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“What do you think?” Logan Avery turned his tablet so that his older brother, Lex, could see what he was talking about. “Their work is great, right?”
Lex leaned forward slightly in his seat so he could see what Logan was talking about. He studied the images onscreen for a moment before reaching over and grabbing the tablet. After swiping through several images, he nodded. “Yeah.”
Coming from Lex, ‘yeah’ was the highest compliment anyone could get. He wasn’t the type to waste words.
Grinning, Logan took back the tablet from his brother then continued, “That’s why I want to work with them. They do beautiful work.”
Lex frowned. “Aren’t they new?”
The company the two brothers were talking about was Alexander King Associates, an architecture firm in San Jose, California. YC Capital, a commercial construction company owned by Logan’s father, was interested in working with Alexander King on their next project. As the Vice President of YC Capital, Logan was on his way to meet the team at Alexander King in person and see if they were an ideal partner.
“Well, they’re not exactly new.” Logan explained, “They’ve been around for about ten years now. It’s just that most of their work has-”
A sudden jolt of the plane cut off his words. Frowning, he looked ahead to the cockpit.
“Sorry, Gentlemen.” The pilot’s voice came over the speakers. “Just hit a small air pocket. Nothing to be worried about.”
Logan’s eyes swept back to his brother. Despite the pilot’s reassurance, Lex had his eyes closed and his knuckles were white because of how tightly he was gripping the arm of his seat.
“You okay?” Logan asked worriedly.
“Mm.” Lex nodded but kept his eyes closed. Unlike Logan, he wasn’t a fan of planes and only used them when absolutely necessary.
Logan could’ve said something more soothing, but he knew that Lex would hate it if he called attention to his weakness. That perhaps was the only similarity between the two of them because personality-wise and even physically they were as different as night and day.
Logan was the life of the party. Lex acted like he didn’t even like people; a certified introvert. Logan had brown hair with streaks of blond while Lex had midnight-black hair. Logan was built like an athlete; reasonably tall and ripped. Lex was a ridiculously tall giraffe when compared to other men. In fact, it would be more appropriate to call him long rather than tall because he was so slender that growing up he’d earned the nickname Skindiana Bones.
The two were such polar opposites that most people didn’t believe they were brothers. But their differences were explainable; they were half-brothers. One mother, different fathers.
In a bid to distract Lex, Logan continued, “Most of their work has been small-scale stuff like private homes. But even with the small stuff, their work has been outstanding enough to make a few magazines.”
Lex swallowed convulsively before slowly opening his eyes. Surprisingly, his voice was quite steady as he asked, “But can they handle this project?”
“I think so.” Logan sat back in his seat. “But this is just a small project anyway. If they do it well, then we can try something bigger next time.”
“Make sure you have a back-up plan in case things don’t work out with them,” Lex advised.
“Will do.” Logan nodded. Though Lex was in the technology field, he was a successful enough businessman that Logan respected his advice.
Changing the subject, Lex asked, “Can I borrow the plane tomorrow for my trip back?”
The private plane they were on belonged to Logan’s father. As he was a Bishop, Lex didn’t have the same rights to it as Logan did.
“I’m flying back to Miami the day after tomorrow.” Logan suggested, “Why don’t you wait for me then we can fly back together?”
Lex shook his head. “No way.”
Though Lex didn’t explain himself, Logan could guess the reason why he was so eager to get back to Miami. His fiancée, Freddie. Lex was so into Freddie that keeping them apart was akin to pulling Lex’s teeth without anesthesia. Everywhere Lex went, Freddie came too. And if Freddie didn’t come, then Lex followed her. The two had a relationship that was so sickeningly sweet, Logan got cavities whenever he was around them.
Despite how the two made him cringe, Logan couldn’t deny that he was jealous. Once upon a time, he’d had that kind of relationship too. A relationship where in a roomful of people you could only see her. A relationship where just the thought of her was enough to make you smile and breathe easier. A relationship where one day apart was too long and forever was too short a time to spend together. But that was a long time ago. Logan shook his head to get rid of the memories of her.
“Okay then.” Logan offered, “Just take the plane then send it back. I don’t mind staying an extra day here. I need to catch up with some friends anyway.
Lex nodded and offered him a grateful smile.
Since Lex wasn’t a talker, Logan spent the rest of the flight watching a movie. When the plane landed in San Jose, the brothers headed to The Bishop, one of the hotels owned by Lex’s father. Since Lex’s meeting was slated for the same evening, Logan was on his own for dinner. The next time he saw Lex was in the morning and it was only because Lex had come to bid him adieu. After sending off his brother, Logan began preparing for his own meeting. At around ten in the morning, he and his assistant headed to the offices of Alexander King Associates.
The firm occupied its own floor in one of the city’s high-rise buildings. The moment one walked out of the elevator, it was easy to tell that the place was populated by creatives. Every aspect of the firm screamed ‘unique’. The lobby was colorful, bright and carried oddly designed furniture.
The employees seemed to have walked right out of a college classroom and into work. Not a suit was in sight, and some of them had hairstyles that were guaranteed to give bankers a heart-attack. But what drew Logan was the energy that vibrated from everyone and every corner of the firm. It was an interesting cross between highly-charged and energetic yet oddly comfortable.
“Avery, glad you could make it.” Hal Schumer, the firm’s CEO, met them at the lobby.
“Glad to be here.” Logan returned the man’s smile and pumped his hand in greeting. As Hal led the way past several glass-walled offices to the meeting-room, Logan commented, “You have a very interesting company… very colorful.”
