I can do this.
Taylor adjusted the leather strap of her handbag and stepped out of the elevator. I can do this. She walked down the hallway, her chin high. She was here to see her son, and she wasn’t going to worry about running into Eric. No, today the focus was on Thomas, not her former partner—the man who’d recently broken her heart. She was coping. She was strong. She could face Eric now and not die a little inside.
She rounded the corner, a serene smile pasted on her face. Pam, Eric’s secretary, glanced up from her whispered squabble with her co-worker Donna Logan and froze when she met Taylor’s eyes.
“Taylor!” Pam exclaimed as she stood. Donna turned, and Taylor watched the woman quickly mask her surprise and—was that pity?—with a professional smile as she, too, rose.
“Hi, Taylor, how are you?” Donna asked softly, smoothing her hands over her dark pencil skirt.
“I’m good, thank you, Donna.” Taylor inclined her head, proud of the normal tone she’d managed. She smiled at Pam, who was staring at her as though she was a new game on The Price is Right that didn’t make any sense.
“What are you doing here?” Pam blurted.
“I just thought I’d pop in and say hello to Thomas.” Taylor’s son would probably be just as surprised as Pam by her visit. She usually saw Thomas at home, or at a restaurant. Her visits to the Forrester offices had dwindled after her breakup with Eric. Donna’s smile brightened. “Would you like me to get him for you?”
Taylor shook her head. “Thank you, Donna. I know my way around.”
Pam frowned, then said, “Uh, would you like a lemon bar?” She reached for the pretty porcelain plate on the desk without taking her eyes off Taylor, and knocked over Donna’s steaming mug of coffee.
Donna shrieked as the hot liquid spilled over the desk and onto her skirt. “Pam! You klutz.”
Pam watched as Donna tried to mop at the mess of her outfit, her lips lifting in a smirk. “Relax, Donna. Or should I call you Hot Pants?”
“You did it on purpose,” Donna wailed.
Taylor left them to their squabbling, a tilt to her lips. No matter what Brooke Logan did to leave her mark on Forrester Creations, apparently some things never changed.
She tapped on Thomas’s door, and entered at his call.
“Mom, hey,” Thomas said, his face immediately wreathed in a welcoming smile. And just like that, Taylor relaxed. Somebody was happy to see her. She closed her eyes as Thomas embraced her, holding her to his tall frame for a moment.
“What are you doing here?” he asked as he stepped back. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see you, I just wasn’t expecting your visit.” His blue eyes narrowed. “Did we have a lunch date? Did I forget?”
Taylor shook her head. “No, Thomas, we didn’t. Since when do I need an excuse to see my own son?” She sank into the armchair, resting her handbag in her lap. “So tell me, how have you been? What have you been up to?”
“We’ve been working on the Hope for the Future line. You should see it, Mom, it’s like nothing we’ve done before. Admittedly, when Rick did the first rebranding exercise I wasn’t convinced, but there’s no denying we’ve picked up new buyers, and the change in scope is—refreshing.”
Taylor arched an eyebrow. “Do I hear praise for Rick coming from your mouth?”
Thomas chuckled. “I won’t go that far, but I will say that the new designs are exciting. Here, let me show you what I’ve been working on.”
He leaned over his desk and picked up his sketchpad. “Taking the Hope for the Future line to new markets has given it a bit of an urban tribe feel. I’m exploring different cultures for styles and fabrics—check this out.” He opened the pad up to reveal a sketch of a dress. Taylor gasped. The flowing lines, the asymmetrical layering, the vibrant colors—it looked both exotic and elegant, different and quite beautiful.
“It’s stunning, Thomas,” she said, smiling. Thomas showed her more of his designs.
“See here, I saw a similar pattern on an African shawl. I had to draw it. Using it as a shift, giving it length, it just draws the eye down the figure. And here, this one where I’ve used a kimono sleeve on this silk tunic …”
His blue eyes sparkled as he talked about his inspiration for one garment after another, and she shook her head in amazement. He had such a talent. Different than his father’s, but there was still a boldness in the classic lines, a fluidity and grace that was unique to the Forrester Creations brand. Brooke might be prancing around the boardroom in her ridiculous underwear, but ultimately it would be Thomas, Taylor and Ridge’s son, who would carry on the legacy of the Forrester name.
