Forbidden Brother (Harlequin Romance #3963) [NOOK Book]

Overview

Stunning gallery owner Laura Parkerson's life is turned upside down by the appearance of Jed Brodie. Not just because he's broodingly handsome--but because Jed is her late fiance's twin.

Looking at him, Laura feels butterflies. He's nothing like his twin brother--but how can she be sure she's not just bewitched by the mirror image of a man she once promised herself to?

Laura's falling in love with the ...

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Forbidden Brother (Harlequin Romance #3963)

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Overview

Stunning gallery owner Laura Parkerson's life is turned upside down by the appearance of Jed Brodie. Not just because he's broodingly handsome--but because Jed is her late fiance's twin.

Looking at him, Laura feels butterflies. He's nothing like his twin brother--but how can she be sure she's not just bewitched by the mirror image of a man she once promised herself to?

Laura's falling in love with the forbidden brother...

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426803161
  • Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises
  • Publication date: 6/1/2009
  • Series: Harlequin Romance Series , #3963
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 179,138
  • File size: 156 KB

Read an Excerpt

LAURA carefully replaced the receiver of the phone. She wanted to slam it down after first yelling at Maria Brodie to stop calling her every day in her attempts to micromanage everything. But discretion being the better part of business life, she had kept her voice calm, sharing none of her frustration with the woman on the other end of the line. Proud of her self-control, she waited until the connection had been cut before giving a discreet "Eeeek!"
The woman drove her crazy!
Not for the first time since Hugo Atkins had died, Laura wished he was still running the gallery and the one she could escalate problems to. But the buck stopped with her these days. Inheriting the small art gallery in Miragansett turned out to be a mixed blessing. Normally she loved her calling, even when dealing with difficult artists like Maria Brodie. Actually if Laura and Maria's conversation had centered around Maria's work, it would have been easier to deal with.
Instead they were involved in an ongoing battle to determine how many of Maria's son's paintings would be displayed in a public retrospective Laura had agreed to host at the gallery next month. They were in the final stages of planning, only two weeks left before the night of the opening. Laura wished Maria would let her do what she did well and go back to her painting.
She leaned back in her chair, rubbing her temples. She was getting a headache as she often did after dealing with the temperamental artist. Some of it was pure guilt. Keeping a life changing secret wasn't easy. At one point, Laura had expected Maria to become her mother-in-law. Now she wondered if they could have been so related and not end up killing eachother one day. It was hard enough dealing with her since Jordan died. Her own emotions were in turmoil. The hurt and grief was gradually easing. Dealing with Maria kept everything to the forefront. She hoped time would heal the relationship. Once the show was over, there'd be little necessity of daily checkups by Maria. Come on July!
"Laura, I need you out here right away!" her assistant called from the gallery.
Heather was usually a calm and collected young woman. What caused that note of panic in her voice?
Was there an emergency? Laura rose and dashed across her small, cluttered office. Off-limits to all but closest friends or business associates, the office reflected none of the serenity and beauty of the displays in the gallery. Stacks of papers cluttered the desk. A utilitarian file cabinet sat against one wall. The furnishings were functional and serviceable, nothing fancy. Hugo had left all that to the showrooms of the gallery.
She opened the door and stepped into another world. Paintings graced the walls, discreetly illuminated by full spectrum, high tech lights. Thick carpeting muffled most sounds. Scattered artfully on free-standing pedestals were sculptures of renown. She offered metal, stone and glass objets d'art, as well as the paintings for which the gallery was known. Hugo had built the business in the historic Cape Cod town to cater to locals and tourists alike. Laura was carrying on in his footsteps.
Heather stood across the room talking to a tall man whose back was toward Laura. He wore a business suit, unusual during the casual summer months. The expression on her assistant's face was indescribable. When she spotted Laura, relief became evident. The man turned.
