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In a Bind(Plaything #3)

By:Tess Oliver

Chapter One


Aidan sat up in the passenger seat with a yawn that could rival that of a male lion out on the savanna. The car waddled back and forth with his weight as he adjusted the seat upright.

"Did you have a nice nap? By the way, you snore like a fucking bear. Couldn't even hear my music through the clamor."

"I don't snore." Aidan reached between his feet and picked up the bag of potato chips he'd been devouring before he dozed off. "Are we almost there? I'm hungry as that snoring bear. There better be some good food at this weekend house party. And good drinks. And hot women."

"If you're done with your wish list . . ." I pointed up the road to an ornate pair of tall iron gates. "According to my phone, we've arrived." Carter Bonneville was one of our biggest investors. Without him, Plaything would never have gotten off the ground. I had met him at a business dinner and somehow managed to woo him into taking a chance on the company. It had paid off for him. Not that he needed any more. He was the sole heir to the Bonneville fortune, a fortune that had been around since the nineteenth century. The Bonnevilles had been into everything from railroads to oil and even real estate. According to Carter, all his ancestors had been born with the Midas touch. Everything they invested in turned to gold. Carter was no exception. After listening to my pitch, he invested a good pile of his money, money which seemed to have been filled with that mythical Bonneville magic. This weekend Carter was celebrating his sixtieth birthday at his three hundred acre ranch. We'd all been looking forward to the party.

I pulled up to the intercom and gave my name. The gates swung open in dramatic fashion.

Aidan stared up at the gates that were at least fifteen feet tall. "Just like the fucking pearly gates leading to heaven."

I laughed. "And that's how they got the phrase 'richer than God'." I drove my Audi up the long, endless driveway, assuming that somewhere at the end of the journey there would be an actual house. As long as the driveway was, every bit of it was lined with blooming purple Jacarandas. Part of the way up, white fencing that seemed to stretch halfway around the world came into view.

I pushed my sunglasses up on my head. "We must be getting closer."

"When are the others coming?"

"Trey said he and Georgie will be up later this afternoon. Chase wasn't sure if he and Macy were going to make it at all. The grand opening for her bakery is next weekend, and he was going to help her set things up."

Aidan shook his head. "I still can't believe Chase settled down enough to date one woman. And Trey—shit—something tells me he'll be proposing to Georgie by Christmas. Guess that just leaves you and me to keep the rest of the women on the planet satisfied. Or at least the single women at this party."

"Yeah, well Carter has been hinting at me to ask out his daughter Mindy. He thinks we'd make a great couple. She'll be here for the party."

Aidan shifted in his seat to look at me, and the car moved side to side. "Shit, guess your weekend won't be fun after all. Have you met her?"

"Once, at a cocktail party. She's pretty but she's one of those typical socialites, snobby and dull. No spunk. Not my type at all."

"Exactly what is your type?"

I thought about the question. No clear answer came. "I'm not completely sure, but I'll know it when I see it. Or her, I should say."

The mansion came into view. It was just as we'd expected, massive and imposing with a touch of country and a whole lot of elegance. Expensive cars and limos had already filled the parking area.

Aidan looked over at me. "Lucky for you, it's a big place. Maybe you can avoid her. And there's always the real possibility that she won't like you anyhow. You're not exactly a lady killer. Then you won't have to worry about it."

"Thanks. And you guys call me the team asshole."

Chapter Two


Aidan and I had been shown to one of the guest cottages on the ranch to put down our things. Aidan had then headed straight to the buffet table which was set up in the patio area. From the glimpse I'd gotten of the spread and the bar set up, it seemed Aidan's first two wishes had already come true. And the longer glimpse I'd gotten of the pool area, which was filled with bikinis, the third thing on his list was just around the corner and through the pool gate.

I had decided to find Carter to wish him a happy birthday and thank him for inviting us. I headed up the stairs to the second floor sitting room where Carter was busy greeting a few guests. He looked up from a conversation as I walked in. "Zane, you made it."

He quickly introduced me to a few of his friends and then they headed off for the buffet. Carter had those kind of impressive eyebrows that took up half his forehead and let you know quickly if he was angry or happy. They were dancing with glee at the moment. He handed me a glass of scotch without asking if I wanted it. Who was I to turn down what was probably a thousand dollar scotch?

