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The CEO(5)

By:Victoria Purman



‘You should come.’ Callum finally spoke, his words hanging authoritatively in the sodden air between them. And now, like a game of ping pong, everyone else was waiting for her to respond. Ava looked across at him and his gaze, direct and penetrating, did that thing to her, in the same, exact, infuriating way it always had. That thing that made her so, so happy and broke her heart all at the same time.

What she really needed to do was get as far away from Callum Malone and his sadness as possible. Which was, of course, why she nodded her head in agreement and found herself saying, ‘Sure.’

Callum gave her the slightest of nods, a barely perceptible dip of his chin, and turned away.

Lulu went to Ava and gripped her arm. ‘Thank you so much,’ she whispered into her ear. ‘It will be so much easier for me knowing you’re there.’

That’s why she’d said yes, of course it was. To be a buffer between her sister’s ex-husband and her new partner. Like a human Berlin Wall of misery, that’s what she was. An emotional buffer for her little sister who’d been hurt and dumped by her rich-boy husband, which made loving him a riddle trapped in an enigma with a ribbon of heartbreak wrapped tightly all around the whole catastrophe.

‘What are sisters for, right?’ Ava took Lulu’s hand and they set off for the car park.

*

When they reached the cemetery gate, the three Malone brothers were standing together like a tall, muscled phalanx of sexiness. It really was criminal for so many of the world’s handsome genes to be clustered in the one family, Ava thought. They really could take a girl’s breath away with how gorgeous they all were.

Cooper tossed his keys in the air and caught them without looking. ‘See you all at Callum’s.’ Then he stopped and threw Ava a questioning look. ‘Do you need a lift, Ava?’

‘No. Thanks,’ she said quickly. ‘I came with Lulu and Michael.’

Lulu sidled up to her sister. ‘Actually, we thought we might go home and change into some dry clothes first.’

‘Oh,’ Ava said, suddenly deflated. If she had to tag along with them, it would be a good hour before they returned to Callum’s which meant this whole difficult afternoon would go on for eternity. She couldn’t have that. She wanted to be in and out of there as soon as possible. ‘Look, in that case, I’ll grab a cab and go home and change, and pick up my car.’

Before she could unlock the keypad of her phone with her fingerprint, a large, strong hand, with a silver ring on the right middle finger, had lifted it from her grasp.

‘I’ll take you home.’

‘You?’ The word came out too fast and too harshly, like an accusation, and she regretted it immediately. Damn it. That mask of hers couldn’t slip now, not after all these years.

‘Yes, me,’ Callum said, his tone indicating he was well aware she would consider him her last choice.

‘You really don’t have to,’ Ava nattered with a wave of her hand. ‘It’s not far and I can grab my car and drive right back to your place.’ And then leave as soon as possible.

‘It’s no trouble,’ Callum said. ‘It’ll give us a chance to catch up.’

Great. Ava’s traitorous heart was pounding like a bass drum in her chest. She knew that arguing would seem churlish and impolite. Lulu threw her a thank you look. Cooper, Chris and Ellie were already out the gate and heading to their cars.

‘Thanks,’ she muttered. And then almost silently added, ‘Traitors.’

‘What was that?’ Callum stopped and looked back at her with a scowl.

Ava waved the comment away. ‘Nothing.’

*

When they reached his car, something European and expensive looking, Callum opened the passenger door like a perfect gentlemen but Ava didn’t get in. She held her umbrella away from the seat, bent down and peered inside at the plush interior. She guessed the car had cost a fortune. It smelled good. It was pristine and the seats were camel-coloured leather. They looked expensive. More than expensive. Luxurious.

‘They’re leather seats,’ she noted, nodding to the car’s interior.

‘Yes, Callum replied, impatiently. ‘Are you going to get in?’

‘But … look at me.’

And when he obeyed, running his gaze up and down her body, Ava wondered how it was possible to feel hot when she was soaking wet through to her bra and knickers.

‘Callum … I’m drenched. I can’t sit on that leather. It was probably harvested from rare Peruvian goats or something. I’ll ruin the seat.’

A small hint of a smile curled his lip as he looked down at her. ‘Goat leather. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of that.’

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