-RT Book Reviews on RACING HEARTS
One of a Kind (Harlequin Kimani Romance Series #368)by Michelle Monkou
She's like no woman he's ever met
Acting CEO Dana Meadows is being groomed to one day take over her family's multimillion-dollar empire. She doesn't need a perfectionist executive coach to take her through the paces even if he's the sexiest hunk she's ever laid eyes on. But Kent Fraser isn't taking no for an answerin business or/p>… See more details below
She's like no woman he's ever met
Acting CEO Dana Meadows is being groomed to one day take over her family's multimillion-dollar empire. She doesn't need a perfectionist executive coach to take her through the paces even if he's the sexiest hunk she's ever laid eyes on. But Kent Fraser isn't taking no for an answerin business or in pleasure.
Kent's orders were clear: transform Dana into an inspirational leader who sets an example for her employees. But is the fiercely independent heiress apparent tough enough to become a media mogul? And is Kent strong enough to resist the desire that's flowing between them? A tempting passion that could turn their collaboration into a partnership for life .
-RT Book Reviews on RACING HEARTS
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Kent Fraser pulled up in front of his parents' home in Islington, a borough of London, and parked. Family dinner was a twice-a-month event when he and his stepbrother and stepsister headed back to their home base. No matter where they were, short of living overseas, they stuck to the tradition. If he bothered to be honest, they stuck to the tradition because he insisted. Dinners, reunions, BBQs helped him stay connected with the blended family and not be the graft that needed to be sawed away. His mother had a new husband and two new children from his previous marriage. She'd moved on with life and with love.
Kent, on the other hand, erected a solid wall around his heart to ward off the expected complications that came with family life. He had to move on, but his heels were firmly dug in to hinder any forward movement. Life promised to be much simpler when he threw himself into his career. Love, well, that was like relying on a leaking cup to quench one's thirst-unreliable and inadequate.
Camille, his mother, and stepfather, Alister, wanted him to feel as though he belonged. And he really did want to fit in.
Over ten years had passed since his mother's divorce from his father had split apart not only money and emotions, but had also shattered lives. The breakdown in their marriage had started much earlier, as they had been a mismatched pair. Surviving the side effects was difficult and ongoing. His father hadn't bothered to stay in touch, disappearing like a vapor trail after the divorce proceedings were finalized.
"Kent, you're on time." His mom leaned in for the customary kiss on her cheek. She took the wine he offered and headed into the kitchen.
"Kent, good to see you." Alister shook his hand and moved in for an awkward hug.
"Laci and Ben are in the sitting room," his mother shouted from the kitchen, amidst the ringing sounds of pots being moved from one place to the other.
Kent entered the room and immediately hugged his step-siblings until they laughingly protested.
"You all look so tanned." Both of their sandy brown heads had lightened into a halo of golden-brown curls.
Laci grinned. "We were in Costa del Sol, Spain. Duh. Thanks for the suggestion, by the way. The driving service you'd contacted met us at the airport and whisked us away for the best holiday experience."
"Next time, I'm bringing some friends, so I can act posh with them." Ben had too much of a gentle, amiable soul to be considered snobbish. However, he attended a private secondary school where most of the students were born with titles of nobility and an air of entitlement.
"Stop spoiling them," his mother chided him. She ushered in a teasing scent of dinner in her wake.
"Stop spoiling us." His stepfather's smile barely shifted his lips. The attempt resulted in a tight-faced grimace.
"I don't mind." Kent spoke slowly to reiterate his point.
His mother sent him a silent plea from behind her spectacles. No skirmishes tonight. Concern knitted her brow. Once again, his gifts appeared to do the opposite of what he'd aimed.
Like buying his mother this house.
What else should he have done when earning millions as an executive leadership coach? His three-year-old company and personal services drew solicitations from top companies from just about every industry.
Because of the years Kent had spent with his mum and even at the beginning of his career, scraping by at poverty level, he had developed a conservative streak. He hoarded his earnings in various funds and invested steadily in technology businesses, beverage companies, and a bit in the financial services sector. At the same time, he had a desire to spend and shower his mother with her heart's desires. This had nothing to do with Alister's ability to provide for his new family. Kent had made a personal vow when his father left that she'd never have to rely on another man for her well-being.
One Fraser had been a flaming disaster when it came to providing for his wife and son. Kent planned to stick to the promise he had made his mother out of honor and love for her. He wanted to redeem the name.
