Tied together by tragedy, business tycoon Garrett Gage has always vowed to protect Kate Devaneyat all costs. What he doesn't expect is that she'd someday need protection from him. When did Kate blossom from an orphaned little girl into a breathtaking woman? And what possessed him to forsake a deathbed vow and take vulnerable Kate into his arms, into his bed?
Now that they'd been intimate, things have changedmore than Garrett could possibly know. Kate is carrying his child. And along with that, a secret that could change everything .
About the Author
Red is married with two children and, though she travels frequently, likes to call Texas home. For more information on Red, visit her website at www.redgarnier.com.
Read an Excerpt
This was hell.
The Gage family mansion was lit up with light and music and flowers tonight. All the movers and shakers in San Antonio seemed to be having a good time, a good wine and a good laugh. But Kate had gone well past purgatory an hour ago and was now sure that this night, this endless night, was nothing other than hell.
With a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, she watched the striking couple across the glittering marble floor.
"Garrett," the slight, sensual blonde gushed to the tall dark man, "you're just like fine wine, better and better with age."
Garrett Gage, the sexiest man on the planet, and the devil in Kate's hell, ducked his head and whispered something into the woman's ear with a wicked gleam in his dark eyes.
How many nights had she dreamed Garrett would look at her like that? Not like a little girl, but like a woman?
In a black suit and blood-red tie, with his dark hair slicked back to reveal his chiseled features, standing proud and imposing like the media baron he'd become, Garrett Gage could cause lightning to strike. He could make butterflies rise in your stomach. Make the earth stop. Make your heart thump. He could make you do anything just for a chance to be the one woman at his side.
For years, Kate had thought that feeding him, seeing him enjoy and praise her creations, was good enough. The next best thing to having sex with him, she supposed. But now it just pained her to cook and cater for a man who didn't even notice that she, Kate Devaney, the woman who made the chocolate croissants he so loved, was on the menu, too.
If only one of her waiters hadn't failed her at the party tonight, Kate might have showcased her new dress with just the right amount of hip sway to finally draw Garrett's discerning eye. But with a tray fixed permanently to her shoulder, no one spared a glance at the glossy satin dress she wore; she was just passing the food.
"Darling, be a dear and bring over some of those cute little shrimp skewers with the pineapple tips," a woman said as she swept up a crab-and-spinach roll and guided it to her lips.
"Orange-pineapple shrimp? It'll be right over," Kate said.
Grateful for the distraction, she swept back into the kitchen to load up a new tray. Usually the sight of her workers milling about the three-tiered cake and pulling out mouthwatering snacks and hors d'oeuvres from the oven would fill her with satisfaction. But even that didn't lift her spirits tonight. Eight more weeks, Kate. Just two months. And then you never have to see him with another woman again.
As she carried a new tray into the busy living room, it struck her that she was going to leave behind this house with so many good memories, and this family who'd practically raised her as one of their own. She'd been so happy here; she'd honestly never imagined leaving until her feelings for Garrett had become so painful. Moving to Florida was the best thing to do-the healthiest. For her. To be away from that hardheaded idiot!
"Mother tells me you're leaving." Julian John fell into step beside her as she navigated past a large group. Kate had been so deep in thought that she started at the low, sensual voice.
She glanced up and into the gold-green eyes of the youngest Gage brother, a beautiful man with a heartbreaking smile who was known to be guarded and quiet-except with Molly. He was only two months away from marrying Kate's perky and passionate younger sister and officially becoming her brother-in-law. But if Julian already knew about her departure-who else did? Her stomach cramped in dread.
"I can't believe she's told you. I asked her not to tell."
Julian plucked a shrimp skewer from the tray and popped it into his mouth. Like all Gage men, he had massively broad shoulders, and his symmetrical, masculine face looked as if it had been cast in bronze. "Knowing my mother, she probably thought you meant not to tell the press-and that would exclude its owners."
Kate smiled. At seventy, still stout and active, the Gage matron was a force to be reckoned with. She was the proud mother of three strong, successful media magnates-not that Landon, Garrett and Julian John were powerful enough to keep the sassy woman from having her say.
She glittered tonight in a highend ruby-colored dress, which was completely undermined by the plain black bed slippers she wore. Comfort, to her, was everything. She didn't care what others thought and had enough money to ensure that everyone would at least pretend they thought the best of her.
