The Executive's Vengeful Seduction(4) by Maxine Sullivan

The place hadn’t been half-bad before, but Danielle had suggested some ideas and he hadn’t had the heart to dissuade her. He and Flynn had smiled at each other as she’d enthusiastically promised a stylishly furnished apartment with class and sophistication that was ideal for executive living. And she’d lived up to that promise. The open plan of the living and dining area, abundant with natural light, soaked up the magnificent panoramic views of the harbor…her words, not his. She’d done a great job of it.

“It’s lovely,” Gabrielle agreed.

“Just like you are, Gabrielle,” he said, holding her eyes with his. One day soon he would hold her in his arms. And he would show her how lovely he thought she was.

A pulse beat at the base of her throat. “You know, I’m suddenly really hungry,” she said huskily, and began piling the food on her plate.

He was too, but it wasn’t for food. Dammit, waiting was already harder than he’d expected.

It would be easier once he said what he needed to say. She wasn’t going to be so placid then, he decided, as they ate in silence for a while, listening to the soft background music, but eventually he knew he couldn’t put this off. She wasn’t going to like it.

He raised his glass in a toast. “To you, Gabrielle.”

Her eyes widened. “Me?”

“For having the courage to come home again.”

She looked pleasantly surprised as she picked up her glass and clinked it against his. “Thank you,” she said, a slight catch to her voice that unfurled something soft inside his chest.

He took a sip of wine, then said, “Your mother was pleased to see you today.”

“Yes.”

“I imagine Russell will be, too.”

“Yes.”

“Aren’t you glad now that you came?”

Her forehead creased a little, her eyes growing puzzled. “Yes, I am.”

He rested back against his chair. “And you’re happy to be here in Darwin?”

She eyed him with sudden suspicion. “Okay, what’s this about, Damien?”

Leaning forward, he placed his wine glass on the table, then dropped the bombshell. “Your cousin has taken control of the Kane Property and Finance Group.”

Her cousin was an idiot.

A dangerous idiot.

She gaped at him. “Keiran? How on earth did he get involved in all this?”

Damien’s mouth tightened. “Some years ago your father sold forty percent of the company shares to him, that’s why.”

She sat up straighter. “What! Why would he do that?”

“Russell wanted to keep it in the family if anything happened to him, and Keiran worked on him until he sold him the shares.” Damien had advised Russell against it, but the older man seemed to have a blind spot where his nephew was concerned, and now his company that specialized in providing investment property finance here in Australia and the growing Asian market, was paying the price. “Your father also left written instructions with his attorney that if he became incapacitated, then you were to get forty percent of the shares as well.”

“What!”

“You each now hold forty percent of the Kane Property and Finance Group.”

She shook her head. “I don’t believe I’m hearing this.”

“Believe it.”

“Oh my Lord.” She sat there for a moment looking stunned.

“Keiran’s been at Kane’s for some years now and he knows the business. As soon as Russell had the stroke he stepped in and took over. Your cousin was always quick when there was something in it for him.”

“I know.”

He paused, then, “And that’s exactly why you needed to be here.”

“Me?”

“Yes.”

Her eyes widened. “Good heavens, you don’t expect me to step in and start running a multinational company, do you?” “Why not? Keiran did. He’s already made some decisions that would give your father another stroke if he knew, and we can’t do a damn thing to stop him.” The only person who could stop him was sitting right here. “If you assume control, Keiran will hopefully slink back into his own little office where he can do no more damage.”

She stared at him in disbelief. “But Keiran owns as many shares as I do now. He’s not going to give up the top job.”

Damien could feel his jaw clench. “Let’s try him first.”

She shook her head, obviously trying to get it clear in her mind. “Hang on. Why didn’t you tell me all this back in Sydney?”

“Would you have come home?”

“I don’t know,” she said, her forehead marred with a crease. “And I don’t understand why my father left me forty percent.”

“Perhaps he expected you would come back if he needed you. And he does need you now, Gabrielle.”

A cynical light came into her eyes. “You mean he thought it was a good way of blackmailing me into coming home if he ever needed me.” She shook her head. “It’s still all about him, isn’t it?”

Damien ignored that. “Your father wouldn’t expect you to take over if you weren’t capable.”

Her eyebrows shot up as realization dawned on her. “Oh, so he’s been keeping tabs on me, too.”

He had no idea, but it was highly likely. “Russell doesn’t always take me into his confidence.” The older man had been a friend and mentor but he’d never spoken about his daughter until recently. “Look, I’ll help you. I’ve delegated some of my own business dealings to others. I’ve got the time.”

A flicker of apprehension crossed her face. “To work with me every day, you mean?”

“Yes.” And if he got to make love to her sooner, all the better.

Her beautiful blue eyes hardened and narrowed. “What’s in it for you, Damien?”

He returned her look with a level one of his own. “I want to help Russell. I owe him a lot.”

Seconds ticked by. “That’s commendable of you,” she said somewhat sourly.

His mouth tightened. “I admire Russell and what he’s achieved.”

“And look at the price he paid for it,” she pointed out. “He lost his wife and then his daughter, and now he’s losing his company. Don’t admire him, Damien. Pity him.”

“So why aren’t you?” he challenged, and saw her startled look. “Come on, Gabrielle. Tell me. Why aren’t you showing your father some pity?”

She bridled. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

“Under protest.”

She dropped her gaze to the table. “That may be so, but I do love my father nonetheless.” Her eyelashes lifted. “But even if I wanted to help more, there are limits to what I can do.”

“How do you know? You haven’t even tried.”

Her lip curled with sarcasm. “Your understanding amazes me.”

He took his time before saying what needed to be said. “You’re the only one who can save the company from ruin, Gabrielle.”

“What about my mother?” she said as sudden hope swept across her face. “Perhaps I can sign over the shares to her and she could stop Keiran from taking over the company. She only needs to put in an appearance and you could do the rest.”

“You would ask that of your mother? When she’s having a hard enough time as it is?”

“Yet it’s okay to ask it of me?” She grimaced, and a slight flush tinged her cheeks. “That sounded selfish. I didn’t mean it like that.”

He inclined his head. “Caroline’s got enough on her plate looking after your father right now.”

She raised her chin. “And if I don’t choose to be a part of this?”

“I don’t think you’d forgive yourself if your parents lost everything.”

She exhaled a long, ragged breath. “You really know how to tighten the thumb screws, don’t you?”

“Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do but we do them anyway.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll try,” she snapped. “But once my father’s on the mend, I’ll be leaving and going back to Sydney. Don’t forget that.”

“You’ve already made that clear.” But he was more than satisfied.

For the moment.

She placed her napkin on the table and pushed to her feet. “Somehow I’ve lost my appetite. I think I’ll go to my room. Good night.”

It was more than clear she wanted time alone. Time he could afford to give her.

He inclined his head. “Good night, Gabrielle,” he said, watching her walk away with a sway to her h*ps that would draw any man’s attention. Yet he wasn’t just any man. He’d been her lover, if not her confidant.

And she’d walked out on him without a proper goodbye. It had left a loss he only recognized now that he’d seen her again. A loss that went deeper than he’d expected. And because of it, he could feel an odd sort of anger simmering beneath the surface. An anger he wasn’t ready to face. Perhaps once he had enough of her body he’d never have to face it.

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