Hal laughed. “Yes, well… everyone here is very colorful as you’ll find out if you work with us.”
The meeting-room was just as distinctive as the rest of the firm. Rather than having a round or rectangular table, they had a large, white, triangular table that was surrounded by multicolored seats. A mural of a futuristic city occupied the only stone wall in the room. The other three walls were all glass.
“So,” Hal began when they were seated, “what are you looking for?”
The next half hour or so was spent discussing KC Capital’s newest project, a modern condominium complex to be built on land that currently hosted a family-home. They discussed Alexander King’s previous projects and how a possible collaboration would work.
Hal suggested, “Why don’t I introduce you to some of the team who’ll be working on your project if you choose to go with us, then we can see if you like their ideas?”
Logan nodded. “That’s a good idea.”
Hal pressed a few buttons on the intercom phone. When it connected, he said, “Amanda, tell Julian and his team to come in.”
“Yes, sir,” a woman returned.
Minutes later, Hal exclaimed, “Ah, here they come.”
Logan followed his gaze. Through the glass, he noted that a group of three people were headed to the boardroom. Leading the pack was a lanky, long-haired man wearing glasses. Beside him was a younger, slender, Middle-Eastern man. But the person who caught Logan’s eyes was the woman who was walking with them.
She was the kind of woman that turned heads. Though she was of average height, her sumptuous curves drew every eye. Add that to the large, curly hair that screamed ‘I’m here’ and her deliciously chocolate skin… there was just no way she could disappear in a crowd. However, her presence wasn’t what drew Logan’s attention. What startled him was the instinctive way his heart jumped when he saw her.
He tilted his head to study her better as the team came closer. There was just something about the woman that had his senses tingling in anticipation… something oddly familiar. It wasn’t until she and the two men walked into the room that he realized why she seemed so familiar. Her body might’ve changed, but those large, beautiful eyes, that nose, and those thick lips were still the same.
He felt the blood drain from his face and his heart began thudding wildly out of control.
* * * * *
AS SOON as Hal had told their team that KC Capital was coming in to talk about a project, Scottie had known that she’d see Logan. For days, she’d prepared herself for today. She’d given herself pep-talks, steeled her nerves and promised that seeing him again wouldn’t move her at all. Unfortunately, all that preparation was a waste of time. Nothing could stop the instant rush of adrenalin and panic that lanced through her when she saw him.
The passing of time had been kind to Logan. At twenty, he’d been heartbreakingly handsome. At thirty-one, he was breathtakingly gorgeous. He was harder than he’d been back then, more muscular and his skin had been darkened by the sun. His blondish-brown hair was shorter now, but it worked for him delightfully. And his eyes… his eyes were the same startling, pale gray that had always made her heart speed up.
It was almost as if the last eleven years hadn’t happened because her body reacted just as it used to years ago. Heat flushed through her to warm her whole body, it became harder to breathe and her senses stirred in attraction.
“Come in, come in,” Hal welcomed her, Julian and Fazil as they entered the meeting-room.
Scottie expected to see shocked recognition in Logan’s gaze, but he wasn’t even looking at her. His eyes were on Julian. Smiling, he and his assistant rose from his seat to greet Julian.
“Hello.” Logan stretched his hand out to Julian. “I’m Logan Avery, VP of KC Capital.” He pointed to the slender, blond man with him. “And this is my assistant, Anthony.”
“Julian Curtis, Project Manager.” Julian enthusiastically shook Logan and Anthony’s hands. He turned to introduce the rest of his team. “This is Scottie Harper, one of our senior architects, and he’s Fazil Kouri, one of our design techs.”
Even with the mention of her name, there was no change in Logan’s expression. Still smiling, he reached for her hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Ms. Harper.”
The moment their hands touched, Scottie felt an odd bolt of electricity that jolted her already frazzled senses. Startled, she met his eyes. Surely, he’d felt that electricity too. But no, there was no change in his gaze.
Did he not recognize her? She was so confused by his reaction that she didn’t even realize that she was still holding his hand. Not until Fazil nudged her.
“Sorry.” She quickly lowered her gaze and stepped aside.
Once everyone was seated, the meeting began. Since KC Capital hadn’t committed to working with Alexander King’s services, the meeting was basically just an opportunity to feel each other out. They discussed Julian’s past projects, what Logan was looking for, how a collaboration would work if it happened, and so much more.
Scottie barely participated in the discussion and her hands were shaking so much she could barely take notes. And she hated herself for it. Here she was in panic just because Logan Avery was seated opposite her, while he seemed completely unaffected by her presence. The more she observed him, the surer she was that he didn’t remember her. And it left her both confused and disappointed.
She could forgive him for not recognizing her at first sight, after all she looked very different from the Scottie from eleven years before. Gaining over forty pounds, letting your hair keep its curly texture and getting rid of your glasses could do that to a woman. However, her name was still the same. It wasn’t every day one ran into a Scottie Harper. The mention of her name should’ve sparked a memory, made him take another look at her. But it hadn’t. He really didn’t remember her.
“Are you sure that this is something you can do?” Logan asked Julian, his deep voice surrounding her as if he were physically touching her. “I don’t want to give you something that’s too big for your plate.”
“It’s not too big for our plate,” Julian assured him. “I have experience working on projects that are bigger than this one, and Scottie is an amazingly, creative designer. Between the two of us, you have nothing to worry about.”
Logan’s thoughtful eyes swept from Julian to Scottie then back to Julian. “We’ll see about that.”
“Does that mean you’ll be working with us?” Hal chimed in with barely concealed excitement.
