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The CEO

By:Victoria Purman

The CEO




A Millionaire Malones Romance

Victoria Purman




Chapter One







Lightning split the Sydney sky with earth-shattering cracks on the afternoon Callum, Chris and Cooper Malone buried their father.

Sydney had turned on a tropical thunderstorm that darkened the sky like a thick, swirling purple cloak, and the rain drenched the brothers as they each threw a handful of dirt on the grave of William James Malone who, until his death four days before, had been a larger-than-life figure in their lives, the family business and in Australia’s business community. He’d died at home at The Meadows, one of Sydney’s historic harbour-side mansions, gazing out at the yachts and the ferries as he faded, railing and brawling, eschewing the best hospital care to live out the final agonising stages of his cancer in the house he’d called home since the day he was born.

Callum lifted his dripping umbrella and shifted his gaze from the freshly covered grave at Waverley Cemetery to the crashing ocean, a sheer drop from the rocky edge. Sydney had been burying its dead here since 1877, in land on the edge of the cliff tops between Bondi and Coogee. Callum thought it must be comforting for those left behind, to visit and grieve loved ones in such a magnificent place, with its statues of white marble, angels and tombstones, crosses and spires, silhouetted against the blue of the Pacific Ocean. It was a place of peace in this city that he loved and hated in equal measure.

‘Callum.’

He turned to his older brother, Chris. ‘Hey.’

Chris’s eyes were dark and unforgiving. ‘Damn glad that’s over.’

Callum clenched his jaw and looked from side to side to see that no-one else had heard the intemperate remark. ‘Not exactly how I would have put it.’

‘Hey,’ Chris straightened his shoulders, his look now as fierce and as ominous as the clouds hovering above them. ‘Just because I thought the guy was the worst kind of bastard, doesn’t mean I wanted him to suffer, you got that?’

Callum reached for his brother’s forearm and rested his hand on the soaking sleeve of his suit. Chris had taken their father’s death hard. Even though he’d been back in Australia for a year now, having given up his career as an international photojournalist, he’d still been estranged from their father. It wasn’t that Chris hadn’t tried, especially when he and Ellie had married six months ago, but their father held a grudge like he’d held on to his disease: he’d fought both bitterly.

‘Bro, I get it,’ Callum said. ‘You think I don’t know what he was like? I spent every damn day at work smoothing over the bad judgement calls and poor investments he’d made during the past few years. You don’t want to know how many times I kept us out of court. Sometimes I wonder how Malone Enterprises is a going concern.’

‘It’s still a Top 100 company precisely because you’ve been running it, Callum,’ Chris said. ‘We all know that. Hell, all of Sydney knows that.’

It was the truth. Callum had worked way too hard for way too long to make sure the company not only survived, but thrived. But it had taken its toll on his marriage to Lulu. His health. His private life. What the hell was he talking about? What private life?

A fresh burst of rain thudded in huge drops on to their black umbrellas and both men scowled at the sky.

‘Where’s Cooper?’ Callum looked over his shoulder at the thinning crowd of mourners. They’d had to hire security to keep gawkers and paparazzi at bay. Only those who were close to the Malone family had been present for William Malone’s farewell.

‘Over there. On the phone.’

The brothers could see Cooper, the youngest Malone by ten minutes, pacing and gesticulating as he talked.

‘Probably organising a hook-up for tonight.’ Chris shook his head in thinly disguised contempt.

Callum huffed. ‘Like you didn’t have women waiting for you in every danger zone in the world when you were on the road.’

‘No comment. And you’d better shut up now because here comes my wife.’ Chris’s face split in a smile as Ellie waddled over to them, dodging puddles in her flat shoes, her pink umbrella decorative but totally ineffective.

‘Hello, gorgeous.’ Chris took the umbrella from her and shielded her with his own. He rested his free hand on the underside of his wife’s swollen belly and kissed her lips tenderly.

‘Hello, handsome,’ she answered with a sad smile right back. ‘You okay?’

‘I am now you’re here.’

Callum turned away from them. He wasn’t in the mood for loved up. Not today. Not any day, in fact, since his divorce.

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