Chapter 2

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2

Liam rounded toward the wet bar in the corner of the vast living room he'd kept open and sparsely decorated on purpose. He didn't like knick-knacks, had no taste for antiques, but loved open space and natural materials like mismatched stone and authentic, blemished wood. He'd built his very own camp in New Hampshire exactly as he wanted it.

Summers had been spent on the property as kids—him, his sister, his brother, all tossing one another in the lake, hiding in the thick forest, fighting battles with plastic swords and grimy hands. And after too many adult years spent in New York, building his business, discovering new tech companies to invest in, helping them to succeed, he'd been ready to retreat to the woods that were part of his family's roots.

But he couldn't think about family now—he'd been steeped in his brother's illness, fighting for care no matter the cost, offering to build wings in hospitals if it meant his brother would be okay. He hadn't just been steeped in it, he corrected, he'd drowned in it. And hadn't that been why he'd flown in Emerson? To remind him of adventure? To help him forget about the sanitized scent of the hospital and the constant tug of guttural fear?

Pouring brown liquor from a crystal decanter into two glasses, figuring on two fingers of fine brandy, he calmed at the idea she was there, in his home. Finally.

He knew she wondered and waited, and even though he'd been thinking of this moment in flashes over the years, he took the time to collect himself. He hadn't thought through the words, only the desire. Liam lived in the moment and wasn't one to waver in his desires.

And as he'd left the hospital room for a cup of coffee on a sunny day in Boston the week prior, he'd glanced back in and had seen his sister-in-law holding his brother's hand. He hadn't given consideration to why Emerson flashed in his mind at that moment. Instead he just did what he needed to do to get her there.

"It's great to see you, Emerson. You look even more incredible than when I saw you last in New Orleans."

She frowned as she took the drink he handed her. Instead of sipping it, she simply held it in her hand and waited for answers. "What am I doing here? Are you really interested in a partnership with my company? Is this really a meeting?"

He sat back into the couch, the glow of the fire warming the edges of his fierce face, pulling back a drink of brandy that warmed from within. "One could argue we're meeting now."

Temper that came as natural as her red hair bubbled under the surface. "Fine. You're not going to answer my questions, fine. Since you don't at all seem surprised to see me, let me make some assumptions. You somehow found out my name and what? Brought me here thinking we'd repeat what we did in New Orleans years ago? You made me fly across the country and endure a damn helicopter ride—I hate flying, by the way—all to what? Come here just on some sort of whim of yours?"

Fidgety, she set down the glass so she wouldn't be tempted to throw it.

Hands fisted on her hips, she waited for him to respond. When he only looked at her with amusement hinting at his lips, his confident and competent lips, fury clawed.

"You think just because you're some wealthy businessman you can order people around? You can't pluck me out of my life and trick me into going places just because it amuses you, you unscrupulous, arrant butt-face."

His head tilted slightly to the side and he peered up at her as she paced. "Unscrupulous, arrant butt-face? I've been called a lot of things in my life, never heard that before."

A defiant eyebrow lifted once again. "Maybe not to your face."

He smiled and rose from the couch, his body filling the room, kicking up her temper another notch.

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