A chance encounter turns one night of abandonment into uncharted passion. Jayla needs a change. Tired of a life without choices she intends to make one. When her brother presents a chance for adventure she’s hesitant at first over the deception they would need to pull off to achieve it. What harm could a little white lie do? Plenty.
Alec Cavanaugh rather blame conspiracy for the passionate night he shares with his new employee. Afterall, he’s had plenty of women scam him for his heart to gain access to his riches. And this doe-eyed caramel beauty is no exception. Or is she? His quest for the truth behind her lies becomes an obsession for him. He devises a plan to get even. But in doing so he only drives the woman of his desires further from his heart.
Can these two fated lovers overcome a misunderstanding? Or are they doomed from the start?
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Below is an excerpt from Chapter One
A hand waved high above a sea of moving heads. Jayla smiled so hard her cheeks ached. It was him! She unraveled her scarf while shouldering her way through the tide of people leaving baggage claim. Each traveler hauled, some even dragged their personal items. She quickly breached the approaching crowd, catching glimpses of his handsome face between the mix of strangers. He looked different. Was it possible he’d gotten taller? Living in London he had matured and changed. He stalked toward her, tall, erect and proud, just like her daddy. His skin was a medium brown and flawless. His smile was bright, with even white teeth. Edward was all she had in the world, and she loved him dearly. It had been one year, three months, twelve days and seventeen hours since she saw him last.
“Edward!” She nearly choked on his name. Her throat closed with emotion. She leapt at him. He swept her up in his arms and spun her in a full circle. Jayla hugged his neck so tightly that he wheezed and chuckled a plea for release. She could feel his laughter rumble in his chest.
“Hi, Sis,” he said, lowering and kissing her on the dimple between her brows. “Damn, it’s good to see you, girl.”
Jayla Greene couldn’t be happier. Baby-Boy, as Mama would call him, had come home for Thanksgiving. She wasn’t sure if he’d make it, but he did. “Where’s your luggage? How was your flight? You hungry?”
He pointed to the small duffle at his foot.
Her smile faded. “That’s all?”
“I can only stay four days, Sis. I’m sorry.”
“C’mon, let’s get out of here. I’m missing my Bama shine.” He picked up his bag and flung his free arm around her shoulders. She managed to mask her hurt as he steered her through those arriving for the holidays, keeping her close.
“So how is England? The hotel must be doing well. I got the pictures. Everything looks so fancy. I showed ‘em to Nadine. She said you coming home with a white girl. Claims that’s what happened to Tiger Woods,” Jalya laughed.
Edward smiled. “I think Tiger met his wife here in the states. Tell Nadine I only got eyes for her.”
Jayla hugged his waist, and walked at his side. She could never be more proud of him. He went off to do all the things her mother and father wanted for them. She made sure of it by busting her tail as a manager at Belk’s Department Store during the day and waitressing at the Shoney’s Restaurant three nights a week. Plus, she took out a second mortgage on their parent’s home. There wasn’t anything too good for Baby-Boy.
“So, don’t keep me guessing. What’s got you leaving so soon? Is it work?”
“Work’s great. Better than great. And I got a big surprise for you.”
“Oooolala…a girl, huh! Nadine was right.” She elbowed him. They walked out the automatic doors. The traffic arriving and pulling from the curb, noisy car horns and a cop’s whistle, muted his voice and she strained to hear him.
“Nah, just making moves, Sis. No time for the ladies, even though a brother can’t keep them off him half the time.”
“I bet, Romeo. Let’s go; I parked in Lot D.”
“Damn, Sis, you burning up some stuff in here.” Edward dropped his hands on the chair at the breakfast table and leaned over with a sly smirk to his face. Jayla ignored him. She had worked hard on their Thanksgiving Day meal and cooked everything he liked, even her mama’s green bean casserole. He approached the stove. She heard him lifting up her pot lids to her right. “Get out my pots!” she yelped, catching him lick the thick brown gravy from her spoon.
“Ouch! That hurt!” he said after the smack to the back of his head. She snatched the spoon and started to rinse it off.
