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Pretty Prize (Rags to Riches #2)
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Since his mother’s death, Hunter Keal has had one mission—destroy everything Garrett Vandermeer holds dear. One by one, Hunter has taken over Garrett’s factories, properties, until all that is left is Rose Vandermeer. Hunter will have her, too, with or without her approval. Only the more time he spends with Rose, the more that Hunter falls under her spell until the only thing he craves more than revenge is her love.
Rose Vandermeer has spent years under the thumb of her controlling brother. She’s on the verge of escaping when she’s literally sold to a cold billionaire who sees her as nothing more than a pretty prize to be won. She might submit to his touch, his care, his tender keeping, but she’ll never give him her heart.
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“There’s still time to change your mind.” The voice of my better angel speaks in sonorous tones over my shoulder.
I don’t take my eyes off the two figures sitting in the twenty thousand dollar Herman Miller chairs that were installed two weeks ago. The fresh smell of this office still lingers after a month of renovations. I haven’t decided if I love it or hate it. It reeks of new money. The majority of my wealth has been accumulated in the last ten years. The ruling class of New York isn’t impressed by me because they’ve seen fortunes come and go. My check is welcome but I am not.
That will all change with my marriage to Rose Vandermeer, the Princess of Park Avenue. Once she is on my arm, no club will bar my entrance, no invitation will go unsent. With one “I do,” the rest of New York high society will bend their knee because despite their lack of money, the Vandermeers have been at the top of the ruling class since the Mayflower’s prow hit Cape Cod.
It doesn’t hurt that the delectable raven-haired beauty sitting primly in the first chair is the most mouth-watering morsel I’ve ever had the good fortune to lay eyes upon. It’s not the first time I’ve seen Rose, but it’s the first time we’ve been this close. Her brother has kept her locked up in a figurative ivory tower in his penthouse apartment on Park, trotting her out only on a few occasions to feed the rabid interest about her.
“Is being in my keep so much worse than the position she is now?” I ask my long-time friend and advisor who believes my soul will be compromised by carrying out this bargain. “Perhaps I am doing her a favor.”
Rumor has it that she has had several offers of employment since her graduation from the exclusive all-girls college she attended upstate, but her brother, Garrick, has turned them all down on her behalf. From my intel, I’m not certain if she knows how rigidly he is controlling her entire existence.
“She’s a person. No person can want to be bartered like a coin or a stock share.”
“If he doesn’t sell her to me, he’ll sell her to someone else.”
“Regardless, she is not going to look kindly upon the person making the purchase.” She sits so silently, so still—as if she’s a picture rather than a human. Beside her, Garrick fidgets, first picking up one magazine and flipping through it only to toss it down seconds later and reach for a new one. After discarding his third magazine, he gets up and approaches my secretary, Chris, with a request. A minute later, the outer doors slide open and one of the staff members from downstairs brings in a tray with two glasses and a bottle of sparkling water. Garrick eyes the water with disgust. His addiction to booze and drugs has him in a tight grip if he can’t even last through the morning without a hit. “If she stays much longer with him, he may harm her.”
I flick the monitor off. I’m tired of looking at her with a barrier between us. “Let’s complete the deal.”
Chris pauses at the door. “You still plan on ruining him?”
“You don’t think that will bother the young lady?”
“I would hope she would have more intelligence than to care about a man who would sell her.”
“But you believe that she will feel differently about the man who buys her?”
A kernel of doubt turns over in my stomach but I quash it immediately. I have no time for second-guessing. I put myself in the three comma club by going with my gut and my gut says that bringing Garrick Vandermeer to his knees financially and eradicating any signs of his existence is exactly the right move.
“Yes,” I answer confidently.
Miller sighs and shakes his head, but he knows me well enough to understand that I’m not wavering from my position.
I’ve been plotting the downfall of Vandermeer for twenty years, ever since he laughed in my face and spat on my shoes when I went to beg for my sick mother’s job. He didn’t care that the factory he owned in New Jersey was killing people with the amount of chemicals used. He didn’t care that he paid so little that most of the employees either had to have a second job or get food stamps. He didn’t care that he scheduled them for shifts below thirty hours so that no one was eligible for health care. He didn’t care that he was killing them.
I swore on my mother’s grave that I would get revenge. When I began my hunt, I heard rumors of his particularly odd obsession with his sister. Fired staff would whisper about how she was kept in a luxurious cage, attended to only by older women. Some argued it was because she was a troll, with a hook nose and lesions speckled across her face. That talk was put to rest years ago.