First Page: Scooped
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Back then they were young, carefree, and driving cross-country, holding hands and groping each other with the windows down and the music blaring. Charlotte’s hair was blowing in the wind and her cheeks were tinged from the sun peeking through the roof. It was in that moment that Graham let himself imagine a lifetime of exactly this. The thought surprised him; it was the first and only time in his twenty-four years he’d allowed himself this luxury, allowed himself to think about having this in his grasp for a minute. This being Charlotte and everything she evoked in him.
A single minute was all it took before Graham’s own screwed-up version of reality crashed back down on him, rapidly deflating his carefree mood. First and foremost, he wasn’t that kind of touchy-feely guy. He was a man who didn’t dream of that happy-ever-after kind of bullshit. Then there was the fact that he wasn’t ever going to have a lifetime with anyone—couldn’t ever—no matter how decadent Charlotte felt in the moment.
The belief that it wasn’t possible to be happy with another person forever was buried as deep in his DNA as were his black hair and blue eyes. It just wasn’t possible, and for the first time since he found his mom in bed crying into an empty liquor bottle with his dad long gone, he felt bad for himself. Not just for himself. He looked over at Charlotte, her hair whipping freely in the wind and singing out of tune with her feet propped up on the dash, and knew in his heart he would hurt her one day.
Even if he tried not to hurt her, he would end up doing it because their relationship was never going to get any better than this moment—driving cross-country with nothing in their in their windshield or rearview mirror except good times. Their hands locked together while their eyes stayed focused on the road somewhere deep in Colorado. The energy of attraction throbbing and pulsing between them until they stopped for the night at a motel and had sticky, sweet sex as though tomorrow were coming way too soon. Then folding into each other in damp, dingy sheets without a care in the world. This was as good as it was going to get. For him. For her.
There could never be anything more, and for that, Graham hurt deep down in a place he didn’t even know existed in him. These moments felt so good, so right, that he wanted to never stop having them. Yet he believed with certainty that there would never be anything more than this. Ever.
It would never more than this with Char, or with anyone.
Graham Preston slammed his luxury sedan into his spot while shifting into park so quickly, no doubt in his mind—he did some damage to the very expensive transmission. He ignored his office staff looking at him curiously as he tore through the office in faded, beat-up jeans and a ratty lavender polo shirt, instead of his usual crisp suit and tie. Graham raced past the faces of expressed shock, knowing that it was the first time anyone at his company had ever seen him looking tired, let alone disheveled.
His assistant stood up from her desk with alarm on her face and a fistful of pink message slips. As she opened her mouth to speak, he shook his head and held up a hand. “Mandy, I have to leave town right away, so clear my calendar and e-mail me anything related to current accounts that needs my immediate attention.” Before she could reply, he ran into his office, grabbed his travel laptop, snatched up a few papers, shoved the message slips in his laptop bag, and left without another word.
His entire office stared in disbelief as he tore right back out of his office and out-of-town to God knows where, or why. Graham knew his staff would be shocked; he was normally infallible when it came to work. He ran a tight ship while rarely losing sight on his business. He didn’t offer them an explanation. He’d tell them what he wanted them to know when he was damn well ready. For right now, Graham wanted his staff to keep business as usual, so he could come back and get back to work when he returned from his current trip to hell.
Even though there were rumblings that his wife moved out many months ago and their divorce was almost final (leaving him with full custody of their daughter), Graham had been cool as a cucumber throughout it all. Never allowing Elise to cause him to lose focus was his priority. Graham kept his eye on the prize, meaning he moved his company forward as always.
After all, other than his daughter, all Graham really had was the business he’d built. It was his baby. Originally an escape from the East Coast and the shit that rained down on him there, Graham constructed a West Coast division of his family business that not only rivaled the original, but surpassed it…..