The desk sat prominently in the stark room, the thick maple polished dark, drawing the eye instantly to it. The modern lines and light colors of the rest of the room contrasted jarringly with the antique. Bare walls stared back at visitors, offering nothing to divert attention from the demanding tone of the desk, taking nothing away from its authority. The only thing that competed with the desk was the man that sat behind it.
Liam O’Keefe was all rough lines and edges packaged behind designer suits and a disarming smile that never touched his eyes. It was his eyes that revealed the most about him if one could manage to meet them for long enough. Those eyes were the same shade as the polished desk, dark and smooth and hiding deeper recesses. If one looked long enough they began to sense that behind the placid surface lurked something much darker, much more savage than the polite exterior of the man behind the desk.
Emma sat in one of the gray Georgian-style chairs across from the desk, facing her father and his deeply colored eyes. The simplicity of her chair in contrast with the desk made her feel revealed. The world seemed to spin around her as she tried to absorb his words.
“The marriage will take place in September,” His deep voice rolled over the polished surface of the desk, slapping her in the face. He did not turn those disturbing eyes on her, instead studying a report that sat on his desk.
“But I’ve been accepted to Harvard,” Emma’s voice broke. It was the only protest she could make, she was so stunned by the news her father delivered.
His eyes barely flicked up to look at her before dropping back down to the report, “I refuse to waste that kind of money on you, Emma.”
“I have done everything you have ever asked of me,” She stood and moved to the window looking out of it. She heard her father get up and move to her side. “Why are you sending me away? Why does Pierce get to go to college and I don’t?” She turned to face him.
Liam brought his hand up and cupped her cheek for a second before those large fingers circled around her neck, resting there loosely. Emma’s heart leaped under the threat of his fingers but she did not move.
“I have always been quite proud of you, Emma,” with his other hand he gently traced along the square line of her jaw. “I have always enjoyed looking at you. Knowing that I could create something so exquisite is pleasing. But you should have more use than just to serve my ego. Pierce will be helping me run the business, but what about my dear Emma, how will she serve her dearest father?”
“I can help you with the business,” She pleaded.
“Soft, sweet little Emma,” He smirked at her. “Do you know what I have done with these hands in the name of the business?” There was a note of wistfulness in his voice. “No, you would not be able to help me, you are too weak. You would be a liability. However, your beauty has proved useful in ways I never imagined. Sasha is willing to give me control of several of his—“ he paused, searching for the right word, “assets. He is desperate for a legitimate heir to his own business and your beauty has captivated him. You will marry Sasha.” He turned from Emma, dismissing her.
Emma’s fists clenched at her sides, “No.” The word was whispered. Never before had she risked her father’s anger.
Before Emma could react Liam spun around, backhanding her so hard that she stumbled backward into the wall. His strong hand wrapped around her throat as he shoved her hard against the wall.
“You will marry Sasha,” His fingers dug into her neck as he squeezed, “And you won’t say anything more about this, am I understood?”
Emma nodded desperately as the room began to spin.
“Good,” he released her, “Now get out of my office.”