RETURN TO YOU | LAUREL HEIGHTS

 

returntoyouThat rat bastard Michael Wallace is back.

The last person Olivia Parker expects to walk into her lingerie shop is her high school sweetheart. She’s so over him. Mostly. Except that he’s hotter than ever and still knows her better than she knows herself. But how can she risk her heart when she knows he’s just going to leave again?

It’s a simple plan: return home, shoot the movie, and leave emancipated from the contract he signed eleven years before. But Michael’s plan gets blown away the moment he sees Olivia again. Smart, sexy, and successful, Olivia is distraction personified. Only worse than that—Michael fears Olivia may be his heart and soul…  { scroll down for sneak peek! }

 

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SNEAK PEEK
Return to You—Chapter One

“You want me to what?”

Everett Parker would have smiled if he were that kind of man. But he wasn’t, so he patiently watched and waited. He was excellent at waiting, and even better at getting what he wanted.

“This is a joke, right?” The young man swept his hand through his hair. “Well, it’s not funny.”

Leaning back in his leather chair, Parker took a sip of his scotch before answering, aware of the tension he was causing. “No joke, Michael. You heard correctly the first time. I want you to shoot the film in Mill Valley.”

“Shit.” The director speared his fingers through his hair again and started to pace.

Parker nursed his drink, watching him coolly. Once Michael’s tantrum ran dry, he’d do what he was told. After all, the terms of the offer would be irresistible.

I’ll make sure of that.

It was almost a shame he had to do this. He admired the young man. Of all the people around him, Michael Wallace was the only one who stood up to him. The rest of them cowered in corners, peeing on themselves as he walked by.

He wasn’t manipulated easily, something Parker usually relished. At this moment, it irritated him. He needed Michael’s cooperation, but he’d never consent of his own free will—meaning Parker was going to have to force him. Not easy, but certainly not impossible. He just had to find the right bargaining chip. “Sit down.”

Glaring, Michael dropped into the guest chair. To his credit, he remained silent, though his heated eyes said enough.

Good boy, Parker thought, feeling paternal pride even though Michael wasn’t tied to him in any way other than business.

Which was what he intended to remedy. “You’re the hottest director in the business. You can’t be surprised I want you to direct Love Unbound.”

The corner of Michael’s lips quirked. “That wasn’t what surprised me, and you know it. Stop playing games, Parker.”

Once upon a time, the boy had called him Everett.

One more thing he had to set right.

Parker pushed aside the nostalgic thoughts so untypical of him and got back to the matter at hand. “Mill Valley is not only the perfect backdrop for the movie, the town is working with us to supply permits. It’s as simple as that.”

“There are dozens of little towns in California that would be just as suitable.”

“I want the movie shot in Mill Valley.”

Michael leaned forward, brimming with repressed intensity. “Why? What does Mill Valley have that can’t be found anywhere else?”

My daughter. “Mill Valley is the most picturesque of quaint California towns.”

“Since when?”

“Since it had a complete facelift a few years ago.”

“Mill Valley would need more than a facelift to improve it. It’d need complete reconstructive surgery.”

“Most of the filming will be done outside Mill Valley. At Pembroke Farm.”

“Oh, hell no.” The young man shook his head vehemently. “There is no fucking way. I can’t go back to Pembroke Farm. Even you must see that.”

“Enough,” Parker said quietly. Most people froze in fear when they heard his low, menacing tone.

Michael was an exception. “No, it’s not enough. I want to know why it’s imperative to shoot this film there.”

“Because I say it’s imperative.”

“Get some other director to do it then. How about Blasdell? He’s up-and-coming and needs a break.”

“I want you to direct.”

“And if I say no?”

Parker cocked a brow in mock astonishment. “What about your contract with Parker Pictures?”

“I’ll break it.”

“Break it and you’ll never work in this industry again.”

“Damn it, Parker. What the hell is your game?”