“These are beautiful, Thomas. Stunning.” Thomas smiled briefly. “Thanks. I just hope Rick and Grandpa agree.”
A soft knock interrupted their conversation, and Taylor glanced up to see Liam Spencer at the door. “Hey, Thomas. Taylor. I just brought some of the proofs of the Eye on Fashion spread for your new men’s collection to review,” Liam said, an apologetic smile on his face.
“Oh, great, I’ve been looking forward to this. I’ll go get Rick and Brooke for the meeting,” Thomas replied, then shot his mother a quick look.
Taylor rose, smiling. “That’s fine, Thomas. I just wanted to stop by for a few minutes. I’ll leave you two to get on with your work.”
Thomas gave her a hug. “I’d love to do lunch tomorrow, if that’s okay?”
“That would be lovely.” She would look forward to it, and hopefully it wouldn’t be a pity visit on his part, spending some time with poor, lonely Mom. He gave her a wave as he left his office in search of Brooke and Rick. Taylor’s grip tightened on her purse. She really didn’t want to run into Brooke. She was still angry at the woman’s machinations, and still raw at Eric’s defection. It was time to leave.
Taylor stepped toward the door, but halted when she reached Liam. She gazed at her former son-in-law. He was a handsome young man, with brown hair, brown eyes, and a neatly sculpted beard, but there were dark circles under his eyes and his jawline was more defined than usual. He looked drawn.
“How are you, Liam?” she asked, her voice soft with concern.
He hesitated, then smiled briefly. “I’m okay, Taylor.”
She arched an eyebrow. He did not look okay—and hadn’t since her daughter had left him. You didn’t need to be a psychiatrist to figure that out.
He sighed. “I’m okay,” he repeated. “I’m … getting there.”
She nodded. Her daughter, Steffy, had miscarried her and Liam’s first baby. The tragedy had rocked both the Spencer and Forrester clans. Nobody, though, had been more affected than Steffy.
“She’ll come around, Liam. She just needs some time,” Taylor whispered. “I still believe that, despite everything you two have experienced, you were meant to be together.”
“Yeah, well, it’s hard to be together when your wife leaves you and moves to the other side of the globe.”
Taylor rested her hand on his forearm. “You’ve both gone through such a traumatic event, Liam. I don’t agree with the way Steffy is dealing with it, but you and I both know Steffy is … unique—in many ways.”
Liam smiled sadly. “Yes, she certainly likes to do things differently.” He lifted his gaze to hers, and she sighed at the pain in his expression. “She shut me out, Taylor. I lost not only my baby, but my wife as well. I think the annulment states pretty clearly where we are in our relationship.”
She squeezed his arm. “I know, Liam, but I think Steffy chose to live in Paris with her father for a while to … well, to sort herself out. And when she does, she’ll come back. You’ll see. She’ll realize how good the two of you were together.” She smiled encouragingly. “Just—just don’t give up on her yet, okay?”
Liam shrugged. “I’m moving on, Taylor. I have to. If it was anyone other than Steffy, you’d tell me to do the same thing. I’ve got to let her go.”
Taylor sighed. “I guess I’m not ready to give up on you two, not yet. I want you both to be happy, and I remember a time when you were happy together. Obviously, though, now is not that time.”
She patted his arm and was about to leave when a thought flashed through her mind. “Oh, how is Bill doing?”
It had been all over the news, in the tabloids, online. The Spencer plane had crashed, with Bill on board. For two days he was missing, presumed dead, in the remote Rocky Mountains around Aspen. He’d eventually been found, with only minor injuries. Taylor pursed her lips. Not even a plane crash could dent the indomitable Dollar Bill Spencer.
Liam placed the folder and his iPad on Thomas’s desk and folded his arms. “Actually, Taylor, I’m glad you asked.”
Taylor arched an eyebrow. “Oh? He’s okay, isn’t he? I mean, I haven’t seen him since the accident, but all the reports said his injuries were only minor …” She hadn’t stopped by to see Bill, hadn’t visited him, called him or reached out to him. The last time they’d spoken, it wasn’t quite amicable—and that was an understatement. She fought off a wave of guilt. Steffy and Liam’s baby had been his grandchild, too. He’d been in a plane crash. She should have at least called him.
