Authors: Katy Regnery
BREAKING UP WITH BARRETT
The English Brothers, Book #1
BREAKING UP WITH BARRETT
© 2014 by Katharine Gilliam Regnery
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Katharine Gilliam Regnery, publisher
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents 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.
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First Edition: July 2014
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Table of Contents
Emily’s heart kicked into a gallop as she looked down at the caller ID on her buzzing phone. Trying to steady her suddenly shallow breathing, she closed her eyes for a brief second before pushing back from the coffee shop table where the rest of her study group continued to discuss early-American industrialization.
“Be right back,” she whispered to her roommate, Valeria, and ducked out the backdoor of the café into an empty alley.
“Mr. English for Miss Edwards?”
A moment later his smooth, polished baritone voice came on the line. “Good afternoon, Emily. Thank you for picking up.”
“I was at study group,” she said, leaning against a brick wall and cringing at the way she made it sound like his call wasn’t welcome.
“I’m sorry to interrupt you.”
“N-no. It’s fine,” she answered quickly, wiping her sweaty hands on her jeans as she sandwiched the phone between her shoulder and ear. Damn it, she wished she could be cooler, but her mind always went blank the moment she heard the low rumble of his voice.
“I’ll be brief,” he said. “Tomorrow night. The Union League Club. Seven o’clock.”
Emily sighed. She had plans tomorrow night with a sensitive, easy-going, doctoral psych student named Chad who’d asked her out more than once. She’d repeatedly turned him down, but Val had insisted that after four months spent at Barrett English’s beck and call, Emily needed to go out with someone with whom she actually had a chance.
“Emily?” he prompted.
“Three hours minimum. Possibly four.”
Pushing her hand through her straight blonde hair, she knew it would be smart to decline Barrett’s request and go out with psych cutie as planned. The arrangement she had with Barrett—while beneficial to her bank account—wasn’t doing her social life any favors. Nor her heart, which didn’t seem to comprehend that Barrett only called her because she was his employee. Still, she couldn’t bring herself to say no to him.
“Engagement ring?” she asked.
“The Chanel or the Givenchy?”
“As you wish.”
“Hair band or chignon?”
“You always look presentable, Emily. I leave the details to you. Smith will pick you up at six forty-five. Are we done?”
“Yes,” she answered and the line immediately went dead.
“Goodbye,” Emily said wistfully in the quiet of the alley, disappointment making her grimace. She fisted the phone in her hand until the case pinched her skin and shook her from her trance. “See you
! By the way, I love you, you
Her yell caused a flurry of commotion overhead as a flock of pigeons departed in a hurry for safer, quieter lodgings, one of them pausing just long enough to crap on Emily’s shoulder with a big, fat plop.
Fantastic. The perfect metaphor for my life.
She stared at the goopy greyish-white spot in surrender before taking a deep, restorative breath, tucking her phone into her jeans and heading back inside to clean her shirt and rejoin her study group.
An hour later, she trudged home beside Valeria, who started scolding her as soon as Emily shared her last-minute plans for tomorrow night.
“So you’ll have to reschedule with Chad? Geez, Em, I don’t understand why you keep saying yes to Barrett!” said Valeria, turning up her collar. “Why not just say no?”
“He has a way about him.” Emily sighed. “I always consider saying no, but I somehow end up saying yes.”
Though they’d never been close or intimate, Emily had known Barrett her entire life—well, not really
him, because they were from very different parts of Haverford Park, but he’d been a peripheral part of her life since birth. The economic nature of the call she’d just shared with him was textbook Barrett: businesslike, methodical and goal-oriented. Emily somehow knew he wasn’t trying to offend her—he was merely taking care of their mutual business as efficiently as possible. It just hurt that he employed efficiency over warmth since it verified what she had suspected for months: Barrett had little to no personal interest in Emily, despite
growing feelings for
Valeria continued in the no-nonsense tone she used when student teaching. “Here’s a solution: say no next time. ‘No, Barrett, I refuse to play the part of fake fiancée for you. Take a hike.’ Three words, Em—TAKE. A. HIKE.” Valeria held up three fingers one by one, then tucked them back into the pocket of her pea coat. “Darn, it’s cold.”
“It’s October in Philadelphia.” Emily pointed out.
“Don’t change the subject.”
“Okay, Val. I’ll say no next time. Here goes. ‘No thanks, Barrett. You don’t make me do anything disgusting. You barely say a word to me. I get to dress up in gorgeous clothes I could never afford, have an expensive glass of wine, and enjoy a scrumptious dinner with people who go out of their way to be polite to me. And yes, I’m flat broke
and so is my roommate
, but no thanks, I don’t want your one-hundred an hour to play your fake fiancée. Keep it.’ How does that sound?”
“Not so smart.”
“I rest my case,” said Emily, though the case was far from closed in her heart and mind, which feuded in a tightly locked conundrum. Lately, her heart murmured that she should walk away from Barrett before her feelings for him grew any stronger, while her head insisted she couldn’t possibly turn her back on the income he offered.
Valeria’s voice interrupted her internal struggle. “Why does he need a fiancée anyway?”
“He only told me once and briefly. Some of his business associates and clients like the stability of a family man on the way to the alter, and he feels that a date makes dinner meetings feel more social and run more smoothly.”
Emily’s role was to smile warmly, laugh softly, and occasionally make a flattering remark about Barrett, which he would accept with a tight smile before refocusing on the business at hand.
“Why you?” asked Valeria.