She'd been the closest thing to a mother to Kate, who'd grown up without one. At the tender age of seven, she and her bodyguard dad had moved in to this very house where Garrett's birthday celebration was being held. Her father had died shortly after, leaving Kate and Molly orphans, but this house had remained their home.
"Nothing Molly and I can do to change your mind?" Julian asked, gold-green eyes flicking across the room toward Molly.
Kate could melt when she saw the glimmer of pride and satisfaction in his eyes when he looked at her sister.
It only reminded her of what she herself wanted in her future.
A family of her own.
Which was why she had to leave and rebuild her life, find other interests, and find herself an actual love life with a man who wanted her.
"I really have to do this, Jules," she told him as she shook her head and extended the tray to the people standing opposite him. Within seconds, the shrimp skewers started to disappear, one by one.
She had to get away, before she ended up watching the man she loved marry another, form a family. Before she became the dreaded "Aunt Kate" to children she'd always wished would be hers.
"But don't tell Garrett yet, okay? I don't want him on my back already."
"Hell, nobody wants that man on their back. Of course I won't tell him."
Smiling at that, she stole a glance in his direction, and yes, he was still there, as gorgeous as he'd been a minute ago, the blonde looking completely absorbed in him.
The woman was some sort of business associate of his who clearly enjoyed raising men's temperatures. Kate didn't know her, but already she abhorred her.
Seeming distracted, Garrett glanced around the room, and his liquid coal eyes stopped on Kate. Her heart stuttered when his gaze seemed to trail down the length of her silky form-fitting dress-the first male eyes to take in her attire tonight-then came back up to meet her startled stare.
Suddenly the look in his eyes was so dark and unfathomable, she almost thought that he-
Whatever emotion lurked in his eyes, it was swiftly concealed. He raised his wineglass in the air in a mock toast, and added a smile that, although brief and friendly, went straight to her toes.
But that smile had nothing on the one he gave his companion when he turned away from Kate. His lips curled wide, with a flash of white teeth, and Kate just knew the poor woman was done for.
So was Kate.
Damn it, why hadn't she gotten one of those wolfish smiles?
Garrett had been there for her for as long as she could remember. A permanent fixture in her life. Steady and strong as a mountain. Her father had died for him. And Garrett had taken the promise he'd made to the dying man to heart.
Now Garrett protected Kate from raindrops and hail, from snow and heat, from kittens with claws and barking dogs. He even protected her from bankruptcy by ensuring the family always had a catering "event" around the corner. But Kate did not want a father.
She'd had one, the best one, and he was gone.
Garrett couldn't replace him; nobody could.
"He's not going to be pleased when he learns, Kate," Julian warned her.
Kate nodded in silence, watching Garrett's mother walk up to him. The elderly woman said something he didn't seem to find particularly pleasant to hear, and a frown settled on his handsome face as he listened.
If only she didn't love that stubborn moron so very, very much
"Lately he's not pleased about anything," Kate absently said. She remembered the times she'd caught him looking at her with a black scowl during the family events, and just couldn't see why he seemed so bothered with her. "And I don't want him to stop me."
Her father's job had been to protect the Gages. And he had. But somehow, with his death, the family had ended up feeling like they should protect Kate.
They'd made her feel welcome and appreciated for almost two decades. But after receiving so much for so long and giving back so little, Kate felt indebted to the family in a way that made her desperate to prove to them, to all of them, that she was an independent woman now. Especially to Garrett.
"Fair enough. Sunny Florida it is," Julian agreed.
He had always been the easiest to talk to. There was a reason everyone, possibly every female at this party other than Kate, had a little crush on Julian John.
He seized her hand and kissed her knuckles, his eyes sparkling. "I guess this means we'll be buying a beach house next door."
She laughed at that, but then sobered. "Julian. You will take care of Molly for me, won't you?"
His eyes warmed at the mention of his soon-to-be wife. "Ah, Kate, I'd die for my girl. You know that."
Kate gave him a smile that told him silently but plainly how much she adored him for that. Witnessing their love for each other and how it had started out of friendship had been surprising and inspiring, and yet also heartbreaking for Kate. She loved seeing her sister so happy, but couldn't help wish
Wish Garrett would look at her in the way Julian looked at Molly.
Stupid, blind Garrett.
Blind to the fact that the little girl who'd grown up with him had become a woman.
Blind to the fact that she would gladly be his woman.
And even blinder to the fact that before he could say yay or nay, Kate Devaney was moving to Florida.
