Seduced by Fate
Mitchell Winery #1
Whoever said seduction was easy?
He was her boss.
She was his sister’s best friend.
Grayson Mitchell wondered when he had reached the point where he took dating advice from his mother and sister.
Woo her, they said.
Didn’t they realize what century they lived in?
Eve Collins was doomed to fall for his seduction once he kissed her.
Who was she kidding?
She had been doomed since she first met him.
Fast forward from her girlhood crush on her best friend’s brother to her position as a personal assistant who fantasized about her boss.
Sharing Grayson’s bed was inevitable.
Loving Eve was fate’s calling.
An ex-lover’s blackmail left them blindsided.
Would Eve and Grayson fall victim to a vengeful enemy? Or would fate prevail?
Seduced by Fate is the first book in Laura A. Barnes’s Mitchell Winery Series. If you love a steamy office romance mixed with interfering siblings and a jealous ex-lover out for revenge, then you’ll love this contemporary romance.
The woman’s screeches echoed around the house, sending a riot of vibrations through his gut. Her show of despair was the aftermath of a woman scorned, or so she thought. As swiftly as her screams drummed an awful beat in his ears, her tears added to the misery. Her sobbing was a desperate attempt to gain his sympathy since her furious outburst had failed to help her case. Why couldn’t she behave with the decorum of his past lovers? At least they understood the score before they started a relationship with him.
Grayson Mitchell always stated his terms of enjoying their pleasures while they ran their course. And when he decided they were finished, they were finished.
However, he’d never followed through with that routine with this particular lady. He had allowed his latest lover to intertwine herself in his life. Not on a personal level, but he kept her around for convenience. Grayson never permitted a woman to become comfortable with him on an intimate level. What started as a mind-blowing weekend had turned into a sexually charged two weeks, then fizzled into six months. Now it was his own personal hell. He’d thought she understood the score, but obviously she didn’t. If she had, he wouldn’t have found himself in this current predicament.
“Please, Grayson. Let me explain. It was a mistake, and it’ll never happen again,” Samantha Holden wailed.
Grayson scoffed. “If you do it once, my dear, you’ll repeat the same misguided judgment again.”
“You’ve spent the past month working late every night, never once taking me out. I was so lonely,” Samantha whined. “It was only one night spent with the girls.”
“Which ended with one night in a stranger’s bed. Finish gathering your belongings. It’s time for you to leave,” Grayson replied, walking out of the bedroom.
Grayson walked along the hallway and into his office. He poured himself a glass of Macallan and sat at his desk. However, he never lifted it to his lips. In the past, he used alcohol to eliminate his stress. However, he needed to keep his wits about him this morning.
Turning in his chair, he stared out at the rippling fields of his ancestors. The beauty of the land astounded him and helped him to forget about Samantha’s betrayal. He’d thought she shared the love of the beautiful landscape with him, but she ended up being as vain as his previous lovers. Samantha gleamed with satisfaction at their relationship and its benefits. His status offered her an unlimited bank account that she spent on clothes, jewelry, and trips. But most importantly, the position of being Grayson Mitchell’s woman gave her access to any shop or club and countless invitations from the most sought-after celebrities.
He should’ve noticed the signs earlier. It wasn’t as if they weren’t obvious. A month after she moved in, Samantha had pulled away whenever they were alone. However, when other people were present, she acted like a devoted companion, hanging on to his every word. Then, when alone again, she turned cold by pleading headaches or making excuses that something needed her attention. Grayson only had himself to blame. He had granted Samantha every wish she had set out to achieve. He had offered her his money.
During their relationship, a business venture to strengthen his company had distracted him. It was his fault. Grayson should’ve ended their arrangement, but he had become so engrossed in the deal he forgot Samantha even existed. While he attempted to gain security for his company, Samantha had continued with her frivolous lifestyle. However, he had decided to end the parade of shallow women he surrounded himself with. His future lay with the people in his life who were worthwhile.
Grayson swung his chair around when Samantha’s scent suffocated his office. She applied the fragrance with heavy abundance to draw people’s interest. After all, she was a perfume model.
“Have you packed your belongings?” Grayson asked.
