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How did I get here? Noelle Vincent asked herself as she settled into the soft leather seats of the Donovan jet.
Her bags had been stowed, her laptop and briefcase were lying in the seat beside her and her temples pulsed with a budding headache.
Glancing out the window, she swallowed, then took a deep breath. She was not a fan of flying, so flying across country definitely was not on her "to do list." Her brother-in-law knew that and for some insane reason simply did not care.
"Break down your barriers," he'd told her simply. He was always saying things like that to her, giving her endless advice and motivation. "Your life would be so much fuller if you'd open yourself up to truly living it."
Noelle had thought about his words for the rest of that evening, and in the morning had begun packing. She'd never been this far away from home before, never been this much on her own. But Linc had confidence in her. He believed she could handle this job, that she could manage his new casino on her own.
Twenty-four months ago, Linc had believed that she could learn the business of running a casino, so much so that he'd insisted she enroll at the local community college, taking business courses by day while working right beside him at the Gramercy Casino in their hometown of Las Vegas at night. When she'd graduated with her AA degree he'd promoted her, telling her that this was just the beginning. Noelle had been nervous then, too, but Linc had insisted she was going to succeed. And she had.
He'd had faith in her then, when she was nothing but a screwup, so his continued trust in her abilities now were not to be taken lightly. That's why she was on this plane, flying across country, because Linc had put her there and he expected her to, once again, succeed. She would not let him down.
Lincoln Donovan, oldest son of Beverly and Henry Donovan, whose name was like a household word in Las Vegas due to their generous charitable contributions and philanthropic work, was sexy and arrogant. He was the owner of the Gramercy Casino and married to Noelle's older sister, Jade. Linc and Jadeabout two months agojust had their first set of twins, Torian and Tamala, who were just about the cutest little girls Noelle had ever seen. The birth had been an occasion with Linc's younger brother and his fiancée, Adam and Camille; his parents; Max and Ben, the Donovan cousins; and Noelle and Linc all squeezed into Jade's birthing room. When the moment they'd all been waiting for finally came, the guests were escorted out, all except Linc, Noelle, Beverly and Henry. It had been emotional and uplifting to watch her sister bring life into the world.
And it had been heartbreaking.
No, not really heartbreaking, more like eye-opening. Here she was, Noelle Olivia Vincent, a twenty-six-year-old college graduate, still living with her big sister and still unwed, without any prospects.
And now sitting on a plane, fastening her seat belt and trying like hell to keep her breakfast in her stomach where it belonged.
How did she get here? Not on this plane per se because she'd already answered that onebut here, at this point in her life. That question had been on her mind more and more these days.
In the immediate sense she had an answer.
Her destination was Maryland, the Eastern Shore, near a town called St. Michaels to be exact. After all the site searching she'd done in L.A. and San Francisco, Linc had decided the extension of his famous casino would be on the east coast. Most likely because his brother Trent and Trent's friend Sam Desdune had just successfully opened a private investigation firm, one on the east coast and one on the west. Linc liked the idea of having the Donovan name represented on both sides of the country, and since he had family in Maryland, that was the logical choice.
Noelle had been working for Linc at the Gramercy since she'd lost five thousand dollars in the casino and her sister, Jade, had bargained with Linc to work it off.
That little bargain had opened the door to Jade's happily ever after. The thought never failed to make Noelle smile.
Now, two years and a college degree later, Noelle was a fantastic manager; Linc had said so himself. And he had shown his confidence in her by sending her to oversee the building and opening of the Gramercy II, the new casino she still wished were going to be in L.A.
Still, in the past couple of years Noelle had learned to take new developments in stride. And where the Donovan men were concerned, there was always something new. Trent and Tia were the newest of surprises. Who would have ever thought that Trent Donovan with his military training and fanatical outlook would end up with a beautiful supermodel? Noelle certainly didn't but had to admit that after spending some time with Tia in L.A. and getting to know her, she was the perfect match for Trent. Now they were expecting a baby and planning to get married. Trent had wanted a quick ceremony, but Tia refused to steal Camille's spotlight. Camille and Adam had just been married two weeks ago. Now, Noelle presumed, Trent would finally get Tia to agree to a quickie ceremony. And they'd better let her know when so she could fly back for the festivities.
They were her family now, the Donovans and their wives, complete with their notoriety and connections. Noelle hadn't had family in a long time and didn't want to be away from them for too long.
Karena Lakefield, Noelle's best friend, even though she spent most of her time traveling the world as a buyer for her family's art museum, had insisted this was an excellent opportunity for Noelle. But Noelle knew what she really meant. It was a good time to get away from Vegas, from Luther and the whirlwind of drama he'd inflicted on her life.
For that, Noelle would endure the long flight and the summer months on the shore. She would endure the frizzy hair she was likely to sport as a result of the humidity and salt water combined. She would handle being away from her twin nieces and her big sister and the men she'd come to know and love as brothers.
She would go to Maryland and work like hell to once again prove that she could succeed in business, even if not in love.
Time was wasting and if there was one thing Brock Remington hated, it was wasting time.
Looping his thumbs in his belt loops he stood, legs spread, jaw clenching, eyes glued to the runway. Linc said the plane should be pulling in at four-thirty. It was five minutes to five. He should have had herthe site managerin tow and been on his way back to his house by now. Instead he was standing here in the middle of the private hangar where it seemed too many damned people mulled about, talking and laughing and generally getting on his nerves.
