Anna Langford is ready to be CEO of the family business, but her brother won't give up control. When she sees the opportunity for a major deal, she goes for it, even though it means working with Jacob Lin, her brother's former best friend, the guy she's never quite gotten overthe man her brother now despises. A successful venture capitalist, Jacob makes ruthless moves. And Anna has given him the perfect chance to take revenge on her brother
What starts as business turns into romanceuntil Anna learns of Jacob's motives. And an unplanned pregnancy presents them both with the greatest challenge they've ever faced.
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"Strangle me? Isn't that a little harsh?" Anna Langford gaped at her friend and coworker, Holly Louis.
The pair stood in the luxe lobby of The Miami Palm Hotel, just outside the bar. Anna was preparing to see her bold business plan to fruition. If only Holly could find it in her heart to say something encouraging.
"I've only been in a few meetings with your brother, but he's going to hit the roof when he finds out you want to cut a deal with Jacob Lin."
Anna glanced back over her shoulder. The bar was humming with people, all fellow attendees of the two-day Execu-Tech conference. As Senior Director of Technology Acquisitions for LangTel, the telecom her father had started before she was born, Anna had the job of scouting out the next big thing. Her brother Adam, current LangTel CEO, had been crystal clearhe expected to be dazzled.
The company had been floundering in the months since their father's death, and Anna had a bead on a game-changing cellphone technology, only Adam didn't know it. She was fairly sure that LangTel's competitors hadn't figured it out either. Unfortunately, getting to the next big thing meant going through Jacob Lin, and he absolutely hated her brother. Adam, without a doubt, despised him right back.
"That's him, isn't it?" Holly asked in a whisper, nodding in Jacob's direction. "Damn. I've never seen him in person before. He's fifty times hotter than in pictures."
Tell me about it. Anna was well acquainted with Jacob Lin and his hotness. She'd been rebuffed by him and his hotness. Six years later and it still stung.
"Does he always have that aura?" Holly swirled her hand in the air. "The one that says he's genetically superior to every man within a fifty-mile radius?"
Anna didn't even need to look. "Yes, and he comes by it honestly. It's not an act."
"Wow." Holly patted Anna's shoulder. "Well, good luck. I'd say you'll need it."
"What?" Any confidence Anna had mustered was evaporating. "Do you really think it's going to be that bad?"
"You're a Langford. He hates your family. So, yes. I do think it's going to be that bad."
"Technically, I could order you to come with me. You're a member of my team."
Holly shook her head so fast it made her curly hair frizz. "My job description does not include suicide missions."
Another wave of doubt hit Anna, but she did her best to brush it off. She had to do this. If she was ever going to convince her brother that it was okay to step aside and allow her to take over as CEO, just as he'd promised her before their father died, she had to make tough decisions and dangerous moves.
Holly wasn't wrong, though. There was no telling how Jacob would react given his history with the Langford family. "I'm telling you right now, it's going to be great." Anna feigned conviction. "Jacob is a money guy and I can offer him a big pile of money. And once Adam sees how huge this could be for LangTel, he'll get past the personal stuff, too. It's business. Nothing else."
"So what's your plan to approach Mr. Hottie?"
"I'm going to ask the bartender to give him a note."
Holly squinted one eye as if she had a migraine. "Oh, because that won't seem weird?"
"I can't call him," Anna pled. "I don't have his cell number." The only number she had for Jacob was six years old, acquired during the week he spent with her family at Christmas, the year she fell for him, the year she'd kissed him. The year he'd told her "no." That old cell number was no longer his. She'd tried it, and no dice.
"You can't exactly go up to him and start talking either. You won't just get the rumor mill going, you'll set it on fire."
"No. I can't just walk up to him." However ridiculous it sounded, if ever there was an understatement, that was it. Everyone in the tech world was aware of the feud between Adam Langford and Jacob Lin. The backstabbing had been ruthless and very public.
"If anyone can make the impossible happen, it's you," Holly said. "Text me later and let me know what happened. Good luck."
"Thanks," Anna muttered. She straightened her blouse and strode into the room with her head held high, then sidled up to the only available seat at the bar. She discreetly took a piece of paper and pen from her purse. It was time to conjure her steeliest tendencies. No looking back now.
