The plane ride wasn’t nearly long enough for Hannah’s liking, but it did allow her some much-needed time to think about what she’d just done. Packing up and leaving the best job she’d ever had had been a drastic move, but one she’d felt she’d needed to take. There was no way she could work beside Thaddeus again, especially if he started to talk like he had at the airport.
His confession of love was something that she’d dreamed about hearing, but she also knew Thaddeus Remington was ruthless and that he would say or do whatever he needed to in order to get what he wanted. Whether he was engaged or not, there could never be anything other than lust and sex between them, at least on his part.
On hers, however, there was nothing more than a fantasy she harbored. The two were from different worlds and had nothing in common except for—
Her thoughts were cut short when the line in front of her started to move. She shifted her carry-on bag from one arm to the other and, within a minute, she was finally off the aircraft and back on English soil. It felt strange to actually be in London again, because it was the one place that she’d doubted she’d ever return to until she’d seen Finley the other night.
“Please have the landing cards you filled out on the plane ready. If you didn’t fill one out then, there are kiosks available,” the attendant greeting the passengers from her flight told everyone as they entered the terminal.
There wasn’t much in her bag, so Hannah hoped that the process would go smoothly. In fact, she’d packed barely anything, having only checked two additional suitcases in Atlanta. Afterward, she could go and find her friend.
Finley Wetherall knew what time her flight arrived and had said he’d be there to personally escort her back to his place. Hannah briefly wondered whether staying with him was a good idea. She didn’t have many other alternatives, so, for the moment, his hospitality would have to do.
He told her that he had a large penthouse, which she didn’t doubt at all. Even two years ago, he’d been very successful and driven, much like someone else she knew. There might not have been too many differences in the men, but there was in her relationship with the two. Finley had always been a very good friend to her.
She reached the Border Control and Customs area and, not having anything to declare, she followed the signs and found herself in another semi-long line. This entire process was more cumbersome than the security process one encountered when arriving at the airport. If nothing else, it did give her more time to think about what she was going to tell her friend. Naturally, he’d have questions about why she’d called him up and practically begged for his help.
Beg might be a bit harsh. And it was. Hannah knew, though, that Finley had to have been curious about why she’d suddenly needed a place to stay, especially when she’d told him that she worked and lived in Atlanta, Georgia. To his credit, as soon as she’d told him that she needed help, he’d immediately asked what he could do. He’d always been there for her, since the night they’d first met.
“Next,” the Border Control agent said, and she stepped forward.
So much for this extra time. Handing him her landing card, she answered the numerous questions that he asked about her stay. The airport had changed a lot since the last time she’d been there. Back then, she had come to London with a head full of dreams. This time, she had nothing but the shattered pieces of her heart.
Once cleared, she picked her bag up again then exited the area, looking for the signs to the arrivals lobby. Hannah kept following the arrows then saw a restroom sign. She stopped and debated on whether to take a few minutes to freshen up. After all, she had cried on the flight over here and she could only imagine how horrible she must look.
Hannah knew Finley would be waiting on her and, even though she hated to make him wait even longer, she decided that being presentable was important. She entered the bathroom and saw that her earlier suspicions were correct. There were dark shadows under her eyes but surprisingly, her waterproof eyeliner had held up, since there were no noticeable smudges. Relieved about that small miracle, she touched up her makeup and hoped a good night’s sleep would eliminate the other issue.
Finally, she emerged from the restroom and made her way to the lobby. Hannah recognized Finley right away. He was standing there in his suit, looking every bit the corporate mogul she knew him to be. He was turned slightly away from her as he talked on his cellphone. It had been a familiar sight during her time at Remington Industries. She’d often seen Thaddeus, Martin and Isaac in a similar position.
Plastering on as bright a smile as she could muster, she took the last few steps to him. Hannah was prepared to apologize for inconveniencing him when he turned. His lips quirked into a smile and he hauled her into his arms.
“I’m glad you made it safely, Hannah,” he told her, as he loosened his hold on her. When she stepped back, he looked her over and added. “I hope you enjoyed your flight.”
