Second Story Available Now!
Carlo had it all, a charmed life that included a beautiful wife and a thriving business. In talks to merge his company with the much larger Knowles Enterprises, a lucrative move he is certain will transpire smoothly, Emma Knowles suddenly informs him the deal is off. Moreover, she will ruin his business. Shocked at her sudden about face, he doubts the effect on him will be as devastating as her ominous threat foretold. Yet, he soon finds himself divorced, broke and a pariah in the business world.
Twelve years later, Carlo has rebuilt his empire and is once more in a position of power. He has focused his energies on one goal, vengeance. When he is poised to execute a hostile takeover of her company, Emma desperately offers him an alternate. She offers herself, for a week, to do with as he pleases. He accepts her offer, keen on subjecting her to degradation, breaking her and finally exacting his revenge.
It is soon apparent that something else is at play. Emma’s past attack was not unwarranted; she had good reason to do what she did. He struggles to uncover what her motivations were and what event drove her to such a cruel act. As he plummets into a scathing self-examination, his past acts are unveiled. Carlo realizes he is not the man he thought he was and that Emma is more complicated than he could imagine. A searing passion ignites within him, along with an intense need for atonement and forgiveness. Can he convince Emma he is not the man she believes him to be when even he questions who he truly is?
Carlo sipped his cognac slowly as he waited in the overstuffed leather armchair for her arrival. The hour of his vengeance was finally here but suddenly it did not feel like a victory. He shifted his weight and the soft rustle of the creamy soft leather was as alien to him as his own thoughts. He had waited for this, planned for this, plotted, schemed, and clawed his way to this moment. He had finally brought his nemesis, Emma Knowles to her knees. He had orchestrated a hostile takeover that was years in the making, his need to make her pay for all he had lost so strong it was all he had focused on. Every time he had seen a photo of her in the papers or online, every time he saw her smug smile, her hair always pulled into a severe bun, her masculine business suits and her owlish eyes behind thick lenses, his blood had boiled.
She had begged him not to take her company, the one built by her family, her legacy. His appetite whet with his impending vengeance, Carlo had been keen on watching her fall, watching her go through what he did when she had ruined his business all those years ago. He was gleefully looking forward to her pain when she proposed a different solution. She had offered him something else, something that had, at the time, seemed enticing. She had offered him her, for a week. One week to do whatever he pleased with her. Carlo had jumped at the chance, his mind racing with every degrading act he would subject her to in that time. However, as the days before she came to him passed, he began to question if he could inflict such things on her, even as he had so wished to punish her.
It had been a long three weeks, the wait for Emma’s arrival. He knew she would come, that she would stay true to her word. He spent that time preparing one of the guestrooms, giving his staff strict instructions on how to treat Ms. Knowles during her stay and pondering his decision. He found he did not truly want to be cruel to Emma despite all she had done to him, all she had taken from him. He informed himself repeatedly that he was entitled to his vengeance, but that had not prevented the burning ache in the pit of his stomach that ate away at him.
Therefore, awaiting her arrival, he focused on all the ills she had caused him. He thought back to the day, twelve years ago, when he had been blindsided by her. They had been in talks about merging their companies. He had been overjoyed at the offer that Knowles Incorporated was interested in his company, the one he had built from almost nothing, the one he had nursed from its infancy, helped with no more than a small loan from his father, and had quickly grown into a success.
Carlo was on top of the world during that time and during those preliminary talks with Emma. He had a hugely successful business, a beautiful wife, proud parents and a lavish lifestyle. He knew in addition to this all how attractive he was, how some women tended to get a little stupid in his presence. Now greying at his temples, at the time he had had ebony hair and green eyes, a combination so striking he turned heads everywhere he went. Tall and strongly built, he had always taken care of his body. He had seen Emma’s eyes lap up his beauty when they had first met but she quickly returned to her staunch and uptight manner. Negotiations had progressed smoothly and then one day when he entered the conference room at Knowles Incorporated, Emma had stomped in and delivered her devastating news. She spoke with venom and without any regard for the working relationship they had built. She coldly announced the merger was off and she would make it well known that he was not to be entered into business with, that she would ruin him. Stunned by her words, Carlo tried to reason with her but she had told him he was finished and had stormed out of the room.
At first he had not believed she, with her words, could have the effect she had. Then word of the failed merger spread and his business hit a quick and steady decline. Within a year, he had been forced to sell the business for a fifth of what it was once worth. His wife left him when the money began to dry up and between the cost of his divorce lawyer and the half of his remaining assets she was rewarded, Carlo found his lavish lifestyle slipping away. He found it impossible to find work in Toronto, Emma’s words had turned him into a pariah and he had had to relocate all the way to Edmonton in order to find a position that was not beneath him. His father died the next year, when Carlo was at the bottommost part of the process and he had never been able to accept the fact his father had not seen him bounce back from that predicament. His hatred for Emma Knowles spurned his consequent reversal of fortune. He now commanded a larger empire than he had then and, when he was finally in a position to take over Knowles Incorporated, he had realized his goal. He had turned the tables; he had driven Emma to her knees.
Distant voices informed him one of his staff had just let Emma into the house. He heard the click of stilettos on the tiled floors and turned his head when her footfalls entered the room. Emma stood just inside the doorway and Carlo was stunned to see her drastic change in appearance. Her glasses, severe business attire and dowdy hair were gone. She wore a dress that hugged every sublime curve he never imagined she had. Her wavy chestnut hair hung almost to her waist and, no longer hidden behind large and dowdy glasses, he could now see the beauty in her face, in the curve of her high cheekbones, in the plumpness of full lips he had never noticed before now. When her cobalt eyes, fringed with long dark lashes, met his, Carlo's mouth went dry.
He put his glass on the small table beside his chair and forced himself to get to his feet. He could not help but allow his eyes to look over her body again and they greedily gobbled up the sight of her. He had always seen her in pantsuits but now her shapely legs were on display for him, her calves tightly muscled with the heels she wore on her delicate feet. The hem of her dress fell a few inches above her knees allowing a glimpse of what were certainly sensational thighs. The swell of her hips enticingly narrowed to a thin waist and then her body widened again. He stared at her full breasts a moment, a subtle but promising amount of cleavage available for his eyes. He saw her throat twitch as she swallowed nervously under his visual inspection. His eyes glided over her jaw and pale face to alight on her eyes once more. He saw fear in them in the second before she averted them.
“I… hope I’m not late,” she murmured, her voice shaky.
“No,” Carlo replied, his voice thick with the uncertainty he felt.
Emma nodded but did not look to him.
“What do you want to do? Or want me to do?”
He shrugged. The movement caused her to look back to him and he could see tears surfacing in her eyes. He felt like a heel and debated telling her to go home, to forget about this entire arrangement. But his need for vengeance reared immediately, assuring him he had every right to exact his revenge after all she had done. His eyes narrowed as he crossed his arms over his thickly muscled chest.
“I expect you to please me, Emma. Tonight and every night that you are here. That was our arrangement.”
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1MtYxfy
C.A. Knoble can be found at:
* * *