Samantha baited him. “You’re making a mistake. You need me more than ever, darling. I hold the connections you need to reach success with your deal.”
Grayson rose, grabbed Samantha by the arm, and walked her to the front entrance. He continued to guide her outside to the car that awaited her departure. His employee, Harry, loaded Samantha’s luggage into the trunk.
He leaned against the car, crossing his feet at his ankles. “First of all, Samantha, I'm no longer your darling. Nor am I in need of your influential connections. In case you’ve forgotten, then let me remind you. Those connections are mine. You only obtained them through me, and since I’m finished with you, they’ll remain mine. Not one person will give you a second of their time. Now, if you’ll excuse me. Eve will arrive soon, and we have work to do.”
At the mention of Eve, Samantha turned to Grayson with resentment burning in her eyes. “Why am I not surprised? My lover wants me to leave before his mouse of a secretary arrives. The reason behind my sudden departure is now clear. Eve can’t hold your interest for long, and you’ll grow tired of her. You know where to find me when that happens. But don’t wait too long, my darling. I won’t wait forever.” Samantha laughed, running her fingers down Grayson’s chest.
Grayson grabbed her hand and slowly brought it up to his mouth. Samantha’s eyes changed to the shade of a dark emerald as she grew aroused. Placing his lips on her palm, he ran his tongue across the center and softly kissed her.
“Grayson,” Samantha moaned, moving closer to him.
After he closed her palm, Grayson whispered in her ear. “I'll only repeat myself one more time. I'm not your darling. Furthermore, allow me to make myself clear. I’ll never grow tired of Eve in this lifetime or the next.”
Grayson held the door open for her to slide into the back seat. After shutting the door, he tapped on the hood. Harry drove off, removing Samantha from his life. The tightness in his chest eased, and he smiled for the first time that morning. His smile widened as he thought of Eve Collins and their future together.
Why hadn’t he pursued the happiness within his grasp? He’d allowed his father’s warning from his youth to keep away from Eve. Instead, he’d wasted years surrounding himself with nameless women. What astounded him the most about his desire for Eve was that, if they hadn’t traveled together on a business trip and shared a sweet kiss, he wouldn’t have realized what he’d missed. He would’ve remained in a relationship filled with Samantha’s antics.
Grayson strolled along the path to the back of the house and slid into a patio chair, returning his stare to the vineyards. As the limbs of the trees swayed in the light breeze, peace settled over him at Samantha’s departure. However, he kept impatiently glancing toward the path for Eve’s arrival. He hadn’t seen her since they returned from their business trip. Grayson had asked Eve to breakfast this morning to invite her to be his date at his company’s charity dinner this evening. He wanted her on his arm when they entered the ballroom.
Thoughts of Eve brought another smile to his face and distracted him from seeing his brother sliding into the chair opposite him.
“That isn't the look of depression from losing your latest lady love,” remarked Cade. “In fact, your smile indicates your interest in a new flavor.”
“Not a new one but the one,” Grayson responded with a smirk.
Cade poured himself a cup of coffee. “When did you get the chance to meet this mystery woman?”
“No mystery. I’ve known her all along, and you can meet her this evening. I plan to invite her as my date to the charity dinner. You can see who I’ve chosen then.”
“As long as it isn’t Gina. I would hate for us to lose the best chef ever to grace the earth because you couldn’t control how smitten you are with her,” Cade teased the chef as she walked toward the table.
Gina blushed and swatted at Cade with a towel. It was amazing how Cade always made their chef blush. But Cade always could charm women of all ages.
Gina laid a basket of muffins on the table. “Cade, you have to stop teasing me or I'll inform Harry you wish to steal me away.”
Cade winked at Gina. “Oh, I’m not afraid of your old man. I’ll be waiting whenever you come to your senses and leave him for me.”
“You’re a tease. One day, someone will accept your offer and we’ll watch with amusement when you can’t run away because you've fallen in love,” Gina teased back.
