Read Hard Impact: An Alpha Billionaire Romance Novel Online

Authors: Helen Grey

Tags: #steamy sex, #bad boy, #hot guys, #secret past, #journalist, #billionaire romance, #sexy secrets

Hard Impact: An Alpha Billionaire Romance Novel (23 page)

BOOK: Hard Impact: An Alpha Billionaire Romance Novel
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While I’d never been particularly self-conscious, so uncertain, I didn’t think the feelings projected from him. No, this was more on me. These were my shortcomings, these feelings of inadequacy, these thoughts of putting myself down, feeling that maybe I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, or smart enough to attract someone like him.

But why did I want to? The minute I began thinking that way, I scolded myself. There was nothing between us! Wouldn’t ever be, so why was I even worried about how he felt about me? I shouldn’t give a damn, but I did. As I stared up at the dark ceiling last night waiting to fall asleep, I seriously considered that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t cut out to be a journalist. If I couldn’t ask the questions that needed to be asked and damn the consequences, how could I do the job?

I didn’t want to turn into one of those cutthroat reporters who asked the stupidest questions. Like the woman I’d seen on television one time after a school shooting. One of the reporters first on the scene had the audacity to ask a parent whose child had been shot and taken to the hospital, currently in surgery, how she felt. How the hell did the journalist think the mother of the injured child would feel? I didn’t want to become one of those journalists who sniffed blood in the water and then went after it like a great white shark.

Couldn’t there be a balance between investigative journalism and compassion? Perhaps not with people like Angela and those like her at the helm. Like the old saying went, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

While I often admired the journalism chops of some of my past heroes and heroines when it came to getting in-depth interviews, I also wondered if they had been bothered by their intrusive questions. How did they feel digging into the tragic pasts of many of their interviewees? While on the one hand, I realized that digging beneath the surface was part of my job as a journalist, doing it to someone like Blake, especially in regard of the circumstances, just seemed cruel.

It wasn’t like I was an investigator with a law enforcement agency. Was it really anyone’s business? A person was innocent until proven guilty, weren’t they? And Blake had been named as a
person of interest,
not a suspect in his father’s case. No charges were pending nor had charges ever been filed. If they had, I’m sure I would have found some records of it — somewhere. I was no novice at digging into court records.

Perhaps the police had questioned him because he was one of the last people to see his father alive, and then that was that. They would have certainly checked his alibi inside and out, investigated every comment made in any statement. Legally, he had been left alone all these years, or I surmised that he had, so other than the recent interest instigated by his ex-wife, what was the big deal?

I was supposed to get the story behind the story. That was my job. Did that mean I would be expected to interview and include a quote in the article from Blake’s ex-wife, Celine? That was a distinctly unpleasant thought, and I had no intentions of doing it. Not in the beginning and certainly not now. It would be a major betrayal of Blake. I knew I felt that way but couldn’t explain why. Why this sudden compassion for Blake? I was listening to my gut, but was my gut leading me in the right direction? Was I just being a fool, swayed by a pretty face? I didn’t think so.

What if there was no story to tell? How could I convince Angela, or any potential readers, that I
had
gotten to the truth of the matter unless I got an outright denial from Blake? I didn’t see that coming anytime soon, especially when he shut me down when I got even a little close to asking about his family?

At some point, I would have to realize the interview was done. I would have to walk away from Blake and move on to friends, acquaintances, and even family members, if I could find any. If the magazine would pay for the travel, I might even consider going to Kansas to see if I might get a glimpse into the case file, talk to some investigating officers, if they were still around.

Then I realized something. I didn’t want to. Not because I didn’t have the chops, but because I honestly felt there was no story here. It was a non-story. It was nothing more than a whirlwind of gossip Celine had created after her marriage to Blake had not gone the way she intended.

As the minutes ticked by, sleep eluding me, I had continued to grow increasingly frustrated by my assignment. And at the root of it all was a glaring truth. I liked Blake Masters. I really did.

And I meant what I said to Blake the previous evening before he stormed off. I did believe he had been given a raw deal. The fact that he could function, build an empire, and maintain and retain his ambitions, his quest for adventure, and deal with the daily grind of business obligations was quite impressive. I wondered how I would’ve been able to function if the tables had been turned. If I had a black cloud of suspicion hanging over me, how would I have dealt with it?