“I did,” she replied and her fidgeting drew attention to her hands, because his gaze moved from her face to them, and he grabbed the carry-on bag from her. Hannah had no idea why she was suddenly so nervous. She’d spent a lot of time with Finley in the few years that they’d known each other. Although, two years had passed since then.
She wasn’t the same naïve girl that had left here and, while she had changed, it was a safe assumption that Finley had as well. She had also never stayed with him more than a night or two here and there. This wasn’t going to be a permanent arrangement, though. As soon as she found a job and saved enough money to get a place, Hannah planned to get a small flat.
“Well, let’s find the rest of your bags then we’ll head home.”
Finley mentioned home in such a casual tone, as if there was nothing strange about it. Barely nodding her head, she walked beside him until they reached the baggage area. The fluorescent tags on her suitcases made identifying them much easier. Soon, they reached the parking area and he loaded her bags into the trunk of his slate Jaguar F-type Coupe.
* * * *
Setting down his cup of coffee-flavored sludge, Thaddeus Remington folded his arms across his chest as he eyed Martin Breaston, unable to hide his growing irritation at the question asked. “For the hundredth time, I am just fucking fine.”
The lie slipped off his tongue easily, but the older man, who was much like a father to him, wasn’t buying it at all. Martin’s salt and pepper eyebrows arched at his obvious denial. “You’re not being truthful to yourself, Thad.”
The truth. Thaddeus growled at that word, knowing exactly what it was. Hannah had disappeared and didn’t want to be found. It shouldn’t have surprised him at all that when he’d arrived in London, she’d been gone. When he’d confessed his feelings to her at the airport, the rejection had been evident in the shakiness of her voice and the tears that had blurred her beautiful brown eyes.
As a man who’d just poured out his heart, it had hurt enough, but as a Dominant, the pain had been so much worse. One of the main things any Dominant did for his submissive was to protect and care for her. Knowing Hannah felt like she needed protection from him had been like a knife through his heart. Time had done nothing to dull the ache he still felt.
When Thaddeus had arrived in London, he’d used every contact at his disposal to try to track Hannah down. She hadn’t used a single credit card or booked any hotel rooms in her name, which made it even harder to trace her. It hadn’t deterred Thaddeus, though, and he’d spent over a week in the city trying to locate her. The vow he’d made as she’d walked away from him in Atlanta hadn’t been one promised in the heat of the moment. He’d had every intention of staying there in England until he’d found his girl and brought her home with him. There had been only one thing that would have finally drawn him back to Atlanta. It wouldn’t be his failure in locating Hannah, but that his company had needed him. In his absence, Remington Industries had lost the Adams account, which had been one of their first ventures into the pharmaceutical world. As if losing almost a million dollars wasn’t bad enough, he’d found out that they had been outbid by Wetherall Communications, of all corporations. Maybe they wouldn’t have been such a thorn in his side had they not been such a strong competitor.
At the end of the day, Thaddeus’d had to rethink his priorities. While his personal life was a shambles, he could still salvage his company. Hundreds of people were employed by Remington Industries, not to mention it was his birthright.
The truth is that it really doesn’t matter how I feel right now. I can’t afford to let Finley Wetherall take anything else from Remington. Now, I really need to get back to work. With that, he’d returned to Atlanta, determined to focus on his company.
Martin furrowed his bushy eyebrows once again and, this time, Thaddeus arched his own in response. He could see the gears turning in Martin’s head. The old man could say what he wanted. It didn’t change a thing. “I’m just worried about you is all. Miss Brinkley is a sensible girl and just needs some more time. I’m sure that—”
His frustration over this conversation was reaching its breaking point. Cutting the other man off mid-sentence, Thaddeus snidely remarked, “She’s had three weeks away. How much more time does she need? And before you answer that or tell me she needs space, there is an entire ocean between us, and Hannah evidently prefers to keep it that way. I can’t do anything else about her right now, and, to be honest, this is for the best. My focus should have always been on Remington. It wasn’t and look at how things turned out.”
