The Bravos: Family Ties. Christine Rimmer
The Bravos: Family Ties
The Bravo Family Way
Married in Haste
From Here to Paternity
MILLS & BOON
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About the Author
CHRISTINE RIMMER came to her profession the long way around. Before settling down to write about the magic of romance, she’d been everything from an actress to a sales clerk to a waitress. Now that she’s finally found work that suits her perfectly, she insists she never had a problem keeping a job—she was merely gaining “life experience” for her future as a novelist. Christine is grateful not only for the joy she finds in writing, but for what waits when the day’s work is through: a man she loves, who loves her right back, and the privilege of watching their children grow and change day to day. She lives with her family in Oklahoma. Visit Christine at www.christinerimmer.com.
The Bravo Family Way
For my son Matt and his new bride, Jenny.
May love, happiness and truth always be yours.
Fletcher Bravo rose from his sleek leather swivel chair. He braced his lean hands on his black slate desktop and canted toward Cleo Bliss. “I want you,” he said. “Name your price.”
A thoroughly unwelcome thrill shivered through Cleo. She had to remind herself not to shift nervously in the glove-soft guest chair.
Calm, she thought. Serene. Under no circumstances can he be allowed to sense weakness. She met those eerily compelling pale gray eyes of his with a level, no-nonsense stare.
I want you….
It was, Cleo told herself, only a figure of speech. He didn’t refer to Cleo specifically but to the top-quality service that Cleo and the people who worked for her could provide. If there was another, very sexual meaning in his words, Cleo chose not to acknowledge it—just as she chose not to recognize the hot little flares of excitement and attraction that had sizzled beneath her skin since she’d entered the CEO’s corner office several minutes before.
Cleo already had a man in her life and he was nothing like the one across from her. Driven, powerful, dynamic men in gorgeous hand-tailored suits just weren’t her style. She’d spent a good portion of her childhood watching what such men could do to the women they wanted.
Lesson learned. In spades.
She shouldn’t even be here. She certainly didn’t want to be here. But the man across from her had insisted. He’d started by having his associates approach her. Repeatedly. Each time she’d turned them down.
Fat lot of good declining had done. He’d called and said he wanted to meet with her personally. What could she do? In the past couple of years, Fletcher Bravo and his half brother, Aaron, had become major players in the gaming and megaresort world of Las Vegas. No smart businesswoman would offend either of them if she could help it.
So here she was. Meeting with him. Trying to get him to understand the word no.
So far she wasn’t having a whole lot of success. She cleared her throat and told him for what seemed like the hundredth time, “I’m sorry, but I’m just not prepared right now to take on a project of this magnitude.”
Those wolfish eyes narrowed slightly. “Get prepared.”
Cleo let a long beat of silence elapse before carefully suggesting, “Maybe I’m not making myself clear….”
“You are. As glass. But I’m not listening—and the day will come when you’ll thank me for not listening. Because this is an opportunity you can’t afford to pass up. This is growth, pure and simple. Growth that the Bravo Group will bankroll. Your facility here at Impresario will be double the size of what you’ve got at your current location. Inside and out, you’ll get all the space you require. State-of-the-art equipment. Whatever you need. Say the word and it’s yours.”
“It’s just not that simple.”
“Oh, but it is.”
“At KinderWay,” she said patiently, “we’re much more than a day-care service. We base our work on proven child-development techniques. For the program to be effective, it has to be consistent and ongoing. We’re not set up for drop-ins.”
“I realize that.” He lowered his head and looked at her from under the dark shelf of his brow. “And you won’t be a drop-in service. We plan to keep the regular day care for our guests. Employees with infants or workers who need day care only for after school can continue with our original program. I want KinderWay for the preschool kids only to start. And I want it exclusively for children of Bravo Group employees, both here at Impresario and at High Sierra.”
High Sierra and Impresario were sister resort/casinos. They claimed a big chunk of prime real estate on opposite sides of the Strip and were connected by a glittering glass breezeway that crossed Las Vegas Boulevard five stories up. Both were owned and run by the Bravos. Fletcher was CEO of the newer Moulin Rouge-themed Impresario. Aaron Bravo, Fletcher’s half brother, ran High Sierra.
Though Fletcher had yet to say so, Cleo knew the real reason he had decided he wanted the best preschool in Las Vegas on-site at Impresario. She could Google with the best of them, and in preparation for this meeting she’d done her homework. The photograph mounted in a brushed-chrome frame on Fletcher’s polished-stone slab of a desk told the real story here and confirmed what Cleo already knew. The little girl in the picture had brown hair and big, solemn dark eyes.
Fletcher must have caught the direction of her gaze. “My daughter, Ashlyn. She’ll be five in two weeks.”
“Almost old enough for kindergarten,” Cleo said gently. “She’ll outgrow her need for a preschool in no time at all.”
He shrugged. “I know that at KinderWay you take children up to first grade. So if you opened a facility here, Ashlyn would be at KinderWay for eighteen months—at least. And even longer if we can get you to extend your program through the third grade.” He waited, as if for a comment from her. She gave none. He folded his tall frame back into his chair. “Ashlyn’s nanny, Olivia, has been with her ever since Ashlyn’s mother died and Ashlyn came to live with me. Unfortunately Olivia is leaving us, going back home to London.”
None of which affected the decision Cleo had already made. “We have a two-year waiting list at KinderWay, but I’ll see what I can do about—”
“Two years.” He was shaking his dark head. “More proof that you need a plan for expansion. You’re losing business, turning people away.”