Jessica Adams may have inherited the family construction business, but there are strings attached. Big, deal-breaking strings. The big wig to whom her grandfather had already agreed to sell the company? Daniel Spencer, her ex-lover…and the father of her seven-year-old son. Only, he doesn’t know.
What started as a standard business acquisition turns Daniel's world inside out. Leaving Jessica was the biggest mistake of his life. A mistake that compounds when he meets her son. Correction—their son. He might need a crash course in parenting, but that doesn’t stop him from laying everything on the line to put together a much different kind of merger—ifhe can convince Jessica to trust him with her life…and their son’s.
About the Author
Melia Alexander is the author of sassy, sexy, fun contemporary romances, but is also fortunate to spend her week days at The Male Observation Lab (a.k.a. her job at a construction company). During this time she observes guys in their natural habitat – what they say and do versus what they think they've said and done. In many instances she's seen through their personas to the heart of who they really are – the heroes of their own stories.
A native of Guam, Melia traded in warm, tropical breezes for the rainy Pacific Northwest where she now resides with her hero husband, two amazing nieces, and three adorable kitties. She's an avid reader who also loves to watch romantic comedies, particularly those with a twist. In her free time, she's busy conquering her CrossFit fears: ring dips, power cleans, and the dreaded 800 meter run. Her family appreciates her attempts at cooking and cleaning, although she spends it mostly daydreaming about her characters, which sometimes results in a burnt meal and a half-cleaned house.
Visit http://meliaalexander.com to learn more about her.
Read an Excerpt
Merger of the Heart
A Glenwood Falls Story
By Melia Alexander, Kari Olson
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Melia Alexander
All rights reserved.
"I can deal with this alone, Jess."
Jessica Adams stared at her best bud, Ian Savage, even as she struggled to understand what he was saying. He was present as her attorney now, and not just the guy who'd literally held her up at her grandfather's funeral. But she was done with being treated with kid gloves.
"I promise you don't have to be there." His gaze narrowed as he watched her closely. Probably worried she'd make some girl-move like faint or something.
She clasped the wadded-up tissue in one hand, crossed her muddy, work boot-clad feet at the ankles, and desperately fought to stay focused. When she'd walked into the conference room this afternoon, she was sure her heart couldn't break any more. Until now.
"What are you saying?" She sucked in a deep breath and concentrated on the rumble of a loader as it travelled past the first-story window outside the Lawrence Construction office. Thanks to Oregon's summer weather, her crews would be busy. But it wouldn't last long if she couldn't get a handle on this latest crisis. Like she hadn't had enough of those already.
Her gaze darted between Ian and her other best bud, Brad Fischer, both seated across the conference room table. "You're telling me my grandfather was one signature away from selling the business?" She stared at Ian. "I just buried him last week."
And now she was on the brink of losing her grandfather's legacy? Her legacy? No. Way. In. Hell.
She couldn't breathe, couldn't think. It was all happening too fast, coming on too strong.
She hung her head, loosening the tension at the back of her neck, and gulped in a lungful of air. Yeah, times were tough, and her grandfather had mentioned the potential sale, but she'd talked him out of it. At least, that's what she'd thought. Especially after she'd taken on more responsibilities at the company and suggested ways to cut costs and streamline production. Selling out hadn't been in the conversation after that.
Was she ever wrong.
She rubbed her temples and squeezed her eyes shut, focused on her breathing and not the pounding in her head.
"Hey, it's okay." Brad, technically a competitor but still a best bud, was beside her now. He squeezed the top of her shoulder. "It didn't happen, all right? The sale didn't go through." He groaned. "Please don't cry."
"We'll help you through this, Jess," Ian added, rubbing her other shoulder. "Just ... yeah. Do you want some water? Coffee? Your Peanut M&M's? Brad, go grab some out of her office."
Under normal circumstances, she would've laughed at the desperation in both their voices. They'd always treated her like one of the guys, but every now and then, they had to remind themselves she had different plumbing. Like now. This time, she found it more annoying than adorable.
She opened her eyes, straightened in her seat, and attempted to rein in the emotional clog in her throat. The way her grandfather would've expected. After all, he hadn't let her down when she'd given him every reason to. Even though he was gone, she could still save his legacy. She wouldn't sell if she could help it.
She waved them off with one hand. "I'm fine already. Knock it off."
"Hey." Brad's voice was soothing as he patted a hand on hers. "We don't have to do this if you're not ready."
She shook her head. "I need to deal with this now. There are projects coming up for bid that need my full attention." Because without more work, she'd definitely lose Lawrence Construction.
She blew out a shaky breath and stared at the far wall, where a photo of her grandfather hung. Jonathon Lawrence casually leaned against an excavator with an ecstatic grin on his face at having finally purchased several pieces of construction equipment. Purchased, not leased. A huge sign of his success. It might've worked, too, if his gamble on a quick economic turnaround had panned out.
She'd told him relying on loans was a bad idea, no matter how cheap the equipment seemed. Better to stay small and self-reliant than expose the company to a takeover. He should've listened to her.
Should've. Could've. Would've.
None of it was her fault, but it was definitely her problem now. And she'd deal with it by keeping Lawrence Construction.
