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Authors: Kathryn Shay

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BOOK: Risky Business
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Once again, as she had done five times—
five
—she took out her phone and called up the number of a psychologist who had been recommended by Caterina. Her sister had gotten the name from Brie O’Neil, part of the famous O’Neil family, when the woman had been kidnapped a few years ago and needed help recovering
from the ordeal.

Silently, somberly, she stared at the number. She pressed
call
. Then, seconds later, she pressed
end
. Ana shook her head, disappointed at herself for not doing what she knew was best for her. For not doing what she should have done after the guys died and the trouble between her and Jared began
.

What did it matter anyway? The old proverb about closing the barn door after
the horse got out seriously applied in her situation now. It was too late for her to fix things. She’d just have to go on from here.

 

Chapter 2

 

Preoccupied by Teresa’s mood, Logan got back to work before three in the afternoon and found a message on his desk that his father wanted to see him. Which was good news and bad news. Philip Price had been a stern man, which did him a service in the career he’d chosen. As a parent, his demeanor left something to be desired. For the life of him, Logan couldn’t
figure out what had driven him to his father’s private equity firm, instead of joining a corporation in their human resources department
.

Magdalena liked to send him little sayings by email. Once, after discussing her own father, Stash Ludzecky, a grim, foreboding man, she forwarded him a quote by Roland Warren: “Kids have a hole in their soul in the shape of their dad. And if a father is
unable or unwilling to fill that hole, it can leave a wound that is not easily healed.”

Logan probably did have that hole, and most likely it affected his relationships, too. At thirty-seven, he’d never come close to settling down with a woman. Shaking off the unpleasant thoughts, Logan went into his private bathroom, brushed his teeth and threw water on his face. Then he headed to Philip
Price’s office
.

He knocked, and when his father said to enter, he stepped into the old man’s domain. It was the biggest of all the offices, befitting for the founding partner of the firm. Paneled in dark wood, with heavily draped windows and hardwood floors, it suited the man who occupied it
.

“Hello, Philip.” His father had insisted Logan and his brother Thomas call him by his first name
at work. It had carried over to their private lives, too. When was the last time he’d said
dad
?

“Logan, you’re back.” Tall, with a solid build, Philip leaned forward and nodded to the seats in front of the desk. Logan didn’t enter or sit until asked.

He dropped into one of the leather club chairs. “You wanted to see me?”

“How’s the The Natural Life deal coming along? I know you met
with Holland today.”

“We’re about to start the analysis stage so we can further explore their strengths and weaknesses. But from the investigative pre-work we did when we thought we might want to invest, I don’t expect surprises.”

“Always expect surprises. That’s what this business is about.”

“Yes, of course.”

“Magdalena happy about the progress?”

“Very. She’s so adept at taking
the information, especially synthesizing numbers. She’s got a lot of talent,” he added. Unlike Thomas, who’d tried operations but couldn’t find a niche in it. He was great at finance, though.

“Which is why I hired her right after she got her two masters degrees from Harvard.”

Actually, Logan had found her at his alma mater when he’d gone to recruit there. She’d been on track for valedictorian
and was one of the most self-confident students in the school. Of course, she was brilliant. Her career trajectory was fast—she graduated from high school and went right on to Cornell. From there, she earned two degrees at Harvard Business School--an MBA and also an MS in data analytics. She’d started interning at Price the summer before her last year.

“Is there anything else you wanted from
me, Philip?”

His father took a bead on him. “How is your mother?”

God, he wished the man would stop asking about her. Why didn’t he question Thomas like this? Oh, hell, maybe he did. “Mother’s fine. I’m having dinner with her this weekend.”

“Give her my regards.”

Logan wanted to say
Why, Dad? You fight like cats and dogs.
But of course, he didn’t. Instead, he nodded, stood and
left his father
.

Feeling down about the empty encounter, he stopped at Magdalena’s office, knocked, then opened the door. She wasn’t there and had forgotten to lock up, as usual. Her space reflected her personality, too. The taupe leather furniture with teak accents, the light flowing from the open blinds and the scent of something rich and expensive. Her perfume. On closer inspection, evidence
of Magdalena’s values were scattered around the room—one family picture, her diplomas, a comfortable pillow in peach tones. On a shelf off to the side was the trophy she’d brought here—a skiing competition they’d both been in two years ago
.

