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At the Tycoon's Command
By Shawna Delacorte
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Shawna Delacorte
All right reserved.
Chapter One"She did what?" A shocked Jared Stevens swung his legs off the top of his large oak desk and jumped to his feet.
"She tore up the letter and threw it at me. Then, before slamming the door in my face, she told me, and I quote here, 'It will be a cold day in hell before I pay one penny to any member of the Stevens family.' She also said that any claim by you that her father owed a debt to Stevens Enterprises died when her father died." Grant Collins stood on the other side of the desk, a sheepish expression marring the attorney's otherwise dignified persona. "I've never had anyone do that before."
Jared's unmistakable anger surrounded his words, matching the irritation that shoved at him. "Just who does she think she is? I want you to -" He stopped and took a calming breath as he ran his hands through his thick dark hair. He narrowed his eyes and wrinkled his brow while turning a thought over in his mind.
"Never mind. I'll handle it myself." His tone of voice said the meeting was over.
As soon as his attorney left, Jared poured himself a cup of coffee and settled into the large leather chair. He picked up a file folder from the top of his desk, studied the contents for a few minutes while sipping his coffee, then leaned back and closed his eyes. He didn't have the time or patience for dealing with some old business transaction between his father and Paul Donaldson. The Stevens-Donaldson feud had been going on for three generations. He was tired of it and didn't care anymore what had started it or why it had escalated. He didn't have any interest in pursuing the matter with Paul Donaldson's daughter, either. He only wanted the past due twenty-thousand-dollar promissory note paid off so he could close out the matter. It was business, nothing personal.
He took a big swallow from his coffee cup. He had never met Kimbra Donaldson, but now it looked as if he would be doing battle with her whether he wanted to or not. The red numerals on his desk clock showed 4:30 p.m. The Donaldson house was only three miles from the Stevens family compound where Jared spent part of each summer since taking over the reins of Stevens Enterprises, even though he maintained a three-bedroom town house in San Francisco where he lived most of the year. The large estate doubled as his business office for a couple of months each summer when he retreated to his home town of Otter Crest on the northern California coast in an attempt to escape the congestion of San Francisco where Stevens Enterprises was headquartered.
He emitted an audible sigh. The matter of the promissory note had to be resolved as soon as possible so he could put it behind him and get on with real business. And that included the date he had that night with the stunning redhead he had met a week ago at a party thrown by a business associate in San Francisco. A little grin of expectation tugged at the corners of his mouth. It was almost an hour drive into the city, but it would be worth it for the night's pleasure he anticipated. But first he had to deal with the troublesome issue of Kimbra Donaldson. He placed the file folder in his attaché case, grabbed his car keys from his desktop and headed out the door.
Kimbra Donaldson had been in the same high school graduating class as his half brother, Terry Stevens. Terry's mother had been the second of what turned out to be a total of six wives plus numerous mistresses and short-term affairs for Ron Stevens. On many occasions Jared had thought how fortunate it was that his father didn't have more children by his many wives. When Jared left Otter Crest at the age of eighteen to go to college, Terry and Kimbra were ten-year-olds in elementary school. That had been twenty years ago.
Terry's opinion of Kimbra had not been very flattering, but Jared didn't put much stock in Terry's opinions. They hadn't been very close before their father's death five years ago, and Terry had been an ongoing problem for him ever since he had inherited the task of keeping an irresponsible Terry out of trouble.
Along with responsibility for Terry, he had also inherited the presidency of Stevens Enterprises. It had been a sobering dash of cold water thrown on his flamboyant social life, yet at the same time a stimulating challenge for someone who had been drifting through life without much purpose.
Jared drove down the street lined with older homes, checking the addresses until he found the house where Paul Donaldson had lived for almost forty years. He pulled into the driveway of the small house, turned off the engine and sat staring at the front door. An uneasiness settled in the pit of his stomach, and a strange feeling of apprehension welled inside him.
He had never dealt with any woman who had the gumption and assertiveness to rip up a demand for payment and throw it in an attorney's face. All the women he knew were decorative, fun-loving and always ready for a good time. And he had known plenty of them - women who were happy to embrace his philosophy of no strings attached and definitely no commitment.
He saw the curtain at the front window move a little bit. Someone was watching him. Jared took a calming breath. He couldn't put off the confrontation any longer. He needed to get the business resolved so he could be on his way to San Francisco and his female companion of the evening. He opened the car door, mindful that his every move was being scrutinized.
As he climbed out of the car, Kim Donaldson continued to watch him from behind the edge of the curtain. She had heard the car pull into the driveway but didn't recognize the silver Porsche. Then the door opened and the occupant climbed out. A hard lump formed in her throat followed by a sinking feeling of dread. Jared Stevens in person. She had allowed her anger to get away from her earlier and said a couple of things she shouldn't have. Honestly, Kim, when are you ever going to learn to think before speaking and keep your big mouth shut? She had no idea that her outburst with the attorney would produce such a quick, decisive and definitely unwanted response.
She swallowed the lump, took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. She had never met Jared Stevens, but she had seen him on a few occasions over the years when he had returned to Otter Crest during the summer. One such occasion had burned into her memory. She had been in high school. She had stopped to watch a softball game in the park and had immediately spotted one of the players dressed in cutoff jeans and a tank top. The physical attraction had been like a bolt of lightning.
Kim had fallen instantly in lust with the ruggedly handsome young man in his early twenties without even knowing who he was. The image had remained burned into her consciousness ... the long legs, broad shoulders, strong arms and golden tan. Later she found out the man of her dreams was none other than Jared Stevens, Terry's older brother - the one the residents of Otter Crest always referred to as a womanizing playboy. She had immediately dismissed any interest in Jared Stevens. Their families had been feuding for generations, and there was no reason to assume he was any different than his brother, who she knew for a fact was an insufferable jerk, but the enticing image had remained with her all these years.
She watched as Jared leaned across the car seat and grabbed his attaché case. His jeans, T-shirt and running shoes belied his position as head of a multimillion-dollar corporation. A wave of anxiety swept through her. Should she pretend no one was home? No, that wouldn't serve any purpose. She had to face him if for no other reason than to reinforce her comments to his attorney. She had no intention of paying him one penny of a debt her father had long claimed didn't exist. Besides, there was no way she could raise twenty thousand dollars even if she wanted to.
Excerpted from At the Tycoon's Command by Shawna Delacorte Copyright © 2003 by Shawna Delacorte
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.