“That’s not something I can commit to right now,” Logan hedged. “But let me talk to our CEO then get back to you tomorrow. Why don’t you send me those estimates that we talked about? They’ll help with our decision.”
“Will do!” Julian turned to Fazil and motioned non-verbally for him to do as asked.
The meeting ended on that note. As they stood up to say their goodbyes, Scottie watched Logan, waiting for him to give some sign that he recognized her. But he didn’t. He remained professionally cordial to her and when they left, he didn’t give her a second glance.
Disappointment and misery warred within her as she headed to the break-room to get herself a cup of coffee. How could Logan not remember her? Despite the passing years, she still remembered his voice, his smell, his touch, his smile and how he’d made her feel whenever he was in the room. How was it possible that he didn’t even remember her name? Had she been that insignificant in his life?
She was so preoccupied with thoughts of Logan that she didn’t even realize that her cup was full until the overflowing coffee spilt onto her hand.
“Ow!” She yelped and jumped back.
“You okay?” A worried voice asked behind her.
Wincing in pain, she turned, “Yeah, I-” Her words abruptly ended when she saw who the voice belonged to. Irritation flooded in to mix with her pain. “Oh… it’s you.”
“That must hurt.” Vinny Salvatore, a member of the Finance Department, cringed as he took in her hand. “We should get it under water.”
Scottie immediately snatched her hand from him and stepped back. She bit out, “Don’t touch me.”
Vinny’s expression went from concerned to apologetic in the span of a breath. His hands lifted in surrender, he said, “Sorry. Sorry.”
Scottie shot him one last glare before going to the sink to put her hand under the cold water.
Vinny, who was behind her, timidly offered, “I’ll get the first aid box.”
“Don’t bother,” Scottie sniped. “I’ll handle it on my own.”
Vinny hovered behind her for a few seconds before quietly sneaking away. The moment he was gone, Scottie felt better. Her hand didn’t sting as much and the knot that tied itself in the pit of her stomach whenever Vinny was around, loosened straight away.
Of course, she understood why he was always trying to be so helpful to her. Guilt. And maybe in his position, she’d be doing the same thing. But understanding someone didn’t make it any easier to stomach their good intentions.
As she tended to her hand, she wondered if Logan remembered Vinny. Probably not. If he didn’t even remember her, then Vinny wouldn’t even register on his radar. She sighed.
Come to think of it, maybe Logan not remembering her was a good thing. Nothing good could come from dredging up their bitter past.
If KC Capital decided to work with Alexander King, she’d keep their relationship professional. She would never try to make him remember her, she vowed. No matter how she still felt about him, she would keep him right where he belonged. In the past.
“It was her,” Logan said into his phone hours later. He was now back in his hotel-room but still reeling because of the unexpected meeting with Scottie.
“Are you sure?” Ari Latham asked.
Ari was part of Logan’s group of friends… five men who’d met either through school or sibling relationships. All four of Logan’s friends had been in the picture when Scottie had dumped him and knew how he’d suffered because of her. They were the ones who’d dragged him out of the miserable ditch that she’d left him in.
Surprised that he sounded so calm despite his still racing pulse, Logan said, “I’m sure.”
Logan had no idea how he’d managed to keep a straight face through the whole meeting at Alexander King. Scottie was there… right across from him. Scottie… the woman who’d ripped his heart out of his chest with her bare hand. Scottie… the woman who he could never forget despite trying everything. All he’d wanted to do was gawk at her and make sure that it was really her.
“So? What happened?” Ari asked. “Did you talk to her?”
“Of course not.” Logan protested. “Why would I talk to her?”
“I mean… she’s the girl who got away.”
“No, she’s not,” Logan curtly sniped back. “She’s the girl I threw away.”
“Okay, tiger. Calm down. No need to snap at me,” Ari teased with a laugh. Becoming more serious, he asked, “What about her? Did she try to talk to you?”
“No.” But he’d felt her eyes on him.
Right from the moment she’d stepped into the meeting-room, it was clear that she recognized him. It was in the way she’d held his hand for a heartbeat longer than necessary when he’d greeted her. It was in the way she held her breath whenever he glanced her way. It was in the way she watched him when she thought he wasn’t looking.
Her attention had heated him, reminded him of the first time he’d noticed her.
It was a few weeks into his first semester in college when he’d felt a weird sensation on the back of his neck. When he’d turned, it was to find a slender, bespectacled, dark-skinned girl watching him. As soon as their eyes met, she quickly looked away from him. But even getting caught wasn’t enough to stop her. He caught her watching him quite a few times in the following weeks. So he started to watch her too.
Her furious blushing whenever their eyes met amused him. Amusement soon turned to curiosity. Though they had only a few classes together, whenever he knew she was coming he kept an eye on the door. If she skipped a class, he noticed and was unreasonably disappointed. And so curiosity transformed into attraction. When they ended up in the same group for a class project, he took it as a sign from the gods. Get her.
Despite her obvious attraction to him, she didn’t just fall when he seduced her. It took a while for him to convince her that he wasn’t just going after her on a whim. However, when she finally decided to be his, she was all his. He was the center of her attention.
No woman had ever loved him as much as she had. Whatever he wanted to do, she did, even if it made her uncomfortable. She was attentive to his needs and knew everything about him; his birthday, his weird family, his phobias, his weaknesses… things that even his best-friends didn’t know. Her gazes, her touches, her kisses… everything about her said that she loved him; which was why it was such a shock when she cheated on him.
