A Cinderella Affair
by AC Arthur
Book 2 in the Donovans Series
Clothing designer Camille Davis is sophisticated, ambitious,talented…and riddled with self-doubt—except when it comes to selling her father’s home. No deal, no way. But Las Vegas real estate mogul Adam Donovan’s negotiating skills are leaving Camille weak in the knees…and maybe, just maybe, willing to compromise?
Adam, the youngest of the “Triple Threat” Donovan brothers and the sexiest bachelor in town, is drawn to Camille’s seductive mix of vulnerability, sweetness and strength. As for her take-it-or-leave-it deal—he’s in. He’s willing to see how this gamble plays out, because his heart says there will be no losers in Vegas on this bet.
A Cinderella Affair
Book 2 in the Donovans Series
A Cinderella Affair
Camille Davis swung the door open with so much force the knob slammed against the wall with a bang and the three people sitting at the conference table looked up instantly.
Out of breath from running down the hall to get to the designated conference room before this bogus deal could go any further, she stood there for a moment, chest heaving, suddenly unsure of what exactly she wanted say.
“What are you doing here?” her stepmother asked as she stood, tossing her a more than disdainful look.
As Camille’s heart rate slowed her anger grew. Moreen Scott Davis, her father’s second wife, was impeccably dressed in a dark blue suit with silk lapels. Her glossy black hair framed her flawlessly made-up face. She looked like the twenty-first century version of Diahann Carroll. Too bad she had a long way to go to ever be that classy.
“I should be asking you the same question,” Camille said, taking a step closer to the table. There were two men gaping with surprise from her to Moreen but she wasn’t concerned with them at the moment. Right now her top priority was nipping the Merry Widow in the bud. A task she’d been unhappily executing for the last three months.
That’s when her father had died.
Randolph Davis, multimillionaire, A-list Hollywood producer, Moreen’s third husband and Camille’s beloved father, died of coronary disease in Cedars-Sinai Hospital one rainy July night at nine forty-five.
Camille was ten years old when Moreen, the tall, sexy model, had come into the room on her father’s arm being introduced as her new stepmother. Camille had hid her fury initially, waiting until she’d had her father alone to explode. Even then Randolph had an uncanny way of calming her down. She’d been thoroughly upset at the thought of her father with another woman but then he’d explained things to her in a way that had her thinking only of his happiness. Camille loved her father too much to ever do anything that would make him unhappy.
She only wished his new wife had felt the same way. From day one Moreen made a point of informing Camille that decisions where she, the child, was concerned could no longer be manipulated through Randolph. That would now be Moreen’s job. Private schools, summer camps and endless classes on etiquette and grooming were Moreen’s idea of the perfect childhood. They were Camille’s idea of torture.
Camille’s mother had died when she was eight, from complications of pneumonia, her father said. And for two years Camille and her father had been close, relying only on each other to survive the darkest time in their lives. The darkest time, that is, until Moreen came. Her father was completely brainwashed by the sexy vixen.
Camille hated her.
That harsh emotion spun from the brash and uncaring way Moreen had of reminding Camille that she was not her child and that she was not worthy of all her father had showered on her. Remarks like, “I don’t know why we waste money sending you to etiquette class, you’ll never amount to anything,” “You’re so plain, so unattractive,” “You’re too short and too pudgy,” had been the norm in the Davis household.
As a result, Camille struggled with depression and roller-coaster weight loss and gain. Finally, when she was in her second year of college Camille had collapsed. She was exhausted from working as an assistant in a design house and taking a full class load, and she was malnourished from trying to be like the skinny models she worked with on a daily basis. In essence, she was slowly killing herself.
Finally, when Camille had felt as if she were at the end of her rope, she’d decided to try seeing a counselor. That was her saving grace. Her counseling sessions were private, a place where she could share her innermost feelings without fear of her father finding out and having to face his rage at her exposing what he would have termed “private matters.” She told of Moreen’s verbal abuse and was rewarded by the fact that she was not the cause of her extremely low self-esteem, Moreen was. But even finding the cause didn’t always heal the wound.
