Home > Because We Belong (Because You Are Mine #3)(7)

Because We Belong (Because You Are Mine #3)(7)
Author: Beth Kery

“Is there something in the paper about Noble Enterprises?” Davie asked cautiously, referring to Ian’s multibillion-dollar company.

“No, not that I see,” Francesca said evenly before she set down the bottle and picked up her fork. She was once again highly aware they’d come very close to the topic of Ian. Ian was synonymous with his hugely successful company, after all. Or at least he had been, before he’d forsaken his position at its head.

She heard a knock at the front door and set down her fork, glad for the distraction.

“Why is Justin knocking?” she asked as she stood, perplexed. Justin, Caden, Davie, and she were practically family, after all.

“I don’t think I unlocked it yet this morning,” she heard Davie say as she left the kitchen and walked down the hallway. Francesca twisted the lock and whipped open the front door.

“You’re just in time—” She halted midsentence when she realized it wasn’t her friend Justin standing on the front steps.

“Lucien,” she said, shock ringing in her voice at the unexpected sight of Ian’s half brother. Just looking at his classically handsome face and dark, tousled hair made her flash back to that horrible night. She vividly saw Lucien’s rigid, concerned expression and heard Ian’s hollow tone as he’d stared at the photo of his biological father.

My mother. That’s why she sometimes acted afraid of me—all my life, she’d wince and cower at times at the very sight of me . . . because I looked so much like him. Because I had the face of the man who took advantage of her. I had the face of her rapist.

She forced the excruciatingly painful memory of Ian’s words from her brain and tried to focus on Lucien. She’d been avoiding him, just like she’d been avoiding everything associated with reminders of Ian. It was nothing against Lucien, or his new wife, Elise. In fact, she cared deeply about the couple. It was just a survival instinct. Reminders of Ian cut too deep.

Lucien’s nostrils flared slightly as he studied her somberly, his sharp, assessing gray-eyed stare reminding her uncomfortably of a blue-eyed one.

“I’m sorry to invade your privacy,” he said quietly in his rich, French-accented voice. “But it’s very important that we speak.”

Her heart sunk sickeningly. “Is it Ian? Is he all right?” she asked, shivers of dread crawling across her skin.

“I still haven’t heard from him. From what I understand from his infrequent communications with Lin, he’s fine. Alive and functioning anyway,” Lucien added under his breath, referring to Ian’s talented executive assistant, Lin Soong. His mouth pulled tight in what Francesca thought was concern . . . or was it anger? She knew Lucien didn’t agree with his brother’s self-imposed exile. According to Lucien, he didn’t have any more of an idea where Ian was than did Ian’s grandparents or Francesca. Lin insisted she didn’t know where Ian was, either, but Francesca wouldn’t be surprised if Lin was lying at Ian’s request. Lin was unfailingly loyal to him.

She became aware that Davie had approached and stood near her elbow.

“David,” Lucien said, nodding his head in a sober greeting.

“Lucien, come in. It’s cold out,” Davie said, urging the other man into the entryway. Francesca backed up, vague embarrassment striking her when she realized she’d left Lucien standing outside in the cold. “What’s going on?” Davie asked, shutting the door.

Lucien spoke directly to Francesca. “It’s Noble Enterprises. We need you Francesca. You know the arrangement Ian made. A unique set of circumstances has arisen. We need to make some crucial decisions.”

It felt like the blood rushed out of her head. Dizziness assailed her. She became uncomfortably aware of Davie’s perplexed glance of query in her direction.

“What’s he talking about?” Davie wondered.

Francesca swallowed uneasily, avoiding both men’s stare.

“You and the others can make the decision,” she said shortly under her breath to Lucien, as if she thought she could still hide the truth from Davie. From herself.

“We need you to make a decision this large. That’s the arrangement Ian made before he left. And you, out of all the members of his ad hoc board, have the majority powers for liquidating assets and making major acquisitions. Noble Enterprises needs you. Ian needs you.”

“Is this about Tyake?” Francesca asked, glancing into Lucien’s face hesitantly.

“You know that Ian has wanted to purchase that company for a long time?” he asked.

Francesca nodded. Davie and she were usually careful to avoid using Ian’s name. Hearing it not once, but several times this morning, felt like tiny missiles piercing her flesh.

“What’s this about? Francesca?” Davie demanded.

Francesca’s desperation mounted when she saw Davie’s bewilderment. “I’m sorry. I didn’t tell you because . . . because it seemed ridiculous. Ian walked out on me. He left me—”

“He left you access to a vast fortune, use of all of his properties, and a senior position on the temporary board of directors that he named to manage his company in his absence. I understand why you’ve refused to acknowledge those things, Francesca. I do,” Lucien added more softly, his compassionate gaze paining her more than an impatient or disdainful one would have. “But that doesn’t negate the reality. Thousands of people’s livelihoods depend upon the health and prosperity of Noble Enterprises. The same could be said of Tyake. You and Ian may not be together, but you, perhaps more than anyone, understood his personal feelings and goals for his company. I believe that’s why he left you with unique powers of attorney the rest of us don’t have. Ian’s grandparents are here in Chicago, as is Gerard Sinoit, Ian’s cousin. The only person we don’t have available on the board is you, and we’re hamstrung without you. I understand your saying you feel ill equipped for this, but Gerard, James, Anne, and myself can provide you a large resource of business knowledge. We’ll guide you. Ian’s vice presidents and executives have been managing day-to-day operations, with our casual guidance and instruction. But among the five board members, your vote carries the most weight in matters of major acquisitions and liquidations. The time has come when we can’t proceed without your involvement.”

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