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His Forever Family

By:Sarah M. Anderson

His Forever Family
Sarah M. Anderson

       One

"Come on, Ms. Reese," Marcus Warren called over his shoulder. "It's not that hot."

He paused in the middle of the jogging path to wait for his executive  assistant, Liberty Reese, to catch up with him. He looked around,  checking for any vans with dark windows that didn't belong. It was an  old habit, keeping an eye out for danger. But as usual, aside from some  other runners, he and Ms. Reese had the shoreline to themselves. Thank  God. The past was in the past, he repeated to himself until his anxiety  faded.

Man, he loved Lake Michigan. The early-morning light made the rippling  water a deep blue. The sky was clear and warmed by the sun, which seemed  to hover just about a foot over the surface of the water. Later today,  the heat would be oppressive, but right now, running along the lakefront  with a cool breeze blowing in from the water?

This was as close to free as Marcus got to feel.

He checked his Fitbit. His heart rate was falling. "You're not going to  let the heat beat you, are you, Ms. Reese?" he teased, stretching out  his quads.

Ms. Reese puffed up next to him. "May I take a moment to point  out-again-that you're not taking notes while you run?" she said, glaring  at him.

But he wasn't fooled. He saw the way the corner of her lips curved up as she said it. She was trying not to smile.

He kept stretching so she could catch her breath. "But I'm talking. That counts for something, right?"

She rolled her eyes and finished off the water. That made him grin. He  was Marcus Warren, heir to his father's Warren Investments financial  empire and his mother's Marquis Hotel empire. He was the sole owner of  Warren Capital, a venture capital firm he'd started with his trust-fund  money. He owned half of the Chicago Blackhawks and a quarter of the  Chicago Bulls, in addition to 75 percent of the pro soccer team, the  Chicago Fire. He was one of the richest bachelors in the country and  possibly the richest one in Chicago.

People simply did not roll their eyes at him.

Except for Ms. Reese.

She tucked the bottle back into her belt. Then, her fingers hovering  over the Bluetooth earpiece she wore at all times, she asked, "So how do  you want to proceed with the watchmakers?"

Rock City Watches was a boutique firm that had set up shop in downtown  Detroit and wanted a fresh round of investing to expand its operations.  Marcus looked at his watch, made just for him. The 24-karat gold casing  was warm against his skin. "What do you think?"

Ms. Reese sighed heavily and began to plod up the jogging path again.  She was not a particularly graceful runner-plodding was the only word  for it-but she kept up with him and took notes while they ran. It was  the most productive time of day. He did his best thinking while they  ran.

Which was why they ran every single day, in rain or heat. Ice was about  the only thing that kept them indoors, but he had a treadmill in a room  off his office. Ms. Reese could sit at a small desk and record  everything and provide her opinion.

He let her get a few feet ahead of him. No, she was not terribly  graceful. But that didn't stop him from admiring the view. Ms. Reese had  curves-more than enough curves to give a man pause.

He shook his head, pushing all thoughts of her backside from his mind.  He was not the kind of billionaire who slept with his secretary. His  father had done that enough for both of them. Marcus's relationship with  Ms. Reese was strictly business. Well, business and running.

He caught up to her easily. "Well?"

"No one wears watches anymore," she panted. "Unless it's a smart watch."

"Excellent point. I'll invest twenty-five million in Rock City Watches."

Ms. Reese stumbled a bit in surprise. Marcus reached out and steadied  her. He didn't allow his hand to linger on her warm skin. "You okay?  We're almost to the fountain." Buckingham Fountain was the point where  they turned around and headed back.

She gave him a hell of a side eye. "I'm fine. How did you get from  timepieces are a dead market to let's invest another twenty-five  million?"

"If no one wears watches anymore, then they become what they once  were-a status symbol," he explained. "Only the wealthiest consumers can  afford a watch that costs several grand. The timepiece market isn't  dead, Ms. Reese. The mass-market timepiece market is. But the luxury  timepiece market?" He held out his wrist. "It's a hell of a nice watch,  don't you think?" This particular watch went for $4,500.

