Bound Beneath His Pain: A Dirty Little Secrets Novel

BOOK: Bound Beneath His Pain: A Dirty Little Secrets Novel
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Bound Beneath His Pain
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A Loveswept eBook Original

Copyright © 2016 by Stacey Kennedy

Excerpt from
Tied to His Betrayal
by Stacey Kennedy copyright © 2016 by Stacey Kennedy

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

L
OVESWEPT
is a registered trademark and the
L
OVESWEPT
colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
Tied to His Betrayal
by Stacey Kennedy. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

ebook ISBN 9781101882566

Cover design: Okay Creations

Cover photograph: © FXQuadro/Shutterstock

randomhousebooks.com

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Chapter 1
Allie

“Get here. Pronto. Shit is going down!”

There are only three reasons my real estate assistant, Liv Sloan, sent me the vague text on Monday morning.

One, the deal for my last clients, who fled the lively Haight-Ashbury area to raise their family in the quiet and quaint Cole Valley district, fell apart.

Two, our boss is in a mood.

Three, a pair of Liv’s beloved high-heel shoes suffered a wretched death.

Stuffed inside the elevator, a block away from Union Square, with rank perfume smells tickling my nose, I wonder over Liv’s message. All three reasons are totally up her alley. She’s dramatic, but in a cute, funny way that I love.

When the elevator doors chime open, I ease my way out, entering Richardson Real Estate, and frown. While I love my job, the offices are a whole other thing. They’re in need of a
major
upgrade, which is the very reason I’m late today. I’d never meet clients in this run-down horror show.

I pass the empty waiting room, scrunching my nose against the stale smell hanging in the air, then pick up my pace, turning the corner down the main hallway, finding Liv standing by the watercooler near our cubicles.

“You’re not going to believe what’s happened,” she says, practically bursting with energy.

“Aliens have invaded Earth?” I offer.

“What?” She gives her head a slight shake, her brown curls bouncing on her shoulders. “Guess again.”

“Santa came early and brought you new Louboutin shoes?”

She gives me a playful nudge, her big, round brown eyes squinting. “Ha, I can only wish! Holt has bought out Richardson.”

I pause, waiting for her to say she’s joking. “You’re serious?”

She nods. “Very serious.”

A knot of worry tightens in my belly then I force myself to go numb. I’m a top-selling agent at Richardson. My job can’t be in jeopardy. This has to be good news, right? Still, I can’t wrap my head around it. Holt has made billions of dollars dealing in commercial properties. Richardson’s sales are only in the multi-millions, with a handful of agents selling middle-income homes. Sure, that’s Richardson’s strength in the San Francisco market, but why would Holt want to add it to their portfolio? Isn’t the middle-class market messy pocket change to them? “What in the world does Holt want with Richardson?” I voice my thoughts.

Liv gets herself a drink from the watercooler and then faces me. “From what I gathered, Holt wants to gobble up the entire real estate market. Businesses, high-class homes, middle-class homes; they want it all. Including taking the top agents at Richardson into Holt.”

Greedy pricks. They can’t be satisfied having a corner of the market to make their billions, they need to suck the whole damn thing dry. I lean against the cubicle next to us, my back straight as a pencil. “So, their plan is to swallow Richardson up?”

“To be honest, I don’t really know what the plan is.” She leans closer to me and tells me quietly, “They offered me a job at Holt. Which I guess means they’re taking you, too.”

“Indeed, that is the plan,” says a strong male voice.

Oh, shit!

I hesitantly glance sideways and unfamiliar sparkling blue eyes hold mine. “I take it you’re Allison Parker?” the stranger asks.

“That’s right,” I reply. “But you can call me
Allie.

“It’s nice to meet you, Allie.” He offers a handshake. “I’m Anderson West, COO at Holt.”

I admire his blue suit while shaking his hand, thinking not only does this forty-something-year-old man have some serious style, but the Holt staff is very professional. Our own CEO, Henry, is typically found wearing loose-fitting khakis and sweaters to cover an aging midsection.

Anderson releases my hand and adds, “I take it Liv has filled you in on what you missed at the meeting.”

I smile. “Yes. I’m all caught up.”

“Excellent, saves me from repeating myself.” He shoves one hand into his pant pocket, straightening his spine. “As with Liv, we’d like to offer you a position at Holt.” He hands me a sealed white envelope with my name on the front. “Please know that the terms are negotiable. If you want we can discuss—”

“Ah, the straggler has finally decided to grace us with her presence.” Another unknown voice booms, from a man who appears to my other side. This one with even a more raspy, gravelly tone.

