Demanding Denise Dixon is everything self-made millionaire Jaden Bond has come to hate in a woman.
The "Black American Princess" is spoiled rotten. But with the looks to rival a genuine beauty queen and a sassy attitude to back them up, Denise is a blowtorch to Jaden's cold-hearted cynicism, and his legendary self-control....
Denise knows she has met her match in the sexy Mr. Bond. But as their relationship heats up, she realizes her days with Jaden may be numbered. It's only a matter of time before shameful secrets—a hushed-up family scandal and her personal demons—are revealed!
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Fresh from a fifty-minute session with her personal trainer, Denise Dixon drove into the small city of Bloomsburg, an hour north of Chicago. It was a Friday afternoon, on the cusp of dusk, and the roads were jammed with professionals escaping the hectic madness of the Windy City. The sidewalks and walking paths were filled with joggers and speed walkers and every other person appeared to have a dog attached to a leash out for their daily routine.
Daily exercise was her therapy. One hundred fifty dollars an hour for her troubles seemed a bit overpriced. But that was her cross to bear.
Denise turned right at a corner by a church. Her mother had given her directions, but Denise preferred to double-check with an online mapping service.
The residential area had nothing in common with her more humble, childhood beginnings.
"Wow!" Large houses, more like mansions, lined both sides of the road. Money was the tool between her and her parents. They used various amounts as her cause dictated. Her stepfather had his business, but had the family wealth. Her mother had class, but not a penny. Unlike her socialite sister, Denise worked in the city's government with its employee grades and job levels and notorious low pay. Her parents weren't impressed with her attempts to be independent. They thought it was better to take care of some things for their children.
A few more turns took her deeper into the neighborhood away from the main thoroughfare. Denise cruised at a pedestrian pace to read the house numbers. Finally, she braked in front of her new house. She looked in the rearview mirror, but saw no traffic. The street was eerily quiet, clean and orderly, as if it were ready for its place on a postcard. And this paradise was now home.
The driveway curved in a giant horseshoe, straightening in front of the spacious house, before disappearing through the foliage. The windows on the bottom level were oversize, and windows were in abundance on the second floor, where the roof peaked at sharp angles for a cathedral ceiling effect inside.
Denise saw that any further admiration had to be put on hold.
Scaffolding had been erected on one side of the house. Half of the roof tiles were stripped. The front door had been taken off the hinges and now sat on its side against the front of the house. The house was a wreck!
"Mom, it's me." Denise cradled the cell phone between her shoulder and ear. "I'm at the house. I don't see any other car so it looks like no one is here. The door... well, there's no door."
"Are you sure, dear? There should be an entire construction crew there."
"Yes. I'm in the car looking at it, but I can see that no one is here." Denise turned off the engine. "I'm going in to check. I'll call you back later."
"Be careful. Maybe you should let me stay on the phone, just in case."
Denise wasn't in the mood for her mother's statistical rundown of brutal crimes in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Instead, she ended with a vague promise to call her back after investigating.
Her watch showed two o'clock. Lunch break was over. She pushed up her sleeves, ready for a fight with surly construction workers. Maybe she'd be lucky enough to sneak up on them throwing back a couple of beers.
Denise walked through the gaping doorway, then stood her ground with her hands on her hips as her gaze swept the foyer and living-room area. Signs of work were evident—additional scaffolds and partially constructed walls. Drop cloths covered various items.
She had to admit her parents knew what they were doing and were very good at it. They selected fixer-uppers, renovated them and then handed out a property to each child or resold it at a much higher value.
Closed double doors drew her attention. She opened them to admire a room framed with crown molding. From its position in the house next to the living room, she determined that it was the formal dining room.
"I don't cook, so I won't be using this room too much." Her voice echoed, magnifying the room's emptiness, a sad commentary on her life. She shrugged off her mind's attempt to wander down that path. No, I will not go there—not today.
Enjoying the sound of her shoes against the wood floors, she performed a short rendition of her sorority's popular step routine. Her hands clapped and smacked her thighs, accentuating the beats of her feet stomping against the hardwood floor in a rhythmic style that combined steps from hot musical groups with African traditional dances. The exertion left her panting and dying for a cold drink. She knew it looked crazy, but how could she resist the fun? There was just so much room here! Memories of her college days and Xi Theta Sigma flooded her mind. She shook it off and straightened her jacket. Growing up was a one-way, unyielding street, one she wasn't sure she was ready for.
