Read The Donovan Dynasty: Bind Part 4

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“Not surprised,” the Colonel said.

“When was this?” Erin asked.


“I had dinner with Lara.” Erin scowled. “She didn’t mention it.”

“Conniving b.a.s.t.a.r.d,” the Colonel added. “Nothing good comes of a.s.sociating with the Bertrands.”

“That’s a broad brush,” Erin objected. “Lara’s one of my best friends.”

“Erin’s right.” Connor tapped the top of his pen against his agenda. “I don’t get the sense she’s much like her old man.”

“How would you know?” Nathan asked.

“Erin introduced us a few weeks ago. And I ran into her last night. She was getting off the elevator after I met with Pernell.”

“And?” Erin prompted.

“She obviously knew nothing about the meeting.” Her wide-eyed reaction to seeing him had been real. No doubt about that.

“You could call her,” Erin said.

“I gave her my card.”


“If she wants more details, she can contact me.” He was surprised, and more than a little disappointed, that she hadn’t. Loyalty ran deep, perhaps. Most times, that was an admirable trait. But when it was blindly given, it bordered on an emotional reaction rather than a strategic choice.

“What’s our next step?” the Colonel asked.

“We wait.”

“I like it.” The Colonel nodded. “Vultures will swoop in eventually.”

“There’s a danger in that,” Kathryn said.

“Oh?” Connor leveled a glance at her.

“If the rumors are true, BHI is making some bad decisions. There may be nothing worth saving if Pernell does something stupid.”

“The patents make it attractive,” Nathan said.

They were the game changer.

The five of them spent the next hour discussing other interests. Kathryn outlined her plan for Erin to fill in at the foundation while she was on her cruise.

“You are planning to come back?” the Colonel demanded.

Kathryn was slower in responding than Connor expected. “It’s no surprise that I’d like to cut back on the time spent at the office.”

“But?” Connor prompted.

She looked at him without blinking. “I’d like Erin to start looking for someone to take over more of the day-to-day responsibilities.”

Until now, he hadn’t thought much about his aunt’s hopes and aspirations.

“I want to travel more. But don’t misunderstand. I’m not resigning.”

“It’s the influence of that youngster,” the Colonel insisted.


Was it? She’d never married, had never had children. Until now, Connor hadn’t wondered why. She was certainly still young. Fit. Trim. Obsessed with eating well, taking vitamins. She often said she had no intention of aging gracefully. She was going to fight the temptress at every turn. So far, she was doing a h.e.l.l of a job. “Erin, get with Kathryn offline.”

Erin nodded.

The meeting wrapped up shortly afterward. Erin hung back for a private word.

“What did you think of Lara?”


“I’ve known her for a very long time.”


“She knows her father is not making the best decisions. Convincing the board is another thing. She needs a friend. An ally. Even better, a mentor.”

“I don’t plan on eating her for lunch, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I was rather hoping you would. Call her, at least?”

He shook his head.

“Aunt Kathryn is right. Waiting for BHI Communications to implode is risky. Maybe we should be more strategic? Talk to board members. Some of them have to be sympathetic. There’s no doubt they’ve heard the rumors. And so have our compet.i.tors. There’s no guarantee we’ll win the battle. You need to gather support, make a preemptive strike. I know for a fact that Lara’s an excellent place to start.” With that, she left.

He rapped his knuckles on the table before gathering the discarded agendas and feeding the pages into the shredder.

Erin made a good point. Perhaps part of his hesitation was from Pernell Bertrand’s lunacy. Pushing aside the unwelcome thought, he went back to his office, returned a few phone calls, responded to a dozen emails then opened up a preliminary month-end financial statement.

When his mind kept returning to the topic of BHI and the best way to approach the problem, he opened a drawer and pulled out the file Nathan had provided on the company.

Connor found the section detailing the biographical information on each individual board member. He spent the next hour reading through the profiles, but he skipped the one on Lara.

Overall, there were few surprises.

The board was comprised mostly of Pernell’s a.s.sociates. With the exception of Lara, he was surrounded by people of a similar age and thought process. Nothing new. No innovation. No bold moves.

He’d read the information on Pernell before but he reached for it again, just the same, wondering if his run-in with the man would give him new insight.

It didn’t. The Bertrand fortune was slowly being gnawed away. Pernell had recently been forced to sell their hotel holdings. Yet he remained stubborn, believing his divisions were worth more than they were.

Connor had saved the profile on Lara for last. He picked it up and studied it.

Initially, there weren’t a lot of unexpected revelations. She seemed well adjusted, the adored only child. She’d gone away to college, then had returned to Houston to earn her Master of Finance degree. After that, she’d taken a job at an insurance company. That was his first surprise.

As he read deeper, he learned that she’d completed a number of summer internships, one at an Internet startup in California, another at an oil company in Houston, followed by two at the same financial firm back east. It seemed that she’d tried to broaden her work experience as much as possible, and he applauded that effort.

He wondered then about the relationship between Lara and her father. Was it fractious or harmonious? Her lack of knowledge about his meeting with Pernell suggested the former. Or perhaps the man just ran his business that way.

