DO YOU NEED EPISODE 14? FIND IT HERE!
Three weeks later…
Clara’s crystal blue eyes pop up to mine when I say, “Catherine will have my belongings removed before you move in.”
Out of all the apartments in my arsenal of properties, she chose the most expensive one in the most sought-after location—my penthouse. I could have said no, but with Ravenshoe facing a rental shortage, and my penthouse sitting empty the past three months—excluding Isabelle’s unexpected sleepover—I went with a different response. My head isn’t in the game for an unworthy fight, so I surrendered with only the slightest bit of reluctance.
It isn’t something I see occurring often, even more so when Clara replies, “That’s fine. There is plenty of space for both our things.”
After setting down several boxes of jimmy choo shoes beneath the clothes Catherine purchased for Isabelle, Clara stands to her feet. Her platinum blonde, dead straight hair falls into her face when she shoves across a selection of clothes she’d never be caught dead in before she fills the rack with expensive dresses, boutique blouses, and designer jeans that cost more than Isabelle would make in a month. She has yet to learn that beauty isn’t calculated by the price tag on the garments you wear. It is what is hiding beneath that is the most valuable.
Once she has the three suitcases she shocked the doorman with unpacked, Clara spins on her heels to face me. “I think that’s it. The rest will come in a truck.”
“A truck?” I query, certain she couldn’t have enough clothes to fill a truck. Her apartment comes fully furnished. She only needs to bring herself and her clothes. “How many pairs of shoes do you own?”
My jaw tightens when she rakes her fingernails across my chest. She’s been extra friendly today. First, with an unexpected peck on my lips when I greeted her in the foyer of my building, then she stood extra close during our elevator ride to the top floor. Anyone would swear I asked her to move in with me, not that she begged for somewhere to stay. “I’ll never tell.”
I take a step back when images of Cormack flash through my head. Clara is attractive in her own right, but I can't look at her without seeing her brother. They have the same platinum blonde hair, same blue eyes, and even the same facial structure. Cormack’s are just more rigid.
Blondes are usually my go-to type when I want to forget the woes of my past for a couple of hours, but the above-mentioned points ensure Clara will never be on that list.
While walking into the main area of my bedroom, I ask, “Do you have an official move date yet?”
Clara shadows my walk like a lost puppy. It dampens the snip of agitation heating my veins by a smidge. She hasn’t found herself since Remy’s death. She is still genuinely lost. “I have a couple of matters to settle in New York first. It could still be a couple of weeks away.” I must grimace without realizing it because she’s quick with her endeavors to settle it. “Is that okay? I don’t want you out of pocket. I could pay rent from now to ensure my spot isn’t lost.”
“It’s fine. No payments are necessary. That would kind of defeat the point of you moving to Ravenshoe, wouldn’t it?” She blushes and bats her lashes, embarrassed about my reminder that she’s meant to be financially struggling. “I’m just perplexed as to why you’d bring your things here now if you have no plans to move anytime soon?”
My reply stumps her for all of two seconds. “It’s for when I visit, silly.” She touches my chest for the second time. Mercifully, it is only the briefest scratch. “Airlines are sticklers for excessive baggage these days.”
“They may be, but private jets aren’t.”
Clara swallows harshly before saying in a dull tone, “These are items that remind me of Remy. I thought it would be best to clear them out first.” She steps closer to me with watering, please-don’t-reject-me eyes. “I don’t have any possessions that remind me of him. Just dresses I wore on dates, and shoes he told me were pretty. If I keep them there, in New York, I may never leave.” A minty fresh scent hits my lips when she murmurs, “It’s time for me to move on, Isaac. I deserve to be happy.” As she bounces her eyes between mine, she whispers, “I may only have half a heart, but when two broken halves are put together, the outcome can be phenomenal.”
When she fists my suit jacket and tilts her head like she is better aligning our mouths, for a second, I consider the possibility of what she is saying. Sometimes two broken hearts can find each other and heal, but I don’t believe a decimated heart is the sole prerequisite for an everlasting relationship. It would be longer-lasting with mutual respect, attraction, and a beautiful soul. Clara is missing the latter. I’m sure she will eventually find it, but it won’t be until she finds herself first.
Clara’s minty breath fans my face for the second time when I pull back. Even though her eyes are still closed in preparation for what she was hoping would be our first kiss, she doesn't need to see my face to feel my rejection. It is bounding out of me enough to scorch both our veins.
Needing to leave before things get more awkward, I say, “I have a meeting—”
“With my brother. Yes. I remember.” After wetting her now bone dry lips, Clara bounces back with the tenacity of a woman with nothing to lose. It isn't the damsel in distress ruses I usually face. She prefers using undeniable loneliness to her advantage. “Perhaps I could join you? It’s five o’clock somewhere, right?”
Not waiting to gauge my response to her request for an invite, she waltzes back into the walk-in-closet to grab herself a coat. With the decision seemingly out of my hands, I remove my cell phone from the breast pocket of my jacket before calling a familiar number.
Cormack answers a couple of rings later. “If you’re calling to place your name on Isabelle’s housewarming gift, you’re too late. Peta delivered it to her apartment this morning.”
While rocking on my heels, I stuff my unused hand into the pocket of my trousers. “I’m sure my lack of generosity will be forgiven when Isabelle learns her landlord's name.”