During the next hour, the mood around dinner came and went with the usual dry politeness. His parents talked about the changes to the neighborhood and the new taxes implemented on driving into the city. Then it petered out on guessing if and when the British royal couple, newly parents, would have a large family.
Laci and Ben soothed the undercurrent of tension with eager questions about where they could go skiing, never mentioning the obvious, that it was at Kent's expense. Soon they were fantasizing about the Swiss Alps and jet setting with celebrities on the slopes. Kent appreciated their enthusiasm. That's how his gifts should be appreciated, instead of his mother's and stepfather's tentative restraint. The teenagers peppered him with enough travel suggestions that he realized planning their Christmas holiday would be fun and over-the-top decadent, just because he could.
After dinner, there wasn't much point in hanging around. And yet, he did not want to head back to his empty flat in Kensington. However, his fans, Laci and Ben, took their leave to head home to their mother, who shared custody. They had classes the next day.
Now, he was left with his mom and stepfather to painfully generate conversation around general, safe subjects like weather, the economy and football-as long as he didn't go against Chelsea. Before he left, he wanted to share his good news.
Kent began the careful steering. "The business is going well." A bit of a thorny subject among them.
"Yes, dear?" His mother cleared the dishes, shooing off his offers of help.
"I may have to add two more to the staff."
"That's good, dear." Camille's voice was muffled by the water filling the sink.
Kent waited until the water stopped. "I'm glad that I took the plunge and opened up my own business. It was most certainly a risk." A risk that he had never regretted after working for ten years in sales and marketing firms, even during university.
"Made no sense to leave a solid career. Times are hard, these days. Lots of people need jobs." Alister opened the newspaper, effectively hiding his face, although his judgment spoke volumes.
"Had to do it. No time is ever perfect." How could he convince a man who was pushing fifteen to twenty years at the same job? A man who didn't like his daily routine interrupted, especially by Kent's drive-by visits with gifts. "I did research before I opened the business."
"Still, could have been a disaster," Alister replied in a flat monotone. He snapped the newspaper.
Kent turned his attention to his mother who was now rinsing off the dishes. "I might be going to America." He waited for a joyful exclamation.
"That's nice, dear."
"What on earth for?" Alister lowered the newspaper enough for his curiosity to show in his eyes and wrinkled brow.
"Got a call from Meadows Media."
"Never heard of it." The newspaper moved back into its original position.
"You've never heard of Grace Meadows? She's major. She's "
"Maybe in the U.S., dear. Never heard of her." Camille paused in her task and stuck her head out of the kitchen.
"She owns several companies. She's written books. A lot of women look up to her because she built this business and still worked while being a wife and mother." Kent recited as many facts as he could from memory about Grace Meadows, hoping that would impress his mother and Alister.
His mother stepped back into the room. "Nothing wrong with being a housewife."
Oh, great. He'd managed to offend his mother.
"It's 'homemaker,' honey." The newspaper lowered. "See, I do know what's happening outside my mundane life."
Kent decided to leave the semantics alone and push through the quicksand. "Grace Meadows is interested in hiring me to coach their next CEO and president."
"That's nice, dear." Camille sat at the table next to Kent with a calm, small smile. "Don't work yourself to death. Come up for air." Her advice accompanied a soft pat on his hand.
"What's the point of having a coach? At that point in your career, you should know what you're doing. It's not a football game, for heaven's sake." Done with the newspaper, Alister snapped it closed and tossed it on a pile of other papers.
"Do you think that you'd like to visit America?" Kent hoped his mom would say yes. He remembered all the postcards that his father would send from various parts of the world. They were all lies, but the pictures had stuck in Kent's mind along with his other goal-that he would travel the world someday.
"Good heavens, why?" His mother switched her loyalty, going from patting his hand to taking her husband's. "I'm comfortable right here. We had the royal wedding, the Queen's Jubilee, and the Olympics. People need to come to England, not the other way around."
The fact that his stepfather had never flown wasn't mentioned. Alister always sabotaged any holiday plans to go beyond the comforts of a train or travel by car.
Kent continued with his good news. "It's not final yet. The details are being ironed out. But this job would be different since I tend to work with smaller companies and lesser-known CEOs." And why in the world had he been so lucky to be solicited-by Grace Meadows? A chance meeting had placed him on her radar. "So, share. What do they do?"
Kent wanted to hug his mother for always trying to create a peaceful bridge between Alister and him.
