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The Tycoon's Socialite Bride
By Tracey Livesay, Rochelle French, Lewis Pollak
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Tracey Livesay
All rights reserved.
Arcing back, Marcus Pearson swung his driver and hit the ball off the eighteenth tee at Congressional Country Club, the contact reverberating up his arms. The ball soared through the air and landed a third of the way down the fairway. He smiled and let the golf club slide through his fingers.
Next to him, his friend and attorney, Carter Richardson, whistled. "Hiring a golf pro seems to be a good investment, after all."
"Speaking of investments, we have to do something about the Holcombe deal. Increase the bid by ten percent." Money solved every problem. Anyone who didn't agree either didn't have enough of it or wasn't willing to part with it.
Carter's jaw dropped open. "Are you kidding?"
"Great shot," a voice called out, smooth, mellow, and undeniably feminine.
Marcus whipped around and then stared, momentarily at a loss for words. He had seen a lot of beautiful women in his life—he was a wealthy man and there was never a shortage of attractive women willing to be seen in his company. But this woman, the one who'd stepped off the paved pathway and onto the green, was extraordinary. Her hair, long and shiny, hung in a curtain around her face. Her mirrored sunglasses hid her eyes, but drew his attention to her high cheekbones and full lips.
Beside him, Carter whispered, "I hope she's part of the welcoming committee."
"Well worth the six-figure initiation fee."
"You're a difficult man to track down, Mr. Pearson," she said when she reached them.
"Not for those I want to find me."
"And how does one make it on that rarefied list?"
He studied her, from that magnificent hair, past the yellow dress that showed off a fantastic body, down shapely legs to strappy heels, then smiled. "I think you can be added."
She returned the gesture, a dimple appearing in her left cheek. "I'm flattered."
"Hello." Carter slid in, extending his hand toward her. "I'm Carter Richardson. Attorney. Good guy. New man around town." He blinked rapidly. "You look familiar. Have we met before?"
Marcus burst into laughter at his friend's come-on line. "It's a new city, man. You need new material."
She took Carter's hand and her eyes flickered in Marcus's direction briefly before returning to Carter. "I can honestly say we've never met."
That was probably true. But something about the broken eye contact and the hesitation in her voice told him it wasn't the entire story.
Carter released her hand, giving her fingers a tiny squeeze. "I hope this isn't the last time I'll ever see you, Miss—or is it Mrs.?"
"Pamela. You can call me Pamela."
"I'd like to," Carter murmured.
"Down, boy," she said, laughing. "I'm actually here to speak with Mr. Pearson. Do you have a few minutes?" She turned to him and removed her sunglasses.
His breath caught in his throat. A brilliant pale green flecked with streaks of golden yellow, her eyes were a striking contrast to her warm caramel complexion.
"I've still got to play my ball," Carter said, grabbing his bag and heading down the fairway, then called over his shoulder, "I'll meet you on the green."
She looked around. "He shouldn't have to carry his bag. Where's your caddy?"
"We don't have one."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I'll talk to the staff about that. They should have provided one for you."
"No. I meant we don't need one. Why would I have someone carry my bag when I'm perfectly able to carry it myself?"
"Because it's their job. And caddies do more than carry bags. They offer tips and strategies on playing the course."
He shrugged and slid his club back into his bag. "I figured it out."
She cleared her throat and looked away from him, raising her right hand to shield her eyes. He glanced at her left hand, wrapped around the strap of her bag. Other than the diamond band on her pinky, it was bare.
"What can I do for you, Pamela?"
"I'm here about the G Street Women's Shelter."
Thoughts of sharing a pleasurable evening with an intriguing woman morphed into a tiresome fund-raising pitch session. No thanks, no matter how enticing the representative. Shaking his head, he reached into a pocket on his golf bag and pulled out a business card. "Call the office tomorrow and speak to our PR department. They handle the requests for donations. They're based in our San Francisco office, so—"
"I'm not here about a charity." She frowned. "Well, I am, but not the way you think."
He hefted his bag. "If you'll excuse me, it's been a long afternoon."
"Wait. This is important and I'm not doing this right." She took a deep breath and pulled her shoulders back. "Did you recently acquire a building on G Street Southwest?"
He let the bag drop. He couldn't answer her because he didn't know. And he should. Success had come to him at a young age because he believed the buck stopped with him. Always. He'd made it his business to know every piece of property his company acquired and every project his people developed.
Since his move back to the District, however, he'd been focused on the Holcombe. Apparently, to the detriment of everything else.
"Because the building you purchased has been home to the G Street Women's Shelter for the past eight years. Would you consider selling it? I'll pay you full listing price."
