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Authors: C. C. Koen

Unlikely Allies (7 page)

BOOK: Unlikely Allies
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“Julia, nice to see you.” Rick bent down and brushed his lips against her cheek, taking the seat next to her. “Grandfather.” Rick acknowledged him with a nod.

“Your granddaddy, the sweet man he is, invited me to join you both this evening. I was just telling him I hadn’t heard from you in a while. I hoped to see you at the Crystal Ball last weekend, but you weren’t there.” She swept her thumb along the top of his hand and squeezed it. “It’s been too long, Rick. I’ve missed you.” Her purring, seductive tone relayed the underlying message loud and clear.

His grandfather cleared his throat, and Julia fluttered her eyelashes at Horatio. “Mr. Stone, you must get Rick to take some time off. I’d love to have him go sailing on my daddy’s yacht for a few weeks. We could venture down to the Caribbean just the two of us. Doesn’t that sound fabulous?”

“Funny you should mention that. Grandfather was in the office today reminding me I don’t work hard enough. So the answer is no. I won’t have time to accompany you.”

Her pout couldn’t have been more disingenuous. Her plump, ruby-coated lips might delight some men, but Rick refused to encourage her. She got plenty of that from Grandfather, who’d selected her as a prime candidate and beat his ear to marry her. Another thing to dog him about, adding to the never-ending list of dos and don’ts. Sometimes though, he had no choice in spending time with her. Like tonight.

The waiter interrupted, brought drinks and took orders. Endless chatter from Julia about charity events droned on for hours. When they left the restaurant, and Rick said good night to her, it had passed ten o’clock.

“Rick.” His grandfather stood with him at the valet, waiting for their vehicles. “You need to put a ring on her finger, boy.”

Rick shuffled the coins in his pocket and didn’t bother to respond.

“Hard-headed fool you are,” Grandfather grumbled. “Someone is going to snatch her up.” The old man stared at him square in the eye. “You listenin’ to me?”

The fists at Rick’s side clamped open and closed, and his grinding teeth kept him from saying what he really wanted to. The persistent man refused to let up or stay the hell out of his life. Rick turned thirty-one last month, yet Grandfather treated him like an eighteen-year-old still learning the ropes of business and life. Out of respect for his dad, he put up with his inane rants and battering.

“I’m not getting married. Not now, not ever. So get that through your thick head.”

“Her daddy wants it. I want it, and you’ll do as I say. The merger of their company with ours will take it beyond any in the world. The board and investors want the union. It’s best for both sides.”

“I told you before, the merger is one thing. Julia is another and isn’t happening.”

“You don’t know what the hell you’re doing. You’ll destroy the business and your future, all to be a stubborn jackass.”

The valet whipped Rick’s car into the lot and slammed on the brakes. After setting a tip in the young man’s hand, Rick leaned an arm on the hood and eyeballed his grandfather. “The business is mine and has been for some time. I haven’t sunk it yet. As for the board, we’re looking at all options, and decisions will be made in the best interest of the entire company. Not for one person, but for everyone. The employees are the reason it’s a success. I’m not making snap judgments just because you think it’ll be good for you.”

Grandfather stood at the other side of the car, his arms stretched across the top, hands clasped together. “I have a huge investment and stake in it. It’s my money too.”

“You don’t have controlling interest. Dad put me in charge for good reason, and I do it for him. It’s his legacy, and I’ll be sure we stay on top. I won’t have you interfering in that.”

“Did you look at the reports?”

Rick sat in the driver’s seat and slammed the door shut. At the click of a button, he opened the passenger side window, and his grandfather ducked his head inside.

“The margins are damn good. You need me to explain the percentages to you? Let me know. Otherwise, I’ll see you at the next board meeting. Good night, Grandfather.” With two fingers at his temple, he saluted him and peeled out of the parking lot.

Some people eat when they’re stressed, or when they have problems to forget; others choose alcohol or drugs. Rick worked tension out of his system with sex and lots of it. He didn’t normally go to a bar. He didn’t have to. The women in his black book were plentiful, but he didn’t want any of them tonight. Nothing familiar. He needed something or someone different, a change of pace.

The jazz music the band played helped mellow him some, but he craved more than that. A glass of whiskey warmed his throat as he took the first gulp. His fingers drummed on the glass tabletop and kept beat with the tune. He scanned the candlelit tables of the semi-crowded club. A little hole in the wall, Salsalito, north of the city and not far from home, had been a favorite of his for years. Which made it an ideal choice to relax and check out the scenery. Quite a few women, all shapes and sizes, adorned the space with their beauty. Many of them had men at their side; a few did not. Seated across the room in a corner, a blond with spiky hair cut short to the scalp glanced his way a few times, but other than that she didn’t seem interested. She wouldn’t be a typical choice, not that he had a type. However, she looked like what he desired tonight: a little rough around the edges. The cropped leather vest forced her tiny breasts above the lapels, and the fringe on her cut-to-the-crotch miniskirt pulled a man’s eyes to her long legs.

Yeah, she’d do fine. He needed hard core and rough tonight. The repressed beast building inside him had to be forced out before he exploded, and the best way for him to do that remained locked in his sight. While he chugged the rest of his drink, he signaled the waitress to bring him another, and took the next step to remedy his situation.

“Hi.” He sat in the seat across from her, extending his hand. “Rick. You are?”

“Busy.” She leaned her back against the paneled wall and scanned the room like he wasn’t sitting there, a few feet from her face.

