Vows of Revenge(8)

By: Dani Collins

He immediately dismissed any thought that Ingrid could be in on the scheme. She’d proved her loyalty again and again over the years. And it had been his idea to host the wedding, not hers. High-society circles were small and tight. She had connections he didn’t. He wouldn’t care about being accepted at that level if it weren’t for the fact that it was the one area the Gautiers had an advantage on him. He’d volunteered his home to even the playing field.

What he couldn’t understand was how Melodie had captivated him to the point that he’d ignored the security alert rather than read it and order her off his property. He wasn’t so uncivilized he’d have had her thrown out the way he’d been physically expelled from her father’s campaign office twelve years ago. Battered and kicked so badly he could barely walk away. Anton had been the thief, but Garner had had the power to turn it around and call Roman the criminal. He’d had the power to ruin Roman, which he had.

A red haze of fury rose with the recollection. He would not allow the Gautiers to play him again. Rage urged him to hurt them, deeply, for daring to try.

Despite being a man who actively sublimated everything resembling feelings, he found himself able to taste delicious vengeance on the tip of his tongue. He’d been longing to get back at this family for years, biding his time, wanting to first overtake Gautier Enterprises in the arena that would cause them the most discomfort: financial.

For years, their two companies had been neck and neck in a two-horse race, both improving on the same software that he, Roman, originally had written and that Anton had convinced him his father would back. Instead, the men had stolen his product, finished it, then made a mint while Roman had scraped by for another five years, rebuilding everything he’d lost and finally entering the marketplace so far behind them he’d despaired of ever catching up.

Finally, early last year, he had begun to see parity. It wasn’t enough. Not for him. He’d risked everything and had thrown all his resources behind completely reengineered software. The gamble had paid off. Corporations were dropping the dated Gautier knockoff and stampeding to Roman’s new, far superior product.

Gautier’s bottom line had to be feeling the pinch by now. It followed that they would send in a scout, thinking to once again steal what they wanted and step back into the top position.

Like hell.

Roman wasn’t just going to win this time. He would send a message to the Gautiers they would never forget. He would crush them into nothing, starting by flattening their emissary without a shred of mercy.

His first instinct was to have Ingrid fire Melodie immediately, but he forced himself to more coolheaded contemplation. The Gautiers had let Roman believe he was on the path to success right up to the moment when they explained his services with the software design were no longer needed and they would be taking possession of his ticket to a better life.

Therefore, he would ensure he had another wedding planner in place, so there was no inconvenience to Ingrid. Melodie would lose her contract and any chance of continuing in that field. Nice of her to drop the detail that it was a new venture, he reflected. He didn’t think for a moment she was serious about making a career of wedding planning, but as with any con artist’s ruse, the Gautiers would have put funds behind making it seem real. He was glad to at least cost them their investment.

A few investigative keystrokes later, he saw that Melodie lived alone. Surprisingly modestly, he noted. So had he, back in the day, but he’d still lost his home and all he owned. He knew that his eye-for-an-eye retribution wouldn’t have the same impact. Melodie would simply run home to Daddy, but it was the right message, so he started the wheels rolling on getting her kicked out.

The final touch would be the simple, crystal clear message that they’d failed. The sweetest retaliation of all.

* * *

Melodie had clearly pulled the rookie move of plugging her phone into the charger without checking that it was properly connected. When she pulled it off, one foot out the door to meet Ingrid and Huxley and leave for Roman’s, she saw it had not only failed to charge, but had lost the 4 percent it had had. Dead as a doornail.

Sparing a moment to throw it into the safe with her passport, she wound up putting her whole purse inside. She’d take a credit card as a just-in-case, but it was only going to be a quick lunch in a private home. She didn’t need to pack a bag.

Okay, yes, her mind was racing a mile a minute and she couldn’t make a rational decision to save her life. She was not just nervous but excited. Last night with Ingrid and Huxley it had been all she could do to keep her chatter confined to the suitability of Roman’s house as a venue for the wedding. The whole time she’d been longing to pump her client for more information on Roman, but she’d managed to wait until bed before doing a bit more online snooping. Then she’d lain awake fantasizing about him—creating scenarios in her head she hadn’t ever starred in before, but wanted to with him.

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