It had never even occurred to Logan that she could betray him as she had. He’d thought that she was all his just as he was all hers. Knowing that she’d just been putting on a show had hurt him more than he could even explain.
“What is she doing at Alexander King anyway?” Ari cut into Logan’s troubled thoughts. “I thought you said she quit school.”
“That’s what I thought too.” Logan added, “But I looked her up and-”
His friend cut him off with a sharp gasp. “You looked her up?”
Instant embarrassment swept through Logan. For the last eleven years, he’d determinedly kept himself from looking into Scottie because he’d known that it would just bring back all the pain. But today, he’d been so ruffled by her appearance that as soon as he was out of the firm, he’d started scouring the internet for information on her.
“Yes, Ari, I looked her up.” Before his friend could tease him, Logan continued, “Apparently, she went back to school two years later and started working at Alexander King right after graduation.”
“Is she married?” Ari asked.
It was embarrassing, but that was the first question Logan had wanted an answer to too. “Not sure. But I don’t think so.”
“Maybe she was pining for you too.”
“Too?” Logan’s eyes narrowed. “What does that mean? You’re not trying to say that I was pining for her, are you?”
“I plead the fifth.” Before Logan could further interrogate him, Ari rushed in with, “So how did she look? Unattractive? I hope she looked like life smacked her in the face for what she did to you.”
Unattractive was the last word Logan would’ve used to describe Scottie. She’d changed, but in ways that had re-sparked his cravings for her. Getting rid of her glasses was a great decision because her pretty, brown eyes were no longer hidden and he could see every emotion that flashed in her gaze. Her new hair worked too. At one point during the meeting, he’d wondered what it would feel like to push his fingers into those tight curls and see if they were just as springy as they looked.
However, her figure was what had held his attention. Logan had always assumed that he loved his women slender, but seeing all those new curves on Scottie had made his mouth water. She looked sexier, more huggable, and he just wanted to drag her body into his so he could feel her warmth… which made him even angrier.
Some people were capable of wishing their exes the best. Logan wasn’t one of those people. After Scottie had broken his heart, he’d hated her. He’d hated her furiously. Every night, he wished that she was hurting just as badly as he was. His deepest prayer was that she wasn’t happy, that wherever she was, she was having a hard time too and that life was screwing her over. When he’d found out that she wasn’t married, he’d actually smiled. Thank God she hadn’t found true love either.
Yes, he was a petty, petty man. And honestly, he didn’t give a damn. She’d broken his heart and made him incapable of trusting any woman. It would’ve been too unfair if she was happy after the way she’d hurt him.
“So what’s the plan?” Ari asked. “Will you still work with her company?”
“Do I look crazy?” Logan scoffed. “I got rid of her once. I’m not trying to bring her back into my life.”
“But this is business,” his friend reminded him. “I thought you were all about keeping business and your personal life separate?”
“Not in this case,” Logan returned. “I can’t work with Scottie.”
Alexander King had impressed him with their portfolio, and Scottie’s superiors had sounded like stand-up guys with great design sense. The meeting today had left Logan with the sense that if he worked with them, they’d do an outstanding job. It was too bad that Scottie was part of their team. Too bad!
“I guess if I was in the same position, I’d feel the same way,” Ari acknowledged. “But it’s a shame that you can’t work with the team you like just because Scottie’s a part of the group.”
“Yup!” Logan agreed. “It’s a shame.”
The rest of the phone-call was spent discussing things other than Scottie. When the call with Ari ended, Logan reached for the glass of bourbon he’d discarded while talking on the phone. As he drank, all he could think of was Scottie and their meeting today.
Despite recognizing him, she hadn’t made any effort to talk to him personally. Even if it’d been eleven years, the least she could’ve done was follow him after the meeting and ask how he was doing. But she’d just let him walk out. Again.
Why? Why hadn’t she come after him… then and now? Why would she let him walk away without a word? The more alcohol he consumed, the more annoyed he got. Was she just as agitated by their meeting as he was? Had all those suppressed feelings tumbled back out the moment she’d seen him like they had for him? Was she thinking about him right now too?
Before he could stop himself, he reached for his phone.
Ben Howard, KC Capital’s Head of Security, picked on the first ring. “Yes, sir?”
“Hey,” Logan said, “I need you to find someone’s number for me.”
* * * * *
“YOU’RE NOT SERIOUS!” Faith, Scottie’s pregnant sister-in-law, stared at her in goggle-eyed amazement. “He doesn’t remember you?”
Scottie, who was by the stove stirring a pot of bean stew, shook her head. “Nope!”
“That’s not possible!” Faith, who was seated at the island that separated the kitchen from the living room, exclaimed in disbelief. “How can he not remember you?”
Even though she’d asked herself the same question, Scottie defended, “It’s not that weird that he doesn’t remember me. It’s been eleven years.”
“That’s a load of bull. Eleven years is nothing,” Faith retorted. “I still remember the boy I kissed in kindergarten. Jesse Tanner. He smelt like candy.”
“Well, not everyone’s got a photographic memory like you,” Scottie reminded her. “And to be fair, I’ve changed a lot since then.”
Faith frowned. “Not that much.”
“C’mon, Faith.” Scottie gestured towards her body. “Look at me.”
“What?” Faith gave her a confused up and down look. “You’re still just as pretty.”
“Whatever, Felicia!” Scottie scoffed as she lifted the lid off another pot on the stove to check on the rice.
“I’m serious,” her sister-in-law insisted. “I can’t understand how he could forget you. Are you sure he wasn’t just pretending?”
