Hello, my friends. THIS IS TRUE LOVE releases next Monday! But before then, I'd like to finish the sneak peek I've been giving you the last two weeks!
Without further ado, the conclusion to Chapter One of THIS IS TRUE LOVE! Well, after you scroll past the cover. :)
Fliss inhaled and exhaled slowly. Where to begin? “I enjoyed the small involvement I had in the company.”
“Which is why Keith gave you five percent of his share as a one-year anniversary gift.”
“Right. Little did I know it was a way to ease his guilty conscience for screwing everything in a skirt.” She winced at the anger creeping into her tone and held up a hand. “Sorry. That’s not business and ultimately not the point.”
Alex bit back a curse. He’d never forget the day Keith had come to him practically giddy because he’d met the woman destined to be his wife. Alex had been skeptical because of Keith’s well-earned reputation as a womanizer, but his best friend had insisted she was different. He’d found the female version of himself—gorgeous and successful—waiting in line at the bar at the Academy Awards. They’d both heard of Felicity Chambers (who hadn’t?), but she was even more perfect in person than on the big screen, Keith had said. He’d assured Alex he’d be faithful to his wife. He’d probably meant it, too. Until the thrill of the chase was gone and he’d stepped onto another movie set and met Hollywood’s newest starlet, who was willing to do anything to make a name for herself—including sleeping with one of the world’s biggest stars, regardless of the fact that he was married. Or maybe because of it. Who knew how many others there’d been?
“Anyway,” Fliss continued, interrupting his trip down bad memory lane, “because California is a community property state, splitting our assets shouldn’t have been that hard, except Keith wanted to argue about every single dollar even with a prenup, the greedy bastard. So things got more contentious.”
“I know that,” he said, crossing his arms. “Get to the point.”
“Finally, I got fed up with the drama and really thought about what Keith valued. It wasn’t hard to figure out. After all, I was married to the man for three years. He likes the perks of fame—the cars, the bling, the money, the attention. The hard work? Not so much.”
“Once again, I know, which is why he’d agreed to sell me his share of Crescendo after the divorce was final.” More or less. Fed up with how his friend was treating his wife, who didn’t deserve to be publicly humiliated no matter how much she confounded Alex, he’d let Keith know in no uncertain terms he was tired of his shady ways.
“Yes, but you have to understand I don’t care about the bling and cars, so I gave him what he wanted in exchange for something that held much more meaning to me. Crescendo.” Fliss dropped her gaze to the bottle in her hands. “And, umm, I might have told him that giving me his shares instead of selling them to you would make it easier to save face in Hollywood—you know, so people wouldn’t spread rumors that his best friend had kicked him out of the company.”
Unbelievable. The anger he’d done his damnedest to control flared once again. “In other words, you stole Crescendo from right underneath my nose.”
Her head shot up. “Okay, now who’s being dramatic? You still own as much of the company as you ever did. Half. You just have a new business partner.” She beamed, clearly pleased with herself. Her beautiful eyes shone with joy.
He refused to be dazzled. Not this time. “I don’t want a new business partner.”
He liked working alone. Having his success or failure rest on his shoulders alone. Yes, Keith’s name had offered instant credibility for the company, but Keith had liked the prestige of owning a production company and the profits that came with it more than the actual work. Just the way Alex liked it. Still, legally he’d needed Keith to sign off on projects and had felt an obligation to keep his former partner in the loop.
As part owner, Fliss occasionally gave input, but for the most part she’d been busy shooting movies and then finalizing the divorce. Now she wanted to get actively involved when he was on the cusp of assuming total control and taking Crescendo to the next level with no need to check in with anyone about anything? When he was on the cusp of finally becoming the success he’d dreamed of for so long? No. Thank. You.
Fliss set her bottle down and hopped off the stool, bringing her nearly naked, gorgeous body much too close for comfort. Once again, he commanded himself to concentrate on her words and not his barely checked desire to stroke her tempting flesh.
“I know you don’t want a new, full-time partner,” she said. “You’re a control freak. Someone who likes to work alone.”
“Exactly.” He saw no reason to deny it. As far as he was concerned, it wasn’t a drawback. But that wasn’t the only reason he didn’t want Fliss as a co-owner. How were they supposed to work together after…
“Let’s be real, Alex.”
He refocused on the woman standing in front of him, mutinous expression on her beautiful face. “Yes, let’s.”
“You’re a little gruff, a little stuffy. That hurts you sometimes when it comes to business.”
“Are you trying to convince me with insults? Interesting strategy,” he said dryly. “Crescendo is doing fine. I’m doing fine.”
“Yes, but imagine the possibilities if we joined forces,” she said, patting his chest. It felt like he’d been branded, he felt the touch so keenly, even through his T-shirt. His heartbeat pounded in his ears. Why her? Why now when they’d never gotten along? Except for that one night he couldn’t stop obsessing over.
“I don’t want to join forces,” he said. “I’ll buy your shares from you. Problem solved.”
“I bring a different energy, a different perspective,” she added like he hadn’t spoken. She continued to pat his chest. “I have connections of my own that we can leverage to make Crescendo even more successful than it already is. Together, we’d be unstoppable.”
Alex caught her hand in mid-pat and ensnared her gaze. “Not going to happen,” he said flatly.
Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.
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