Ruthless

Cobblestone Press LLC

Heat Rating: Scorching
Word Count: 56,000
1 Ratings (3.0)

The driving need for revenge pushed him…

One word keep Damian Michaels focused on becoming a successful businessman - revenge. The memory of how one man treated him still burned in his mind today.

If the bastard wasn’t still around; he would take out his plan on the next best thing…his daughter Channing. Until she captured his heart…

Channing Michelle wasn’t nothing like her cruel father. She didn’t believe in tossing anyone to the side in their time of need.

So, that was the reason Channing hired the gorgeous stranger who came to her animal shelter looking for a job.

Ruthless
1 Ratings (3.0)

Ruthless

Cobblestone Press LLC

Heat Rating: Scorching
Word Count: 56,000
1 Ratings (3.0)
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Excerpt

Prologue

“You are worthless and will never amount to anything. You’ll always be the boy who people looked at with pity in their eyes, because you were dirt poor.

”Why did you insult yourself by coming back here? Are you still begging for money or help? Didn’t you learn anything from when I kicked your father out of my house? Years might have passed by, but I haven’t forgotten who you are.

“Remember this and remember it well. You will never, and I mean never, be the man I am. I will constantly be better than you and your entire family,” the old man snapped as he jumped up from his chair.

“Now, get out of my house before I call security to have your poor ass tossed out like yesterday’s garbage.”

“Sir, please let me get a job with you. My family needs to eat. My dad died, and now it’s my responsibility to help with the bills. I need this job. You’re the only business in town hiring,” the teenage boy begged, swallowing his pride.

“No,” the old man snarled, slamming his hand down on the table. “I recall how your father came and begged me for help. I don’t like spineless men or lowlives on my property. Now, this is your last warning. Get out before your skinny, poor ass gets thrown out by my security.”

The tall, dark-haired boy squared his shoulders, staring the older man in the eyes with hate blazing from his. “I’m going to make something of myself, and I swear one day you will be the one begging me for help. I will make sure to show you the same disrespect you have shown me here today.”

After turning around on his heel, the young man stormed out the room, slamming the office door behind him. He hoped one of the old man’s priceless vases fell off one of the stands and shattered into a million pieces.

* * * * *

The images flashed repeatedly in Damian Michaels’ head as he struggled to get out of his horrible recurring nightmare. It weighed him down to the bed without any possibility of escape.

“You are worthless just like your loser father. Haven’t you ever heard of how the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree? Don’t try to fight it. Just know you will always be second best to everyone else around you. Guys like you don’t ever become anything important in the world. You need to stop dreaming and accept your fate!”

“No,” Damian screamed as he jerked awake inside the dark bedroom from the terrifying nightmare.

Flinging the tangled covers off his clammy body, he ran the palm of his hand down his face, wiping away the cold, damp sweat that had gathered there.

Taking a deep breath, Damian worked on calming down his racing heart as he glanced over at the clock on the nightstand. Shit! The numbers there confirmed what he was thinking; it was only a little past midnight.

Damn it!

He thought he had conquered the unrelenting dreams from his troubled past. Why were they coming back now? He hadn’t experienced them in over six years. His life had changed a long time ago, and he sure in the hell wasn’t about to go back there. He wasn’t that same dirt poor boy anymore. Now, people looked at him with respect, envy, and admiration…not pity or disgust.

So, if everything was supposedly so perfect in his eyes, why couldn’t his mind stop tormenting him like this?

His history wasn’t something he wanted hiding out in the corner recesses of his mind and then making an unexpected appearance anytime his subconscious felt the urge. Or needed to remind him of whom he was and what he had to battle from to end up where he was.

After removing the sheets the rest of the way off his body, he got out of the bed and walked naked across the room over to the huge bay window. He pulled back the white curtains and stared down at the beauty of the ocean water below.

Every time he got lost in the serenity of this place, he was glad he paid a little extra for the stunning view. The tranquility of this place reminded him of the beaches his parents would take him and his five siblings when they were kids.

