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Cassie is a spoiled little rich girl from Dallas who has her daddy wrapped around her little finger. She floats through life without a care until the day she runs into Kade MacPherson, a strong and disciplined Highlander looking after family business in America. He’s instantly captivated by the beautiful but sassy lass, and is more than willing to take on the spirited Texan.
Sparks fly at their first meeting, but as she gets to know him, Cassie realizes Kade is the first man she’s ever met who doesn’t disappear in Daddy’s shadow. In fact, she’s rather taken with him, at least until he’s had enough of her attitude and puts her over his knee.
Cassie might love him, but that doesn’t mean she won’t fight his discipline every step of the way. Kade accepts the challenge and even takes her to Inverness Castle – a trip with a very special meaning in his family.
A spoiled little spitfire and a determined Scotsman: A case of opposites attract, or a recipe for disaster?
Publisher’s Note: This book contains elements of power exchange and old-fashioned discipline. If these offend you, please do not purchase.
Cassie backed out of her parking slot in the underground garage and started towards the exit, turning on some music as she did. As she made the last turn, she slowed for a Jaguar that had just pulled into the lane ahead of her, obviously heading for the same exit.
Bz-z-z. It was her phone, vibrating on the passenger seat. She glanced at it and decided to let it go to voice, but then it buzzed again, tweaking her curiosity. Oh, what the heck. She reached down to pick it up, turning her eyes to watch as it danced across the leather seat of her little BMW X4. She tried to see who was calling but couldn’t quite make out what the screen said.
THUMP! Cassie was thrown forward hard against her seatbelt as her little red car came to an unexpected stop, its front bumper pressed against the rear one of the Jaguar ahead of her.
Great! Just what she needed—some nincompoop who’d felt it necessary to stop for no reason. Shaking her head and mumbling, she undid her seatbelt and got out, ready to do battle. The driver of the Jaguar was already squatting down and looking at the two bumpers.
“Why in god’s name did you stop?” she demanded angrily as she walked up to him. He looked at her surprised and stood up—way up. Cassie’s quick guestimate put him as at least six foot, two inches, a fact that sank him even lower in her book. Now she had to look up at him as she impatiently repeated her question.
“Why did you stop for no reason?” Her tone made it obvious she thought he had done something incomprehensibly stupid.
The tall stranger looked at her intently but didn’t answer immediately. He was taking in the details of the very attractive young woman in her late twenties—blonde hair, honey-brown eyes, cute little figure, maybe five foot, three, possibly five foot, four inches if she stretched.
“Hello-o! Are you deaf?”
Rude, too, he thought to himself.
“We have a small problem, but I think there’s been no damage done,” he said finally.
“The problem is that you stopped in the middle of nowhere!” Cassie glared up at him as she spoke.
“I stopped because there’s a stop sign,” the tall man replied calmly, motioning with his hand towards the red hexagon affixed to the nearby concrete post.
Cassie looked at him like he was from another planet. “Do you see any other cars around?”
The man’s mouth looked like he wanted to smile. “Ah, I see the problem now. I wasn’t informed that, in Dallas, stop signs are optional, depending on the presence of other cars.” There was a definite twinkle in the man’s eyes that totally infuriated Cassie. He was laughing at her!
She was also acutely aware that he’d been studying her ever since he’d stood up, and it was making her uncomfortable. He might be a brake-happy moron, and he might be unforgivably tall, but he was also a fine specimen of the male world—full dark hair, piercing brown eyes, and a body either very familiar with a gym or some type of sport. Even his accent was attractive, although she’d swallow her tongue before admitting it.
“If you’d like, we can exchange insurance information,” he offered, interrupting her analysis of his assets.
“No, just let it be,” replied Cassie with a loud sigh. She rolled her eyes for emphasis as she continued. “I’m the one behind, so, even though you’re the one with the itchy brake foot, I’ll be the one at fault. We’ll just ignore it.”
He was watching her again and paused before answering. “Fine. We’ll call it no harm done. Good day.” He nodded at her with a smile, which she didn’t return.
She watched as he returned to his silver Jaguar and drove off, and then she got back into her own car, the incoming phone call long forgotten. She’d really not wanted to prolong the interaction with the man—the tall, dark, handsome man, but she’d check the bumper more closely when she got home. If there was any damage, she could get Daddy to fix it so she wouldn’t have to make an insurance claim.
