His Instant Heir(7)

By: Katherine Garbera

“So I’m the Tin Man then and don’t have a heart. Is that what you’re saying?” he asked.

She caught her breath at the flash of pain in his eyes. Just as quickly it was gone, and back was the determined suitor. She still wasn’t sure what he really wanted from her, but she was determined to know this man better. She had until dinner to figure out the best way to tell him about DJ. She had until tonight to figure out if there was a way to use him to save as many of her staff as she could. She had until tonight to find a way to handle everything he threw at her.

She had a bad feeling the latter was going to be much harder than any of the others.

* * *

Dec had always felt like he wasn’t the same as everyone else. The adult in him knew it had everything to do with him being adopted. His mother had insisted he be treated like the other Montrose heirs, but inside Dec had always known he wasn’t a true heir. And that had affected him.

Normally he didn’t give a crap about that. He knew he’d been called a shark. Cold and heartless when it came to his approach to business. A man who coolly cut staff, sent them packing and didn’t apologize for it. That was business. Usually the people who complained were the ones who didn’t make the cut. But hearing Cari say he was heartless had given him pause.

“Tin Man, really?” he asked when he realized she wasn’t going to respond to his comment.

Ah, hell, he thought, pushing his hands through his hair. “Well, Cari?”

“I didn’t mean it that way,” she said, but he noticed she bit her lower lip and didn’t lower her arms. She in fact did mean it that way.

“I’m not here to hurt you or your company,” he said. “In fact, as a shareholder I’d think you’d be happy about the takeover. Despite the enmity between our families, you are going to be a very rich woman when this is all over.”

“Is money the most important thing to you, Tin Man?” she asked teasingly.

“I’m not a Tin Man.”

“Sorry. I didn’t say it to be rude,” she said, then nibbled her bottom lip. “Well, maybe a little. I’m trying to figure you out.”

It was there in her tone. She was hiding something, or maybe just hiding from him. Maybe she’d discovered that it was going to take more than one kiss to get over him. He sure as hell was winging from the embrace they’d just shared.

“Good luck with that,” he said. “I have enough money to make life comfortable. It’s a nice goal, though. Most people want more.”

“That’s true. Is that the reason most of our stockholders sold to you?”

“I didn’t talk to them, so I can’t say. But profit is why they invested in Infinity Games.”

“I know. I just hate change.”

Change didn’t bother him and never really had. He knew that life was one constant change. People who got comfortable in a situation found themselves… Well, like Cari right now. “I’m not heartless when it comes to staff. Is that your biggest concern?”

She shook her head and fiddled with the ring on her right hand. “Everything about you raises red flags, Dec. I wanted to be cool and sophisticated this morning. Instead I let you kiss my socks off and stumbled into a door.”

“I like you the way you are,” he said.

She gave him that half smile of hers that had originally drawn him across the Atlanta convention space to her booth. It was inviting and sweet and made a man want to do anything he could to keep her smiling.

“Good, because I’m too old to change.”

He laughed. She was young enough and innocent, as well. Despite the fact that she was the spawn of his family’s hated enemy, there was nothing malicious in Cari. “If you’re old, I must seem ancient.”

She tossed her hair and let her arms fall to her sides as she studied him. “Not old, but there is something ageless about you. I know you have work to do. My assistant will work for both of us…unless you have one who will be joining you here.”

“No. I don’t need an assistant and it’s a cost savings to just utilize existing staff.” He’d had an executive assistant a few years ago, but the man had become a liability when he’d started to get too chummy with the staff of the company they were dissolving. It hadn’t been easy, but Dec had fired him. Not everyone was cut out to work in mergers and acquisitions. It required a person who could compartmentalize. And he was the king of that.

“Cost savings…is that how you always look at the business?” she asked.

Her tone said she didn’t approve, but that didn’t bother him at all. If she’d asked him something like this about their personal life, it might, but this was business. There was no place for emotions in the workplace. If something was losing money it had to be cut, and Infinity Games had made too many poor decisions. Perhaps leading with the heart instead of the wallet. It had left them vulnerable to a takeover and now Dec was here to clean it up. And he would.

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