With his father ailing and incapacitated, Parker Wells, Jr. has a bold new vision for the company he now heads. For starters, he wants to heal the rifts his father’s ruthless tactics have created in the community—and within his own family. But when Parker is rear-ended by a gorgeous stranger, he finds himself torn between business and pleasure . . .
Crashing her car is not how corporate attorney Kennedi Robinson wanted to announce her return to town, especially since the man she hit is the same one who’s trying to rip her aunt’s livelihood and land out from under her. Kennedi knows better than to fall for Parker’s charms—and she’s primed for battle.
“Beautifully written . . . an emotional journey and shows there can be a happily ever after!” —K.M. Jackson, author of As Good as the First Time
“A refreshing read that sucks readers into a sizzling romance!”
—Deborah Fletcher Mello
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For the last several hours, Parker Wells Jr. had been asking himself the same question over and over again. What the hell was my father smoking when he married Patricia Lewis?
Sighing heavily, he watched the movers cart box after box from his father's mansion. It seemed Patricia had made out quite well for herself considering she'd been a "reformed" stripper when she became wife number five to Parker Wells Sr. With her bright blond weave, long fake nails and lashes, and her enhanced face and breasts, he often wondered how she really looked under all of that ... fakeness.
Gesturing to one of the movers, he grabbed the huge painting his father had commissioned of his latest wife. At least she got to keep it. The other four wives, including his own mother, hadn't fared so well. The paintings ended up in the incinerator the moment the divorce was final. Or, in his mother's case, the death certificate was signed.
Parker wondered if that was the moment he realized he didn't care for his father. Hell, he borderline hated him for most of his thirty-one years on this earth. For the life of him, he couldn't think of any redeeming qualities.
Senior, as they were instructed to call their father, had made it a point to not engage with his sons. His younger sister, Brooklyn, had a different experience as a little girl, when their mother was alive. She remembered their dad as kind and protective back then. Things didn't change for Brooklyn and Senior until Mama died.
On the other hand, Parker had never remembered feeling secure in his home, or even in his own skin. Everything about him had been picked apart since he could form a coherent sentence. His first memories of his father were painful ones, discipline for even the smallest infraction. His pants weren't ironed right, his hair was too long, he didn't enunciate his words properly, he wasn't smart enough, he wasn't fast enough on the football field. Never mind he had never received less than an A on anything, had made the All-State team and won MVP for every year he played football. After a while, he'd stopped even bringing home trophies or awards because they just didn't matter. And things had steadily gotten worse as he grew into adulthood.
After his mother died, he'd become a shield for his younger siblings, taking their punishments so they wouldn't have to be subjected to their father's wrath. Although, neither one of them had escaped unscathed. Most recently, his father had waged a war against Brooklyn for daring to say no to the arranged marriage Senior had set up. In 2018. Who promises their daughter's hand in marriage for a buck?
The last time his father had hit him was the one time Parker had ended up in jail. Parker could still remember the fury that had tightened his bones, turned his blood hot, yet cold, at the same time. He'd defended himself that day, and his father had never stepped to him again.
Of course, the punishment for that transgression had been banishment from the house and the family company, Wellspring Water Corporation. At the time, Parker didn't care. He'd considered it a blessing that he wouldn't have to be around Senior and his cronies.
Everything changed once he'd graduated from law school. He'd made it his mission to work his way back into his father's good graces, kissing up, going against his heart. It had chipped away at his soul.
But Parker had a plan. Inevitably, his father wouldn't be around much longer. And he would be able to run the company the way he saw fit. He would be able to do right by his grandfather's vision for Wellspring Water Corp. So, he'd bided his time, played the game. Now, it was his turn.
Parker Wells Sr. had suffered a massive heart attack several months earlier and was now comatose. The doctors weren't hopeful, but Senior was holding on for some reason. Maybe it was the old man's way of saying "fuck you" to all of them. As long as he was alive, the company would be his, the legacy would be one of darkness and corruption, not light and responsibility like Parker envisioned.
As the heir to the family company, Parker was next in line to take over as chief executive officer when Senior finally passed away. Recently, the board had voted him in as the interim CEO while his father was incapacitated. But there was more, so much more to the story.
Apparently, his father hadn't been content to cheat unsuspecting workers, steal land, and marry strippers. He'd actually committed a serious crime, forging their mother's will. Doing so allowed him to maintain control of a company that technically belonged to Parker and Brooklyn.
The scandal had rocked their small town of Wellspring, and he and his sister were currently working with a team of attorneys to fix the mess Senior had made of all of their lives.
A loud thump sounded from the sitting room in the front of the house. Next, he heard the crash of glass against the wall. Sighing, he rushed over to the room, where his sister had been arguing with Patricia for the last half hour — about anything and everything, from the priceless vase Patricia felt was owed to her to the Honey Nut Cheerios she wanted to take from the kitchen.
Brooklyn. Parker sighed when he thought of his little sis. She was petite, but she packed a punch. And she wasn't letting Patricia leave the house with anything that wasn't specified in the agreement they'd signed last week, no matter how petty and how miniscule the item was.
