Thank you to RomCon® for allowing me to post an excerpt today from my new October Superromance, BECAUSE OF AUDREY! Enjoy…
“How can I have my father deemed unsound of mind?” Gray asked, unable to mask his distaste. “Unfit to run his own business?”
“For God’s sake, Gray,” John Spade said. “Stop pacing. I’m nervous just looking at you. This isn’t like you.”
No, it wasn’t. He had a cool head for business, but business problems had never hit so close to home. His father had never been blackmailed before, and Gray had never had problem after problem dumped on him until he was drowning in an ocean of anxiety, barely hanging on to bits of flotsam by his fingernails.
“Your father’s sale of the property to Audrey Stone was legitimate,” John continued. “I’m just giving you a way out. Have your father declared unfit when he made the sale. Has he been incoherent lately? Has he had memory loss?”
“Of course he’s had memory loss. He’s eighty. He’s not senile, though. He doesn’t have Alzheimer’s. It would kill him if I went behind his back and did something like this.”
“Don’t get emotional. This is business.”
Gray knew how to separate emotion from whatever had to be done to protect the bottom line, but this was his family they were talking about. “He’s my father.”
“He’s also the head of Turner Enterprises, which needs a significant influx of cash. Audrey is standing in your way. This is a solution to that problem.”
“It would devastate my parents.”
“It has to be done.” John’s eyes cooled to the color of wet slate. “Go home and give the idea rational thought.”
Gray considered himself a tough businessman, but John’s expression chilled even him.
He left John’s office. Declare Dad unfit? Declare his mind unsound? Insane.
He left the office and stood on Main Street, disoriented, his skin clammy and his breathing shallow. He recognized the symptoms for what they were. Shock.
Across the street, Audrey’s tarted-up floral shop, The Last Dance, stood out like a peacock strutting on white sand, a microcosm of the woman, quirky, boldly colorful, and even classy as Mom had suggested.
Anger pulsing, he crossed to her door. A sign said Closed. He tested the knob.
Unlocked. He stepped into a cool shop that smelled floral.
A dog approached Gray, butting his hand with his head. Instinctively, Gray petted him, and the dog closed his eyes and leaned into the caress.
The lovely trust of this uncomplicated creature moved him, reminded him of his Bernese Mountain dog who died a month after the car accident, compounding Gray’s already raw grief.
A movement to his right caught his eye, Audrey watching him silently. Beneath wariness, he detected compassion, but why?
He looked away from that knowing gaze and down at the long-haired brown-and-white beauty. “What’s his name?”
Gray did a double take. “Isn’t he a Springer Spaniel?”
“Yep.” She waited, watched, wondering whether he would get the joke. He got it all right. Jerry Springer Spaniel.
Her sense of humor was every bit as quirky as her style.
“Yeah?” he asked, feeling the rare hint of a grin tug at the corners of his mouth. “Who are his parents?”
“We don’t know the father. We’ve done DNA tests, though. The results promise to be shocking. We think his mother slept around. It could get ugly.”
Audrey leaned her elbow on the counter and rested her chin on her fist, her other hand on her cocked hip. She had good hips—ample and shapely. A smile tipped the corners of her lush red lips, pride in her own joke.
That tiny smile did a number on his equanimity, threatened to turn him soft, to treat her with tenderness when he couldn’t afford to. If he had any hope in hell of pulling his
family out of the mess they were in, he had to hang tough.
He removed his hand from the dog’s head, denying both himself and the dog pleasure. These days, Gray was more at home with pain.
“Sell me the land.”
She stepped behind the counter, putting distance between them. “No.”
“I can move your plants to other greenhouses. At my cost.”
“Moving them at this stage would kill them.”
“I’ll be careful.”
“No, Gray, I won’t risk killing my plants by disturbing them. I don’t have to. I own that land legally.”
“How much do you want for it?”
“Nothing. I’m keeping it.”
“I can give you far more than the plants you’re growing are worth.”
His jaw cramped. “What’s your problem? They’re only flowers.”
“What’s your problem?” she countered. “I need those plants for the competition. Is money all you think about?”
“These days? Yes.”
“Money is not that all that matters in life.”
It is if it saves my mother, my family, our business and all of its employees.
“Name your price,” he demanded, an incredibly stupid move for a smart businessman, but he needed that land.
“I don’t have one.”
“Everyone does. What’s yours?”
“Gray, leave my shop.”
“No. Not until you promise to sell to me.”
She edged her hand toward the telephone. “Seriously, Gray, go now or I’ll call the police.”
“No.” He couldn’t, not until she agreed.
She reached under the counter for…what?…a gun? For mace?
He was frightening her. He might be mad to get the land, and she might be the strangest woman he’d ever met, but scaring her was unconscionable. Intimidation to get her to sell? Yes. Outright frightening her? Dead wrong.
He backed away.
“Think about it,” he said, a thread of recklessness seeping into his voice.
She shook her head and there was such implacability in the movement he knew she would never sell, but the alternative would kill DAd.
Rock meet hard place.
One lucky reader who comments on my blog will be randomly selected to win a copy of BECAUSE OF AUDREY! Good luck!