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After years of sacrifice in order to keep a roof over her young daughter's head, Sara Flynn is thrilled when she's offered a part-time job at the local day-care center and is allowed to bring little Hayley with her. But it's her work on the upcoming charity ball that changes her life forever...

E.J. Sommers might have the Midas touch in business, but what about love? After agreeing to hold the ball at his house, E.J. finds himself falling hard and fast for the blonde beauty and...

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For the Love of Hayley

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After years of sacrifice in order to keep a roof over her young daughter's head, Sara Flynn is thrilled when she's offered a part-time job at the local day-care center and is allowed to bring little Hayley with her. But it's her work on the upcoming charity ball that changes her life forever...

E.J. Sommers might have the Midas touch in business, but what about love? After agreeing to hold the ball at his house, E.J. finds himself falling hard and fast for the blonde beauty and her daughter. Only problem is, she doesn't know about his millionaire status or even his real name. Now E.J. has to find a way to win Sara's heart without losing her trust....

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781460304396
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 2/1/2013
  • Series: Harlequin Heartwarming Series
  • Sold by: HARLEQUIN
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 1,370,931
  • File size: 252 KB

Read an Excerpt

E. J. Sommers didn't want to be here. He wanted to be anywhere but in the limousine heading into downtown Houston for a meeting at LynTech. He didn't want to sit in some stuffy conference room, facing the head honchos across a shiny table and negotiate away part of his own company. If it were up to him, he'd be out somewhere in the open, alone, letting his attorney take care of the whole thing.

"Everything okay?" Martin Griggs, that very same attorney, asked. "You look…" His voice trailed off.

E.J. turned to Martin, a thin man in a perfectly tailored, pin-striped navy suit, and with much less red hair than he'd had ten years ago when he'd first come on board with the newly formed EJS Corporation. "Just how do I look?" he asked, his dark hazel eyes narrowing on the man.

"As if you'd rather be drawn and quartered than do this," Martin said without missing a beat.

"Right on the mark," E.J. murmured.

"You need to be in the meeting, to show that the power goes all the way to the top, and you're the one in control."

E.J. nodded. "I know."

"But, you don't look too convinced."

"I'm convinced, but you know I'm never sure of anything in business. I do this by the seat of my pants, not because I've got some impressive degree to hang my opinions and actions on. I never even made it past high school."

"Education or not, by doing it your way, you've been a success, made millions, and have one of the most viable corporations around. That's why LynTech wants this deal to go through."

"Just about everyone else looks at me and wonders when I'm going to fall flat on my face, when I'll go back to where I belong and leave the big league to the big-league players."

Martin smiled. "Sure, but you aren't falling flat on your face, and you're here, so they'll deal with you or there won't be a deal at all."

E.J. knew that Martin was stating the facts, but he still wondered what he was doing in this situation to begin with. He'd never set out to be rich, to have this kind of power or influence, and he was willing to let part of his company go to try to make his life simpler. Maybe even to figure out where his life was going from here. What he knew was, he needed time and breathing space, and getting LynTech to take over part of his operations meant he'd get what he wanted.

LynTech would get the high-tech branch of EJS Corporation, freeing him up. Quietly, they were negotiating, and it would be a done deal before the rest of the business world knew what was happening. No sharks would go after EJS Corporation. Just a quiet, fast deal. Those were the rules Jackson Ford, the negotiator for LynTech, had agreed to.

"They'll deal with me," he muttered, and tugged at the cuffs of the brown leather bomber jacket he was wearing over a plain white T-shirt with blue jeans and his favorite pair of boots.

"You know, you really are a legend in the business world," Martin said.

"Oh, sure," he said, almost laughing.

E.J. knew how he was seen by most people. By virtue of his success and his wealth, women pursued him passionately and men went after his holdings. His business opponents were passionately resentful of what they perceived to be his ability to do what they did, but with a deceptive ease that rankled them. "A cocky upstart with an attitude" was one of the kinder remarks he'd heard. He ignored the worst remarks that labeled him as a man who didn't know a contract from his elbow and a man who had more luck than brains.

He knew he'd been lucky in his life. But he'd never apologize for his success. Gossipmongers seemed to thrive on finding out what he was up to.

"Well, Mr. Legend, we're here," Martin said as the limo slowed and pulled to the curb in front of the towering glass-and-metal building that contained LynTech. A security man was there right away, opening E.J.'s door and looking inside.

"Good morning, sir. Can I help you?"

