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Another lift of his eyebrows. “It’s true. I have my own reasons. My father has always tried to put me in my place, which is why I ended up here, but I’ve gotten to the point where I’m no longer willing to accept it. He’s a fool if he thinks he can push me around indefinitely. So it just occurred to me that you and I might benefit from a kind of partnership.” Despite herself, Cali’s mind went immediately to erotic visions of Ken buy ghd straighteners t fucking with that primal intensity—but fucking her this time. “What kind of partnership?” she forced out, doing everything she could do to push those ridiculous images out of her mind. She was eighteen years old. Recently graduated from high school. There was no way Kent Landon would ever want to fuck her. Obviously, that wasn’t what he had in mind. He was watching her with a mild sort of interest. “I provide you with certain information and you write a story that would damage my father’s reputation.” “You expect me to believe that you want to hurt your father’s reputation, which might affect his business? Wouldn’t that be counterproductive for you, since you’re in line to inherit the whole thing?” Kent met her eyes with an unrevealing expression. “You’re assuming that I want to inherit. Maybe I want to achieve success on my own terms, rather than his.” Something about what he said and the way he said it struck a real chord with Cali. She understood him. Understood the sentiment and what might have driven him to say it. And, for the first time in ghd pure her life, she actually felt something like respect for Kent. Her belly clenched at the thought and, as she gazed at Kent with quiet intensity, she saw that he recognized her response. A minor thing, but a kind of bonding nonetheless. Unexpected. Inexplicable. And almost thrilling. “I’m not going to fill a story with lies,” Cali insisted, feeling her heart start to flutter at the idea, at how such a story might establish the beginnings of her career. “No matter how much you want to get at your father.” “Not lies. Everything would be true. But you won’t be able to get the information without my help.” When he noticed her continued questioning look, he added, “It’s a game we play, my father and I. And I’m ready to make a larger move.” She believed him. Didn’t like him. But believed him. And there was no way she was going to refuse what promised to be the juiciest story of her life. She was in. Even without that brief moment of bonding, there had never really been any doubt. * * * * * For the next month, Cali worked with Kent Landon, more closely than she could have imagined. It wasn’t just about his providing her with information. It was about deciding how much and in what form the information would be presented. She spent more than one evening in his study. She didn’t advertise her presence there to anyone else, of course, since it wouldn’t have been good for either of their reputations and Kent didn’t want to tip his father off about what he was doing. Cali was pretty sure he’d picked her—a teenager ghd iv who wasn’t even a professional journalist—to make this play against his father even stronger. Philip Landon would be exposed by someone who wasn’t even in college yet. That fact would be even more mortifying to him. Cali didn’t care why Kent had chosen her. She had the story. And she was starting to let herself believe that Jason’s impressions of Kent weren’t entirely wrong. There seemed to be something…beneath his disinterested, arrogant surface. Something that was sensitive. Almost vulnerable. Kent never shared it with her. He never talked about his family, his past or his feelings and they never discussed anything of a personal nature. But sometimes she could almost feel the true Kent—in the expression in his eyes or in the casual touch of his hand. She knew he wasn’t interested in her sexually, even though she sometimes fantasized about him taking her on a desk or a table in his study. She wasn’t actually fool enough to believe such a thing would ever occur. Kent didn’t lust after her. He liked slender, exotic brunettes, not blondes of average height with rounded curves and big eyes. Most people considered Cali’s wide, bright smile to be her best feature, but that wasn’t the kind of thing that would appeal to someone like Kent. He didn’t find her particularly attractive and didn’t seem capable of having feelings deeper than lust for a woman. But, despite all of this, she thought that maybe Kent was starting to like her. She was wrong. She wrote the story. It was published. Kent’s play against his father was complete. He got what he wanted from Cali and then promptly dismissed her from his life. He called her up to thank her, but he’d been too distracted to talk long. And that was it. When she saw him after that, he nodded or waved. Maybe said hi if she was lucky. They never had another real conversation. Cali tried not to care. She’d kept trying to tell herself all along that she and Kent Landon would never share anything real ghd sale . People used others. That was the way the world worked. She’d known it all her life. And if she cried a few times, alone in her bed at night, hurt and disappointed that she’d been so meaningless to Kent, then no one would ev ghd