“You haven’t even washed your hands. Out, now! Dinner will be ready soon.”
Typical of her spoiled brother, he ignored the order, going for the fridge instead.
Jayla peeked over to see him with a bottle of water, slurping and watching her. She knew that look. Edward wanted something. Jayla sighed inwardly, wondering how much it would cost her this time. She checked the oven for her pies. The food would be enough to feed the entire block. She’d overdone it.
“When was the last time you went and did something outside of Prichard?” Edward asked.
“What are you talking about?” Jayla shrugged, returning to the sink to shell her eggs.
“I’m talking about living. You’re twenty-four and you act like you’re forty-four.
Look at you. Do you have a boyfriend? Where’s Sammy now?”
Jayla glanced at him from over her shoulder. “I’m only two years older than you, and I distinctly remember you chasing away every boy, man, or stranger who sniffed in my direction before you ventured off to the United Kingdom.”
“I was a kid and protective of my big sis. Besides, these fools around here are losers.
I’m talking about someone who deserves you. You married Sammy young, but I had hoped that you two would last.”
“Sammy and I ended when we signed the divorce papers, and that was over a year ago. You were here to hold my hand remember?” She shrugged. It didn’t hurt anymore. She was quite happy with the fresh start. She and Sammy were young and she was lonely for love with her parents gone and Edward in school. It was best that it ended before kids and life got the best of them. “Besides he hooked up with Ilene from what I hear,” Jayla said. Edward started choking. She smiled.
Edward marched over and placed his hand on her shoulder. “You’re destined for great things too, Sis. You nearly run that department store but those damn folks will never let you be anything but a sales girl. Where’s your promotion?”
“I’ve only been in the shoe department for two years.”
“Yeah, right, but you’ve been working at the damn store since you were sixteen.”
“Baby-Boy, let it go. I’m just fine. Okay?” She dismissed his touch from her
shoulder. She loved him but he wasn’t going to come in and make her feel small for
settling. Life was what you made it. With her church, friends and things that were familiar, life was good for her.
“It’s different outside of Alabama. People are different. I want you to see it, live it.
Hey, stop that. Look at me.” He turned her to face him. “I got a job offer.”
Jayla sighed, “Okay.”
“It’s big, Sis, huge. I’ll be making four times what you make here. I’m paying off the second mortgage and the debt you got from supporting me. And that’s just the beginning.”
“Where is this job?” she asked.
“Scotland? I thought you wanted to come back to the States? Maybe run that big casino that they building in Mobile?”
Edward shook his head, no. “This is different and better. It’s a ski resort. The Cavanaugh Lodge. It’s a playground for the rich and famous. Used to be some castle, but it’s been done over as a hotel. Actually has a Baron!” Edward laughed. Jayla didn’t get the joke but she chuckled too pretending she did. “The best chefs in the world cook there, celebrities also vacation there, and…”
“I get it. I’m proud of you,” she hugged him then turned back to the sink.
“Wait, there’s more.”
“Mmhmm,” she smiled.
“I want you to move there too.”
Jayla froze. She glanced over her shoulder. “Say that again?”
“I want you to move to Scotland. I’m offering you a job. I’ve already worked it out.
The Cavanaugh’s have owned the place for centuries. They are very strict traditionalists, Catholics. Although they would never make that a stated qualification, rumor has it that they are looking for a seasoned professional. I’ve sold them on giving me a chance but I can tell they don’t trust me. I need someone to have my back.” Edward crowded her near the sink, and the half-shelled egg dropped from her fingers into the strainer. She turned looking into his eyes trying to read the joke. She’d never seen him more serious.
“I’m not qualified to work at a lodge. What would I do?”
“Executive assistant. It’s perfect. You just take care of the staff duties and responsibilities. The Baron is never there, so I’m sure you can work out of his office uninterrupted. I’ll teach you everything else you need to know. My trial period will be tough, so I need someone with me to have my back. I think they only hired me to bring the Baron back home. I hear he doesn’t like non-Scottish no matter where they are from, to manage things.”
“What does Baron mean?”