I gulp, realizing
who
the smooth silky voice must belong to,
Micah Holt.
His bluish-gray eyes narrow on me and my breath is
gone,
as the air whooshes out of the room. Everyone in San Francisco knows the famous billionaire,
the tabloids make sure of that. This hot playboy is a weekly feature, not that I read the rags that often, but you can’t miss his face plastered on them as you wait in the grocery store lines.

Confronted by the real man, I understand why the tabloids are obsessed with him. The
power he exudes is magnetizing, raising the hairs on my arms. He owns the space around him, making everyone else disappear. All I know is his sexy-as-hell eyes on me and how that act alone warms me from the inside out. I raise my hand and smile. “Hello, that’s me, I’m Allie, the straggler.”

By the arch of his brow, I assume the first impression I’m putting forward surprises him. Which it does me too, as I’m not usually a smart-ass, but he’s rattling me. I’m drawn to him, no matter that I don’t want to be, because I
know
this guy is a bad idea.

And I know that so definitely because I know his type. My half-brother is cut from the same cloth as Micah. I bet he’s a man who works from eight in the morning until eleven at night. He’s probably a guy who only has relationships to financially or sexually benefit him.

Regardless of what I
know,
the instant attraction is rich with velvety promise.

One side of his mouth slowly arches in the beginning of a smile and he finally murmurs, “Allie.”

A shifting feeling happens near my heart, a pang of sorts, leaving me aware of the delicious burn he’s stirring inside me. Oh, this guy is smooth. He doesn’t say someone’s name; instead, he rolls it off his tongue, savoring the syllables. Micah’s got game, no question, and I realize I’m going to have to be on my toes around him.

Of course part of my problem is that I haven’t dated in over a year and my force field is thinning. Perhaps if I’d listened to Liv and stopped being so damn picky, this guy’s well-played tactics wouldn’t be affecting me.

Micah’s hand moves toward me then, his strong fingers clasp mine, and there’s nothing professional about this handshake or my reaction to
him.
My nipples pucker beneath my bra into hard points and heat pools low in my body. Which by the slight grin on his face, I’m sure he’s well aware.

Anderson clears his throat, interrupting a moment that seems to have gone on way too long. “As I was saying to Allie, we can discuss the terms of her offer, if she would like.”

Smoky eyes on mine, undressing me where I stand, Micah slowly releases my hand. “Let me handle this negotiation.” He takes the envelope from Anderson. “Please follow me, Allie.”

Obviously I’m not the only one surprised, because the look on Anderson’s face tells me this isn’t normal behavior, and Liv notices, too, grinning and winking at me. I roll my eyes at her enjoyment at my expense, and exhale loudly, following Micah into the meeting room, noticing now that some of my peers are watching this parade.

Ugh.
Get control of yourself, Allie.
It’s a guy in a suit. Well, a totally hot guy in a suit, but still a guy that I met a hundred times growing up. Famous. Spoiled. Rich. Arrogant. Not the guy for me.

I take my seat at the rectangular office table, inhaling the fragrance à la Robertson—the moldy smell is worse in the conference rooms—reminding myself I’m a professional woman. I’m not one to be charmed by a man who thinks he’s all that. And I won’t let his good looks, charisma, and sexy smile distract me from negotiating my job.

He slowly opens his jacket, exposing his wide shoulders and thick chest beneath his black vest, all to tempt me, I’m sure. What’s frustrating is how much it’s beginning to work—my nerve endings tingle, and more and more warmth is sliding down between my thighs.

I expect him to begin negotiations, but he asks a question totally out of the blue: “Tell me a bit about yourself.”

My belly quivers with the low silky tenor of his voice and the power it has over me. He’s not looking at me. He’s fucking me with his eyes. Each long linger he gives me is like he’s imagining where he’d kiss me. The passion is right there and is so tempting I want to grab the flirtation between us and play with it a while. Boy, do I ever. But I
can’t,
I remind myself.

Micah lives a life I don’t want. A life of privilege that I once lived myself.

My mind leaves the meeting room, returning to a past that I wish I could forget. Shortly after my fifteenth birthday, my parents lost their lives in a plane crash. Fortunately, my older by ten years and very rich half-brother swooped in to save me from foster care and took me in. But a life of privilege isn’t the one I want and it’s not the life my mother would’ve wanted for me either. She wanted me to make my own mark on the world, and that’s exactly what I’ve done. It’s the very reason no one at Richardson—even Liv—knew I had millions in a trust fund.