Brock was a loner, raised by Albert and Darla Donovan, oil tycoons and his adoptive parents, who already had fraternal twins, Brandon and Bailey. He wasn't a Donovan by bloodin his estimation the relation came only by pity. His biological parents had a tumultuous relationship at best, from their family feud to the secret marriage and finally the scandal that rocked the small Cambridge, Maryland, town where they lived. The Remingtons became known throughout the town when Brock's father, Jure Remington, was brutally murdered and his mother, Tarine, literally lost her mind, leaving Brock a ward of the state because neither his maternal or paternal grandparents wanted anything to do with him. At ten years old, Brock was alone in the world. That is until Albert and Darla Donovan, who were friends of Brock's parents, rescued the angry and confused boy and took him to live in Texas. For that, Brock was grateful. Living with the Donovans was clearly better than having to spend his formative years in foster care.
Still, he was not a Donovan. A fact Brock was sure to remember. Always.
The moment he'd graduated high school Brock had headed to college in Maryland. And after school he'd stayed there without any fuss from Albert, who by that time was living alone in Houston because Darla had died two years prior from breast cancer. A part of Brock had wanted to go back, to stay with the man who'd been a father to him. But Albert wasn't hearing it. He told Brock he had his own life to lead and he'd think less of him if he didn't lead it. That's what Brock had always loved about Alberthe was honest and keen and did what was best for others, despite what he wanted for himself.
The sense of never truly belonging anywhere or with anyone manifested in Brock so that now, at almost thirty-two years old, he was resigned to being alone and not looking to change that situation.
Soon after college Brock opened Remington Construction with money from a trust fund that had been set up for him by his birth parents upon his birth. He'd built his home overlooking the sparkling waters of the Chesapeake Bay, just outside the small town of St. Michaels, and he was living his life just the way he wanted to.
Lincoln Donovan was his cousin, an astutely intelligent man with a mind for business and a desire to make money. Brock could relate to both things on a baser level. He wasn't money hungry, but he lived comfortably on his trust fund and the profits from his construction company. He knew how to run a business and how to keep the money flowing in, but he was more focused on the contentment and stability that having his own brought.
Linc had given Brock a brief overview about the current manager at the Gramercy in Las Vegas. She was Linc's sister-in-law, the younger sister of his wife, Jade. She was a recent college graduate with a sharp mind and an eye for detail. She was also a spitfire with a great sense of humor. The latter didn't matter to Brockhe was only concerned with her work attributes.
"When I decided to open another casino, I knew instantly she'd be the one to run it," Linc had said in one of their many phone conferences. Since Jade's last month of the pregnancy Linc hadn't been able to travel, so he and Brock had weekly updates scheduled to go over the Gramercy II's progress.
Building this casino had definitely been a coup for Brock because his company specialized mostly in vacation homes. Brock, along with his best friend, Kent Foster, an architect of the highest caliber, set out to create a casino unlike any ever built before in the continental U.S. And after yesterday's walk-through he was proud to say they'd done a damn good job.
Now, he was waiting for the site manager, hoping his beautifully designed and built casino wasn't about to go through the onslaught of female scrutiny. Granted, Kent's wife, Josette, was an interior designer and had already been slated to work on the casino's basic design scheme. But Brock knew Josette, had known her for more than five years now, and they worked well together. Outside of Linc's praise, he didn't know the site manager or how well they'd work together.
Brock was wary of strangers, outsiders from his world. Some would say that was odd having been the outsider all his life. All Brock knew was that his generally solitary lifestyle worked for him. The less interaction he had with people he didn't know, the better.
Besides that, he didn't want anybody coming along slowing down his progress. Linc wanted the Gramercy II up and running by September, no later than October. He wanted as much holiday money spent in the casino as possible. It was already early June. If this site manager's eye for detail meant she was prone to start fussing about wallpapers and paints and who knew what else, then Brock and this project were definitely in for a long summer.
"Hi. I'mNoelle Vincent. I think you're expecting me."
Brock heard the voice and snapped out of his reverie. He'd been so focused on his thoughts, so intent on what he didn't want this manager from the west coast to do to his casino that he hadn't even noticed the plane had landed. With a sharp movement he turned and was quickly face-to-face with her.
She'd extended her hand and was smiling up at him, obviously waiting for him to act or get lost. He chose the former and cleared his throat. "Yes. I'm Brock Remington," he said, reaching to clasp her hand.
Damn, it was soft.
He'd been hoping that her million-watt smile and sparkling light brown eyes weren't actually as attractive as he'd first thought. But coupled with her soft hands and that sweet buttermilk complexion, he was dead wrong. His earlier projection was now correctedthis was going to be a long, hot summer.
"Nice to meet you, Brock. Linc told me a lot about you." She adjusted her purse and a smaller bag on her right shoulder.
"Oh, really? I don't even want to know the specifics."
She laughed. Brock liked the sound.
Her hair, hanging just past her shoulders in three intriguing shades of brown, all intertwined to create its own enticing rainbow, slipped back, revealing a long slender neck. Brock's entire body heated. Even living a solitary life he still made time to enjoy a woman on occasion and this was definitely a woman he could enjoy.
With that thought his brow furrowed and his hands slipped into his pockets. The last thing he should be thinking about was enjoying the woman he was supposed to work with. He cleared his throat. "We should get going."