Chapter 1

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1

The helicopter swayed in the sky and so did her stomach. It had been enough to fly across the country, which she often did for business, but that was after the proper preparatory measures of peaceful meditation music playing in her ear-buds and drops of a calming homeopathic remedy under her tongue. But the peace and remedy had worn off, and so had the professional polish she'd left California with.

Now, one side of her crisp white collar was popped up, the other laying flat with a smearing of respectable spice colored lipstick pressed into the fabric. She felt awful and couldn't help but show it. As her stomach dipped into another quick tug and low pull followed by a few fast flips, she figured her face was likely as green as the cash she'd stuck in the inside pocket of her purse for tips along the business trip.

Blades chopped at the thick gray opaque clouds that coated the New Hampshire sky. The pilot told her that it wouldn't be too much further and she pressed her lips together to refrain from pointing out that any distance further was too far. But given that in a few hours she'd be back in the same helicopter returning to the airport, she sucked it up and attempted to study the storm that brewed around them but couldn't bring herself to appear as anything other than sick to her stomach rather than confident and professional as she would have liked.

Showing how she felt came with the territory of having red hair, her mother had explained to her as a child. She'd been told it was a privilege, the gift of being an innately colorful person, but as she approached the home of one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in the country, she cursed it. It would be so much easier to be one of those women who could just remain glossy and perfect at all times, regardless of what was felt on the inside.

Emerson Brown closed her eyes, then opened her eyes, then closed them again. Nothing made her feel better. Except for the thought of strangling Liam Wyatt who'd arranged the tin bug with top wings to pick her up in the first place.

But not even hating an elusive billionaire made her feel less like throwing up.

Don't think about throwing up, she reminded herself. Think about work. Purpose.

There, she decided. Better. She was the Vice President of Business Development for a social media technology start-up and she was great at it. She could certainly fly from San Francisco to Boston to New Hampshire for a meeting like the respectable professional she was.

Except she hadn't planned on the private helicopter ride. She'd been told she'd be picked up at the Boston Logan airport but had assumed a car would be waiting. A car was a lovely, wonderful way to transport a person as it kept all wheels intelligently and practically on the ground.

The initial curiosity she'd felt when the apparently brilliant and secretive businessman's assistant called to set up the meeting with her had dissipated during the rough ride through the sky. But she was a professional, and a fine one at that. She would get the deal done. Of course, to be fair, she didn't know why he'd scheduled the meeting so she didn't actually know what kind of deal he was interested in. She'd done some of her usual due diligence in preparation but even after days of searching, she found very little information on the man or his holdings.

At least her company knew where she was, she decided. Just in case the guy turned out to be some eccentric psychopathic killer. Her CEO had all but begged to come with her, excited to meet the mysterious mogul, but at the last minute had flown to Britain, much to his dismay, to meet with an investor who threatened to pull his money.

The invitation had been to stay the night at Liam Wyatt's camp in New Hampshire, but that sounded quite dreadful and would have kept her away from her son regardless of her personal feelings. Plus she had no interest in brushing her teeth in a tent cabin next to some agoraphobic business beast. No one but her son, Archer, knew the color of her toothbrush these days. That information was much too personal. So she'd shocked her over-eager CEO and agreed to a one-hour meeting only. Then she'd fly back to California and be home in time to kiss her son's head, get a couple hours of sleep, wake up before dawn to bake, then drop him off at daycare with two dozen cupcakes for their little party.

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