If you haven’t read the Prologue yet you can catch up.
Stuck Like Glue
Eleven Years Later
Drake yawned as he pulled into the parking lot at the family firm, parked his Audi A8 and got out, stretching his long legs.
All the men were tall in the Fierce family. His father and his Uncle Grant at six foot four. Just like Drake. His Uncle Gavin was the tallest at six foot five. Drake’s twin, Noah, was six foot three and Drake held that extra inch over his brother’s head like the Stanley Cup Trophy. The rest of the men in the family were anywhere from six foot one to six foot three.
Big, strong…fierce. Like their name.
Though Drake never considered himself that fierce. He was probably the most laid back of the group. He went with the flow like water over a dam. Whichever way the wind blew, he could float along with it like the white fluff from a dandelion.
He’d only lost his temper a few times in life and those times, he’d learned his lessons.
Physical violence never sat well with him unless he was wrestling with his brothers as a kid and even then he’d done it the least. He was more a lover than a hater.
It wasn’t worth losing his temper in the past and it was not now. Too much on the line.
He’d taken his suit jacket off when he got in his car and hung it up. He really didn’t even need to have it on today but got into the habit of dressing more when he was going to meetings like this. It’s not like he had a tie on, just a light gray shirt, almost white, his jacket and charcoal gray pants.
He decided to leave the jacket there for now; he’d be going home soon anyway. He should have just gone home after the meeting, but he had too much to do and had wanted to take a few of the men to dinner after. Which was why he was back at eight rather than six like most thought he’d be.
The two-hour drive from Charlotte allowed his mind time to work out a few kinks in his blueprints once the clients made changes and suggestions. Overall, the city was pleased with everything. And since it was a multi-year contract to repave roads, fix some bridges, and hopefully work on the water drainage if everything stayed in budget, he’d considered it a big win to get this contract. One he’d spent a lot of hours on. Hours of work and schmoozing officials. Come to find out, one of the officials knew his father, went to school with him back in Charlotte and reached out.
He snorted now, thinking he’d scored that big win, only to have his father and uncle laugh at him and say, “We like you kids to think those things, but they reached out to us first.”
That was his father and Uncle Grant, always busting on everyone’s ass. In a good way though. As family, they were stuck like glue.
He walked into the lobby of the four-story building his father and uncle owned, went to the elevator and punched the fourth floor where his office was located. Three fourths of the staff were on the fourth floor, the rest on the third with storage and conference rooms, the kitchens, and other miscellaneous rooms. The first two floors were renters.
When he got to the fourth floor, the lights were on, the cleaning people doing their thing, but most staff were gone. He would be soon, but wanted to finish up something first.
As he passed by the finance department on his way to his office at the other end of the hall, he saw a light on and popped his head in. Just as he expected, there was Kara Winslow working away at her desk. Probably planning spreadsheets full of meetings that she’d want him to attend first thing in the morning. “Late night?” he asked.
Her head shifted up fast, her dark eyes focusing on him behind her glasses. She didn’t always wear them, sometimes she had contacts in, he assumed. Her long brown hair was pulled back like it always was. Now that he thought of it, he didn’t think he’d ever seen it down.
Why he was even thinking that was beyond him. He tried not to think of her too much because, whenever he did, he’d grind his teeth.
She was always nice to him. Always friendly in a businesslike sort of way. It’s just she was so straight and narrow when he was so…not.
In her eyes it was black and white. One plus one always equaled two and she wasn’t happy if he went one penny over a budget she imposed on him. His last name was Fierce. Hers wasn’t. If he wanted to go over budget to land clients, no one could tell him no.
Well, his father and uncle could, but that was it. Not Kara, Financial Analyst—or whatever her title was—or not.
“I thought you were gone for the day,” she said. “You left at noon.”
He didn’t realize she kept such close tabs on him. Of course it was probably because she knew he was meeting with clients today and didn’t want him to exceed her budget. Too damn bad. He probably did. Not that he looked at her budgets half the time.
“I had a meeting at two thirty, then took a few guys out to dinner. I just got back into town and need to finish a few things up, then I’ll be out of here. Are you the only one here?”
“I’m sure,” she said.
There was a hint of sarcasm to her answer and he wanted to laugh. Most of the staff left at five each day. Some left at four. His father and uncle were flexible with hours if the work was done. Those that left early were normally here by seven or earlier in the morning. Not that he showed up that early, probably because he tended to work later.
His father and uncle were the ones here first thing. He, his sister Jade, and cousin Ryder tended to come around eight.
Kara was always here before him, and he wouldn’t put it past her to get here first and leave last.
“Not everyone puts as much time into their job as you and I.”
“Nope,” she said. “Was there something you wanted? I’m just finishing up now.”
“No,” he said, smiling just to annoy her. He knew a dismissal when he got one. “I saw the light on and didn’t know if it was just the cleaning people or not.”
“They will be done by eight thirty, so I try to leave before them.”
So there was a limit to how long she worked. That is, if she didn’t bring work home with her, which he suspected she did because she’d send him meeting requests over the weekend all the time.
“I’ll be out by then too,” he said, looking at his watch. Twenty minutes now. Guess he should have just gone home. “See you tomorrow.”
He turned to leave when Kara called his name. “Do you have your receipts for today?”
He rolled his eyes. “They are in my car. I’ll give them to you tomorrow.”
She laughed. “Okay.”
He walked back to his office knowing that laugh. The one that said she didn’t believe him. She had every right to think that too since he purposely wouldn’t give them to her now.
Kara watched Drake swagger out the door of her office and let out a breath she didn’t even know she was holding until she heard the gush of air.
Why did he have to get her so worked up all the time?
She swore he did on purpose. That he didn’t bring his receipts in and wanted her to chase him around for them. He probably found it some sort of game.
She didn’t chase anyone though. No man, that was for sure.
Men—she didn’t need them in her life. She didn’t need anyone and she was darn happy to be going home alone tonight.
Alone every night to the apartment she shared with her cat that didn’t mind she wasn’t there often.
She’d never thought she’d have a cat, but she’d found the kitten in the back of the apartment complex that she lived in and couldn’t let it starve. Couldn’t let it die. She’d fed it a few times, hoping it would get its strength or find a home.
It found a home, all right. With her.
That kitten was a fighter, just like her. They shared that trait and she felt a bond with the pet she never thought she’d own.
Tyson was strong with a soft meow that he only graced her with every time he saw her. He’d even slipped into the door one night and got into the building. She’d caved when she never thought she was someone to cave for anything and adopted the pet.
Speaking of caving, it was time to leave before Drake so she wouldn’t run into him again. She tried to limit their communication as much as possible. Heck, she thought it was him avoiding her more, which didn’t explain why he stopped into her office tonight.
Either way, she put her computer to sleep, grabbed her purse and walked to the door, then shut the light, and put Drake out of her mind as best as she could.
Too bad no matter how much she tried, he always found a way back in.