Scottie tilted her head as she thought over it. She shook her head. “No, it didn’t look like he was pretending.”
“Some people are good at that kind of stuff.” Faith’s expression changed to concern. “How did it feel to see him again? You okay?”
“Of course!” Her tone deliberately nonchalant, Scottie asked, “Why wouldn’t I be okay?”
“You don’t have to act fine for me.” Her tone soothing, Faith added, “I know what you went through with him and-”
Her words came to an abrupt halt when they heard the sound of the front door opening. Seconds later, a deep, male voice called out, “I’m home.”
Scottie immediately turned to her sister-in-law and murmured, “Don’t say anything about Logan.”
Faith nodded just as Prince, Scottie’s twin brother, emerged from the hallway. Faith greeted him with a wide smile. “Hey, babe.”
“Hey.” Smiling, Prince bent down to press a fast kiss on his wife’s lips before turning his attention to Scottie. “Whassup, Miss Chef?”
“’Sup!” Scottie grinned back. Though she and Prince weren’t the same gender, they looked alike enough for anyone to tell that they were related; same dark chocolate skin, same large eyes, same nose, and same thick lips.
“Something smells amazing,” Prince complimented.” What are we having?”
“Rice and beans,” Scottie answered. When his smile immediately dropped, she laughed. “Faith’s idea. Not mine.”
Prince turned his disappointed gaze to his wife.
“Yo, we’re all gaining too much weight.” Faith patted his gut. “We promised that we’d lose a couple of pounds this year.”
“I thought we were joking.”
“Nah-uh!” Faith shook her head. “From here on out, prepare to eat beans every Wednesday night.”
“You mean prepare to fart every Wednesday night,” Prince retorted, leaving the women in stitches.
Still laughing, Scottie urged, “Go change. Dinner’s almost done.”
While Prince was away, Scottie stir-fried some veggies then stacked them on three plates along with rice and beans. By the time Prince came back, having traded his suit for sweatpants and a t-shirt, dinner was on the table.
Dinner was accompanied by stories about Prince’s day. Prince was a criminal defense attorney so he always had the most entertaining clients. Today’s crazy case was about a guy who’d been arrested for pooping in his neighbor’s driveway.
Scottie laughed at her brother’s stories and chimed in when necessary, but when Prince tried to rope her into talking about her day, she deflected the subject to Faith. There was no way she was going to tell Prince about Logan. He hated Logan with unrivaled passion.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” Faith piped up. “Your mom called me today.”
Instinctively, Scottie’s insides tightened. “She did?”
Anger flashed in Prince’s gaze and his expression hardened. “What did she want?”
Faith said, “She wants to know when the baby’s due so she can come down here.”
“Why would she come?” Getting angrier by the second, Prince demanded, “How did she even get your number?”
Faith shrugged. “I’m not sure.”
Scottie wasn’t surprised that her mother had called Faith instead of her or Prince. Neither of them had spoken to the woman (or their father for that matter) in eleven years, so why would that change now? What surprised Scottie was the fact that their mother was trying to insert herself back into their space.
Scottie asked, “What did you tell her?”
“I told her that I wasn’t sure and that I’d get back to her,” Faith answered.
“Don’t get back to her,” Prince ordered. “In fact, block her number. If she calls you with another number, pretend to be a Chinese restaurant.”
“That’s a little harsh, Prince,” Faith scolded.
“Harsh? I haven’t even started.” Prince’s top lip lifted in a sneer. “She’s lucky that she didn’t call me. I would’ve told her one or two things. Who is she to try to see our baby? After everything her and dad put us through, you’d think…”
On and on, he ranted.
Scottie didn’t say anything. She just listened. There was no way she could scold Prince for being so unforgiving when it came to her mother because she felt the same way he did. However, she also couldn’t full-heartedly support him in his hatred because she knew that she was to blame for his rift with their parents. If Scottie wasn’t in the picture, Prince and their parents would likely still be on speaking terms.
Prince spent the rest of the meal venting about their mother. By the time his fury had cooled, dinner was over and Scottie was ready to head back to her own apartment. Prince didn’t offer to walk her out. Why would he when she lived just two floors above them?
Living in the same building with her brother had definitely not been in Scottie’s plans. However, it was definitely in Prince’s. Ever since they’d moved to San Jose, the two siblings had lived together. However, once Faith came into the picture, Scottie thought it was best to give the couple some space. Prince didn’t agree. But by then Scottie was already twenty-nine and there was nothing he could do if she wanted to move out… or so she thought. Apparently, there was lots he could do. Number one on the list was getting a place right next to hers.
Of course she was annoyed. She was being stalked by her own brother. Still, she couldn’t scold him because she understood why he was so overprotective over her. Also, living in one building wasn’t that awful. She had people she could spend time with when she was lonely, yet had her own space when she wanted to be alone.
She took the elevator up then walked down the hallway to her apartment. After all the fuss downstairs, her house seemed unbearably quiet. At sixteen, she’d assumed that at thirty-one she’d be married and living in a house bustling with kids. Unfortunately, life had handed her more lemons than she could make lemonade with. A ring and kids seemed more and more like a pipe-dream.
She was just getting ready to go to bed when her phone rang. The number was foreign.
Frowning, Scottie answered it. “Hello.”
“It’s me,” a male voice returned.
Her heart bumped against her chest as she immediately recognized his voice. “Logan?”
“We should meet,” he said. “Are you available for lunch tomorrow?”
“Um… uh…” Scottie tripped over her words as her brain tried to process the fact that Logan had called her at this hour of the night. “I… I… I guess.”
