HANNAH, Silicon Valley Billionaires, Book 3

by Leigh James

Before She Can Put the Past Away… There’s Hell to Pay.

Hannah Taylor—the bright, bubbly publicity director of Silicon Valley’s celebrated startup Paragon Laboratories—was kidnapped and beaten. Her bodyguard-boyfriend, Wesley Eden, was shot right in front of her. The responsible party? None other than Chinese mogul Li Na Zhao, who’ll stop at nothing to steal Paragon’s blockbuster biotechnology from Hannah’s CEO sister Lauren.

Now, Wesley and Hannah are back home and on the mend. Their relationship is tested as Wesley struggles to recover, and Hannah, fueled by the injustice of Li Na’s actions, is out for retribution while refusing to acknowledge the PTSD she’s grappling with from her kidnapping. Convinced that Hannah is hiding the truth about her captivity, Wes is determined to find out what really happened while Li Na had Hannah.

Out to protect her loved ones, Hannah is hell-bent on finally taking Li Na down, especially after she discovers that Paragon isn’t the only Silicon Valley company in Li Na’s crosshairs. Naturally, the ethically challenged Chinese CEO likes her position on top and refuses to give up without a fight…

But Li Na hasn’t grappled with Hannah Taylor when she’s bent on revenge.

Other Books in the Silicon Valley Billionaires Series

CHAPTER 1

 HANNAH

“Hey.” I nudged Wes’s shoulder and he groaned.

He pulled me, gently, against his chest. “Hey what?”

I nestled against his big body, warm underneath the blankets, while staying mindful of his bandages—and the wounds they protected. “I have to get going to work.”

He kissed my forehead. “Stay for a while.”

Feeling his arousal, I rolled my eyes. “Easy, stud. Dr. Lucas said you need to take it slow.”

“I know.” He chuckled. “But you’re awfully close, and you’re awfully pretty.”

“Aw, that’s sweet—and it’s a nice try, but I’m not going against doctor’s orders.” I slid off him and moved to the other side of the bed. I didn’t want to tempt him, and the doctor said we should abstain for a few more weeks. We needed to be sure Wesley’s heart was strong enough to withstand intense physical exertion.

His heart… I shivered, thinking about how I’d almost lost him. He’d been shot right in front of me, and I’d thought he was dead…

“Hey.” Wes reached for me, pulling me closer. “I’m a little worried about you. You had another nightmare. Do you remember?”

“No.” That wasn’t entirely true—I had a vague memory of the dream, someone trying to grab me and hold me down in the dark. “Did I wake you up?”

“You did, but I don’t mind. You said some stuff, though. You were crying.”

“Oh. Huh. Sorry about that.”

“You don’t need to apologize.”

I kissed his cheek. “You really are the sweetest, but I have to go. The nurse should be here soon, okay?”

“Okay.” But he didn’t sound okay. “Do you want to…talk about it? The dream?”

I got up, throwing on one of Wes’s enormous T-shirts and a pair of my sweats. “Talk about something I don’t even remember, that has no bearing on reality? Nope.” I leaned down to kiss him again. “I’m going to grab us some coffee before I take a shower. Be right back.”

Wes didn’t say anything, because he didn’t have to. The look on his face said plenty—he was worried about me.

He’s being ridiculous, I thought as I headed to the kitchen. He’d been shot, suffered a head injury, and put into a medically-induced coma. He’d had a minor heart attack while in said coma. I’d only been kidnapped by some assholes who held me captive in a dirty condominium—compared to what Wes had been through, I’d had it easy.

My sister, Lauren, and her fiancé, Gabe, were already in the kitchen. They were dressed and ready to go to their respective offices. Gabe was headed to Dynamica, the technology company he owned in San Jose. Lauren, of course, was heading to Paragon Laboratories, the biotechnology company she owned, where I worked as the publicity director.

Lauren’s face lit up when she saw me. “Good morning.” She wrapped me in a big hug and rocked me back and forth. She’d greeted me this same way every day since I’d come home, holding me like she’d never let go.

“Hi.” The word came out muffled against her long, blonde hair.

“Is Wes up?” Gabe asked as Lauren released me.