“No, no, he’s fine. Physically.”
Her gaze narrowed. “But emotionally? You think there is a problem?”
Liam cocked his head to the side. “Well, I don’t think he’s crazy.” He hesitated, and she realized they were both remembering some of the outrageous stunts Bill had pulled in the past. “Well, no more than usual. No, I mean—he’s … changed.”
“That’s to be expected, Liam,” Taylor said. “Your father was in a plane crash. It has to be one of the most frightening, traumatic events a person could live through. Sometimes, when people face a near-death experience, it forces them to reevaluate things.” She shrugged. “It will have an impact on him, that’s for sure.”
“Oh, I understand that.” Liam nodded. “Sure. It’s just that—I don’t know how to describe it,” he said, shrugging. “He’s different. Even Wyatt’s noticed, and I wouldn’t describe my half-brother as sensitive.”
Taylor didn’t bother to hide her skepticism. “Different? How?”
Liam sighed. “Would you—would you mind talking to him?” He rubbed his chin.
“You want me to talk to him, you mean, as a psychiatrist?” Being at Forrester Creations must be bringing forth all of her nightmares at once. She hadn’t really spoken to Bill since his wife—and her patient—Katie, had left him. Or rather, since she’d exposed Bill’s adulterous affair with his sister-in-law. At a party. In front of everyone. Bill had not been happy.
Talking to him now would be—awkward. “Yeah. If you could,” he said.
“Well, I can, I’m just not sure Bill would want to,” she said. It wasn’t that Bill was the shy or quiet type; she doubted he’d ever experienced either of those states. It was that Bill didn’t hold back. He could be direct to the point of brutal. He said what he had to say, and everyone else just had to deal with it. Although she’d noticed he wasn’t really receptive when that approach was used on him. She’d been on the receiving end of a few of his conversations.
She reached into her handbag for a business card. “He could come and see me at my office, if he’d like …” she suggested, but Liam shook his head.
“See, that wouldn’t work,” he said. He swallowed. “Would you see him? At his office? Please?” He clasped his hands together, as though in prayer.
Was he begging?
“Well, I can swing by on my way back to the office,” she said slowly. Her next appointment wasn’t until three o’clock. She had plenty of time. “It’s just a little unorthodox, Liam.”
Liam nodded. “Oh, I understand, and I really appreciate you doing it,” he said in a rush.
“Okay. Well, I’ll see what I can do.”
“Great. Thanks, Taylor.”
She walked toward the door and tried not to drag her feet. She really didn’t want to talk to Bill Spencer.
“Oh, and Taylor?” She turned. “Yes?”
“Can you not mention this conversation to my dad? Or anyone else?”
Her brows drew together in confusion. “Actually, can you not mention anything about talking, or counseling, or therapy?” Her frown deepened.
“Just … just pretend you’re dropping in for a friendly chat. And that you’re not there as a shrink.”
Taylor shook her head as she left her son’s office. Pretend not to be a shrink. If anyone on God’s green earth needed a shrink, it was Bill Spencer. The man was—she shook off a shiver—dangerous. That was the best word she could think of to describe him. Dangerous.
Bill Spencer had an indefinable quality, a determination that she’d seen in other successful tycoons—she’d married a Forrester, after all—but in Bill, well, it manifested itself as a ruthless drive that was all-encompassing and exhausting. He was highly competitive and uncensored, with a devil-may-care attitude and a roguish charm. He certainly was an attractive man. She could understand why the Logan sisters were drawn to him like moths to a flame. All that power could be intoxicating—if you liked that sort of thing. She preferred an equal partnership, with trust and mutual respect. Oh, along with honesty and loyalty. They were important, too.
The sound of clicking heels was quickly followed by Brooke Logan rounding the corner with her son, Rick Forrester. The usurper. Thomas brought up the rear.
Taylor immediately chided herself. Rick wasn’t the usurper. He had as much right to be working at Forrester Creations as Thomas. Some would argue even more so, as he was the true blood son of the fashion magnate, Eric Forrester. Thomas, on the other hand, was the son of her former husband, Ridge. It had been a shock to everyone, not least of all Eric and Ridge, to discover that Ridge was, in fact, not Eric’s biological son.