“One p.m.. The Bishop Hotel. Don’t be late,” he rattled off. Before she could ask any more questions, he hung up.
Scottie took the phone off her ear and stared at it in puzzled fascination. That was Logan, right? He’d called her and asked to meet, right? She hadn’t hallucinated the phone-call, right? After checking her phone once more to confirm that she’d indeed received a call, she numbly trudged to her bed and plopped on it.
He remembers me?
Logan remembers me.
This is a bad idea!
This is a very bad idea!
The thought kept ringing in Logan’s mind as he left his room and took the elevator down. He still had no idea why he’d called Scottie last night. It had to be the alcohol. As soon as he’d woken up this morning and realized what he’d done, he’d wanted to call off the appointment with her. However, he couldn’t. Not without letting her know that he’d been pining after her last night.
He glanced at his phone, rereading the message that she’d sent him thirty minutes ago.
I’m here, the message said. Two simple words but they’d made his heart cartwheel in excitement. Instinctively, he wanted to race down to her. However, that would’ve given her the impression that he was eager to see her so he’d dilly-dallied in his room for a respectably rude amount of time before heading out to meet her.
Ding! The elevator rang indicating its arrival at the ground floor and its doors opened smoothly. His pulse already racing, Logan stepped out of the elevator and headed to the hotel’s restaurant. By the time he got there, his heart was in his throat and his stomach was knotted in tension.
“Hello, sir!” The maître d’ greeted him at the door.
His eyes roving the vast expanse of the restaurant and its clientele in search of Scottie, Logan returned, “Hello.”
“Do you have a reservation,” the maître d’ asked, “or are you just coming in for lunch?”
“I have-” Logan stopped speaking when his gaze settled at a table in the corner of the room. Scottie. His breath rushed out in a gush. “Found her.”
Even though he’d seen her just yesterday, Logan’s breath still caught at the sight of her. Curly black hair that fell to her shoulders, pretty eyes that seemed oddly sad as she stared out the floor-to-ceiling windows, body encased in a striped blouse, lime-green skirt and white heels that clashed beautifully with her dark skin… His senses immediately awakened. So did his anger. Why did she have to be so pretty even after breaking his heart? Why was she making it so much harder for him to hate her and easier for him to want her?
“Found who?” The maître d’ cut in Logan’s thoughts.
“My guest. She’s over there.” Logan pointed towards to her table. Turning to the maître d’, he ordered, “Please send someone to take our order.”
The maître d’ nodded. “Yes, sir!”
His eyes still on Scottie, Logan started towards her table. Given that her attention was on the view outside the window, she didn’t notice him until he was right at the table. When she did notice him, she immediately sat up straighter and her wide eyes swept up to meet his gaze.
“Logan!” She said his name breathlessly, the way she used to say it when they were deep in the throes of passion.
His already tense body tightened further. Without saying a word, he settled in the seat opposite her. He wanted to say ‘hello’ nonchalantly, in a way that made it clear to her that she was nothing to him. But the word refused to emerge past his lips and all he could do was glower at her. She returned his stare with a silent one of her own.
Logan wasn’t sure how long they just stared at each other wordlessly but the silence was broken when a waiter came by to take their orders. Scottie already had a glass of juice in front of her and didn’t want anything more. Logan wanted a triple shot of scotch but he couldn’t do that without letting Scottie know how angry he still was, so he opted to go with the same juice that she’d ordered. Neither of them wanted food.
It was only once the waiter left that Scottie spoke. With an obviously forced smile, she said, “It’s good to see you again, Logan.”
It’s good to see me again? Really? Logan snorted beneath his breath but didn’t say anything.
“How have you been?” she asked. When he didn’t respond, nervousness flashed in her eyes and her smile dimmed. However, she still continued, “You look like you’ve been well, so that’s good to see.”
I look like I’ve been well? She was unbelievable. Ridiculously bold and shameless. Was she trying to make it seem like they were long-lost friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while? Anger like poison swept through him, heating him up.
But he didn’t say anything. He just glowered at her as she yapped on.
“It was a surprise to see you at Alexander King,” she went on, “but you were so cold when you were there that I thought you’d forgotten me. It’s good to see that you haven’t.”
It’s good to see that I haven’t? What a way to remind him that she was still a cruel woman. If she had even an ounce of remorse, she should’ve wanted him to forget her. How dare she celebrate his memory of her!
The waiter came back just then with their drinks. Logan took his glass off the tray himself and quickly gulped some of the cold liquid. But it didn’t cool him. If anything, it felt like the fire that was his fury was slowly but surely transforming into a raging wildfire and eating him on the inside. He needed to release some of it.
The moment the waiter left, Logan turned his wrath on her. “Are you kidding me?”
Scottie’s fake smile faltered and her eyes flickered. “Huh?”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Though Logan’s voice didn’t rise, his anger was clear in his sharp words and the tightness of his tone. “Why are you pretending that things are fine between us? How can you call my name like that and smile as if you didn’t do anything wrong? What is wrong with you?”
Startled by his outburst, Scottie leaned further back in her seat as if to get away from him. Instead of answering his questions, she just stared at him for an uncomfortably long time. When she finally spoke, her tone was soft. “You’re still very angry.”
It was a statement. Not a question.
Logan’s fingers tightened around his glass as fresh anger spurted through him. He gritted between his teeth. “No, I’m not.”
She didn’t dispute his assertion. She just smiled. That smile was more annoying than anything she could’ve said. He picked up his glass and tossed back another healthy gulp of the juice. God! What he wouldn’t do for a glass of bourbon right now.
