Read Perfect Harmony Online

Authors: Sarah P. Lodge

Tags: #Romance, #love triange, #secret babies, #Contemporary, #billionaire love story, #coming of age, #workplace, #wealthy, #International, #billionaire romance, #new adult, #Genre Fiction, #Literature & Fiction

Perfect Harmony (5 page)

And no one recognises her.  Not Harmony Records’ upper-level
directors, not the stockholders and board members, and neither the employees,
despite so many passing her every single day in the lobby.

I feel proud.  She is a treasure that I unearthed, and she
is mine.

I extend my thanks to more guests, highlighting how
honourable their donations are and how far they help this favourite Leukemia
charity of mine, but I can feel Melody grip my arm tighter, like a scared
starling that wants to take flight.  As we move further through the crowd, I
try to stem her fears by lightly easing her forward with one hand on the naked
skin of her lower back.  And I feel a stir beneath my waist.

It is only the gentlest touch but it is still enough for my
desire to take hold.  God, all I want to do is grab Melody and drag her
somewhere quiet, anywhere, and rip off her dress and have my way with her.  It
doesn’t matter where: my penthouse, my villa in Tuscany, hell, even my office
at the company headquarters...  Anywhere where we can be alone and together and I
can touch every inch of her skin, where I can throw her down on my bed and be
inside her.

“Mr. Strong?”

I wake from my daydream.

Victoria Handel, the chairman of the charity stands in front
of me.  We shake hands and she looks up at me through her stylish wire frame
glasses.

“Thank you so much for organising this event,” she says.  “I
never would have dreamed for a turn out this large.  Even the mayor is here. 
And we’ve already surpassed last year’s fundraising goal and the night has only
just started.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” I say.

“You’ve got a great catch here,” she says to Melody. 
“You’re one lucky girl.”

Melody blushes.

I hold her tight.  “I like to think that
I
am the
lucky one.”

“Wow, a regular Prince Charming,” says Victoria.  “I don’t
suppose I could trouble you for a speech, could I?  Just a few words on the
podium, nothing big.”

“I’d love to,” I say and smile courteously.

I lead Melody towards the stage and the crowd parts for us
like the Red Sea.  I can feel the panic in her touch as I walk us up towards
the podium.  Her tiny hand grips my own for dear life, but I do not release her
until we are on the stage.

With everyone’s gaze now upon us, I bend down and kiss her
lightly on the cheek.  It is only intended as an innocent and polite kiss, one
for the crowd and the fundraisers, but when my lips touch her skin, I feel them
burn and shiver.  Blood pounds in my ears and I my heart thunders against my
chest.

All I can think about is kissing her - really kissing her. 
A passionate lust filled wild kiss, grabbing her in my arms and pulling her so
close that our skin is alight in the heat of our bodies, and the world fades
and there is nothing left but us.  Together.

I fight the urge, despite it becoming more uncontrollable
each time I am tested by her.

I lean back and I see her eyes, so wonderful and big and
gazing into my own.

And I know she feels the same.

I clear my throat in an effort to hide my feelings.  It has
become natural to me now, after so many years - all it takes is a calm voice
and a stoic face.  Anyone can be fooled by such a display.

“I’ll just be a minute,” I say to Melody.

“Okay,” she whispers, still caught in the moment.

I make my way across to the centre stage and approach the
microphone.  The hush that fell earlier when Melody and I entered the ballroom
is nothing compared to the silence now.  I throw a hand out.

“Hello, everyone.  Thank you for coming this evening.

The crowd suddenly cheers, hearty claps emanating from every
corner of the room.  I have to pause while I let the din settle, and I mentally
prepare an impromptu speech.

I’m used to being the centre of attention - hell, I’m happy
to admit that part of me eats it up.  You cannot work in the public eye and
remain anonymous.  Not to mention, my fame and infamy is so key to bringing
more recognition to this charity, and to my business.  If anything, I am so
used to this now that there is a certain element of boredom seeping in.

It pains me to think that the life I used to love so much
has become so humdrum, and has been for a while.

That is, until Melody entered my life.  She is the one thing
that makes my body hum and my legs quiver.  The only thing that makes my blood
thunder.