Jaden Bond barely saw the lone figure enter the house. He'd heard a car pull up, but didn't get to the window fast enough. Despite craning his neck, he couldn't get a good line of sight. The unlit entryway provided enough shadow to disguise the person's identity. From his vantage point on the second floor, he moved a little closer to get a better view. The stranger crossed into a ray of light that cut through the large windows in a wedge shape across the floor.
His gaze narrowed. The telltale curves of the slim frame revealed part of the mystery. A woman, a stranger nonetheless, had entered the house.
She walked through the foyer and living room tapping the walls, brushing aside debris with her foot, then stood still with her hands stuffed in her jacket pockets studying the lower level.
Had the county sent an inspector? He wasn't in the mood for any bureaucratic crap. All the necessary permits had been obtained. Then again, she might be a nosy neighbor, a member of the home owners' association taking it upon herself to check on the property. Whoever she was, she'd now earned the label of trespasser.
When she disappeared into the formal dining room, he moved from his hiding spot. He didn't want to alert her that he was in the house—not yet. The way she moved around, her air of authority, intrigued him. What was she up to?
Suddenly, loud thumping sounds fractured the quietness. He slowed his approach, frowning with the effort to discern what made that rhythmic stomp. The dining-room doors remained partially opened. He eased them further open until he had a clear view of the woman, who was in full step mode. This unusual sight had him at a loss. Who walked into a house, selected a room and began stepping like the black Greek fraternities on campus?
He recognized some of the signature steps of Xi Theta Sigma sorority. On his campus, they were considered sisters to his fraternity. And he had to admit she was good. What if he started stepping? She'd probably freak. That would serve her right. When she paused to wipe her glistening forehead, he finally stepped forward with an irritable, authoritative demeanor for effect.
"Oh!" The woman jumped and stepped back until she hit the large, ornate mantel over the fireplace. Her gaze shifted from the door to him and back to the door. Her breathing sped up as she stiffened into a guarded stance.
"I'm Jaden Bond." He greeted her calmly, in even tones. "I'm renovating this house." Jaden waved his hand over the empty room. "What would you be doing here?" He pointedly looked down at her feet, which only seconds ago had been maneuvering in intricate steps with clean precision.
"I'm Denise." Her chin rose a smidgen. She stuffed her hands into her jacket pockets. "The hardwood floor looks good. I know that looked crazy...I was step mistress in university..." She chuckled, but it quickly died when he didn't respond. "I got carried away." Her hesitant tone had turned defiant.
Jaden didn't let the subtle change affect his decision. She was an annoying, albeit attractive, busybody who got caught nosing around someone else's property. "Your name?"
The woman tilted her head and in a flash turned a piercing gaze on him. Jaden accepted the challenge. Her attitude toward him was that he was the intruder. Maybe it was her snazzy suit and the way she crossed her arms as if staking her claim.
"Would you show me around the house?"
"Excuse me?" She tightened her crossed arms.
"I don't know you. I'd rather be personable when I show you the door."
"As if." The woman approached, moving across the room with a distinctive strut. "Look, I'm sure your boss mentioned my visit. I'll be living here."
Jaden frowned, unsure why this woman wanted to be mysterious. He knew his clients. They were old enough to be her parents. Maybe they were. He didn't trust easily, but he'd go along with her little game for a few more minutes, only out of curiosity. "Not a problem."
"Do you have a large crew working on this project?" She raised her eyebrows waiting for his explanation.
"Nah. It's pretty quiet at the moment."
"Given the amount of work left to be done, that may not be such a good thing."
"I've got it under control." Apparently, she was one of those types who figured she knew everything.
"We'll see if that's true." She walked past him with a small smile on her lips, as if she knew something that he didn't.
He quickly closed the gap as she exited the room. He hated to admit that this stranger intrigued him. She was pretty, but that wasn't it. The power suit probably meant corporate shark. The tight, neat ponytail shouted uptight personality. She was Type A, up close and personal. Maybe it was the slight sway of her hips as she moved in her stilettos that made him want to play along for a quick minute.
"Willing to give me the tour?" she asked over her shoulder.
"I've got the time." Jaden glanced down at his watch to verify his boast. His men would be returning to work the afternoon shift in thirty minutes. He'd wanted to finish writing up his status report before they came back. Playtime with this heiress apparent would have to end in ten minutes. He stepped up to walk beside her.
"The houses in this area were built in the boom days before the Depression wiped out families. The community ca...
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Book Description Harlequin Kimani, 2008. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0373860862
Book Description Harlequin Kimani, 2008. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0373860862
Book Description Harlequin Kimani, 2008. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110373860862
Book Description Harlequin Kimani. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0373860862 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1926623