“Yeah. I’m just getting us some coffee.”

Gabe headed to our room. “I’ll see if he needs help.”

“Thanks.” I turned back to Lauren. “Gabe’s being so great about Wesley—seriously, I don’t know what I’d do without him.”

Gabe and Lauren had asked Wes and I to stay at their enormous estate in Palo Alto for a while. After everything that had happened, we all felt safer together at the compound. We were surrounded by Gabe’s security-agent brothers, Levi and Asher Betts, a team of their top Betts Security agents, along with bodyguards from Paragon Laboratories. Levi and Ash were busy relocating their business from Boston to Silicon Valley, but they checked in often, keeping close tabs on the situation at home.

No one wanted to give Li Na Zhao—the Chinese CEO who’d been stalking Lauren’s technology for over a year, and the woman responsible for Wesley’s shooting and my kidnapping, among a multitude of other crimes—another chance to infiltrate our personal or professional lives. We’d tightened our inner circle, tripled our security and were closely watching each other’s backs.

Since Wes had come home from the hospital two weeks ago, Gabe had taken it upon himself to get him up every morning and take him to the bathroom. At six-foot-two, two-hundred-twenty pounds of pure muscle, my boyfriend was a big guy. Even though he’d lost some muscle-mass due to his injury and the ensuing atrophy, it would’ve been impossible for me to move him. If I’d tried, I think it would’ve embarrassed Wes—but he and Gabe joked about it; Gabe called it his morning workout.

“Gabe loves Wes—you know that. He’s more than happy to help.” Lauren poured two cups of coffee, one black for Wes and one with extra cream for me. She watched me as I took a sip. “You look like you didn’t sleep that well.”

“I slept great,” I mumbled. “I’m going to make sure Wes is settled, and then I’ll head to the office. Okay?”

“You don’t have to come back to work, yet,” Lauren told me for the hundredth time.

“I know, but I want to. I need to feel like things are getting back to normal.”

My big sister nodded, but she looked worried. “Fine, but make sure you have security with you at all times. Come and see me for lunch, okay?”

I grabbed the coffees and made a beeline for my room, before she could scrutinize me further. “Sure.”

“Hannah?”

“Yes?”

“I love you.”

That stopped me in my tracks, and my eyes filled with annoying tears—just like they did every time she told me she loved me, which was every five minutes, these days. “I love you, too. Now stop being such a sap, geez! Getting engaged has turned you into an emotional basket-case.”

“It’s not because I’m engaged.” Lauren sighed, picking imaginary lint off the fitted navy blazer I’d bought for her. “I’m emotional because I’m so happy you’re back, and that you’re safe.”

I put the mugs on the counter, pulling her in for another hug. At my lowest point back in that dirty condo, where they’d kept me in a dark room, I’d often wondered if I’d ever see her again. “Me, too. Me too.”

***

I paced back and forth at the foot of the bed. “Are you sure you’re going to be okay?”

“Yes honey, for the tenth time, I’m going to be fine.” Wes gave me a very patient, and very irresistible, smile. He had one of those smiles that produced two vertical grooves on each of his cheeks; for some reason, I found them mesmerizing. I often traced and retraced those lines, wanting to memorize them with my fingertips.

But this morning, guilt overwhelmed me too much to be distracted by Wes’s handsome face. My shoulders slumped. “But what will you do when you get hungry?”

“Get in the wheelchair, with the help of the nurse, and go get a sandwich. With the help of the nurse.”

I grimaced, knowing he hated the wheelchair. He probably hated having a nurse, too, but he never complained. “I made you a turkey, bacon and avocado sandwich. On the ciabatta bread you like from the bakery downtown. It’s in the fridge.”

He beamed. “You’re the best. C’mere.” He patted the bed next to him and took my hand when I got close enough. “I know you’re nervous about leaving me, but don’t be. The nurse will be here, security’s here, and I’m fine. I’m also thrilled that you’re going back to work. I think it’ll be good for you.”

I brightened. “You do?”

“Yeah, I do. I know how much you love your job and your friends at Paragon. You’ve been rattling around the house for the past few weeks, totally focused on taking care of me—you need to get on with your life. I don’t want to hold you back.”

