Playing With Seduction. Reese Ryan

Playing With Seduction - Reese Ryan

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Lena Adams looked tired and slightly haggard. She ran her hand down the soiled apron she was wearing and smiled, then pushed open the screen door. “It’s so good to see you.”

      He wrapped his long arms around his mother, her face buried in his chest. “Good to see you, too, Mom.” His gaze traveled around the room. A thick layer of dust had settled on the furniture. Dust bunnies inhabited the corners. Stacks of books and papers were piled on various surfaces around the living room and dining room. If he wasn’t holding his mother in his arms now, he wouldn’t have believed he was in her house.

      Lena had been the house manager for a wealthy family for two decades. She’d administered weekly white-glove tests, making her the bane of the housekeepers’ existence. She would settle for nothing less than absolute cleanliness. Which led to much of her frustration with him, as a boy. Even while caring for his grandmother, she’d managed to keep the place immaculate.

      What’s going on?

      His mother finally released him. She squeezed his hands in hers. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me you were coming. I would’ve gotten the place ready and invited your brother up from Atlanta for a few days.” She looked behind him. “Where are your bags?”

      “This is a last-minute business trip. I’m staying at the new resort Liam’s family built at Pleasure Cove.” He tried his best to focus on his mother’s face, and not the chaos surrounding them. “He wants me to work on a project for the resort. I haven’t accepted the job yet, but I’m considering it.”

      “Really?” His mother pulled him into the room and toward the sofa. Shifting a pile of magazines from the couch to the floor, she made a place for him. She sat, then patted the space beside her. “All these years, you wouldn’t take a job from the Westbrooks. Got your daddy’s pride.” Through years of practice she’d managed to make the last statement without malice. In fact, there was almost a hint of a smile.

      Wes wished he could manage even a semblance of a smile at the mention of his father. The man that had up and left them so many years ago.

      All because of him.

      He cleared his throat. “I wouldn’t be an employee. I’d be working with them as a contractor. And nothing is set in stone. We had the preliminary meeting earlier today.”

      “If it would keep you here, I’m all for it.” She patted his hand and smiled. “But you seem worried. Why?”

      Wes drummed the pads of his fingers against his knee. Whatever was going on with his mother, her innate sense of when he was perturbed was still intact. “It would mean working with a girl I met more than a year ago. Things didn’t quite work out between us.”

      “Humph.” She nodded, knowingly. “If you’d settle down and give me some grandchildren, you wouldn’t have to worry about encountering ex-lovers at business meetings.”

      Wes sighed. “She isn’t an ex-lover. We spent one night dancing and hanging out at a club in London. There was nothing to it really.”

      His mother laughed. “I’m guessing the young lady doesn’t agree.”

      “Yeah, well it’s nothing we can’t work through.”

      “If you really believed that, you wouldn’t be considering passing up on this job. And if you’re considering taking money from the Westbrooks, it must be a game-changing opportunity.” Her eyes twinkled. Sometimes he wondered if she didn’t know him better than he knew himself.

      Liam and Nigel Westbrook had been trying to get him to come on board at Westbrook International Luxury Resorts since his days in university. But he’d been a scholarship kid at the private academy he’d attended with Liam and at college after that. He didn’t want a position just because Liam was his best friend. He wanted to earn his way in the world on his terms. Which was why his master’s degree in business was collecting dust on the shelf in his flat back in London. During college, he’d discovered his gift for organizing events. Better still, he’d learned he could make a hell of a lot of money doing something he actually enjoyed. So he’d abandoned his plans to scale the corporate ladder at some conglomerate and struck out on his own.

      As proud as Wes was of how the business had grown in London, he wanted to expand his business to the US. Another way to prove to his father that he was a success. The kind of person he should never have walked away from.

      It was the only reason he’d considered Liam’s offer.

      Wes smiled. “Think you know everything, don’t you?”

      “Not everything. Just you.” She squeezed his hand. “Why don’t I fix us some lunch. You must be hungry.”

      “Don’t go to any trouble on my account. In fact, why don’t I take you out to eat? How about we go and grab an early dinner at the restaurant on the waterfront you’re always telling me about?”

      A slow smile spread across her face. “You sure? I could just as easily cook us up something. Won’t take but a minute.”

      “I’m positive.” He stood. “You go on and get ready. When we come back, I’ll help with anything you need around the house.”

      The fair skin on his mother’s cheeks pinked slightly. “I know things have gotten a little out of hand around here. Like I said, if I’d known you were coming—”

      “It’s okay, Mom.” The last thing he’d wanted was to embarrass his mother, but there was something going on. Something she hadn’t mentioned during their frequent calls. He needed to get to the bottom of it. “I haven’t been home in a few years. I just want to help any way I can while I’m here.”

      Her smile slid back into place. “Okay, baby. Give me a few minutes to get myself together.” As she stood, she seemed to lose her balance. He reached for her, but she’d steadied herself on the edge of the couch. “I’m fine.” Her tone was defensive. She cleared her throat, then softened her expression. “Just the trappings of old age, I guess. I’ll be back in a few. Excuse me.”

      He watched his mother cross the room and ascend the stairs. Her gait was unsure, and she gripped the banister as if her very life depended on it. The last time he’d visited she was practically taking the steps two at a time. Like always.

      A sinking feeling settled in his gut and crept up his spine. Wes walked back into the dining room and surveyed the books and magazines cluttering his mother’s table. They were mostly health and nutrition magazines with little sticky notes protruding from them. He picked one up and turned to the marked page. A tightness gripped his chest, making it difficult for him to breathe. He put down the magazine and picked up another and another. Each sticky note marked an article about Parkinson’s disease.

      He shifted his gaze to the pile of books. The title on the top of the pile sent a chill down his spine. Parkinson’s Disease: A Complete Guide for Patients and Families. The orange cover of the second book offered 300 Tips for Making Life with Parkinson’s Disease Easier.

      A wave of panic rose in his chest. He steadied himself on a chair then flopped down in it. Lena Adams was one of the strongest women he’d ever known, rivaled only by his grandmother. She was wrong about Wes having his father’s pride. Every ounce of strength and willfulness he possessed, he’d learned from her. She’d always seemed...invincible, so independent. Thinking of his mother slowly losing herself to this disease terrified him.

      Wes heard his mother descending the creaky stairs. He should put everything back so she wouldn’t know he’d been rummaging through her things, but he wouldn’t. Instead, he turned to face her, brandishing the orange-covered book. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

      The smile on her face instantly disappeared, replaced by a look of guilt and apology. She didn’t bother to chastise him for going through her books. “I—I was going to tell you the next time you brought me out for a visit.”

      “How long ago were you diagnosed?” He tried to keep his voice even, despite the fact he was so angry he could practically crawl out

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