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TRUST
Author: Deborah Bladon

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

Ava

 

I can’t deny that there’s something fascinating about the way Harrison Keene gazes at the women in this elevator. He studies each for a moment as if he’s cataloging their features in his mind.

Currently, he’s looking at a woman standing a foot away from me. Her nose piercing sports a small silver ring. It only adds to the beauty of her face.

The woman beside her has a sleeve of tattoos as brightly colored as her fire engine red hair. It looks like every shade of purple is included in her eye makeup. It’s a striking masterpiece that I know I couldn’t pull off.

When she catches my eye, she offers me a grin.

I smile back because a smile is free to give, and what you get in return may be priceless.

Those wise words come courtesy of my older brother, Sean. He’s the one who doles out the uplifting advice. My oldest brother, Declan, doesn’t see the world through the same lens as Sean. He’s more cynical and pragmatic.

Lucky for them, I love them equally.

I look at Harrison as his gaze shifts from one woman to the other.

It’s only a matter of time until he glances in my direction.

There it is.

His ocean blue eyes narrow as he looks at me. His brow furrows briefly before it relaxes again, chasing away my wonder about whether or not he recognizes me.

He doesn’t.

But I’d know him anywhere.

His dark brown hair is shorter than I remember. A precise cut controls the curls that punctuated his youth.

He’s thirty now.

The last time I saw him, he was twenty-three, and I had just turned fourteen.

I had a pixie cut at the time, inspired by some supermodel that could pull it off because she had sky-high cheekbones and a perfectly petite nose.

I have neither, so short hair didn’t do me any favors. I discovered that when I moved to London after high school graduation and let my hair grow. The wheat-colored mane is past my shoulders now. The color has always complemented my blue eyes.

Harrison’s gaze drops to the dress I’m wearing. Pale pink, tight at the waist, and the bottom hem hits mid-thigh. My mom would scold me for wearing something like this, but my luggage is caught somewhere between Heathrow and LaGuardia, and this dress was the first thing I tugged out of a box of old clothes I had stored at Declan’s apartment.

It made me seriously question my fashion choices when I was seventeen.

The elevator slows to a stop on the twelfth floor. The woman with the nose ring and her tattooed friend bolt toward the doors, talking so softly that I can only make out something about a juicy steak for dinner and a vodka martini.

I could use one of each, but dinner is hours away, and I’m not legally allowed to partake in vodka in this city until the clock strikes midnight. Besides, my plans for the rest of the day don’t include a drop of alcohol.

As the doors slide shut, my handsome elevator companion takes another look at me.

I tilt my chin up, wondering if he’ll notice the faint scar that runs over my chin. He knows that story. I was there when Sean told him.

“I’m Harrison Keene,” he says, and my insides instantly bunch together in a tight knot of need.

I felt that briefly when I first heard the deep rasp of his voice when I was a teenager, but now that I’m on the cusp of my twenty-first birthday, it hits harder and in just the right spot.

I want to press my thighs together so I can feel that bite of friction that comes when you move in a brand new pair of lace underwear that is, unfortunately (fortunately?), a size too small.

The lace has been digging into my flesh since I slid them on earlier.

I ignore his announcement about his name because what am I supposed to say in response?

I’m your best friend’s younger sister, and you don’t recognize me? I had my first orgasm years ago when I touched myself while I imagined you unbuttoning your jeans?

All of that stays inside me as I turn to watch the numbers on display above the doors as we descend toward the lobby.

One of the two people still on this ride with us clears his throat. “Hey, Mr. Keene. I thought that was you.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I catch the movement of Harrison’s arms as he buttons the jacket of his tailored suit. I’d say dark gray is his color, but who the hell would I be kidding? I saw him in a black T-shirt one day a long time ago, and that memory has never left my mind.

He turns his attention to the man, who now has a broad smile. “You’re Joe Bunchen’s son, aren’t you?”

Apparently, Harrison didn’t name-drop himself as a courtesy to me. He was starting a conversation with the man standing next to him.

As the elevator speeds toward the lobby, the man introduces himself as Casey Bunchen. They settle into a discussion about Joe and his senior position with one of the companies Harrison’s grandfather founded decades ago.

When the car finally stops, and the doors begin to slide open, Casey makes a hasty introduction of his wife to Harrison.

I stand with my ass resting against the handrail on the wall wishing they’d all clear out so I could get out of here.

When I dropped by to visit my brothers at work, I had no idea I’d run into my former crush. It makes sense, though, since Harrison is Sean’s best friend.

I was already on the elevator with seven other people when Harrison stepped on. It was one of those dramatic moments when the doors are sliding shut, and a large hand reaches out to stop their path, triggering them to reopen.

When they did, Harrison was standing there looking like the six-foot-two-inch dream that he is. Broad shoulders, smoldering good looks, and intoxicating cologne are just a few of the attributes that make him impossible to ignore.

He stepped into the car, turned to face the doors, and began his subtle visual exploration of the women surrounding him.

One with curly black hair and dark red lipstick was bold enough to introduce herself to him as the elevator began its descent. She offered a name that sounded like Sheri, or was it Cherry?

He nodded without a word and then shifted his attention to the blonde-haired woman next to her.

It was a subtle brush-off that transformed the first woman’s grin into an unmistakable disappointed frown. She couldn’t keep Harrison’s interest for more than ten seconds. Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment sending her fingers to the elevator panel. She pressed the button for the next floor and hurried off as soon as the doors opened.

As the elevator continued its downward trek, people exited, and others stepped in. Harrison didn’t miss an opportunity to check out every woman that took a spot next to him.

The journey to the lobby of this building has been long since I boarded on the top floor. That’s where my brothers spend all their time making all their money.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what they were doing when I showed up unannounced. Sean’s assistant told me he was in a meeting and couldn’t be disturbed. He also whispered that Declan was on a conference call and that interrupting him would be a huge mistake, so I turned around and left.

So far, my surprise return to Manhattan has been a dud.

Declan was happy to see me when I unexpectedly showed up at his apartment last night, but Sean has been a ghost since then. I’ll have to hunt him down later today.

I shake off the self-indulgent pity party to watch Casey and his wife exit the elevator with a glance back at Harrison.

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