Losing Control. Robyn Grady
“Frankly, I almost fell off my chair when he asked me to come in for an interview. I was even more blown away when he gave my show the green light straightaway.” Thoughtful, she ran a thumb over the remote’s keys. “I was on such a high, so convinced I’d do a great job, but after meeting Cole, I have to wonder if that green light is fast turning red.” She set the remote down on the corner of her desk. “Roman, can you set me straight on something? Because I’m a little confused. Which Hunter is in charge here? I know control of the branches of the company was split a few years ago between the three sons, but I assumed Guthrie still pulled all the strings.”
Beneath a flop of dark sandy hair, Roman’s high brow creased. Then he held up a cautionary hand and, although they’d been speaking quietly, he crossed to close the door.
“Word is that after his wife’s death,” Roman said, moving back, “Guthrie lost all heart. No one knows for sure, but if you put it to a vote, most will say he gave up all control.”
“You mean Guthrie has no say? What’s he doing then, hiring me?”
“Guthrie was down for a while but when he married again, he got his wind back. Staff here were chuffed. It was as if he’d got another chance at life and he didn’t intend to waste a minute. The wedding was big, expensive—” he hiked a brow “—and fast.”
Of course Taryn remembered the publicity surrounding that big day, a huge celebrity bash with a bride who had looked thirty years the groom’s junior—which was nobody’s business but their own.
“At my interview, Guthrie seemed genuinely excited and behind my show,” she said.
“Then he must believe in it.”
“While his son’s hand is twitching on the guillotine rope. He told me unless I can come up with an extraordinary twist, I’m out.”
Roman thought for a long moment before giving a mischievous smile. He purposefully set down his empty cup. “Right-o. We need sketch pads. Markers. A plan.”
She blinked and then brightened. “As in you and me ‘we’?”
“Two heads, and all that. What say we come up with a twist that hits Cole right where he bloody well lives? He’ll either love it or …”
“Or he’ll love it.” He had to. Taryn moved to scoop her laptop out from its bag. “Let’s get started.”
When Cole stabbed the loudspeaker key and realized who was on the phone, he flung down his pen and grabbed the hand piece. It was past six—closer to seven. He’d been hanging out for this call all day.
“Brandon, thanks for getting back to me.”
“Just got back into the country.” Brandon Powell’s familiar deep drawl echoed down the line. “What’s up?”
Cole gave his friend a summary of events—the attempt to run his father’s car off the road three weeks ago, the near miss with shots fired this morning, how Guthrie, to his mind, didn’t appreciate the seriousness of the situation.
“You want to fix your father up with protection,” Brandon surmised.
“He’s already hired someone.”
“Then I’m not sure what you want me to do.”
“For starters, put a trace on Eloise.”
“Your father’s wife?”
“Second wife.” Cole’s lip all but curled. “I have a hunch she might be behind it all.”
“You’re accusing Eloise of attempted murder—based on what?”
“Based on the fact she’s a—”
Cole let loose a few choice adjectives and nouns that had been building for years, starting when he’d first got wind that a much younger woman—a so-called family friend—was making a play on a man who’d recently lost a loving wife. None of the boys had thought Guthrie would be interested in her batting lashes and syrupy condolences. When it had become apparent the two were an item, their father was already hooked.
Brandon’s reply was wry. “I take it you haven’t warmed to your stepmother yet.”
“I still can’t believe he married her. My mother’s best friend’s gold-digging daughter.”
Shame on Eloise but more shame on his father.
“I hate to mention this,” Brandon said, “but Guthrie’s an adult. He makes his own decisions.”
“And I make mine. How soon can you organize a tail?”
“If you’re sure—”
“Give me a few hours to track down the right guy and brief him. But I need to warn you. If your father has his own man on the job, there’s a chance he’ll find out you’ve done this behind his back. And if Eloise ultimately isn’t implicated …”
Cole knew what his friend had left unsaid. Guthrie took the well-being and loyalty of his entire family seriously. His father had a five-year-old son with Eloise and another on the way. If he discovered his eldest had gone behind his back like this, he’d view it as a betrayal. Guthrie wouldn’t disown a son, but he might kick Cole out of Hunter Enterprises for good.
Considering the options, Cole rapped his fingers on the desk before he drove down a breath and confirmed, “I’ll take that chance.”
He didn’t want a rift to develop between two more members of the Hunter clan but, dammit, his father’s safety came first.
After settling some details, he and Brandon caught up briefly. Brandon was still enjoying his bachelorhood and was looking forward to a Navy Cadets reunion; they’d served in a unit together for three years rising up through the ranks from “dolphins” to petty officers. Brandon said he hoped to see Cole there, but he’d be in touch before then.
They signed off and, feeling worn out, Cole set his bristled jaw in the cup of his hand at the same time his empty stomach growled. He hadn’t eaten since breakfast. There was still more he could do here tonight, but his brain needed fuel. Time to knock off.
While Cole shut down his laptop, a knickknack perched on his desk caught his eye. The winding steel-tube-and-rope puzzle had been a gift from Dex and was based on the Gordian Knot legend. Thousands of years ago, Alexander the Great had been asked to unravel that intricate knot, which everyone knew couldn’t be done. But Alexander had thought outside of the box and found a simple solution. He sliced through the rope with his sword and, hey presto! With this gift, Dex was telling Cole to lighten up … life’s problems didn’t need to be so intense and all-consuming.
Cole would rather ignore advice from a playboy producer who was overdue a Hollywood hit. There were no shortcuts to success. No easy paths to victory. Cole kept the toy on his desk not as a reminder to take the low road as Dex was wont to do, but as a prompt to stay on course, even when he might rather say to hell with it all.
After shrugging into his jacket, Cole locked up his office, spun around and near jumped out of his skin. In the muted light, he’d almost run into something. Or rather, someone.
Taryn Quinn stood not a foot away, her scent still fresh, her eyes still bright. With her blond mane gleaming and plump lips bare of gloss, she looked like a vision. A drop-dead sexy vision, at that.
She inspected his briefcase, peered around his frame to the closed door and her eyes widened in alarm.
He frowned. “Didn’t realize I had to sign out.”
“I thought that someone in your position would be here till all hours.”