She is the only thing I want.

But I cannot have her.

It pains me each time I remember that horrible truth, but I
must remember it.  I cannot have her.  No matter how much I want her, it is
impossible.

Before I know it, my speech finishes and I cannot even
remember what I said, so wrapped up in my conflicted feelings for her.

I see her watching me from the below the stairs, eyes wide
with wonder and her sensual mouth open a touch.  Her tongue protrudes and
lightly wets her lips.

I dry swallow.

“Thank you again, everyone.  Have a wonderful night and
donate lots and lots of money.  That’s an order.”

The crowd titters.  I give them another wave and the
applause grows.  I leave the podium and return to Melody, who looks up at me
with the largest eyes I’ve ever seen.

“Wow, that was really impressive,” she says.  “All of that,
it was all off the top of your head?”

“I prefer to operate in the moment.”

“But, it must be so hard.  If I was up there I’d over-think
everything.  Not just what I was going to say, but when to laugh and smile and
tone of voice.  How do you do it?”

“Do you ask the bees why they collect honey?  Why the wave
crashes against the shore?”

She bites her lip.

“Some things, my princess, just come naturally to us.  It
would be a sin to deny the things we do so well, to hide them from the world. 
So we don’t think about them, because to do so would destroy them.”

She nods.  “
Techne
.”

“I’m sorry?”


Techne
.  It’s an ancient Greek term.  It means an
act which is so natural to you that to others it looks like an innate ability
beyond comprehension, as if in that moment you were communing with the gods
themselves.”

Beautiful and intelligent.  I really am blessed with this
one.

“Very interesting,” I say.

Her cheeks blaze red and her gaze reverts to the floor.

I lean in and whisper sensually, “And it’s not the only
place where I am gifted.”  I trace her spine with my fingertips, all the way
down to her lower back.

She shivers.

I smirk.  It fills me with such solace and sweet
satisfaction to know she feels the same way about me as I feel about her.

She is so easy to read that it almost defies reasoning. 
Almost everyone in my life has worn their stone-faced masks so long that it’s
become almost impossible for them to take it off.  It’s such a breath of fresh
air to meet someone so young and innocent - someone who does nothing to hide
their emotions.  So reckless and unrestrained...

It reminds me of how I’d once been so similar, so young and
poor and single-mindedly driven to succeed.  Before I was betrayed.

Suddenly, I hear a woman’s soft dulcet tones trickle into my
ear.  It is almost a whisper, but I can hear every note so clearly.

Hush little baby, don’t say a word.  Mommas gonna buy you
a mocking bird...

It’s Melody.  Her voice is so smooth and beautiful.

I lean away and look at her.

She squirms and fiddles with the hemline of her dress. 
“Sorry.”

“Don’t be.  You’re voice, Melody.  It’s incredible.  You
should be proud - no one on my label can sing even half as well as you.”

“It’s nothing.  Just something that comes natural.”

Her face lights up with a smile.

“Where did you learn to sing like that?”

“Nowhere, really.  It doesn’t matter.”  She tries to pull
away from me, but I grasp her wrist.  Her smile is gone.

The ballroom fills with the sound of the orchestra beginning
the Tango.  In the corner of my eye, I catch guests moving into the dance
floor.

“I’d like to know, Melody.  Please.  Only the best could
have taught you to sing so well.  You have nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Duncan Callaghan,” she says in a quiet voice.

Duncan Callaghan. 
It is impossible.  How could the
man who taught her to sing be that bastard?  He’s my bitterest rival, for God’s
sake.  As CEO of Magnum Records, he has tried time and time again to execute a
hostile takeover of Harmony Records, solely to further his grip on the North
American market.  He’s stolen talent from me, leaked information to investors,
and poisoned the minds of critics.  He would stoop to any level to see me
destroyed.

My eyes narrow.

“Why the hell did that bastard teach you to sing?” I spit
out.  “Were you on his label?”

“No, no,” says Melody.  “Nothing like that.”

“Then what?”

“I knew him from high school, that’s all.  He taught me when
we were teenagers.”