Laura stopped—stunned. Her heart caught in her throat. It was impossible. Before her stood Jordan Brodie! A thrill of gladness swept through her for a split second.
Then the truth hit her. This couldn't be Jordan—she'd attended his funeral three months ago.
"Laura Parkerson?" the man asked. The voice wasn't Jordan's. It sounded different, more clipped, not as lazy and teasing. The expression on his face was mingled: wariness and cynicism. Yet he looked exactly like Jordan.
"Yes?"
"You own this gallery?" he asked.
"I do."
"I thought it belonged to Hugo Atkins."
"It did. He died a couple of years ago. Now it's mine." No need to go into the details of her inheritance. She'd worked for Hugo for several years, learned so much from him. She missed him every day. He knew she loved the place as much as he had and, with no children to inherit, he'd made Laura his heir.
"He's Jordan's brother," Heather said needlessly. "His twin brother."
"I didn't know—" Laura started to say. She closed her mouth. Why should she be surprised to discover her former fiancé's brother was a twin. It was not the first thing Jordan had kept from her. Once again the sadness of her loss swept through her. She'd loved him. To her Jordan had hung the moon. Until that fateful day. She rubbed her chest, the ache as fresh as it had been three months ago when she'd learned of Jordan's betrayal and death.
"What can I do for you?" Seeing him was like seeing a slightly skewed version of Jordan. This man was the same size and shape, but there was an electricity about him that never came from Jordan. An assurance that came from a quiet self confidence, not arrogance from bravado and posturing. Jordan had been as charming as could be, which allowed him to get away with things other men couldn't. And allowed him to sweep her off her feet. She'd never felt so special as when she'd been with Jordan Brodie.
"I'm Jed Brodie. I've come to pick up my brother's paintings. I understand you have some of them," he said.
"I do. I just got off the phone with your mother, as a matter of fact. We're working on the scheduling of a retrospective for his work next month. What do you mean you've come to pick up the paintings? I'll be framing them here. Is that a problem?"
"I need to get the paintings appraised for tax purposes. And if they're worth anything, decide if I want to sell them now or later." He glanced at his watch impatiently.
"Sell them?" Laura felt like a parrot. But she didn't understand. Was he expecting some kind of windfall from Jordan's sold. She wants to show them to the community as a memorial to Jordan." The problem was Maria wanted to show them all. Laura was hard-pressed to pick a dozen or so to fit in the alcove where the display would be.
She glanced at the alcove. Jordan had pushed her for an exhibit in her gallery from the day he met her. Fully convinced he would set the art world on fire, he'd been relentless in pushing to have a one-man show. She'd been equally reluctant. She didn't like mixing business and personal. Plus, sad to say, Jordan's work wasn't the high caliber she was used to showing. Maybe if he'd worked harder at it. Forever too late now.
"My mother has little say in the matter. I need to find out what they are worth and then dispose of them—either sell, give away or toss in the trash, whatever's appropriate."
"These are your brother's paintings. You can't throw them away." Laura was horrified at the thought. She knew the paintings would never be classified as great works, but wasn't there any family loyalty and ties? The two men were twins, for heaven's sake. Weren't twins supposed to be close?
He looked down his nose at her obviously not wishing to belabor the subject. "Actually I can do whatever I want with them."
"But I've already scheduled the showing. Announcements have been made in all the local papers. The brochures are at the printer's just waiting the final details. Framing has started. You can't halt everything at this point." Did he have any idea of how much work she'd already done?
"Then perhaps you and I need to discuss the matter before things proceed any further. I'm only here for a few days. I need to get everything lined up and taken care of before I leave," he said impatiently.
"Your brother died three months ago and you're just showing up now?" No one had said a word about Jordan's brother at the funeral. She thought it odd, but her own grief and guilt kept her from questioning anything too closely.
Why had he arrived today? And what business was it of his what happened to Jordan's paintings? Maria was definite with her plans. She wanted her son to have his day in the sun, even if posthumously.
He glanced at Heather, then back at Laura. "Is there someplace we can discuss this in private?"