Rick and Thomas may not share any blood, and may not share the same vision for Forrester Creations, but there was no denying they were equally passionate about honoring the Forrester name and making it flourish.
Taylor’s gaze narrowed on the blonde by Rick’s side. This woman, on the other hand, was totally deserving of the title “usurper”.
“Taylor. I wasn’t expecting to see you here,” Brooke said, not bothering to hide her surprise.
And I wasn’t expecting to see you wearing more than your underwear, Taylor thought. “There seems to be a lot of that going around,” she said.
Brooke tucked a strand of golden hair behind her ear. “Was there something you wanted?” she asked.
Taylor arched an eyebrow. To scratch your eyes out, perhaps? She smiled, saccharine-sweet. “No. I merely thought I’d pop in and see Thomas.” She nodded at Rick. “Good morning, Rick.”
“Taylor,” he said quietly, eyeing the two women cautiously.
“Oh? Were you planning on seeing Eric, too?” Brooke asked. “He’s not here, he’s on a business trip in Genoa City.”
Taylor kept her smile in place, although her eyelids flickered in an effort to mask the sharp shard of pain that pierced her heart. It was perhaps Eric’s betrayal that had hurt the most. The whispers and secrets he’d shared with Brooke, the protection he’d offered her … the kisses they’d exchanged.
Yes, honesty and loyalty were now very high on her list for desirable Mr. Right attributes. “No, I was just on my way out.”
Oh, heavens, she’d felt so brave, so strong coming in, but now that she stood face-to-face with Brooke, she just wanted to run. Either that or rant and scream, maybe even hit the woman. She shifted the strap of her handbag, just to give her hands something to do other than sweat—or hit Brooke. She locked her trembling knees in place. She would not crumble.
“Oh, well, we won’t keep you, then,” Brooke said stiffly, and shifted to the side in an unspoken gesture of dismissal.
Taylor’s lips faltered, and she ducked her head as she walked past the woman, continuing down the hall to the elevators. It wasn’t until she was safely ensconced in the elevator, doors shut, that she let the tears roll down her cheeks. Coming to Forrester Creations had been a mistake. She felt more whipped than warrior.
Bill scowled at his assistant. “Is this the best you can do?” He tossed the report onto his desk in disgust.
“I’m sorry, Bill. I don’t create the figures, I merely collate them,” protested Alison.
“You’re my assistant, Alison. Don’t you think it would have been nice to get a warning on a decline in circulation? You know, assist?” First their online forums started talking about another company’s magazines, then some of their advertisers had pulled campaigns in favor of this new company, Fashion Buzz, and now circulation was dropping. It didn’t take a genius to realize something had to change before he lost too much market share. He was top dog in the fashion publications sector, and he wasn’t planning on budging.
“But I—you—” She raised her hands in the air and stood. “Look, you have the report now. You can see the figures. Would you like me to schedule a meeting with the New York office?”
Katie and Will were in New York. He swung his chair around to stare out the window, blind to the view. That would mean flying to the Big Apple. He clenched the chair’s armrests. That would mean getting on a plane. He couldn’t do it.
But he really wanted to see his young son. He also needed to meet with his New York team. “Make it a video conference.” He’d ask Katie to bring Will over for a visit.
“Are you sure? We could also schedule some meetings with some of the advertisers there, especially some of the designer brands.”
“Video conference.” His grip tightened on the leather.
“But this would be a good opportunity to get face time with some of our accounts, possibly—” “I said video conference. If the accounts want face time, they can video conference, too.” He whirled in his chair. “Or better yet, maybe some of the New York team could get in front of our clients themselves. Hell, that’s why we have a team in New York. So that I don’t have to do everything myself.”
Alison gaped at him for a moment, her expression pale. She nodded stiffly. “Fine. I’ll schedule the VC and forward you the details.” She crossed to his door. He noticed her raised shoulders, and bit back a sigh. She should know by now a thick skin was needed to work with him.
“Tell them I’ll want an action plan drafted for the call, and it better be a good one,” he said.
