Authors: Barbara Wallace
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Series
Table of Contents
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Barbara Wallace. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Visit our website at www.entangledpublishing.com.
Edited by Rima Jean and Alethea Spiridon Hopson
Cover design by Liz Pelletier
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition March 2012
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: Old Ironsides, America’s Cup.
To Peter and Andrew. Thank you for supporting me and understanding how crazy being a full-time writer can be.
Daniel Moretti tossed the gossip magazine on his desk, scowling at the young actress clinging possessively to her new director’s arm. He made a note to cancel Valerie Pinochet’s line of credit. Let her new director pick up the tab for her extravagance. His now-ex-girlfriend straying didn’t surprise him one bit.
“Sir,” a male voice interrupted. “Your eleven o’clock appointment is here.”
He swiveled back and forth in his chair, not bothering to reply to his intercom. The benefit of being Daniel Moretti was that he could make people wait while he did more important things.
Valerie’s picture shouldn’t have put him in such a sour mood. He gave the magazine another shove, and sent a small pile of papers fluttering from his desk. With a frustrated sigh, he walked around to retrieve them from their Oriental nesting ground, freezing when he saw the ivory invitation lying there.
Now here was something to put him in a bad mood.
Mr. and Mrs. William Ferncliff Cordially Invite You to Join Them as They Celebrate Their Twenty-fifth Wedding Anniversary.
He brushed his finger across the raised type. Talk about superficial women. His mother trumped them all.
The party was this weekend. He didn’t know why he was bothering to attend, except that William had been sort of decent to him. And who knew Mother would ever make it twenty-five years? It was a testimony to William’s stamina, as well as his wallet. He should skip the event. Would his family even notice? Of course they would—as soon as the press asked his mother where he was. That was the downside to being Daniel Moretti. He seldom escaped public notice.
“Mr. Moretti?” The voice on the intercom sounded again. “Are you ready to see Professor Doherty now?”
Ah, yes, the persistent Charlotte Doherty. He leaned over and jabbed the speaker button with a sigh. “Yes, Doug, send her in.”
Fingering the invitation, he walked toward the windows that lined one wall of his office and looked out. In the distance spread Boston Harbor, whitecaps dappling the blue Atlantic surface; that he stood on the top floor of one of the city’s tallest buildings was no accident. All those people who wanted a piece of him had to climb up. It was the office space equivalent to keeping your back to the wall.
He loved watching the ocean; he envied its freedom and unpredictability. On the horizon, a jet rose slowly, steadily, cutting across the hazy September sky. A hurricane was working its way up the East Coast, but the Boston skyline remained calm, serene. Behind him, his office door opened and shut. He didn’t bother turning around.
“I appreciate you seeing me,” a soft voice said.
“Well, Bob Wharton and I go way back,” he said, still watching the jet. “And he asked me to do him this favor. I admit, though, I’m intrigued by your need to meet with me face-to-face. What exactly does an expert on Sam Adams want from me?”
He turned around and his next sentence died in his throat.
The woman standing in his office wasn’t the dowdy, scholarly college professor he expected. To begin with, she wore emerald green. A shimmery, silky sundress that turned her body into a long stretch of curves. Before he could stop himself, his eyes traveled down those curves and over a pair of shapely calves. She stood ramrod straight and still, briefcase by her side, one foot set in front of the other, looking more like she was poised to walk down a runway than do business. It made for a very enticing picture.
“John Adams.” Her voice was low but even, like a person used to being listened to.
“My book is about John Adams, the second president of the United States. Sam Adams was his cousin.”
“My mistake.” He sauntered to his desk. Her book could be about Pete Adams for all he cared. Some long-winded tome about the American Revolution wasn’t on his reading list, bestseller or not.
He settled into his chair and motioned for her to take a seat. She moved like a model, too, he noticed. Fluidly, one hip at a time. He wondered how long it took for her to perfect such grace. When she sat down and crossed her legs demurely at the ankles, Daniel found himself slightly disappointed. He’d hoped for a better view of her legs.
“So what does an expert on
Adams want from me?” he asked.
“Do you appreciate the past, Mr. Moretti?”
“Only so much as it prevents me from repeating mistakes. Otherwise, I prefer to deal in the present.”
“But the past helps illuminate the present, don’t you think? We all need context. At least I believe we do.”
“Which is why you’re the historian,” he noted dryly.
Her eyes matched her dress. He wondered if she was wearing tinted contact lenses because that shade of green was too rich to be natural.
It was also incredibly distracting.
