Here's Chapter Two. In a handful of days, I'll be back with links to the purchasing sites so you could get your copy.
FOREVER CHAPTER TWO
Zach stood outside the balcony of his expansive suite and looked down at the crowd below, gathered to check out the big cruise ship docked at Sydney Harbour. He found himself scanning faces, looking for one particular woman.
“This is crazy,” he muttered, stomping back inside. While there was bitterness at the thought of seeing Rebecca again, he couldn't deny that every single cell in his body had stood up to attention at the mention of her name.
No surprises there. He'd had the hottest, most satisfying sex in his life with her—because his heart had been involved. Yes, he'd been crazy about her.
How he would remain calm in her presence, he didn't know. Even though they were well and truly over, his scars hadn't fully healed yet. He sighed, knowing he didn't have a choice but to grin and bear it for the sake of his grandmother.
He sat at the edge of the bed and stared unseeingly at the painting on the wall, reluctantly allowing his mind to drag him back to the past.
‘I love you,' Rebecca had whispered. Even though his heart had danced with joy at her declaration, he hadn't been able to say the same words back to her. Guilt and bad experience from previous exes had taught him not to say those three words again until he was absolutely sure the woman was someone he was prepared to have a long-term relationship with.
He'd asked Rebecca for time to figure out if what he felt for her was something that could last. But Rebecca didn't give it to him.
It had shocked him to the core when Rebecca broke up with him just two days after saying she loved him. How could she have done that?
He rubbed his face, remembering the pathetic state he'd gotten into after he'd been dumped. He hadn't been able to eat, sleep, rest, even work. Eventually, he hadn't been able to avoid the truth that was staring him in the face—he loved Rebecca.
It had been such a relief to finally admit it to himself. He'd wondered at how idiotic he'd been to even question his feelings for her when it was so damned obvious.
His brothers had wondered what his problem was—and he'd told them about Rebecca, and how he'd planned to get her back. What he didn't expect was Greg coming out with surprising news of his own. An ex-girlfriend had claimed she was pregnant with Greg's child.
Greg was ninety-nine percent sure the baby wasn't his, and had asked for a paternity test. But the woman had been having pregnancy complications, and an in-utero test might put the baby at risk. They'd have to wait a while to see when they could have the test done safely. In the meantime, the woman had been insisting that Greg take care of her financially since he was going to be the father of her child. She'd threatened to go to the press if Greg ignored her.
Jeff had blown up about Greg's lack of vigilance over what might come out in the press.
Privacy was an important thing for the Carmichaels. It was something they'd struggled to keep since their terrible family tragedy two years ago had been broadcast all over Australia. Since then, the media, who'd pretty much left them alone before that event, had taken a great deal of interest in their personal lives.
In the beginning, the press were more interested about the tragedy, their company and their close family ties. It didn't take long before the gossip magazines gleefully invaded their privacy. Because they were young, rich and good-looking, the magazines loved them. Copies sold like crazy when paparazzi shots of one of the Carmichael brothers were plastered on the front cover. Since then, the brothers had been extra careful to not give anyone something to write about—unless it was business related.
With a possible scandal looming due to Greg's issue, Jeff had been adamant that they get Rebecca investigated before Zach went crawling back to her.
Of course, Zach had refused. In the four months that they were together, there was nothing—not one thing—that Rebecca had said or done that indicated to him she was a gold-digger or a scheming manipulator. She'd even stopped him from showering her with material things. He had thought it was so refreshing to be with a girl who saw him for himself, not his money. Rebecca was different. And Jeff had reluctantly agreed to drop the subject.
Zach had intended to speak with Rebecca the minute he was back from his business trip. But there was no way he could have anticipated the shocking news waiting for him upon his return.
He raked his hair, not wanting to revisit that particular past. But he had to go there. Rebecca was here on the ship with them. Why? What were her motives? Could she be trusted around his grandmother?
After what he’d found out about her, he simply had to know the answers.
He exhaled gustily. He needed a drink—and a chat with one of his brothers.
“I'll question her myself,” Zach insisted to Jeff.
Jeff exhaled loudly on the other end of the line. “Are you really the best person to get the truth out of her?”
“I'm not totally inept when it comes to subtle interrogation,” he answered. “Gran did say it was her idea to take nurses on board with her, and that she'd specifically asked for Rebecca and Sarah.”
“See, this here is my problem. You're already making excuses for her.”
“I'm not, Jeff. I'm just saying that her being on this particular trip might not have anything to do with what she did to me. What was she supposed to do? Turn down a job and a cruise? That would have been insane. Anyone would have grabbed at the chance.”
“I don't understand why you still defend her after what she's done to you,” Jeff said disgustedly.
“I'm not defending her. I'm just being rational about this and not letting emotions get in the way of the truth. I'm a fair man.”
“Okay, fine. Let me know how you go.”
“I will. This is also my chance to get her to say to my face that she two-timed me. You stopped me from confronting her about that in the past.”
“Zach! We've agreed to just drop it. It's a waste of your time and emotion. She was just another woman who wanted to snare you for your money. God knows she wasn't the first to attempt that, and she wouldn't be the last. I'm sure there'll be others,” Jeff said bitterly.
“I just want to hear it come out of her mouth,” Zach said stubbornly, taking another gulp of his beer. “I have this perfect opportunity for that.”