"They have a small cable company, magazines and radio, and probably more businesses than I'm aware of."
"Can you figure out what the word is for five across?" His mother passed the crossword puzzle in the newspaper over to her husband.
They huddled over the black-and-white squares, pondering possible answers. Kent sighed. Pushing a boulder uphill had to be easier than this.
At thirty years old, he shouldn't need his parents' approval, and he shouldn't want it. He was supposedly on top of the world, as one magazine had described him. Another publication had spotlighted him, attaching silly labels like "one of the gods of Olympus" because of his talent, looks and his height of six-and-a-half feet. If he truly lived up to the Olympus hype, why should he care what mere mortals thought of him and his accomplishments?
Because deep down, opinions did matter. If he pursued something, he wanted it to be a success and was willing to put in the labor and time to make it happen.
A kiss for his mum and a handshake for Alister served as farewell parting. Another dinner was tucked away in the family memories. His next career move shared with no hurrah.
Kent drove off, heading into the city. He didn't want to go home. No one was there-that was the way he wanted it. Except, lately, a weird vibe would sneak in and hit him in some unknown space between his head and heart. He couldn't make that statement with as much bravado as was expected of an avowed and eligible bachelor.
Clear success was only in one part of his life-his career. Whenever he talked about his business and his accomplishments, the hurt from his father's betrayal leaked from its hiding place. He had something to prove.
Kent had no desire to return to his earlier life as a poor boy in public housing. Any pangs to resolve his single state had to take a backseat. With the potential of a new project, his motivation was high to refocus on his future-the executive coaching business. He wanted to scale higher walls, set records, move mountains and even those pesky boulders.
Filling his mind with work blanketed over the void of not having a special woman in his life. Observing his mother and stepfather enjoy their home life, though, had created a subtle shift, increasing the longing within him to be a husband and partner. To have a best friend in the woman who would spend her life with him. What he wanted and the reality of such happiness seemed miles apart. Since his quest to find a special woman wasn't happening anytime soon, he'd latch on to work and its rigorous demands.
Kent pulled up at his favorite pub. The late-drinking crowd could be heard from the edges of the parking lot. The boisterous din would help to alleviate his melancholy. The doors swung open, burping up a few of the pub's patrons. Kent slipped in and was immediately sucked into the warm, boozy climate. He ordered a Guinness and looked around for any of his usual crew.
"Kent, over here."
The remarkable, booming voice could belong to none other than his college flatmate. Kent sidled his way through the crowd.
"Conrad, fancy seeing you here. Your second home." Kent laughed. "What's been happening with you?" He practically screamed each word over the din, relying on his friend's ability to lip-read.
"Just made redundant."
"Bloody hell." No wonder Conrad was in the pub, although, as memory served, he always knew where the thriving pubs were located in any city. "Economy is still a pisser."
"An understatement." Conrad drained his glass and waved his hand to get the waitress's attention.
"Where are you living these days? Nearby?"
"For the moment. Should get evicted from my girl's place as soon as she finds out. The witch only wanted me because I'd pay the rent for services rendered." Conrad winked.
"You do know that's not called a girlfriend."
His friend laughed hard. But over the next hour, it didn't take long for the downer effects of alcohol to hit. His joviality diminished. "What's the point of having a business degree if there are no businesses?"
"It's all about the experience." Kent had the same business degree as Conrad, but he had been lucky to get apprenticeships with great companies and mentors who had reached out and pulled him along. By the time he'd graduated and landed his first job as a company's comptroller, he had managed to jump over many of the potholes to climb the corporate ladder. Then he had moved to operations and administration, ending in sales and marketing.
In his last year at that company, he worked two jobs, as a trainer for the corporation's sales force, and also as an online university teacher of lower-level marketing courses. Then, a very satisfied business owner had translated his appreciation for Kent's sales-staff training into a low-interest loan to start a coaching business.
"I was in bloody ridiculous marketing. The part of the company that gets cut and outsourced in a heartbeat." Conrad took a long swig of his fresh mug of Guinness. "Maybe life is telling me to make a change. I should be overjoyed that an opportunity has been shoved up my-"
Kent put a firm hold on Conrad's drinking hand and pulled it back down to the table. Time to pull the cover over the drinking well for the night. Instead of seeking a female's company, Kent was now offering rehabilitative services for his recently unemployed, heavily alcohol-sedated college friend.
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