Struggling to keep her corporate-recruiting firm afloat, Manhattan executive Melissa Grant has no time for love. Then Adam Roundtree walks into her life. But the charismatic businessman is no ordinary client. He's the man who can bring Melissa's career—and her heart—to life...until a shocking discovery jeopardizes their blossoming relationship.
For Melissa and Adam, fate couldn't have played a crueler trick: their families have been embroiled in a stormy feud for generations, turning former business partners into lifelong enemies and leaving a bitter legacy that casts a long shadow. Then someone starts sabotaging Adam's work, and everything points to Melissa. Now they could lose everything...unless their love is strong enough to close the door on the past and open their hearts to the promise of the future.
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Gwynne Forster is an Essence bestselling author and has won numerous awards for fiction, including the Gold Pen Award, the RT Book Reviews Lifetime Achievement Award.
She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology and a master’s degree in economics/demography and has traveled and/or worked in sixty-three countries.
She lives in New York with her husband.
Mlelissa Grant hung up the phone. Anxious. Her graceful brown fingers strummed her desk. She'd had to expand her business in order to stay ahead of her competition, but months would pass before she got the results that she anticipated. Until then her financial status would be precarious at best. Her banker knew that and—because her first loan hadn't been fully paid—had denied her request for a second one. Now she stood a good chance of losing her business. She knew when she came to New York that she could expect tough competition, but she had worked hard and established one of the top executive search firms, and she'd done it in less than five years. She had taken stock of her resources and decided that she had three alternatives, all of them unattractive. She could put her personal funds into her MTG Executive Search firm—something she'd been taught in business school never to do; she could borrow the money from her father; or she could take the lucrative Hayes/Roundtree account. Bankruptcy was preferable to discussing a loan with her father, Rafer Grant, and only trouble could come from any kind of involvement with a Roundtree. Adam Roundtree's executive assistant, Jason Court, had called her with a request that she find a manager for "Leather and Hides," the division of Hayes/Roundtree Enterprises, Inc., that tanned leather and made leather goods. She noticed the light on her phone.
"MTG." She leaned back in her desk chair, twirling a slingshot that she won in a charity raffle. "Hello, Mr. Court. I'm not sure I'm the person you want for this job. I don't know a thing about leather."
"In other words, you don't want the contract," he said as though surprised. "Adam wants MTG. He thinks your firm is the best, and Adam is used to having the best. Think it over. I can raise the fee by twenty percent, but no more."
Melissa hung up and buzzed her secretary for the Roundtree file.
"Here you are." Kelly put the folder on Melissa's desk. "I thought you said you wouldn't take that job for all the bullion in Fort Knox."
"That was yesterday. The bank just refused my request for a loan." She scanned the few pages. "This must be a mistake." She checked the figure on the last page. "He's offering more money than I ever dreamed of asking for a search. I can find a manager who'll suit him—I don't doubt that, but the consequences could be...explosive. Probably hell to pay."
Kelly frowned. "I don't get it."
"Someday when we have a few hours to throw away, I'll tell you about it." Melissa weighed the pros and cons. If she took the contract, she would no longer have a financial problem and, when she listed a firm on the New York Stock Exchange as one of her clients, her ability to attract fat accounts would be guaranteed. She looked over the papers, corrected the fee, initialed it, and signed the contract without giving herself a chance to change her mind. Her signature was unreadable, and she didn't doubt that Adam Roundtree would inscribe his name beneath hers. But when he found out.. when they all found out! Talk about dancing with the devil!
She walked over to her bookcase, scanned a shelf of business and reference books, and selected a volume of an encyclopedia with the intention of learning about leather tanning. The afternoon sun glared in her face, and she lowered the blinds, wondering absently why Adam Roundtree worked for Jenkins and Tillman, a New York real estate firm, rather than with his family's Hayes/Roundtree Enterprises. Had he left northern Maryland and come to New York to escape his parents as she had? From what she'd heard of him, she doubted it. Men of his reputation didn't run from anything or anybody. She put the book in her briefcase, sat down, and lifted the receiver.