Not many of his childhood memories were good ones, but on the rare occasions he got to visit the beach stood out vividly in his memory. His parents were hard-working people who never asked for handouts. All they wanted was a fair shake out of life, and sadly no one ever thought to look past their appearance to give it to them half the time.

Moving away from the window, Damian ran his fingers through his sweaty hair as he paced around his huge bedroom. As much as he tried to deny the reason for the dreams coming back, he knew the truth behind them. They were the reason he agreed to do what he was about to do.

After many years, he was going back home to face the people who made him and his loving family constantly feel as if they were worthless. However, the tables were turned, and this time it was going to be different. As the old saying goes, the shoe was on the other foot.

He wasn’t the one begging for help…they were.

Chapter One

Channing Michelle fed the last of the Husky puppies before closing the cage door and locking it. The three males started devouring the food the minute she moved away from their cages. How could anyone have been so cruel to leave these beautiful animals alone in a house without food and water for four days?

Why didn’t they bring them to her shelter, Channing’s Heart, instead?

She should have left the animal sanctuary over an hour ago, but she had to make sure all of the animals were properly taken care of before she left for the night.

Most of these amazing animals were brought to her from abused homes or because the local animal shelters didn’t have enough room for them. She never had the heart to turn any of them away, so she decided to build onto the small building a few years ago. However, she was quickly running out of room herself, but she didn’t have the heart to turn the poor animals in need away.

For the past six years, she had taken in more dogs than cats. It just seemed as if more people nowadays wanted kittens or cats more over puppies or dogs. She held out the hope that more families would start coming in looking for a loving dog or two.

“Channing, what are you still doing here? Aren’t you usually gone home by now?” someone questioned her from the opened doorway. Turning away from the adorable new additions in front of her, Channing found her assistant, Brooklyn Gregson, standing behind her, pulling on her white lab coat. “I seldom find you here after eight o’clock,” Brooklyn continued as she slid her backpack underneath the small desk in the corner of the room.

Channing took one last look at the happy puppies before walking away from them. She couldn’t argue with Brooklyn, because she was right. By now, she was usually home watching television or fixing herself something to eat for dinner. Yet, tonight wasn’t one of those nights, because she decided to stay until Brooklyn got here from her last night class.

“I know, but someone brought in these cute, little guys earlier,” she said, glancing back at the puppies that were finishing up the last of their food. “I had to take care of them before I left for the night.”

Brooklyn came across the room and moved past her, stopping in front of the cages. “Are these the puppies that were taken off that hoarder’s property?” she asked, glancing back over her shoulder.

Walking away from her assistant, Channing removed her jacket off the hook on the back of the door before hanging her white lab coat in its place. “Yes, they are,” she answered, then went over to the sink. “I worked for hours getting them clean. You wouldn’t believe how many fleas they were covered in. I know I shampooed each of them three times before their fur finally returned to its natural color.”

Channing put some anti-bacterial soap on her hands and scrubbed them several times before turning on the water with her elbow and rinsing them clean. She constantly made sure her hands were washed before leaving work anytime she dealt one on one with the animals. After she was finished washing her hands, Channing turned off the water, then dried her hands on several paper towels before tossing them into the trash can underneath the sink.

“Thanks again for coming in on your day off. I know you’re busy with college. This means a lot to me.”

“I love working here with you,” Brooklyn told her. “I would work here every day if I could, but college has been keeping me pretty busy and I have a trip coming up in the next couple of days with one of my classes.”

Making her way back across the room, Channing grabbed her purse out of the chair. ”I wish you could too, but we both know you can’t; your education comes first. Now, don’t stay any longer than nine or nine-thirty at the latest. I don’t think there’s too much left to be done anyway.”

Brooklyn watched her while she got ready to leave for the night. “I have everything under control. I’m going to clean out the empty cages and check on the food along with supplies to see what needs to be reordered before next week. I promise not to stay longer than ten, because I’ve an early class tomorrow.”

“Okay, have a good night and remember to make sure all of the lights are turned off before you leave. If you run into any problems, call me and I’ll come right back here,” Channing said, pausing at the door leading out to the main entrance.