“No game.” With the instincts of a seasoned predator, he moved in for the kill. “I want you to direct this movie. I’ll make any provisions I see fit and you’ll follow them, just like your contract says. In return, once this movie is wrapped up, I’ll release you from your contract.”

Michael looked up sharply. “What?”

Everyone had a weak point. Find it, and they were yours. “You heard me.”

“I want it in writing.”

“I wouldn’t have expected anything less.”

The young man stared at him through narrowed eyes, fingers tapping rhythmically on his thigh. “Why don’t I believe it’s going to be that easy?”

“It will be.” Parker sipped his scotch and waited.

“Isn’t it too early in the day for that?” Michael asked out of the blue.

“It’s never too early for fifty year single-malt.”

He propped his elbows on his knees and rested his chin on his steepled hands. “Jesus, Parker. Does she know?”

Parker didn’t pretend to misunderstand. “No.”

“Shit.”

“Does it make a difference?” The answer was key.

“Of course it makes a difference. I haven’t seen her in eleven years.”

“It shouldn’t matter. Eleven years is a long time. You’ve moved on, and she’s moved on—”

“What?” Michael’s head shot up. Parker almost smiled at the scowl on his face. “What do you mean she’s moved on?”

“Did you really think she’d pine her life away, waiting for you?”

He jumped up, his chair falling over in a loud clatter. “Fuck it, Parker. If you know something, say it now.”

This was going to be easier than he first thought. “I don’t know anything. You know very well I have no contact with her. You were there when she told me to get out of her life.” He could still hear her precise words, and they still had the power to twist his gut.

Michael placed his hands on the desk and leaned down. “Is that what this is about? You’re trying to get in her good graces again? Well, let me tell you, this is a bad idea. She’s every bit your daughter. She’s not going to budge.”

Parker’s eyes never wavered from Michael’s but his fingers tightened on the snifter. Damn it, he knew she was stubborn. But he’d get through to her. He had to. “This is about filming in the best location. In this case, that happens to be Mill Valley.” He drained the last of his drink. “I wouldn’t worry about running into her. You’ll be too busy to socialize.”

“I hope you know what you’re doing.” Michael turned around and strode out, slamming the door hard enough to make the windows shimmy.

Setting the empty tumbler on his desk, he smiled without humor. Oh, he knew what he was doing.

The plan was in motion. This time next week he’d be in Mill Valley with Michael right behind him. He wondered what kind of reception they’d get.

Not that it mattered.

He turned around and opened the bottom drawer of his desk. Reaching in the back, he pulled out two framed pictures and set them in front of him.

The woman smiling in the first one was luminous. The sun lit her long golden hair from behind, making her look angelic and glowing. She smiled right at him, love shining in her dark eyes.

He ignored the familiar ache in his chest, put the photo face down, and picked up the other one.

The child in it was running across a field of wildflowers, looking back over her shoulder. Her dark hair was in suspended animation around her head and her eyes, so much like her mother’s, laughed with childlike delight.

He traced the lines of her face, wondering if her eyes still sparkled.

He pushed his chair forward, reaching for the button on his phone that would connect him directly to his executive assistant. “Elaine, make travel arrangements. We leave for Mill Valley next Monday.”

Her low, cool voice was distinct over the intercom. “Mill Valley, sir?”

“Northern California, outside San Francisco. Where we’re shooting our next picture.”

“For how long should I reserve lodging?”

“Just arrange for travel and transportation.”

“But no lodging, sir?”

“We have a place to stay.” He hung up and reclined, crossing his legs as he spun his chair to face the wall of windows behind him.

Parker glanced at the picture he still held in his hand. Michael was right—shewas every bit his daughter. She wouldn’t be happy to see him. At least, that’s what she’d say.

He knew better. Even after all this time. Even if she said she didn’t want him there.

“Summoned or not, the god will come,” he murmured, stroking the cold glass covering the photo.

 

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