She blew her nose and leveled a gaze at Ian. "How come I didn't know about this before? I thought we were friends."
"We are friends, Jess. You know as well as I do that attorney-client privilege didn't extend to you while your grandfather was alive."
"What a bunch of bull." She pushed back from the conference table, stood, and turned to the window behind her.
Beyond the row of parked end dump trucks, the asphalt plant rumbled in the distance, churning out the material her crews would pave with later today. Under normal circumstances, the trucks would be out in the field, and the asphalt plant would've started before daylight instead of just an hour ago.
Reality was brutal. Economic conditions had plunged sales to a two-year low, with gross revenues almost even with operating expenses. She'd memorized the details, couldn't help it. Not when there were two hundred employees who were a part of the company. Some of them longer than she'd been alive.
And definitely not when her son Jonathon's future was on the line, too.
"How long was this deal in the works?" she asked, continuing to stare outside.
"He'd been in negotiations with Crenshaw Industries for a few weeks." Ian used his authoritative voice, the one that made her feel as if she needed to be on her best behavior. Like he wasn't the one who'd instigated countless high school pranks that had landed her and Brad in detention along with him. No, the irony wasn't lost on Jessica. Life was a string of ironies.
Well. Recession or not, it was now up to her to keep Lawrence Construction going. And that meant stepping up and doing the work. After a fortifying breath, she faced her friends. "I want to turn them down myself."
"Why?" Brad trained his blue eyes on her like the pain-in-the-butt, big-brother-type he was. "Let Ian do his job. You've been through enough."
"So? Life doesn't hand out a 'pass' just because things have been tough." She raised her chin. "When's the meeting scheduled?"
"Next week." Ian looked up from the paper in his hand. "Brad's right. I can handle it."
She forced her attention to the conference room table where she'd spent countless hours as a kid, drawing while her grandfather worked. The same table where she'd eavesdropped on company conversation and gained insight into the way the business functioned long before she went away to college.
She'd started early and worked damn hard to get this far. She wasn't going to lose any of it now. "I want the pleasure of turning them down myself." She lobbed the wad of tissue across the room so that it landed dead center in a garbage can by the door. "That means I'm going with you."
* * *
"I trust your new office is acceptable?"
The old man's raspy voice blared out of the speaker phone as Daniel Spencer straightened in his seat. No matter how jet-lagged he was, any conversation with Crenshaw demanded his full attention. "Good morning, Albert." He glanced at his surroundings, the dark furniture standard-issue for a Crenshaw Industries exec. "The office is fine."
The exile to Glenwood Falls, Oregon, however, wasn't. But it wouldn't be for more than a year. And he could handle damn near anything for a year. Especially when the payoff was another notch on his resume.
"Now that you're back from vacation, close the Lawrence Construction deal."
Vacation? Daniel raised an eyebrow. A week in Brazil sounded like a vacation. Too bad he'd spent the entire time trying to talk a well-known specialist into leaving retirement and coming back to the States to take on his mother's dementia case. He'd finally convinced the doctor after paying a small fortune.
Not that Crenshaw knew any of it.
Besides, his opinion of Daniel's private life didn't matter.
He shifted in his seat and reached for the files on his desk. "Lawrence Construction will be yours," he said, his voice matter-of-fact. He'd studied the documents on the plane ride from Rio last night. "I've got a meeting set up with the company's attorney later this morning." Right after he checked on some personal business.
He thumbed through the file in his hand, pulled out the newspaper article. Too bad about Jonathon Lawrence. Daniel had enjoyed their lengthy conversation a few weeks ago, had admired the wisdom, the thought process that went into the older man's decision to sell. His death made things a bit more complicated, but this deal would be easy enough to close. Along with troubleshooting and fixing companies, Daniel was a master at closing deals.
"We've got a lot of money riding on this," Crenshaw said.
Like he needed the reminder. "Understood."
"Lawrence Construction is sitting on a gold mine."
Here we go.
A lighter clicked, and he listened as Crenshaw sucked in a deep drag of his cigar, then blew it out in a large whoosh. "Right on the McKenzie River." The old man's signature rasp floated through the phone. "Once we level the 'corporate offices,' we can get the zoning changed and develop the damn thing. Olsen should've thought about the damn zoning laws when he bought the damn property next to Lawrence Construction in the first place. If the idiot had, we wouldn't be in this mess."
Anyone who worked for him knew that Crenshaw didn't reward failure. Didn't matter if you'd married his daughter. And, yeah, a couple hundred acres of prime property was worthless if there was no way to develop it. Timothy Olsen had screwed up. Royally.
"I want that property, Spencer."
No kidding. "Relax, Albert. I'm the best."
"That's why you're there."
Yeah, it was.
"Don't forget what's at stake, Spencer."
Daniel stifled a snort. Who did the old man think he was kidding?
On top of the corporate shares Daniel received to move to the sticks, within a year, he expected to be back in Los Angeles, back at the corporate office.
Only this time, he'd have Albert's job.