Connor was the first to recognize that Donovan Worldwide operated differently from a lot of privately held family firms. The informal monthly meetings ensured everyone knew all of the big decisions being considered. Information was shared rather than h.o.a.rded. Differences of opinion were discussed and respected.

He scanned the rest of the report. There was a lack of information about her personal life. As he’d surmised, she wasn’t married and there were no reported engagements or even serious relationships. That didn’t necessarily mean anything. Perhaps, like him, she was too focused on business to consider dating.

If so, no doubt they both deserved a diversion.

It didn’t matter that she hadn’t telephoned him as he’d expected. The way she’d reacted to him last night had said things that words could not.

Her pulse had accelerated. Her mouth had opened slightly as she’d momentarily lost her composure.

Yeah, he wasn’t above spending a little time with the delectable Lara Bertrand.

He flipped to the attached picture.

It was a corporate one, probably taken for the times a headshot was required, the company’s website, press releases and such. Since there were no more photos, he dropped it on top of the report and closed the manila folder.

After waking up his computer, he searched her out on social media. Clever girl had her accounts locked down. So he searched his sister’s recent Still nothing. A general search showed only the professional photograph. It showed her as tough, unapproachable, formidable. It didn’t show any of her vulnerability, appeal, or the depth of her rich brown eyes.

Another half hour of online searching didn’t turn up any information that Nathan hadn’t already supplied.

Connor sat back and closed his eyes, considering.

Erin’s earlier suggestion had been spot on. Lara was probably the best person to approach about BHI’s position. If she were amenable, she could then advise him on who else to talk to. The next step would be to garner the support of the board. He didn’t need everyone, just the right people. Once others were on his side, Pernell would have no choice but to capitulate. At the moment, that seemed to be his family’s preferred course.

Fine by him. The opportunity to spend time with Lara suited him.

The intercom on his desk phone beeped.

“You have an unscheduled visitor, Mr. Donovan.”

The interruption surprised him. No one got into his office without an appointment. When Thompson refused admission, they went. “And?”

“Lara Bertrand.”

Well. Well.

“She knew the code and said you were expecting her.”

Her move took him off guard. He’d been prepared for her phone call, but not a visit. “Send her in.” He opened his top drawer and slid the BHI file inside. Her picture, he put under his keyboard.

Connor moved to the middle of the room and waited.

Seconds later, Thompson opened the door.

Lara walked in, wearing sky-high stilettos and a pencil skirt with a matching blazer. The suit was red. Libido red. She’d likely selected her outfit carefully, believing she had chosen a power color. If his guess was right, no doubt she’d discarded black as too obvious and a pastel as too feminine. All would have been a better choice. Red made him think of s.e.x.

Beneath the jacket, she had on a white lacy something. Perhaps a camisole. Definitely something he’d want to move aside as he bared her shoulders.

She radiated a cool, timeless elegance. The small patent leather clutch in her left hand added an ultrafeminine touch. Factor in the way her long, dark hair spilled across her shoulders, and testosterone short-circuited his brain.

She was part Audrey Hepburn, part pin-up girl. And he had to force himself to remember his manners and the fact Thompson still stood there, a puzzled frown buried between his eyebrows.

“Ms. Bertrand,” Connor greeted, extending his hand. Better than giving in to temptation and curling it behind her neck to hold her still for his kiss.

Though her hand disappeared in his, her grip was strong. Despite their size differences, she was meeting him with courage, as an equal. But d.a.m.n, he noticed that her nails had been manicured with those s.e.xy French tips. And he wondered what they’d feel like on his back. “To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?” he asked. The handshake ended much too soon. The morning’s image-of her bound to his bed, unable to get away-raced through his mind.

Thompson cleared his throat and said, “I informed Ms. Bertrand that you have a very busy schedule and only have a few minutes available.”

“Thank you. Would you like coffee, Ms. Bertrand? Perhaps a bottle of water?” The questions were part of the code he and Thompson had prearranged. If Connor didn’t offer a beverage, Thompson would return shortly to escort the visitor out.

“Is the coffee strong?”

“Very,” Thompson replied. “If that’s the way you like it, you’ll be pleased.” He paused. “Cream or sugar?”

“Black is fine,” she replied.

“d.a.m.n,” Connor said, as Thompson closed the door behind him.


“I was hoping you’d ask for sugar at least,” he confessed.

“Oh?” She frowned, drawing her eyebrows together.

His packet stash was almost completely depleted. “Long story. Have a seat?”

Though he had a small area with a couch and several armchairs for informal discussions and meetings, he extended his hand toward the chair in front of his desk. Until he knew the nature of her business, keeping some distance between them was wise.

“Thank you,” she said.

He waited until she sat, then he took his chair.

She placed her small bag on the carpet then crossed her legs.

f.u.c.k if he didn’t hear the sweet whisper of silk.

She inhaled then expelled the breath quickly before starting with, “I know you’re a busy man and I have an unusual proposal-“


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