Sage bit her bottom lip, resigning herself to the inevitable. When this secretive meeting was over, she’d call Tyce and set up a time to meet, to discuss how involved he wanted to be in the baby’s life, how they were going to deal with each other when the baby arrived. She would be cool, calm and collected. She wouldn’t lose her temper or slap or kiss him.

Sage stepped into the small boardroom. Her stomach immediately rebelled at the smell of coffee rolling toward her and she frantically looked around for a trash can or a receptacle in case her morning sickness turned nasty.

A hand on her back steadied her. Sage slowly lifted her eyes to look into that familiar face, the high cheekbones, the stubble covering his strong jaw. Hard, black eyes. “You okay?” Tyce asked her, holding her biceps in a firm grip. He’d catch her if she fell, Sage thought, relieved. If her knees gave way she wouldn’t hit the floor.

“What are you doing here?” she whispered, wondering if she’d dropped down Alice’s rabbit hole.

An indefinable emotion flashed in Tyce’s eyes. “Now that’s a long story. Take a seat and we’ll get into it.”

Four

Tyce guided Sage to a chair and stepped away from the table, deliberately walking over to the far side of the room and leaning his shoulder into the wall, crossing his feet at the ankle. It was an insolent pose, a deliberate maneuver to keep the Ballantyne men off-balance. Tyce had deliberately dressed down for this meeting; he wore faded, paint-splattered jeans over flat-heeled boots and a clean black button-down shirt over a black T-shirt, cuffs rolled back. Linc and Beck were dressed in designer suits; Jaeger was a little less formal in suit pants and a pale cream sweater.

Sage, well, Sage looked stunning in the clashing colors of pink and red, most of her hair in a messy knot on top of her head, tendrils framing her face and falling down the back of her neck. She was innately stylish, yet people assumed it took her hours to look so perfectly put-together, but he’d seen Sage on the move; she could shove her hair up in thirty seconds, could dress in another minute. Sage wasn’t one for spending hours in front of a mirror.

Tyce looked at her face and frowned at the blue stripes under her eyes, at the pallor in her skin. She looked like she’d dropped weight and it was weight she could ill afford. She kept sucking her bottom lip between her teeth, darting anxious looks at his face. Tyce, deliberately, kept his expression blank, his face a mask. She could’ve avoided this meeting, he reminded himself; she could’ve taken one of his many calls; they could’ve done this differently. But, after trying to reach her for two weeks, her refusal to see him or talk to him limited his options so he contacted Linc and convinced him that a meeting would be beneficial to all parties.

Tyce watched as Linc stepped forward and placed both his hands on Sage’s shoulders, his gentle squeeze conveying his support. Jaeger and Beck flanked Sage on either side, arms folded and jaws tense. Her brothers were very protective of their sister and he hoped that this conversation wouldn’t turn physical but who the hell knew? When you were dealing with family and money and business, anything could happen.

“Since you asked for this meeting, Latimore, would you like to get the party started?” Linc asked, his voice as cold as a subzero fridge.

Tyce nodded, straightened and walked to the table, pulling out a chair at the head, another deliberate gesture. It was a silent screw you to their pecking order, telling Linc and his brothers that he wasn’t going to neatly slot into their order of command.

Tyce rested his forearms on the table. He turned his head to look at Sage and wished that they were alone, that he could kiss her luscious mouth, trace the fine line of her jaw, kiss his way down her long neck to her shoulders. Peel her clothes from her body...

Tyce sighed. He was imagining Sage naked because, yeah, that was helpful. He ran his hand across his face and caught Sage’s eye.

“This could’ve gone differently, Sage. If you had taken my calls, answered my emails, had a goddamn conversation with me, I wouldn’t have had to do it like this.”

Ignoring her frown, Tyce reached across the table and pulled his folder toward him. He flipped open the cover and withdrew a sheaf of papers and tossed them in Linc’s general direction. “Share certificates showing that Lach-Ty owns around fifteen percent of Ballantyne’s.”

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