I blink into the present, give Micah my most professional smile, and set to answering his question. “I’m twenty-five. Born in San Francisco. I’ve been a real estate agent for five years.”

His sculpted lips press tight. “I’m sure you know I didn’t want you to recite your resume.”

“Yes, I’m sure I know that, too.” I grin.

Judging by his soft chuckle, he’s enjoying the game between us. His playfulness isn’t helping the weight in my belly, but I need to keep my wits about me. This guy is so wrong for me that I know better than to give him a single flirtatious smile.

“We’re all business, then?” he practically purrs.

“On to negotiations,” I confirm.

He finally breaks eye contact to acquaint himself with the terms of my employment offer before addressing me again. “Please don’t feel nervous or unsure in what you want during these negotiations. I’m here to listen and discuss what you feel you deserve.”

Coming from any other guy, this speech would seem sweet and thoughtful. As it is coming from a guy dressed in an expensive tailored black suit, while he is leaning back in his seat, chest out, chin high, I refrain from snorting. Powerful men are all the same. And I certainly don’t need him to hold my hand. “Thank you. That’s very kind.”

His eyes narrow at my demure tone of voice, then his mouth twitches. Obviously he sees the amusement in this scenario; not to be shallow, but I am Richardson’s top producer—I think I can “negotiate” a contract.
Jeez.

I keep silent; he grabs out a pen from his jacket pocket, never taking his eyes off me. I shiver—not from the coolness of the room, but because of his intensity. He exudes a frightening amount of power. And a confidence that I’ve rarely seen in a man his age; if I recall correctly, the tabloids pegged him at thirty-five.

The strength he projects seems hauntingly dark. But it’s not a darkness I want to run from. It’s a darkness that draws me in. A darkness that I almost want to absorb.

I shake the thoughts from my head. Let’s be logical here, this guy has nothing to offer me except lust. And I want more than that when it comes to a relationship; I want love, trust, and, dare I say, maybe even the white picket fence? Which I suppose explains why I’m still very single.

He taps his pen against the paper. “Go ahead and negotiate your terms.”

I glance at the document before me, thinking of my very successful half-brother and the lessons he taught me about negotiation.
Ask for more than you think you’ll get, because then you’ll end up somewhere in the middle,
he once told me.

“This is all great, and the health benefits are appreciated,” I say to Micah, keeping my eyes on the papers. “However, I have some conditions besides what I’m seeing here.”

“Name them,” he tells me.

I note the commission on the papers, which is the same as I get at Richardson—the offer states that I’ll receive 2.5 percent of the purchase price as my commission from the sales, then out of the money I earn on the deal, I’ll give Holt 30 percent as their cut. I’ve done my competitive research over the years, just to make sure I knew what the market would bear should I ever leave Richardson. “In section four where the commission is noted, I want Holt’s commission adjusted from 30 percent to 20 percent of my earnings.” I watch Micah’s brows shoot up and add, “And if you haven’t already given Liv a salary increase, then she’ll need that, too.”

A slow, dangerous smile crosses his face. “Anything else to adjust?”

I pause, ponder, then shake my head. “No, that’s all.”

“You drive a hard bargain,” he says, considering me.

Of course I did, my big bro taught me all about business. I figured Micah probably operated the same way. I had to address him with the same intensity he shows me or I won’t get his respect. “It’s not a bargaining technique,” I correct him, mirroring his slow, dangerous smile. “It’s simply what I deserve based on the market today.”

He leans back in his chair, regarding me with a long look. “It seems you have more experience than what I’d originally thought. Where did you work before Richardson?”

“Nowhere.”

“No internship out of university?”

“I never went to university. I started at Richardson right out of high school, then obtained my real estate license.” Well, first I traveled Europe for a year with my best friend, Taylor Erikson, on a trip of self-discovery. The only discovery we made is that I can drink Taylor under the table. I became a real estate agent after working as a receptionist at Richardson, during which time I studied for and obtained my license. But these all are things he doesn’t need to know.

His smoky eyes narrow again. “You have no other business experience?”

“No, I’m afraid not.” Dammit, I need to dial back the confidence a tad. Everyone has secrets they hold dear and I have mine, too. My past isn’t something I want advertised. “Those are my terms. Are you in agreement?”

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