Now she was in a face-off with Moreen yet again. Only this time Camille planned to come out on top.
“I’m taking care of business,” Moreen huffed.
“You’re trying to sell my father’s house without my permission.”
“I own half of that house.” Camille took another step closer to Moreen and tried not to flinch at the heated waves of animosity emanating from the woman to her. “You can’t do anything with that house without my approval and my signature.”
Then, as if she finally decided to acknowledge the two men still sitting at the table, Camille looked in their direction and asked, “Did you know that I owned half the house? Did you know that what you’re trying to do here is illegal? Do you know that I can sue the pants off you and your big brass corporation for attempting to fraudulently buy my property?”
Her heart was pounding again and she didn’t wait for their answer as she swung back to Moreen. “I don’t know what it’s going to take for you to get through your head that he left everything…down to his socks…to you and I. Fifty, fifty. Now I have no idea why he’d do such a fool thing but I am attempting to deal with that. You, on the other hand, seem to think you can do whatever it is you please no questions asked.”
“Now you just wait a minute, young lady.” Moreen stepped away from the table to get closer to Camille. “I don’t know what’s come over you—”
That made two of them because Camille didn’t have a clue where she’d gotten the nerve to jump on a plane to Las Vegas, bumrush a major corporation and interrupt a meeting she was sure was worth millions of dollars. But at the present time none of that was relevant. The only thing that mattered was saving the house she’d grown up in, the house her mother had lived in.
She’d found out that Moreen was attempting to sell the house from her best friend and business partner, Dana Palmer, whose mother ran in the same social circles as Moreen. And she’d dropped everything to get here in time to stop her.
“I’m tired of dealing with your drama. Your father catered to you but I certainly will not.”
“Ah, it seems that you two have some sort of personal issue going on here. But we were in the middle of a meeting and—” a male voice interrupted.
Camille paused, almost stopped breathing as she listened.
It couldn’t be.
She’d dreamed of that voice.
Every night for the last six months, except for the two weeks after her father’s death, she’d dreamt of that voice, that man.
The deep timbre resonated throughout her entire body. The sound moved from her ears and slithered down her spine spreading familiar spikes of warmth in its wake.
Camille paused, then moved in a way that had her convinced the entire room had been switched to slow motion.
Their gazes met and held.
“—ah, we were…” The man in her dreams cleared his throat.
It was him. From the close-cropped hair and smiling eyes to the strong jaw and not-too-thick lips. It was him and she didn’t know how to react.
The man sitting beside her dream man stood. “What my partner is trying to say is that you and Mrs. Davis should probably deal with your family business at another time. We are in the middle of a very important meeting.”
Moreen interrupted. “I must apologize. This is my stepdaughter, Camille Davis.”
The man extended his hand and nodded. “I’m Maxwell Donovan.”
Camille accepted his hand with a brief nod. He was certainly easy on the eyes with his caramel-toned skin and funny-colored eyes. But he was nothing in comparison to the man beside him. The man she couldn’t bring herself to look at again.
“This is my partner, Adam Donovan.”
Camille sighed. The man in her dreams now had a name.
It would be rude not to look at him now especially since he was also standing and extending his hand. She took a deep breath and accepted his hand as well.
In her more fanciful thoughts she expected sparks to fly or maybe fireworks to explode in the distant sky at their first touch. What she didn’t expect was that warmth his voice had solicited to swirl and center in the pit of her stomach then slowly slither lower.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Davis. Since you obviously have an interest in this deal, why don’t you take a seat and join us,” he said in that voice that Camille swore would make any woman scream.
Camille sat, ignoring Moreen’s evil glare from beside her.
“As I was saying,” Max continued. “This meeting was simply to get an idea of what was on the table. We haven’t made any formal offers nor has Mrs. Davis accepted anything from us. However, we have done some preliminary investigation into the property. The property is a value all by itself. And the house, while in good condition, can be worth almost double once we’re finished with it. Your father was a businessman—I’m sure you would agree that he would at least entertain our offer.”