"Would you please send this signed contract to Jason Court at Jenkins and Tillman?" she asked her secretary. "Get a messenger, and mark the envelope confidential. I'll be leaving in a minute." She pushed her tight curls away from her olive-toned face and completed her final task of the day.
Melissa walked out of her office, two blocks from Wall Street, and into the sweltering early July heat, her discomfort intensified by the high humidity for which New York City was famous. She didn't wait long for a taxi, sat back and took a deep breath, grateful that she'd escaped the rush hour madness. Ten minutes later, getting a taxi within a mile of Wall Street would be impossible.
Adam Roundtree sat in his New York office reviewing reports from Hayes/Roundtree Enterprises, Inc. The Maryland-based company belonged to his family, handed down to them by his maternal grandfather. Jacob Hayes hadn't believed that his gas field would produce indefinitely, and it hadn't, but he'd lived modestly and ploughed his money into a hosiery and a fabric mill, the leather business, and the newspaper. His foresight had enabled him to pass considerable wealth to his children and grandchildren. Adam appreciated his social station and the wealth that he'd inherited, but he wanted his own kingdom, wanted to build his own legacy for his children—that is, if he ever had any. His father's recent death meant that he had to take an active interest in the family business, including management of the leather factory, which his father had skillfully nurtured. His mother possessed a sharp mind, but his grandfather had thought it improper for a young woman to work, and she'd never used her university education. His younger brother, Wayne, a journalist, had his hands full running the newspaper. No help there. So the onus was on him. It would mean working two demanding jobs, but he'd do it.
He summoned Jason Court for a progress report on the search for a manager of the Leather and Hides division. Adam had just gained full partnership in what was now Jenkins, Roundtree, and Tillman, and he had worked hard for it. He didn't see how he could manage a leather tanning and manufacturing business located in Frederick, Maryland, from his office opposite the World Trade Center in New York.
"Come in, Jason, and have a seat. What have you got for me?"
"I have a contract with MTG for your signature." Adam slapped his right knuckle into the open palm of his left hand.
"Nothing else?" If Jason felt pressured, he didn't show it.
"I got the contract by messenger twenty minutes ago." He handed it to Adam, who didn't even glance at the papers but fixed his concentration on the man opposite him.
"How much time did you allow? A week ought to be more than enough for a firm that knows its business. I need that position filled yesterday. Make that clear." He signed the contract and handed it back. "Thanks, Jason." Adam watched his executive assistant as he left the room. The man was his perfect complement; he liked working with him. A sharp mind and a cool head. But he didn't like doing business by mail with an anonymous nonhuman entity, because he wanted to know with whom he was dealing, see him, size him up, and know what to expect. He called his secretary.
"Olivia, would you arrange a meeting here with the president of MTG tomorrow morning, if possible? I don't like dealing with a faceless company." He walked around to Jason's office, next door to his own.
"Tell me something about this fellow who heads up MTG. I've asked Olivia to have him come over here tomorrow morning, and I need a line on him."
He watched Jason lean back in his chair with a half smile playing around his mouth.
"Adam, the president of MTG is a woman."
"A woman?" He quickly veiled his astonishment; no one was going to accuse him of bias against women or any other group.
"Yeah. And she's a no-nonsense person and a good-looking sister, to boot. She's feminine, but she's the epitome of efficiency, a thorough pro. I figured the fact that she wears a skirt wouldn't bother you."
"It doesn't. I take it from your reference to the sisterhood that she's African-American." Jason nodded. "Well, all I want is for her to bring me a first-class manager."