"Where are the others?"

"Aidan decided to get an early start on eating his way to oblivion, and Trey will be up later with his girlfriend. Still waiting to hear whether or not Chase will make it."

"Did you get settled into a cottage?"

"We did and thank you for inviting us. Happy birthday." I lifted my glass in a toast and took a drink.

"Daddy," a woman's voice said from behind. "The caterer—" Mindy stopped and smiled as I turned around. She had that princess look, blonde hair and blue eyes with rosy pink lips to top it off.

"Zane, you remember my daughter, Mindy."

"Of course, nice to see you again."

"And you," she said and then turned to her dad. "That caterer is such a simpleton. I specifically asked for sixty fondant flowers on the cake, one for each year. I counted them twice. He is off by two."

And there it was, the reason I knew she wasn't my type. I'd grown up thinking that birthday cakes were a day old, store bought cupcake, made special by having a candle shoved inside of it. Mindy was from old money. She would never understand the real world.

"Sweetheart, I'm sure he can add two more flowers." Carter used a placating tone that someone might use for a six-year-old but not for a twenty something woman. He elbowed me with a laugh. "Or I can just pretend I'm only fifty-eight. Never thought I'd long to be in my fifties."

"I'll go ask him to make more. It was very nice seeing you again, Zane." Mindy added in some extra eyelash fluttering. She hopped up and kissed her dad on the cheek. "You can't stay holed up here all day, Daddy. Your guests are waiting. Oh, and I've told Toby to get some of the horses ready. A few of the guests want to take a ride." She turned and walked out.

"Mindy has stepped into her mother's shoes so well. She takes care of all the social activities and runs the household." Carter's wife had died of cancer five years earlier. He'd always talked fondly of her.

Carter glanced toward the door to see that Mindy was gone and leaned closer. "She was looking forward to you being here, Zane. I think you two might hit it off. I noticed she made sure to put your place card next to hers on the dining room table."

I forced a smile. "Yes, about that, sir, I'm not sure if it's a good idea to mix business and pleasure. Not that kind of pleasure, of course. I mean the kind where—" My stupid ramblings were cut off by the loud rumble of a motorcycle. It drew Carter away from our conversation.

His extra big eyebrows clenched together in question. Without another word, he walked out onto the balcony. I followed him. We both stared down at the driveway where a motorcyclist, clad in black leather and a tinted black helmet had just pulled up to the front steps. Naturally, the cool motorcycle rider had a pretty girl clinging to him from behind, as if it was some kind of prerequisite for a guy on a fast bike to have a hot girl sitting behind him. The rider was covered in expensive protective gear, but the girl was wearing shorts and sandals. The asshole could have at least given her the helmet. He did, however, take it off to let her give him a long kiss. Double asshole.

"Do you see all this gray hair?" Carter's voice pulled my attention from the scene below.

"I imagine that comes with the territory on your sixtieth," I joked.

"Nope. Every gray hair on my head I owe to my youngest." He motioned with his head toward the scene below. I knew Carter had two sons, Brent who handled their investments in Europe and Garrett, who was just a mooch. Carter's words, not mine. And I knew about Mindy, but I had no idea there was a fourth kid.

I was about to ask about him when Carter leaned over the balcony and yelled down. "Rainsford, get up here."

The kiss ended, and the couple looked up toward the balcony. "I'll be right up, Dad."

I stared down at the scene below, slightly stunned. "Oh, your youngest is the girl." The words just sort of tumbled out.

"Of course. Rainsford. We call her Raini. She is my youngest. She's twenty-two, and she is, for lack of a better phrase, my wild child. She's attending college in the city. Taking fine arts," he said with an eye roll. He pointed up at his impressive mop of gray hair. "Every damn gray hair on my head. My eldest son was in the army and fought in the desert, but I never worried about him. He was always solid in his decision making skills. My other son never leaves his video games. It irritates the hell out of me but at least the only thing I have to worry about with him is that his sloth-like existence will give him diabetes. And Mindy, well, she is the perfect angel, the daughter every dad dreams of."