“Fine. Suit yourself,” Jeff replied with exasperation. “If I were you, I'd just treat her as one of Gran's nurses and ignore the fact that you had a past with her. If she so much as sniffs that you're still affected by her, I'm concerned she'll use that knowledge to manipulate you again. And don't even bother denying she's still under your skin. It's very obvious.”
“I just want to know if she was really two-timing me when we were together,” he said, his voice rising.
“Hey, shush!” Jeff scolded. “You're at the bar, right? Don't make a fool of yourself there. People will recognise you, for God's sake.”
Zach took a deep breath and composed himself. Jeff was right. The last thing he wanted was for other passengers to witness the CEO of The Carmichael Corporation breaking into pieces over a woman who'd dumped him seven months ago. That would just be something their competitors and the press would have a field day with.
“Sorry,” he muttered.
“Ah, hell,” Jeff said. “I can't wait to board that ship so I can stop you from doing something stupid.”
“I won't, Jeff. Can't you see that if I show her that I know everything, it might scare her enough to stop any scheming she might be planning?”
“Okay. I see your point. But like I said, do it in such a way that doesn't show her how much she still affects you. The last thing you want is for her to mess with your head even further.”
“Don't worry. I'm doing this so she knows she can't mess with a Carmichael again.”
“I hope that's really why you want to do this, bro,” Jeff said gravely.
“It is,” he said with conviction.
Zach ended the call and leaned back on his seat, planning on how he would approach Rebecca. He couldn't be sure that she would tell him the truth if he asked her his questions outright. He'd have to be cunning in his search for answers.
He stared at his drink as he forced himself to recall why he needed to face Rebecca and interrogate her.
It was months ago, but the utter disbelief in what Phillip—the son of Magda’s best friend—had told him and his brothers back then swamped him again now.
Phillip had called for an urgent meeting the day Zach had come back from his business trip. Apparently, Phillip had seen Rebecca parking her car in the basement garage of the luxury apartment Phillip also lived in. An annoyingly suspicious man even at the best of times, Phillip had wondered how Rebecca was able to afford living in a place like that on the salary she was on, and had worried that Magda's nurse might have been preying on Magda's kind and generous nature.
Zach had walked out of that little meeting. He wasn't a violent man, but he'd wanted to punch Phillip's face, and he hadn't wanted to do it in his own office. Jeff had forced him to come back, saying they had to get to the bottom of it.
As the apartment building was one of The Carmichael Corporation's own developments, a quick check of company records proved something unbelievable. Rebecca Andrews was named as the full owner of a three-bedroom apartment in the luxury complex.
Zach had stared in disbelief at the computer screen. He'd scanned his memory of his conversations with Rebecca, looking for clues as to how she'd come about owning that place.
Rebecca had mainly talked to him about her nursing life and her grandmother, who was now living happily in a retirement village with her friends. She hadn't liked talking about her parents much—although she did divulge that her father had left them when she was only two, and that she hardly saw her mother, who had re-married for the third or fourth time. She'd sounded fond of her brother, who worked from home doing some software development.
But there had been nothing in Rebecca's stories that had indicated she could afford something like the apartment she had suddenly owned two months after breaking up with him.
Phillip had volunteered to arrange to have Rebecca investigated by a company he'd used previously. Since he lived in the same building, Phillip had suggested it would give the private investigators better access to the complex if he was the main point of contact.
Zach had still hated the idea, but he had to admit things didn't look right. Not wanting to deal with the investigators himself, he'd agreed for Phillip to run things.
Zach shut his eyes tightly as he recalled Phillip's shocking news.
The investigations had revealed that Rebecca was the mistress of a wealthy married man, and it was that man who'd bought her the apartment.
Phillip had shown them the photo of Rebecca hugging a man tightly in the garage of her apartment. Apparently, Rebecca had even called out ‘I love you’ to the guy as he drove off in his Mercedes. Then there was another photo, taken on the same day, of the same man kissing another woman in a coffee shop. Phillip had also played a recording, taken by the investigator while sitting next to the man at the coffee shop, confirming that it was indeed that man who'd paid for Rebecca's apartment. The recording had included Rebecca's boyfriend saying to someone on the phone that Rebecca had discovered his “secret”—presumably that he was a married man—but that she only got mad for a short while, as she loved her new place.
Zach hadn't wanted to know anything else after that. He'd ordered the investigation to close even though he'd never found out who the guy was. He didn't want to know. It would hurt more if he had a name to match with the face of the bastard Rebecca had been sleeping with.
What nagged at him was whether Rebecca had been seeing that other guy during the time they were together. Had she been playing them both—seeing whom she could fully ensnare first?
“You're fucking stupid,” he scolded himself. Even up till now, he wondered if Rebecca would still be in his life if he'd done things differently. Frankly, money wasn't an issue—he had plenty of it to give to whomever he chose. He would have given her what she'd wanted if she'd asked for it.
What broke him was that she'd lied. She'd made him believe she'd loved him. She'd made him dig deep into his heart to discover his own feelings, only to find out he was the only one in love. That was what he hadn't as yet recovered from.
And now he had no choice but to see her again.
***End of Chapter Two***
Forever's official release date is on March 24th! Not long to go!
As I've mentioned yesterday, it's available for pre-order on Apple iTunes. Click here to pre-order if you're using an Apple device.
My next post will include links to all the other stores :-).