“My family has worked for his for three generations—four, if you include me. My father is his family’s gardener, just like my grandfather and great-grandfather before. My mother’s the head housekeeper at Haverford Park. He knows where I come from. He knows I’ll behave myself and keep my mouth shut. I’ve known the English family since I was brought home from the hospital to live in the gatehouse at the foot of their estate.” She shrugged. “Me working for Barrett makes sense.”
“I still think it’s weird,” said Valeria, grumbling as she adjusted her backpack. “Doesn’t he know about a hundred society girls he could ask to be his fake fiancée?”
Emily shook her head. “Nah. They’d all take it too seriously. They’d get hopeful. They’d hope that what started as a favor would lead to something real.”
, her head jibed sarcastically, poking with precision at her heart.
“From what you’ve told me, he’s not exactly Prince Charming.”
Emily had explained this before, but Valeria had never lived amongst the English family. She didn’t understand the breadth and depth of their wealth and influence.
“Forget Prince Charming, Val. Barrett’s the oldest son of English & Sons. He buys companies for breakfast and eats them in pieces for lunch. His nickname is ‘The Shark,’ for heaven’s sake! He’s smart and driven and stupendously wealthy. For the woman who doesn’t require emotional intimacy, that’s a whole lot of diamond tennis bracelets.”
Valeria nudged Emily’s side, and when she looked up, Val smiled at Emily as she waggled her eyebrows suggestively. “Speaking of intimacy, he’s also scorching hot.”
And don’t I know it
, Emily thought with a grimace.
All her life, she’d made a quiet study of Barrett’s perfection. His tall, lean, muscular body, his burnished blond hair, the clear blue of his eyes that made her breath catch when he occasionally flashed them at her. He was unbelievably gorgeous—as were all of the English brothers—except Barrett was the original. Over six feet tall with a jaw like a superhero, he was more than attractive. He was, as Valeria had pointed out so illustratively, scorching hot.
But, who cares about that,
thought Emily in a concerted effort to convince herself she was immune to his movie star good looks even though it was patently untrue,
when he can barely offer me a smile?
for him, Val.”
“I wouldn’t mind working
“Val!” exclaimed Emily, blushing as she swatted her roommate’s arm.
“Speaking as a woman and not an employee, isn’t there
you like about him?”
, thought Emily unhappily.
The oldest of five brothers, Barrett was the heir apparent to the most prestigious private equity firm in Philadelphia, and by all outward appearances, Barrett’s nickname was right on target. He
a business shark, dedicated to the financial dominance of English & Sons. But Emily couldn’t help sensing—as she always had—that deep down inside, there was more to Barrett English than business. She had long held the heart-fluttering theory, possibly incorrectly, that someone so passionate in his business life must have the capacity for
deep passions, as well.
Honestly, Emily had no good reason for believing this. His behavior to her was always polite, though not especially warm and inviting. He didn’t make Emily laugh nor did he ask personal questions about her studies or her family. When he dated someone, which wasn’t often, Emily noted that he never seemed thoroughly engaged or delighted with her, and watched his short-lived girlfriends work like crazy to capture and hold his attention without success. Barrett was austere and focused, totally driven by business purposes. Further, he was reserved, old-school and buttoned-up, and in the twenty-four years Emily had known him, she couldn’t ever remember seeing him let loose. It was like he was born with an expensive tie around his neck and a leather briefcase attached to his hand.
His reserved manners didn’t bother Emily; Barrett spoke with economy and precision which meant every word was well-placed and reliably exact in meaning. He was so smart it made her head spin, and so well-informed she wondered how he found the time to read so much. He was strong and powerful, and Emily marveled that he’d achieved so much and was so respected in his field by thirty-two years old. The way Barrett commanded a table made her feel safe with him—like nothing would dare bother her with Barrett’s strong presence beside her—and she liked the way his business associates looked at her, like she must be something special to have wrangled the heart of Mr. English. Lately, in her more romantic daydreams, Emily imagined Barrett a modern-day Mr. Darcy to her bookish Elizabeth, wondering how deep his still waters ran and having a notion that needling him a little might rattle him from his austerity and cast more light on his character.
And the way he made her
When Emily met Barrett for their dates, his eyes would flash with something indefinable but sharp, almost like pain or disapproval or
, which made her breath catch, because it meant that—on some level—she affected him. When he introduced her to his associates as his fiancée, it made her tremble, and she often had to steady her hand before offering it to his guests. At times she’d feel his glance linger on her profile as she sat beside him, and it made her skin flush and her heart race to feel his eyes focused so intently on her. Occasionally he’d place his hand on her lower back as he guided her to a table, or their fingers would touch as they reached for their wineglasses, and butterflies would mass and throng in her tummy. The way her name rumbled off his tongue:
…was so decadent and low and intimate in her ears, she had to work to keep her eyes from fluttering closed in pleasure as the muscles deep inside of her body clenched with urgency.
…isn’t there anything you like about him?
How could she tell the truth? Even as a little girl, eight years his junior, she’d always liked Barrett the best, awed by his innate power and strength. But playing his fiancée with regularity over the past few months had insured that her attraction to Barrett knew no bounds. It sat quietly in wait for Barrett to make a move—any move—that would allow her to hope that his heart could be moved by hers.
That was the biggest problem of all: even with her education and perfectly respectable upbringing, Emily was the help, the gardener’s daughter, the housekeeper’s little girl. She was ridiculous for thinking—for hoping, for wishing, even for a moment—she could ever be a fit match for the heart of Barrett English.
She flinched, discomfort and a rush of panic making her feel slightly breathless, as she forced herself to face the fact that what had always been a slow-burning infatuation had heated to a boiling point over the last few months. Indeed, if Emily was honest with herself she knew she’d fallen in love with Barrett, a circumstance which was entirely unacceptable and needed correction. Soon.