Limited-Release Excerpt: The Cornerstone by Kate Canterbary

Release Date: December, 8th

 

The Cornerstone

Synopsis:

A tough-as-nails businesswoman. An arrogant Navy SEAL. A power struggle with no end in sight. Some people hook-up at weddings. Others break a hotel room bed (and a table, and a desk, and some complimentary bathrobe belts) and discover they’ve been surviving on bargain basement orgasms their entire lives. The last one? Yeah. That’s all me. She’s driven and demanding…

He’s never walked away from a challenge…

They’re wrong for each other in every possible way… Or are they?

Excerpt:

I was the fucking boss.

I negotiated multi-million dollar real estate deals, juggled at least six major crises before lunch every day, and tamed lions for fun.

Not actual lions, but my brothers came damn near close enough.

I ran marathons, wore heels no shorter than four inches, and could file injunctions faster than most people responded to text messages.

But I was a whore for superstitions.

Horoscopes, full moons, palm readings, Friday the Thirteenths, even freaking black cats. All of it.

It defied logic but I had to believe there was an order to the universe and everything—everything, everything, everything—happened for a reason. I needed to believe it all meant something, and that maybe if I paid careful attention, I could protect myself and my family from whatever the universe was throwing at me next.

So waking up an hour late, snagging three separate pairs of tights before they made it over my knees, and drowning my new iPhone in coffee not more than sixty seconds after the barista handed it to me were giant neon signs warning that my Monday was a special kind of cursed.

I needed a shaman and some burning sage, and I needed it now.

Sprinting up the Walsh Associates office stairs with my dead phone in one hand and a fresh coffee in the other, I tried to remember what was on the agenda for this morning’s status meeting. Me and my five business partners—the ones who did double duty as my brothers plus Andy Asani, our newest architect and the object of my brother Patrick’s affection—we held these meetings sacred. Lateness wasn’t tolerated.

I didn’t stop when I reached the landing for my office, instead yelling to my assistant while I started up the next flight, “Tom! Get me something to eat and I need a new iPhone before this meeting is over.”

“On it,” he called.

I cleared the last landing before the steep stone staircase to the attic conference room, slowing my steps to avoid wiping out. I could handle my heels in most situations, but these medieval stairs were thirteen feet of uneven, winding granite torture.

Especially in a pencil skirt.

I was out of breath and fully disheveled by the time I reached the conference room, but I cast a warning glare around the table and dropped into my seat without comment. I wasn’t regaling Sam, Andy, Riley, Matt, and Patrick with tales of my crazy morning.

Andy sent me a questioning frown and pointed to her hair, an indication that my still-damp ponytail was more than likely a wreck and my bangs were undoubtedly askew. Shaking my head, I rolled my eyes and mouthed “Not now.”

“I tried calling you,” Patrick muttered. He was almost a full year older than me, and together we managed our family’s third-generation sustainable preservation architecture firm. He handled the architecture, I handled everything else that went into running a business, and it had been this way since forever.

“Phone disaster,” I said.

He groaned. “I believe that’s your third phone disaster this year, Shannon.”

“Thank you for that reminder, Patrick,” I said with a saccharine smile. I’d been bossing his ass around for thirty-three years, and that wasn’t about to stop. “Suck my dick.”

Matt did nothing to conceal his laughter, and he ignored my raised eyebrow. He was a year younger than me, and too much of a big, happy puppy dog to let some brusque frowning kill his vibe.

“If we could focus on the agenda—” Patrick paused when Tom bustled in, a plate in one hand and his tablet tucked under his arm.

“Which size iPhone do you want?” He angled the tablet toward me, pointing at the device options. “You have small hands, so—”

“You have a directive. Solve problems without my involvement,” I said.

Tom nodded, chastened. “On it.”

He set a plate with two cartons of yogurt, two mixed berry muffins, and a large latte beside my other cup of coffee. Patrick watched, tapping his fingers on the table, and it was clear his patience was depleted for the day.

When Tom hurried down the stairs, Patrick said, “If you don’t mind, I’d like to—”

“There is no vagina food allowed at this table,” Riley interrupted. He was my youngest brother by five years, and it didn’t matter that he was a full foot taller than me now, or that he could pick me up and lift me over his head. He’d always be a little kid to me.

“Riley,” Patrick growled. “Sit down and shut up.”

“I will puke if there’s open yogurt in this room,” Riley said. “I’m not exaggerating. It smells like old barf, and can someone actually explain what yogurt is?”

He snatched up the cartons and, in the process, knocked over his stainless steel water bottle and both of my coffees. Liquid and ice cubes splashed across the round table, and hell promptly broke loose.

Everyone shot out of their chairs, yelling and swearing, and collecting laptops and phones before much damage could be done. Andy found a roll of paper towels, and she and Sam mopped up the spill while Matt produced a set of tiny tools from his messenger bag and took apart his soaked computer.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Patrick shouted at Riley.

“I do not like being in the presence of yogurt,” Riley responded.

“Would it not be possible to handle that in a slightly less catastrophic way?” One leg of Patrick’s trousers was drenched with coffee, and he pointed to Andy’s waterlogged notebook, the disemboweled computer, and the stained rug. “How is it?” he asked Matt.

“Fried,” he answered. “And it smells like pumpkin spice.”

“Oh my fucking God,” Patrick seethed.

“It’s not that bad,” Andy said as she wiped laptops and phones dry. “Only a few casualties.”

“I’m going to have to sand and stain the whole surface again,” Sam murmured, his hand coasting over the tabletop.

Riley gestured toward Patrick. “If we could just agree that there’s no yogurt at meetings—”

“Get over the goddamn yogurt,” Matt said.

“If we’re banning yogurt, we’re sure as shit banning coffee and water, too,” Patrick said.

“Shut up,” I bellowed. “Everyone. Shut up. We have things to accomplish and we’re not spending the next hour bitching at each other about yogurt. Sit down, get your status reports ready, and don’t speak unless I specifically invite you to do so. Understood?”

There were more muttered comments as we dealt with soggy chairs and stained clothes. We returned to our seats and started working through property updates. Patrick tracked the fine project management details while I monitored the Boston real estate market, but I quickly zoned out while staring at the Multiple Listing Service website.

I was tired, hungry, and caffeine-deprived, and generally irritable. There was no one reason for my irritability, but a mountain of little reasons that had been building for months.

 

9

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