Love's Deception

( 16 )

Overview

As president of her family's successful conglomerate, Carissa Cartel thought she was willing to do anything to keep her company growing. But when her actions result in business rival Travis Edwards's heart attack, she finds that her attempts to make amends to his handsome son are sparking a dangerous attraction.

Photographer Nathan Edwards is stunned to find a beautiful, intriguingly sensitive woman at his father's bedside when he arrives at the hospital. And he's even more ...

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Love's Deception

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Overview

As president of her family's successful conglomerate, Carissa Cartel thought she was willing to do anything to keep her company growing. But when her actions result in business rival Travis Edwards's heart attack, she finds that her attempts to make amends to his handsome son are sparking a dangerous attraction.

Photographer Nathan Edwards is stunned to find a beautiful, intriguingly sensitive woman at his father's bedside when he arrives at the hospital. And he's even more fascinated to discover how much they have in common. As Nathan and Carissa maintain a vigil for Travis, it isn't long before an all-consuming desire is ignited between them. But when secrets are revealed and a bitter mistrust surfaces, Nathan and Carissa must come to terms with what matters most in order to save a passion that can only be called true love….

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Editorial Reviews

Debby Hays
Love’s Deception is a real page-turner. Amidst past betrayals and current lies, Nathan and Carissa learn to let the past go and follow their hearts. The characters were so wonderful that I hated for their story to end!
Romantic Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373831814
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 4/1/2010
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,231,629
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

National bestselling author Adrianne Byrd has been featured in many publications, including Today’s Black Woman, Upscale, and Heart and Soul. She has also won local awards for screenwriting. For the future, she looks forward to continuing to create characters that make people smile, laugh, and fall in love. She currently calls Georgia home.
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Read an Excerpt

Sitting on top of the world—what a joke.

C. J. Cartel's cold and jaded gaze skittered across downtown Atlanta's cityscape while bitterness rose and left a vile taste in her mouth. The perfect view was just one of the rewards of being CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She took a deep breath and turned from the wall-length window, unimpressed.

She moved across the office with quick, determined strides—her mind already cluttered with the day's agenda. For the most part, C. J. Cartel was nothing more than a name scrolled across important documents, but it was a name with power and influence.

Returning to her desk, she buzzed her secretary.

"Liz, do you have my calendar?" Her tone was hard, quick and to the point—as usual.

"Yes, ma'am," Liz practically sang over the intercom. "I'll bring it in for you."

Seconds later, Liz sauntered through the door, wearing a short tailored suit. Her honey-brown complexion seemed luminous beneath the room's lighting, while each spiral curl crowning her flawless face behaved.

"Here you are," she said with a smile.

C.J. suppressed a scowl. No one had a right to be that perky. "Thanks," she said with a dismissive nod.

Liz didn't move.

Lifting her head, C.J. arched a quizzical brow. "Yes?"

Her secretary's smile brightened as she pulled out a small box. "I got you something." She placed the ivory-papered gift, complete with a bright red bow, in the center of her desk. "Happy birthday!"

Instead of being flattered, C.J. was annoyed. "You shouldn't have."

"Oh, it was no problem." Liz waved off the sarcastic reply with a sweep of her hand. "I know you don't like celebrating your birthday, but when I saw this, I simply couldn't resist."

It was the same excuse she'd used for the past four years, but C.J. swallowed the sharp retort that crested her lips and opened the box. At first sight of the snowball, her breath hitched in her throat and an unexpected emotion nearly paralyzed her.

"Well, take it out of the box."

She obeyed without much thought.

Liz reached over and shook the small orb, and glitter swirled around a beautifully posed ballerina who bore an uncanny resemblance to C.J. "Do you like it?"

She hated it. "I have a lot of work to do, Liz. And so do you." She caught the flicker of disappointment across the secretary's face, but ignored it.

"Yes, ma'am." Liz lowered the gift onto the desk and turned to leave.