Well that was interesting, thought Kade to himself as he drove away. I wonder if she’s always that full of attitude?
* * *
“What do you think, Daddy?” asked Cassie as she took a drink of her Evian. ‘Daddy,’ known to the rest of the world as Harper Bellingworth, Texas real estate magnate, looked at the newspaper section she’d given him. She’d circled one of the classified announcements, which he reread now.
“Ah can’t tell much about it from this, sugah plum,” he answered, watching his daughter fold her legs gracefully underneath her on his leather sofa. “Is there some reason you’re concerned?”
“No, not really. I just thought maybe you knew something about it. It sounds interesting.”
“So why are you readin’ the classifieds? Ah can keep you busy if that’s what you want.”
“Daddy, you know I like to do things on my own.”
Except fix your own bumper, he thought, smiling.
“So go find out what it is,” he answered. “Just ask the right questions.”
She nodded and took the newspaper back again.
“Are you staying for dinner?” he continued. “Margaux should be home anytime now.” Margaux was his third wife, technically Cassie’s stepmother, but the two women were more like friends.
“I can’t. I’ve got someplace I need to be.”
“All right, sugah plum. Let me know what happens with the ad, and don’t you take on any work competing with me.”
Cassie laughed as she got up and went over to kiss Daddy good-bye.
* * *
Cassie was surprised as she entered the parking garage for her interview. This was the same place she’d run into that strange man last week—literally run into him. He’d had that interesting accent, like Irish or Scottish. Wherever it was that he was from, they obviously stopped at stop signs even if they were the only car for miles around.
She pulled into a slot and then checked herself in the rearview mirror before getting out. Not bad, she thought. She disliked it when her qualifications weren’t taken seriously, but she wasn’t so naïve that she didn’t acknowledge the importance of personal appearance, too, especially in Dallas. Sometimes it seemed to her that looks was the name of the game here.
She took the elevator up to the sixteenth floor and pushed open the door with the sign MacPherson and Ross Enterprises, LLC.
“Hello,” she said cheerfully to the woman sitting behind the desk. “I’m Cassie Bellingworth. I have a three o’clock appointment with Mr. MacPherson.”
“He’ll be right with you,” the woman replied. “He’s on a call right now.”
Cassie sat down and thumbed through a magazine entitled Scottish Ranching Journal, thinking to herself that she could honestly say it was the first time she’d ever read that publication in a waiting room.
Cassie jumped. The voice sounded oddly familiar, and, as she looked up, she froze. Him! Her eyes got big as she stared at the same man who last week had inspected her car’s bumper and made her feel slightly uncomfortable. The man in the doorway looked almost as surprised, but that look was quickly followed by one of suppressed amusement.
“We meet again,” he said, his eyes definitely laughing.
“I should just go, shouldn’t I?” Cassie asked bluntly. “We don’t need to go through the charade of an interview when we both know you’re not going to hire me.” Cassie started to collect her things but was interrupted.
“I won’t know that until we’ve spoken. Please come in.”
Cassie eyed him warily but then shrugged. Why not? She was already there, and god knows he was pleasant enough to look at.
“Very well,” she said almost primly as she rose and entered his office.
“Kade MacPherson,” he said as he extended his large hand to her.
“Cassie Bellingworth,” she replied, shaking his hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“So, Miss Bellingworth, let me tell you a little about what I’m looking for,” he started, but she cut in quickly. “Please, call me Cassie.”
“Very well, Cassie. I look after some ranching and oil interests in America for my mother, who’s back in Scotland. Right now I’m trying to do a financial assessment beyond what we normally do in daily operations, so I’m looking for an assistant who’s good with statistics. The interests aren’t all local, and, while we receive reports here on a regular basis, I’ll be doing some traveling, mostly to Wyoming and other parts of Texas. Would that be a problem for you to travel with me?”
Cassie was listening, amazed. It sounded like he was seriously considering her, but, after the way she’d spoken to him in the parking garage last week, she couldn’t imagine why.
“Cassie?” Kade interrupted her thoughts. “Do you have family or other obligations here that would prevent you from traveling with me?”
“No, I’m totally free.”
