J ared Westmoreland glanced up from the legal document he’d been reading when he heard a commotion outside of his office door.
He heard his secretary say, “Wait a minute, miss. You just can’t barge into Mr. Westmoreland’s office unannounced,” moments before his door flew open and a gorgeous but angry woman stormed in.
Jared’s heart rate quickened and his pulse accelerated. He forced back the blatant desire that rushed through him as he walked from behind his desk. The woman was absolutely stunning. Even her apparent anger didn’t detract from her beauty. In one smooth glance, he took in a mass of dark brown curls that framed her face and the smooth, creamy texture of her skin—the color of rich mahogany. Then there were her beautiful dark brown eyes with perfectly arched brows, a delectable pair of lips and rounded cheeks with dimples that not even her anger could hide. A sleek, curvy body in a pair of slacks and a tailored blouse completed the vision of beauty.
“Mr. Westmoreland, I tried to stop her but she—”
“That’s all right, Jeannie,” Jared said to his secretary, who had raced in behind the woman.
“Do you want me to call security?”
“No, I don’t think that will be necessary.”
Jeannie Tillman, who’d worked for him for over five years, didn’t look too convinced. “Are you sure?”
He stared at the seething woman who was standing with both hands on her hips, glaring at him. “Yes, I’m sure.” Jeannie gave him a hesitant nod and turned to leave, closing the door behind her.
Jared turned his full attention to his beautiful intruder. He was fairly certain that she was not a client since he didn’t forget a beautiful face. In fact, he was sure he’d never met her before.
Dana Rollins met Jared’s stare and tried to keep her intense reaction to him from showing. She had heard about Jared Westmoreland, Atlanta’s hotshot, millionaire attorney. Now she was seeing him for herself and it seemed that all she’d heard was true. He was definitely the stuff dreams were made of. A sharp dresser, all the way down to his expensive-looking leather shoes, he was tall, with a body that was well built. Solid as a rock. He had coffee-colored skin, dark brown eyes, a solid jaw, straight nose and close-cut black hair. They were handsome features on a sensual face; the kind that would definitely make her do a double take. But she couldn’t dwell on how sexy he looked. She was here for business and nothing more.
“I’m sure there’s a reason why you barged into my office, Miss…”
“Rollins,” she supplied sharply. His words reminded her of what that business was. “And yes, there is a reason. This!” she said, pulling an envelope out of her purse. “I received this certified letter from you less than an hour ago demanding that I return my engagement ring to Luther. I tried calling him but was told he’s out of town so I immediately came here to get an explanation.”
Jared took the letter from her and looked at it. The assessment didn’t take long. He glanced back at her. “I gather you have a problem with returning the ring, Miss Rollins?” he asked.
“Of course I do. Luther decided he wasn’t ready to give up his single status and called off our wedding a week before it was to take place. Besides the embarrassment and humiliation of everything—explaining things to my friends and returning shower gifts—I was left with all the wedding expenses. And to pour salt on the wound, I received that letter from your firm.”
Jared inhaled deeply. Evidently she hadn’t yet realized that Luther Cord had done her a favor. “Miss Rollins, I suggest you consult your own attorney to verify what I’m telling you, but my client has every right to ask for the engagement ring back. An engagement ring represents a conditional gift. The proposition is that the condition is marriage and not a willingness to marry. Thus if the engagement is broken, for whatever reason, the expectation is that the ring is returned, just as you returned the wedding presents and shower gifts,” he said.
He watched as she crossed her arms over her chest and the angry frown on her lips deepened and turned rebellious. “I refuse to give it back. It’s the principle of the thing.”
Jared shook his head thinking that principle had nothing to do with it. The law was the law. “Unfortunately, Miss Rollins, you’re faced with a losing battle and a very costly one. Do you want to add a bunch of legal fees to everything else right now?”
He knew the mention of finances would help make her think straight. And knowing he had her thinking in the right direction, he pressed forward. “I know what you’re going through must be painful, but my advice to you is to try and put this episode behind you and move on. You’re a beautiful woman, and I believe there’s a man out there who’s truly worthy of you. Evidently Luther Cord isn’t. Perhaps you should count your blessings.”