The flyers I had Roger organize weeks ago worked a treat. Isabelle is in the process of moving into an apartment in one of my buildings. It brings her miles closer to me and offers up the possibility of non-publicized visits.
As I’ve said previously, I have no issues with law enforcement officers, many are friends of mine, but I prefer to keep them out of my personal life as much as possible. That will be a little hard to do if Isabelle continues living with a soon-to-be-retired police officer. Members of law enforcement are never off the clock. They bring their work home with them even more than me. For the past six years, my life has revolved around my empire, so the rare snippets of time when it is the last thing on my mind are highly valued. I don’t want to give them up for anything.
“Listen, I’m not calling about Isabelle.” This time. “Clara—” I’m cut off by a mangled groan, but when that is all Cormack says, I continue talking as if he never interrupted me. “She’s in town, and wanting an invitation to our meeting slash early dinner.”
I arch a brow when Cormack gabbles out, “Our meeting?”
Daftness isn’t his strong point. He has merely been utilizising the non-business side of his head more times than not since he patched things up with Harlow. She has a way of reminding him that success isn’t solely business-related. You can have personal success as well. Some people call that love.
“About the new plans Levi had drafted for Destiny Records.” I check my watch, noting it is a little after four. “The architect flew in at noon. She’s meeting us at Orient.” The Orient is a Thai restaurant Cormack purchased mere days before his focus shifted to the last unowned piece of property on his monopoly board—Harlow’s Scrumptious Haven. That day was a little over three years ago.
“Shit! Our meeting completely slipped my mind.” Don’t let his words fool you. He doesn’t sound the least bit disappointed that world domination has slipped his mind the past two weeks. I hear him leap up to his feet and snatch his jacket off a coatrack before the hustle and bustle of an upcoming record label prodigy sounds down the line. “I’ll take my bike; it will get me there quicker.”
After lifting my chin, I farewell him before pulling my phone down my ear.
It’s barely an inch away when Cormack calls my name. “Isaac…”
His tone shifts from friendly to professional when he asks, “Can you ditch Clara somewhere between your penthouse and the Orient?” He must hear the suspicious quickening of my pulse as he crows like a canary two seconds later, “It’s a long story I don’t have time to share right now, but after an unexpected visit from Colby this morning, Clara is the last person I want to see.” My eyes lift to Clara who’s eyeballing my conversation from the doorway of the walk-in-closet when Cormack breathes out slowly, “She’s contending my position on the board at Attwood. Our trip to Mummo Koti will now be more business than pleasure.”
His last comment frustrates me more than Clara’s disbelief he is incapable of doing his job. With proceedings in the lead up to Callie’s sale taking up a lot of my free time, and Isabelle’s firm seemingly unaware of Fair Labor Standards Act, I had plans for us to utilize the time at Cormack’s family estate wisely.
Furthermore, the music industry will always be Cormack’s first love, but that doesn’t mean he can’t also give Attwood Electric his all. He took over a billion-dollar company just shy of his twenty-first birthday, yet shareholders have experienced a twenty percent increase in shares. That in itself should douse any of the board members concerns, much less his younger sister’s.
Cormack sighs in relief when I say, “I’m sure I can find a way to occupy her time for a couple of hours.”
After issuing his thanks with more than a grunt, he disconnects our call a mere second after his motorbike's noisy engine vibrates down the line. Cormack doesn’t drive one of those fat wheeled bikes you generally imagine when you think about someone riding a bike. His is sleek, red, and goes from zero to sixty in under four seconds.
I house my phone back into my pocket before shifting on my feet to face Clara. “Ready?”
I walk to the door before she can answer me, equally frustrated for Cormack and disappointed for myself. At my request, Cormack extended an invitation to Harlow and Isabelle to spend the weekend with us at Mummo Koti. The updated flight manifest I was emailed this morning exposes his invitation was finally accepted by both parties.
I’m curious if Cormack’s decision to take a girl home for the first time re-sparked Clara’s interest in Ravenshoe. After a run-in with Cormack and Harlow at their old family estate, Clara went back to New York with her tail between her legs. She only popped back into the picture when Cormack approved modifications to a jet we recently purchased for our fleet. She’s watching every move her brother makes. I’m unsure if that is because she’s trying to protect him from the ‘money-grabbing’ women she swears he attracts, or if it is something more sinister.
After Cormack’s confessions, I’m confident I can scratch the former off my list.
When I exit the elevator on the ground floor with Clara, Roger is waiting for me in my building's foyer. The elevators are designed to cater for the penthouse apartments first. Since Regan moved back to Texas a couple of weeks ago, the instant the elevator car stopped on the top-level Roger would have known I was on my way down.
“We need to make a stop before the Orient,” I say after sliding into the backseat of my town car.
While Clara makes a fuss about the wind whipping off the coast ruining her recently styled hair, I advise Roger of the business premise Clara will be visiting. He eyes me curiously in the rearview mirror, but his lips remain tightly shut. The firm way he holds his jaw does little to conceal the cheeky glint flaring through his eyes, though. It’s rare to get a response out of him, but it isn’t every day he is asked to drop off a multimillionaire at an employment agency.
Perhaps if Clara learns what hard work is really about, she won’t be so quick to dispute the many hours her brother puts into their family company for her behalf.