Laura hesitated. She felt like she was in a time warp, talking to Jordan, only not. Staring at Jordan and seeing someone different. Feeling mingled emotions, longing for what was long gone; confusion as she noted the differences between the men. A little animosity flared at his attitude and his threats to her carefully planned show. An acute awareness of the man's masculinity surprised her.
He was obviously Jordan's identical twin, but neither Jordan nor his parents had ever mentioned that fact to her. All Jordan had ever said was his younger brother rarely came home. How much younger could a twin be?
"Are you the black sheep of the family?" she blurted out. Maria and Jefferson Brodie had talked a little about this son. Once Maria had said he'd gone off to do his own thing and turned his back on his family. He wasn't interested in painting or sculpturing. And from what Laura knew of the family, they had no interest in anything that did not center around painting or sculpturing.
"If you call getting a good education and then supporting myself by working, then yeah, I guess you could say that," he replied.
It was in direct contrast to Jordan. He'd dropped out of college to paint. The call of his muse, he'd often said. And paint he did, when the mood struck. The rest of the time, he spent on other pursuits. But none that entailed a nine-to-five job. He was usually seeking inspiration by lying on the beach, sailing or clubbing.
Their mother, Maria Brodie, was a famous oil painter. Her works brought tens of thousands of dollars with each sale. Jefferson Brodie was the father of the Brodie men, an extraordinary sculptor whose marble and granite creations she'd love to represent, but who had an exclusive deal with a Manhattan agency.
Maria did condescend to sell some of her paintings through her gallery, not as many as Laura might wish for, but probably more than she should expect given how limited her clientele was.
From the first moment Laura met Jordan, she'd known Maria expected her son to follow in her footsteps. Yet, not for her precious son the struggles of a starving artist. She supplied the cottage he lived in and support while he painted. Even the flashy car that he'd wrapped around a very unforgiving tree had come from his mother.
Jordan had painted, partied and left a collection of work some of which Laura was going to show in memory of a man who died too young.
Now this man, Jordan's own brother, threatened those plans. She needed to talk to him and he was right, darn him, the showroom wasn't the place.
"Come with me. Heather, handle anything that comes up, will you?" Laura headed for the workshop in the back of the gallery, where Jordan's paintings awaited framing. The warehouse like space was lined with shelves holding different paintings or sculptures. Some were awaiting display. Others had been bought and would be shipped to their new owners in the next day or two.
Frames leaned against one wall, an assortment of sizes and styles used to enhance any work she displayed to make it more appealing to the buyer. Some frames were for sale, others were merely for display use while a painting was on exhibit. Large worktables were as cluttered with paraphernalia as her office.Yet she knew where everything was. The layout suited her perfectly.
Laura held open the door while Jed Brodie stepped inside and looked around. She followed and closed the door to the gallery, leaning against it. She wasn't sure what to expect. Certainly not the image of Jordan looking at her with impatience. Jordan would have tried to sweet-talk her into whatever scheme he had come up with. Kisses would go a long way to have her fall in with his plans. For a moment, she missed the love they'd shared—that she'd thought they'd shared.
This man looked coldly around the space and didn't say a word. She would not take offense, though she could feel herself bristle a little in defense of her workshop. But there would be no cajoling, no teasing, no kisses. He looked hard as iron.
Jed turned and faced her. "I understand you were Jordan's fiancée," he said, glancing at her from head to toe.
She felt like a display piece. One he would not wish to purchase.
She nodded watching him warily. For a moment she felt a pang that she had not even known his name. How awful to have a family who disregarded a son so completely. If his assessment was to be believed, he didn't fit the role of black sheep. He looked dynamic and successful. She had a good eye for fine things and the suit and shoes he wore were fine indeed. His hair was cut shorter than Jordan's and his eyes were clear and sharp.
She took a breath in surprise when that smidgen of interest didn't dissipate. It was totally unwanted. He wasn't Jordan. She shook off the momentary lapse. She'd had enough dealings with the Brodies. The sooner this one was gone, the better.
"We were engaged," she acknowledged. "He told me once he had a brother who was off building bridges. Since he never mentioned another brother, I assume that's you."