“Wes, don’t be ridiculous! I’ve loved being home with you.”

“It has been sort of awesome. But you know what’s even better?”

“No.”

“Now, I get to see you in your sexy work clothes”—his eyes traveled appreciatively down my black dress, to my leopard-print heels—“and watch the NFL draft non-stop without you constantly changing the station. Win-win.”

“Ha-ha.” I reached out and stroked his cheek. “I hate to leave you, though.” Suddenly, I found myself near tears for the second time this morning.

He captured my hand underneath his larger one, and I caught a flash of it again—his worry. “I’ll be here when you get home, I promise. But I want you to promise you’ll keep security with you today, even while you’re at the lab.”

I nodded. “I promise.”

Careful to avoid smudging my makeup, Wes kissed the top of my head. “Go get ‘em. And have a great day.”

I looked up, my heart suddenly thudding in my chest. “I will. And Wes?”

“Yeah?”

We looked at each other for a beat, my courage faltering. “I—I love you.”

His face split into a grin, showcasing those lines that I also loved. “I love you, too. I’m pissed that you said it first, though. I had plans.

“You did?”

He clasped my hands and squeezed. “Of course I did. I’ve been wanting to tell you for what feels like forever…I just wanted to be at the top of my game when I said it.”

“So you could show off your big muscles while simultaneously declaring yourself?”

He laughed, but it sounded a little strained. “Something like that.”

I leaned forward and kissed his cheek, then carefully wiped my lipstick off his face. “Well, I beat you to it. I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m totally not. Because…I love you.”

“And I love you.” He pulled me closer and deepened the kiss, lipstick be damned.

I felt dizzy by the time he released me. Wes was good at many things, and kissing was at the top of the list. I fanned myself and hopped up. “Woo. Okay. I better go before we violate doctor’s orders.”

Wes groaned. “That doctor’s on my shit list.”

I straightened my dress and winked at him as I headed for the door. “When you’re better, we’ll make up for lost time.”

“I can’t wait,” he growled. “And honey? I love you.”

I grinned at him. “I love you, too.”

Wes flashed the smile I loved. “I said it first, this time!”

I laughed and blew him a kiss as I left, my heart feeling lighter than it had in weeks.

***

I texted the nurse on the way to Paragon, checking in on Wes. I texted her when I got to my desk. I texted her ten minutes later, to remind her that Wes liked the special electrolyte-enriched bottled water in the fridge. Then I texted her again to make sure she’d received my text.

Finally, Wesley texted me back to tell me to chill out, and to please stop driving the nurse crazy. Fine, I texted back, but make sure she gets you the right water, and don’t forget your sandwich!

PS, I love you.

Love you more, he wrote back right away. Hmm. I was going to have to prove him wrong about that.

I ached with missing him, but it felt good to be back in my sunny, cheerful office. When I’d been held captive, I another thing wondered about was if I’d ever sit at my desk again… I pushed the thought from my mind and ploughed through our most recent sales data, which continued to surpass all projections, and started drafting a much-overdue press release. My office phone buzzed. “Hannah? It’s Stephanie.”

Stephanie was Lauren’s assistant, and a close friend of mine at work. She sounded frazzled.

“What’s the matter?”

“I have ten messages already this morning from Fiona Pace. She won’t stop calling—she said she needs an emergency meeting with your sister.”

“What’d Lauren say?”

“She said she was too busy to take the call, and that since her ‘people person’ was finally back, I should direct Ms. Pace to you.”

Typical Lauren—she could solve any insane biotech problem you threw at her, but she couldn’t handle talking to people. “When she calls again, put Fiona through to me. I’ll take care of it.”

“Thanks.” Stephanie sounded relieved.

“I know how she can be—don’t worry about it.” I pulled up Fiona Pace’s profile after I hung up the phone, wondering why she wanted to meet with Lauren. She was the hard-charging CEO of BioTherapeutics, a hot new startup that had the industry buzzing with speculation about its enormous valuation. Reportedly, BioTherapeutics was developing an antibody therapy to help combat certain cancers. I scrolled through the company’s pages, noticing that Fiona had assembled an all-female leadership team—no small feat in male-dominated Silicon Valley.