straightener ireland er know it but her. She got over it. It wasn’t a lasting wound. And eventually the whole incident faded to the edges of her consciousness. She went to college in Chicago and then began a life, far away from Blacksburg and the influence of Landon Industries. Just as Cali was graduating from college, Philip Landon died of a heart attack. Which meant that the rivalry between father and son was irrelevant. Kent inherited billions and control of the entire corporation. When she moved away from Chicago, she was absolutely certain she would never see Kent Landon again. Chapter One Twenty years later Cali stared around at her new apartment, cluttered with a few randomly placed pieces of furniture hidden among piles of moving boxes and wondered where her gray satin clutch might have ended up. She’d been in such a hurry when she packed up her old place earlier that week that she hadn’t been as organized as she should have been. Thus, so far she’d only managed to unpack her bedding, her coffeemaker and about a third of her clothes. She was hot and exhausted and really didn’t feel like unpacking. She wondered how long one could legitimately live out of an assortment of suitcases and cardboard boxes. Just as she was starting to t buy ghd straighteners ear the packing tape off the box closest to her—one marked “random stuff”—there was a light tap on her door. Blowing a few messy strands of hair out of her eyes, she hurried over to answer it. She already knew who it was. There wasn’t another person in Chicago who would be paying her a visit the day after she moved back to the city. When she swung open the door, her father was standing there grinning at her. Cali grinned back. “Hey there. I didn’t know you were going to stop by.” She held the door for Jim Ross as he slowly made his way over the threshold, moving rather awkwardly with a wheeled walker and a knee that hadn’t yet healed. Two weeks earlier, he’d had surgery on his right knee. Cali had flown in from her home in Seattle to be with him, although the surgery was fairly routine. Two months from now, he would have the same surgery on his other knee. He was only in his late sixties, but he’d had multiplying orthopedic problems for the last ten years, back, hip, shoulder and, most recently, knees. Jim’s body just seemed to be breaking down on him. Three days after his knee surgery, he’d fallen, damaging his left knee even further. It had made the recovery process slower than it should have been and he was still having some trouble getting around. He wasn’t in danger of dying anytime soon, but he wasn’t the man he used to be. And Cali had lived halfway across the country for the last sixteen years—only seeing her father once or twice a year. As she’d watched her father lying in the hospital bed after his surgery, she’d made a decision. He still had a number of years left of living, but she had been reminded of his mortality. Frightened by it. They were basically the only family the other had. She didn’t want the remainder of his life to pass without her around to help him. So she’d flown back to Seattle, quit her job, made a quick trip back to Chicago to interview for a new position—which she was offered—then started packing up the life she’d made for herself in Washington. ghd hair straightener south africa It was a scarily spontaneous decision, after she’d put so much time and effort into her career at the largest newspaper in Seattle. And she’d had to accept a lower position and salary in order to find a job in Chicago immediately. She was willing to accept that and was fairly satisfied with what she’d seen and heard about the city magazine where she’d just been hired. The money wasn’t that significant, since she’d been careful about savings and investments over the years. Her career—well, she still wanted one, but prominence and notoriety wasn’t as important to her as it had once been. So she’d moved back to Chicago—a city in which she’d sworn she’d never live after she’d graduated from college—just to be closer to her father. Cali was thirty-eight-years-old and single. She could do what she wanted to do. “I thought I’d come by to say hi,” Jim explained, moving into the airy, main room of the apartment and propping himself up on one of the barstools in front of the granite island that separated the kitchen from the dining area. The apartment had an open floor plan, so—except for the bedroom and bathroom—it was all one large space. The rent was ludicrously high, making her pay for the high ceilings, polished hardwood floors, large windows and downtown location. But Cali had needed to find a place fast and this building was within walking distance of work and less than a ten- minute drive from her father, even in traffic. So she’d suck up the extravagant monthly payment—at least temporarily—and be happy she’d found as good a place as she had. Cali sat down next to Jim, glad to be off her aching feet. It felt like she’d been unpacking all day, although you couldn’t tell from the condition of the room. “I’m glad you did. What did you bring?” she asked, eyeing the bag he was holding. “Dinner,” Jim explained, pulling two meatball subs out of the paper bag with a pleased expression. “It’s onl ghd straighteners y four-thirty.” Jim shrugged and started unwrapping one of the