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The Best Man

By:Brenda Jackson

PROLOGUE


MITCHELL Farrell was man enough to admit he had made a few mistakes in his lifetime. But he had absolutely no intentions of making the same mistakes twice. With a determined smile he snapped his seat belt in place and settled into the flight that would take him to Houston.

Never in his life had he been so determined to achieve a goal—a goal some would think was impossible with all the obstacles he faced. But he was a man with a plan.

A plan to get his wife back.

As his private jet cleared the Los Angeles runway and tilted its wings toward Texas, he settled back in his seat and remembered the first time he had seen Regina Grant on the campus of Texas Southern University seven years ago; the mere sight of her had taken his breath away. It hadn’t been like him to fall hard and fast, but against her he hadn’t stood a chance. No other woman had taken such hold of his mind and body like she had. She completely captured his heart.

During his teenage years he had grown up dirt poor, so he’d been determined to one day have wealth and power at his fingertips, determined that nothing and no one would get in his way of achieving that, especially a woman. He had pretty much kept that resolve until his final year in grad school, when he had met Gina. She had been in her senior year of college. He had been lost the first time they’d made eye contact. That day she’d become as basic to him as breathing.

For the longest while he’d thought he could simply add her to the list of things he wanted in life, which was why he had married her less than a year later. He soon realized that marriage to Gina was more of a challenge than he’d anticipated. He could not get her to understand the driving force of his need to make it to the top at the cost of everything else—including the baby she desperately wanted. Their marriage hadn’t worked out, and after four years it had ended. That was a huge mistake. He should never have let that happen.

He had been a fool to let her walk out of his life, an even bigger fool to have placed more emphasis and importance on making it to the top than holding their marriage together. And the main reason he’d walked away so easily was that the amount of love he’d felt for her had disturbed him. He had never counted on loving any woman so intensely that it made him lose his focus.

It had taken him two lonely years after their divorce to accept just how much he had loved her and that success was nothing without her. He wanted and needed her back in his life. For him the tragedy of September 11, 2001, served as a blunt reminder that you could be here one day and gone the next, and that when you left this world you couldn’t take anything with you, especially not the material things you had worked hard to accumulate.

He had been in New York that day for a meeting at the World Trade Center with a business associate and friend, Tom Swank. But a phone call that morning from his office in Los Angeles had delayed him at his hotel. Quite frankly, that phone call had saved his life—but nothing had saved Tom’s. That had been his first wake-up call to reexamine who he was and what he was. In the end he’d decided he didn’t like himself very much. At thirty-five he’d realized that his priorities were screwed up and knew he had to take whatever measures necessary to get them back in order.

He was no longer the workaholic he used to be; no longer endlessly driven by success. The only thing that drove him now was the tremendous task he faced of convincing Gina to give him another chance. And if given that chance, he would give her every damn thing she had ever asked for: the honeymoon they’d never gotten around to taking, the baby she’d always wanted and more time for them to spend together since he’d always been constantly on the go. A part of him refused to believe it was too late, that things were completely over between them.

So he was headed to Houston with a plan. And it was a plan he intended to make work, by any means necessary.





CHAPTER 1


THERE were certain things that a woman just couldn’t forget.

For instance, she could not forget the time she progressed from girl into womanhood; the time she began wearing her first bra; the time she had her first date; the first time she fell in love and the first time she had made love.

Gina was reminded of the latter two as she sat across from the man who had played an instrumental role in both: her ex-husband, Mitch Farrell. She tried to concentrate on what he was saying and not on the memories invading her mind. Memories of naked bodies and silken sheets; memories of lovemaking sessions that had seemed to last forever, and orgasms of the highest intensity that had no endings.

Seeing Mitch again reminded her of all those things. It also reminded her of pain still lingering deep within, and was a rude awakening that even two years after their divorce, he was not yet out of her system, not fully out of her heart. That thought made her rather uncomfortable.