“I will.”

Before going out of the door, she took one last look around the sanctuary. She made sure everything looked in order, then went out the front door, allowing it to close softly behind her. She shivered lightly as the cool night air brushed over her body, ripping through the thin jacket she grabbed out of her closet this morning.

Why hadn’t she worn something warmer, a warmer jacket this morning instead of what she had on now? As usual, her mind was more focused on getting to work and caring for her animals than herself.

The mornings in Springer, Montana might be getting hotter lately, but the nights still had a little chill to them. She couldn’t wait until the nights were as warm as the days. After pulling the collar of her jacket up more around her ears, Channing shoved her hands into the pockets and stepped off the steps, walking down the sidewalk toward her house.

She didn’t think about not having her car anymore. The light stroll relieved a lot of the stress from her body that sometimes unfortunately came with her job.

Some days were harder than others; however, she constantly enjoyed her favorite part of the day. The fresh air erased anything that might have gone wrong at work for her.

For the longest time, Channing had to admit she was torn between what direction she wanted for her life. She never was the corporate type, like her father. Despite the fact, he tried pushing her into taking over all of the businesses that he owned up until the day he died, and he never forgave her for turning down his continuous offers.

What her father never understood was she watched each and every day how gaining more wealth changed him from a caring father into a vicious man. One who loved holding his newly acquired power over people just for the hell of it.

She loved him so much more when they had been struggling and trying to figure out how to put food on the table at his old job back home. The day they moved to Springer turned out to be the worst day of her childhood.

Over the past several years, Channing fought hard to overcome the hated image of her father. She didn’t want anyone comparing her to him for any reason. Opening the animal rescue up on her twenty-first birthday had been the best decision of her life.

Working with the abused animals along with finding loving homes for them was the most rewarding experience to ever come her way in a very long time.

Unlike her father, she loved helping people, and she believed the best way was through a pet. The love she saw in a potential owner’s eyes only cemented her decision in her mind that turning down her father’s job offer was absolutely the best choice for her. For her, Roger Michelle had been as cutthroat as it came to running his high-profiled corporation, and he took great pleasure from crushing people’s dreams. He didn’t believe in lending a helping hand to anyone. He thought everyone should struggle their way to the top just like him.

Most of the time, her father’s employees would rather cut their own arm off than to ever come and ask for his help.

Channing hated how her dad had ruled everything in his line of sight with an iron fist. He seldom let people off for the holidays unless it was deemed necessary, and it seldom was.

Sadly, the people here weren’t lucky enough to know the person she grew up with in the early years of her life before they moved here for his promotion.

The daddy who would rush home from work and play games with her and her older sister, Tamara, until dinner was ready. Miserably, everything changed in their lives after the accident. Something happened inside her father after that horrible day, and he hardened his heart against the world.

Two weeks after the incident, they moved to Springer after her father was promoted. He had packed up all of their personal belongings and moved here without so much as asking her opinion about it. So what she had been only eight years old at the time. He still should have asked her about leaving everything and everyone she loved.

Her father became like a stranger to her; she seldom saw him unless it was at breakfast or at night before he tucked her in only to go straight back downstairs to work inside his study.

A little girl needed more than a peek at her daddy here and there. Once when she was thirteen years old, she even tried talking to her father about his work habits, but he only brushed her off, telling her things would get better. However, he lied to her, because things only got worse as she grew older.

Turning down the street she lived on, Channing brushed a sudden tear away from the corner of her eye. She hated thinking about how her once caring father turned into a Grinch who crushed people’s spirits as he climbed his way to success.

Eight years after starting at Beckman Enterprises, her work-driven father was promoted to partner, and then two years later, Roger Michelle was named CEO, but it came at a costly price in her opinion.

Channing locked the door on the memories of her father. She hadn’t thought about him in a while, and she wasn’t going to allow it to happen tonight. She knew what had brought her father back from the place in the very back of her mind…Damian Michaels.

