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A Taylor-Made Love, Book Two Taylor-Made Series
Contemporary New Adult
by Kary Rader
When fate spares your life, your destiny is always love
Twenty-year-old widow and cancer survivor Taylor Smith-Taylor is running her late husband’s billion-dollar gaming business because she’s made a vow to keep TME—and Gavin’s memory—alive. But she’s falling hard for her sexy attorney Brad Richards, and it’s not just their professional connection that has her tied in knots.
When Taylor’s new idea takes off, she relies on Brad to help. Using company funds to back the innovative project, they begin a tumultuous affair and a multi-million dollar negotiation that could dominate the market or put the company in jeopardy.
As the corporate dealings escalate, their volatile relationship leaves their priorities more tangled than their bed sheets, and a fatal accounting error divides them. Brad pushes Taylor to embrace her idea, and him, by selling TME—a decision that, for her, goes deeper than money. When she refuses, it seems easier for both to walk away, and only a perspective from the grave can help her realize her future comes down to one choice: the love she’ll lose or the love she’ll make.
Myles Brandt, President of the NCAA, tapped the pen on his chin. He was an older man in his fifties, like my dad, not as tall or handsome as my father, but with more of a paunch. His dark but graying hair parted to the side of a high forehead and thick brows.
I stared past him out the windows of the large conference room which sat down the hall from my own office. My first big business deal, and I didn’t want to blow it.
Brad Richards, my hotshot attorney, shifted his eyes over to me. I knew women everywhere would swoon to see that sight up close and personal. In contrast to the other gentleman in this crowd, Brad was intensely handsome. Older than Gavin, he was too old for me. Still, as a woman, I could objectively appreciate what all the fuss was about. His blondish brownish hair gleamed under the fluorescents and even though he was freshly shaven, he still had a way of seeming a bit disreputable—in a good way. I arched my eyebrows and widened my eyes at him. He shook his head infinitesimally, which I knew meant keep quiet.
I clamped my lips shut. Brad knew me too well. I always wanted to talk, open up and share my feelings. I was a pretty straightforward person, and in my personal relationships that had always worked for me. Unfortunately, that kind of honesty didn’t translate well into the business world. As controlling partner in my late husband’s billion-dollar computer gaming business, I had to learn new communication skills.
On more than one occasion, my bossy attorney had scolded me, saying, “You don’t lay all your cards out on the table, Taylor. Negotiation is about give and take. What you’re willing to give and what they’ll let you take. I guarantee whatever price you come out with, you end up getting half as much.”
To illustrate his point, he’d even taken me on a field trip to Chinatown in San Francisco a few weeks ago. We’d spent the day shopping for random stuff, and he’d spent the day teaching me the finer points of negotiation.
We’d walked into the first store and he’d said, “Pick out anything you want. Buy it like you normally would.”
So I’d found this beautiful ginger jar for Mom. I lifted it up and asked the woman behind the counter, “How much for this?”
The shop lady looked me up and down and smiled. “Oh. I make good deal for you. Only hundred seventy-five dollar.”
Brad snorted. I scowled at him. Her price was too high, I knew. I’d been bargain shopping like this before in Matamoras, Mexico, across the Texas border at Brownsville when I was fourteen. “How about seventy-five?”
“Oh.” She shook her head. “I no know.” She walked from behind the counter and took the jar from me. “Dis very special. Hand paint.”
I knew it was hand painted on very nice porcelain with a polished mahogany base.
She offered it back to me. “For you, I go hundred twenty.”
I really didn’t want to pay over a hundred for it, but it was beautifully made. I looked over at Brad, who gave no indication of what he was thinking. He was watching with his typical intensity, though.
I flashed the lady my best dimples. “If you’ll take a hundred you’ve got a deal.”
“I no know.” She looked at the item like it was a family heirloom. “Cash?”
Then she sighed. “Okay. It slow day. I take hundred cash.”
I puffed out my chest feeling pretty pleased and took my jar to the register. The sales lady wrapped it in tissue and placed it in a nice box. She slipped it into the bag and handed it to me. “You have good day.”
It might not have been a million-dollar deal, but I felt pretty good about the purchase. And Mom would like the ginger jar. We walked out of the store, the little bell tinkling as the door closed behind us.
Brad strolled down the sidewalk without saying a word. The smell of curry and fresh fish wafted in the air.
“So?” I grinned and arched my eyebrows at him. “How’d I do?”
He smirked. “Let’s go in here first.”
I followed him in the next store. He walked right over to the ginger jars and picked up an identical jar to the one I’d just bought. He turned to the sales guy. “How much for this?”
The guy looked Brad up and down. He pursed his lips and paused. “Thirty-five.”
“Thanks.” He set the jar down and started to walk out.
The sales clerk followed him. “Okay. For you, I make special deal. Today only. Twenty-five.”
Brad smiled at the guy. “No, thanks.”
The man hustled to the door, placing himself between us and the exit. “For you beautiful lady, I give it you eighteen dolla.” His little expectant face was too much. It made me want to buy it from him, and I already had one. My palm met my cheek in a frustrated slap.
Brad asked, “Eighteen dollars?”
“Yes. I give it you, eighteen dolla.”
Brad shook his head. “Not today. Thanks.” He left, and I followed him.
Outside the tinkling door, he turned and raised his eyebrows. “Now you tell me. How do you think you did?”
“Jackass,” I whispered as I brushed by him.
Laughing so loud it stopped passersby on the street, he came up behind me. “The first lesson you need to learn, is never buy anything in the first store on the street. They make their living on people like you. The second lesson is never make an offer on something you don’t know the value of, regardless of how much you want it.”