When Olivia opened his office door, Adam stood. The tall, light-skinned woman approached him slowly and confidently, the epitome of self-possession. Cool, laid-back, and elegant, she didn't smile as she made her way, seeming to saunter, across his vast office to where he stood. Stunned. Poleaxed. She stopped a few feet from him and, flabbergasted as he was, he could nonetheless detect a complete change in her—could see the catch in her breath, the slight droop of her bottom lip, the acceleration of her breathing, and the widening of her incredible eyes just before she lowered them in what was most certainly embarrassment. Woman. She was certainly that. He managed to erase the appreciative expression from his face just as she looked up, her professional demeanor restored, and offered her hand.
"I'm Melissa Grant. It's good to meet you."
His eyebrow quirked, and then a frown stole over his face as he walked to the leather sofa and offered her a seat. She took the chair beside the sofa. Amused, he told her, "The name Grant is anathema to my family."
"As Roundtree is to mine," she coolly shot back.
If he had needed a damper for the desire that she'd aroused in him the second she walked through his door, she'd just provided it. Ordinarily he didn't mind getting a fast fever for a woman, stranger or not; he didn't have to do anything about it. An unexpected sexual hunger assured him that he had the virility a man his age ought to possess, but he didn't like this powerful assault on his senses, the jab in his middle that he'd just gotten in response to Melissa Grant. He wouldn't have liked it if her name hadn't been Grant. Making sure of his ground, he asked her, with seeming casualness, "You're not by chance related to the Frederick, Maryland, Grants, are you?"
"I'm Rafer Grant's daughter, and my mother is Emily Morris-Grant. I assume you're Jacob Hayes's grandson."
He had to admire the proud lift of her head, the way in which she fixed her gaze on him, and he didn't doubt her message: if her being a Grant was bothersome, it was his problem, not hers. His desire ebbed and, in spite of himself, his mind went back to his fifteenth year and to Rafer Grant's beautiful and voluptuous sister, Louise, and the way in which she'd flaunted his youthful vulnerability. The memory wasn't a pleasant one, and he brought himself back to the present and to the business at hand. What he felt right then wasn't desire but annoyance at himself.
Assuming his usual posture with a business associate, he pinned her with an unwavering gaze. "What have you managed so far?" He knew his tone was curt, brusque; he made it so deliberately. He wouldn't give her the satisfaction of knowing that she'd gotten to him so easily.
"What do you mean?"
He detected a testiness in her voice. If she had a temper, he'd probably know it soon. "I mean, what have you come up with so far?" He imagined that those were storm clouds forming in her eyes, but he didn't have to imagine that her excessively deep breath bespoke exasperation. He repeated the remark and leaned back to observe the fireworks.
Her cool response disappointed him. "Mr. Roundtree." She punctuated his name with a slow turn of her body toward him and paused while she seemed to weight her next words. "Mr. Roundtree, I signed that contract less than twenty-four hours ago. If I were a magician, I'd be in a circus or perhaps in the White House where miracles are expected. You couldn't be serious, because the contract gives me one month." He was accustomed to women who smiled at him at least occasionally, but not this one. Just as Jason had said, she was all business, and he had just made a tactical error. He'd practically demanded what he hadn't put in the contract, solid evidence that he'd let his emotional response to her interfere with his professionalism, something he'd never done before. He wouldn't do it again, he promised himself, resenting his slip.
He nearly gasped as she stood abruptly, preparing to leave. Nobody terminated an interview with him. Nobody. And neither would she. He stood and began walking toward his office door, but she stopped before reaching it and held out her business card.
"I'm giving you this in case you feel you need to speak with me in person again. My office is as close to you as yours is to me. Otherwise..." She pointed to the telephone. "This has been most informative. Goodbye."
His gaze lingered on her departing back Was this more evidence of Grant contemptuousness for a Roundtree? Or was she telling him that he'd been out of order in requesting that she come to his office for a business meeting rather than suggesting lunch at a neutral place? If the lady disliked his having called rank on her, she had good cause. He should have invited her to lunch.
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Book Description Harlequin Enterprises, Limited. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: Very Good. Very good condition book with only light signs of previous use. Bookseller Inventory # G1583142479I4N00