Not in Her Wildest Dreams(6)

By: Dani Collins

A very unusual sensation for him.

“This is his third heart attack,” he pressed on. “Each time the factory gets by without him while he recovers, so... Dad’s thinking it’s time to—”

“Force him into retirement. So you can take over at the factory. I wondered why you were here.”

“Why can I never visit my parents without everyone thinking I want to take over Roy Furnishings?” He covered his annoyance at that recurring accusation with a smile of patient boredom. “No. I have my own company, including a contract that starts Monday in Texas. Consulting,” he added when she quizzed him with a lift of her shaped brow. “Operations management. I help businesses in trouble turn themselves around.”

He was surprised she didn’t know that.

“So your father wants to run the factory by himself? Alone?”

“He did it before Grady bought in. He can do it again.” Will, Sterling assured himself. He was here to make sure of it.

Paige’s mouth pursed in thought. “Your father always regretted letting Dad buy in, didn’t he?”

He’d loathed it, loathed her father, but Sterling doubted saying so would encourage her to sell. He spun it. “Grady is a helluva salesman. Dad gives him credit for that, but Dad realized as time went on that he likes autonomy. It would mean a lot to him to own it outright again.”

She nodded, mouth still pouted like she was waiting for a kiss, but her gaze was stuck in the middle distance. She was only half here, which annoyed him. He wanted her full attention.

Really wanted it.

Focus. Shit. She was married. And he had an axe to grind with her. He gave his head a shake.

“Listen. I came home to see you, to make sure what happened between us won’t affect Dad’s buyout of Grady’s share.”

“Really?” She lowered the ice pack.

He shrugged. “It’s time to forgive and forget, don’t you think?”

Her surprise became something softer. An optimistic wonder that was so damned pretty it made his animosity slippery and hard to hold onto. It put him in danger of Doing It Again. Letting her get to him.

“You came all this way, after all this time, to apologize?”

He hesitated. “I, uh, think we should let bygones be bygones, yeah.”

Her brows came together, and her eyes narrowed. “Are you apologizing or not?”

He was willing to do almost anything to facilitate that buy-back, but.... He opened his palms, laughed a bit. “Come on, Paige. I was the one who was beaten and banished. But, hey, no hard feelings.”

“Oh, my God. You came here to forgive me, didn’t you?” She choked out a noise and pushed the ice pack back against her face. “You’re something else.”

He opened his suit coat, growing hot. Prickly. The old reel of frustration and anger and contempt played through him. That weird, stunned shock that not only didn’t she like him, she had actually gone out of her way to hurt him. Everyone loved him. He hadn’t done anything to deserve being set up, but she and her brother had taken pains to sick Grady on him and it still infuriated him.

He held onto his temper and firm, calm tone as he said, “Whatever problem you had with me fifteen years ago, I wanted to make sure we got past it, so it wouldn’t affect Dad now.”

“Oh, please. I got past it,” she said, moving into the dining area to push in a chair. “I got past being broke after you labeled me a slut and made it impossible for me to get a job in this town. I got past years of people talking behind their hands every time I came back here. I’m even prepared to get past you coming into this house with me today, no doubt stirring up all of that stupid talk again with every neighbor peeking past her curtain. It’s people like your father, making remarks in the frigging hospital, where everyone can hear it, who aren’t getting over things. If you think one of us is going to cause a problem in the buy-back, I suggest you start with him. In fact, you should go do that now.”

He didn’t move, only watched her through the space over the counter that separated the kitchen from the dining room as she hustled around stacking bills into a pile.

“So you’re not going to try to stop your father from selling his shares back to my Dad?”

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