Authors: Delaney Diamond
Tags: #seattle, #billionaire, #friends to lovers, #family series
Cyrus drained the bottle and tossed the empty
container in the trash. “Who?”
“A guy. All I have is a first name, but I
know where he works. He works with Lana, and she’s dating him.”
Since she and Connor had started dating, the
few times she’d talked about him, she’d been starry-eyed and
about him, like he was a rock star. But after
his talk with her yesterday, Trenton felt he sounded too good to be
true. He allegedly volunteered for all types of organizations, as
if anyone had that much time in the week to do volunteer work. From
what he could tell, he was patient when it came to sex, too.
Trenton was pretty sure they hadn’t slept together yet. Connor was
either gay or the greatest con artist that ever lived.
He had to find out more about him. Since
Alannah refused to introduce them, he had to take matters into his
own hands. No one was that perfect. If he was wrong, then he’d
leave well enough alone and let her be happy, and from everything
he’d heard about Mr. Perfect, he did what it took to make her
happy. Which, ironically, made Trenton sick. So sick his stomach
roiled at the thought of them together.
“She’s still having you check out her
boyfriends?” Cyrus asked.
Trenton came further into the office and
rubbed the back of his neck. “Not exactly.”
His brother’s eyebrow raised in silent
“Without going into detail, this is someone I
have concerns about, but she doesn’t seem to be too worried. But
I’m worried, and I want to make sure she’s okay and this guy isn’t
someone who’s going to take advantage of her.”
“So she doesn’t know. Is that what you’re
“Right. It’s between me and you.”
Cyrus didn’t bat an eyelid, the reaction
Trenton had hoped for. The one thing he could count on was that his
brother would do any and everything to protect the family. Because
of her close relationship with them over the years, Alannah was
practically family and thus enfolded in the same protective
“What’s his name?” Cyrus sat behind his desk.
He picked up a pen and pulled a sticky note from the desk draw,
which he set exactly perpendicular along the edge of the desk.
“He works at the lab with Alannah?”
“I don’t know if he works in the same lab,
but he works at DymoGenesis. That much I know. Oh, and he’s
Cyrus added that notation. “Anything
“That’s all I know.”
“Okay, I’ll get my guy to look into it.” If
there was any dirt to be found about Connor, his guy would root it
out. “What is it about him that’s got you concerned?”
Every time he thought about Alannah and her
new beau, Trenton became restless. He started pacing. “It’s hard to
explain. It’s not just him, it’s her, too. She’s changed a lot
recently. She’s not behaving like the person I’ve known most of my
“That doesn’t sound like Lana.”
“Trust me, she’s not acting like herself. Did
you see what she wore to Mother’s party the other day?”
Cyrus wrinkled his brow in concentration.
“The white and black halter dress with the
split up the side.” The same dress she’d purchased at Macy’s. He’d
been hard pressed to quell the urge to cover her with his jacket.
“She was walking around without a bra on—like…nah. I didn’t like
it.” The more he spoke, the more agitated he became. “Then she
flirted with the Australian from the software company, let him put
his hands all over her, like he owned her or something.”
“I don’t think his hands were all over
“I saw it. Believe me.”
“Did he touch her that much?”
Cyrus’s brows lifted. “You know the exact
number of times.”
“Because I watched them. I didn’t like that
shit one bit. And when I reminded her that she had a man already,
you know what she said to me?” He stopped pacing. “She said they
weren’t exclusive and anyway, she could do whatever she wanted. The
Australian’s not even her type. She dates men who are quiet and
kinda nerdy. That Australian guy was too sneaky and slick-talking,
bragging about his business expansion all damn night.” The more he
talked, the hotter Trenton became. He ran a finger along the inside
of his shirt collar.
“I agree he was a little too smooth-talking
for my taste, but he’s the son of Mother’s friend. Is Alannah
Trenton ran a hand down his face. “No. I
think she realized he wasn’t right for her, but the flirting was a
little ridiculous in my opinion.”