He cut to the chase. “Bob told me you had a business request, Professor. What is it? Are you looking for a donation? Support for some new historical foundation or to save some landmark? I already give quite generously to the Boston Historical Society, thanks to Bob’s arm-twisting.”
“I’m here about 219 Craymore Road.”
He didn’t answer.
“The Craymore Farm. In Midvale,” she continued, as if to fill in the blanks for him.
Daniel knew the address. He knew every piece of property he owned. This particular piece of land consisted of an old farm sitting on one hundred fifty acres of prime residential real estate.
He pursed his lips. “What about it?” His people hadn’t mentioned any problems with historical landmarks. Something better not have fallen through the cracks.
“You purchased it a couple weeks ago. From my brother.”
“I purchased it from an estate.”
“My brother represented that estate.”
She pulled a stack of papers from her briefcase and presented them on his desk. “You see, that property’s been in my family–my mother’s family–since before the Revolution. Unfortunately, I was traveling all summer promoting my book and unaware of my brother’s activities.”
Daniel glanced at the documents fanned on his desk. They were mostly genealogical in nature, proof that the farm had been owned by a single family. He saw no legal documents or any other paperwork that might indicate a problem with the sale.
He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Professor, but I fail to see what this has to do with me. If you have a conflict with your brother, or didn’t get your proper share of the sale price…”
“You misunderstand. My brother had no business selling that property outside the family. I’m here to repurchase it.”
“Really?” Her matter-of-fact assumption amused him. “What makes you think I would sell it back to you?”
“Because I’m willing to buy it, and considering the family history attached…”
“I told you before, I don’t put much stock in history, family or otherwise. The loss of one farm to one family doesn’t mean much to me.”
“I’m sure you’d think different if it were your family,” she remarked sharply.
“Professor, if it were my family, I’d help pack the moving van.”
His words stopped her short. Obviously, she’d counted on the notion of familial loyalty to help her. Wrong gambit.
Pressing his fingers together, prayer-like, he moved in to end the conversation once and for all. “Even if I were willing to sell, Professor, I doubt you can meet my asking price. We’re discussing prime property in a town where housing demands are at a premium.” He planned to divide the land into housing lots. Even in a downturned economy, high-end neighborhoods in towns like Midvale were good investments.
“I didn’t realize that was the case,” she said.
“Do the math and see what kind of money we’re discussing,” he said. “Last time I checked, academia didn’t pay that well. And, while your book might be on the best-seller list, it’s still a nonfiction book from a small publisher. Hardly the stuff fortunes are made from.”
The sparkle left her eyes and, for a moment, Daniel felt guilty about being so hard-nosed. But business was business. She must know that.
“To be brutally honest,” he said, “your brother undersold. The land is worth at least three times what I paid for it.”
“Three times,” she said quietly.
“Like I said, I doubt you can meet my price.”
“What makes you think that?”
He had to hand it to her—she didn’t acknowledge defeat easily, but years of negotiating and fighting off his enemies taught him to recognize the signs. Like the hint of panic in her eyes when he mentioned the price or the way she tilted her chin ever so slightly before speaking, as if to keep her lower lip from quivering.
She looked down at her hands.
“I didn’t think so.” He gathered up her papers and left them on the edge of his desk for her to take. “I’m sorry we couldn’t do business, Professor, but as they say, sometimes the past is best left in the past.”
She continued to study her lap. “My mother grew up in that house.” She spoke so softly Daniel wondered if she were talking to him.
“It’s only a house.”
“Oh, no, it’s more than that. Much more. Are you sure we can’t find some middle ground, Mr. Moretti? Perhaps some kind of arrangement…”
“What kind of arrangement?”
“An installment plan, perhaps.”
He had to chuckle. She was either very naïve or very ballsy. “I run a business, not a layaway plan.”
“You couldn’t make an exception for a special circumstance?”
“I also don’t make exceptions. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have other business matters to take care of.”
“Wait, please.” A soft hand came down on his. Daniel could feel the contact all the way to his elbow. He looked up to find her staring plaintively at him. “There must be something I can do to convince you to change your mind.”
Dear God, did her eyes
to be so green? He wanted to coolly dismiss Charlotte Doherty as he would any other pesky entrepreneur, but he couldn’t. She looked so wide-eyed and dejected. He could almost hear the silent pleading she was trying so hard to hide from their depths. It made him feel like the bad guy in one of those old-fashioned melodramas. The cape-wearing villain twirling his mustache while the pretty, young maiden pleads that she’d do anything,
to save the family farm from his clutches.