“Can I buy you a drink?”

“Bug off.” She still hadn’t bothered to look at him.

Listed as America’s most eligible bachelor, he hadn’t received that title for just one reason. His success running a Fortune 500 corporation and his legendary never-give-up attitude had weighed heavily in the ranking. This woman didn’t realize the king of stubborn sat right at her fingertips. If he pursued a woman, his skills melted her panties off every single time. Not one rejection. Although, since they chased after him, those charms might be a little rusty. He knew what he had to do though. It wouldn’t take long before he had her right where he wanted.

The empty beer bottle in front of her gave him the opportunity he needed. He waved at the waitress who had stopped at his vacated seat, scanning the tables and searching for him. When she caught sight of him, she brought over his drink, and he ordered the silent lady another of the same brand.

“You got a hearin’ problem, man?” She glared at him and jerked her chin at the waitress.

“Having a drink is all. Thought I’d share.”

She snorted and surveyed the crowd again, which had gotten more congested since he arrived.

He eased his back along the adjacent wall and took a sip from his glass. “You looking for someone? I come here a lot. Maybe I could help.”

“I don’t have time for BS. Why don’t you hike it back to where you came from and hit on that chick two tables behind where you were sittin’? She’s there all alone, and I’m sure she’d help you with what
looking for.”

He tilted his head back and let the laughter rip. She had him pegged damn well. When he settled himself, he shouted over the music, “What’s your name?”

“Kat.” Her smirk showed two dimples, and the mischievous glint in her eyes softened her appearance some, a stark contrast to the heavy black and purple makeup around them.

“Well, Kat, touché.” He raised the drink as a toast and sucked down a huge gulp.

The waitress came back to the table with her beer. Kat pulled out a thin wallet, removing a twenty. His fingers clipped the bill to the table. “My treat.”

She shrugged and swiped the bottle from the waitress’s tray. From under his fingers, Kat slid the money out and tucked it into her billfold. A picture inside stared at him, a face he wouldn’t soon forget. He snatched it from her grasp.

“Hey.” She leapt across the table at the same time he lunged far right and out of her reach, his arm extended to stop her.

“Why do you have this picture?” He tapped it with his thumb.

She frowned and sat down slowly. “You know her?”

“I met her last week.”

Her head tilted, and she narrowed her eyes. “You Stone?”

He chuckled at her stunned face, thin black eyebrows pitched high and mouth slackened. “Heard of me, have you?” He eased closer to the table and laid the wallet between them. She yanked it away, tucking it into a pocket.

“Unbelievable. You sure know how to make an impression, don’t you?”

He smirked.
I have many tricks.

“She hasn’t stopped talking about you.”

His smile vanished, and his eyes snapped to the singer. The woman’s soulful voice sang about taking chances, causing his skin to tingle. All of a sudden, the air in the club thickened, and it became difficult to breathe. “How do you know her?” He didn’t think she heard him since his choked question got drowned out by the crescendo finish.

“She’s my niece. They live with me.” Her reply mimicked his tone. He heard her loud and clear though because the tune had ended and the band took a break. What timing.

His gaze shifted to the head-banger type that couldn’t be Maggie’s sister. They were opposite in height, skin tone, hair color, eyes, everything. Something about Kat’s attitude, though, reminded him of her niece. “Cece’s quite precocious.” This time he grinned a little.

“Ah, she used her subtle charm on you too, huh?”

He coughed into his hand, suppressing another laugh. “Subtle?”

She tipped her bottle up to him. “I think you might know a little about that yourself, Stone. A technique you do well.”

He threw a fifty down on the table and stood, chugging the rest of his drink. “Enjoy your night.” When he walked away he thought he heard her mutter, “You met your match, bud. Two of 'em.”

Anger and pent-up frustration drove him to pound into the raven-haired, nameless woman. Her cheek pressed onto his glass dining room table, his fist grinding into the middle of her bare back. Eyes closed, his face pointed up at the ceiling, he filled her sex and the condom. A release that even a few seconds later, hadn’t satisfied him in the least.

After he yanked his pants up, he tossed the rubber in the trash and strode toward the door, his dress shirt flapping at his sides. He took in her seductive getting-dressed scene, a slow, methodical snap of twenty-some buttons that lined the entire front of her shimmery pink dress. Loud clanking heels sounded like thunder as she stomped across the wood floor. “That’s it?” Her frown should have pained him but it didn’t. Every woman he had sex with tried to use her wiles and connive her way into his heart. In most instances, they made it as far as his living room, and none were invited to his bed.

He tilted his chin toward her parked car, behind his in the driveway.

“You suck, you know that?” She rammed her shoulder into his on the way out and took off down the stairs of his brownstone.

After he slammed the door, he shoved his aching forehead against the cold steel surface. Yeah, he sucked and a whole slew of other things. The walls closing in on him, he shucked off his pants and shirt, flew up the stairs two at a time, and headed straight for the shower. Scalding hot water pounded down on his taut muscles, a dozen showerheads directed at strategic spots and hitting key points on his neck, shoulders, arms, and thighs. Almost like he had a personal masseuse behind him, driving knuckles into every nerve. His arms spread-eagle along the tile wall, he widened his legs the same distance apart, rolling his shoulders backward then forward, over and over again, trying to relieve the tension. Most days, sex made him loose, not more frustrated.

BOOK: Unlikely Allies
12.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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