I'm sitting at the far end of the bar. I need to meet with you to discuss a business proposition. I thought it best not to approach you in the open considering the state of things between you and Adam. Text me if you're interested. Anna
She added her cell phone number and signaled to the bartender. She leaned forward, hoping the men sitting on either side of her wouldn't hear. "I need you to give this to the gentleman seated in the corner. The tall one in the gray suit. Black hair." She skipped the part about his ridiculously square jaw and sublime five o'clock shadow. She also left out his superhuman sexiness and his perfect, tawny complexion, the product of his Taiwanese and American background.
The bartender raised an eyebrow, looking down at the note.
Give me a break. Anna slid a ten-dollar bill across the bar.
The bartender swiped the money away. "Sure thing."
"And a dirty martini when you get a chance. Three olives." Liquid courage would be right on time. She scratched her head, striving to remain inconspicuous while studying Jacob. He ran his hand through his hair when he took the note from the bartender. She caught a glimpse of his deep brown eyes. It wasn't hard to remember the way they lit up when he smiled, but she doubted her message would prompt such a response.
His forehead crinkled as he read. What was he thinking? That she was crazy? Now that he had personal wealth north of one billion, was incredibly accomplished in the field of venture capitalism, and at the top of his game, it seemed a little childish to have sent a note. And to think she'd once hoped it would end well when she kissed him.
Jacob shook his head and folded the paper. He tapped away at his phone. How had she forgotten how bewitching his hands were? Like the rest of him, they were big and manly. They seemed so capable. Sadly, her bodily familiarity with his hands didn't go beyond one of them on the small of her back and the other on her shoulder when he'd delivered the stinger that had stuck with her for years. I can't, Anna. My friendship with Adam means too much.
It had taken buckets of self-analysis to get over him, and just being in the same room was bringing it all backin a deluge, where there was no dodging a drop of water. With all of the serious business-related thoughts rolling in her head, her mind kept drifting to their pastevery smile, laugh, and flirtatious look they'd ever shared still haunted her. Dammit. She'd been so sure she was beyond this.
Jacob tucked his phone inside his suit coat pocket and finished his drink.
The screen on Anna's phone lit up. Her pulse throbbed in her throat. What would he say? That he wanted nothing to do with her or her family? That she was lucky he didn't call her out in the crowded bar?
She swallowed hard and read the text. Penthouse suite. 15 minutes.
Anna forgot how to breathe. The message was so like Jacob. Direct. To the point. Just intimidating enough to make her doubt herself even more. She wasn't put off by powerful men. She worked alongside them every day, could hold her own in any tense business situation. But those men didn't have the pull on her that Jacob had once had. Those men hadn't once held her heart in their hands, and she sure hadn't spent years pining for any of them, writing dozens of heartfelt letters that she would ultimately never send.
Jacob stood and bid a farewell to a man he'd been talking to. With the grace of a cat, he wound his way through the jam-packed bar, towering above nearly everyone at six-foot and several more inches, acknowledging the few who had the guts to greet the most formidable and successful technology venture capitalist quite possibly ever.
A shiver crawled along Anna's spine as he came closer. He brushed past her, not saying a word, leaving behind his heady scentsandalwood and citrus. Fifteen minutes. She had to pull herself together and prepare to be alone with the one man she would've once done anything for.
Anna Langford. I'll be damned. Jacob pressed the button for the private elevator to his suite. He'd spent the last six years convinced that the entire Langford family despised him, a feeling he'd had no choice but to return.
After the note from Anna, he didn't know what to think, which was unsettling. He always knew what to think.
Did he want to meet with gorgeous Anna Langford, youngest of the three Langford siblings, the woman stuck with an untrustworthy jerk for an older brother? The prospect, although ill-advised, was intriguing. He and Anna had once been friends. On one memorable night they'd been a little more. But did he want to speak to Anna Langford, a member of the LangTel executive board? On that count, it depended on what she wanted to discuss.
