by Kat Martin
Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Five weeks ago Carly Drake stood at her grandfather’s grave. Now she’s burying Drake Trucking’s top driver, and the cops have no leads on the hijacking or murder. Faced with bankruptcy, phone threats and the fear of failure, Carly has to team up with the last man she wants to owe—Lincoln Cain.
Cain is magnetic, powerful, controlling—and hiding more than one secret. He promised Carly’s granddad he’d protect her. The old man took a chance on him when he was nothing but a kid with a record, and now he’s the multi-millionaire owner of a rival firm.
But Linc’s money can’t protect Carly from the men who’ll do anything to shut her down, or the secrets behind Drake Trucking. If she won’t sell out, the only way to keep her safe is to keep her close . . . and fight like hell.
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Co-owner of Texas American Enterprises. His partner’s name was Beaumont Reese. She’d heard of Beau Reese, son of a wealthy Texas family, famous for his flashy lifestyle and his expensive hobby--driving formula one race cars, kind of a Texas Paul Newman. Though apparently he just drove for fun these days. When she had a little more time, she’d Google Reese, too.
Carly glanced down the page. There was a ton of stuff about Cain. One sentence caught her eye: net worth estimated at over five hundred million. Oh. My. God.
Mother deceased. No mention of his father. She went back to the web links, spotted the word Prison and clicked up the link. It was an article in People Magazine.
She didn’t have time to read it all so she skimmed the page, paused halfway down the article. An entire section was devoted to Cain’s teenage years, which mentioned a stint in juvenile detention when he was a junior in high school and another stay as a senior.
At age eighteen, he’d been arrested for attempted armed robbery of a convenience store along with two other youths, all three apprehended at the scene. Having just turned eighteen, Cain was sentenced to two years in prison while the other two kids, still seventeen, received lesser sentences and their juvenile records were sealed. Cain had never revealed their identities.
According to the article, after prison Cain had turned his life around and set himself on a course that had made him the multi-millionaire he was today.
A knock at the door ended her reading. Instead of bursting in as she usually did, Donna waited for permission, which meant Lincoln Cain had arrived.
She shut down the computer and answered the knock. “Come on in.”
Donna opened the door, her cheeks flushed and her eyes bright, the same affect the man had had on Brittany. “I’m sorry to bother you, Ms. Drake, but Mr. Cain is here to see you.”
Cain walked past Donna, wearing a charcoal suit today, Armani or Gucci, or some equally posh designer. At Delta, she had worked the first class section. She knew high-dollar clothes. The briefcase he carried was expensive belted leather.
Carly stood up behind the desk in her jeans and T-shirt. Suddenly remembering what was printed on the front, she froze. Cain’s gold-flecked green eyes ran over the words Bad Mother Trucker, and his mouth edged up.
Carly hadn’t expected the jolt of heat that faint smile created. She hadn’t expected to notice his lips at all, the slight tilt, the sexy way they curved. She wished to God she hadn’t.
She looked down at the bold white letters. “I...umm... spilled coffee on my blouse and one of the guys loaned me this. I thought I’d have time to change, but...” She shrugged. She was babbling. It was ridiculous. She didn’t owe Cain an explanation.
“No need to apologize,” he said. “I don’t always wear a suit and tie.”
One of her eyebrows went up. “Just most of the time?”
“Only when I have to.”
“Which is most of the time?”
His faint smile broadened. Those faint groves appeared and her stomach lifted. Forgodsake, he was only a man, good looking, but so what? He was also rich and powerful, undoubtedly controlling. She’d dated men like Cain. She had no interest in doing it again.
He said, “Too damned much of the time--that’s for sure.”
She relaxed a little. Maybe he actually had a sense of humor. “Why don’t we sit down?” Carly walked over to the round Formica table and metal folding chairs in the corner, and both of them sat down.
“So what can I do for you, Mr. Cain?”
