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Home > Executive's Pregnancy Ultimatum (Kings of the Boardroom #2)(6)

Executive's Pregnancy Ultimatum (Kings of the Boardroom #2)(6)
Author: Emilie Rose

Our basement. Our child. Her panic.

Her stomach fell faster than a soufflé. The words implied a long-term commitment—one she wasn’t prepared to make. “Investing that much money into a temporary workplace is not a good idea, Flynn.”

“Who says it has to be temporary?”

Panic prickled through her anew. “I do. Even if the San Francisco branch succeeds and I decide to keep it, I’ll have this baby and then I’ll hire a manager and move back to L.A. We agreed to divorce after the baby’s first year.”

“Think about it, Renee. You won’t find a better location or price than this one. It’s a trendy address with the right demographics, and it’s close enough to the dining and shopping district to make it convenient and easy for clients to find.”

Not only was he right, he’d literally and figuratively drawn a tempting, almost irresistible picture.

She wanted to refuse, but she’d go crazy living in San Francisco with nothing to do but wait for the sound of his car turning into the driveway. Having failed at that life already, she didn’t dare risk it again—not even for a baby. Living vicariously through him and his job wasn’t enough. She needed her own interests and her own financial security.

She had to work, and working for another caterer wouldn’t allow her the freedom to help Tamara in L.A. when the need arose. Not to mention, it would be a conflict of interest. It was unlikely anyone would want to risk her stealing their ideas for her own company.

Unfortunately, what Flynn proposed was both the best and worst option out there, and opening CGC in his Victorian might be the only way she could make expanding into the competitive San Francisco market a financially feasible option.

But did she really want to eat, sleep and work in Flynn’s shadow? Setting up shop in his basement while living in his house would mean exactly that. Was she strong enough to handle that kind of pressure? Last time she’d crumbled under the stress.

For sanity’s sake, housing CGC here would have to be a temporary solution, and if this branch succeeded she would find an alternative property as soon as she had an idea of her income and budget. That way she’d be nearby whenever her child visited his father, and her baby would never feel as if Mom couldn’t wait to get him out of her hair.

You can do this. You’re strong. You won’t drink, whine or bemoan how the world is against you. Your son or daughter will know from day one that it is wanted, planned, not a mistake that derailed your life.

You are not your mother.

She looked down at the data Flynn had spread before her and then back at him. “It’s not that I don’t trust your research, but I’ve learned to do things for myself. I’ll check around and get back to you.”

Three

F lynn hadn’t lied.

With a mug of coffee in hand and a sense of doom weighing heavily on her shoulders, Renee stood in the cool basement Sunday morning studying the empty, unfinished space. Flynn’s plans lay on the nearby worktable for reference.

She’d spent all day Saturday looking at properties with a real estate agent only to reinforce Flynn’s findings. But then, she’d always been able to trust Flynn. She was the one she had to worry about.

Property in the area was out of her price range unless she took on more debt than she wanted or leased space in an area where she wouldn’t feel safe coming and going alone early in the morning or late at night.

She credited her grandmother for her frugal nature. Even after Granny had earned a large sum by selling her secret oatmeal cookie recipe to a national company, she’d kept the diner and lived within her means. Granny’s only luxury had been the bungalow she’d bought with a fraction of the windfall. The remaining “saved for a rainy day” cookie money had been Renee’s startup fund.

The stairs creaked behind her. She turned. Flynn’s long, bare legs came into view as he descended. His running shorts displayed his muscular calves and thighs to mouthwatering perfection, and his sleeveless T-shirt revealed powerful shoulders and arms. Desire flickered to life inside her. She tried to snuff it out with little success.

His gaze raked her, making her self-conscious of her old jeans, long-sleeved knit shirt and bare feet. “Good morning, Renee.”

“Good morning. Do you still run every day?”

“Rain or shine. Care to join me?”

Déjà vu. She smiled. “You know the answer to that one.”

He’d always asked. She’d always refused. She likened running to getting a paper cut—something she avoided whenever possible. But the invitation was a game they’d once played, and it worried her how easily they had fallen back into the banter.

He tapped his hip. “I have my cell phone if you need me. I left the number upstairs on the table.” He nodded toward the blueprint. “Did you make a decision?”

She took a deep breath and then a sip of coffee, delaying the inevitable and maybe hoping for divine intervention in the form of a better idea. “You’re right. Using the basement is the best option.”

Satisfaction gleamed in his eyes. He nodded. “I’ll make the call to the contractor first thing in the morning. I know one I trust implicitly. Monday afternoon we’ll go out and look at tile, cabinets and countertops.”

“Don’t you have to work Monday?”

“I’ll take the afternoon off. Come by the office after lunch and we’ll leave from there.”