“But losing that account could have happened whether you were here or not,” Martin argued. “Miss Brinkley and I had been working on the proposals before she left. Her going to London had no bearing on it whatsoever.”
Martin was probably right, but Thaddeus wasn’t in the mood to hear the other man’s logic and especially not his lectures. Standing abruptly, he walked to the door and turned to his business partner as he opened it for him. “You can keep telling yourself that, Breaston, and when we’re forced to lay off a half-dozen employees, you can rest easier at night by repeating those delusions. I have work to get back to, so you’re excused.”
The man rose, running his hands down the front of his charcoal-gray pinstripe suit. Reaching down, he grabbed his briefcase and Thaddeus saw the look that Martin shot in his direction. Both he and Isaac had tried to sugarcoat the situation when they weren’t walking around as if on eggshells in his presence.
Thaddeus wondered occasionally if he was really that difficult to be around. He didn’t think so, but Hannah evidently didn’t share that opinion. He had it bad for the little submissive and to this day, he still couldn’t remember what had caused it. He’d slept with multiple women over the years, often at the same time. He was one of the city’s most eligible bachelors—successful, with considerable wealth. But he’d learned that there were some things money just couldn’t buy. The love of a good woman—his sweetheart—was one of them.
When the old man stopped in front of him, Thaddeus scowled, knowing that Martin intended to get the last word in anyway. “I really think that it might do you some good to take a few days off. You could always return to London and maybe you’ll find her. It is—”
Martin didn’t have time to finish before Thaddeus cut him off again. “I’m not going to London or anywhere else right now, except maybe New York. I have a hunch that Finley Wetherall is going to make a move on Andrew Breckinridge next. It might help to personally deliver the proposal. Let’s forget about Hannah and everything else and focus on what’s important.”
The man scoffed at his last sentence. “Matters of the heart—and yours in particular—are much more important. Any of us could hand deliver that proposal.”
“I said I would do it.” Thaddeus’ temper was about to boil over and, like he had done with so many others over the last few weeks, he knew he was about to explode on Martin.
Sighing in resignation, Martin shifted the briefcase from one hand to the other and clapped Thaddeus on the shoulder. “If you insist on going yourself, then please let Barbara set up the appointment.” With those last words, he exited the office, mumbling something incoherently under his breath. It was all Thaddeus could do not to slam the door behind him.
He looked out of his office at the new secretary. Barbara was very efficient, much like Hannah, but she was also twenty-five years older than his girl. With her comely looks, she still didn’t provide anywhere near the same view as Hannah had, which was all for the best.
It wasn’t as if he had actually paid attention to any other women since confessing his feelings for the submissive. The few nights that he’d actually visited Nirvana were spent drinking his sorrows away at the bar, then leaving alone. It was a far cry from what his life had been just six months earlier. Before he’d met Hannah, his biggest problem had been which woman he would choose to warm his bed. Now, instead of getting himself off in the heated warmth of another submissive, he used his hand and the memory of Hannah.
Thaddeus shut the door, then returned to his desk. He opened the top drawer to pull out a small flask of whiskey. With a quick glance over at the clock on the wall, he noticed that it was only nine-thirty in the morning. It’s eleven o’clock somewhere, he thought as he removed the cap and took a large swallow of the alcohol. It was time to go to Manhattan. A change of scenery might be just what he needed. He took another few swigs, before hitting the speaker button on his phone.
“Can I help you with something, Mr. Remington?” Barbara asked. Even her voice was so different. Where Hannah’s voice had a smoky seductiveness to it, this woman’s sounded dull and disinterested.
“Get together all the information on the Breckenridge account and send it securely to my email. I’ll work on finalizing the proposal while on the flight. In the meantime, I also need you to clear my calendar and set up an appointment with Andrew. I’ll be flying to New York in a few hours’ time.”
She assured him she would have everything done and he hung up the phone. Once he had everything running smoothly at Remington Industries again, Thaddeus would revisit the idea of returning to London to find his girl. Until then, he would make sure that his company remained his priority.