“I know that I hurt and disappointed you back then.” Her expression was grave as she added, “and I’m really, really sorry.”
Really, really sorry? Was she? After all this time, she was finally sorry? This was the first time he was hearing an apology from her. Eleven years ago when he’d confronted her with proof of her cheating all she’d done was stare at him. When he’d walked out on her, she’d merely shut the door behind him.
He’d waited for her to come to him and explain herself and apologize. Hell, if she’d even bothered to lie and tell him that it wasn’t true, he wouldn’t be this furious. But she’d never followed him, never called, never even sent him a message. Instead of dealing with the consequences of her actions, she’d tucked her tail between her legs like a coward and ran. While he was wallowing in heartbreak, she’d packed her bags and quit school.
This apology that she’d just thrown out there wasn’t enough to heal the wounds she’d caused. It was too little too late.
As if the half-hearted apology wasn’t bad enough, she finished her little speech with a halting, “But… but that’s all in the past, right?”
Logan laughed but there was no amusement in the rough sound. Narrowing his eyes, he demanded, “Is it really in the past?”
“It’s been eleven years, Logan. That qualifies as the past, right?” Worrying her bottom lip with her teeth, she watched him, waited for him to answer.
But he had no answer for her. Eleven years did indeed qualify to be called the past, but it didn’t feel like it. It still felt like it was just yesterday when he’d discovered that her church camping trip during the weekend was merely an excuse to romp with her fellow choir-mates. The pain of seeing pictures of her and her beau was still just as fresh as it had been back then.
As if he’d agreed with her, she went on, “I know it won’t be easy, but if you’ll be working with Alexander King, we should try to be friends. Like how we were before we dated.”
“Friends?” This time Logan’s laughter was genuine. Crooking his lips in a cocky grin, he mocked, “You want us to be friends?”
Her hand flying to her throat, she gave him a sheepish smile, “I guess that’s weird, right?”
Weird was an understatement. Cruel, impossible, idiotic were just a few of the words that came to mind at that suggestion. Logan shook his head slowly. “You and I can’t be friends.”
“Then colleagues,” she suggested. “I mean if you and I will be working together, then we need-”
He interrupted her. “Who said anything about working together?”
“Aren’t you hiring Alexander King?” Her eyes were wide and full of questions, she asked, “I thought that was why you called me here. So we could iron out our differences before…” Her words faded into silence.
“You thought wrong,” Logan retorted. “I called you out to let you know that I won’t be working with your company.”
She pointed to herself. “Because of me?”
He nodded. “Because of you.”
“I can step away from the project if you want,” Scottie quickly offered. “There are many qualified architects in the company.”
“Nah!” A sardonic smile lifted the side of his mouth. “Your presence in the company has completely turned me off them. The fact that they hired you is proof that they have questionable decision-making skills.”
Her jaw dropped and disbelief flooded her gaze. She stared at him for quite a while before saying, “You’ve changed, Logan.”
He shrugged. “Who hasn’t?”
“You’ve become petty.”
“Me!” He pointed to himself as instant anger shot through him. “I’m petty?”
“Yes.” She frowned. “Dismissing a whole company just because you have a past with one employee is the definition of being petty.”
Yeah, it was! But who the hell was she to tell him what he was or wasn’t?
“I don’t care what you think of me.” He pushed back his seat and rose. “Just let your people know that KC Capital won’t be working with them.”
There was no ‘good-bye’, no ‘it was nice to see you again’. He simply walked away from the table and from her.
* * * * *
“YOU CAN’T PUT it off anymore,” Faith advised. “You need to tell them.”
“But how am I supposed to do that?” Scottie asked. “How am I supposed to tell them that we lost a mega contract because Logan hates me?”
It was now three days since she and Logan had met and she still hadn’t told her superiors that KC Capital wouldn’t be working with them. In fact, she hadn’t even told Faith that she and Logan had met until today when she’d stopped by her flower shop during her lunch break.
“Give them another excuse.” Faith suggested, “Say that Logan’s company found another architecture firm that would be a better fit.”
“Then they’ll ask me why Logan came to me instead of Hal or Julian,” Scottie reminded her. She added, “As far as they’re concerned, Logan only knows me as someone who’ll be working on the project. At the meeting, he and I didn’t even talk. So why would he use me as a conduit for any messages he has for Alexander King?”
“You’re right. You’re right!” Frowning, Faith bit into her sandwich as she racked her brain for a better excuse.
With a sigh, Scottie bit into her own sandwich. After a long silence, she proposed, “I might have to just tell them the truth.”
Faith’s eyes widened. “You’re going to tell them that Logan is your ex?”
“I think I have to.”
“What if they fire you?”
“They won’t fire me for this. Hal isn’t that sort of boss.” Scottie pushed out a tired breath. “But it will certainly make things uncomfortable in the office.”
Faith scowled. “Logan is such a dick. What happened to keeping business and personal things separate?”
“I guess it’s hard for him,” Scottie defended. “It’s not like we parted on the best terms.”
“But he’s doing the most.” Faith kissed her teeth. “First, he pretends not to know you, then he leaves you with the bill at a lunch that he invited you to, now he’s messing up your job too. His petty ass should’ve just stayed gone.”
Scottie wasn’t sure if she agreed or not. Seeing Logan had been shocking, but it was also nice. She’d always wondered how he was and what he was doing. Now, she knew. Even though it was disappointing that he was still angry with her, she didn’t mind having him close by.