Cyrus folded his hands on the desk. “So this
Connor person, you think he’s the same?”
“I don’t know. She won’t let me meet him. I
can’t evaluate him if I don’t meet him, but at least with a
background check I can find out for sure if there’s anything wrong
Cyrus assessed him in an oddly close way.
“Why won’t she let you meet him?”
“She said I scare men away,” Trenton mumbled.
He rubbed the back of his neck again. He needed a massage. Lately
he carried a lot of tension in the neck and shoulders.
“I see.” Loaded words for sure.
Trenton, who’d been staring out the expansive
windows, swung his gaze to his brother. “What do you see?” Cyrus
was very perceptive, and his ability to analyze served him well as
head of the family business. Trenton’s stomach knotted in
apprehension of his brother’s next words.
“Let me ask you this—why are you so worked up
about the men she’s seeing and the way she’s dressing?”
“I’m always concerned about the men in her
life. You know that.”
“I do, but maybe this new man is her
“I’ll be the judge of that,” Trenton bit
Cyrus chuckled knowingly and leaned back in
his chair. A spark entered his eyes, as if he’d learned something
new. “You can’t tell her what to do or who to see.”
“Like hell I can’t.”
“You realize you’re abnormally upset and
protective over her.”
“There’s nothing abnormal about it,” Trenton
said. “She’s protective of me, too. We’re best friends and she’s
like a sister to me.”
“I’ve never seen you act this way over
“Ivy’s older and was married once before.
It’s different with her. Lana’s more like a little sister.”
“You’re not acting like a big brother, Trent.
You’re acting very possessive. She’s not yours.”
—” He stopped. The unfinished
sentence hung in the air.
Cyrus just looked at him, waiting.
Trenton dialed back his tone. “Are you going
to help me or not?”
Cyrus pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Be
careful, Trent. Think about what you’re doing and where you’re
going with your relationship with Lana.”
He’d thought about it. He knew exactly what
he was doing. “I’m looking out for a friend. Nothing more.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about,” Cyrus
said. He rested his forearms on the desk, locking his steady gaze
with Trenton’s. The penetrating look made Trenton uneasy, but he
held it. “Once you cross that line, you can’t go back. Lana’s not
the kind of woman to cross that line with and expect you can just
go back to being friends. Do not have sex with her unless you’re
ready for a commitment.”
“Who said anything about having sex?”
Cyrus didn’t react. “She’s not like these
other women who hang on your every word, and even after you stop
seeing them don’t mind if you call for a hookup every now and
again. All your little friends-with-benefits associations don’t
apply. She’s different. You of all people should know that and
respect it.” The oppressive gravity of Cyrus’s lecture hung in the
In the past few weeks Trenton had already
acknowledged that at least part of the high-level emotions he felt
toward Alannah was not solely based on platonic feelings. There was
more, much more that he chose not to acknowledge. The rage he’d
felt when he saw the software developer touch her bare skin had
been the most recent way the point had been hammered home.
Something was happening to him—to them both, and by extension,
He held his brother’s gaze and spoke with the
same gravity. “I know she’s different, Cyrus. Believe me, I
Alannah climbed the stairs
with Angel in one hand, cradled against her body, and the phone
pressed to her ear.
“What’s up?” Terri’s bubbly voice bounced
through the line.
“I need to talk,” Alannah said. She placed
the dog on the doggie pillow in the corner and sat at the foot of
She recounted the conversation she’d had with
Trenton yesterday. Terri listened attentively without interrupting,
only interjecting noncommittal sounds every now and again. When
Alannah finished, she asked Terri what she thought.
“About what I told you. Were you
“Of course I was listening, but Alannah, what
are you supposed to do? Your life does not revolve around Trenton
“Maybe I should have called him back on
Friday night. You don’t think I was too mean, do you?”
“You were on a
.” Terri sighed.
“Look, I’ve told you before that I think you and Trenton have some
kind of weird codependency thing going on.”