Hell, why was he ruminating about her like this? Probably because of Teresa’s nagging. He left the office and went across the hall to his own. Trying to
ignore his mood, he pulled up files on the computer, and got to work.

oOo

The Ludzecky women had kicked all the men out of the house—Sal and Rafe would stay overnight at his loft, Adam and the twins at their house in Manhattan, where they went on weekends and vacations—and
Matka
had taken advantage of the free time to go to Gerald’s. So at 6:00 p.m. on Friday night, the seven
sisters all gathered in front of the fireplace in the Ludzecky homestead. The big stone monstrosity blazed heat into their bodies, and the wine they poured warmed their spirits on this frigid January night
.

“So,” Elizabeita said from her seat in the big rocker. “We want to hear all the details of the wedding.” She winked at Nia. “And then the illicit stuff from you.”

Nia blushed. Magdalena
was so happy to see Nia like this. She’d been mourning for three years and finally had let herself care about Rafe. He’d rescued her from her grief. And she was helping him get over the loss of his surrogate father and friend.

“Sorry,” Nia said. “The details are too lurid.”

Most of their mouths dropped. “Nia, what happened to you?” This from Ana. “You never joke about these things.”

“Now I do. Rafe and I had watched this bawdy DVD on sex talk and…never mind. Pick on the newlywed.”

Sitting next to Nia on the couch, Paulina, solid, even, down-to-earth Paulina, got starry-eyed. “The trip was amazing. Nia and Rafe left us alone for the three days before the wedding, and our room was up on a hill, with our own personal plunge pool.”

Elizabeita choked on her wine. “Seriously,
they don’t call the pools that at a
couples
resort.”

“Get your mind out of the gutter,” Nia told her sister.

“As if you didn’t…in the pool.”

“Hmm…maybe.” Paulina’s face turned grave. “I love him so much. Sometimes I can’t believe this has happened to me.”

From her side, Nia squeezed Paulina’s hand. Happiness after a tragedy did not always come to people. “I’m just glad he bought
that house down the street. When it’s renovated, by Pettrone and Ludzecky Buildings, you’ll be close still.”

“Yeah, me, too. It’s a decent compromise, though having two houses is unimaginable to me.”

“What about you guys?” Caterina turned to Nia. “Using the L-word yet?”

“No, not yet. Jonas’s death still weighs heavily on him, though I did my best to take his mind off it. We’re just
treading water.”

Sofia reached out for Nia’s hand. “I can understand that he needs time, Nia.”

Magdalena said gently, “But things between you two are working out, right?”

“Uh-huh. I’m moving on now, from Peter. He’d want it that way.”

“You two are so lucky.” Elizabeita sighed. “You each found soul mates.”

“If you’d slow down for a few minutes,” Magdalena told her dryly, “You
might find someone, too.”

“Nah, I’m too young to settle down. But there was this great ski instructor in Aspen over New Year’s who…let’s just say, taught me a lot.”

“Someday, you’re going to fall hard, little sis.” This from Ana. “Just be careful.”

Silence. Then Sofia asked, “Ana, are you dating at all?”

“As a matter of fact, I am. The college hired another human-resources guy,
and I work with him on recruiting new students. We had dinner a couple of Friday nights.”

“Isn’t that awkward?” Sofia asked. “With Jared still teaching at Mount Mary?”

“No more awkward than when he cheated with a student, even if she’d just graduated.”

“Did everybody know about his affair?” Elizabeita asked. “You were so closemouthed about the whole thing.”

Ana shot Magdalena a
look, then said, “Not that I know of. It was months later when we got divorced.” She turned to Sofia. “How about you, honey?”

Sofia blushed.

Lizzie pounced. “What…? Come on, girl, tell.”

“Since I’ve been meeting with the high school Physical Education Department about teaching yoga in their program in the fall, I’ve met some interesting men.”

“Jocks?” This from Paulina. “Oh, my
God, not you with a jock.”