"It's not for sale." His team was the best in the business. If they sanctioned the deal, there must be something profitable about the building or the area. And Pearson Enterprises was in the business of making a profit. He would support their decision.
"You're not renewing their lease. When it expires, they will have no place to go." The wind picked up slightly, her skirt blowing in the breeze.
"I'm truly sorry about their displacement. That's why we give tenants sixty days' notice. So they can find new accommodations."
"It's a women's shelter, Mr. Pearson, not a stock market boiler room. We can't just move to another building, especially in DC. Zoning for our type of home has become more restrictive." She ticked off each point on the fingers of her left hand. "We'd have to find a building we can afford in a properly zoned neighborhood where the residents won't object to a battered women's shelter nearby. That limits the availability to—oh, I don't know—the building we are currently occupying!" She didn't try to conceal her irritation. It rolled off her and coated him, heavy and thick, like fog blanketing the coastline. Her eyes had gone wide and color tinted her cheeks.
"There's nothing I can do." He turned and started down the cart path.
She ran up alongside him. "Is that it? You aren't going to help us?" She was so focused on him she didn't notice a golf cart heading their way. He reached out and pulled her off the path just as the cart zoomed by. The old man driving it never stopped.
Adrenaline raced through him and they stood breathing heavily, his arm around her waist, their bodies pressed together. A diamond solitaire winked at him where it lay in her cleavage. He had a sudden and unexpected vision of her naked except for the necklace, in his bed, her long limbs and soft skin open and welcoming.
"Thank you," she whispered.
She stayed within the circle of his body for a moment longer, and then she moved away. "I'm not asking you for charity. We can pay the rent. If you won't sell it, would you consider extending the lease for at least another year?"
"I'm sorry, we have plans for that property." He wasn't sure what the plans were, but knowing his staff, the purchase was integral to his business. "Now if you'll excuse me ..."
She looked up at him, her forehead wrinkled, her lips slightly parted, as if she couldn't believe she was leaving without her desired result. "There is no excuse for you, Mr. Pearson. I'm sorry I wasted both your time and mine."
Without another glance, she headed down the path toward the club, her posture stiff, dignified, and enticing as hell. He sighed and continued down the fairway to where Carter stood, waiting.
Setting down his bag, Marcus sized up the placement of his ball. "I thought she was after a charity donation."
"I wonder if that's why she looks familiar." Carter shrugged. "They don't give you time to settle in before they pounce."
Marcus ignored the way his conscience pricked when he thought of the women's shelter. He never would have approved that transaction if he'd known about it, but he'd given his acquisitions team unprecedented approval over projects. It wasn't their fault. They were doing their job. They didn't know about his personal history.
Rather than tell Carter what Pamela really wanted, he let the issue slide by. "New money in town. Can't blame them for trying." He hit the ball and followed its progress down the course.
"As for that hotel, Holcombe hasn't refused your offer. He hasn't even seen it. His agent told me Holcombe's attorney is doing the rejecting."
"Doesn't the attorney have a legal obligation to present all offers to Holcombe?"
"Not if Holcombe has set a precondition. For example, he may have told his attorney not to present him with any offers below ninety percent of the asking price."
"My last offer was well above fair market value."
"That was just an example. Besides, the building isn't worth that amount. You won't get financing."
Marcus closed his eyes and pictured the classic nineteenth-century Italian Renaissance-style building. With its golden spire and Doric columns, it was an elegant architectural masterpiece. A crown jewel of the nation's capital.
The Holcombe hotel.
All of his work, all of these years, had led to this one acquisition.
"I don't need financing. If I have to, I'll purchase it outright."
"You're going to mix personal and business assets?" Carter shook his head slowly, his brows pulled together. "What are you doing? You're not in the hotel business. You develop commercial properties. Speaking of, I checked e-mails while you were chatting." After tucking his club beneath his arm, Carter pulled out his iPhone, tapped the screen, and handed it to him. "This one, from Amanda, that cute little blonde in Development. This is the building we recently acquired. It's occupied now, but it'll be free at the end of next month. The building is in a prime location, a gold mine. The city has designated the area for revitalization."
Marcus slid his finger across the screen, scrolling through multiple photos and documents.
Carter continued. "Luxury lofts are going up and permits have been filed for high-end businesses. We got it for pennies, based on a tip from the zoning office." He smiled. "Fern, the redhead." He pointed to the screen. "It's on G Street, in Southwest."
Marcus stiffened. A building on G Street? Currently occupied? "How did you get this file?"
"I wrote the contract. This is the type of property you should be focused on." Carter tilted his head. "I wonder if she's single?"
"How would I know? I just met the woman." He paused. "But I didn't see a ring."
"I was talking about Amanda," Carter said in a knowing tone.
Marcus hated him. "Stop poaching my staff," he snapped.
