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The Tycoon's Takeover
By Liz Fielding
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Chapter OneWho Got Hitched, Celebrity magazine
Secret Wedding in Samarinda
Samarinda, fast becoming the `must go' destination for those seeking a get-away-from-it-all break, was host to a very private wedding ceremony for Flora Claibourne and Bram Farraday Gifford last week. These charming pictures show the happy couple taking their vows in the stunning setting of the Royal Botanical Gardens, surrounded by wild vanilla orchids, a feature of this delightful venue.
This is the second Claibourne/Farraday wedding in as many months. Forebears of the two families founded London's favourite department store in the nineteenth century, but relations between them, at times, been reduced to near feud status over control of the store.
The new generation, however, have refreshingly decided that it's better to make love than war. Flora's younger sister, Romana, and Bram's cousin, Niall Farraday Macaulay, were married recently in Las Vegas.
We look forward to a new era of co-operation at Claibourne & Farraday, and wish both couples every happiness.
* * *
City Diary, London Evening Post
Another Claibourne/Farraday merger.
There's a new spirit of co-operation abroad at London's oldest department store, Claibourne & Farraday. The present generation of the two founding families - who famously never talk to one another - are doing more than talk as they finally meet face to face to thrash out thefuture of the company in the new century. The marriages between the two younger Claibourne sisters and Farraday heirs have been quiet affairs, however, suggesting that nothing is yet settled at the top.
India Claibourne is still Managing Director, and my sources suggest that Jordan Farraday is determined to supplant her in the immediate future. We'll be following events at the store with close interest.
* * *
`Have you seen this, JD?'
Jordan Farraday turned from the email that had just arrived in his inbox. His secretary was offering him a magazine, folded back at the `Who Got Hitched' page. `You read Celebrity magazine, Christine? I had no idea you were that interested in the loves and lives of the rich and famous.'
`I live in hopes of seeing you in there one of these days,' she replied, as he took the magazine from her. `Having a little fun.' Then, `I wasn't sure if you knew.' She paused. `You didn't say anything.'
`I knew.' He glanced at the photograph of his cousin, caught at the moment he placed a wedding ring on Flora Claibourne's finger, and felt an unexpected pang of something he couldn't quite identify. Envy? It was ridiculous - and yet Bram looked different ... complete. As if he'd found something he'd been looking for all his life. Nonsense, of course. It was just the reflected glow of satisfaction from a woman who'd got exactly what she wanted. `There's a paragraph in the late edition of the Evening Post,' he said. `Presumably they picked it up from this.'
`Bram didn't call you? Before? After?' He looked up, a wry smile twisting his mouth. `Would you?'
She shook her head. `Those Claibourne girls are quite something. I wonder what they use?'
`Spells, charms, love potions ...' she offered. `I'd have said that your cousins were two of the most unlikely marriage prospects in London.' Then, with a slight gesture that deferred to him, `After you.'
`Thank you,' he said drily. `Yet first Niall and now Bram have succumbed with a speed that suggests something added to the water.'
`Grief fades in time. The playboy life loses its charm. They were ready to fall in love,' he said dismissively. `My mistake was to put them in close contact with two of the most interesting women in London.'
`And you're about to spend a month in the company of interesting woman number three. Their big sister. The boss lady who's presumably taught them everything they know. Are you crazy?'
`No, Christine, single-minded.' He glanced again at the photograph. `Unlike my cousins, who seem to have had other things on their minds, regaining control of a department store is my priority. At the end of the month I shall have done just that.'
`You don't need to shadow India Claibourne for five minutes, let alone a month, to achieve that.'
`No,' he agreed, `I don't. But it's polite to give the lady a chance to make her case.'
`Rubbish.' Her eyes narrowed. `You're up to something.' And when he didn't bother to deny it, she said, `It'll all end in tears.'
`That,' he said, `is the plan.'
`If you're suggesting they'll be her tears, I think you should go back to the drawing board,' she said, retrieving the magazine and holding up the picture as a warning. `Consider what happened to your cousins when they got involved with the Claibourne girls.'
`That was just a sideshow, Christine. This is the main event.'
`You're playing with fire.'
`It wouldn't be the first time,' he pointed out.
`When it comes to taking a chance with money, I'd put my last silk shirt on you. This is different.'
`Are you suggesting that I don't know what I'm doing?'
`Heaven forbid,' she declared. `I'm simply suggesting that if you value your freedom you should invent a crisis that requires your presence on the other side of the world for the next month. Leave the Claibourne & Farraday business to the lawyers.'
`Bolt for cover? And have the City Diary editor amuse his readers with the suggestion that I'm running scared of India Claibourne? They would enjoy that.'
`There are worse things than being laughed at. Marriage isn't just a word, JD. It's a sentence. I know. I served nearly ten years before I managed to tunnel out.'
`Christine, we've worked together for a long time. You know me probably as well as anyone on this earth. Are you really suggesting that I won't be able to spend a few hours in the company of India Claibourne without falling so hopelessly in love with her that I'll be on my knees within the month?'
`Accounts are already organising a sweepstake on how long you'll last,' she replied.
Excerpted from The Tycoon's Takeover by Liz Fielding
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.