“No, they’re great guys, though, if a bit overpowering for my taste. Honestly, you should see how
big
some of them are. But I was referring to the cute vice principal who oversees the department. His name is Gus. I like him.”

Ana watched the sister who they all protected. It was so wonderful to see her like this. “Have you dated?”

“He asked me to stay for
lunch, twice. We went off campus one day.”

“Good for you.”

All eyes turned to Magdalena. “Your turn, Mags.”

“For what?” she asked innocently.

“For sharing your love life.”

“I would if I had one.”

“I thought you were dating that stockbroker?”

“The one Logan called The Cashman? No, I stopped seeing him. All he could talk about was money—his, mine and what he was eventually
going to make. Speaking of work, I’m involved in a huge project.”

“To hell with the project,” Elizabeita said. “No one else in your life?”

She shook her head.

“I think it’s because you have Logan.” Surprisingly, this came from Nia.

“You do?”

“You’re such close friends, especially since the guys died. But even before that. You go out to dinner. To events. He spends time at your
apartment. Why would you need someone else?”

“Duh! For the thing we’ve never done together.”

Elizabeita quipped, “I’ll bet he’s great in the sack.”

“His girlfriends think so.”

“Don’t you ever wonder about a romantic relationship between you two, Mags?” Again, this from Nia.

Once or twice, she’d thought about sex with Logan, but no matter how hot it would be, she couldn’t risk
their relationship going south because of it. He was too important to her. “And spoil a good friendship? Never. I’ll find someone. Maybe I’ll check out the jocks at Sofia’s PE department.”

“As if. They bored you to tears in high school.”

“Carl and I were pretty close. He played tennis.”

Sofia said, “I wonder how he is.”

“I don’t know. I hope he’s happy. I am”—she scanned her sisters—“without
a guy. It is possible, you know.”

“Now, that’s just plain sad.” Elizabeita scowled. “I’ll have to work on you.”

“God forbid. Work on yourself, kid.”

And so the banter went. Magdalena watched it unfold, thanking God for giving her this family. And Logan, who, next to them, she cared most about. And she
was
sure she didn’t want to date him, no matter what his girlfriends said.

 

Chapter 3

 

The design of The Natural Life store in Westchester was supposedly representative of each of their franchises in the US. Magdalena and Logan would be able to assess parts of the business from this visit and the two other locations they’d travel to.

Magdalena sat in the back of the firm’s town car, between Thomas and Logan. Similar in coloring, both with
dark hair and light blue eyes, the two men couldn’t be any more different in personality, as evidenced by how close Thomas sat to her.

“Scoot over, Thomas. You’re crowding me.”

He gave a quiet snort and moved. The man never did anything outright that might be considered sexual harassment, but Magdalena knew in her woman’s heart he wasn’t to be trusted.

“How are the kids, Thomas?” Logan
asked
.

She and Logan had discussed his brother’s underside, and she’d insisted she could take care of any inappropriateness. But Logan managed to make pertinent points, like now. Thomas was a married man with two beautiful children and a sweet wife.

“They’re driving Ella crazy. Two teenagers in the house is bedlam.”

“Magdalena grew up with seven siblings. They managed.”

“Yeah,
I know. I think it’s different when your kids have everything. No offense, Magdalena.”

“None taken. I’m proud of my roots.”

“You should be. You came so far.”

Because she’d
made it
was not why she was proud of how she grew up. She appreciated the values she’d developed because of her family
.

When he got no response on his last comment, Thomas asked, “So, what exactly are we looking
for in this visit?”

Since Thomas had brokered the financing on this deal, securing university pension funds to invest, he’d wanted to visit the stores with them
.

“First off, to see for ourselves if the stores represent the client’s business philosophy and strategies as portrayed in the prospectus.” The prospectus was an official document that outlined various aspects of the company a
private-equity firm might invest in.

“We also want to confirm that the store itself is set up for the clientele they serve. Eventually we’ll interview the management.”

Magdalena added, “Of course, we’ll check for any red flags—like skirting a safety requirement with too many boxes of product in an aisle or on an endcap. But a lot of today is to get the feel for the store.” Though Philip
and his investors had visited The Natural Life store in Manhattan, the three of them hadn’t yet done that
.

BOOK: Risky Business
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