Kade had already interviewed several people who had strong credentials for what he needed, but there was something about this woman that fascinated him. She was beautiful, but Dallas was full of beautiful women. Maybe it was her attitude. She wasn’t all that tall, but what she lacked in height, she certainly made up for in spunk. He had a feeling that having her around would liven things up immensely.
He studied her a minute and then said, “Well, Cassie, why don’t we give it a try?” He mentioned a figure that was quite generous and was surprised that she didn’t seem to pay much attention to it. She gave him a blinding smile and said, “Okay. When do you want me to start?”
“As soon as you can.”
“Then I’ll see you tomorrow morning.” They shook hands again, and she left.
* * *
Kade sat staring out his office window for a long time. He had a fantastic view, but right now he wasn’t thinking about the city lights spread out beneath him.
What am I doing? he wondered. She’s not the best qualified, she’s got a mouth and an attitude, and she’s beautiful in a distracting way. Have I lost my mind?
After the encounter in the parking garage last week, he’d found himself thinking about her many times since. She was a complete stranger to him, and yet he’d found himself strongly attracted to her—the way she’d hopped out of her car on the offensive, oblivious to the fact that the accident was her fault. He was close to a foot taller than she was, and that hadn’t slowed her down one iota.
He’d found it amusing the way she’d lit into him for stopping at a stop sign, and he’d had very irreverent thoughts as he’d listened to her tart tongue. In the way that minds can do, his had presented him with lightning-quick images both of kissing her and of spanking her—the first, just because he wanted to, and the second, because he’d never met someone who seemed to need it more.
So what had he just done? He’d hired her, not only to come to his office on a regular basis but also to travel with him and spend long hours alone with him. He was either incredibly clever, naively brave, or hopelessly dumb.
He would soon find out which one.
Cassie knew she was fortunate. She’d had a good life so far—not perfect, but then whose life is? Even though her parents had divorced when she was twelve, she had a great relationship with both of them and liked their new partners. Her father, Harper Bellingworth, who ‘collected’ real estate, doted on her and made sure she lacked for nothing, even when she wished he wouldn’t. He could be a bit protective about her boyfriends, but it had never been too big a problem.
Her mother, Cissy, was what was known as a socialite. Now married to Miles Davidson, a prominent plastic surgeon, she spent her days and evenings planning and attending social events. She worried that Cassie wasn’t involved enough in the ‘right’ social circles and affairs, but Cassie liked her life the way it was. Several times a year she’d attend some gala event to keep her mother pacified, but the rest of the time she spent away from the prying eyes of gossips and society columnists. Home for her was a large loft in Deep Ellum, and she worked just enough to feel independent from Daddy’s checkbook, although, truth be told, it was a very wobbly independence—more an idea than a fact.
Her older brother, Harper Chriswell Bellingworth, Junior, known simply as ‘Chris,’ worked with their father in the world of real estate, and, as a highly eligible bachelor, his picture regularly appeared in the paper with a beautiful woman on his arm. For Cassie, he was both protector and tormenter. Woe unto any of her boyfriends who didn’t treat her well, but Chris reserved for himself the right to tease her unmercifully, including calling her ‘Bitsy,’ a nickname she detested.
The one thing in life Cassie regretted bitterly was her height. Everyone else in her family was tall, but somehow she’d stopped growing around five-three-and-a-half. She always insisted that the ‘half’ be included—either that or simply be rounded up to five-four. To try and make up for nature’s cruel joke, she regularly wore shoes with several-inch heels, and her mostly-Daddy-financed shoe closet held a good number of styles with even higher heels.
She forgave her father and her brother their wonderful height, but she was less forgiving of other men and preferred dates who were under six feet. Sometimes she couldn’t totally control the height issue, though, because, just being five feet nine didn’t guarantee a guy was interesting or fun or even safe, so she did try to keep perspective on the height question.
And now there was Kade. He wasn’t just tall but very tall, like Daddy and Chris, but there was something about him that kept her from totally crossing him off. Maybe it was that wonderful Scottish burr or the fact that his eyes seemed to twinkle every time he looked at her. She truly had the feeling that he found her amusing, so maybe her working for him wasn’t such a great idea. It was just that she’d been so surprised to see him again that she hadn’t thought it through. Oh, well, the arrangement probably wouldn’t last long anyway.
* * *
“Good morning,” sang Cassie as she entered the office suite the next day.
