Is love worth the risk…An unhappy marriage taught Terri Powers never to trust again. Instead, she put all her energy into developing her inner strength and independence–creating the successful New York advertising agency she'd always dreamed of. Then she meets handsome, strong-willed businessman Clinton Steele. Try as she might, Terri can't fight the sensual attraction between them–or the desperate hunger that fires her deepest passions……when everything is at stake?Neither Terri nor Clinton can ever imagine just how much is at risk. But when a stranger appears from Terri's forgotten past who calls himself a friend–his deception could destroy everything Terri has fought so hard to build. Now two wary hearts have to persevere, as long-buried secrets put Terri and Clinton's love to the most perilous test of all…
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This novel is dedicated in loving memory of my
grandmothers: Clotilda Braithwaite and Mary Hill. You both are always with me.
Oh what a tangled web we weave,
when first we practice to deceive.
âSir Walter Scott, Marmion
(1808) stanza 17
âJust stay calm. Getting all worked up isnât going to solve anything,â Terri muttered to her reflection as she partially wrapped her shoulder-length dreadlocks atop her head. Cool brown eyes stared back at her, revealing none of the turmoil that had precipitated her three-month leave of absence from her self-named corporation.
To look at thirty-year-old Terri Powers, no one would imagine what the past two years had done to her. Her New Yorkâbased public relations and advertising company had skyrocketed since its inception five years ago. With a minimal staff she had almost carried the company single-handedly. Because of that, she would always blame herself for the miscarriage of her baby. That trauma was compounded by the disintegration of her four-year marriage to photographer Alan Martin.
She took a breath and slipped long silver earrings into her lobes. The reality was, her marriage to the flamboyant Alan Martin was over long before the divorce. Sheâd just been unwilling to see it. She and Alan were a disaster waiting to happen. Even now she questioned her attraction to him. Sheâd been young, eager for love and eager to have someone love her back. She had been captivated by his charm, his vision and exuberance. His looks and his blatant sexuality only added to the total facade. So much so that she overlooked and made excuses for his flawsâwhich, she finally had to admit, were too numerous to mention. Her collapsed marriage sheâd begun to deal with. The loss of her baby was something else entirely. A topic which she did not discuss with anyone. Losing her baby had resurrected too many painful memories, and her hopes for a family of her own had died with her child. Although her losses were more than a year behind her, the aftereffects had finally taken their toll and drained her spirit over the months. Pretending that everything was wonderful and right with the world took all that she had left, she thought sardonically.
It was to that end that sheâd hired her vice president, Mark Andrews, at a time when her world seemed to be slipping beneath her feet. His rÃ©sumÃ© was outstanding. He was charming, had a razor-sharp mind, was exceedingly good-looking and had brilliant ideas for company growth. The fact that he vaguely struck some familiar chord within her only endeared him all the more to her.
Over time, sheâd given Mark more and more responsibility as the events of her life and the pressures of the job slowly overwhelmed her. Terri finally realized that for her own good and the good of the company, she needed to take a break. Now it was time to go back and reclaim the reins.
Terri frowned as she lightly coated her bow-shaped lips with a soft orange lipstick. Mark had crossed the line and deliberately ignored her instructions. If it hadnât been for her director of promotions, Stacy Williams, informing her of Markâs activities, the whole deal would have gone down without her knowledge or consent.
As things stood now, her company was in the midst of negotiations with a man that she wouldnât give the time of day. Clinton Steele. Everything that sheâd ever read about the man set her teeth on edge. He was in the business of buying small African-American companies on the verge of collapse and turning them around for his own profit. From everything that sheâd read, he paid the owners nothing near what the companies were worth. He called himself a businessman. Humph! She considered him nothing more than a predatorâone whom she would have nothing to do with. To think that he wanted her company to run an ad campaign for him had her head spinning.
Terri strutted down the short foyer and slipped into her heels. Wouldnât they be surprised to see her returning to work three weeks earlier than scheduled. She smiled. If Mark Andrews and Clinton Steele thought that they would be dealing with the Terri who was haunted by her past, they were wrong. This was Terri Powersânew and improved, rested and rejuvenated. And someone had a lot of answering to do.
âGood afternoon, gentlemen.â
Sultry was the only word that stroked all of Clintâs senses when the distinctly feminine voice, coated with just a hint of a Caribbean accent, pervaded the low rumble of male conversation.
âTerri.â Her vice president, Mark Andrews, looked up and rose in greeting, as did his client Clinton Steele. âWe were just going over Mr. Steeleâs proposal,â Mark added, slipping back into his discarded charcoal-gray suit jacket, in an effort to camouflage his surprise at her unannounced return.