"We're here for a meeting," Martin said. "E. J. Sommers and Martin Griggs."

The khaki-uniformed man, probably in his late twenties, with pale skin and a concerned expression, checked a clipboard he was holding. "Oh, yes, sir," he said with a smile. "The meeting is in the main conference room on the top floor. Mr. Holden said to send you right up when you got here."

Martin's phone rang as E.J. got out, and then the attorney was beside him on the sidewalk, holding up a hand to get E.J's attention. Martin frowned but didn't say anything as he listened to the caller. "Oh, for—" Martin finally muttered, his words stopping abruptly as he listened some more. "This stinks. It's not what we signed on for. I'll be right up," he said, and flipped his phone shut.

"What's going on?" E.J. asked.

"That was Ford. He just found out the deal leaked and the word is on the street. It's making the rounds."

E.J. had actually liked what he'd heard of Ford. When they'd spoken, E.J. got the sense that Ford stood by his word. Had he been mistaken? "What happened?"

"He doesn't know, but it's out and the sharks are circling. It's just what you thought. They're seeing it as a weakness in the structure, and they're going for blood." He motioned to the building. "It's not going to be pretty, but we need to get this done. Come on."

Suddenly a child screamed and E.J. flinched at the piercing sound. He glanced to his left and saw a harried-looking young woman in jeans and a loose T-shirt trying to carry a squirming toddler toward the entrance to the building. "Hush, Walker, Mommy's inside. I promise."

The little boy, with wispy blond hair and a good set of lungs, let out another ear-piercing scream. "Hush, hush, hush," the woman kept saying as she hurried into the lobby of the LynTech building.

"Sorry, sir," the security man said. "He's going to the day-care center inside. Those kids can be a handful," he said with a shake of his head. "Sure glad I don't have any." Then he realized he might have been out of line and backtracked. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that kids are bad or anything. I mean, you each probably have lovely children."

"Two girls," Martin said as he glanced at the closed entry doors. "You say they've got a day-care center in there?"

"Yes, sir. Have for a while now, but I never thought kids should be around business stuff. Just my opinion."

E.J. didn't care about the kids or why a corporation like LynTech would even have children on the premises. He sure didn't want to talk about them or where they should be. Kids didn't matter to him. He didn't care if LynTech had a high school tucked away in the building. What he cared about was a rotten deal, and he didn't want any part of what was waiting for them on the top floor.

"Call Ford back and tell him we're on our way back to Dallas." He wanted complications out of his life. But that wasn't going to happen here and now. "We're cutting our losses and getting out of town."

Martin didn't move. "We can't just walk away without a face-to-face."

"Ford and Holden both promised it was going to be closed, that we wouldn't have to go public with the negotiations."

Martin shook his head. "E.J., in business you have to see things through to the end. You need to tell them—"

"You go and see them if you want to. See what on earth happened, but I'm leaving." Frustration was growing in him, along with impatience. He turned to the security man, who was trying to pretend that he wasn't listening to their conversation. "Where's the nearest place to get a drink?"

"Coffee?" he asked.

When E.J. nodded the man said, "Over there, in the Lennox Building." He motioned to the structure south of LynTech. "They just put in a sort of bar and restaurant on the ground level. Everyone's been saying it's good. Just inside the main doors to the left."

E.J. glanced at a twin to the LynTech Building, all glass and steel with a sweeping entry and the name Lennox carved into a heavy slab of marble used as a cross support over the doors. He turned to Martin. "Give me some cash?"

Martin tucked the phone back in a side pocket of his briefcase, then reached for his wallet. "I wish you'd carry cash, E.J. Do you know how much more bookkeeping I have to do to account for the dribs and drabs you take off me?" he muttered, then looked up at E.J. as he opened his wallet and held it out to him. "Why don't you just take what you need?"

E.J. took a few bills, then said, "Put it on my tab."

"Of course," Martin murmured as he tucked his wallet back in his pocket. "So, you're not coming up with me?"

"No, just let me know when you're ready to head back to Dallas. I'll be at the bar."

Martin nodded, then headed into Lyn-Tech.

"Can my driver stay where he is?" he asked the security man.

"Sure, no problem."

"We should be out of here soon," he said, and was a bit surprised that he felt so let down as he headed toward the next building. He approached the glass doors and caught a flash of his image in the expansive surface. Six feet tall, lean, wearing casual clothes, he didn't look like a company president, not even like an average businessman. At thirty-nine, he was too old to start wearing pin-striped suits and wing-tipped oxfords, and getting razor haircuts.

