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Diana Fraser

Secrets at Parata Bay (PAPERBACK)

Secrets at Parata Bay (PAPERBACK)

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A grieving mother intent on revenge. A millionaire who values honesty above all else. A love threatened by the legacy of family….


Cassandra Lee is a woman on a mission. She’s lost both her son and father in tragic circumstances and she’s determined to exact revenge on the man she holds responsible by attacking the only thing that matters to him—his wealth.

And Dallas Mackenzie’s wealth is important to him. He’s spent years intent on two things—being the opposite of his father and restoring his family’s fortunes. But, in so doing, he’s created an emotionally empty life for himself.

But empty lives can be filled—at least for a short while—and Dallas sets out to seduce Cassandra. Unfortunately, neither seduction nor falling in love with this powerful man were things for which Cassandra could prepare. She just hopes that his interest—and her resistance—will hold out long enough to ruin him...

This emotional and suspenseful women’s fiction book will give you all the feels. Sit back, put your feet up and prepare to go on a journey with the Mackenzie brothers and their close friends as they fall in love. But don’t expect an easy road to their happy ever afters! There are intense emotions and unexpected twists and turns as these macho brothers fall for strong women with minds of their own! If you love women's fiction with no explicit sex scenes, The Mackenzies series is a great fit for you!

--The Mackenzies--
A Place Called Home
Secrets at Parata Bay
Escape to Shelter Springs
What you See in the Stars
Second Chance at Whisper Creek
Summer at the Lakehouse Café

