She's Too Young (She's Too Young #1)(6)

By: Jessa Kane

After reviewing his records, I expected Jack to be a shrewd man. Especially after the way he reacted to seeing me on the roof last night with Veda. So I’m not going to play games and do us both a disservice. “I think we both know why I’ve taken an interest in you.”

His throat works with a slow swallow. “Yes. We do.” He swipes a hand down his face, but not before I see a flash of anger in his eyes. Anger that—surprisingly—doesn’t come across in his tone. “Mr. Beckett. My daughter, Veda…she fascinates people. Men. Always has. It’s a problem I’ve had a hard time dealing with since her mother died.”

If I’m not careful, the sudden bouts of jealousy are going to give me a stroke. I don’t want to hear about other people looking or thinking about Veda. End of story. “I’m very sorry about your wife.” I hold his attention a moment and realize, for once, I’m not faking my sincerity, although, my sympathy is more for Veda than anyone else. I know what it’s like to lose a mother. Even though mine is still alive, she forgot my name a long time ago. A small mercy, considering her son turned out to be more ruthless in the boardroom than her estranged husband, and that coldness always drove her away.

Despite my empathy for Jack and Veda’s loss, however, I only operate one way and it’s a far cry from nice. Especially this time, when I’m going out of my mind for the feel of Veda again. Already, the life she infused me with is dimming and I need her to replenish me.

“Your wife was sick for quite a while,” I say, leaning back in my chair. “I’m sure that was difficult.”

Jack inclines his head. “It was.”

The weight in those two words is something I recognize, even if I don’t comprehend the pain behind them. I only understand that Veda lies on the other side of this meeting and I would bulldoze half of Manhattan to reach her. She’s worth any cost. Even playing the villain to the grief-stricken man across from me. A task, I realize with some surprise, I don’t relish. But the irresistible reward of Veda propels me forward. “And while the company’s employee health plan is one of the best, it still didn’t cover all the medical bills. Your debt is…severe.”

He doesn’t look up from his hands, now folded on his lap. To get this information, I had to invade his privacy, but that fact seems like a foregone conclusion to Jack. “That problem I mentioned earlier about people becoming overly interested in Veda…I’ve had no choice but to send her to an all-girls private school. And the dance classes.” His shoulders lift and fall. “I should have made changes a long time ago, but I’ve been holding out, thinking I’d move into a management position.”

“You’re in luck.” My voice rings slightly hollow, so I drink from the glass of water on my desk. “I’ve had a managerial position open up in the Netherlands. A tech company we acquired and decided to salvage. It’s three times your current salary.” I pick up the stapled documents to my right and lay them down in front of Jack. “And if we can agree on these specific terms, I’d be willing to satisfy your wife’s medical debts, in addition to moving expenses and the more sizable income.”

His expression is one of stunned confusion for long moments, then his eyes fall to the documents. “Why would you do that?”

An image of Veda floating across the roof twists through my mind. “In exchange for getting you out of debt and providing the means to get back on your feet, your daughter will remain here with me, in New York.” I gesture to the paperwork, completed by my attorney late last night. “You only need to sign and I’ll become Veda’s legal guardian.”

“I can’t do that,” Jack grounds out.

“You will do it.” I take a pen from my desk and toss it onto the paperwork, slipping into that cold zone of negotiation and forcing myself to remain there. “I think we can be frank with one another, Mr. Rose, so I won’t insult you by pretending I don’t want to take Veda to bed. Badly.” His incensed gaze flies to mine. “But I can promise you she’ll be treated with respect while under my protection. I would sooner leap from this building than upset her. She’ll be given anything she could ever want.” I leave it unspoken that he can’t do the same. “She must remain with me until she’s eighteen—the contract is conditional on that fact—at which point, she’ll be given the option to leave or stay. Although, you should know that I’ll do everything in my power to ensure the latter.”

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