C.J. waited until she heard the click of the door before chancing a look, then gave herself a mental kick. She hadn't handled that well at all. Her gaze returned to the gift.

Her birthdays always had a way of playing like a Shakespearean tragedy—the measles, a broken arm, a broken engagement and her father's death. She turned away and struggled to hide her emotions behind the steel armor she spent years building.

But no matter what she did, guilt resided permanently with her conscience. To this day, she felt certain that there was something she could have done to save her father.

Her painful memories came to a screeching halt at the sound of an angry male voice outside her door just seconds before it jerked open.

"There you are!" Travis Edwards's gaze raked her.

She jumped to her feet, more out of anger than surprise.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Cartel. He just barged past me," Liz said with wide-eyed disbelief.

C.J. tilted her head in understanding and gave her secretary permission to leave.

With an apologetic frown, Liz closed the door.

Taking a deep, calming breath, C.J. reclaimed her seat, then centered her icy gaze on her intruder.

Travis Edwards slammed his fist against her desk. "Do you think I'm going to stand by and just let you destroy everything I've worked for without putting up a fight?"

Silently, she prepared for the flare-up of dramatics that usually accompanied men's bursts of outrage.

"You have some damn nerve. I may be old, but I'm no fool. This isn't over by a long shot."

"I'm not in the business of destroying anything, Mr. Edwards," she answered humbly with outspread palms. It was a small white lie, but those never hurt anybody. "Now, if you'd just relax and take a look at our proposal—"

"I'm not looking at anything." He wagged his finger as he continued. Steel glittered in his eyes, signaling he was a man accustomed to battles. But unfortunately, he was at war with one of the best in the business.

"I've heard how you do business, Cartel. I know firsthand about the legions of companies you've destroyed, and I don't intend to be next." His gaze swept over the lavish office with growing contempt.

C.J. watched over wire-rimmed glasses and with cool aloofness at the incensed gentleman. "Well, I'd hoped that we could discuss this like civilized adults. Since we're one member shy for that, I believe this meeting is over," she announced.

Utter loathing covered Travis's face, while a wild look of desperation filled his eyes. "No. I won't allow you to do this to me."

She had heard every possible success story businessmen recited whenever they stared down the barrel of a hostile takeover, and they all bored her. "This is all very touching, but like I said, this meeting is over."

"Why you b—"

"Watch it, Mr. Edwards. If I were you, I wouldn't say something I'd regret." Her icy tone silenced him without raising a decibel. "Now, the proposal I'm offering doesn't exactly leave you destitute. You'll still be considered a rich man. Isn't that all that really matters?"

"Hell no!" He brushed a hand along his handsomely groomed salt-and-pepper hair. "You think I don't know that Colin Hunter is behind all of this?"

"That's not true." She lied again, but shrugged the guilt off as being a nuisance. What difference did it make if her new vice president initiated the deal?

"I wasn't born yesterday."

Leaning back, she studied the emotionally distraught businessman with developing interest. She knew his kind. He thought he could storm into her office and intimidate her, but she had long ago learned the rules of hardball, and she considered herself a champion.

"No, Mr. Edwards, I think you're cornered. I think you have very little choice but to accept my offer." She glanced at her watch. "And unfortunately, you're wasting my time."

Edwards's handsome features darkened. "This is nothing more than a game to you, isn't it? Well, this is my life." He thought he saw a twinge of guilt cross Cartel's delicate features, but it quickly vanished. He should have known better. Behind her dark eyes and warm brown complexion lay an armor of pure ice.

His face reddened, yet this time when he opened his mouth, there was no sound.

C.J.'s bored gaze lifted and cautiously turned concerned.

Edwards grasped at his shoulder and seemed to struggle with the mere task of supplying air to his lungs. His eyes darkened with pain.

She sprang from her chair and jabbed a button connecting her to her secretary. "Call an ambulance," she ordered before Liz could answer.

"Right away, Ms. Cartel."