“Morning,” Markie, the receptionist, answered back. “Kade said to tell you he’ll be right back. Just go on in and make yourself at home.”
“My desk is in his office?”
“For now. There’s another small office through that door, but he uses it as a storeroom. I’m not sure what his long-range plan is.”
Cassie shrugged and went on through to Kade’s office, where she spied a second desk set up for her. This should be interesting, she thought. No fixing my lipstick while the boss isn’t looking. She put her purse on the desk and then walked over to look out the window, which, she discovered, had a great view.
She’d been in this building many times before but had never paid much attention to the offices or the views. Daddy owned the building, so sometimes she ran errands for him, dropping off papers for the management or some similar thing. It’s what she’d been doing the day she bumped into Kade’s car, but the day of the interview, the address hadn’t clicked in her mind. She knew the building, not the street number.
“Good morning, Cassie,” came a deep voice from the doorway. “How do you like the view?”
“Nice.” She turned around and wished she hadn’t. He was even more handsome than she’d remembered. Why did fate do this to her? Was it not possible to wrap up a killer male package inside a five-ten frame rather than a six-two or even six–three one? She sighed and walked back to her desk.
“I hope you don’t mind sharing offices for now,” Kade continued. “I’ve been thinking about moving to a larger suite, so maybe this will be the push to make me do it.”
Cassie’s face lit up with interest. “You want a larger place in this same building?”
Kade looked at her with curiosity. “Possibly.”
“I can probably help you,” she answered. “Tell me what you want.”
“Do you dabble in real estate, too?” he asked, both puzzled and amused by her offer.
“My family does.”
Kade looked pensive for a moment, as if he were remembering something, and then he walked over to a filing cabinet where he opened a drawer and took out a legal-sized file. He flipped through several pages until he found what he was looking for, then turned and looked at Cassie.
“You wouldn’t happen to be related to Harper Bellingworth, would you?”
“He’s my Daddy.”
Kade stared at her for another minute, trying to put the whole picture together in his mind. Why was the daughter of the man who owned this large commercial building looking for a job as his assistant? “You don’t work with him?” he asked finally.
“Sometimes, but I like to be independent.” She smiled sweetly as if to emphasize her worth as a twenty-first century woman.
“And does your father know about this job?”
“He knew I was going to interview,” she replied. “I haven’t talked to him since yesterday, so he doesn’t know I actually got the job.”
Kade was trying to remember what he’d read about Harper Bellingworth. He didn’t pay much attention to society matters, but, as a businessman, he did hear the names of major players go by, and now that he thought about it, he suspected that this office high-rise wasn’t the only Bellingworth property. He’d check him out later. Meanwhile, he needed to get Cassie started on a project.
“I know the first day or two of a job is always strange, because everything is new. I’ve left my own schedule fairly open so that I can answer questions or explain what you’ll be reading about. There’s a large stack of reports and miscellaneous papers that I’d like you to sort, but since you don’t know the operation at all, I realize it will be difficult. See if you can sort the papers into four general piles—Inverness Ranch in the Panhandle, Flying Scot Ranch in Wyoming, oil rigs in Ector County, and general administration, which is here.”
He put down a huge pile of folders and papers and then added, “You’ll probably want a fifth pile for the things that you have no clue about.” He smiled at her and then, as he caught sight of her three-inch heels, added, “Make yourself at home while you work. We’re fairly private here and don’t have guests just dropping by, so, if you feel like kicking your shoes off, it won’t bother anyone.”
“I’m fine with them on,” she answered quickly. No way she was going to walk around someone of his height without a little bit of a boost.
“There are vending machines on the next floor up, but then you probably already know that,” he said with that twinkle in his eye that seemed to have returned. “We also have a mini-fridge in the front office that you’re welcome to use, and Markie will show you where we hide the coffee pot.”
Cassie looked at the huge pile of papers and folders that Kade had put on her desk and wondered how long it would take to sort them. Oh well, might as well get started. She worked quietly for a couple hours, finding that Kade had been right, and it was slow going. The letterheads and signatures were usually enough for her to know what operation the papers pertained to, but she found that her curiosity got the better of her and she frequently thumbed through the reports to see what they were about. Having grown up in Texas, oil and ranching were both marginally familiar to her, and she found herself interested in some of what was being talked about.