I had no idea, but this wasn’t about me. This was about Blake. And even if I did meet him out at the helicopter tomorrow — this morning — did I want to continue with this? I didn’t want to admit defeat or failure. I didn’t want to quit. At the same time, I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with all of it — the assignment and my feelings for him.

If I couldn’t get Blake to open up and talk to me, I would have no recourse but to seek out others in my quest for information.
Factual information,
I reminded myself. Angela wanted facts.

But the bottom line was that my issues and the problem with this assignment hadn’t changed. If the death of Jeremy Masters
was
an open investigation, there was little chance of me getting a glimpse at the case records. What did Angela expect me to do? And so, my thoughts spun around and around until finally, close to two o’clock in the morning, I finally fell into a restless sleep.

My phone alarm went off much too soon. I had been dreaming. I was at the rodeo with Blake, strolling through the booths, laughing with him, sharing cotton candy, holding hands. Women had glanced at me with envy before turning to stare pointedly at Blake. I felt a strange sense of superiority as I noticed the glances of the women as their gazes passed between me, Blake, then back again.

To my surprise, I dropped off back to sleep after the first alarm went off, but thank goodness I’d set the second. The next time it went off, I sat upright, my heart pounding as I reached for the phone and turned the annoying buzzing off. I immediately got out of bed, not wanting to take the chance of falling asleep again if I lingered.

I had no doubt that Blake meant he’d said. If I wasn’t at the helicopter when he was ready to leave, he’d leave me behind. I also knew that even if I wasn’t on time or refused to go to the next property, he would arrange for me to get back to San Francisco somehow. A man with Blake’s means and influence could do just about anything.

I scrambled for the pair of jeans and sweatshirt I’d worn the previous day. I had no idea where we were going, and once again bemoaned the fact that I had no clothes to wear other than the slacks and blouse I’d worn the morning I met Blake. I suppose I could have asked him to take me to a store so I could buy a few things, but I didn’t want to impose. Besides, his properties weren’t conveniently located close to a local Walmart.

With a sigh, I left the jeans and sweatshirt on the bottom of the bed and padded over to the closet to retrieve my clothes. I donned them, hoping that they weren’t too terribly wrinkled.

By the time I left the bedroom, my laptop and notepad in the satchel that hung over my shoulder, and carrying the dirty jeans and the sweatshirt downstairs to put in the laundry, Blake was just emerging from the kitchen, a steaming mug of coffee in hand.

He eyed me quietly for several moments, and then nodded, as if coming to some kind of decision. “Truce?”

Truce? What was he calling a truce over? So he’d gotten upset last night. Big deal. “You have a right to get annoyed, Blake,” I said. “I probably would react the same way if somebody was asking me a bunch of personal questions.”

He said nothing, but continued to stare at me until I began to feel flustered. “Where’s the laundry room?” I asked, lifting the arm dangling with the clothes.

“Downstairs in the basement,” he said, sipping his coffee. “Just bring them along. They may end up being more practical than what you’re wearing.”

“And exactly where are we going today?” I asked, not sure if he would answer. While he didn’t seem to be angry with me, he hadn’t even offered me a good morning or a cup of coffee. Not that I needed either. Still, I had yet to see him even crack a smile. Maybe that was for the best.

I stood at the bottom of the stairs as he turned around and headed for the kitchen. Moments later, the faucet over the sink turned on and I imagined him rinsing his mug and putting it back in the cupboard. Without saying a word, he emerged and gestured for the front door. So we were leaving. Now. Just like that. I watched as he headed for the front door and paused to reach down to grab the small duffel bag resting beside it. He opened the door and waited for me to exit in front of him.

Clutching the clothes with one hand, my satchel with the other, I stepped outside. I paused on the edge of the porch while he locked the door to the cabin.

“Stay here,” was all he said before he strode to the barn and locked that door. He also locked up the shed before walking in the direction of the helicopter, gesturing for me to follow.

The sun was just making its way over the eastern horizon, painting the sky with the color of orange and raspberry sherbet. The air was crisp and cool, heavily scented with dew-laden pine. In the near distance, I heard a hoot owl, and the low, crooning sounds of two mourning doves.

