Emma heard the door click shut, and she pivoted to face Alex.
“I trust you can make this quick,” he said, taking a single step
toward her, planting his oxfords wide apart.
He was even larger and more impressive up close, with broad shoulders and a
deep, muscular chest. Stark sunrays highlighted the uncompromising planes of his
face. His chin was square, the set of his lips grim, and his eyes were the color
of hard slate after a glistening rain.
She got the feeling few people crossed him and lived to tell the tale. If she
didn’t know he’d been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, she’d
swear he grew up on the streets of Brooklyn.
Not that any of it mattered. He wasn’t getting his hands on her baby
sister or their company.
“You are not marrying Katie,” she stated bluntly.
He gave a careless shrug. “I believe that’s up to Katie.”
“My father isn’t even cold in his grave.”
“Doesn’t change your financial situation.”
“I can fix our financial situation.” Maybe. Hopefully. They could
always mortgage the Martha’s Vineyard property.
Alex cocked his head to one side. “I can have your loan called within
twenty-four hours. Can you fix your finances that fast?”
Emma didn’t answer. He knew darn well she couldn’t fix them that
fast. It would take weeks, maybe months to work through the maze of mortgages,
letters of credit and personal guarantees signed by her father.
Her chest tingled and tightened. Why oh why did her father have to die so young?
She missed him desperately. And she’d counted on having his guidance for
decades to come.
“Why do you even want McKinley Inns?”
Garrison Hotels had dozens of properties, bigger, more opulent facilities.
McKinley occupied a small, high-end niche, where Garrison could compete with any
luxury hotel chain in the world.
“You’re joking, right?”
She shook her head.
“Like anyone, I want to expand. And you’re an opportunity.”
“And you don’t care who gets trample in the process?”
The man’s reputation was well and truly deserved. Though his press coverage
had become more flattering over the past months, Emma wasn’t fooled. He
was a cold-hearted takeover artist who profited from other people’s misfortune.
He took another step forward and crossed his arms over his chest. “I
don’t think Katie made the situation clear. I’m the one doing you
Emma’s spine snapped straight. She tipped her chin to look him in the
eyes. “By marrying my sister and taking over our company?”
“By saving your company from bankruptcy. You’re insolvent, Ms.
McKinley. If I don’t take you out, somebody else will. That’s the
way capitalism works.”
“Don’t patronize me.”
A cold grin flexed one side of his mouth. “Way I see it, this is a win
“The way I see it, this is a lose lose.”
“That’s because you’re idealistic and impractical.”
“At least I have a soul.”
He shifted his stance. “Last time I checked, a soul wasn’t a requirement
for a business license in the state of New York.”
“She will not marry you.”
“Did she explain the deal?”
Yes, Katie had explained the deal. Alex wanted their company. But he’d
spent thousands of dollars over the last two years improving his image, and he
was afraid of negative publicity from preying on two newly bereaved sisters.
Oh, he still wanted to prey on them. He just didn’t want anybody to know
“She told me,” said Emma tightly.
“Then you know you’ll keep half the company.” His impassive
expression turned to a scowl. “And I’m crazy for offering you that
“You actually expect to buy a bride.”
“At that price. Yeah.”
Emma honestly didn’t know what to say.
“Are we done?” he asked.
Were they done? What did she do now? Make a hollow threat? Storm out the door?
Swear he’d never get his hands on her precious inns when they both knew
that’s exactly what he would do?
He seemed to sense her hesitation. “Nobody gets hurt,” he said.
“The publicity will help us both. The press will go nuts over the merging
of two great hotel families. We’ll feed the story to female reporters, who’ll
get all misty-eyed at--“
She raked her bangs back from her forehead. “Are you listening
He blinked. “What do you mean?”
“You don’t find that plan just a little cold-blooded?”
“Like I said, nobody gets hurt.”
“What about Katie? What about David?”
“Her boyfriend. The sweet, gentle caring young man she’s been dating
for six months. He’ll be heartbroken and humiliated.”
Alex paused. For a second she thought she saw an actual emotion pass through
his eyes. But then it was gone, replaced by hard gloss slate once again. “David
will get over it. He can marry her later, when she’s worth a lot more money.”
Emma opened her mouth, but no sound came out.
“What about you?” Alex asked into the silence.
“I’m pretty upset,” she answered, in the understatement of
He rolled his eyes. “Your emotional state is irrelevant. Do you have
a steady boyfriend?”
“No.” And what did that have to do with anything?
“You marry me.”