Home > My Dad's Best Friend (A Touch of Taboo #3)

My Dad's Best Friend (A Touch of Taboo #3)
Author: Katee Robert

1

 

 

All my life, I’ve done the safe thing. I’ve stayed on the path set out for me, and colored within the lines. I’ve been the obedient daughter, the excellent student, the driven employee. If I haven’t flourished, well, at least I haven’t floundered.

Taking the safe option might be an asset in a daughter and employee, but it isn’t for the owner of a company. It’s a hard lesson I’ve learned in the last six months, and if I don’t change my ways, the company my father built from the ground up will fall to pieces under my watch.

Which is why I’m standing in the pouring rain, dredging up what few scraps of courage I can muster, staring at the house of a man who’s made an art of avoiding me. I’ve tried email. I’ve tried calling. Jonas Barnett has ignored me, growled at me, and hung up on me. It couldn’t be clearer that he wants nothing to do with me. The safe choice would be to move on to another architect, to convince my client that there is someone else who can fill the need for their dream home.

I’m done being safe.

I need Jonas for this project. No one else. I just have to find the right words to convince him, something I won’t be able to do while I stand here and get soaked. I really should have packed an umbrella, but in the adrenaline-rushed decision to fly up to Washington, book a rental car, take a ferry to Orca Island and drive all the way around the upside-down U-shape that was this island, I forgot.

Surely I have enough adrenaline left over to knock on the door?

I drag in a breath and march up the stone steps to the charming house. It looks nothing like the style Jonas became known for when he first started working with my father. It’s not streamlined or modern or heavy in steel and concrete. Instead, it’s positively cozy. Like a house where a reclusive artist or author would live, which makes it fit in seamlessly with the rest of Orca Island that I’ve seen.

I’m stalling. I know I’m stalling.

I take a deep breath, irritated at myself, and knock on the door. Silence. A frisson of worry spears me. I didn’t call to tell him I was coming—for obvious reasons—but he just hung up on me yesterday. Surely he hasn’t decided to jaunt off somewhere? I give a grim smile. That would be in line with my luck since taking over my father’s business. Nothing’s gone right. It doesn’t matter that I worked closely with my father for four years before he decided to retire. He’s no longer in the office and suddenly every time I turn around, there’s another fire to put out with my bare hands.

I need a win. Just one win to get me back on track.

The Henderson account will do it, but to pull off the Henderson account, I need Jonas.

I knock again, harder this time. When there’s still no answer, I curse and poke the doorbell three times in rapid succession. I’m losing it, but I’ve come too far to go back now. I hit the doorbell one more time for good measure, and that’s when I hear stomping coming from inside the house.

Finally.

The door jerks open and there he is. Jonas Barnett. We’ve only met in person a handful of times, but that first encounter has been tattooed on my brain for the last six years. Somehow, he looks even better than he did the last time I saw him. His blond hair is now threaded with silver, and I’m irritated to realize it looks good on him. So do the laugh lines on his face. So does the lean body shown off by a plain white T-shirt and faded jeans. My gaze catches on his bare feet. “You’re not wearing shoes.”

“What the hell are you doing here, Blake?”

Ah, right. Focus. I need to focus. Getting sidelined by how frustratingly sexy he is will just lead me down the path to the memory of how the night the Christmas party ended. This man has rejected me enough for several lifetimes, and if I didn’t need him for this project, I would tell him to go kick dirt. Except I wouldn’t because I’d have no reason to call him up in the first place. “If you’d stop hanging up on me like a child, I wouldn’t be standing on your doorstep.”

He leans against the door frame and gives me a once-over. I started this trip looking like a put-together business woman in a slim button-down white blouse, a pencil skirt, and reasonably low heels. I even stopped to freshen up twice—at the rental car place and on the ferry before we arrived at this island. For all the good it did me. No doubt I look like a drowned rat now.

Jonas’s gaze lingers on my breasts before he jerks his eyes to mine. “I don’t suppose you’ll get in your car and go home if I slam the door in your face?”

I could threaten to call my father, but that’s like giving up. It doesn’t matter how close he and Jonas are, how often they talk on the phone, how many golfing trips they take throughout the year. That’s between my father and him. This is business.

I lift my chin. “It’d be a shame if I made a scene and irritated all your neighbors.” There are only a house or two within sight, and none are close, but it’s the best threat I can come up with.

He narrows his blue eyes. “I seem to remember you being a lot sweeter the last time we had a conversation.”

I really, really hope the chill of the rain is hiding my blush. Sweeter. That’s one way to describe the fact that the few minutes we were alone I’d stared up at him like a rabbit facing down a tiger. Except a rabbit shouldn’t want to be devoured by the tiger. I’d all but thrown myself at him, at least as much as I was capable of at the time with my flickering courage, and he’d carefully, politely, coldly rejected me.

A lot’s changed in six years. I really hope that I’ve changed, too. “I’m not leaving until you hear me out.”

“The answer is no.”

“You haven’t heard the pitch.”

Jonas curses and steps back. “Just stay there for a second. I don’t want you dripping all over my floors.”

“Your care and kindness are noted,” I say drily.

As he moves out of the way, a blast of warm air hits me and I shiver. I hadn’t realized how cold it is out here until now, and it’s like once my body has registered the feeling, it cascades over me all at once. I glance overhead at the ominous dark clouds. It rains all the time in the Pacific Northwest. That’s what everyone says. Surely this storm isn’t as worrisome as it seems? I have a flight to catch tonight, and I have absolutely no desire to be stuck in Seattle.

Jonas returns with a large towel and hands it to me. “Here. Now get in here and give me your pitch so you can leave.”

Stepping into the house is like being enveloped in a warm hug. The cozy vibe the outside gives is exponentially stronger in here. I study the room, trying to pinpoint exactly what he’s done to create this intense feeling. It might be the large leather couches carefully arranged around the fireplace, its chimney the focal point of the room as it stretches from floor to ceiling, made entirely of river rock. Or maybe it’s the vaulted ceilings overhead and the thick rug covering the hard wood floors.

“Take off your shoes.”

I step out of them automatically, but I’m starting to register just how soaked I am. My stockings rub against my skin in a way that sets my teeth on edge and my skirt and top are sodden. Damn it, this isn’t how I wanted to have this conversation.

This isn’t even the conversation I wanted to have, but my personal feelings don’t matter right now. Neither does that holiday party six years ago or the sting of rejection I can still feel. The company is my priority, and it’s more important than my pride. I’m done being safe, which means it’s time to put everything on the table and hope it’s enough to convince Jonas to change his mind.

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