While Gina and Cade teased each other, Eve and his sister, Addison, walked toward them. With their heads bent close together, they whispered back and forth. Grayson assumed they plotted a plan that would land them in trouble. Trouble seemed to follow them, leaving him or Cade to bail them out. Ever since Addison and Eve became friends in high school, they were always up to something. Usually, their other friend Becca Grant would be involved too. Since Becca hadn’t joined them, the two troublemakers would include her in their plans when they saw her.
Grayson relaxed back against the cushion. His gaze stayed focused on Eve. Since she paid attention to Addison, Eve failed to notice Grayson’s perusal. Her eyes darkened with frustration at Addison’s comment. Eve shook her head in refusal and appeared firm with her answer. She always remained stubborn when she stood firm in her beliefs. It was a trait he admired about Eve.
She was a refreshing sight. Her presence helped to soothe his nerves after dealing with Samantha this morning. Eve wore a simple yellow sundress, showcasing the tan she’d gotten while they closed the business deal in Florida. Her chestnut-colored hair hung in waves down her back. She wore it loose today, and the strands kept blowing in her face from the wind.
His gaze drifted back over how the sundress hugged her curves. His fingers itched to slide the slim straps off her shoulders. He wanted to lick a path from her shoulders to her bosom that teased him with its fullness pressing against the soft material. He wanted to grip her hips and pull her up against his body. Grayson ached to capture her gasp between his lips as he devoured her sweet lips under his again.
Did she have any clue what a walking temptation she was? Why had he denied himself the simple beauty of her before? He’d always been aware of Eve’s beauty, but she had always been Addison’s friend.
Eve avoided looking at him as she slid into her seat, but she smiled at Cade in amusement as he flirted with Gina. He may enjoy her happiness, but it frustrated him when she ignored him. However, it also amused him too. She thought that, by ignoring him, she could deny the attraction simmering between them, an attraction he refused to let her forget.
“Would you like a cup of tea, Eve?” Grayson asked, forcing Eve to acknowledge him.
A tinge of pink spread across Eve’s cheeks. He smiled to himself as he poured her a cup, and she added an obscene amount of sugar to the tea.
“Thank you.” Eve brought the cup up to her mouth and blew on the tea before she took a sip.
“How’s your morning cup of sugar water tasting?” Cade quipped.
Eve stuck her tongue out at Cade. “Quite delicious. Don’t knock it until you try it.”
Grayson frowned at how easily Eve and Cade joked with each other. It left him feeling uneasy. Was he jealous of his brother? Grayson had never suffered from jealousy when Cade interacted with his past lovers. Or with any woman. Hell, Eve wasn’t even his lover yet. She would be soon enough, though. Still, it didn’t explain the territorial emotion he felt toward Eve.
“I’ll pick you up at seven o’clock tonight and escort you to the benefit,” Grayson demanded Eve.
Grayson shifted in the chair, and everyone at the table looked at him as though he’d lost his mind. Other than his slight move, he kept his gaze narrowed on Eve with determination.
“I already have a date, and so do you. Aren’t you forgetting your girlfriend, Samantha?” Eve bit out.
Grayson arched his eyebrow at her tone. “I’m finished with Samantha. She left this morning. It’s not necessary to pretend you have a date for this evening since I learned two nights ago you don’t have an escort. So, now we can attend this evening’s function together.”
Eve slowly slid her chair back and stood up. She regarded Grayson with a sweet smile and spoke in a soft tone. Her calm appearance should have warned Grayson, and he regretted not noticing. “Then it appears you’ll attend the charity benefit alone, not me. Also, I won’t be at the office today. I’ve decided to take a vacation day to prepare for my date.”
Eve never gave Grayson a chance to explain himself before she started for the path to the driveway. His damn jealousy over the easy camaraderie Cade and Eve shared demanded attention. His approach to winning Eve over had failed.
Cade rose and hurried after Eve, calling out her name. Eve stopped, waiting for Cade to catch up with her. They spoke before Cade pressed a kiss to her cheek. Eve continued along the path while Cade returned to the table, smiling over the exchange.
Cade announced, “I think our big brother has a crush on Eve. Are you aware of this, Addison?”
Addison gawked at Grayson in confusion. He shifted in his seat at their scrutiny. He cursed himself for how he had handled the situation with Eve.