“Is that a yes or no?”
“That’s a no, honey.” Her voice gentled. “You
shouldn’t feel guilty about spending time with another man, and he
does not have to screen your boyfriends.”
“I know.” Alannah plucked at the sheet. “It’s
just that he comes across as this confident, outgoing guy, but he’s
“I’m sure he’d love to hear that,” Terri said
Alannah smiled. No, he wouldn’t. “He’s always
been there for me. I don’t want to hurt him or make him feel as if
he’s not important to me anymore.”
“Just because he beat up some boys on the
playground for you over twenty years ago doesn’t mean you owe him
for the rest of your life.”
“That’s not exactly what happened.”
“So my details about the story are a little
off.” Terri let out an exasperated sigh. “Tell you what, let him
meet Connor. Hey, what do I know? I still think you’re doing the
right thing, but if you’re not comfortable with it, do what you
always do and let him sabotage your relationship.”
“He doesn’t sabotage my relationships,”
Alannah said, even though she’d practically accused Trenton of the
same thing. “Everything he does is out of love, and he’s always
been there for me.”
“And you’ve always been there for him. It’s a
two-way street. Am I wrong?”
“Okay, then. The scales in this relationship
are not tipped in his favor, and real friends don’t keep track
anyway.” The doorbell in Terri’s apartment rang and she started
moving around. “I’ve gotta run, sweetie. I have a date, but I can
stay on the phone a little longer if you want.”
She wasn’t surprised Terri had a date in the
middle of the week. They both lived such different lives. “No, take
care of your company.”
“You’re not doing anything wrong,” Terri said
firmly. “Do not feel guilty.”
“Go get your date.”
“Girl, he’ll wait. I’m worried about you. Are
you sure you’re okay?” The doorbell rang again.
“Yes. Have fun. But Terri?”
“Do you mind coming with me to The
Underground? Trenton’s performing this weekend, and it’ll be my
first time going there…you know, all dolled up. I’m a little
nervous.” Alannah let out a shaky, embarrassed laugh.
“Honey, of course I don’t mind. Besides, I’m
dying to see Trenton perform, and it sounds like a cool place to
“It is. You’ll like it.”
“We’ll touch base later this week so I’ll
know what time to meet you there, okay? Smooches!”
Alannah hung up and then dragged herself from
the bed and undressed. She pulled a pair of Trenton’s boxers from
the dresser and then paused. She stared at them—black, with
vertical red stripes.
Her heart constricted. What was she doing?
Wearing his clothes would not help her get over him.
She shoved the underwear back into the bottom
of the drawer and removed a white chemise, something new and sexy
she’d purchased but hadn’t worn yet. She put that on instead.
“Good night, Angel,” she whispered. The dog’s
head popped up and then settled down onto her paws again.
Alannah slipped under the covers and pulled
the comforter up to her chin. Not surprisingly, she didn’t fall
asleep. She had Trenton on the brain.
She loved him so much, too much, and wished
she had the courage to cut him off, but slicing off a foot would be
easier and less painful.
Rolling onto her side, she closed her
Her love for him had probably started the
first day they’d met, although she’d only been eight years old, and
the circumstances hadn’t been ideal…
Traipsing across the grass, Alannah enviously
watched the other children running, sliding, and swinging. She
hated recess because she didn’t have any friends at this new
private school. But at least she had her books. The three in her
arms had been checked out from the school library this morning.
She’d always loved to read, but it had become even more important
and allowed her to escape from this new life her parents had forced
her into. Each day at the new school proved hard and hadn’t gotten
any easier. She didn’t belong, and the other kids never let her
Before she could get to the benches on the
other side of the yard, three boys approached.
“What you got there, four eyes?”
She stared straight ahead, her steps less
exuberant, less confident. She didn’t bother anyone and couldn’t
understand why they constantly picked on her.
Clutching the books to her chest, she
recalled the words her parents had told her to repeat.
and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.