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His Instant Heir

By:Katherine Garbera

His Instant Heir
Katherine Garbera

       One


Cari Chandler paused in the doorway of the conference room. On the far  wall was a portrait of her grandfather looking very young and very  determined. Since he'd never been a "happy" man, she hardly noticed that  he wasn't smiling. He certainly wouldn't be convivial at this moment  when the grandson of his most-hated enemy was in his stronghold.

Since the late '70s the Chandlers and the Montroses had been feuding and  trying to cut each other out of the video-game market. Her grandfather  had won that long-ago skirmish by making a deal with a Japanese company,  cutting Thomas Montrose out, but none of that mattered today as the  Montrose heirs and their Playtone Games had just delivered the  feud-ending blow with their hostile takeover of Infinity Games. And  leaving Cari and her sisters, Emma and Jessi, to pick up the wreckage  and try to forge some sort of deal that would save their jobs and their  legacy.

But Cari as COO was the one who'd been chosen to deal with Declan  Montrose. It made sense, since operations were her area, but the secret  she'd been harboring for too long suddenly felt like it had a choke hold  on her, and she wished she'd confided in her sisters so that maybe she  wouldn't have to deal with Dec today.

The conference table was long and made of dark wood, and the chairs  positioned around it were leather. She focused on the details of the  room instead of the man she saw standing by the window. He hadn't  changed much in the eighteen months since she'd last seen him.

From the back she could see his reddish-brown hair was a little longer  than it had been before, but was still thick and curly where it hit his  collar. His shoulders were still as broad, tapering to a narrow waist  and that whipcord-lean frame that she'd remembered pressed against her  as he'd held her. A shiver of sensual awareness coursed through her.

Don't. Don't think of any of that, she warned herself. Focus on the takeover. One problem at a time.

"Dec." She called his name. Her voice sounded strong, which pleased her  since inside she was quaking. "I didn't think I'd see you again."

"I'm sure it's a pleasant surprise," he said with a sardonic grin as he  left the window and walked over to stand not more than six inches from  her.

The familiar smell of his spicy, outdoorsy aftershave surrounded her,  and she closed her eyes as she remembered how strongly the scent had  lingered on his skin right at the base of his neck. Then she forced  herself to get it together, crossing her arms over her chest and  remembering he was here for business. The knock at the door provided her  with the distraction she needed.

"Come in," she called.

Ally, her assistant, entered with two Infinity Games logo mugs, handing  one to Dec and giving the other to Cari. Cari walked around to the head  of the table, already feeling more in control now that Dec was on the  other side of it from her. She was aware of Ally asking if Dec needed  anything in his coffee and him answering he took it black, and then Ally  was gone.

"Please sit down," she invited, gesturing to the chair across from hers.

"I don't remember you being so formal," he said as he pulled out a chair and took his seat.

She ignored that remark. Really, what could she say? From the moment  she'd first seen him she'd been attracted to him. Even after she'd  learned he was a Montrose and technically her family's enemy, she'd  still wanted him.

"I assume you're here to talk about moving assets around in my company," she said.

He nodded. "I'll be spending the next six weeks doing an assessment of  the assets in the company and on this campus here. I understand you have  three different gaming divisions?"

Wow. She should have been prepared for it, but he'd just completely shut  off his emotions and switched to business. She wanted to be able to do  the same, but she'd never been that good at hiding what she felt.  Cyborg, she'd heard him called. He lived up to that moniker today.

He looked over at her and she realized she was just staring at him. This  wasn't going to work. She'd call Emma, her oldest sister and the chief  executive officer of Infinity, as soon as he left and tell her that she  or Jessi would have to work with Dec. Though to be fair, as chief  marketing officer, Jessi wasn't really the one who should be handling  Dec.

"Cari?"

"Sorry. Yes, they all report to me-online, console and mobile."

"I will need to set up meetings with everyone in the company. The way  this will work is that each person will be assessed and rated, and then I  will give a presentation to our combined board of directors with my  recommendations."                       
       
           



       

"No problem. Emma mentioned you wanted to talk to the staff. Do you  think you'll just be here one or two days a week?" she asked, mentally  crossing her fingers.

"No. I want to set up an office so I can be here in the thick of  things," he said, leaning forward. "Is that going to be a problem?"

"Not at all," she said with the only smile she could muster. She'd  rather not see him ever again, but that wasn't going to happen and she  was mature so she could deal with it. She knew her smile must have  looked forced when he laughed.

"You were never good at hiding your feelings," he said.

She shook her head. Though his statement was true, it wasn't something  that he could know from personal experience. They'd had a one-night  stand, not a relationship. "Don't say it like that. You don't know me at  all. We only had one date and one night together."

"I think I got a fairly good impression of you," he said.

"Really?" she asked. She told herself to let it go and just concentrate  on the business end of things, but that was going to be impossible.  "Then why'd you leave me alone in that hotel room?"

He leaned back in his chair and took a long swallow of his coffee before  standing up to pace around the room to her side of the table. He leaned  back against the table and stared down at her, and she was tempted to  stand up so he wasn't towering over her. But she didn't want him to  think he intimated her.

"I'm not really a man for attachments," he said at last. "And though you  think I don't know you, Cari Chandler, I'd have to be a blind fool not  to see that you care too much."

She wanted to deny it, but the truth was she was the bleeding heart of  the Chandler family. She volunteered, donated time and money to  charities and causes and she'd fallen for more than one sob story at  work. Emma had been furious at first, until she realized it made their  employees loyal because they felt that the executive management cared.

"I wasn't going to cling to you and profess undying love, Dec," she  said. She barely knew him after one sex-filled night. She might have  been interested in seeing him again and getting to know him better, but  she'd learned all she needed to know when he'd left her. "It was only  one night."

"It was a fabulous night, Cari," he said, putting his hand on the back  of her chair and spinning her around to face him. "Maybe I should remind  you of how good we are together."

She pushed the chair back, standing up. It was time for her to take  control of this meeting. "Not necessary. While I remember the details of  the night, it's really the morning after that stuck with me."

"That's why I left," he said in that wry way of his. "I'm not good at dealing with the aftermath."

"Aftermath?" she asked.

"You know, the emotional stuff women usually bring up," he said. "The clingy things."

She shook her head. It was clear that a one-night stand was all that Dec  intended for her to be. With her secret looming in her mind, she knew  she had to say something about their night together, but for now she  wasn't going to. She would focus on the business and try to figure out a  way to save her family's legacy from being dismantled and destroyed.

Though she had to admit hearing Dec talk made her sad because she wanted  better for herself. She had wanted to hear him say he wished he hadn't  left and that he'd thought of her every day …  Probably what he would term  emotionally clingy stuff.

"Disappointed?" he asked.

"I guess I know why an eligible billionaire like you is still single,"  she said, trying not to be disenchanted that he was exactly like she'd  thought he was. She'd hoped she'd just caught him on a bad day.

"Maybe the right girl just hasn't tried hard enough to change me," he said with a cocky half grin.

"Oh, you don't seem like the sort of man who can be changed," she said.

"Touché. I'm happy with my life. But that doesn't mean I don't know how to appreciate a woman like you when our paths cross."

She wanted to stay angry with him, but he was honest and she couldn't  fault him there. Even though she'd hoped for longer with Dec, she'd  known from the moment they'd gone to dinner that all he wanted was an  affair.

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