His plan to engineer a takeover of LangTel wouldn't simply backfire if Anna discovered ithe'd be sunk. The War Chest, a secret high-roller investment group led by Jacob, had watched the decline of LangTel stock after the death of Anna and Adam's father, Roger. The company was vulnerable with Adam in chargehe didn't have the confidence of the board of directors the way his dad had. LangTel was ripe for the picking.
The War Chest's plan had been born over cards and too much bourbon one night in Madrid, at a retreat for key players. Jacob had put it out thereWhat about LangTel? Could a company that large be taken over? It would be a daunting challenge, requiring a massive money pool and meticulous planning, but this was precisely the kind of project the War Chest loved. Without risk came no reward. There was money to be made, and a lot of it, because a company that well established would eventually rebound. Carving out a slice of revenge against Adam by ousting him as CEO would merely be giving Adam exactly what he deserved.
Jacob rode the elevator upstairs. The game had changed the instant Anna walked into that bar. She was no longer a wide-eyed coed. She was a powerful businesswomanconfident, cool, in control. Other men in the bar had taken notice, tooshe was formidable for her business pedigree, coming from one of the most successful entrepreneurial families in US history. Her beauty only upped the intimidation factor, with thick brown hair falling around her shoulders, a dancer's grace and posture, and lips that suggested sweetness and hinted of a storm.
Anna's lips had fallen on his oncea few scorching heartbeats still emblazoned in his memory. The way she pressed against him had resonated to his core. She'd been so eager to surrender her body, so ready to explore his. Turning her down, saying he'd destroy his brotherly friendship with Adam if things went further, had been the upstanding thing to do.
He had no way of knowing that Adam would betray him months later by ending their business partnership, making millions from the sale of the company they'd started together and publicly bashing Jacob's contribution to the project. The words Adam had said could never be erased from Jacob's memory. It's your fault you never asked for a partnership agreement. And to think he'd trusted Adam that had been his first mistake.
He keyed into his suitequiet, sprawling luxury, echoing his private existence at home in New York. Outside of a maid or a cook or an assistant, there was never anyone waiting when he walked through the door at the end of the day, and that was how he preferred it. Most people were nothing but a disappointmentExhibit A, Adam Langford.
A business proposition. What was Anna's angle? It'd be brave of her if it involved peacemaking. The feud between himself and Adam only continued to get worse.
It seemed as if the more successful Jacob became, the more Adam said crude things about him at cocktail parties and in business magazines. Jacob Lin doesn't have an entrepreneurial mind. He's good with money and nothing else. Jacob had given into it, too. Adam Langford will coast on his family name for as long as the world lets him. It was impossible not to engage, but it had also occurred to Jacob after the last barbs were exchanged in the newspapers, that words were no way to go. Actions spoke louder. He'd no longer tell the world what he thought of Adam. He'd show them.
Jacob picked up the direct line to the twenty-four-hour concierge.
"Good evening, Mr. Lin. How may I assist you?"
"Yes. Can you please send up a bottle of wine?" He flipped through the room service menu. "The Montra-chet, Domaine Marquis de Laguiche?" He rattled off the French with no problem. Years of shuttling between boarding schools in Europe and Asia had left him fluent in four languagesFrench, English, Japanese and Mandarin, the language his father had grown up speaking in Taiwan.
"Yes, Mr. Lin. We have the 2012 vintage for fifteen-hundred dollars. I trust that is acceptable?"
"Of course. Send it up right away." Life is too short for cheap wine.
Actually, he and Anna had consumed more than their fair share of cheap wine during their marathon late-night talks at the Langford family home in Manhattan. That felt like a lifetime ago.
His friendship with Adam had meant the world then. They told each other everything, commiserated over growing up with powerful, yet emotionally reclusive, fathers. They bonded over career aspirations, came up with ideas effortlessly. Jacob had hit it off with Anna equally well, except that he'd only had a sliver of time with herten days during which they drank, played cards and joked, while attraction pinged back and forth between them. He'd thought about acting on it many times, but never did.
He'd been raised as a gentleman and no gentleman made a move on his best friend's sister, however tempting she might be. Anna had been supremely tempting. It physically hurt to say "no" to her when she'd kissed him and it wasn't only because she'd given him a mind-numbing erection. He'd sensed that night that he was turning down more than sex. It was difficult not to harbor regrets.