Still, it was better for both their mental health if they stayed away from each other. Even though she wished they could iron out their past and part as friends, their conversation at the restaurant had made it clear that it was impossible. There was too much pain and anger between them. It was better that he was gone.
After lunch, Scottie walked the two blocks back to work. She stopped by her desk to bolster her courage before heading to Julian’s office. Her plan was to tell him what was going on with Logan and KC Capital then solicit his advice about how to break it to Hal. However, when she knocked on Julian’s door, he greeted her with an ear-to-ear grin.
“It’s like you read my mind,” Julian said. “I was just about to call you in.”
“You were?” She closed the door behind her.
“Hal just gave me the news.” Julian paused for dramatic effect before enthusiastically announcing, “KC Capital decided to work with us.”
Scottie could’ve sworn that the ground shifted beneath her feet. Her jaw dropped. “They what?”
“That was my exact reaction when Hal told me.” Julian laughed before adding, “They’re coming in to sign the contract this afternoon.”
“This afternoon?” She still couldn’t believe it. “Today?”
“Yes, today.” He turned his wrist to check his watch. “In fact Logan Avery should be here in about an hour. I need you and Fazil to gather up the tentative plans we’ve made. We can show them to him once he comes and get his opinion.”
“Um… okay!” Still in shock, Scottie trudged out of Julian’s office.
KC Capital was coming to sign a contract? What happened to all the cutting words Logan had tossed at her when they’d met? He’d seemed completely serious about ditching Alexander King because of her. What could’ve changed in these last three days? Or was this just a ploy so that he could embarrass her in front of her superiors? These and more questions raced through her mind as she hurriedly prepared for his arrival.
At three p.m., Julian called. “Scottie, they’re here. Meet me in Hal’s office.”
“Got it.” She replaced the handset in its base before turning to call out, “Fazil. They’re here.”
Fazil, who was seated a couple of desks away from her, stood up. “Okay.”
As the two of them headed to the meeting-room, dread haunted Scottie’s every step. Cold spread to her limbs and her stomach shifted uneasily. When she saw Logan through the glass walls, a fist closed around her lungs and it became much harder to breathe. Julian, Hal and two other members of KC Capital were in there with Logan but she barely noticed them. All of her attention was on him.
When she and Fazil walked into the meeting-room, she expected to see the fury he’d displayed at the restaurant. But he met their entrance with blank eyes and a polite smile.
“Good. Good. They’re here.” Julian motioned for Scottie and Fazil to take their seats. “Now we can get to work.”
The next hour or so was spent showing Logan their rough plans for the building and getting his feedback. Scottie stole nervous glances at him through it all, waiting for him to drop a bomb. But he didn’t. He actively participated in tweaking their design and seemed intent on making the collaboration work. Basically, he was a completely different person from the one who’d erupted in fury just three days ago. If wearing masks was a skill, then Logan had perfected it.
Once Logan and his team were satisfied with the tenor of the designs, Hal sent Fazil off to get someone from Finance to discuss the financial implications of the changes made. It didn’t hit Scottie about what this meant until Vinny walked into the room. She’d completely forgotten that he worked in Finance.
Oh God! Her heart immediately jumped to her throat and her gaze swung to Logan. Please don’t remember him. Please don’t remember him. She prayed fervently even as her gaze shifted between Logan and Vincent. Please don’t remember him.
“Mr. Avery, this is one of our senior accountants, Vincent Salvatore,” Hal introduced Vinny.
Smiling, Vinny held out his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Avery.”
Of course Vinny could afford to smile. He had no idea who Logan was. The problem here was Logan.
Logan smiled too as he took the offered hand. “It’s nice to meet you too.”
His smile was enough to ease some of Scottie’s terror. Maybe he didn’t remember Vinny. However, his next statement erased all that relief.
Still gripping Vinny’s hand, Logan said, “You seem familiar. Have we met before?”
“I don’t think so.” Vinny shook his head. “I’d remember if we had.”
“Hmm.” With a shrug, Logan settled back in his seat. “Maybe you just remind me of someone.”
“Vinny, we were just talking about some changes in the construction plans,” Hal steered the conversation back to work. “Mr. Avery would like to know…”
And on the discussion went. Though Scottie listened and participated in the conversation, her senses were highly attuned to Logan. She watched him through the side of her eye, noted how he kept snatching glances at Vinny, frowning and canting his head as if he was trying to figure out where he’d seen him before.
You’ve never seen him. You’ve never seen him. Scottie chanted on the inside, wishing fervently that she could hypnotize Logan into taking his attention off Vinny. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. And her wish that he wouldn’t remember Vinny was shattered just moments later.
She was watching Logan so keenly that she saw the exact moment when he realized who Vinny was. His whole body stiffened and his lips parted slightly as if his breath had caught. His gaze remained glued on Vinny for what felt like an eternity before abruptly swinging to her. When his eyes met hers, they were filled with fury. That fury froze every drop of blood in her veins.
That moment between Logan recognizing Vinny and shooting a glare at Scottie felt like an eternity. However, it must’ve happened in less than a second because no one else in the room noticed Logan’s mask slipping for that brief moment. Turning away from her, he effortlessly slipped back into his professional façade. However, Scottie knew that this wasn’t the end of it. He wasn’t just going to let this go.
The meeting ended with the signing of the contract and an appointment to visit the construction site within the week. Logan barely glanced at Scottie as he said his goodbyes. However, a few minutes after the KC Capital team left, she received a text message.
Underground parking lot. NOW, the message said.
The knot in Scottie’s stomach tightened.
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