“It’s too much space for me, Camille. And you haven’t lived there in years,” Moreen pleaded.
“It was my father’s house. I was born there and I grew up there. It’s not for sale,” she said adamantly. “If she informed you otherwise then she was out of line.”
Camille stood to leave. In her mind there was nothing more to discuss.
She expected the silence. Or maybe she expected Moreen to start on one of her tirades. What she did not expect—but probably should have since this seemed to be the year of surprises for her—was the touch on her arm.
“Why don’t you hear us out and then decide if you’re interested?” Adam asked.
Adam already knew he was interested…in her, that is.
The moment she walked in that door, he’d remembered. He’d sat in his seat and replayed the night he’d first met her.
His brother Linc had just gotten married, effectively disrupting the reputation of the Triple Threat Brothers. That’s what Adam and his two older brothers were known as because of their good looks, hefty bank accounts and irrefutable desire to remain bachelors. Now the three were down to two, but Adam wasn’t complaining. Linc had made a wise choice. Jade was a good woman and she made his brother a better man.
The wedding reception had gone into the early morning hours, long after the bride and groom had left for their honeymoon. Adam had been ready to leave.
Then he’d bumped into her.
She smelled of chic, expensive perfume and felt like silk the brief moment she was in his arms. He distinctly remembered looking down into her pixie-like face, falling into deep chocolate-brown eyes, slightly slanted with a soulful depth that reached inside and clutched his heart instantly. Those eyes held secrets, pain and a longing he could almost identify with, and yet he didn’t even know her name.
“Sorry.” She spoke and the smoky sound of her voice slid through him with a slow and steady warmth, like fine wine.
He hadn’t released his hold on her, although she was perfectly secure in standing on her own. He just couldn’t bring himself to end the connection. She wore short sleeves and the soft skin beneath his hands was simply too tempting.
“Don’t be. It was my fault. I should have looked where I was going,” he’d said because he should say something. After all, staring was rude.
She made a move to leave and he panicked. “Wait! I mean, ah, are you staying at the hotel or just visiting?”
Tilting her head to the side made her hair—silky brown strands stopping abruptly at her chin—swish to one side, covering half of one eye. She stared at him and the low hum of attraction vibrated in his groin. She was shockingly sexy. Why that was a shock he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
“I was in the casino and now I’m trying to leave. Is that okay with you?”
There was a definite bite to her words but the sarcasm didn’t reach her eyes. He focused there because if his gaze dropped down to her lips again he’d most certainly have to kiss her. Then as if a light bulb had gone off in his head he’d remembered who and where he was and released her. “Of course, it’s okay. It’s getting late—I just wanted to know if I needed to call you a cab or not.”
She blinked, curiosity brimming in those alluring eyes. “No, thank you. I think I’ll be fine.”
She did move around him then, and when he’d turned was walking away with quick, purposeful strides. She wore slacks, nice, dark slacks designed most likely for comfort or businesslike attire that mysteriously aroused him.
He’d sighed and returned to the ballroom to enjoy the festivities. And while she was gone from sight her presence still occupied space in his mind, so much so that sleep had been hard to come by. He hadn’t forgotten her but he hadn’t expected to ever see her again, either.
Now she was here, standing in the conference room of Donovan Investments, Inc., throwing a very attractive monkey wrench in one of his biggest acquisitions.
She was the same and yet she was different. Her hair was swept up into a curly style that gave her an air of sophistication that didn’t quite fit her. She was tense and guarded; agitated and uncertain. And he wanted to know why.
“I’m not interested,” she said.
And he felt a slap to his ego. He had to remind himself that she wasn’t telling him she was not interested in him personally. Still, her words stung.
“Just hear us out.”
She sighed heavily and walked back to the table. Over her shoulder Adam caught a glimpse of Max’s approving expression and suppressed a grin.
