The Fairest of Them All

The Fairest of Them All by Leanne Banks Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: The Fairest of Them All by Leanne Banks Read Free Book Online
Authors: Leanne Banks
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Contemporary
Shaking with fury, she pressed her hands against her heated face. “Am I going to have to move out of town to get some space?”
    Russ came up from behind and placed a placating hand on her shoulder. “Now, Carly, don’t be rash.” She stiffened at his tone.
    “Your brothers are a little misguided, but they lo—”
    She jerked away. “Don’t you dare tell me what to do.”
    Suddenly it was all too much. The way her brothers constantly intruded into her life, the way Russ had maneuvered her into escorting him this summer, the damning way she’d gotten distracted from her goal of buying out her brothers.
    The last one was the worst. With stunning clarity, Carly realized she’d allowed one more manipulating male to get in her way. And she’d invited Russ to do far more than kiss her tonight.
    She felt like a fool.
    Taking a deep breath, she looked at the three men responsible for her present humiliation. Without a word, she opened the door. Her meaning was perfectly clear.
    Daniel left first, then Troy.
    Russ stopped in front of her and hesitated.
    The hesitation nearly undid her. She wanted to ask about his hand. She wanted to look at him, but she was afraid of what she’d see. If it was concern, the tightly held tears would fall and she’d feel foolish again.
    She bit her lip hard and turned away.
    He stood close enough for her to feel his heavy sigh against her forehead. “I’ll talk to you later,” he said in a low voice before he left.
    As if from a distance, she heard the hollow sound of his footsteps down the hall. And she found, to her dismay, that those tightly held tears had already begun to fall down her cheeks.

Four
----
    Russ gingerly crunched down on the crisp, extra brown toast and grimaced. He threw the charred bread into the trash and sat down. It wasn’t worth the effort it took to eat it, he thought as he leaned back in the oak kitchen chair. For a moment he wondered if marriage to Carly was worth all this trouble. Between his sore jaw, bruised hand, and injured ego, he felt in need of rehabilitative therapy.
    He scowled when he remembered the previous evening. Carly had been furious, and he supposed she had a right. Still her brothers’ protective demonstration would result in a major setback in his plans. He frowned at the cheerful yellow wallpaper covering his kitchen wall.
    Now how the hell was he supposed to get things back on track? He plopped his chin into his hand. Searing pain immediately shot through his jaw. He let out a string of curses. At the same moment, the doorbell rang. Russ glowered at the door, praying his visitor would be someone on whom he could vent his frustration. It might be one of his employees, he realized. But he was in a nasty mood. With a rough growl, he stalked to the door and jerked it open.
    There she stood. The object of his complete mental, physical, and sexual frustration. Russ considered throwing her over his shoulder and hauling her into his bedroom. That would solve one of his problems. And Carly would just love the male domination bit, the sane part of his mind sarcastically reminded him.
    He hadn’t uttered a word of greeting, and he noticed she was starting to chew on her bottom lip. He narrowed his eyes. She shifted once, then again. Her nervousness mollified him enough to speak. “Yeah.” She swallowed. “I, uh. I thought I’d better check and see how you’re doing.” She took her hands from her pockets and gestured toward him. “You know, your jaw and your hand.”
    “I’m fine,” he said, letting her squirm.
    “Oh, well.” She gave a weak smile and shrugged. “I’m glad. If you don’t need anything, I'll just—”
    “Need anything?” Russ interrupted.
    “Yes. I didn’t know if you’d need any help today with your hand. And since it was my brothers who . . .” “Slammed the door on my hand and nearly cracked my jaw,” Russ supplied.
    Carly winced. “Yes. I’m sorry, Russ. I was so angry with them, and I shouldn’t have

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