She turned her head. The eyes that clashed with his radiated silver-white heat that her cool civility couldn’t cloak.

Incongruously, the heat caused desire to leap in his gut.

“I mean it.” He’d never apologized to Jilly in the seven years they’d been married. Not for arriving home when dinner had congealed on the plates. Not when he’d left her standing on her own at one of the society events that were so important to her. Not even when he’d missed Jennie’s birth—although that had been the one time that he’d come close.

He’d figured there was no point apologizing for anything to a woman who’d charmed her father into trapping the bridegroom she’d wanted at all costs. Saying sorry would’ve been a lie.

This was different.

“I suppose you had some life-threatening crisis at work?” she said.

Nick thought of Desmond’s threat to sell Jilly’s stock in Valentine’s as he pulled away from the crossing. “Something like that.”

“That’s what I expected.”

It was the weary, defeated note in Candace’s voice that caused Nick to throw her a quick, sharp glance before focusing back on the road ahead. “I got there, didn’t I?”

“Halfway through the deferred appointment, if that’s what you mean.”

He’d cursed the city traffic all the way. Now she couldn’t even thank him for almost killing himself to get there. “The baby is fine. The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong.”

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