“Linc would suit me better. If I can call you Carly. I feel as if I’ve known you for a while. Your grandfather talked a lot about you.”
She wished Joe had talked about Lincoln Cain. Why hadn’t he? But then they never seemed to have enough time to really talk at all.
“All right, Linc, what can I do for you?”
“As I said before, your grandfather and I were friends. He helped me when I needed it. In return, I’m here to help you.”
She studied the strong, masculine lines of his face, noticed the beginnings of a beard shadow along his jaw. She wondered if she could trust him. “Help me how?”
Cain opened his briefcase and pulled out a sheaf of papers, set the thick stack of pages down on the table. “This is an offer to buy Drake Trucking. I expect you to take it to your financial advisor as well as your attorney, but you’ll find the offer is extremely generous and the transaction will hold you harmless from any problems from the day we close the deal.”
She couldn’t believe it. Lincoln Cain was there to buy the company. Damn, she wished she’d had time to read more about him.
“What makes you think I’m interested in selling?”
One of his dark eyebrows went up. “I assumed that would be your first priority now that Joe’s gone. You’re telling me you don’t want to sell?”
She didn’t have to think about it. She had known almost from the day Joe died. “That’s exactly what I’m saying. My grandfather’s health issues left Drake in less than perfect financial condition, but with a little hard work--“
“Why go to all the trouble? If you take my offer, you can do whatever you want. You moved back here from San Francisco, I understand. As a flight attendant, you traveled all over the world. I can’t imagine you’d want to stay here in Iron Springs.”
He was beginning to annoy her. “Then you’re a man of little imagination, Mr. Cain. Because that is exactly my plan. I’ve traveled. I’ve done the things I wanted to do. Now I’m ready for a change. I need a new challenge and I’ve found it right here. I’m going to rebuild Drake Trucking, make it the successful company it was before.”
“It’s just Linc, and that’s a fine ambition, but how much experience have you had running a trucking firm?”
Not enough, but that was beside the point. “I learned a lot from Joe. I’ve forgotten some of it, but it’s beginning to come back to me. I’m a fast learner and a hard worker. I’ll figure things out.”
Cain shoved the paperwork across the table. “At least take a look, see what I’m offering.”
Her irritation mounted. Carly stood up from her chair. “I’ll be blunt, Mr. Cain. Drake Trucking is edging toward bankruptcy. It isn’t worth whatever you’re offering--which you would find out as soon as you looked at the books. So I’m saving you a lot of grief by simply saying no.”
Cain stood up, too, his towering height putting her at a disadvantage. “Buying companies in trouble and turning them around is what I do. I’ll cut you a deal that will cover your debts and let you walk away with a cool million dollars.”
A million dollars! And all her worries over. For one crazy instant, she actually considered it. Carly shook her head. “Thank you, but no.” She had a debt to repay. And she needed a purpose in life. She had found it here in Iron Springs.
His deep voice softened, rolled over her like a caress. “This deal isn’t just about money, Carly. It’s about friendship. Mine and Joe’s. Look at the paperwork, give yourself some time to think it over, then call me. My card is in the envelope.”
Carly slid the paperwork back to him. “I’m not interested. I appreciate whatever it is you think you’re doing, but I’m not selling. Drake Trucking is not for sale.”
He studied her for several long moments. “You’re not what I expected,” he said softly, making a little curl of heat slip into her stomach. Picking up the papers, he put them back in his briefcase and closed the lid.
He pulled a card out of his inside coat pocket and set it down on the table. “If you need anything, call me. It’s what your grandfather would want.” Grabbing the handle of the briefcase, he turned and walked out of the room.
As soon as the door closed behind him, Carly sagged down in the chair. Her hands were trembling. A shaky breath whispered out. Just being in the same room with Cain made her nervous.
She hoped he wouldn’t come back again.
A resident of Missoula, Montana, Kat is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. She and her author husband, L.J. Martin, spend their winters in Ventura, California. She is currently writing her next Romantic Suspense.
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