* * *
Daniel glanced at his Tag Heuer wrist watch. Twelve minutes until his appointment with the Lawrence Construction attorney. Twelve minutes until he could get the ball rolling on the latest venture to catch Albert Crenshaw's attention. Twelve minutes until the clock started ticking on his continued climb up the corporate ladder.
He loved when life came together as planned. Even the arrangements to move his mother to Glenwood Falls came together smoothly. But he'd learned long ago that money often unlocked doors for anyone.
Daniel pulled open the glass doors to The Tower building. Given Albert's reputation as a miser, it was a surprise the old man agreed to purchase the place as the Crenshaw Industries lair. Then again, Albert always did everything for effect. And the centrally located Glenwood Falls historic landmark made a statement, all right. Crenshaw Industries had deep pockets and didn't mind digging into them.
He shifted his briefcase from one hand to the other as he crossed the lobby toward the bank of elevators in the far corner. He shook his head and tried to clear the cobwebs that'd formed. Being jet-lagged sucked. Not closing a deal because he was jet-lagged sucked worse.
"There it is," a woman muttered. She turned to him, not enough for her to actually look at him and let him catch her eye—step one if he wanted to see where a little playful flirting could take them—but enough for him to see her smile along with a sexy look of triumph in her eyes. "You'd think the elevators would be easier to find."
She wasn't very tall, even in her heels, but she filled out the gray suit she wore very nicely, leaving no mistake that she was all woman. He surreptitiously studied her in the reflection off the elevator doors. Her dark hair fell in soft waves around her face, a pair of brown eyes held a glint of mischief in them, and her smile made him grin. Something about her seemed familiar. Maybe because she was the epitome of the kind of woman he fantasized about. Everyone had a type, and she was his.
"Took me a while to find them when I first came in this morning, too." He pointed to the row of numbers. "And I think it's either on its last leg, or it's the slowest elevator in this city."
"Probably both." She laughed, a soft feminine sound that flooded his male brain with a spurt of endorphins. It was the only explanation for the spark jumping through his system. Either that or he was on the edge of exhaustion. Whatever it was worked for him.
"Did you have trouble finding a parking spot?" she asked, tilting her head to one side, a move that caused the light in the lobby to catch her hair just right, and made him wonder what it would look like spread over a pillow. It was probably as silky smooth as it looked.
"I had to park two blocks away," she added. "Which meant two blocks walking in these." She angled one foot out and displayed the heel of one shoe.
High heels. And stockings. Maybe with a touch of lace at the thighs. Yeah, she'd definitely look great in something like that.
He mentally shook himself as he cleared his throat. "I took a cab. My car's being delivered later this morning."
Now she looked straight at him, and he looked straight back, his thousand-watt smile ready. But instead of smiling back, she frowned, then shot him a strange look.
"I just moved here," he explained. "First time in Glenwood Falls."
"Oh." She nodded slowly and stared at him with an intensity that was both unnerving and thrilling. Must be the jet lag catching up with him.
"Maybe you could recommend some place for dinner. Since I'm new here," he added as the elevator doors slid open. And maybe she'd offer to have dinner with him.
Hey, he was a guy. Doing what came naturally to guys, right?
She stepped in ahead of him, turned, and raised an eyebrow as if she'd read his mind, then gave him a once-over. "Le Printemps. On Fifth Street," she said calmly. "You're the type who'd like it there. Floor?"
Floor? He glanced at the bank of buttons and blinked. "Top one."
She pressed it, but not another one. What business did she have on the top floor? He had a bad feeling about this. He wanted to ask her, but that odd look was back as she pulled an oversize bag off her shoulder and searched inside it.
Something had shifted, somehow, during the course of their conversation. Daniel wasn't sure what he'd said, but the woman was definitely frostier than she'd started.
"Have you lived here long?" he asked as the elevator started its slow climb.
"All my life." She scrounged around in her purse, then found what she was looking for. "There you are," she said, pulling out a small package of M&M's.
She attempted to tear into it, and she was doing the muttering thing again. He wasn't quite sure if he found it cute, but he was certainly leaning in that direction.
Finally, she got the package open, and then she pulled out a chocolate covered peanut and tossed it into her mouth. Her eyes closed as she sucked in a deep breath.
The movement propelled him back. Eight years back, to be exact. Assuming he'd correctly realized why she seemed so familiar.
He stared as she fished out another piece of candy. "I used to know a girl who packed those things around everywhere she went. Ate them whenever she was stressed."
Like the way his gut now churned at the memory of the last time he'd laid eyes on the girl. And she'd been just that. A girl. Barely nineteen, if he remembered correctly. Then life got rough, so he'd ended it with her—and not in a gentle way, either. Guilt washed over him as it had several times through the years.
She continued to watch him. "Is that right?" she said slowly.
Daniel stepped back, gave his elevator companion a once-over. She crushed the empty bag between her fingers and balled the wad into her hand.
That clinched it. He said, "I know you—"
"Yes, you do," she interrupted as the elevator doors slid open. "Good to see you again, Daniel."
And without another word, she turned and marched toward the reception desk on the Crenshaw Industries floor.
Excerpted from Merger of the Heart by Melia Alexander, Kari Olson. Copyright © 2014 Melia Alexander. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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