"Probably all he told you. I'm an engineer, and yes, I build bridges in places of the world where transportation means the difference between living and dying for entire villages."
"That could be said for anywhere. All goods have to be transported."
"True, but where I was working was out of the normal travel lanes. The message about his death didn't reach me until last week. It's taken me this long to get here."
"Last week? He died three months ago. Your office didn't notify you?" She couldn't believe a telegram or e-mail or something hadn't gotten through earlier than last week. Despite not wanting to feel anything for the man, she felt a touch of regret that he'd just learned of his brother's death. It had to have hit hard.
"Have you dealt with my parents much?" Jed asked.
"Primarily your mother. She lets me sell some of her work." She would not tell him how Maria was driving her crazy about the showing of Jordan's work. She was Jed's mother, as well, and Laura believed in being discreet. Wasn't that the reason she never told what she'd discovered that last day? She wanted to spare Maria the heartache. And herself the embarrassment, if she were honest.
She wished she'd not known. That Jordan had gone to his grave with the secret and she could mourn him with all the passion she held for him.
"She called the home office and left word for me to call. Nothing more. Nothing to indicate that it was a family emergency, not that there had been a death in the family. The message about the call came in my regular mail, which I get about every three to four months, unless it's critical, in which case it's faxed or e-mailed."
From the tight control he exercised, she suspected he was furious with the situation. She'd always heard twins had a close connection. How sad to lose his brother and then not find out for three months. Maria wouldn't have done it deliberately, she knew. The woman lived in her own world. Surfacing occasionally to interact with others, then going back to the paintings she did so brilliantly.
"So when I returned her call last week, she told me," he ended bleakly.
"I'm so sorry," she said, her heart going out to him. Despite everything, she'd loved Jordan and could relate to how his brother must be feeling.
He ignored her offer of sympathy. "Where are the paintings?" She went to the rack where she had them stacked. To an outsider, it might look haphazardly arranged, but she knew exactly where everything was. The large room was climate controlled, necessary in the salty air of Cape Cod and the humidity of summer. The floor was immaculate. The paintings were arranged by subject matter. She gestured to the facing one.
Jed studied it a moment, then looked at her. "What's its value?"
Was that all he cared about? Money? "I haven't appraised the lot. Your mother said she only wanted them on display, not appraised." "Well, my mother lives in her own world. What price would you list it for in the show?"
"Actually the show is a retrospective. Your parents did not plan to sell any paintings. I thought your mother wished to keep his work."
He reached into an inner coat pocket and pulled out a bulging envelope. He held it out for her. "You'll see Jordan left me in charge of his estate. According to his attorney, I have complete authority. And I don't have time to wait around for several weeks while you show his paintings and then decide what the next step is. I have a bridge halfway built. I want to liquidate the assets and divide them among the family members, as he indicated. Then I need to get back to work."
Laura looked at the envelope and then at him. "So leave the paintings in my hands and I'll tell you how the showing goes," she said flippantly. "Your mother really wants this for Jordan." Laura hoped giving the exhibit would ease some of her own grief at the way things turned out.
Jed studied the painting for a minute. "Is it any good?" Laura looked at it. "It will appeal to a certain portion of the population," she said carefully.
"Like some farmer in Iowa?" he said derisively.
She looked at him in surprise. Did he know she was from Iowa? Was that a criticism on her judgment?
"I may not be artistic, but I can recognize excellent work. My mother's paintings have a depth that's amazing and a use of color that's phenomenal. This looks like a paint-by-numbers view of a ubiquitous Cape Cod seascape," he continued.
Laura bit her lip in indecision. Normally she agreed with customers—it went a long way to selling art. Agreement with the artists kept them happy and kept them bringing in more work. She didn't like confrontation. But this was different.
"Am I wrong?" he challenged. His dark eyes so like yet unlike Jordan's, held hers.
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