Millionaire Under the MistletoeBy: Tessa Radley
He rocked his chair back. “You’re a chef, right?” Hell, he knew she was—he’d paid for every cent of her exclusive training. Though he’d been surprised to learn she’d used her qualifications to gain employment at a popular pub chain rather than some fashionable, up-market café or boutique hotel. Before she could question how he knew she was a chef, he added, “Adrian told me you work at one of The Golden Goose outlets.”
He’d stopped to inquire how young Adrian was getting along as a temporary driver for the company. The young man had been grateful for the vacation job and had revealed that Miranda dreamed of one day starting her own catering business. That had given Callum the perfect solution…a way to wipe Miranda Owen from his conscience forever. He gave her his most charming grin.
“Yes,” she said guardedly.
She certainly wasn’t blowing him away with an effusive response. Tipping his chair back to earth, he leaned forward and planted his elbows on the conference table. “Here’s the deal. I plan to invite the outgoing chairman of a company Ironstone Insurance has recently taken over to a private dinner party at my home on Saturday night.”
“Oh, yes. Gordon’s staying on as a shareholder and I want to introduce him to the other directors. It’s a celebration.”
The melting brown eyes hardened. “I suppose that makes sense. Your brothers will want to get on side with a significant shareholder.”
Callum stopped smiling. The merger had been his initiative—a successful one that would give Ironstone Insurance a strategic advantage over their competitors for years to come. And Gordon Harris had been even hungrier for the merger than the Ironstone family. Gordon wanted to retire, to take it easy. But Miranda’s words stopped Callum from confessing that there was another, more celebratory reason for the dinner. That would only lead to a dig about protecting his assets.
Two fine lines furrowed her brow. “When you say Saturday…do you mean this week?” At his nod the lines deepened. “That doesn’t leave much time.”
He’d intended to railroad her into agreeing…and not leave any time for second thoughts.
“You don’t think you can do it?” he challenged.
Angry fire kindled in the caramel eyes. “How many people?”
Hiding a grin of triumph, Callum rose to his feet and retrieved a manila folder from the polished expanse of his desk. Returning to the conference table, he dropped the file in front of her. “The details are all in there.”
If he could start Miranda on the road to success, introduce her to some people, perhaps he’d be able to forget the hatred a pair of eighteen-year-old eyes had once held….
Or at least that had been the plan.
But having met Miranda again, he had a suspicion it wasn’t going to be nearly that simple.
Standing behind her, all too conscious of the subtle fragrance of warm vanilla she exuded, Callum watched her elegant fingers flip the file open to the first page of the agreement his PA had prepared. Her shoulders stiffened as she read the figure he proposed to pay for a one-night job.
Satisfaction swept through him. She wouldn’t refuse. His offer was too good. Helping Miranda get started in a business that must presently be nothing more than an impossible dream would be the perfect way to excise the disturbing memory of the wild accusations she’d flung at him.
You killed my father.
Of course he knew he hadn’t, didn’t he? Thomas Owen had killed himself once he realized there would be a trial—where he would almost certainly be found guilty on the overwhelming evidence against him. The courts showed no mercy against employees who stole from their employers. Thomas Owen would have known he was facing prison.
Yet Thomas’s suicide had shaken Callum more than he cared to admit, leaving him haunted by a long shadow of guilt.
A legacy that he was determined to shake.
The black-and-white print on the paper in front of her blurred. Miranda was no longer aware of the maplewood furniture, or Callum’s spacious office. Instead she experienced again the hot ball of misery that had burned constantly in her chest from the moment her father’s PA had called with the news of her father’s arrest.