She nodded. "It'll be great PR, as well. Made in America and all that."

"But they need to accept the realities of the market."                       
       
           



       

She nodded. "Such as?"

"Marketing and wearables. Let's get back to the Rock City Watch people  with requests to see their marketing mock-ups. I also want to set up a  meeting to discuss a hybrid device-a luxury watch that can slot wearable  tech into the band."

They reached the fountain and she stopped, her head down and her hands on her knees as she took in great gulps of air.

"What else?" he asked.

"You have to make a decision about attending the Hanson wedding," she said in between gasps.

Marcus groaned. "Do I have to?"

"You're the one who decided you should go to this wedding," she told  him flatly. "You're the one who decided you should take a date. And  you're the one who decided to kill two birds with one stone by  scheduling the meeting with the producers of Feeding Frenzy the day  after the wedding."

Marcus allowed himself to scowl at his assistant. Her lack of sympathy  was not comforting. Attending the Hanson-Spears wedding in Los Angeles  had not, in fact, been his idea. Who the hell wanted to watch his former  fiancée get married to the man she'd cheated on him with? Not him.

But his mother had decreed that Marcus would attend the wedding with a  date and put on a happy face so they could "put this unfortunate event  behind them." Of course, if his mother had had her way, Marcus would  have married Lillibeth Hanson anyway because what was a little affair in  the grand scheme of things? Lillibeth came from old money. Marcus came  from old money and made new money. Together, his parents had reasoned,  they could apparently rule the world.

Marcus didn't see the point. He'd refused to reconcile with Lillibeth  and he'd thought his parents had accepted that decision. But then the  wedding invitation came.

And the hell of it was, his parents were not entirely wrong about the  effects the scandal had had on Marcus's business. To some, his inability  to see the truth about Lillibeth until it was too late might also  indicate an inability to make good investment choices. So his parents  had strongly suggested he attend the wedding to show that everyone was  on good terms. And they strongly suggested he take a date because it  would be an admission of defeat to show up at your ex's wedding alone.

All Marcus had to do was pick a woman.

He looked at Liberty. "What are my options, again?"

"Rosetta Naylor."

Marcus cringed at the celebutante's name. "Too shallow."

"Katerine Nabakov."

"Too Russian Mafia."

Liberty sighed heavily. "Emma Green?"

Marcus scowled harder. He had actually gone out with Emma several times. "Really?"

"She's a known quantity," Liberty explained. "No surprises."

"Wrong. People would think that us dating again is a sure sign of wedding bells." Specifically, his parents.

Marcus had done many things to keep the peace with his mother and  father. Hell, he'd come damn close to getting married to Lillibeth  Hanson, all because they thought that was best.

He wasn't going to risk that kind of trap again.

"The options are limited and time is running short, Mr. Warren,"  Liberty said in exasperation. She jammed her hands on her hips. "The  wedding is in two weeks. If you insist on attending with a date, you  need to actually ask someone to go with you."

"Fine. I'll just take you."

The effect of this statement was immediate. Liberty's eyes went wide  and her mouth dropped open and, in a fraction of a second, her gaze  dropped over his body. Something that looked a hell of a lot like want  flashed over her face.

What? Did she actually want him?

Then it was gone. She straightened up and did her best to look imperial. "Mr. Warren, be serious."

"I am serious. I trust you." He took a step toward her. "Sometimes I  think...you're the only person who's honest with me. You wouldn't try to  sell all the details of a date to the gossip rags." Which had been a  huge part of the scandal with Lillibeth. She had capitalized on her  affair, painting Marcus as a lousy boyfriend both in and out of the  bedroom.

Liberty bit at her lower lip. "Honestly? I don't think you should go at  all. Why would you give her the chance to hurt you again?" Her voice  had dropped and she didn't sound imperious at all. Instead, she  sounded...as if she wanted to protect him.

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