The Tycoon's Reluctant Bride

By: Jenn Roseton

CHAPTER 1





Laura King scanned the figures one more time, the lamp casting a circle of light onto the old wooden desk. The numbers on the laptop screen remained the same. For the fourth month in a row, the catering business was trading at a loss.

People weren’t paying their bills. Rich people, or at least people who gave the illusion of having money, businessmen who thought nothing of spending thousands of dollars on the right kind of clothes and accessories. When it came time to pay the account for the party they’d hired her company to cater, suddenly they were unavailable to take her calls. Most of the time, she couldn’t even get through to their secretary.

The phone calls were a last ditch attempt to get these people to pay. She’d already sent account overdue notices. Laura hoped the personal touch might guilt these people into paying. Unfortunately, it hadn’t.

She couldn’t exactly pinpoint when she began having problems. Her parents had started the catering company over twenty years ago, when she’d been a toddler. Some of her earliest memories included looking at cookbooks with her mother. As a child, she’d loved gazing at the color photographs of each recipe. And as she became older, Laura relished the challenge of making each dish herself.

During high school and college vacations she helped her parents, either in the kitchen or as wait staff.

And now, after she’d graduated college with a degree in culinary management, and worked full-time for her folks for the last five years, her parents had put their faith in her and handed over the reins while they’d gone on a well-deserved vacation. Once they came home, they planned to retire, and if she could prove she could manage the business on her own, they’d leave her in charge while they enjoyed their retirement, supplementing their income with some of the profits from the business.

When they’d left, the company had been doing well. And now …

“How am I going to make next month’s payroll?” Laura whispered, unable to take her eyes off the screen.

The dismal amount of cash flow remained the same.

“I need help.” She rested her head on her hands, tugging her hair. What was she going to do?

A knock sounded on the outside door. Startled, Laura raised her head and looked at her watch - 8.30 p.m. Surely it couldn’t be someone here on business at this hour?

She rose from the desk, walking silently to the door, past the faded cream walls, not wanting the person outside to hear her footsteps. Maybe she shouldn’t unlock the door. Although it was twilight outside, she was on her own.

Laura cleared her throat, trying to sound authoritative. “Who is it?”

“Alex Trask.” The rich, mellow voice flowed through the wooden door.

She blinked, the memory of catering his event last week flashing in her mind. His secretary had handled all the details, and Laura had only met him briefly in the middle of setting up for the party.

Taking a deep breath, she opened the door.

Six feet of tall and lean met her eyes. His dark hair was cut in a short, flattering style, while his midnight eyes swept over her. Attired in a fancy pin-striped suit with a finely tailored navy shirt and pale blue silk tie, he looked every inch the billionaire.

A faint blush rose to her cheeks. After a long day catering a party, she’d changed into a pair of denim shorts and a lilac cotton shirt that clung to her ample hourglass figure. She was hardly dressed to come face-to-face with one of the city’s most prominent businessmen.

“My secretary forgot to post your check so I thought I’d come by myself,” he said smoothly, holding it out to her. “For the party last week,” he prompted, when she remained silent.

Pull yourself together. Ever since she’d met him several days ago, she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about him. And now he was here, standing right in front of her.

She'd been in the middle of setting up for his event when she'd met him. Wearing her white chef jacket and gray trousers, she certainly hadn't expected to meet one of the city's most eligible bachelors. His secretary had handled all the details up to that point. She'd shyly stammered hello, aware of his fathomless eyes on her. Feeling hot and cold at the same time, she couldn't stop gazing at him, experiencing a tug of attraction to him that she'd never felt with any other man. But why had he focused all his attention on her? Hadn't he met a caterer before, even one with ample curves?

“Thank you.” She took the check from him, careful not to brush her fingers against his. Glancing at the amount, she noticed it was for the full sum. Relief swept through her. Now she’d be able to pay her employees. For the next month.

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