Previously, Fiona had been the CEO of several Silicon Valley companies. She’d also written a popular self-help book for professional women, which had made her a minor celebrity. BioTherapeutics was her most recent venture. I’d known her for years through SVWBA, the Silicon Valley Women’s Business Association. She was past president of the association, where I’d also volunteered, and I considered her a friend. Still, I had to be on my game with Fiona. When she wanted something, she wanted it now.

But I knew how to handle her, and I was ready when Stephanie patched her though a minute later. “Hey, Fiona. It’s been a long time. How are you?”

“Not good,” she said, immediately, sounding unusually rattled. “And I have a bad feeling you’re going understand why all too well.”

My stomach dropped. “What…what do you mean?”

“I’d rather not talk about it over the phone. Can I come up? Can I meet with you and Lauren right now?”

“You’re here?

“I’m in the parking lot. I was hoping you could fit me in—it’s important.”

“Hold on—let me text Lauren and see if she’s free.”

I put her on hold and fired off a quick text to Lauren, wondering why in the hell Fiona Pace was sitting in Paragon’s parking lot. Something had to be wrong, very wrong. Fiona’s schedule was jam-packed. I’d tried to schedule a lunch with her two years ago, and we’d had to book it out six months ahead of time.

I read the reply from Lauren and got back on the phone with Fiona. “We can see you, but it needs to be quick. Lauren’s due back in the lab in a half-hour.”

“That’s fine. I’m coming in now.”

I hustled from my office to Lauren’s. She hadn’t been happy about the unscheduled interruption.

She jumped to her feet when I came in. “What does Fiona Pace want? I’m so busy today, there’s so much catching up to do—”

“I don’t know, but she sounded upset. And Fiona doesn’t do upset.”

“I don’t like it.” Lauren shook her head. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

I nodded, my stomach churning with nerves. “But maybe she’s working on another book and just wants to interview you.”

“I think she would’ve scheduled that ahead of time, don’t you?”

Stephanie buzzed in before I could answer. “Ms. Pace is here.”

“Send her in.”

Fiona Pace came through the doors immediately, wearing a violet-colored sweater and a pencil skirt, her brown bob shining in the sun that streamed in through the windows. She would’ve looked fabulous, if her face wasn’t so drawn. “Lauren, thank you for seeing me on such short notice.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Fiona. I enjoyed your book. It seems like BioTherapeutics is doing well—congratulations.”

“Thank you, that means a lot.” Fiona turned and pulled me in for a hug. “Hannah, it’s so good to see you. I’ve been following your story—I was worried sick.”

News of my kidnapping and the shooting at my house had been covered by the local press. Lauren and her attorney, Bethany O’Donnell, had done their best to keep the spotlight off Paragon and its violent entanglement with Jiàn Innovations, but people in the industry still talked.

“We’ve all been praying for you—me, Jim and the girls—I’m so sorry about what you’ve been through. What a nightmare.”

“Thank you. But I’m fine, and I’m thrilled to be back at work.”

“How’s your boyfriend?”

“Wesley’s doing much better, thank you. He’s home now, and he’s going to start physical therapy soon. He’s expected to make a full recovery.”

Fiona squeezed my hand. “That’s wonderful. I’m so glad.”

We all sat down and Fiona cleared her throat. “It’s not often I find myself sitting in a parking lot, begging for a meeting.”

“Why don’t you tell us what’s going on?” Lauren asked.

Fiona played with her rings. “Things are going well at BioTherapeutics—very well. We’re getting close with the antibody therapy, and I think it’s going to work. This could be big, a bigger innovation than we’ve seen in biotech in a long time. With the exception of your patch, of course.”

Lauren smiled. “Of course.”

“That’s amazing news,” I said. “So why do you seem upset?”

Fiona raised her gaze to meet mine, and I saw how hollowed-out she looked. “Because Li Na Zhao wants to steal the technology from me. And for the first time in my adult life, I’m scared. Scared, as in totally fucking petrified.”

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