Donovan Investments, Inc. was growing steadily. He and Max were renowned for their sound investments and profitable turnarounds. It all began with a vacation in Bermuda three years ago. He’d ventured away from the resort where he was staying, walking along enjoying the view when he’d seen it. On a hill, almost hidden by trees, twin towers of beauty. Upon closer inspection he’d noted that beauty most definitely was in the eye of the beholder since the building was empty and almost in ruins. But Adam sensed the possibilities and bought it. His brothers were livid and about to harass him into getting rid of the dilapidated property but Max had come to his rescue. He’d flown to Bermuda and shared in Adam’s vision. They renovated the hotel and sold it for twice what Adam had paid for it.
From that moment on they’d made one lucrative deal after another. Adam was a very rich man, although he would have been rich without Donovans Investments. But earning his own money seemed so much more appealing to Adam than just living off what was his solely by birthright.
“It really makes sense to go ahead and sell, Camille,” Moreen said.
Adam looked at the older woman. This was his first time meeting her in person. Max had taken care of the initial phone calls and scheduled this meeting. Adam sensed a lot of hostility between the two women. As much as he didn’t want to get involved in any family feud he couldn’t help but feel like Camille needed someone on her side.
“You took my father away from me. Is it really imperative for you to take everything?” Camille asked.
“What are your intentions for the house?” Adam interrupted. He’d heard the sincerity in her words and the pain. Randolph Davis had died three months ago, three months after the first time he’d seen her. He remembered the look of discontent in her eyes that night in the casino and couldn’t help but notice that it was magnified now.
And then she looked at him and Adam felt as if he were sinking, falling into those deep brown eyes, into her pain and despair. A part of him hurt for her and he suppressed the urge to go to her and hold her.
Adam had always been the more caring of the Donovan men, the compassionate one who had a soft spot for the ladies. Once upon a time that soft spot had garnered him a broken heart. Kim Alvarez was her name. She was his college sweetheart, the woman he’d been ready to spend the rest of his life with, until fate had stepped in and shown him the error of his ways.
And while Adam had sworn never to take that route again he didn’t miss the opportunity to help a damsel in distress when he saw one. Somehow he knew that Camille’s distress was unlike any other he’d ever experienced.
“I…I don’t know,” she stammered.
“Exactly,” Moreen continued quickly. “That’s why we need to go ahead with this deal now. Camille, they aren’t going to wait forever for you to make up your mind.”
“My mind is already made up,” Camille retorted.
Adam looked at Max who appeared to be at the end of his rope with this meeting. “Okay, why don’t we do this. Mrs. Davis has a room at the Gramercy, right?”
Moreen nodded. “Yes. I do.”
“Great. Then if Ms. Davis does not have a room I’m sure we can get you one since my brother owns the hotel.” Adam smiled because he desperately wanted Camille to smile, too, and because he hoped his mention of the hotel reminded her of the night they first met. “Then we can meet again tomorrow morning after everybody’s had the chance to digest these new developments.”
“I already have a plane ticket to go back to L.A. tonight,” Camille said.
She had the prettiest completion, like a cup of hot chocolate, and the way she stared up at him made her look even more vulnerable. Not caring how out of place it was or that Max would definitely have something to say about it later, Adam got up from his seat and walked around to the other side of the table. He knelt down next to the chair she sat in and took her hand. “Why don’t you and I have some dinner and discuss what it is you have in mind for your father’s estate. I’ll share what Donovan Investments is offering and then you can decide. If you’re still not interested I’ll take you to the airport.”
She seemed to be thinking it over. He, however, was loving the feel of her smooth skin beneath his touch. She smelled sweet and alluring, just as she had before. This was a big deal for him and the company and Adam had a strange feeling that Camille wasn’t going to easily be convinced to sell the property. He hated to admit that at this moment that wasn’t his top priority. Spending more time with her was.
“I don’t want to sell,” she said quietly.
“Just give me a chance to talk to you,” he implored.
Then as if she knew he’d been holding his breath waiting for that very action, she smiled. His insides warmed and the voice of dread echoed in the back of his mind.