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CHAPTER ONE

“Come in!” The low growl penetrated the thick oak door effortlessly.
It was an order. It was without finesse. It was exactly what Cassandra had expected.
Even so, her hand trembled slightly as she smoothed her straightened hair, pushing a stubborn curl firmly behind her ear. She had to have everything under control if she was going to succeed.
She opened the heavy door, allowing it to swing wide before she made her entrance. It had to be a good one; she would have only one chance.
With a quick glance she scanned the dark office registering the minimal decor, clear desk, single light pooled over a closed laptop, before her eyes rested on the man whose image haunted her every waking moment—Dallas Mackenzie.
He stood in shadow with his back to her, hands thrust in pockets, staring out over the lights of Wellington.
“What do you want?”
He hadn’t even bothered to turn to face her. Fear flickered in her gut. “I’ve come to be interviewed for the PA position.”
“I’m not interviewing today. Come back tomorrow with the others.”
She swallowed. “I can’t. It has to be today. The agency rang and arranged the appointment with your receptionist for 5.30.” Her first lie. It had been easier than she’d thought.
“You’re late then.”
He still hadn’t turned around.
“I’m not late. I’ve been waiting over an hour.”
Cassandra walked slowly towards him and stopped in the middle of the room, suddenly confronted with her own image clearly visible in the window against the darkening sky. It was an image she didn’t recognize—sleekly groomed and in control.
He grunted but still didn’t move, simply continued to stare across the darkening harbor towards the Rimutaka ranges, glowing orange in the setting sun.
She had to admit the view was incredible. No wonder the man felt invincible. He had the city at his feet. Just a pity he chose to abuse his power. But that was where she came in, wasn’t it?
“Go home.”
“You’re too busy to see me? Fine.” She turned and walked away, her stilettos ringing out on the marble floor. “But you need to know you’re passing up the best opportunity you’ll get of employing a good PA. I know, I’ve looked through the CVs of the other candidates and they won’t last.”
She stopped by the door. The thud of her heart seemed to shake her body with its intensity. All the work of these past months in preparation for this moment. Was it all for nothing? She had to see. She turned her head just enough to check his reaction.
He’d shifted slightly, briefly revealing his profile against the city lights, before turning to her. An advertising hoarding cast alternating beams of red and green light across his cheek bone and down to the hard set of his mouth. The effect was demonic and unnerving. Although his eyes remained in darkness, Cassandra’s skin prickled under their intense scrutiny.
He sighed: a deep soul-wrenching sigh. “I’m not too busy.”
For a fleeting moment Cassandra felt the shock of the unexpected. She thought she recognized the emptiness behind the sound. One look at his arrogant face and the thought vanished as quickly as it came.
“I asked my receptionist to tell you to leave. She obviously decided not to.”
She turned to face him. “So you’ll interview me now?”
“Doesn’t look as if I have much choice does it, Miss…”
She stepped towards him and offered her hand.
“Lee. Cassandra Lee.” She smiled tentatively, trying to contain her nerves.
He didn’t smile back but took her hand in his. Rather than dispelling her nerves the warmth and strength of his hand briefly engulfing hers, shook her. She felt his power, and from the way his gray eyes narrowed slowly, she also felt his interest.
“The agency rang, you say?”
She nodded.
“Really?”
A warning shiver trickled down her back at the lowered tone. Her lie hadn’t gone undetected. But she had no choice but to continue.
“You wanted someone ‘highly organized, experienced and prepared for anything—24/7.’”
“And I take it you’re all that?”
“And more. I also have superb references, a Masters degree and I’m a creative thinker.”
Particularly when it came to her CV. She dropped a copy of the document—more fiction than fact—on to his desk.
“In case you didn’t receive a copy from the agency.”
He didn’t move.
“What I want to know about an employee, a CV can’t tell me.”
“And that is?”
“I work on gut instinct.”
He walked slowly across the room and flicked on a light before turning towards her once more.
She could see him more clearly now: longish dark hair threaded with gray, a face strong and powerful rather than handsome. He had the face and body of a street fighter, deceptively relaxed but ready for anything. He also had the demeanor of a fighter: rude, arrogant and instinctive. And all this, dressed in an immaculate suit that shouted establishment. He was a contradiction.
But above all that she could see the keen intelligence in his eyes that now were narrowed and focused on her as though he could read her soul. A pity she couldn’t read his. Gut instinct wasn’t something for which she’d been able to prepare. “And what’s your gut instinct telling you now?”
He stepped towards her. “That you’re a determined woman who wants this job badly for some reason.”
She stepped back. She was cornered and had no other option than to come out fighting. “How can you possibly tell that from our brief conversation?”
He ignored her question and leaned back against the desk, folding his arms. “Who are you and why do you want this job so badly you’d lie to get it?”
She controlled the pulse of fear at his words. Fear could destroy everything she’d worked towards. She needed to be strong. She knew instinctively that he was a man who would despise weakness. She held his gaze. “You’re right, I didn’t go through the agency. I wanted to be first in line, to show you why I’m the best applicant. I want this job.”
“Sit down Miss Lee and we’ll talk. I’ll get you a drink.”
As she sat down on the hard leather chair, she breathed a deep sigh of relief. She’d got through to him. He was giving her a chance.
Cassandra noted his hospitality didn’t extend to asking her what she’d like to drink as he poured a glass of wine and a large glass of soda water.
After passing her the glass of wine he sat back, took a long drink of soda water and picked up his cell phone.
She waited for him to speak.
And waited.
She could only marvel at his ability to ignore the niceties of polite conversation as he loosened his tie, rolled up his shirt sleeves and replied to a couple of messages with short cursory answers.
Since passing her a drink, he’d appeared to put her out of his mind: as important as a piece of paper in his in-tray that could wait until he was ready to deal with it.
Unfortunately it was long enough for Cassandra’s focus to waver. The sight of Dallas Mackenzie loosening his clothing did something to her that she was glad he was too self-absorbed to witness. None of her preparations had included how to cope with a quickened heartbeat at the sight of his bare chest as he dragged down the knot of his tie, inadvertently popping a button open.
