Throb

By: Vi Keeland

prologue




Months later


I turn. He’s down on one knee, a black velvet box perched in the center of his hand. My heart starts to pound wildly in my chest … or is it more of a throb?





“Marry me, Beautiful.”





… And just like that, the game is finally over.





chapter one


Cooper


My phone buzzes on my desk for the third time in an hour. Looking down, my eyes narrow finding the same name flashing from the display again. I frown, but slide my finger across the screen to answer this time. She skips the formalities, jumping right in to what she wants. “Come downstairs to the studio at lunch.”

“I have a lunch meeting,” I lie.

“I’ll give you a delicious dessert when you’re done,” Tatiana purrs through the phone.

“Thanks, maybe next time,” I lie again. There will be no next time. I regret not learning from my father’s mistakes sooner—his no mingling business with pleasure policy was a lesson he learned the hard way.

“This is the third time you’re blowing me off. Do you know how many men would kill to spend time with me?”

“Many, I’m sure. Listen, Miles just walked in … I have to run.” My little brother hesitantly smiles and waves. I hold up one finger, ignoring whatever Tatiana is still rambling on about. His visit is unexpected, but I’m grateful for the excuse to get off the phone.

Miles nods and walks to the mahogany table displaying liquor bottles and ornate crystal glasses, the same one we’d watched our father walk to so many times before. He pours himself a tall glass of golden liquid and tosses half of it back in one gulp as he looks out at the view of Los Angeles. There’s strain in his face. I’m not surprised; the only time he comes by is when he needs to ask for something.

I rush Tatiana off the phone and, just as I push end, Helen beeps in from the intercom. “You have Stephen Blake on line one.”

“Just give me one more minute, Miles.”

My brother’s glass is drained by the time I’m wrapping up my short conversation with Stephen. His brown eyes are worn and tired, there’s a tenseness set in his jaw. Whatever he needs is big this time.

“Ben and I are putting a lot on the line with this project. We want him, but not for forty percent more. Ten is the highest we can go. You’re the super agent—sell him on the backend percentage we’re offering.” I know what’s coming next before the words sound through the receiver. “Sure, dinner next week sounds good. No, tell Miriam not to bring a friend.” A pause and then, “Thanks, Stephen, I look forward to it.”

Hanging up the call, I turn to Miles. “To what do I owe this pleasure, little brother?” I have a good hunch why he’s visiting, but I’ll play the game anyway.

My brother avoids the question, preferring to ease into the real subject he came to discuss. “Miriam still trying to fix you up?”

I pour myself a drink from a crystal decanter and raise the bottle, silently offering Miles a refill, which he happily accepts. “She swears Dad told her that she had to make sure I married well.” I sip from the glass. “There’ll be a woman there when I see them next week, even though I just told Stephen no.” We exchange a rare true smile. Stephen was our father’s best friend, and is one of Hollywood’s most coveted agents.

“Maybe Miriam’s got the right idea. You’re getting old. Time to stop fucking half of Hollywood and settle down.”

“I’m twenty nine. I’d hardly call that old.”

“It is by Hollywood standards. Plus, you practically live in this place lately.” He looks around my office. “You’re starting to turn into Dad.”

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