His brown, sun-streaked hair was a bit too long, a bit too unstyled, and it swept back from a face that was a bit too angular and showed his aversion to shaving, with the shadow of a day-old beard at his strong jaw. He realized he needed that coffee.

He hit the door with the heel of his hand and stepped into a vast reception foyer.

Glass, marble, wood and plants were everywhere. He glanced at a massive information desk to the right, set on a highly polished marble floor.

E.J. caught a hint of brewing coffee in the air and spotted the restaurant entrance. Between two immaculately trimmed topiary plants in brass pots, a frosted-glass wood door was labeled in gold-leaf script. The Lennox Cafe. He crossed to it, pushed it back and stepped inside. The cold marble and the glass and steel from outside were replaced by plush burgundy carpeting, polished wood and brass, accented with crystal and mirrors.

There was only one customer at the bar and two customers in the restaurant. The man at the bar was reading from his smart-phone while nursing a drink, and the other two men were at a round table near tinted windows, talking business with open briefcases in front of them along with drinks.

A slender blond waitress glanced in his direction while she juggled a tray laden with food. Her startling aquamarine eyes dominated a finely boned face that was slightly flushed. "Someone will be right with you," she said in a breathless voice, then headed into the restaurant.

She moved quickly, weaving her way through the empty room, approaching the customers. At the same moment she got to the table, one of the two men pushed his chair back, stood and turned, running right into the waitress. The peace was shattered by the crashing sound of impact, falling food and dishes, a startled scream that probably came from the waitress.

As if everything had shifted to slow motion, E.J. saw the waitress jerk backward and fall out of sight behind the nearest table. The customer took the full brunt of flying food, and a plate bounced off his shoulder before shattering as it hit the edge of the table. A small man, totally bald, with a dark goatee and wearing a somber black suit, rushed toward the table.

The customer stood there, covered with pieces of food and drenched with what had to have been coffee, while his friend, still seated at the table, hurriedly rescued papers and checked them before putting them back in his briefcase. None of the three men gave the waitress more than a cursory glance as she struggled to her feet, her face crimson and her pale hair falling loose in a tangle around her shoulders.

She scrambled up, hurrying to the man who bore the brunt of the disaster, and she reached out to brush at something yellow clinging to his once-immaculate jacket. Before she could do anything to help, the man hit at her hand, thundering, "Let it alone! You've done enough damage."

She drew back quickly, clasping her hands in front of her, then twisting around when the man in the dark suit pulled her back and away from the customer. "Oh, my…oh, goodness," the man said ineffectively in a voice with a slight British accent while he all but pushed the waitress behind him. He never stopped his mantra of apologies and offers of help. "We are so sorry," he was saying. "Just deplorable. Unforgivable. Please, let us make this up to you."

The man standing barely spared him a look while he shrugged out of his jacket, shaking it sharply and sending the clinging food everywhere. One piece of tomato hit the small man in his chest, imprinting a garish red mark on the pristine whiteness of his shirt. He flicked at it, then grabbed a napkin off of a nearby table and proceeded to blot at his shirt. "Sir, this is unforgivable. Please, we will take care of any cleaning bills for your suit."

The irate man turned, red-faced, and said, "It's ruined. It's trash." He dropped the jacket on the table, deliberately setting it on the worst of the mess. "And you will take care of it."

"Absolutely, sir. My name is Bernard Hughes and I'm the manager of this establishment. We will make this right, and do accept our profound apology."

The man and his tablemate made to leave. Almost tripping over the waitress's foot, the tall, angry businessman yelled, "Get out of my way, you idiot!" and pushed past her while she crouched down, attending to the mess at her feet.

E.J. wasn't sure when he started to walk toward the disaster, or why he was going in that direction at all. But he was, and the men rushed past him without a glance, muttering something about a meeting.

E.J. approached the manager and the waitress. The polite facade and deference the manager had exuded seconds ago was gone. He reached down, grabbed the waitress by her arm and jerked her unceremoniously to her feet. It was then that he knew why he was heading in their direction.

He'd had enough of everything. The bad deal because of some leak at LynTech, and men who treated this woman as if she was in servitude to the lot of them; they all left a bad taste in his mouth. The taste got even worse when he heard the manager saying, "This is all your fault, you idiot! This is coming out of your pay. And if it happens again, that's it! You are out of here."

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