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By:Cherry Adair

Todd and Miles were bending over backward to figure out the who and why. In the meantime she was to keep a low profile and pretend she was on the vacation the rest of the world had been told she was on.

With cash, and strong motivation, Amelia had taken a circuitous route from San Francisco to Switzerland, where she’d procured a new identity. The papers weren’t that good, but the guy she found in Prague did a better job, and the woman in London an even better one. She returned to the States and changed her identity once again. Now she was Mia Hayward. Apropos of nothing and nowhere. Nothing to connect her to Amelia Wentworth.

Really, all that running from pillar to post, all the name changes, all the freaking skulking, had become exhausting. She’d found the house in this small town in Louisiana online, bought it sight unseen, and was quite prepared to make it charming and livable for the foreseeable future. Or until her cousin told her it was safe to return to San Francisco.

It was difficult being Mia Hayward. No goals, no purpose, no action. Hence the long list. What did people who were married to their jobs do all day if not their jobs? She was finding out. This had been the longest freaking month of her life. There was a reason why she rarely took vacations. She was a workaholic, always had been. The thought of spending days lazing on a beach made her antsy. She needed projects. Deadlines. Challenges.

“How are Stephanie and her team doing on final tests?” she asked, switching feet to brush away yesterday’s cookies. She now had to add Sweep to the list. The kitchen floor was a shambles. Considering what he’d done to her right here, Mia was surprised her brain hadn’t been swept just as clean as the island.

“Pretty much on target.”

Pretty much on target was Todd’s shorthand for Something’s fucked-up. “Crap, what’s the delay?”

Their first foray into the lower-end market. The ingenious 3-D printer would give Blush customers the ability to produce their own makeup, at minimal cost, from their home computers. It was going to revolutionize drugstore makeup purchases for the public, making the choice of colors unlimited and inexpensive. It might be gimmicky, but she knew it would bring in a fortune and, more important, bring those same drugstore customers up to the lux lines as they got older. Blush planned to offer the 3-D printers to its customers for home use by Christmas.

“How are the lifeguards?” Todd asked innocently.

She knew he had it handled. She had to stop the long-distance micromanaging. “Will we be able to go into production in less than the ninety days scheduled?”

“Looks like,” Todd said. “Shipped the first of the sponge compacts out yesterday,” he added, switching gears. He knew her well.

Mia didn’t like to be bogged down with details. She had competent people in key positions because she trusted them to do their jobs. Todd was her right-hand man, and everything was funneled through him before getting to her.

“Department stores have all exceeded their initial projections. Offering a one-stop SPF of fifty, plus BB coverage—gold. Shiseido is going to pee their pants when they get wind of these new products.” Mia cut to the chase. “We’ll need gold to pull off this buyout. As good as it is, a twelve point three uptick in sales isn’t going to solve that problem.”

“Yeah, well, the printer and this innovative compact are going to pull in half the gold. We’ll come up with something for the other half.”

“We’ll have another fresh infusion with the twenty-eight-day antiaging kits,” Mia pointed out, even though they both knew she needed millions of dollars more to achieve the buyout. “They start rolling out tomorrow, two weeks early. Yay us. So we can add another eleven point six percent to our stash. Still not enough to fund the LBO without Davis and Kent backing me.”

The investment firm was still deciding whether they were prepared to do the leverage buyout so that Mia/Amelia could go through with her plan to take the company private and buy out the rest of Blush’s shareholders. It was all hush-hush right now. The waiting was the hard part. She hated waiting for anything, but Mia’s strength was her ability to hold her cards close to her chest, and her infinite patience.

“Maybe. But they haven’t said no, and these numbers will make you, and Blush, look a lot more attractive. I’m not worried.”

Mia got to her feet and started picking up the broken plates and other items swept off the island in the heat of passion last night. Piling the shattered cookies on the broken plates, she carried the mess to dump in the trash under the chipped enamel sink, holding the phone under her chin. “Still not e—”