It’s not your ordinary proposal.
Jade Saunders grew up with the singular desire to take over her father’s company and continue his legacy. But all those dreams are thrown out of the window when her father decides to sell to his old friend, founder and CEO of Alexander International, with a deal that will secure the Saunders family financially. But their current CEO and once-friend to Jade has one jaw-dropping condition.
Spencer Alexander is everything a well-groomed businessman should be, and his father is ready to retire and hand the reins over to the next generation. First, though, Spencer has to get married. Jade Saunders seems like a perfect match, and they used to be good friends. In Spencer’s mind, it is well worth the risk to try to smooth things out with Jade.
But when a mistake from Spencer’s past begins to threaten all they’ve worked for, Jade and Spencer have to wonder if they will be able to create a new dream together—or will it all come crashing down around them?
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of stalking.
General Release Date: 13th October 2020
Jade’s phone rang, a shrill sound that cut through the silence of her office. She answered in a distracted tone, her eyes glued to her computer screen, “Yes?”
“Miss Saunders,” her secretary’s voice said, “your father needs you in his office. He wants to talk to you immediately.”
That was strange. Have I done something wrong?
“Thank you, Carol. Please tell him I’ll be right there.” She set the phone back down on the cradle and tapped her pen against the desk in front of her. With a short breath, Jade stood and made her way down the hall to Timothy Saunders’ office, letting herself in without knocking.
Jade’s office was situated only a few doors down from her father’s, but today it had seemed leagues away. While her space was small and to the point, void of any frills or decoration, Timothy had decked out his rich wood-paneled office with dark-leather furniture and cozy rugs. Jade drifted her gaze over the dozens of framed family pictures that covered his walls. Staring back at her was her own face, younger and chubbier with missing teeth. As she closed in on her father’s desk, the pictures morphed, both herself and her parents aging until she reached the last one.
Jade stilled for a moment, taking in a photo from Miami a few summers before. There she was, between her parents with the beach behind them. Her long black hair was pulled back in a ponytail, her fair skin tinged pink from the Florida sun and her light green eyes bright. The three of them looked so happy in that picture. Now, Jade felt a surge of sadness when she looked at it. This time next year, both Timothy and Angela Saunders would be living in Miami permanently to enjoy a retired life, while she stayed in Dallas.
“Jade…” Timothy’s soft voice pulled Jade from her thoughts. He was watching her, a question lingering in his stormy-gray eyes. “Is everything all right?” It was only then that she realized she had been standing there for several seconds, staring at the photograph.
“Sorry,” she said. “Just got lost, I guess.” Jade let out a nervous laugh and settled into one of the overstuffed leather chairs in the room, smoothing her charcoal pencil skirt over her legs. Her father probably knew what she had been thinking about, but he didn’t mention it any further.
“We need to talk, Jade.” Timothy used a tone that she recognized.
“What happened?” Jade’s mind automatically went to her mother, who had always been prone to illness.
“It’s nothing to worry about,” he said, raising his palms in emphasis. “But I do want you to prepare yourself and…keep an open mind.” Jade angled herself so that her father had her full attention. “Jade, you know that I’ve been in talks with Carlton Alexander, yes?”
“Of course. The Alexanders are looking to contract some business from us, right?”
Timothy grimaced, folding his hands in front of him.
“Not exactly.” He took a deep breath, obviously preparing himself for whatever bombshell he was about to drop. “Carlton wants to buy Saunders Metalwork.”
Jade blinked in surprise.
What in the world would Alexander International want with a Texas-based metal company?
“I mean, it’s unusual, but it shouldn’t be a problem, right?” Jade stood, pacing the room in her black heels. Was he telling her this because she was on the Board of Directors? Or because she was the CEO-elect? “Will it have much of an effect on your retirement plans?”
“No, it will actually help in that aspect.” Timothy smiled, a flash of white teeth under his graying mustache. “But there is one catch. Do you remember their son Spencer?”
Jade huffed. It was hard to forget someone like him.
Spencer was two years her senior, but they had always been good friends—until Jade turned eighteen and had decided it was time to confess her feelings for him, until she had been rejected and hadn’t spoken to the Alexanders for seven years as a result. She could still feel the burning humiliation of that day, and she crossed her arms as though that could protect her from the memories.
“Yes, I remember him.” Her voice was clipped and cold, causing Timothy to sigh and lean back in his chair.
“Well, he will be taking over Alexander International in October.” Now, that was a surprise. It seemed as though the Saunders and Alexanders were retiring around the same time. Jade couldn’t help but wonder if they’d planned it all. Then the potential repercussions of what he’d said struck her.
“Please, tell me I’m not going to have to work for Spencer.” She groaned. “Dad, you don’t know what happened between us. It would be…awkward.” She stood, lacing her fingers together nervously.
“You’re a grown woman now, Jade, and I am proud of you. But you have got to learn to let go of the past, sweetheart.” Timothy stood from his chair, circled the enormous desk and placed his hands on her shoulders. “Trust me when I tell you this is all for the best. Now, are you ready to hear the details of the proposal?” Jade closed her eyes. Even if she retained some executive rights, having Spencer as her boss would be bad enough. How much worse can it get?
“I’m ready,” Jade finally said, opening her eyes to look at her father. He didn’t waste any time sugar-coating his words.
“There is a clause in the contract that says you have to marry Spencer by the end of September.” The words were rushed but clear. Still, it took Jade nearly a full minute for his statement to sink in. She bit back a laugh.
“Is that a joke? Because it’s a bad one.” Her father’s eyes were glassy, as though the news upset him as much as it did her. Any trace of humor left her as she stared at him. “Dad, you can’t expect… Do you know what year it is?”
“I know,” he said. “It isn’t unheard of, though. And Carlton and I have our reasons.”
“Are you seriously agreeing with this?” Jade’s voice pitched higher. She was being loud, but she couldn’t care, not then.
Ignoring her question, Timothy continued.
“In four days, you’ll be heading to New York, where you will oversee the deal, get the lie of the land and get to know Spencer better.” The room began to tilt around Jade, and she reached out for something to steady herself. Timothy led her over to a couch and had her sit down. “I know it’s a lot, but I promise you that it’s all for the best.” She couldn’t believe this. He actually wanted this for her. Jade sat, dejected and betrayed. Timothy held her hand and she stared blankly at the rug. All she could see were Spencer’s dark blue eyes as he'd laughed and turned away from her.
Jade squeezed her father’s hand, pressing her lips together as she kept her focus on the floor. Her thoughts buzzed in her head, but one made itself heard above the noise.
I’ve moved on.
In the past seven years, Jade had had time to recover. She still thought of Spencer, wondering how he was and what he was doing, but she always stopped herself before it went too far. She could agree to this for now, if only to ease her father’s mind. She could come up with a way out later.
“All right, Dad,” she said, forcing the words from her throat with a smile. “I trust you.”