Bethany’s devastation is complete. Secrets, lies and impossible choices have torn her world apart but it is not the first time she has had to rebuildher world. So she’ll do it again...she has to. When Bethany meets Daniel, she is backed into a corner and with the threat of losing even more she comes out fighting. Daniel quickly learns there is nothing quite as intoxicating as a woman with nothing left to loseand nothing quite as irresistible as his Bethany. But there are more games being played than either of them are truly aware and the winning prize is a coveted Happy Ever After.
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“Quick quick they are just loading the carts! Paula will serve the plates you follow with the sauce. I’ll keep your bag but I’m going to head home, pretend I wasn’t even here if that’s Ok?” She giggles. “Lucky I work for either Sofia or her family because I would not want to get on their bad side.” She pushes me to the elevator where Paula, I assume, is waiting with a fully loaded cart. Just as the door close Gaby waves and I mouth ‘thank you’.
Paula smiles at me nervously and I wonder how much she knows. I confidently do my buttons on my jacket and shake my shoulders releasing some tension then I smile brightly at Paula. “No need to look so worried, I could do this in my sleep… You won’t even know I’m there.” She gives me a tight smile and I know Gaby hasn’t told her anything. We push the cart to the boardroom door which I quietly open and Paula eases the cart over the threshold and positions it at the back of the room. Daniel has his back to us, he is wearing a dark navy suit and I can smell his cologne. A light infusion of citrus and spice easily over powered by the meal we just brought in if I wasn’t so attuned. I am grateful he has his back to us however, because my heart is racing and my skin is tingling with a mix of fear and a result of being near him. I curse my body for these innate, involuntary and traitorous reactions. Fortunately, I have Sofia’s indignant words and my raging anger swirling inside so I know that this encounter is likely to turn me on as much as a smear test would.
The room is sparsely furnished with a large oval glass topped table dominating the centre of the room. The four men are seated two each side of Daniel and he is at the head. The full height glass wall holds an invisible door that opens on to a seating area outside on a platform that overlooks the Thames and out toward Greenwich Park on a clear day. I know this, because it’s the same view from Daniels office but I take no time or pleasure in the vista today. I remove the plates from the warming cart; take the protective covers revealing an elegant arrangement of the pan fried duck breast with baby glazed carrots, trimmed French beans and fondant potatoes. I hand the plates to Paula as she sets about serving the table; one of the men addresses Daniel.
“Thought we’d lost you for while Stone heard you’d picked up some skirt.” He laughs gruffly and I can feel my shoulders stiffen. “Glad it wasn’t serious, still she must have been a whore in the bedroom to keep you interested for so long?” He slaps the man sitting next to him as they all fall into low dirty laughter. “You’ll have to get me her details now you’re done. I’m intrigued or was there more to it, did you actually love her?” He snorts and wrinkles his nose like he’s just smelt something disgusting when the only thing disgusting is him.
Daniels voice is low, softly spoken so the room goes quiet and I find I’m holding my breath. “There was something more.” He hesitates and I feel a flutter of anticipation just before the rot of reality. “A little R & D project that’s now mine… and ask Colin for her details I no longer keep them.” I grip the cart as I feel my knees buckle, I grit my teeth and swallow back the water pooling in my mouth. With clarity and serenity I hadn’t expected after his most hurtful words I calmly walk over to his side holding the jug of hot redcurrant jus, without looking up he sits back to allow me better access to his plate and his lap. For maximum effect I quickly tip the jug completely into his lap and then let the jug go. From this height and the weight of the large ceramic container landing directly on his groin, he is hit hard. His hands grab at his prize possession, covered in hot red liquid it looks like his taken a direct hit form a shotgun not a tasty berry reduction.
“Fuck!… What the Fuck!” He pushes back and stands sending his chair flying but freezes when he lifts his head to meet my eyes. I walk over to him, standing as tall as I can, still dwarfed by his immense frame but no longer intimidated. I point my finger softly on his chest and watch him recoil as if I too have burned him.
“You, Mr Stone are a liar, a thief, a son of a bitch,” I laugh bitterly, “but you knew that last one already. You are an arsehole and a coward.” The room is silent and I turn and walk away, just before I close the door I turn my head. “I thought you were a gentleman; shame on you.” I am only slightly sorry that I am leaving Paula to clean up my mess and although my legs feel like jelly I make my way to the elevator. The doors open, I pass Jason whose head snaps in a double take and just as the doors close I see Daniel furious, looking like he’s been in a blood bath, shouting.
“Jason! Stop her! Fuck don’t let her leave!” His voice disappears behind the closed doors and my last image is of Jason’s arm pushing for the ever closing gap with a look of pure confusion.
