Forces of Natureby Cheris Hodges
Crystal Hughes is mad as hell. . .
No one is going to tear down the farmland that's been in her family since the turn of the centurycertainly not multimillion dollar Welco Industries. And until Welco's president meets with her, Crystal will wage a fiery one-woman protest to prove it! But when he finally appears, Douglas Wellington III is far from the/b>
Crystal Hughes is mad as hell. . .
No one is going to tear down the farmland that's been in her family since the turn of the centurycertainly not multimillion dollar Welco Industries. And until Welco's president meets with her, Crystal will wage a fiery one-woman protest to prove it! But when he finally appears, Douglas Wellington III is far from the elderly curmudgeon she expected. . .
Tall, lean, and fabulous, Douglas is in for a surprise of his own. Crystal's cafe au lait beauty takes his breath away. Still, if she had any sense, she'd realize his project will save the impoverished community. With battle lines drawn, Crystal issues Douglas a challenge: spend one week on the land he wants to destroy. He agrees, if only to be alone with her. But when nature takes over amid North Carolina's lush countryside, these two warriors just may discover what happens to even the best laid plans. . .
"Count on Cheris Hodges to deliver a sassy, sexy romantic read." Farrah Rochon, author of Always and Forever
"This is a winning romance that readers will love." RT Book Reviews on Too Hot For TV
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Forces of Nature
By CHERIS HODGES
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2013Cheris Hodges
All rights reserved.
Crystal Hughes was mad as hell and the person behind this madness would feel her wrath, she decided as she ripped the notice she'd received in the mail to shreds. "Welco!" she muttered. Crossing the vast living room, Crystal grabbed her purse and keys from the coffee table. That company and its mysterious—at least from Crystal's point of view—owner wanted to own everything in town. Well, Hughes Farm was not for sale.
What was it that Douglas Wellington III had been quoted saying in the paper last week? If Main Street can't keep their lights on, why should I have to share my bulbs? How heartless! Crystal knew this man didn't give a damn about Reeseville. If he did, he'd know that helping, not buying, was the way people made it through rough times in this small town. Crystal wasn't even sure if old man Wellington even lived in Reeseville. If he did, he wouldn't want to destroy Hughes Farm. Bastard!
Dashing out of her plantation-style house, Crystal nearly bowled over two teenagers planting rosebushes near her steps.
"Miss Crystal, is everything okay?" asked Renda Johnson as Crystal placed her hand on her shoulder.
"Yes, I'm just in a hurry. What are you and MJ doing?" Crystal forced a smile at Monique and Renda, two sisters who lived in the Starlight House, a group home that sat a stone's throw from Crystal's house. No one else in Reeseville wanted the home for wayward girls anywhere near them. People said that the girls would be a danger to their neighborhoods and would lower their property value. But Crystal, who owned more than one hundred acres of land in west Duval County, subscribed to the notion that one good turn deserved another. "To whom much is given, much is required," Grandmother Hughes would always say. Crystal told the board of county commissioners that Starlight could have as much space as they needed. She treated the girls in Starlight just like the sisters she never had, and in return, they treated her to surprises like planting rosebushes in her yard, raking her lawn, and working in her community garden without any complaints.
Placing her hands on her hips and smacking a wad of gum, Monique stood up and looked Crystal in the eyes. "Well, it was supposed to be a surprise. But we found those orange rosebushes you were talking about. Why are you up so early?"
Nervously, Crystal twisted the green jade ring on her index finger. There was no way she could tell these girls about Welco's plans, plans that would level everything on her property. In their short lives, they'd seen so much disappointment and despair, and Crystal wasn't going to let evil Welco Industries add to it. She'd grown tired of watching this company buy up Reeseville as if they were playing Monopoly. In the last three years, Welco had purchased much of the land around Reeseville, building small factories that Crystal would bet her farm had been causing the increase in allergies around town. Did Wellington care? No. He simply said that people should take more vitamins.