When she raced around the desk, he grabbed her arm in a painful grip. She winced but didn't bother to protest. "Help is on the way, Mr. Edwards. Try to relax."

His grasp tightened as he struggled to talk. "Y-you did this to me."

Miami, Florida

IN athan Edwards knelt for a better angle of his nude model. Her glorious ink-black curls cascaded past her caramel-colored shoulders while her seductive liquid brown eyes flirted through the camera lens.

Racy Latin music and the merriment of the growing crowd below the studio drifted through the open windows, while two ceiling fans added little to cool the studio's sweltering heat. Nathan stood and removed his shirt, frustrated by the way it clung to his moist skin. Without skipping a beat, he resumed working.

"I can't tell you how happy I was when you called." Aria jump-started the conversation.

"My schedule has been crazy lately." He stood to adjust the lighting on a nearby lamp. "But I've been meaning to call."

"Well, that's good to hear."

Nathan shook his head, flattered by the way her gaze roamed his exposed chest. "I meant that in the most professional manner possible," he added.

"I didn't."

Her directness never failed to bring a smile to his lips.

"Besides…" she said as she struck a different pose while he resumed working "…hasn't anyone ever told you that all work and no play isn't good for you?"

"I believe you did the last time we worked together."

"You should listen to me." Her fingers circled an erect nipple. "I have just the thing in mind to help you relax."

Nathan frowned. "Aria," he said with a note of warning.

"Yes?" Her gaze feigned innocence and met his bold one.

"Behave."

"I'd rather not."

"That much is obvious." He stopped. "I'd really like to get these done in one session."

She dropped her hands to her hips. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were gay."

A low rumble of laughter shook his chest. "Just because I won't give into your…charms?"

"No man has ever refused me before," she stated matter-of-factly. "I mean, you're not even tempted."

Nathan caught the hint, then nodded with a growing smile. Her pride was at stake. "Who said I wasn't tempted?"

Her chin lifted and the damage had been repaired. In truth, Aria was one of his favorite models. His camera loved her, just like any eye that followed the leggy temptress.

As they continued with the shoot, he imagined being lost in the folds of her luscious curves and threading his fingers through her hair. He watched as she ran her tongue across her parted lips, and he struggled to quell his growing desire when her eyes darkened with something akin to passion.

How long had it been since his split with India—nine months? Hell, it seemed like a lifetime.

Aria swayed her hips to the beat of the upbeat music. Her lashes lowered and just like that the mood shifted.

Never mixing business with pleasure had always been a hard and fast rule, and now he was in danger of breaking it.

"Why don't we have a little party of our own?" she offered, closing the sparse distance between them. "One of these days," she whispered, "you're going to realize that you need people."

She struck a nerve, and his smile faded and the mood vanished. "I wouldn't bet on it."

Aria's expression turned serious. "I would bet my life on it." She regarded him. "I've often wondered what caused that pain in those beautiful eyes of yours."

"You're imagining things." He returned his concentration to his work, his earlier temptations forgotten.

"I hate to think that an old flame or something has turned you against love," she persisted, undaunted by his mood swings.

"It was definitely an 'or something.'" He laughed. "Women. Who fills your heads with such wild illusions of love, anyway?"

"It's not who—it's what. And the answer is our hearts. You'd be a lot better off if you'd listen to yours every once in a while, instead of trying to convince yourself that you don't have one."

Silence trailed her final comment.

Nathan weighed her words and even felt there may have been a little truth to them, but he couldn't help how he felt. Love and commitment may be what the rest of the world searched for, but it wasn't for him.

She retrieved her silk robe, her face flushed with anger as she stormed off.

"Where are you going?"

"I'm taking a break," she said over her shoulder.

"What the hell did I do now?"

The slam of the bathroom door was her only answer. He mumbled a curse and struggled not to throw something.

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    Great!!!!

    I have to say this was a really good book. It was great to read a style of book that i haven't read in a long time.

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