As I walked behind him to the chopper, I mentally shook my head. If this was how things would be, I wasn’t sure I wanted to accompany him at all. I sighed with impatience. It was too damned early in the morning for this, but I needed to speak my mind.

“Let’s just get this out in the open, shall we? Do you want me to come along or do you want me to go back to San Francisco? Honestly, Blake. I don’t want to waste your time and I certainly don’t need mine wasted. While it’s nice to get out of the office, I—”

He turned to face me, his expression serious as he studied me like a bug under a microscope in the early morning light.

“When’s the last time you had any fun, Misty?”

“What?”

He paused as he opened the door to the passenger compartment of the chopper. “When’s the last time you did anything just for fun?”

I thought about it and frowned. When was the last time I’d done anything fun? I was horrified to realize that I couldn’t remember. Blake must’ve seen the expression on my face, and nodded.

“Thought so.”

As I prepared to climb in, he touched my arm to help me into the compartment. My body came instantly awake. Such a simple touch to evoke such sensations in me so quickly.

“I thought so. You’re too tense. Too serious. I know you have a job to do, but is there any reason you can’t have a little bit of fun while you’re doing it?” He paused with the door still open, gazing out toward the sunrise before looking back at me. “I’ll tell you what. Let’s see how things go today. I have another property to check out and one of the amenities that I have lined up for guests—”

“I won’t have to ride a four-wheeler again, will I?”

His lips twitched. “No, you won’t.”

“Does it have anything to do with water?” Most resorts were built near a lake or some kind of water location. While I didn’t mind fishing, although it wasn’t my favorite thing to do, I didn’t like going into water where I couldn’t see the bottom. I didn’t want to go swimming, water skiing, or boating.

“No, nothing to do with water.”

“Where?”

“Jackson Hole.”

“The Camp Robber, you mean?”

He nodded. “I’ll make you another deal. You accompany me on the tour they’ve got set up for us, and I’ll answer… one question about my past.”

I was about to jump at it but then hesitated. “What kind of a tour?”

“Not really a tour, exactly, but a review of one of the perks.”

I wasn’t sure what he had up his sleeve, and I knew I probably wouldn’t like it. I was still bruised from the four-wheeler. But at this point, I wasn’t quite willing to concede. Not just yet. I resolved that I would do what I had to do to get answers so I could write my article.

What did I have to lose? I didn’t think he would encourage me to do anything that would put my life at risk, so it wasn’t that. But I also knew that the more time I spent with him, the more I was beginning to like him, bad temper and all. In the last couple of days, I’d really enjoyed myself… most of the time.

As if he could read my thoughts, he gave me an appraising glance as he helped me inside. “I gather you’re feeling better today?”

I nodded. “Yes, thank you.”

The door shut and I was surrounded once again by the luxurious interior of the chopper. I sank down into the soft cushions, made myself comfortable and decided that whatever waited for me at the end of this journey would be worth all of it. At least I hoped so.

Once again, I watched as Blake went through his preflight checklist. He grabbed the clipboard from the console and inspected the exterior of the craft. When I could see him through the windows, I noted his serious expression. Admired his strong profile. Wondered what went on in that mind of his.

I idly rubbed my hand on the soft seat beside me. I could actually get used to this. What fun it must be to have the kind of money where you could do anything you wanted, anytime you wanted, without having to worry about where your next paycheck was coming from. Not that I envied Blake’s life, other than the fact that he didn’t have to worry about money. Still, I didn’t think I would want his life for anything.

Despite his millions, billions, of dollars, he lived under a black cloud of suspicion. Who would want to live like that? It didn’t sound like his relationships with women went very well either. He was so introverted, so private. He must have spent years building walls to keep people out. Women seemed attracted to the strong, silent types, but that only went so far. Pretty soon, they wanted to sense feelings. They wanted to know what their partner was thinking, that he was there to support them as much as they supported him. Women wanted to know they were appreciated, treasured even. I didn’t perceive Blake as the type of guy who could give most women that. Then again, what did I know?

BOOK: Hard Impact: An Alpha Billionaire Romance Novel
8.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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