“Fine.” I crossed my arms over my chest and tried not to pout. “Then why don’t you show me how to do it the right way, Professor Higgins.”
“Now we’re making progress.” Still chuckling under his breath, the insufferable hound led me to the next store. “Watch and learn.”
He stepped into the store and pulled me toward the back, where rows of beautiful silk dresses lined the wall. A sales clerk came over. “Can I help you?”
“I’m looking for a gift for the lady.” Brad pointed to me.
Just like the first two sales clerks, the man looked me up and down “Very beautiful. I have special for you.”
I rolled my eyes. They all had specials today.
He steered us to a far corner and pulled out a gorgeous kimono in a misty gray-blue, almost silver satin. The fine silk was embroidered with this bright, ornate mythical creature that had the head and neck of a very feminine dragon, but the body of a peacock. I fell in love with the robe the minute I saw it.
“Here. You try on.” The man slipped the garment from the hanger and held it out for me to put my arms in. I handed my purse to Brad and shrugged into the robe in front of a full-length mirror. The soft fabric slid with ease over my clothes. I flipped my hair free from under the collar and tied the belt at my waist. Glancing up at Brad in the mirror, I caught him with a strange dark look on his face, almost like he was angry. But as soon as our eyes met, the look vanished, leaving me feeling a little unsettled. “What do you think?” I asked.
His tone was even and nonchalant. “Looks good. What do you think?”
I ran my arms over one another, luxuriating in the rich fabric. “I love it.”
The sales guy said, “Robe look good on you. Match you eyes.”
He was right. The gray exactly matched my eyes. Brad stared at my reflection for a minute then turned to the guy. “How much?”
“Oh. I give special deal just for you. Three hundred fifty.”
Brad laughed. “Take it off, Taylor.”
I really didn’t want to take it off, but I loosened the bow.
“Wait. Wait. I give you special deal because pretty lady. Only hundred seventy.”
Brad looked at the robe and scratched his jaw. He shook his head. “I don’t know.”
The sales guy asked, “How much you pay?”
“Thirty dollars,” he tossed out.
“Thirty dollar! Dis imported silk. Stich by hand.” He lifted the long bell sleeve. “I go hundred dollar. That best offer.”
“We’ll think about it.” Brad stepped behind me and slipped the robe off, his hands brushing my shoulders. Something tingled over my skin and a sensual vision flashed in my brain, but I blinked it back before it could fully form.
The man held up his hands. “No. No. Wait. I do eighty-five dollars. For you and pretty lady.
Brad spun me around to face him. My purse strap was draped over his shoulder, and I almost giggled.
He shot me a quick wink. “What do you think, Taylor? Do you want this one more than the dress down the street?”
My heart pounded in my chest with the game. I schooled my face. “I don’t know. I love this, but I really liked that dress too.”
Brad nodded in approval as he handed me back my purse. He strolled to the front of the store, picking up and putting down other items as he went.
The salesman followed him. “Okay. Seventy-five dolla for you today. Dat best offer.”
Brad didn’t answer the question, but he lifted up another twin to my blasted ginger jar. “How much for this?”
“You give seventy-five for robe, I give beautiful lady ginger jar free.”
A sexy grin spread over his face. “You’ve got a deal.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. The man was smooth. I followed them to the counter and pulled out my wallet. Brad laid his hand over mine. “This is my deal. I’ve got it.”
He’d already turned away and handed the guy cash.
“So what do you think, Taylor?”
“Huh?” The present day voice drew me out of the memory. I blinked and tried to focus on the three gentlemen staring at me from around the conference table. “Uhh….”
Brad had a smirk on his face as if he knew what memory I’d just been reliving. And as he’d done on more than one occasion, he bailed me out. “We’ll have to discuss how much control over the product you have. I’m not sure it makes sense for us to have you dictate the nature of the plays.”
That was enough information to clue me in. “The software is progressive. The more information you feed it, the smarter and more accurate it gets. It doesn’t make sense for us to hand over that control. In fact, as the program progresses, I anticipate hiring an outside firm to audit the function.”
Brad smiled and nodded. I knew I’d nailed the answer. He’d warned me that they would want control, and that we were not to budge on that item. It was too much of a sticky wicket and could undermine the integrity of the program. “Although I am expecting input on the facility you gentlemen agree to build for it.”
The men burst into laughter. They knew I wasn’t kidding, and I think they liked my boldness. Unfortunately any new facility, at least the kind that we wanted, would take years and hundreds of millions of dollars to build.
Myles said, “Ahh, Taylor, you could build that facility with your pocket change.”
I smiled. “Maybe, but I never let an opportunity pass for a man to buy me something.”
Then they really laughed. Brad rolled his eyes, playing along. “Most women ask for a diamond ring. Not Taylor, she wants a state-of-the-art three hundred million-dollar stadium. That is the definition of high maintenance, boys.”
The room erupted in a roar.
“Why don’t we meet up tonight for dinner?” Brad pushed from the table.
The conference room door flew open.
Sara, my best friend and executive assistant, stood there, her arms trembling and her face pale. “Taylor, Brad, Thomas, we have an emergency.”
If the look on her face hadn’t told me something was up or the fact that she’d interrupted an uninterruptable meeting didn’t send off alarms, the sound of approaching sirens, which echoed like a death knell, would’ve. Something horrible had happened.
If it took me a second to process what was happening, it had only taken Brad half a second, and he was rushing toward the door with me in tow. “Gentlemen, please hold tight for a minute while we check on this.”
He got us out of the room and down the hall. “What is it, Sara?”
Her eyes widened and her voice cracked. “John collapsed in his office.”
“Dad?” All the blood in my body sank to my feet.
She began to cry. “They can’t revive him.”
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