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From her crouched position filling the copy machine drawer, Isabelle spied her cousin Kendrick in the doorway and knew the next few minutes would be worse than a bad case of chicken pox. Irritating as hell and no scratching allowed. Already he blocked her only exit from the cramped roomthat was no accident. She drew a searing breath and straightened to her full height, determined to confront him.
Kendrick wore black chinos and a white Oxford shirt, but the preppy clothes couldn't hide the predator. With a shudder, she remembered everything about him she would rather forget. Despite her resolve, the small room pressed in, and she backed away.
His leer forced her to dig her heels into the floor and a relentless gnawing tore at her stomach.
Lawyer mode. Now.
"Kendrick, it's been a while."
Three years, two months and thirteen days.
"I'm here to see my father," he said. "I saw you in here. Thought I'd say hello."
She leaned against the copy machine, folded her arms and squeezed until her fingernails bit into her biceps. After years spent grappling to rise above her brokenness, something in his tonethat confident, you'll-never-get-me attitudeshattered her. "Well, I'm sure your father is waiting for you."
"I'm a few minutes early."
"Your father prides himself on the comfortable waiting area. Maybe you can find something to read while you wait."
Kendrick ignored her suggestion and moved into the compact room. She remained still, but tracked him with her eyes, watching him until he halted a foot from her. Too close.
A quick glance across his shoulder revealed the safety of the outer corridor where two associates spoke in hushed voices. Assistance was nearby if needed, but screaming for help against the boss's son? How humiliating. Not to mention having to explain it. "I have a client in my office."
He inched closer, and Isabelle held up a hand to stop him. Silly her for believing he would let her leave. She had to get away.
"I need to talk to you," he said.
Okay. Deep breath. She concentrated on diffusing the internal bedlam this man caused. Get a grip. Don't give him the control. Don't look at him.
After a few seconds, her thundering pulse settled to its normal rhythm. She could do this.
"I'm in the middle of a client meeting." She turned, made the copy she'd come in for, grabbed her papers and attempted to push by him.
Kendrick sidestepped to block her exit. Unbelievable. She was trapped in here with him. Close enough to feel his breath on her skin.
"I only need a couple of minutes, Isabelle."
Never. He didn't deserve it. Not after what he'd taken from her already.
She met his gaze straight on, their eyes locking for an instant. "I don't have time, Kendrick."
"I have an offer for you."
Any offer from him could result in her losing a slice of her soul. Her answer would certainly be no. She found triumph in that. Telling him no. Definitively.
She'd let him say what he needed to, indulge in saying no and then boot him out. "Two minutes."
"Oh, Isabelle. You do amuse me."
She made a show of checking her watch. "Now it's one minute."
"You know I've bought property in Ohio, correct?"
Oh, she knew. She was thankful every day that the state of Pennsylvania normally provided a barrier between them. Living on the Jersey Shore rewarded her with a sense of ease, and Kendrick being in the area chipped that comfort. "If you need legal advice, talk to someone else. I won't be objective."