Since finding out what his father had been up to with Stone Properties, he’d been frustrated and in great need of a confidante he could trust. He trusted Violet. Sharing his problems with her had eased his mind.
For the last five days she’d been absent from the lounge. Either she’d been detained by hotel business or she’d been avoiding him. Thinking she might be avoiding him had been a bitter pill to swallow.
He’d stepped across the line at their last meeting. Claiming her as family had pushed their association past the boundaries of casual acquaintances. But no matter how much it worried him that he might become dependent on her, he couldn’t stop craving her support.
To his unreasonable delight, the instant she entered the bar, her gaze sought his and she immediately headed his way. As she drew near, the spicy scent of her perfume preceded her and he had just enough time to draw a heady lungful before she sat beside him. Tonight’s black dress was a knee-length sheath with a deep scoop neckline that showed off the upper curves of her breasts. Keeping his attention on her face proved challenging as she gathered a deep breath before speaking.
“I’m glad you’re here tonight,” she said, her voice brisk, expression resolute.
He resisted the urge to remind her that he was here every night. She already had him eating out of the palm of her hand. Why give her more power?
“You look beautiful,” he told her, letting his gaze drift over her.
His compliment caused her to blink. “Thank you.” For a moment she looked as if she’d lost her train of thought.
Despite the bar’s low light, he spied a rush of color in her cheeks and noticed an uneven hitch to her breath. In that instant he realized she’d felt the impact of his attraction for her, even if she wasn’t ready to admit it.
The revelation inspired a rush of longing to touch her smooth skin, to pull her body tight to his and hear her sigh beneath his lips. He imagined sweeping his tongue across her breasts and hearing her cry out. Not seeing her these last few days had fueled his hunger for her. He’d spent far too much time pondering exactly how he would make love to her.
“JT, are you listening to me?”
He shook his head and dispelled the evocative images lingering there. “Sorry. I was distracted. Is that a new perfume you’re wearing?”
“It’s something Tiberius gave to my mother last Christmas. Since his death she can’t bear to wear it, but I love the scent so she gave me the bottle.”
“It’s nice,” he murmured.
“Thank you.” She paused and regarded him through narrowed eyes. “We went to Tiberius’s lawyer for the reading of his will a couple days ago.”
JT wrestled his libido back under control as her words registered. “And he left everything to you and your mother.”
“Yes.” She scowled at him as if he was supposed to comprehend a deeper meaning to what she’d said. “But it’s what he left that caught me by surprise.”
“His house, bank accounts, the hotel.” JT ticked the items off on his fingers. “What else?”
A smug grin bloomed on her full lips. “How about eighteen percent of Stone Properties stock.”
The news dealt him a sturdy blow. “How did he get it?”
“He mortgaged the Lucky Heart and bought every share he could.”
“To take on your father?”
“Eighteen percent wouldn’t do him any good. When my mother died she left my father thirty percent of the company. Combined with the rest of what my family owns, he has enough votes to control the company.”
“Until two months ago when you turned thirty. Your father controlled your trust fund until then, didn’t he?”
“Yes.” JT didn’t know what to make of what he was hearing. “You think my uncle wanted us to join forces?” He recalled the dinners Tiberius had invited him to. “He never said anything of the sort.”
“I think he wanted to get to know you before he committed to anything.”
For the first time in years JT felt a flutter of excitement. Combining what he’d inherited with Violet’s shares left him three percent away from taking the company back from his father and repairing all the damage that had been done.
“How much do you want for your stock?”
Violet had been watching him closely, grinning at his reaction to her news, but now delight drained from her expression. “That’s where things get a little tricky.”
Suspicion flared before JT remembered that this was Violet he was dealing with. She was loyal and a team player. She wasn’t here to get something from him. She honestly wanted to help. But none of his trust reflected in his tone as he asked, “Tricky how?”
“The terms of Tiberius’s will don’t allow me to sell, trade or donate the shares in any way.” She looked as if she expected him to explode in frustration. “Otherwise you have to know, I’d let you have them.”
Although disappointed by his uncle’s unorthodox terms, JT knew there was a way he could work this to his advantage. “But you can give me your proxy vote.” Of course, he only had eighteen percent, but if Tiberius had convinced several of their family members to part with the stock, surely that meant JT could do the same. He only needed three percent more.
“That’s the other problem,” she said, apology in her tone. “The way your grandfather set up the stock, only family members by blood or by marriage can vote. Since, I’m not family, my votes can’t count.”
JT exhaled in exasperation. “So we’re back to square one. With your votes voided, my father remains in control of the majority of the stock.”
But Tiberius’s plan was still a viable option. JT and his father each had thirty percent of the shares. With Violet’s eighteen percent excluded, that left twenty-two percent up for grabs. If he could buy twelve percent of the shares belonging to the rest of the family or failing that, convince them to swing their votes his way, he could take the company back.
“Not back to square one,” Violet said, interrupting his train of thought. “If I was family, I could vote the shares.”
“If you were family, yes,” JT agreed, his gaze fixed on the lights racing around above the bar. “But you’re not.”
“I could be.”
Something in her tone caught his attention. A tentative smile trembled at the corners of her lips. She was trying to tell him something, but his mind was darting in too many directions to grasp the nuances of her meaning.
“We could get married.”
If she’d nailed him with a cattle prod he couldn’t have been more stunned. “Married?”
“In name only, of course.” She offered him a cheeky grin that didn’t reach her eyes. “There’s nothing in my uncle’s will that prevents me from marrying the shares away.”
“Since he knew we’d never get married, it probably never crossed his mind.”
She cocked her head and regarded him solemnly. “And how did he know something like that?”
“I told him I had no intention of starting anything up with you.”
Violet sat up very straight. Her eyes narrowed. “You two talked about me?”
JT nodded. “When I first arrived in town. Tiberius had heard about my activities in Miami and was worried that if I pursued you, you might get hurt. I agreed to keep my distance.”