"What do you mean, Katie's moving to Florida?" Stunned, Garrett stared in disbelief at his mother, his date and business associate completely forgotten at his side.
"Only what I meant. Little Katie's moving to Florida. And no, there's nothing we can do about it. I already tried. And hi there," she said to the blonde pouting at his side. "What did you say your name was?"
"Cassandra Clarks." The woman extended a hand that sparkled with almost as many jewels as his mother's.
But Garrett was too preoccupied to pay attention to their sudden conversation, a conversation that was no doubt about the promising possibility of merging Clarks Communications into the Gage conglomerate. He spotted Kate across the room, and a horrible sensation wrenched through him. She was leaving?
When her gaze collided with his, the grip in his stomach tightened a notch. God, she looked cute as a ladybug tonight, too cute to be waltzing around in that dress without making a man sweat.
Then there were her eyes. Every time she looked up at him with those sky-blue eyes, pain sliced through his chest as though that bullet had actually hit Garrett, instead of her father. He'd never forget that he was living now, breathing now, because Kate's father had stepped into the line of fire to save him.
He'd tried to make it up to her. The entire family had. A good education, a roof over her head, help with securing her own place and encouragement so she'd open her catering business. But lately Kate seemed sad and discontent, and Garrett just didn't know how to resolve that.
He felt sad and discontent, too.
"But&$#133;she can't go," he said.
Eleanor Gage halted her conversation with Cassandra and turned her unapologetic expression up to his. "She says she can."
"To do what? Her whole life is here."
His mother raised a perfectly plucked brow that dared him to wonder why, exactly, she would want to leave, and a sudden thought occurred to him. He frowned as he considered it. Kate's distance would be good for him. He might even finally be able to get some sleep. But no.
He'd made a promise to her father, years ago, the tragic night of his death. Kate and her little sister, Molly, had become orphans because of Garrett. They would always belong here, with the Gages. This was their home, and Garrett had done everything in his power so that they would feel comfortable, protected and cared for.
Molly was marrying his younger brother now. But Kate?
Garrett had always had a weakness for her. He respected her. Protected her. Even from things he himself sometimes felt.
His whole life he'd ignored the way Kate's hair fell over her eyes. The way she said Garrett an octave lower than any other word she spoke. He'd ignored the way his chest cramped when she spoke of having a date, and he'd even done his best to try not to count all the freckles on the bridge of her pretty nose.
It wasn't easy to force himself to be so damned ignorant. Of that. But he'd done it by force and that was exactly how it would remain.
Kate was like his sister and best friend. Except she was truly neither .
He would still do all kinds of things to protect her- and this included making her see that moving to Florida was not a good option. Not an option, period.
Scowling, he snagged his mother by the elbow and pulled her closer, so that Cassandra didn't overhear. But the woman took the cue and easily began to mingle- leaving him to talk to his mother in peace. "When did she say she was leaving?"
"The day after the wedding."
"Eight weeks?" His brain almost ached as he tried to think of ways to keep her here. "Long enough to change her mind then."
"My darling, if you manage to-" his mother gently patted him on the chest "-you'll make me a very happy woman. I don't want Katie anywhere in the world but here."
Garrett bleakly agreed and snatched a wine goblet from a passing server. He almost downed the liquid in one gulp, wondering how in the hell one could change the mind of a stubborn little handful like Kate. She could teach old, grumpy men a thing or two about sticking to their guns, and Garrett wasn't looking forward to being on the opposite end of the field from her. Or then again, maybe he was.
It was always fun to pick a fight with Kate.
It seemed the only way he could vent his frustrations sometimes.
Frustrations that seemed to grow by the minute as he stalked over to Cassandra, who was engaged in a conversation with two other women Garrett knew but couldn't remember the names of.
He was interested in securing her family's company to consolidate the Gages' grip on Texas media, but he couldn't even think about that now.
Kate was packing her bags and flying out of his life in eight weeks, and he was so determined to stop that from happening that, if he had to, he would run to Florida after her on his own two feet, and come back carrying her like a sack of potatoes on his back.
Which might even be more fun than fighting with her now.
"Something's come up," he apologized as he brought the blonde around to look at him. "I'm afraid I'll need a rain check on our talk."
He smiled down at her to ease the blow, marveling that he could, and he was glad to find there was no hostility in her eyes. She didn't tell him to go take his apology and shove it where it hurt, but instead she said, sounding alarmed, "When can I see you again?"
"Soon," he said with a nod, his mind already on Kate.