It was hard to believe what she was hearing. Gareth sat there smug in his suit and tie. His shoes shined to perfection and broad, genuine smile on his face, he looked every part of the persona he showed the media–the savvy businessman with a heart of gold and the unending desire to do good at every turn, one half of the duo that propelled a failing family business to the forefront of the industry.
But Kaylen knew this moment would come, when his true nature would slither out of the nice packaging and be exposed for what he was.
“Everett sacrificed too much for you to just shelve his project,” she argued. “You can’t just stop everything now.”
She knew it was clear she had the majority of rectitude in their conversation.
Gareth shrugged nonchalantly.
“It was financially feasible and now it’s not,” he said calmly. “It was making us money and bringing in good press and now it’s not.”
She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“It’s simple math, Kaylen. Don’t act so surprised. This is business, not some goodwill organization. If you wanted philanthropy and gooey feelings you should’ve joined the Red Cross.”
Her mouth gaped at Gareth’s unapologetic coldness. She was at a loss for words as her mind whirled, trying to come up with a reason he would deem worthy enough to continue Everett’s work. Gareth cared about money and making his name greater than his late father Derrick Delancey.
Other than looks, Gareth was the polar opposite of his late twin brother Everett.
“The Delancey Project has the potential to bring one of the biggest shifts to environmental standards for businesses.” She was scrambling; they both knew it.
“You can be at the forefront of starting a trend that is historic.”
Gareth seemed to consider the proposition as he stared out of the massive windows of his 20th-story office at the city below. He was never one to do anything that wouldn’t benefit him personally. With a rapid tilt of his head, a cascade of popping noises exploded from his neck.
A smirked slowly spread across his face, making Kaylen’s stomach tighten.
“Everett cared about this project,” he said, shifting his tone as he glanced once more out onto the city. The warmth in his voice was disarming. At these times, he sounded most like Everett.
Kaylen’s heart ached.
“And you care about it as well…” His smirk dissolved, leaving hardened eyes. “So what would you give to make it happen?”
A puzzled expression filled Kaylen’s face as she realized her efforts to stay two steps ahead of Gareth were failing. Unsure of what he wanted and too unnerved to ask, she allowed the silence to fill the space between them.
“If you want to keep the Delancey project going and preserve those 10,000 acres then leave with me tomorrow morning for Rome.”
“What?! Are you–”
He held up his hands.
“I was planning to spend a few days on vacation and I’m thinking I wouldn’t mind the company.”
Once again she was at a loss for words. Everett had always been capable of some insane ideas, but she hadn’t seen this coming.
“Just think about it,” he said, that smile returning. “I’ll give you some time.”
It was hard to believe this could be his end game.
Kaylen massaged her aching temples. If only Gareth hadn’t died, things would be so different. They wouldn’t even need to have this conversation.
“Just think about it, Kaylen…we can both get what we want out of this…”
She wanted to smack that nasty smirk off his face.
Of course she could cave in, and she was tempted to, but it wouldn’t change the truth: He would never be Gareth and they both knew it.
She didn’t want to lose everything Everett had worked so hard for, but she couldn’t imagine even pretending that Gareth was even close to being the man his brother was.
Everett grabbed his briefcase and headed toward the office door, slowing slightly as he approached Kaylen.
“Sleep on it and let me know what you decide in the morning,” he whispered in her ear. “The Delancey Project is in your hands.”