It’s certainly possible that they went to school together. 
Duncan is maybe a few years older than Melody, and he did used to teach people
to sing before he entered the business.  It all makes perfect sense.

So why the hell do I find this story so hard to believe?

Callaghan.  I would put nothing past him.  He didn’t even
make his billions like I have, through hard work and wits.  No, his was a mere
gift from his father, Raymond Callaghan.  Daddy had no trouble syphoning off a
chunk of his media empire to give to his little boy.

It makes me sick thinking about it.

And it wouldn’t be beneath him to slip a beautiful woman
into my midst to fuck with me.

But Melody wouldn’t have answered with his name if that were
true.  He would know it would anger me and make me suspicious.

Unless that is his plan all along.

I look at Melody’s face.  Doe eyed and innocent, she squirms
under my gaze.

I must be going insane to be this paranoid and suspicious of
a girl like her.  I am overacting.  Nothing more.

“I guess,” I say calmly, “even the roughest diamond cutter
can make the most exquisite gem.”  I curl a stray lock of hair behind her ear. 
“Especially when the material is so beautiful to begin with.”

She smiles and reverts her gaze to the floor.

I’ve embarrassed her.  I never should have drawn attention to
her tutorage by some hack from Magnum Records, when she’s at a ball sponsored
by the far more prestigious Harmony Records.

I smile down at her and change the subject.

“I’ve had enough of this ball,” I say.  “Let’s leave.”

“What?  We can’t leave.”

“Why not?”

“Because.  We only just got here.  And there’s still a bunch
of people that want to talk to you, over there on the dance floor.”

“Irrelevant.  They have my money.  My purpose at this event
is complete.”

“It’s not about money.  It’s about you - your image and your
charm.  Like with the speech, they want you to turn on that legendary charm to
the other guests.”

“Legendary?” I say.

She blushes.  A crooked smile forms on her lips. 
“Apparently.  Unless you call what you’ve saying to me all evening something
else?”

I give her a sensual smile.  “And is it working?”

She shakes her head, but her eyes are still lit up.  “Not
that it matters, anyway.”  She pokes my chest with her index finger. 
“Remember, you and me, that wasn’t the deal.  You said so yourself.”

“Ah, yes.  Our delicious revenge scenario.  Have you seen
him yet, our man in question?”

“No,” she says quietly.

“He shall be grateful that the floor is carpeted.  Because,
when he sees you, he will fall to his knees.  Let us find him.”

I grab her hand and we cross over to the dance floor and
enter the swaying throng.  All around us, happy couples laugh and dance, many
singing to each other in dulcet tones as they move across the dance floor.

There was a time when I would have joined them.  I would
have taken Melody in my arms and pulled her body sensually against my own, as
we gyrated and swung to the seductive rhythm of the orchestra, and as the heat
of our pressed together bodies mingled between us, I would sing a song of sweet
seduction and sex, until she was in my bed.

But that was the old me.  It has been over a decade since I
last sung, and I’ll gladly go another.  I sing for no woman.

The head of the charity makes her way over to me from the
edge of the dance floor, gushing with praise.  From behind her, a regional
director shakes my hand and claps me on the back, and pours more thanks on to
me.  Amid the nodding heads and laughter, I see a queue forming of more well
wishes that stretches to the bar.  I zone out and give them all generic
gratitude acceptance - anything to reduce that damn queue.

I’m happy to help the genuine charity members, but the line
between them and sycophants, heaping praise on to me to climb the social ladder
or hear their demo CD, blurs with every passing person.

All I want to do is grab Melody and whisk her away into my
limo.  I want the car to thunder down the road and take us away from every
person here.  Not just here, even.  I want us to disappear off the face of the
earth, leaving everyone and everything behind.  Just her and I, together and
alone.

But I can’t.  Melody was right - I had a duty to perform
here.  The well wishers may sap my endurance, but I’m a wealthy powerful man,
and that life comes with its own social burdens.

If I’m going to be here, then at least I can find solace in
having Melody at my side.

I pull her close, wrapping my arms around her.  She’s the
perfect height for me to cover her in an embrace.

As I stand behind her, with my arms around her waist, her
hand holds my left wrist to her and she turns to me, a glint in her eye.

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