subs. “Isn’t that dinnertime?” While Cali went to grab them a couple of soft drinks from the refrigerator, he continued, “Old folks like to eat early.” She gave him a half smile and pulled the paper off her sub. She hadn’t had lunch, so she was starving. Didn’t mind at all that she was eating supper before five o’clock. “You’re not that old, Dad.” After he swallowed, he replied, “Just feel like it, I guess.” His expression was both wistful and slightly sad. Cali felt a little ache in her heart, one that almost rivaled the ache in her feet. Was really glad she’d made this decision, even though all of her friends in Seattle had thought she was crazy. After they’d eaten, Jim complacently crumpled the sub wrapper into a tight ball. “Need any help unpacking?” That was an understatement. She hadn’t even unpacked her dinner plates. “Maybe tomorrow. I think I’ll rest a little after I find what I need for tonight.” He looked confused for a moment before his face cleared. ‘Oh right. I’d nearly forgotten. You have to go to that stupid fundraiser.” Stupid was right. She had only worked one day at her new position, but she was still expected to go to the glitzy banquet this evening, one that her magazine was helping to sponsor. She’d tried to get out of it, by claiming moving hassles, but no slack was allowed. Cali had to go. And she had to go without a date, since she didn’t have any potential escorts in Chicago. S ghd ceramic iron he’d had a couple of male friends in Seattle that she’d often hit up for events such as this. But she hadn’t had any real dates—not even in Seattle. It was just the way it was. Cali had had the normal romantic experiences in college, but hadn’t found anyone serious. In her twenties, she had dated on and off until she fell in love with a corporate attorney, whom she’d been in a relationship with for four years. When that had fallen apart, she had been twenty-nine years old. She’d gone a little crazy. The last time she’d had sex was on her thirtieth birthday. She’d gone out with some friends, drunk too much, ended up sleeping with a complete stranger. It hadn’t been the first time she’d had random sex, but for some reason that experience had left her feeling particularly icky. After that night, Cali had sworn off casual sex. She had still been interested in having a romantic relationship with someone, but no one had turned up. She dated occasionally, usually when friends set her up, but it never became serious. She didn’t want to have lived through her thirties without sex, but it had just happened that way. Cali didn’t feel unnatural or freakish about it. She knew such a situation wasn’t as rare as people wanted to think. She had been busy with her career and didn’t have that many places to meet new people. Plus, there just weren’t that many eligible men around. Those she was interested in weren’t available or weren’t interested in her. Those who were interested in her just weren’t that interesting. Cali didn’t expect anything to be different in Chicago. She was thirty-eight now, which might not be over the hill, but wasn’t a prime age for attracting a wide range of men. It wa ghd outlet s actually better now, though. At least for while, she could claim being new to the area as an excuse for not going out on Saturday nights. She wasn’t desperate yet. Wasn’t yet ready to ghd pure put an ad in the personals. She was happy with her career, had never really wanted children, was content with having a circle of friends. But, still, it would be nice to have sex occasionally. “Cali?” Jim prompted, leaning over to peer into her face. Cali actually blushed, not enjoying the fact that she’d had that last thought in the presence of her father. “Sorry. Just zoned out. Yes, I have that fundraiser tonight. All I need to do before then is find a dress I can wear.” “I’m sure you’ll look beautiful. Maybe there will be a man who actually has eyes in his head at the party, who will recognize what every other man seems to have missed. The entire male population must be crazy.” His expression conveyed that bewildered disapproval he always expressed when he reflected on how no man had snatched up the prize his daughter was. She was quickly nearing forty, but her father was convinced that the love of her life was still waiting for her. It always made Cali feel kind of mushy. “Thanks, Dad. But I’m not expecting to find my Prince Charming at this particular ball. In fact, I’d much rather stay home and watch cooking shows on cable.” A strange expression flickered across face. “Landon will be there, won’t he?” Cali shifted on the bar stool. “Probably, since Landon Industries has been heavily involved in the fundraising efforts.” “He’s single again, I believe.” Snorting, Cali said snidely, “Who can keep up after four or five marriages? And who cares anyway?” She rolled her eyes. “Surely you don’t think he’s the man f ghd ceramic iron or me.” “Unlikely, I know. But you were friends once, weren’t you?” She made a face. “We were never friends. We just knew each other in passing. That was a long time ago. I haven’t seen him in twenty years, Dad. He probably won’t even recognize me.” Sighing, her father acknowledged, “Maybe not. And I don’t think he’s the same young man we used to know.”

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