That surprised her. He’d never taken time off from Madd Comm before, and he certainly hadn’t liked her popping in and interrupting his day—a circumstance that had only reinforced his mother’s snippy comments about him having other “more suitable” women.

“Look over the preliminary plans while I’m out and see if you want to make any changes.”

“Your drawings are as wonderful as always.” He’d had so much talent back then and shown so much promise that big firms had been trying to recruit him even before he had his certifications.

A frown flickered across his face. “I’ll have to ask a licensed architect from my old firm to sign off on the plans.”

“You do that.” Maybe in talking to them he’d remember how much he used to love the work.

He crossed to the exterior door and opened it, letting in a cool rush of air. “I’ll be back.”

The door closed behind him, leaving her in silence—a reminder of the long, lonely days and nights she’d once spent in this house while Flynn worked. She couldn’t help but believe their marriage would have survived if he’d stayed with his beloved architecture, instead of becoming the VP at the family firm. But because he’d minored in business administration and been groomed to work there until he’d rebelled and refused, he’d been familiar with how Madd Comm worked, and he’d been the only one considered for the job after their father’s death.

She shook her head. The loneliness she’d experienced back then wouldn’t happen again. She wouldn’t allow it. She had her own business and interests, and her life and happiness would never again be completely wrapped up in Flynn.

She took the last sip of her coffee, then rolled up the blueprints and climbed the stairs. In the past she would have cooked breakfast while Flynn had his run, and she’d have had it waiting on the table when he returned. Cooking for him and doing things for him had filled her with satisfaction. She debated raiding his refrigerator to see what ingredients she could find, but she resisted. This was not the old days.

Instead, she refilled her mug and sat down with a pad of paper. Starting up a new branch would be a lot of work, but she had experience under her belt now. She needed to make a shopping list, a to-do list and a general list. Once she combined her lists and got an estimate from a contractor, she’d be able to tailor her budget.

The doorbell rang, breaking into her concentration. Had Flynn forgotten his key? Did he still keep a spare behind the ornate wrought-iron house numbers? She glanced at the clock. He’d only been gone forty minutes. He used to run for closer to an hour. But that had been years ago.

She rose and shuffled barefoot to the front door. The glass distorted the person on the other side, but not so much that she couldn’t see her visitor was too petite to be Flynn. Who would visit so early?

Renee opened the door. Her mother-in-law stood on the doormat. Dislike crawled over Renee. Carol Maddox. There wasn’t a polite way to describe her. “Hello, Carol.”

Blonde and thin to the point of emaciation, Carol managed to show disapproval despite her stiff, overly botoxed face. “So it’s true. You’re back.”

“Yes.” One single word shouldn’t provide so much satisfaction, but given the number of times Flynn’s mother had deliberately made her miserable, Renee took great pleasure in knowing she’d ruined Carol’s day—probably her entire week.

Carol’s condemning gaze ran over Renee, from her tangled morning hair and unmade-up face, to her jeans and department-store polo shirt to her bare feet with unpainted toenails, then returned to her mug. “I’d like a cup of coffee. That is, if you’ve learned to brew a decent pot.”

Renee’s temper rose, but she bit her tongue rather than stoop to Carol’s level. “Come in, but if you’re expecting Kopi Luwak you’ll be disappointed,” she said, naming the most expensive coffee in the world.

She led the way to the kitchen rather than the parlor, where she had entertained her mother-in-law in the past. Without ceremony, she filled a sturdy mug, instead of the good china, and brought it, the sugar and the milk carton to the table.

In business, presentation was everything. But with Carol there was no point trying to impress her. No matter what Renee did it was never good enough. A lesson Renee had learned the hard way.

Carol made a production out of preparing her coffee, then sipped and grimaced. She set the mug down. “What game are you playing by coming back into Flynn’s life when he finally has someone he cares deeply for and who suits him?”

Dismay and denial rippled through Renee in quick succession, surprising her. But the acid burn in her belly was not jealousy. She had no right to be jealous if Flynn had found someone during their separation. To be jealous she’d have to still care. She didn’t. “Does he?”

“Yes. You’re wasting his time and yours. She’s our kind. You are not.”

“By ‘your kind’ you mean rich, rude and backstabbing?” The words popped out of Renee’s mouth before she could curb them. While a part of her was horrified by her disrespect, another part took pride in the fact she’d finally stood up for herself with this bully. Civility had never worked with Carol. The harder Renee had tried to make her mother-in-law like her, the more obnoxious Carol had become.

Carol’s eyes widened in surprise, then narrowed in calculation. “So you’ve finally grown a backbone. How commendable. But you’re too late and it’s not enough. You’ll lose Flynn the same way you did before. He loves Denise and plans to marry her.”

The cauldron of toxic feelings bubbled in Renee’s stomach. Anger. That’s all it was. Anger toward this hateful, malicious woman. “That might prove a little difficult since he’s still married to me because he never filed the papers.”

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