Finally, Cassie swiveled her chair to look at Kade, and, sensing the movement, he looked up. “Do you have a question?” he asked. “You’ve been mighty quiet over there.”
Cassie shrugged. “I’ve been sorting, and yes, I do have a question. Do the names on the reports matter at all? I’ve seen them addressed to you, to a Hamish MacPherson, to a Catriona Ross, and to a Catriona MacPherson. Does that matter at all?”
“No, it makes no difference. It’s all in the family.”
Kade was surprised at her forwardness, but then he shouldn’t be. He’d spent enough time in America to know that people here asked all kinds of questions and didn’t intend them to be either rude or intrusive. The people here were just casual, friendly people who easily shared information with strangers.
“I’m Hamish,” he answered, smiling. “It’s my first name.”
Cassie laughed. “I can see why you go by Kade. Hamish is an awful name.”
A shadow passed across Kade’s face. “It’s a perfectly normal name in Scotland,” he replied with a slight edge to his voice. “I’m called Kade because my father’s name was also Hamish.”
“Did kids call you funny nicknames?” Cassie continued, still giggling.
“Why would they?”
“Well, anyone here who turned up with the name Hamish would be in for a lot of teasing. Hamfish, Hambone, Hammy… you’d get called a lot of different things.”
“Not more than once,” he answered in a confident tone.
Cassie did a double take. She might not be fond of overly-tall men, but she was quite partial to men who could hold their own and command respect, and Kade’s answer had just dropped him into that category. After his mild manner in the face of her rudeness at their first meeting, she’d decided he was the kind of man who could be easily walked over, but now she wasn’t so sure. He’d just become more interesting.
“Why don’t we take a break?” suggested Kade. “I frequently get some coffee at the little shop on the ground floor and then take it outside to the patio for some fresh air. Are you interested?”
“Sure. Just let me run down the hall first.”
Ten minutes later they were seated at a table with their coffee and biscotti, enjoying the breeze playing across the terrace dotted with potted trees. The sound of water from the nearby fountain added the perfect touch, and Cassie thought how pleasant it would be to bring the pile of papers down here to sort.
During the couple hours that Cassie had been absorbed in her work, Kade had taken a few minutes to check out her father and had been surprised at what he’d found. Harper Bellingworth was a major player in real estate and owned a substantial number of properties around the Dallas area. A little more research had made it clear than Cassie probably didn’t need this job, which made him wonder again why she’d taken it.
“Tell me about yourself,” he said now as he watched her dip her biscotti into her coffee and then nibble on it. “What do you plan to do with your MBA? This doesn’t seem like much of a challenge.”
“What I’m doing this morning certainly isn’t,” she replied pointedly. “You didn’t tell me I’d be sorting papers. You talked about statistics and travel.”
Kade looked surprised at her answer. Tact didn’t seem to be her strong suit. “Most jobs have many different aspects, and this one’s no different. I thought that sorting papers would give you a feel for what we’re doing. I noticed you skimming some of the documents, which is good. The more you know, the more help you’ll be.”
Another blunt question, thought Kade. Aloud he answered, “She’s my mother. Do you remember I told you that I look after her interests in America?”
Cassie nodded. “If she’s Scottish, how did she end up with businesses in America?”
Kade hesitated. He wasn’t used to being questioned this way, but, if she was going to work with him, he supposed it was normal for her to have some curiosity.
“Her grandfather owned them and left them to her in his will. My father used to help her oversee them, but he died about five years ago, so, since then, I’ve taken over. We used to have someone here manage them for us, but some problems arose, so now I spend a good amount of time every year looking after things myself.”
“So you have a job back in Scotland, too?”
“I’m involved with family holdings back there, but it’s easier to hire managers for that end since my mother is also there.”
“Don’t you have any brothers or sisters to help?”
“I have one of each, but whether or not they’re a help is open to interpretation.”
Cassie laughed. “Now that sounds like there’s a story there.”
“One that will have to wait for another time, I fear,” he replied getting up. “I have a call coming in shortly, so we need to head back upstairs.”
Why did he feel disappointed at having to end their coffee break? Even though her questions were intrusive, he’d thoroughly enjoyed sitting there with her, watching her blonde hair move in the breeze and her eyes sparkle with interest as she probed into his family affairs.
He suspected he’d be taking a lot more coffee breaks now that Cassie was in the office.