Home > JACKSON (The Billionaire Croft Brothers #1)

JACKSON (The Billionaire Croft Brothers #1)
Author: Paige North




I sit staring at the phone, my hand clenched in a fist over my mouth. I close my eyes and tell myself to get my shit together. Do the usual, calm my breathing and remind myself that I can fight through this just like always.

A few seconds later, my eyes open again…and I’m still fucked.

My father always knew how to push my buttons, but after twenty-eight years of his shit, I thought I’d learned to stay cool under his unrelenting pressure—and the pressures of Croft International. This business is all pressure, all the time. There is no room for any cracks or weaknesses.

But that phone call…

How could he?

After everything I’ve done to earn my place in this business? After all of my sacrifices?

It turns out the old man saved his best trick for last. Pulled the rug out from under me and then disappeared off the face of the earth, so he’d never have to answer for any of it.

I get up and stride across my expansive office to the bar tucked into custom-made walnut bookshelves. Toss a few cubes in a glass and pour three fingers worth of the scotch that is the same age as I am.

I take a deep gulp as I look out at the view from my office. The strong, smooth alcohol and serene view of the boats bobbing in the harbor are supposed to soothe me. Instead, all I feel is anger rising and rising, the image of my bastard father growing stronger. He’s laughing from the grave where the dirt is still fresh, of that there is no doubt in my mind.

A grating buzz sounds from the phone.

“Mr. Croft? Your ten a.m. is here.”

“Christ,” I mutter. I push the intercom button. “Sandra, I can’t do it. You’ll have to reschedule.” I don’t even remember what’s on my calendar but at this moment I don’t care. My only plan is to finish this scotch, then start on another.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Croft. But she says this is the third time—”

“Damn it, I said I'm busy!” I snap. What part of reschedule did she not understand? I throw back another drink, nearly draining the glass. It stings my throat but in a good way, like a rough massage.

That should’ve been that, but then I hear some bullshit outside my door.

“…I don’t care what he said,” a woman is saying, her voice smooth but insistent. “I’m not going to reschedule again, it’s insulting.”

The door flies open and a woman comes in, trailed by Sandra who is frantically chasing her.

“At least he can tell me why he’s cancelling again to my face,” the woman finishes. She stands just inside my office, her green eyes blazing toward me.

The annoyance of being barged in on is replaced by shock at the woman that’s standing before me. This woman is all curves in all the right places, her cleavage showing just enough to tantalize me with thoughts of what she’d look like naked in my bed.

But it’s her eyes, so bright they seem on fire as she stares me down—her eyes are what really stir me.

She’s determined, but more than that, she has a spark, a fire, and it lights something inside of me.

Sandra, not used to being disrespected or railroaded, stands behind the woman looking like she’s ready to body slam her, despite the arthritis. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Croft. She just barged through. I was about to call security.”

“You don’t look too busy to me,” the woman says to me, eyeing the scotch.

“That’s it,” Sandra says. “I’m calling security.” She turns back toward her desk to grab her phone.

The woman doesn’t budge. In fact she slowly crosses her arms across her chest, cocks her leg out, and begins tapping one of her stilettos.

Something washes over me—something more undeniable than her absolute beauty.

Her long hair is pulled back in a low ponytail, and her dress is not as tailored as the businesswomen I’m used to being around, but damn if it doesn’t smooth over her in the sexiest way.

But this is my turf.

I know how to stand my ground with the most powerful people in the industry. She’s beautiful, and her act is cute, but she has no idea who she’s dealing with.

“Trying to come up with an excuse?” she says, breaking into my thoughts.

Very nice line. I like it.

And I like that for a brief fleeting moment, this woman caused me to forget the burning ashes of betrayal that I can still taste in my mouth…the memory of that phone call still making me feel like I want to throw my chair through the fucking window.

“I don’t need an excuse,” I tell her.

“Could’ve fooled me,” she replies instantly.

I want to chuckle at her, but there’s a reason I can clean house in poker with anyone from the guys from the mailroom to the gentlemen at the Algonquin Club. My expression doesn’t change as I tell Sandra, “Don’t call security. I can handle this.” Without a word Sandra hangs up her phone and closes the door for me.

Once we’re alone, I say, “I don’t know who you are, but unfortunately now is not a good time, so I will have to rearrange our date.”

“You mean our meeting?” she says.

“Today’s no good,” I respond, ignoring her jab.

“I’m here, you’re clearly not busy, and I’d like to go ahead with our meeting,” she says.

“What did you say your name was?”

“I didn’t. I’m Emily Brown,” she says, her chin lifted slightly. She’s trying to be authoritative, but I can hear the quiver in her voice. “I’m from the Children’s Education Fund. I’d like to discuss our annual goals.”

“I’ve never heard of your charity and I really don’t have time to worry about someone else’s financial goals. I have my own, Ms. Brown.”

I have to stay focused. After that phone call I just received, the last thing I need is some bullheaded woman throwing me off the goals I’ve worked my life to achieve. My goals, not some kid charity nonsense.

She pushes ahead, trying her best to keep talking. “It’s called the Children’s Education Fund and it’s—”

“I heard you the first time you said the name,” I tell her. “And to be clear, I’m not sure how you got on my calendar, but I have charities asking me for money on a daily basis. I don’t need another one.”

She shifts her leg so that she’s standing full upright. She’s a little thing, no more than five-four. But right now she’s doing everything she can to demand authority. “The least you can do is give me five minutes after cancelling on me twice before now. If you’d stop trying to get me out of your office we could have been halfway through this meeting by now.”

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