Edward nodded. “It’s a title over there, something they give you if you’re rich. The family is very old money. The Baron is traveling abroad, and not expected to return for a year. Don’t you see this is perfect?”
“No. I can’t leave my life to fly off to Scotland of all places with you. Think about it.
The house, our friends. I can’t. Besides you don’t need me. You’re talented on your own.” She patted his face and turned away. Edward caught her by the elbow drawing her to him.
“I do need you. It’s hard over there, I’m different. The polite prejudice gets to me sometimes. Did you know the total population of blacks in Scotland is about sixteen percent? In London I could manage it because there’s diversity. I proved myself at the Donnelly place. The Cavanaugh’s, flew in to meet me based on my reputation. You should have seen their faces when they saw my dark skin. I can’t screw this up. They said they want new, fresh blood to bridge the gap with the Scots and the American tourists. They chose me. And brace yourself Sis, I’ll be making a quarter of a million the first two years and then double that after the trial period. Do you hear me? This is my big break.”
“I’m proud of you. I swear I am. But….”
“It’s located in an isolated hamlet, population three hundred just outside of Aberdeen. It’s the perfect set-up. Private lodging, everything you can imagine. You’ll have the run of the place. Hey, do you wanna learn to play golf? Scotland is famous for it. In the spring and summer you won’t believe the tournaments held there.” He touched her hands, and her eyes lowered to her nails, worn down to nubs from overworking. “You deserve a chance to do whatever it is you want to do. Come to Scotland with me. Let’s have an adventure.”
Jayla chewed on her bottom lip. Could she actually do it? Scotland of all places? The idea filled her with nervous energy.
Jayla hit him playfully in his chest. Annemarie was her Christian name and she rarely used it. He only evoked it when he tried to get under her skin. “Let’s have dinner. Then you can tell me more about this plan.”
* * * * *
One Week Later – Dubai
“Mr. Cavanaugh, may I freshen your drink sir?”
Alec folded his newspaper. He leveled his gaze over the top of his spectacles at the lean waiter before him. Alec nodded. His focus then veered right. Two young women of Middle Eastern descent giggled over their drinks, one with large brown eyes batted her lashes his way. Alec moistened his lips and considered the invitation in her smile. His thoughts then shifted to another who once captured him with only a smile, and his mood soured. Alec grimaced and looked away. The phone on the table buzzed. When his gaze landed on the blinking display he noticed it was his mother’s number. She’d left two messages that morning. He’d deal with her and his sister soon enough.
“Sit down James.” He answered in a dry tone.
James Kerr eased into the chair before him. He was of medium height, with a long face, and eyes that were a murky shade of grey. Alec waited impatiently for the attorney to hand over the information he requested. “Who is he?”
“His name is Edward Howard. He’s American.”
“American? Interesting,” Alec said.
“He seems to have done quite well for himself at his young age. Credentials check out, except this.”
Alec accepted the folder. He flipped it open and his brow arched. “What am I looking at?”
“An employment application young Edward pushed through, it was submitted two weeks ago. He’s asked to hire his own assistant. Specifically he wants to give her access to your business accounts and all of your records. Her name is Annemarie Daniels.”
Alec scanned the application and noticed the approving signature of his mother below. “She a scam artist too?”
“Not sure. He did file a false employment record for her. I’ve checked her background in the states, and she’s worked mediocre jobs as a sales clerk at a retail store, and as a waitress at a diner. She’s in debt, a recent divorcee. The resume however doesn’t reflect this. I believe this is what you were looking for. We can have Edward Howard dismissed immediately.”
Alec raised his hand. “Delay action until I say so. I think it’s time I return home.
Edward might prove useful.”
“I don’t understand. You thought the man wanted to obtain information for Fitzgerald.”
“And I’m sure he is a spy. I think it best we give him and this Annemarie woman a little leeway. I intend to learn everything I can from these frauds.”
Alec set the folder down. He cast his gaze to the city beyond the wall of windows. “I’ll leave in a few weeks. Don’t alert my mother or sister to my plans.”
“As you wish.”