Pushing the door open, he scanned the room. Patricia was standing there, wig crooked and chest heaving. Brooklyn, on the other hand, was calm. There wasn't a hair out of place on his sister's head. Her clothes were pristine, like she'd just put them on. There was glass around Brooklyn's high-heeled pumps.
"What the hell is going on in here?" he asked his sister.
Brooklyn stared at him, amusement crackling in her brown eyes. "Patricia won't go quietly into the night like she agreed. She insists on breaking up all of Senior's shit. And what she fails to realize is I don't give a damn what she breaks. There is no way in hell she's going to walk out of here with anything not outlined in this agreement." His sister held up the divorce decree.
It had been their attorney's idea to offer a settlement to Patricia to divorce their father. Patricia had been happy to accept the offer, because they'd offered her a sum over and above what had been agreed upon in the prenuptial agreement and what would be bequeathed to her in the event of Senior's death. In fact, Patricia had been so eager to accept the terms of the agreement, Parker wondered if she had a boyfriend on the side somewhere.
The proceedings had gone well. There wasn't a lot of arguing, no real disputes over the terms. Ultimately, they'd come to an agreement. Which is why he was perplexed she was having so much trouble now that it was time to move out of Senior's house.
"Patricia, what is the problem?" he asked, arms out at his sides. "You knew this day was coming. You agreed to the terms."
Patricia glared at Brooklyn. "I can't stand that little bitch. I never could."
Brooklyn barked out a laugh. "Ask me if I care."
Parker cut Brooklyn a look that he hoped told her to shut the hell up so they could get the woman out of the house. Brooklyn got the message because she gingerly stepped away, avoiding the glass, and took a seat on one of the chairs.
Approaching Patricia, Parker said, "Is there anything I can do to make this transition better for you?" Parker ignored the muttered curse from his sister from her side of the room. "What's going on with you?"
A still seething Patricia wouldn't look at Parker. She was still throwing Brooklyn death glares. "I won't talk as long as she's in the room."
Sighing, Parker turned to Brooklyn. "Can you give us a minute?"
His sister's mouth fell open. "Parker ... why?"
"Because I asked you to, Brooklyn. Go have Arlene make you some lunch or something. Call Carter, I don't know. Just leave us alone for a minute."
Shaking her head, Brooklyn did as he requested and left him alone with the latest Ex-Mrs. Parker Wells Sr. When the door was closed, and they were alone, Parker motioned for Patricia to take a seat.
"What can I do for you?" he asked.
"Parker, don't play me," Patricia said with a scowl. "You're not that nice."
He blinked. Nice? He'd never pretended to like Patricia, but he was respectful of her title. Despite how she'd treated him and his sister, he'd made sure he was cordial at all times. That was something he'd learned from his mother, Marie. His mother had been kind, giving. She had been all the things that no wife of Senior had been since.
"What is it, Patricia?" Parker asked, his patience dangling on a very thin thread. He didn't have time for this. He had to get to work and put out the seemingly endless fires his father had set in motion. "What do you need to say?"
"I expect to get what's owed to me."
"You'll get exactly what we agreed upon. Anything else?"
Patricia's mouth pulled in a tight line. "Yes, actually there is. I have information that's very valuable to you and that little ingrate you call a sister. Even your brother, Bryson."
Parker was admittedly curious. It was no secret that his father was into all kinds of shady business. He wondered what Patricia had in her back pocket that would be worth something to him. Would this information affect him and his siblings? Wellspring Water?
Unwilling to show his hand yet, he sat on the chair his sister had vacated a few minutes earlier, crossing his left leg over his right. "I'm listening."
Patricia let out a humorless chuckle. "Really? Do you think I'm going to play my hand that fast and easy?"
"That would depend on a few things. One being if it has anything to do with my family. The other being if it has anything to do with my company."
"Your company? Senior isn't dead, Parker."
"Whatever he is, it's no concern of yours anymore." Parker took a deep breath. His mask was slipping, and he couldn't afford it at that moment. He'd prided himself on his ability to get the job done, and that meant being able to get to the thick of things without losing his temper.
"Oh, okay. It's like that?"
With raised eyebrows, he asked. "How should it be? You're not his wife anymore. You're free to leave with the money we gave you, money you wouldn't have seen if it had not been for me and Brooklyn. I'm not sure why you insist on dragging this out longer than it has to be. If you know something that would be of use to me and my family, why not just say it? If I feel that it's worth something, I'll act accordingly. Because I'm sure that's what this is about. Isn't it? Your bottom line? Cash."
Patricia was always after her next dollar. He knew the type, had even been fooled by a few women in the past. But he'd learned the hard way to never let his guard down, and never drop his card before his turn.
Leaning against the table, Patricia crossed her feet at her ankles and straightened her wig. "What is another sibling worth to you, Parker?"
The sneer in her tone when she said his name wasn't lost on him. "If that sibling is from you, I cry bullshit."