But what she was most peeved with Welco about was the supercenter they'd built downtown, which caused the Fresh Food Market to close because they couldn't compete with the cheap prices of the supercenter. The Fresh Food Market had been the only grocery store in town where local farmers could sell their vegetables and fresh meats. When it closed, some of the smaller farms in Reeseville had suffered. Then Welco came along and bought them.
"Just some business in town, sweeties," Crystal replied. "Thank you so much for my surprise, though."
Mrs. Brooke Fey, the director and on-sight operator of the house, walked over to Crystal and the girls. "Ms. Hughes, I hope MJ and Renda aren't bothering you this morning," she said, surveying the scene in front of her.
"Oh no. These girls have given me something that I've wanted for a long time. Now, I really have to go." Crystal ran to her car, nearly tripping over her Birkenstock clogs and ankle-length rainbow-colored skirt. She started the car and peeled out of the driveway, leaving two black skid marks on the pavement. This isn't going to happen. Welco isn't going to buy me!
It wasn't nine a.m. yet and Douglas Wellington III, president and CEO of Welco Industries, was popping aspirin. His head throbbed like a heartbeat because the board was on his back, his assistant couldn't find the documents he needed for his ten-thirty presentation—and did she just say a woman was threatening to chain herself to the front door if he didn't meet with her immediately? This was not happening. Not today.
"Amy! Amy! I don't have time to meet with some kook. Call security or something. But what you need to do more than anything else is find my proposal!" he barked into the phone. From his desk, Douglas scrutinized Amy's small frame as she slumped over her desk. He knew he was too hard on her, but today wasn't a day for anyone to expect kindness from him. The board of directors was growing impatient about the time it was taking to get the business park project started. Douglas had no idea the owners of Hughes Farm would put up such a fight over that land. From what he understood, the farm wasn't a working farm with livestock and whatnot. Basically, they grew vegetables. In Douglas's opinion, there was enough dirt in Reeseville to plant a garden anywhere. It had been his great idea to hold off on any other projects until the business park was built. It wasn't as if Welco was losing money, but they weren't making money either. That was a problem Douglas had to fix— especially if he was going to keep Clive Oldsman off his back.
Twirling a silver ink pen between his fingers, Douglas picked up the phone and dialed Waylon Terrell's number. Waylon was his father's best friend and Douglas's godfather. In business, the only person Douglas trusted other than himself was Waylon. Were it not for his godfather, Douglas wouldn't be in the position he was in today. On days like this, that wasn't a good thing. He hadn't planned to follow in his father's footsteps. In fact, he'd spent a great deal of his life trying to be everything that Douglas Wellington Jr. was not, even if they were both coldhearted businessmen.
Luckily for him, he had Waylon in his life to control the board most of the time. Waylon had mentored him and guided him though some of his toughest business decisions.
"Hello, godson," the older man said when he answered.
"Waylon, the board is driving me crazy," Douglas admitted. "I know they want me gone and I'm beginning to think Amy is working against me too."
"Calm down, son. These guys want you out of Welco, but your father groomed you your whole life for this. Don't let these old bastards push you around. Take a deep breath and show them who Doug Trey is."
Hearing his nickname brought a smile to Douglas's face. "All right, doc," he replied. "Did you take a look at my business park plans?"
"Uh, I haven't really looked over them. I'm retired, remember? I'll get back to you in a few days, but isn't this decision already made?"
Sighing, Douglas wished he'd gone to Waylon before presenting this business park idea to the board. What if he was going about building this place the wrong way?
I can't second-guess myself; that's what they expect.
"You're still there?" Waylon asked, breaking into Douglas's thoughts.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm going to go. We'll have to have dinner sometime this week," said Douglas. He said good-bye and hung up when he noticed Amy standing at his door. "What?"
"Sir," she said nervously. "That woman won't leave. She's handcuffed herself to my desk, sir. With her free hand, she keeps knocking papers off my desk."
Excerpted from Forces of Nature by CHERIS HODGES. Copyright © 2013 by Cheris Hodges. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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