Alison opened the door and Bill saw a woman standing there, her hand raised as though to knock.
He groaned. “What the hell do you want, Taylor?”
Taylor’s deep blue eyes rounded, and he realized he’d been more terse than necessary, but jeez, this was one woman he didn’t want darkening his door.
“Uh, I just thought I’d drop in,” she said, her tone soft, almost hesitant.
“Well, you can just drop the hell out again.”
Alison brushed by her, and Bill didn’t miss the reassuring pat the woman gave Taylor’s arm. Traitor.
Taylor walked into his office and closed the door behind her. He sighed. Apart from his ex-wife Katie, Taylor was the only one who seemed to ignore his commands. In any other woman, he’d find the attribute admirable. Not Taylor, though. This woman had ruined his marriage.
“I just thought I’d say hi.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “I’d almost believe that, if we were on speaking terms. But we’re not, so say whatever the hell it is you came here to say, and then get the hell out.”
Taylor nodded, her lips pursed. Bill forced himself to look away from them. The woman had voluptuous lips. It was one of the first things he’d ever noticed about her—her deep blue eyes, her pouty lips. She had the figure and beauty that could grace one of his magazine covers. And then she’d ruined the image by speaking her mind.
He leaned back in his chair. “Why are you here?”
She walked to the chair in front of his desk and took a seat, crossing one shapely leg over the other. “I realized I hadn’t really talked to you since—”
“Since you broke up my marriage?” he interrupted, baring his teeth in a parody of a smile.
She frowned, and her lips pursed further. He forced his gaze up to her eyes.
“Actually, I was about to say since the plane crash. I—I just wanted to see how you were doing.”
He held up his hands and waggled his fingers. “I’m all in one piece, as you can see. Thanks for the visit. See you.” He pointed to the door.
“Really? You’re fine?” She leaned forward in her chair, and he noticed how the sapphire-blue silk neckline of her top draped, just a little. He told himself that in his line of work, he always noticed clothing. He also noticed she’d ignored his instruction to leave. Again.
“After everything that’s happened, you feel fine? I mean, if you wanted to talk about it …”
Bill smirked. “Trust me, Taylor. If I wanted to talk about my feelings, you’d be the last person I’d choose.”
She nodded. “Oh, I fully understand. I know, though, for instance, that you not only lost a grandchild recently, as did I,” she said, and he watched her hand gesture gracefully between them, “but you recently lost your own baby with Brooke.” He noticed her tiny wince at that mention. “And then you went through a horrific crash. I can only imagine that would leave some … emotional scars.”
He kept his expression still as he stared at her. Did she know what he was going through, now? He rose from his desk and went to the bar in his office. He kept his back to her as he poured himself a scotch, hiding his shaking fingers.
“I’m fine.” He couldn’t sleep, he had the shakes, and he was fighting a feeling of overwhelming panic. But he was fine. He would be fine.
He turned as he took a sip of the amber liquid, relishing the warmth as it spread down to his core, as though maybe that could fight the chill he constantly felt inside.
“Can I offer you a beverage?” he asked, an inner demon grabbing hold of him.
“You know I don’t drink liquor,” she answered softly, her gaze narrowed. “And I’m surprised you’re drinking now. It’s not even midday.”
“Yes, well, I know you managed to convince my ex-wife that I had a drinking problem, but I don’t. I’m totally in control. And I drink whatever I like, whenever I like.” He was in control. He strolled back over to his desk, putting some distance between himself and this woman who noticed too much. He gazed out the window.
“How often do you drink, Bill?”
The words were softly spoken, gently delivered, but he stiffened. “Well, I can still hear you, so apparently not often enough.”
A dark shape fluttering in his peripheral vision caught his attention. He turned his head and froze.
In his mind’s eye, he saw the bird flying straight for the window. He flung up his arms to protect his head as the bird smashed into the glass, raining shards of prickling pain all over his arms and shoulders. Wind tore at him, the broken glass felt like the grasping claws of a bird of prey, and he fought against the force that was pulling him closer to the gaping hole in the building.
Excerpted from The Bold and the Beautiful: Collision Course by Shannon Curtis. Copyright © 2014 by Shannon Curtis.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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