SHE WAS TAKING CHARGE OF HER DESTINY. The pampered daughter of a successful hotelier, Marnie Montgomery had everything she ever wanted--except independence. Now that would change. No man would ever again tell her what to do--certainly not infuriating, domineering, undeniably attractive Adam Drake. Adam was determined to clear his name of the false charges that had ruined his career at Montgomery Inns. If that meant deceiving the Montgomery daughter, and even stowing away on her boat, so be it. If she had secrets, he would discover every single one.
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April 30, 2008
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Excerpt from Sail Away by Lisa Jackson
Adam Drake felt the skeptical gaze of every man who sat around the polished table. They'd listened to him, scanned the thick sheaf of papers that was his proposal and leaned back in their chairs, without questions but exchanging knowing glances.
The three men in the room were potential investors from California, men who, so far, hadn't turned him down. Yet. However, Adam knew they each had doubts about his proposal--and concerns about Adam himself. He didn't blame them. His reputation was more than a little tarnished.
It was surprising that these investors had stuck around this long.
The lawyer, Brodie, reached into his pocket for a fresh pack of cigarettes. It seemed to take forever for the cellophane to drop onto the table. "I think I can speak for my associates," he said, looking to the other two men and receiving quick nods of approval. "We like the idea of expanding to Seattle, but we've got some reservations."
"This wouldn't be an expansion," Adam reminded the smooth man in the expensive suit. This was a point they'd haggled over before. "I'll own the majority of the hotel. Your capital will be returned, with interest in the amount specified in ten years." He flipped to page six of his proposal and slid it across the table.
Brodie lit up, scanned the neatly typed paragraphs, then flipped through the remaining pages of the contract. He shot a stream of smoke out of the corner of his mouth. "Right, right," he said thoughtfully. "But for the next ten years we would be part owners of your hotel."
"That's right," Adam replied, managing a tense smile. God, he hated this kind of politics. Depending upon other people, wealthy men, to finance his business operation. The thought of being tied to anyone bothered him. That was his problem. Bucking authority. Refusing to bend to the power of the almighty dollar.
So why was he here?
Because he had no choice. Victor Montgomery had seen to that.
At the thought of Montgomery and especially the lowlifes who worked for him, Adam's blood boiled for revenge. He forced his thoughts back to the present.
Brodie, eyeing him still, thumped on the contract with one manicured finger. "This looks good, Drake. Only a couple of clauses to reword, but what's really bothering me--" he blew more smoke to the ceiling and squinted at Adam, sizing him up for the thousandth time "--is what happened at Montgomery Inns last year..."
There it was. The noose again. The rope that would strangle him.
Adam felt the tension in the room. Be cool, he told himself, not showing a flicker of emotion though the sweat was running down his back and his nerves were strung tight as piano wire. "I was never charged with embezzling," he said evenly. His eyes moved from one man to the next.
"But Montgomery never hired you back," a tiny, apprehensive man sitting to Brodie's left, Bill Peterson, interjected. Behind glasses as thick as the bottom of a soda bottle, Peterson's nervous gaze shifted to each of the other men around the table.
"I didn't want to go back," Adam stated. That much was true. He'd never work for a snake like Montgomery again, though he itched to know who had set him up. The memory was still painful. Once, he'd respected Victor Montgomery and he'd thought the older man had felt the same for him. Stupid, he chided himself silently. Victor had shown his true colors and fired Adam swiftly, pressing charges against him, then, when there was no indictment, sending a severance check to him through his lawyer--through his damned lawyer! Victor hadn't even had the guts to face Adam himself. Only the lawyer had been witness to Adam's wrath and stared in uncomfortable silence as Adam had ripped up the check and tossed the confetti-like scraps into the air.
Brodie's voice brought him back to the present. "Look, Drake, before we go into direct competition with Victor Montgomery, I think we should clear this matter up. The way I hear it, there wasn't evidence enough to indict you, and yet the money that was skimmed off the Puget West project was never located."
The collar aroundAdam's neck felt tight, the blood thundered through his veins. The money had just vanished. No amount of going over the books had uncovered the missing cash. And in that respect, he was, as project coordinator, responsible.
"That's what we don't understand," Peterson said, while the third partner, a silent man with flat features, said nothing. "There should have been a trail. How could anyone have walked away with--what was it? Half a million dollars?"
Adam nodded tightly, though he hoped his expression was calm. "Five hundred sixty-three thousand and change."
The silent man whistled.
"That must have taken some doing," Brodie said, stuffing his copy of the proposal into his briefcase.