Losing Control. Robyn Grady
mean the accident was an attempt on my life.”
“I’ll tell you what it does mean. Bodyguards until this is sorted. And I don’t want to hear any argument.”
When Cole went too far and shook his finger, Guthrie’s smooth expression fell. Sixty-two-year-old palms pressed upon the desk and Guthrie pushed to his feet with the agility and posture of a man thirty years younger. Cole’s jacketed shoulders rolled back. There wasn’t a man alive who could intimidate him, although, even now, with an ax to grind, his father came close.
“You’ll be happy to know I have organized a bodyguard,” Guthrie said. “He’s a private detective, as well.”
Absorbing his father’s words, Cole willed away the red haze rimming his vision. His temper dropped a degree and then two. Flexing his fingers at his sides, he blew out that pent-up breath.
“What were you thinking, keeping this from me?”
“Son, I’ve only just got in.” Rounding the desk, the older man crossed over and set a bracing hand high on Cole’s jacketed arm. “You have enough to worry about. Like I said … everything’s under control.”
Cole winced. Guthrie was kidding himself.
Four years ago, when his father was recovering from bypass surgery and Cole had turned thirty, the family empire had been sectioned up and each son designated an equal portion to manage. Here in Sydney, Cole manned the Australian television cable and free-air interests. When he wasn’t chasing skirt, Dex, the middle son, looked after the motion picture end of business in L.A. The overindulged, overachiever and youngest of the Hunter boys from Guthrie’s first marriage, Wynn took care of the print media slice of the company from New York. Cole’s remaining full-blood sibling Teagan was off doing her own thing in Washington State.
Initially Cole had bristled at the idea of Daddy’s Girl shunning her responsibilities and refusing to step up to help run the business. Hunter Enterprises had provided well for them all, Teagan’s childhood operations and college designer gowns included … although, to be fair, with the top three jobs filled, her role would need to be a subordinate one. But given the time he spent watching and worrying over his brothers’ business and personal decisions, Cole had to be grateful that the Hunter wild child had opted out. God knows he had enough to deal with.
Of course Cole still loved his brothers and sister. Nothing could ever change that. They’d shared a wonderful mother, a talented Georgian beauty who had beamed whenever she’d told a new acquaintance that both he and Wynn had been born in Atlanta. With only two years separating each, the Hunter children had grown up tight. But, thanks to gossip magazines and the Net, all the world knew about the rifts, which made the running of such a vast enterprise under separate helms even more of a challenge. Through Dex’s overindulgence and Wynn’s overzealousness, Hunter’s reputation had taken some blows recently. For everyone’s sake, Cole was determined to assume genuine leadership over every quadrant of Hunter Enterprises, or die trying.
Guthrie wanted his children to mend their fences, get along and continue to build together. With their father married a second time to a calculating woman, playing happy families—keeping it all together—was nigh on impossible.
Winding away from his father, Cole moved to an early-spring view of commuter ferries crisscrossing Sydney Harbour’s vast blanket of blue.
“I’d be happier speaking to Brandon Powell about organizing full-time protection,” he said.
“I know you and Brandon have been friends for years, and his security firm is one of the best. It’s not that I didn’t consider it … But, frankly, I need someone who’s clear on who’s paying the bill.”
Cole pivoted around. “If you’re suggesting Brandon would ever act unprofessionally—”
“I’m saying you’d be at him to divulge every detail of my every move, including what transpires beneath the sanctity of my family’s roof, and that is not an option. I know you don’t approve of Eloise, but—” Guthrie’s furrowed brow eased and, weary of that particular fight, he exhaled. “Son, my wife makes me happy.”
“As happy as my mother used to make you?”
“As happy as one day I hope you will be with someone you truly care for.”
Cole refused to acknowledge the sheen in his father’s eyes or the uncomfortable restriction in his own chest. Instead, he headed back to those massive double doors. Lust and love were two different states. A man his father’s age should know better. His eldest son certainly did.
As if to highlight the point, the first thing to catch Cole’s eye as he strode back into his father’s reception lounge was that blonde and her star quality coaxing him into her long-legged, lush-lipped orbit. What red-blooded male would pass on the chance to bring those amazing curves close, to sample the soft press of that body and sweet scent of her skin? But that urge was sexual, only lust.
One day, Cole hoped to find the right woman. Someone he’d be proud to call the mother of his children. Someone he would respect and receive respect from in return. His stepmother didn’t know the meaning of that word. In fact, he wouldn’t be surprised if Eloise was behind those bullets for hire. Despite his father’s edict just now, he had no qualms about finding out if Brandon Powell thought the same.
When his father’s voice broke into his thoughts, Cole blinked his attention away from Ms. Summer-Blue Eyes. Standing to Cole’s left, Guthrie was studying him, salt-and-pepper brows hitched at a quizzical—or was that approving?—angle.
“I see you’ve met our new producer, Taryn Quinn.”
Cole did a double take. Producer? As in behind the cameras as opposed to in front of them?
Again he examined the woman whose glittering gaze was pinned directly on him. Feeling his blood swell, Cole cleared his throat. Producer, talent … either way, it made no difference. If his father hadn’t discussed this before now, anything other than a cursory introduction would have to wait. He had a meeting to attend, important documents to sort.
Cole muttered, “Good meeting you, Ms. Quinn,” then prepared to shove off. But she’d already eased to her stiletto-heeled feet, and as she extended a slender hand, the light in her eyes seemed to intensify tenfold. Dazzling. Inviting. Cole couldn’t deny he felt the warmth of that smile to his bones.
“You must be Cole,” she said as, reaching out, his fingers curled around and held hers. A current—subtle yet electric—sizzled up his arm and, despite his ill humor, Cole found a small smile of his own.
Well, guess he could spare a moment or two.
“So, you’re a producer, Ms. Quinn?” he asked.
“For a show I approved last week,” his father interjected as Ms. Quinn’s hand fell away. “Haven’t had a chance to speak with you about it yet.”
Cole asked, “What kind of show?”
“A holiday getaway program,” Taryn Quinn said.
Out of the corner of his eye, Cole caught Guthrie fiddling with his platinum watchband the way he did whenever he felt uncomfortable. And rightly so. The last holiday series Hunter Broadcasting had piloted died a quick and deserved death. In these tough economic times, if viewers were to swallow yet another “best destinations” show, the promise would need to deliver fresh sparks week after week.
And what about the exorbitant budgets? Sponsors could pull down costs but, since the global financial crisis, any collaboration was a squeeze. Despite her obvious allure, if the decision had been his, Cole would’ve given Ms. Quinn’s idea the thumbs-down before she’d cleared the gate.
Another mess he’d need to clean up.
From behind her desk, Guthrie’s receptionist interrupted.
“Mr. Hunter, you asked to know if Rod Walker from Hallowed Productions called.”
Thoughtful, Guthrie stroked