The entire town had been talking about the self-made millionaire non-stop for the past three weeks. He was supposed to be the ”miracle worker” coming to their town, promising to save everyone’s failing businesses, but she wasn’t buying his silver lining for anything.

When anyone brought up the topic of Mr. Michaels to her, she always found a way to change the subject, or sometimes she would just walk away.

Why was everyone so excited that a stranger they had never laid eyes on before was coming to save their small town? How did they know he wasn’t lying to them? If something looked too good to be true, it usually was.

Instead of coming himself to do the business deals, Mr. Michaels sent his two partners, Tanya March and Colby Rider. No one in town had a clue what he looked like, yet all of them were in love with what he was selling to them. How could that be?

Yes. She had to admit her small town having problems, but it wasn’t so bad that all of the family-owned businesses should sell their life’s work. What if he didn’t have their best interest in mind? What if Damian Michaels turned out to be much worse than the problems they were currently experiencing?

Channing didn’t see him as the good guy trying to help a struggling community like her neighbors. Ever since she was a little girl, her father raised her not to take anyone at face value. There had to be something in it for him; all she had to do was find out what it was.

What was the real reason a man as affluent and well-known as Mr. Michaels would care about helping people in a tiny community that he didn’t know? There had to be more to the story than he was telling them.

Something just wasn’t adding up, and it was such a shame that she was the only person who was open minded enough to see it. Michaels Enterprises was here for another reason entirely, besides buying up everyone’s property above the market value, then promising to revamp them into successful job-making businesses.

Why didn’t her community want to fight for what took them so long to attain? Sure, her father owned more than his share of businesses in the area, but he had to fight hard to get the properties that he acquired. Nothing was handed to him. There was no way he would have believed the lies being tossed their way accompanied by a huge check.

Walking up the steps to her house, Channing frowned when she noticed a thick manila envelope resting against her front door. After picking it up, she turned it over in her hand, stopping at the stamp at the top right hand corner.

She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. When were these people going to get the hint to leave her alone? Why was Mr. Michaels’ company still harassing her after she told them she wasn’t interested in the deal he was offering everyone else?

Channing’s Heart was everything to her and not for sale. She had worked her ass off to gain everyone’s respect out of the shadow of her father’s name. Owning the animal rescue wasn’t a career choice that her overachieving father had approved of at all. He thought it was beneath her to do such a low-meaning job.

Especially after all the energy and time he had poured into making them into the affluent family they were today. He didn’t think someone could make money with a shelter for abused animals. If money couldn’t be made, why bother putting your time into it?

Now her father was gone, only to be replaced by a stranger who was suddenly coming out of nowhere, trying to rule her life. She didn’t allow her own dad to do it, and she wasn’t about to allow this arrogant jerk to get by with it either. Gaining her independence from her controlling father ended up being a very hard transition for her, but she did it all on her own.

So, why would she take a step back now after all of these years?

Damian Michaels was going to have a fight on his hands whether he knew it or not. No matter how hard he and his company bullied her, she wasn’t going to give him what he wanted.

After unlocking her front door, Channing went inside, closing it behind her. She flung the envelope down on the table beside the door, adding it to the others already piled there.

Channing pulled the hairpins out of her hair, allowing the ends to brush the back of her neck as she headed for the kitchen to find something to fix for dinner.

Her neighbors and other people in the neighborhood might get displeased with her, but they would just have to get over it. It was their choice to sell, and it was equally hers not to sign those damn papers.

Why would she ever contemplate selling a business it took her years to make successful? She started out with absolutely nothing when she first got the idea for the sanctuary, and now she was overjoyed at how far she had come.

Mr. Michaels wasn’t going to get his money-hungry hands on her establishment. So, he better prepare himself for the battle of his life, because her last name wasn’t Michelle for nothing. She did have her father’s blood winding through her veins. He wasn’t a quitter or a person to back down from a challenge, and neither was she.

No way… No how!

She was finally home after a long day at work, and she wasn’t about to waste another minute of her time thinking about him. He would be around soon enough bothering her with his ludicrous demands. Actually, he would probably send his assistants to do his dirty work, because no one in town had laid eyes on him.

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