She took a hasty gulp of wine to calm her racing pulse and smoothed the velvety condensation on the glass with her finger as she tried to fathom the source of the attraction.
She looked up from beneath lowered lashes as he rolled up his sleeves. It could have been the way his shirt pulled over his shoulders, revealing the hard contours of his body. It could have been his chest. He obviously worked out, but not too much. The muscles lay lean under his skin.
Her eyes dropped. No, for some reason that Cassandra could not fathom, it was his forearms. She stared once more at the exposed arm—tanned and strong, its muscles bunched and tactile. She could imagine how it would feel cupped by her palm. But it wasn’t just a sensuous response. She knew that this was the real man—the ruthless man who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted—behind the smooth, sophisticated suit. A shiver ran down her spine. She didn’t want to see the real man. She had a job to do.
And it wasn’t the one he thought she was here for.
After several long minutes he flung down the cell phone and turned to her abruptly as he reached for his glass.
“Your health. Miss Lee.”
“Cassandra, please.”
“Cassandra.” He nodded and took a sip of his soda water, placing it carefully on the table before sitting back in the leather chair. His face was caught in a half-shadow cast by the oversized lampshade that hung between them. But she could see that he was interested in her. It didn’t matter for what reason. Whether it was her body or her mind, and she didn’t kid herself it was the latter, it didn’t matter. What was important was that she got the job and to do that she had to be bold, no holds barred.
“So, what brings an American girl to New Zealand?”
She leaned forward, meeting his direct gaze, watching for his response.
“Unfinished business.” She felt, instinctively, that the truth or some version of it, would pique his interest more effectively than some facile, predictable response. But when his eyes narrowed she suddenly realized he was too suspicious to leave her answer open to interpretation. “My mother has relatives here and I also had someone I needed to see. The unfinished business… it was, personal.” She hoped that her lowered tone and shy glance would satisfy his curiosity.
He tilted his head to one side, his eyes still narrowed, unconvinced. “Really?”
“I guess you could say that love drove me here.”
“Love?” His eyes betrayed no flicker of emotion and his lips, no hint of a smile. “For love you’d move countries?”
“People will do a lot for love.”
He half-laughed. “Then they’re crazy. Love is an over-rated state.”
“Maybe. But it’s often hard to control.”
“Is yours?”
“My feelings are,” she hesitated only momentarily, “totally under control.”
“So why is a beautiful woman, in love with her man, sitting here with me after six o’clock? I asked for a PA without a life. I need someone with me 24/7—it’s a live-in job. There can be no distractions.”
“There are none.” Again, the truth.
“Not such a happy ending after all then?”
“Happy ever after is for fairy stories, not real life and in real life I need a job. I need, I want, this job. I’ve been wanting to work with you for some time.”
He rested his elbows on the table between them and steepled his fingers, strong capable looking fingers, before his face. For the first time Cassandra noticed that the tip of his right index finger was missing. She glanced up quickly but not before he’d noticed the direction of her gaze. His eyes, still in the shadow of the low light, were cold, watchful.
“Have you now? And why is that?”
Revenge. The single word slammed through her mind. But there was a limit to the amount of truth she could tell him.
“I’m looking for a challenge.” She crossed her legs, the stockings skimming against each other as she smoothed her skirt over her thighs. “And I think you’re it.”
His eyes fell briefly to her legs before returning to her face. His expression was unreadable, his eyes, cold.
“I know the business inside out and I have the qualifications. I want, now, to work on the strategic side. I can give you what you need.” She paused for effect but saw no trace of emotion on his face. “And you can give me something too. Experience at the top level.”
She shifted slightly and saw a glimmer of something akin to recognition in his eyes.
He leaned back in his chair, watching her openly, probing, assessing and finally judging. She could see that he’d come to some kind of decision about her. But she’d have to wait to find out what it was.
“A mutually beneficial relationship, you think?”
“I know.”
“I don’t. Not yet. You appear to have everything I want.”
She blinked lightly. Dallas Mackenzie was one disturbing man, but he would never have the satisfaction of knowing he was unsettling her. She was the one to gain satisfaction from this relationship, not him.
“But?”
“There’s something…” his eyes narrowed and he sat back into the chair, his disturbing gaze not leaving hers for a moment, “missing.”
Cassandra’s eyes widened. She couldn’t help herself. She hadn’t anticipated this. What had she forgotten? She swallowed, hoping he wouldn’t notice the fear that was threatening to break through her carefully constructed façade.
“Look, I apologize for the unusual tactic, beating the agency to the job.”
“I’m not concerned about that.”
“What is it then. What’s missing?” She tried to sound cool, keep her voice low and controlled.
The way his eyes searched her face told her that he didn’t buy her story.
“I don’t know yet. But I will.”
She had to have the job.
“Perhaps you should give me the chance to show you how I work?”
He nodded. “Good idea. How about a trial—say for a week—and then we’ll see how we both feel?”
Her heart sank. Where had she slipped up?
She forced herself to smile. Perhaps she could do it in a week anyway.
“That sounds great. When shall I start?”
“How does right now sound?”
Without waiting for her answer he opened the laptop and spun it round to face her.
“Your first assignment. I, or rather we, have a meeting in a few days and I want to be prepared. Use this,” he tapped the laptop “and this,” he reached over and touched her head “and prepare a report in half an hour. Any questions?”
Fighting the distraction of his touch, forcing herself to concentrate, she leaned forward and scanned the contents of the proposal. At last, something she could get her teeth into.
“No. I’ll let you have a report in half an hour.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Good. There will be someone outside if you need anything. I’ll be back in quarter of an hour. Have it ready for me then. Because if you haven’t, the deal’s off.”
She wanted to hit him. She nodded instead.
He finished his drink and strode out of the room, jacket slung casually over one shoulder.
No problem, you bastard, thought Cassandra, as she began scanning the proposal before quickly flicking back to the internet to run some financial searches. Alone in his office at last. How she’d imagined this. But now wasn’t the time for self-congratulation or hacking into his security network and company databases, now was a time to earn some trust. Lucky she knew his business inside out, probably better than he did.

