Defiant Mistress, Ruthless MillionaireBy: Yvonne Lindsay
“What if I don’t have one?” she finally replied.
“Everybody has a price, Callie,” he coaxed.
“Let me think about it. I’ll call you,” she smiled coolly as she rose and collected her document case. “Thank you very much for lunch. I believe our meeting is over.”
She tucked her case back under one arm before extending her hand to Tremont to say goodbye. He got up from his chair, a dangerous glitter reflected in his eyes. He took her hand, his thumb rubbing gently across her skin, sending a ripple of warmth to traverse up her arm.
“I haven’t given up, you know. Didn’t your mother ever warn you about men like me? We enjoy a challenge.”
Callie thought briefly of the woman who’d given birth to her. A woman who’d preferred to dish out abuse—physical or mental, she hadn’t been fussy—rather than advice of any kind.
He leaned in a little closer. “I’ll let you go for now, but don’t keep me waiting too long,” he urged, releasing her hand.
“I said I’ll think about it. I won’t promise more than that.”
Tremont gave a short sharp nod. “I’ll take you back to your car.”
“That won’t be necessary.”
“I said I’d take you back to your car, and I will. I’m a man of my word.”
“Are you?” she jibed.
“Oh, yes. Don’t mistake me, Callie. I say what I mean and I always get what I want. Eventually.”
Josh Tremont set his phone back down on his desk and leaned back in his chair, swivelling it around to view the glittering panorama of Auckland City’s inner harbour. For a moment he savoured the taste of success before his mind turned to analysing the call he’d just received.
He allowed a small smile to pull at his lips. So Callie Rose Lee had her price after all. It was high, but he could afford it. Besides, she was worth so much more to him than she could possibly realise. She’d been groomed by the Palmer family for the past ten years and losing her would hopefully send a shock wave through them that would reverberate for some time. And into the bargain he got an exceptionally clever, and beautiful, assistant.
Now the last pieces of his plan would fall into place just the way he wanted. This way, at least, he could get right down to business instead of wasting precious time wooing her away from Irene Palmer’s clawlike grip. The satisfaction that spread through him was a balm to his soul.
Josh got up from his seat and crossed to the shelving unit against his office wall. He lifted a photo frame from the wooden shelf and stared at the faded black-and-white picture within. His mother looked so happy in this shot—so carefree—and, with her hand on his eight-year-old shoulder, they’d faced the world believing everything was good in their lives. But it had been a lie. Nothing about his upbringing had been what it seemed, nor what it should have been—now all that was about to change.
Bruce Palmer had had his opportunity to make a difference and he’d chosen not to. Had chosen instead the unemotional frozen woman who ruled his empire at his side. Had chosen his legal-born son over his illegitimate bastard.
Palmer’s curt dismissal of Josh’s notification when his mother had died—a single sheet of paper with “No contact” typed in bold black letters—had sealed his fate. Then eighteen, Josh had been shocked to finally discover who his father really was and the searing pain of emphatic rejection, hard on the heels of the death of the only parent he had ever known, had been the catalyst that continued to drive him.
If Palmer had been half the man the country believed he was Josh’s mother wouldn’t have had to work up to three jobs at a time to make sure Josh never missed out.
In return, he’d vowed that one day he’d make things right for her and give her the luxuries she deserved. Sadly, her illness had denied him the chance to ever spoil her. Josh still cursed himself that, wrapped up in his studies, he hadn’t noticed her slow deterioration or realised that her perpetual weariness was a far more ominous indicator than simply her body’s response to the physical demands of her work.
The doctors had said it was too late to do anything for her by the time they’d detected the cancer. Too late to do anything but hope against hope that she wouldn’t slip away while he was at school during the day, or at the cleaning job he’d taken over from her late at night to help cover their living costs.