“What am I missing?” Addison asked Grayson. She kept glancing back and forth between her brothers, trying to understand what she had missed.
Grayson didn’t answer. He burst out of the chair and stalked across the patio. He ran his hands through his hair and then rubbed his neck to ease the tension. There were no mixed signals between him and Eve. Of that, he remained confident. The passionate kiss they shared in Florida showed him she shared his desire. He wasn’t mistaken. Her soft sighs and the way her eyes flared with passion gave Grayson all the encouragement he needed. Why did she act so guarded toward him today?
“Can’t you see how Grayson has the hots for your friend Eve?” Cade laughed.
“No! No! No, Grayson! Not Eve. You will not break her heart. I love you because you’re my brother. But Eve’s like my sister, and I won’t let you hurt her. Cade, you have to stop this,” Addison ordered.
“It’s too late to stop Grayson.” Cade rubbed his hands together, and he lifted his lips in a sly smile. “I’m off to prepare myself for my big date, too. I predict tonight will be a blast.” He kissed Addison on the cheek before strolling inside the house.
“Gray?” When he never responded to her, Addison cleared her throat and spoke more forcefully. “Grayson!”
Grayson jerked to a stop. “What?”
“Please tell me Cade’s wrong,” she pleaded.
Grayson closed his eyes, then reopened one with his lips twisting into a smile.
Addison shook her head in denial. “No!”
Grayson spread his hands out in front of him. “Hear me out.”
Addison leaped from her chair, stalked over to him, and poked his chest. “No. You’ll keep your charming paws off of her.”
Grayson chuckled at her demand. “I don’t need your permission to pursue Eve.”
“Will you listen to yourself?”
“Pursue?” Addison scoffed. “Your comment proves your only intent is to charm her into your bed and discard her after you’ve had your fun. My best friend will not become another one of your victims because you find her attractive enough to scratch your itch.”
Grayson gasped and clutched his heart in mock horror. “I wasn’t aware my sister held such a harsh opinion of my character.”
Addison glared at her brother, muttering a few choice words under her breath low enough that Grayson couldn’t understand them. “You know I consider you my hero. Except for your track record with women. However, I can’t allow you to hurt Eve.”
Grayson sighed. While he enjoyed jesting with Addison, he had to prove he had no intention of hurting Eve. Hurting Eve would be like hurting Addison, an act he would never intentionally commit.
He pulled Addison into a hug. “I promise what I feel toward Eve doesn’t compare to the other women I’ve dated.”
“Why now?” Addison mumbled into his chest.
Grayson smiled, remembering the kiss with Eve. Why now, indeed? “Fate?”
Addison pushed off his chest. “Are you asking me, or is that your answer?”
Grayson shrugged with a sheepish expression.
Addison walked away, mumbling again. “Now he notices her after she’s loved him for years, and he broke her heart with every new woman he paraded before her.”
Grayson paused. Did he hear Addison correctly? Did Eve already love him? “Eve loves me?”
Addison stilled and then swung around with a mischievous glint in her gaze. “Oh yes. She’s carried a torch for you for years. Never dating and crying herself to sleep over your latest flavor of the month. There are days when Becca and I worry if Eve will survive her heartache.”
Addison never gave him a chance to question her further before she continued into the house, laughing over her comments, which only led Grayson to believe he had misheard Addison’s comment regarding Eve’s feelings toward him.
His sibling’s reference to his past flings irritated him on a certain level. Flavor? Did Eve also hold the same opinion of the ladies he spent time with? If so, then she wouldn’t take his interest in her seriously. Her attitude at breakfast showed her frustration with him.
Also, Eve had never held an unrequited love for him. He’d met the men she dated over the years. While he wasn’t aware of any boyfriends, it didn’t mean she was ever alone. His sister baited him with her last comments to annoy him. Did Addison believe she could change his mind about pursuing Eve? If so, his sister was just as foolish as Eve.
Eve thought she had fooled him about having a date for this evening’s event. He would find immense pleasure when she strolled through the doors alone. Because it would leave her with no other choice but to spend the evening with him. A wicked smile spread across his face at how their evening would end.
Hopefully with more than a kiss.