Fuck! I slap my hands on the rail in the lift holding with a white knuckle grip and adrenaline pumping so hard in my veins that my whole body shakes. I draw in fast deep breaths that just make me light headed and the speedy descent of the lift makes my knees give way as it reaches the ground floor. The doors open and I am greeted by a very stern looking Eddie, who doesn’t return my attempted smile.
“You left the building. I saw you leave. Do you mind telling me how you managed to get back in?” He folds his arms waiting for an explanation but I am not inclined to hang around, having boldly gone, I now want to timidly leave.
“You know Eddie I would love to but I might have outstayed my welcome. You can escort me off this time just to be safe.” I wink at him and I see his shoulders relax and a twinge in the corner of his mouth as he tries to suppress some warmer emotion than the one he is currently presenting. I try to step out and to his side but he holds up his hand.
“Oh I’m sorry Miss Thorne but since you trespassed and assaulted the CEO leaving is no longer an option.” He informs me without a hint of humour.
My mouth drops in shock. “What? You have to be kidding?” I laugh coldly. “Has he called the police? Am I going to be arrested?” I put my hands on my hips, he might be technically right but I’m not going to be intimidated or back down. He rests his hand on my shoulder and gives me a gentle squeeze.
“I don’t think that’s his intention but he was I little cross when he called down. I think it is best if I take you back up there so you can get this mess sorted, without the need for the police and,” he fumbles and hesitates. “I’m sorry to have to do this but Mr Stone insisted.” He frowns and his cheeks tinge pink under his dark tan as he reaches into his back pocket. He lifts a pair of industrial looking silver hand cuffs. I had seen them on his belt before but assumed they were for show.
“I just bet he did. Oh you’ve got to be kidding me? Seriously?” I almost laugh but he turns me round and as gently as possible clips the cuffs to my wrists. Stepping into the lift he presses the top floor button. We are quiet for a moment. “You really think this is necessary?” I jangle the cuffs to make my point.
“I am just doing what I’m told Bethany and I can’t have to slipping through my fingers again. I need this job, so yes, I think it’s necessary. I think it’s safest.” He nods to himself, happy I think with his justification. The lift smoothly pulls to a stop, which in mere seconds has reached the twenty ninth floor and he motions for me to step out. I turn to face him.
“Safest for whom?” I whisper to the closing doors.
“Shit Bethany what did you do?” Colin’s hushed voice makes me turn again. He is walking briskly from his desk along the corridor. He peeps around my body and his eyes are wide at the sight of the cuffs. “Shit!” He whispers again and takes my elbow and leads me along toward Daniels office. It is then I notice that the other offices are empty and there are no other people on this floor. In fact it is eerily quiet.
“Extended lunch hour?” I quip with a casualness I’m not feeling.
“Ha, you’re funny! No he’s closed this floor and I’m to escort you to his office and then leave for the day.” His voice is conspiratorially quiet.
I swallow loudly. I don’t have my phone and I don’t know anyone’s number by heart anymore, who does? Everything is stored on my phone. Shit. I let out a puff because there is fuck all I can do about it now. “Right, well if you are the last person to see me alive, tell my best friend that’s the last time I take her advice.” I nudge him lightly but with my arms secured behind my back I am a little off balance and stumble. Too late to catch me Colin watches as I skid along the carpet and pick up a fierce carpet burn on my right knee, the sting is sharp and makes me squeal. “Owww Oh that stings like a bitch!” Colin helps me up with kind words and I clamp my jaw tight as the pain fires brightly from its origin. Colin pauses for a moment of sympathy while I compose myself but only for a moment, he then opens Daniels door and tilts his head for me to enter. He is not coming in and he is going to leave me, alone.
“Take care Bethany and I’d be very surprised if I’m the last person to see you alive.” He smiles and winks.
My light laugh is more nervous now. “Ohhh well that’s a comfort, you being very surprised. I guess I’ve got nothing to worry about then?”
“I didn’t say that now did I?” He winks again and closes the door.
About The Author
Dee Palmer hates talking about herself in the third person so I won’t. My husband had my iPod engraved one Christmas with ‘sing like no-one’s listening’ and I know my family actually wish they weren’t listening because I am, in fact, tone deaf but it doesn’t stop me and this gentle support has enabled me to fulfil a dream. This has been a truly brilliant experience, because I have written all of the books in The Choices Trilogy but need to tweak the others before I let them all out alone, and it has undoubtedly been made possible by my incredibly supportive family. I know this is very much an acknowledgment but I know I wouldn’t be writing even this single paragraph if it wasn’t for them so this is about who I am, I am because they let me be.
Other Books in the Series
Never A Choice
Always A Choice