Jared knew his words weren’t what she wanted to hear but he wanted to be as honest with her as he could. There was only so much he could say, considering the fact that Luther Cord was his client. In fact, he had said too much already. But for some reason he wanted to help end her heartache as soon as possible.
Moments passed and Dana didn’t say anything, but he could tell she was thinking about what he’d said. Then he watched as she pulled a small white box from her purse and handed it to him.
He met her gaze when she said softly, “I appreciate your advice and although it’s a bitter pill to swallow, I’ll return the ring.”
He flipped it open and saw the dazzling diamond solitaire before placing the small box on his desk. “You’re doing the right thing, Miss Rollins.”
She nodded and extended her hand to him. “The last thing I need is to get into more debt. Luther isn’t worth it.”
He accepted her hand, liking the way it fit neatly into his. “I hope things work out for you,” he said with complete sincerity.
Dana gazed intently into his eyes and smiled appreciatively. Although she hadn’t wanted to hear what he’d said, she couldn’t help but be grateful for his honesty. In her experience, compassion and kindness were two emotions attorneys seldom possessed. “Somehow they will. I know I interrupted your work by barging in here the way I did and I apologize,” she said.
“You didn’t interrupt anything,” Jared said smoothly. “And as for my advice, consider it a favor.”
The smile that touched her lips widened. “Thanks. Maybe I’ll be able to return the favor some day. I owe you one.”
As he released her hand and watched her turn and walk out of his office, Jared thought to himself that Dana Rollins was as sensual as a woman could get.
A month later
J ared Westmoreland was having one hell of a morning.
It began with the message his mother had left on his answering machine last night, reminding him that his father’s and his uncle’s birthdays fell on Easter Sunday this year and requesting that he set an example for his five brothers by bringing a date to the huge dinner party she and his aunt Evelyn had planned.
His cousin Storm’s recent wedding had made his mother, Sarah, take stock and realize that her six sons had yet to show serious interest in any woman. And of course, since he was the eldest, she felt he should be the first and had every intention of prodding him in the right direction. It didn’t matter that he and his brothers were successful and enjoyed being single. She felt that the only way any of them could truly be happy was to find that special woman and tie the knot. The only one who wasn’t experiencing the heat was his brother Spencer, whose fiancée Lynette, had died in a drowning accident three years ago.
Jared rose from his chair and walked over to the window. To add to the annoyance of his mother’s call, he had arrived at work an hour later than usual because of traffic. And as if things couldn’t get any worse, he had just received a phone call from entertainer Sylvester Brewster, who wanted to file for a divorce—from wife number three. Sylvester was good for business, but it was hard to watch him involve himself in relationships that didn’t last.
When Jared heard the buzzer sounding on his desk, he turned around and sighed heavily, wondering if the morning could get any worse. Crossing the room he picked up the phone. “Yes, Jeannie?”
“Mr. Westmoreland, your mother is on the line.”
Jared shook his head. Yes, his morning could get worse. It just did. “Go ahead and put her through.”
A few moments later after hearing the connection, he said. “Hi, Mom.”
“Did you get my message, Jared?”
Jared raised his gaze to the ceiling before saying. “Yes, I got it.”
“Good. Then I’ll be setting an extra plate out for dinner next Sunday.”
Jared wanted to tell her in a nice, respectable way that if she set out the plate there was a strong chance it would sit there empty. But before he could get the words out, his mother quickly added, “Remember, you’re the oldest and I expect you to set an example. Besides, you’re not getting any younger.”
She made it seem as if he was fifty-seven instead of thirty-seven. Besides, his mother knew how he felt about the institution of marriage. He was a divorce attorney for heaven’s sake. He ended marriages, not put them together. He’d handled enough divorce cases to know that marriage wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. People got married and then a lot of them eventually got divorced. It was a vicious cycle; one that made him money, but sickened him at the same time. Although there were long-lasting marriages in the Westmoreland family, he considered them exceptions and not the norm. It would be just his luck to have the first failed marriage in the family and he had no intention of becoming a statistic.