The Executive's Vengeful Seduction(6) by Maxine Sullivan

She pushed all her thoughts to the side as they walked into the building that housed the head office of her father’s company. The first person she saw was one of her father’s managers she remembered from years ago. He greeted her warmly then expressed sympathy over her father’s condition.

“Thank you, James. I’m glad to see you’re still here.”

The older man’s eyes flicked to Damien then back to her. “Not for long I’m afraid. I’ve accepted a position with another company. I finish up at the end of the week.”

Dismay filled her. “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Gabrielle, I’ve got nothing to lose by saying this. I’ve always enjoyed working for your father, but it’s going to be a while before he’s back on his feet. I’m sorry but I can’t work with him until that happens.”

“You mean Keiran?” she said to clarify, but knowing all Damien had told her was true.

James nodded. “I don’t mind saying I think that man’s going to ruin the company with his ideas. And I’m not the only one leaving, either. There are two heads of departments who have put their resignation in and another planning on it.” He clicked his tongue. “They’re men who are going to be taking a whole lot of experience and knowledge with them when they go, I’m afraid.”

She tried to look confident. “James, that’s why I’m here. My father wanted me to take over if anything happened to him and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Relief flared then died in his eyes. “Keiran isn’t going to step aside so easily,” he warned.

She squeezed the older man’s hand. “Keiran won’t have a choice.”

But when Damien opened the door to her father’s office and Gabrielle saw her cousin sitting behind her father’s desk like he owned the place, every instinct inside wanted to tell him to get the hell out of there.

Keiran glanced up at the interruption and for a moment looked like an animal caught in the headlights. Then he went rigid. “Well, well. If it isn’t my long-lost cousin.” He pasted on a false smile as he stood and came around the desk. “Gabrielle, how nice to see you again.”

Her mouth tightened as he pecked at both her cheeks like a chicken. “Keiran, you haven’t changed a bit.” He was two years older than her, and he’d wielded his older stance often during their childhood.

“You’re still the sweetest thing,” he joked as he glanced at Damien. But his eyes were wary beneath his blond head and they held a heartless gleam that had been in them since the day he’d been born. Now, here was one person her father should have cut off, she thought, suppressing a moment of pain that it had been his own daughter her father had ignored instead.

She stepped away. “What are you doing in here, Keiran?”

His smile flattened. “What do you think I’m doing in here? Someone had to step in when your father had his stroke.”

“Then thank you. I appreciate it but I’m here now.”

His piercing eyes contrasted sharply with his relaxed stance. “Not so fast. You can’t just walk in here and take over.”

She arched a brow. “Why not?”

He strode back around the desk. “You’ve been gone five years. And before that you never worked here in any capacity anyway.”

She refused to let him see his comment had hit its mark. “I spent a couple of school holidays working here, remember?”

“And that gives you the experience to run a multinational company dealing in property and finance, does it?”

“From what I hear, I could do better than what you’ve been doing,” she said coolly.

As if a storm was brewing, the air seemed to sizzle with electricity. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“I mean that from all accounts you’re running the company into the ground. All our managers are leaving.”

He waved a dismissive hand. “They were old and stale. We need new blood.”

She gave a soft gasp. “That’s a callous statement.”

His lips twisted. “Perhaps I’m a chip off the old block.”

She held herself stiffly. “My father would never have dumped his employees.”

“Sure? I think if Russell kept them on, it was for his own selfish reasons.”

She didn’t want him to see that he was probably right, so she ignored that. “Look, I’m here now and I have Damien to help me.”

“No.”

She blinked. “What do you mean no?”

Keiran’s glare resented their presence. “I have every right to be in this office, Gabrielle. Just ask your friend, here. That’s why he went to get you to bring you back. Don’t fool yourself it was only about your father’s stroke.”

“I ought to hit you for saying that, Keiran,” Damien said, his eyes as cold as dry ice.

“But you can’t deny it.”

“You’re not worth refuting.”

Keiran sat on the chair with a smirk. “May I suggest you go and rethink your position. I own forty percent of this company and I intend to take it places Russell never even dreamed about.”

Gabrielle gasped, and Damien growled, “You’ve bitten off more than you can chew, Keiran.”

Keiran shrugged. “I’m in charge, Trent, whether you like it or not.” He picked up a pen. “Now. If you’ll both excuse me I have work to do. Major changes are on my agenda.”

Gabrielle stood there for a moment, stunned and shaken. “Don’t make too many changes, Keiran. I’ll only have to change them back.”

He waved a hand at the door. “Don’t let me keep you.”

For a moment Gabrielle thought Damien might leap across the desk and throw the other man out, but with a pulse ticking in his jaw, he thrust open the door and let her precede him through it.

They didn’t speak as they rode the elevator down with another couple to the parking lot beneath the building. But once they were in the BMW she sat while he came around to the driver’s side, her mind ticking over. What the devil were they going to do? If indeed they could do anything at all to wrestle the company from Keiran’s grip before he did too much damage.

Damien slid onto the driver’s seat. “Are you okay?”

She blinked. “Yes, I’m fine,” she said, but just as quickly realized she wasn’t. Whether it was because Keiran had put such a bad taste in her mouth, she suddenly felt the need to go home to where she’d grown up. All at once she wanted to touch base with something familiar.

“No, I’m not. Damien, take me home please. To my parents’ place.” She took a shuddering breath. “Just for a little while.”

He stared at her, watching her with some indefinable emotion in his eyes, then nodded. “I’ve got papers in my briefcase. I can work from there.”

Sudden resentment grew. Couldn’t he see she needed to be alone for a while? “Or you could just leave me there and I’ll get a rental car sent around.”

His mouth thinned. “I’m not leaving you alone with a group of strangers working around the place.”

She glowered at him. “Why not? Frightened I might run off with one of them?”

He swore. “Don’t be ridiculous, Gabrielle. You’re upset over Keiran. Don’t take it out on me.”

She sighed. “I’m sorry, you’re right. Just take me home, Damien.”

He started the car and ten minutes later drove through the open gates of her parents’ home that she hadn’t seen in five long years. She gazed up at the two-level mansion of grand proportions dozing in the tropical Australian sunshine. She’d grown up playing dolls on that wide balcony around the house. And later she’d sought refuge looking through the large windows of her bedroom over treetop views to the Timor Sea and distant horizon. It had been a wonderful place to grow up. If only her parents hadn’t fought all the time in those latter years. If only she’d had a brother or sister to share things with.

Thankfully Damien strode off toward the sound of hammering in the kitchen as soon as they stepped inside, saying he would tell the workmen to take a long break, and Gabrielle left him to it.

It was an odd feeling walking up the sweeping staircase to the second floor. Five years had passed, yet it only seemed like yesterday. But as she pushed the door open to her old bedroom, her mind reeled in confusion. The room was like a time warp. Everything was the same. The bed she’d often cried her heart out on, despairing over her parents’ troubled marriage, was still covered in the same quilt. Posters of some obscure pop star whose name she couldn’t even recall still hung on the wall. And even the clothes she’d left behind were still hanging in the wardrobe…almost as if they were waiting for her return.

She swallowed a sob. A new and unexpected warmth surged through her that was a welcome relief after her tussle with her cousin today. If ever she needed proof of her parents’ love for her, here it was. They had kept her memory alive.

Just like she did with her own child.

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