Dallas took a deep breath of the sweet evening air and looked around Mackenzie Square—his square.
He walked slowly over to the garden at the centre of the square. He glanced briefly at the cluster of mothers who watched their children play in the small playground he’d been persuaded to include. His gaze didn’t linger. It was an alien world to him and always would be. They’d be gone soon, home to their families. Not for him. Never for him.
He sat heavily on the empty bench under the gnarled branches of the ancient pohutukawa tree where once Maori canoes had beached. That was before the seabed had been reclaimed and mirrored giants rose, dwarfing the tree, changing the landscape forever.
Looking up through the tree’s twisted limbs Dallas contemplated his own mirrored giant. More beautiful than most, maybe, but complete and therefore of no further interest to him. Unlike Miss Lee. She interested him greatly.
Sitting back, elbows resting on the seat behind him, he felt interest stir in his veins, replacing the emptiness that had engulfed him since the completion of the project. He’d known it would arrive eventually. Just hadn’t pictured it arriving in the form of a tall, slim brunette.
He focused on his office window, fifteen floors above, and smiled to himself.
* * *
One hour later Dallas returned.
“Ready?”
“Yes.” She swallowed her annoyance and retrieved the report from the printer and handed it to him.
He scanned the papers. “Pretty thorough for such a short time.”
“At first glance it looks good. There’s no hint of any foreign competitor joining the market. The company’s traditional, solid and would be worth investing in.” She frowned. “But I’d need to know what”—she glanced at the covering notes—“John Stewart’s plans for the company are if you want a more informative report.”
“We’ll leave it there for now. Good start. Do some more work on it tomorrow. In the meantime, if you’re free, I’d like you to join me at a cocktail party to welcome the Australian ambassador. I want you to meet a few people, get to know some of my business colleagues who’ll be there.”
“Tonight? Yes, that’s fine. But I don’t have anything to wear. I’ve left my suitcase at the InterContinental Hotel.”
She could feel Dallas’s eyes trail slowly over her body.
“You’re fine. You can freshen up upstairs in my apartment if you wish and then we’ll leave. I’ll have Todd pick up your case later.”
“What time do we have to be there?”
“When we get there.”
Why was she not surprised by his answer?
“So I’m your new PA?”
He nodded. “A week’s trial and then we’ll see.”
He stood up and they shook hands.
“That’s it? No contract, no confidentiality clauses?”
He punched the button of a private lift.
“You can sort that out for me tomorrow. In the meantime I suggest you get ready. You don’t want to be late. Just one more thing. You lied to get the job. Okay, you got my attention. But don’t ever lie to me again, or else you’ll be out.”
She nodded stiffly. “Of course.” Another lie.
The elevator doors swept open and stood waiting for her.
She hesitated, for just one brief moment, knowing she was walking into danger. She’d have to be alert. Because she knew exactly where that danger lay: in this man, charismatic, arrogant, and sexy as hell.
The man responsible for the death of her father and her son.
Then she smiled up at him and entered the lift, dimly aware of the echo of her heels stabbing the marble floor with their metallic tips. The elevator doors closed with a whisper, ending the months of waiting, the months of pain.

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