“What about it, Gina?” Mitch asked softly after taking a leisurely sip of his wine, interrupting her thoughts. The eyes that met his were curious yet reserved.

They sat at a corner table in Sisters, a well-known restaurant in downtown Houston. On weekends it was usually filled to capacity, but tonight—a weeknight—the amount of people dining was a good number: not too many to be considered crowded and not too few to be considered cozy. The atmosphere was relaxing, comfortable and tranquil.

“Why me, Mitch? Why have you come to me with such a generous offer?” she finally asked him, her brows knit.

He smiled before his gaze shifted to the magazine in front of him, having expected her question. “I think the answer to that is obvious. That piece you did on Jake Madaris and Diamond Swain was outstanding and says it all.”

She smiled. “Thank you.”

When wealthy rancher Jake Madaris and movie actress Diamond Swain had announced to the world they were married, and had been for nearly two years, everyone had wanted their story. It had been Gina Grant Farrell, a twenty-eight-year-old freelance writer and family friend of the Madaris family, whom the couple had gotten to do the exclusive interview and write the article. Before then, Gina had done a number of jobs for various publications but the piece on Jake and Diamond for People magazine had brought her skill as a journalist into the national spotlight.

“And you know how I am when it comes to my privacy, Gina,” he continued. “You know me better than anyone, and I think it’s time people knew the real Mitch Farrell as well. I want you to be the one to tell my story because I know you’ll be fair and objective.”

Gina inhaled slowly. Yes, she did know him and at one time she’d felt she had known him better than anyone. But that had been before the demise of their marriage. After that she’d wondered if she’d really known him at all. She silently admitted there were times when she thought there were things about his past that he refused to share with her. But the one thing she did know was that Mitch wasn’t the cold, hard, self-made millionaire the media made him out to be. He was fast becoming one of the largest land developers in the country, and everyone wanted to know all they could about the elusive, wealthy divorce who’d made his mark in real estate.

“People might think I’d be less objective since we were once married,” she finally said.

“Or they may think that since we were married you would have the inside scoop if there were any. I want my story told, Gina, so people can stop speculating.”

Again she was surprised. The Mitch she knew wouldn’t have cared what anyone thought. She had been a journalist long enough to know that people liked reading whatever they could get their hands on about the rich and famous—regardless of whether the information was true. “The speculation may not stop, Mitch. It may only increase.”

“I know, but I want to put it in writing once and for all that I live a very normal and very dull life that doesn’t include a different woman in my bed every night.”

Gina took a sip of her wine. She was glad to hear that. Although she hadn’t wanted to believe what she’d read in the newspapers and tabloids, the thought that he had become a womanizer had bothered her more than it should have.

She sighed as she placed her wineglass down. There was a lot to consider. She had thought about him a lot over the past few weeks after hearing he had returned to Houston on business. He had moved to California within months after their divorce.

He had come to town to discuss a business deal with Madaris Enterprises, a company formed by the Madaris brothers—Justin, Dex and Clayton—to fulfill their dream: to build an exclusive office park that would house the fifteen-story Madaris Building as well as a cluster of upscale shops. She had been surprised to get a call from Mitch yesterday, inviting her to dinner to discuss a business proposition. The last time they had seen or spoken to each other had been at her brother Trevor’s wedding reception almost a year ago. She knew Trevor and Mitch had stayed in contact over the past two years.

Her mind went back to the offer he’d made. She knew any journalist would jump at the chance to do an exclusive with Mitch. He was a man who seldom did interviews. But not only was he willing to do one, he wanted her to be part of it.

And that was the crux of her problem. That was the reason she felt so tense. There was no way she could spend any amount of time with him and not remember what they had once meant to each other. Although they had agreed to remain friends after their divorce, all it took was for her to look at him to know that even after all this time she was still attracted to him. He was still handsome, sexy and masculine, with eyes so compelling they not only penetrated your soul but had the ability to draw you in. Even now when he looked at her, his eyes went almost black. They were just that intense, dark and magnetic.

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