Patricia was younger than Senior, yes. But she wasn't young enough to be pregnant with Senior's baby.
His ex-stepmother glared at him. "Not my child."
"Senior had another child. A daughter. I only know because he slipped up one morning at breakfast."
"Why should I believe you?"
The thought of there being another Wells sibling turned his stomach. Not that he didn't love his brother and sister. On the contrary, he loved them more than anything, anyone. He'd do anything for them, and had.
He assessed Patricia, who was watching him intently, a smirk on her augmented lips. Fake. She could be lying. He wouldn't put it past her to try to extort more cash from him with this long-lost sister crap. But something told him she wasn't lying this time.
Senior had made no secret of his penchant for mistresses. Bryson's mother had been a long-term mistress, and most of the wives he'd brought home were former side chicks. There could very well be another sibling out there somewhere. And if there was, he needed to find out.
"Name your price," he said coolly.
A smug Patricia threw out some astronomical number that made Parker's blood boil.
"Nice try, but hell no."
Her mouth fell open. "But this information is priceless."
"If there is another sibling, I will find her with or without you." He stood up and walked to the door, swung it open, nearly pulling Brooklyn into the room too. His sister braced herself on the door. Shaking his head, he asked, "Really?"
Brooklyn shrugged. "Sorry."
Parker turned toward Patricia. "Your belongings are outside in the moving truck. I suggest you follow it."
Kissing his sister on her forehead, he murmured, "I'll call you later. I have something to take care of." Then, he left.CHAPTER 2
I can't believe I wasted all my pretty years on this idiot.
Kennedi Robinson shook her head as she glanced at the dollar amount on the last spousal support check she would ever write. It had been a long year, full of legal briefs, subpoenas, and surprise court dates, all designed by her shitty ex-husband to extort as much money as he could from her.
Luckily for her, the judge had dismissed her ex's last attempt to extend spousal support beyond the one-year time frame originally ordered. Now, that year was up.
After signing the check, she stuffed it in the envelope addressed to her attorney, her colleague and friend, Paula. "Here you go," Kennedi said, handing the envelope to Paula, who was seated across from her desk, engrossed in a file.
"You sure you don't want to deliver this yourself?" Paula asked. "Along with a 'fuck you' for good measure?"
Kennedi giggled. She knew Paula wasn't serious. The two were consummate professionals at work, and profanity while in the process of business was a no-no. "I don't want to give him any more of my energy. He already took my money; he won't take my dignity."
Paula eyed her. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"I'm fine. You know it would have never worked, anyway. He blames me for everything wrong with him." Kennedi stood and made her way over to her office window. It was a beautiful late summer day in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She'd had a chance to enjoy the weather that morning on her daily run, which she rarely missed. There was nothing better than the wind in her face, the burn in her legs, as she ran her route through Gallup Park.
The park was Ann Arbor's most popular recreation area, located along the Huron River and Geddes Pond. It was a runner's dream, and Kennedi took advantage of the asphalt trails every single morning.
She heard Paula approach her from behind. Soon, her best friend was standing next to her, offering her silent strength. The two had been friends since they'd enrolled at Michigan Law seven years ago. Since their first day of classes, they'd supported one another through everything, through the death of Kennedi's parents, through Paula's pregnancy, and now through Kennedi's failed marriage.
Sighing, Kennedi said, "I need to make a change, friend."
Paula turned to her, but Kennedi refused to meet her gaze. "What change do you need to make, Kenni Cakes?"
Kennedi smiled at the nickname Paula had given her during their first year of law school. "Change of scenery, Paula. I need a vacation."
Years had passed since she'd entered the workforce, with no spas, no resorts, no time off in her plans. Kennedi worked hard in her job as a corporate attorney, putting in long hours for her clients.
"Then, take a vacation, hun."
Kennedi folded her arms across her chest. It was almost laughable how easy Paula had made time off sound. In her mind, it wasn't so simple. She had commitments — to her clients, her firm, and her friends. "How am I supposed to do that when I'm pushing you down the aisle in one month?"
Paula smiled, a wistful look in her eyes. "I know. I can't believe I'm getting married."
Her best friend was engaged to Mark Hoover. The two had met during a golf outing last year, and the romance had blossomed into unconditional love and acceptance. Mark was the type of man every woman dreamed about — intelligent, polished, handsome, and a provider. Kennedi knew he was a keeper when he'd shown Paula's daughter nothing but respect and love from the very beginning. Kennedi's goddaughter, Lauren, was smitten with her future stepfather and that was a testament to Mark's willingness to love the three-year-old as if she were his biological daughter.
Kennedi squeezed Paula's hand. It had been years since she'd seen her friend so happy; years of tears, struggling to make ends meet, and raising her daughter alone. "You deserve to be happy, Paula. I'm so proud that I'm going to be standing up for you when you marry the love of your life. Mark is a good man. He'll be a good hubby to you and an amazing father to my Lauren."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Enticed By You"
Copyright © 2018 Elle Wright.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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