"Poaching, Marcus?" Carter laughed. "They're not wild game."
"Then why do you hunt anything in a skirt? Draft another LOI and submit it."
"Don't even say it. You know what Holcombe did to my mother, how he allowed her to be mistreated, how he threatened her and blacklisted her, but you couldn't possibly understand. If you did, this conversation would be unnecessary. I swore to her that one day I would own the Holcombe and no one would ever disrespect her there again. I mean to keep that promise."
Carter was the only person who knew about Marcus's history with Holcombe. But his friend hadn't seen the look on Marcus's mother's face when she'd come home that evening, shell-shocked and ashamed. He didn't have to stare at the bruises on her shoulders or the torn sleeve of her maid's uniform and choke on impotent rage. And Carter had never stood in silent indignation and listened as Holcombe told him he would never take his mother's word over that of a man from a respectable society family.
Carter knew, but he didn't understand.
Marcus's shot was short, too far back for a clean approach onto the green.
Carter winced. "Tough one. You'll need to be careful with your approach. Between the water and the sand traps, you could be screwed. As for the Holcombe, I don't think money will solve this problem."
It had been a long time since Marcus had desired something he couldn't afford. He was no longer the maid's son, accused of not knowing his place, big eyes yearning for things beyond his mother's budget.
"That hasn't been my experience."
"This time is different."
"What do you know?"
"All right." Carter exhaled. "I can't confirm what I'm about to tell you, but it's from an ... interesting source. Word is Holcombe doesn't want to sell to new money. He wants his hotel to carry on its tradition of old-style service and excellence and he feels the only buyer who'll appreciate that is someone of his ilk."
Sheer willpower kept the acid in his stomach from coming back up. His fingers tightened around the grip of his club. He'd worked longer and fought harder than everyone he knew. Had made it to the top of his field. Was well-known and well-respected. But with a few words, this man almost reduced him to a scared little boy.
With effort, he flexed his fingers, loosening his grip. He took a couple of deep breaths. When he'd regained most of his composure he said, "There has to be a way around him."
"The Holcombe is privately owned. David Holcombe is the only person with the power to accept your bid, and he won't even look at it."
"We missed something. Go back over everything."
Carter pulled his phone back out and tapped the screen. "I'll get the team on it. Too bad Holcombe doesn't have a daughter. He couldn't deny his own son-in-law. Hell, any woman from the right family would do. Wine her, dine her, sixty ... uh, forget that last part. Lay on the Pearson charm. Do you want the hotel bad enough to marry for it?"
Marcus recoiled. "Nothing is guaranteed to make a man lose focus faster than marriage."
"It was a joke."
"Not a funny one."
Since his ball was closer, Marcus got to go again. Rooting around in his bag, he grabbed the appropriate club and prepared for his approach.
"Picture Holcombe's face."
"Shut up, Carter," he murmured. He pulled back, swung, then cursed when his ball landed in a sand trap with a soft thud.
He was contemplating throwing his club in after it when a golf cart screeched to a stop near them. A young man hopped out and hurried over. His khaki pants, logo-emblazoned polo, and name tag—Brian—indicated he was a member of the country club staff.
"Excuse me. Have you seen Miss Harrington?"
"Don't know who that is." Carter putted his ball into the cup with one stroke.
Brian's eyes glazed over. "You'd recognize her if you saw her. She's always in the newspapers and the society magazines. She's tall, with long hair. And she has these green eyes that are ... wow and—"
Awareness tingled on the back of Marcus's neck.
"Pamela Harrington?" Carter asked.
Brian nodded. "You saw her? Can you tell me which direction she went in? The golf pro heard she was out here on the eighteenth hole and sent me to give her a ride back to the clubhouse."
"That's why she looked familiar," Carter said to Marcus, under his breath.
"Who is Pamela Harrington?" Marcus asked.
"She's the daughter of Warren Harrington, the first African-American senator from Virginia. I think my aunt knew her mother. Old money. Very influential in politics and elite society."
His brain calculated, making the connections. Ideas came into focus. Plans took shape.
From old money. Not married.
And she needed something.
Carter peered over into the sand trap. "What about your ball? Are you just going to leave it?"
Marcus's heart pounded against his chest, pumping the energizing power of adrenaline throughout his body. Ignoring the question, he motioned to the boy. "Go back into the club and find out if her car is still here." He turned to Carter. "E-mail me everything we have on that G Street property."
"Yes! Now you're talking sense. Forget about the Holcombe."
"I'm not forgetting anything. The Holcombe will be mine. And I've found what I need to get it."
Excerpted from The Tycoon's Socialite Bride by Tracey Livesay, Rochelle French, Lewis Pollak. Copyright © 2014 Tracey Livesay. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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