Terms of Surrender(8)

By: Shirley Rogers

He'd been humiliated, played for a fool. Since his disastrous relationship with Melanie, he'd done a good job of keeping his distance from any woman who wanted more than a night or two of pleasure. There was no way he was going to let Tanya get under his skin. He'd use the time that he had to be around her to become immune to her. And when the sentence his father had imposed upon him by requiring him to live on the plantation for a year was up, he'd return to his life in Atlanta.

By then, Tanya Winters would be completely out of his system.

* * *

Though David had planned on going over the accounts of the plantation first thing the next morning, he'd received a call from his friend and vice president, Justin West, about Taylor Corp.'s latest acquisition, a Japanese computer software company. Upon hearing of his father's illness, he'd been forced to leave during final negotiations. David had made his apologies and had put Justin in charge, confident that he could close the deal.

Still, there had been a couple of key issues to discuss this morning that neither of them had anticipated, and it had taken more time than David had realized. Once he was done, he'd called Jessica, his personal assistant, and put the wheels in motion to turn his father's study into a satellite office so he would be able to handle much of his firm's business from the plantation.

Looking up from the work he'd retrieved from his briefcase, David's gaze swept his father's study, taking in his large book collection on shelving that covered one entire wall. Struck with a feeling of disorientation, he sat back and stared at the many volumes, perfectly categorized and alphabetized. And looking as if they'd never been read. As a child, he'd never been allowed to touch them.

Now they're yours.

His chest tightened a fraction as he got to his feet and walked across the room, stopping in front of the massive wall of books. Scanning the titles, his gaze stopped on an original edition of poems. He hadn't known his father had liked poetry. The sad truth was that he hadn't known his father at all.

That wasn't your fault.

Maybe it was, David thought in the still silence. Tanya certainly thought it was. If he'd been the kind of son his father had wanted, he'd have swallowed his pride and stayed on the plantation. Maybe then he would have known the man.

It wouldn't have changed anything.

Sadly, he believed that was true. When his mother was alive, they'd been like a family. David could remember, as a boy, tossing a ball around with his father, laughing as they played.

When Eloise Taylor had died, everything had changed. David had become a detail to deal with, rather than a son to love. He hadn't understood then. He still didn't. But he'd quickly learned that his father hadn't wanted or needed his love.

Replacing the book, he glanced around. No, it wouldn't have made a difference if he'd stayed. He would have been suffocated by his father's strong will, with neither of them being happy in the end. Edward would never have allowed him to make any decisions concerning the farm or its business. When he'd returned home from college, he had approached his father about updating the plantation's equipment. Edward hadn't even given his reasons for change consideration.

Tanya, however, had been able to talk him into a lot more than changing the equipment. Hell, his father had changed his principal crop!

At the thought of Tanya, David glanced at his watch and realized he was late for his meeting with her. Leaving the room, he started in the direction of the storage building she'd pointed out to him after breakfast that morning.

A few minutes later, he walked into one of the large metal buildings that housed the equipment used on the plantation. "I'm sorry I'm late," he said by way of a greeting. "I got caught up in a telephone conference."

His gaze ran over her, then came back to her face. Dressed in blue jeans and a soft knit sweater to ward off the morning chill, she looked at home, right down to her worn brown work boots. With her blond hair pulled into a tight ponytail and a clipboard in her hand, she'd apparently been at work awhile.

"That's okay. I had some things to take care of while I was waiting," Tanya assured him, not really surprised. She hadn't expected him to make the plantation's operation a priority. Clearly, the business of his firm in Atlanta took precedence in his life. Well, that was okay with her. She didn't need David micromanaging every aspect of her work. Things would run more smoothly between them if he'd just let her continue to run the plantation without interference.

"It really couldn't be helped," he insisted, feeling the need to justify his tardiness. His gaze wandered down her body. Her figure had changed over the years. Though still slim, her breasts were fuller, her hips nicely rounded. He shifted his attention to her perfectly shaped oval face, her pert nose and wide amber eyes. As she walked toward him, her body moved with a grace that seemed to contradict her poor upbringing.

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