Chatsfield's Ultimate Acquisition

By: Melanie Milburne

CHAPTER ONE

NOWHERE ON ISABELLE’S list of things to do before The Meeting was there any mention of cleaning up a fur ball. She looked at Atticus in dismay. ‘You do this to me now?’

Atticus purred as he indolently lifted a front paw to groom as if to say, What is your problem?

Isabelle blew out a flustered breath. ‘Why didn’t you do this yesterday when I had time to take you to the vet? Why today, when I’ve got a hundred people filing into the boardroom—’ she glanced at her watch and groaned ‘—like in about five minutes. Argh!’

She pictured the Chatsfield clan striding in—Gene and his eight adult children...and Gene’s nephew Spencer Chatsfield and his two younger brothers. Even thinking Spencer’s name made her blood boil. As if what he’d done ten years ago hadn’t been enough. How could she have fallen for someone so hard and so fast when he’d only been playing a game? That was what made her veins throb and pulse with rage. She had been too stupid to see him for what he was. Too gullible and naive to see he was toying with her because he could, not because he wanted to.

Seven months ago he had come breezing back into her life with a takeover offer. A takeover offer! As if she would ever sell anything to him.

But he was up to his old tricks, somehow in the interim gaining forty-nine per cent of the Harrington shares. But at least they were equals now. She had the other forty-nine so he would have his work cut out trying to get them off her.

To get anything off her, including her clothes— especially her clothes.

‘I should’ve brought home the smooth-haired tortoiseshell,’ Isabelle said as she gingerly picked up the fur ball in a tissue. ‘What was I thinking getting a hair machine like you?’

Atticus blinked his green eyes and then lifted his back leg into a position Isabelle as a wannabe yogi could only envy.

‘Or a dog.’ She flushed the fur ball in the ensuite toilet. ‘One of those cute little yappy purse ones. That’s if dogs were allowed at The Harrington.’ She quickly checked her reflection in the mirror, grimacing at the way her layered hair hadn’t sat quite the way she’d wanted it to. ‘Or any pet for that matter. You should think yourself lucky I bent the rules to sneak you in.’

She came back out and looked down at her blue-grey Persian cat again. ‘Are you sure you’re not going to choke to death while I head downstairs?’

Atticus blinked again and mewed. ‘Purrht.’

Isabelle snatched up her bag and phone. ‘I hope to God that wasn’t a yes.’

* * *

Isabelle saw him as soon as she entered the boardroom. He was sitting to the left of his brothers, Ben and James. Dressed in a sharply tailored designer charcoal-grey suit, with an ice-white shirt and black-and-silver-striped tie, he looked every inch the corporate player. Wheeling and dealing was his forte. He thrived on the challenge of the game, be it in the boardroom or the bedroom...especially in the bedroom. Damn him.

His sapphire-blue eyes met hers across the space that divided them, making something punch against her heart like the jab of an elbow. His expression was inscrutable. But he’d always had the amazing ability to cloak what he was thinking behind a mask of marble or an enigmatic smile. Unlike her. Over the years she’d trained herself not to be so transparent. But it took so much energy to contain her emotions. Controlling them was like trying to bail out a wave-swamped dingy with a thimble.

She raised her chin and shifted her gaze to encompass the assembled family and hotel management staff. ‘I’m sorry I’m late. I was held up with a...a housekeeping issue.’

Leonard Steinberg, the business manager who was chairing the meeting, gave her a smile. ‘All sorted now, I hope?’

‘Absolutely.’ Isabelle looked at the one vacant chair on the other side of the table from Spencer. ‘Who are we waiting for?’

‘The mystery shareholder,’ Spencer Chatsfield said, clicking his pen on and off as his gaze tethered hers.

Isabelle suppressed a shiver as that cultured baritone with its English accent moved down her spine like a caress. She had to focus. This was the moment the Chatsfield family were waiting for, the moment when the final two per cent would be brought back to the table. She knew exactly who was going to walk through that door. Had known for quite some time. Had known and wondered how no one else had put the pieces of the puzzle together before now. The blowout in the press would be monumental. The Chatsfields were good at attracting scandals but this one was going to top the lot.

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