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 (3 page)

BOOK: Hard Impact: An Alpha Billionaire Romance Novel
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“Okay, okay,” Melanie said, laughing as she raised her hands in surrender. “I get the picture.” Then she narrowed her eyes, a brow lifted in curiosity. “So when you
do
watch TV, what do you watch?”

I didn’t answer right away. “It depends on my mood.”

The eyebrow went higher. “What does that mean?”

“Well, if I’m in an okay mood, I like to watch murder and mayhem—”

“Murder and mayhem? What’s that?”

“You know, those crime shows on TV? I got hooked on CSI when I was in junior high, but I prefer the shows that are about real cases being solved, detective shows, forensics—”

“What else?” Melanie asked, seeming to be curious now in spite of herself. “If you’re not in an okay mood, what do you watch?”

“I’m not sure what you’re asking,” I said, gazing down at the photograph of Blake Masters.

“Okay, let’s be blunt. If you’re sad or in a bad mood, then what do you watch? Horror movies?”

I looked up at my friend and laughed. “Don’t be silly. If I’m depressed, I like to watch shows that make me feel better, that make me laugh.”

“Like what?
South Park? The Simpsons?”

“Gads no,” I said, sticking out my tongue. “Things like
The Golden Girls,
or
Big Bang Theory.
When I’m depressed, I watch my DVD of the first year of
The Waltons—”

“Oh my God,” Melanie groaned, leaning her head back and staring up at the ceiling. “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.”

“You asked me! And there’s nothing wrong with that show. It’s a feel-good show, you know?” Melanie stuck a finger in her mouth. “It used to be my mom’s favorite—”

“That’s the point, Misty. It’s ancient history! You know, sometimes I get the feeling that you’re looking for something that doesn’t exist anymore.” I sat up in my chair, feeling offended, but she went on. “Do you ever watch any of the really old shows, like on TV Land…” she threw up her hands. “Like, I don’t know, the one about the little brother, I think they called him Beaver for whatever reason. And then there’s the one about the little boy growing up with his single father?”

How does anyone not know Andy Griffith?

“Where you going with this, Melanie?”

“That ideal world you’re looking for! You know, that show about the Waltons actually took place in the 1930s… you get that, don’t you? And those other shows that were so popular in the fifties and sixties? Ancient history. You’re looking for an ideal that doesn’t exist anymore.”

I frowned. “I don’t know about that, Melanie. I like to think that society cares about more than choosing a husband from a number of candidates on a television show, or watching families fall apart because of alcoholism or drug abuse or televising the bad behaviors of a bunch of silly sorority girls who have no idea how shallow they appear.”

“I understand what you’re trying to say, Misty, but I do have to tell you, as a friend, that it’s time to step into the twenty-first century. The good old days are gone.” She suddenly glanced up at me, her eyes wide with alarm. “Please don’t tell me you’re looking for that perfect husband, the house with a white picket fence, the two-point-three children and a family dog. The guy goes to work every morning with his briefcase, nine to five work hours, and then comes home and asks for a martini and you live happily ever after.”

“It’s the American ideal,” I shrugged lamely. “And no, I’m not looking for a man to take care of me. I can take care of myself. Past, present, and future. But is there something wrong with wanting stability?”

Melanie shook her head. “No, of course not,” she sighed. “Anyway, to get back to our present, Blake’s ex-wife is a nasty piece of work and stirs the pot when it comes to him. She’s not at all happy with her prenup anymore. As you can guess, she wants more. Lots more. She’s pissed off at Blake and using the only weapon at her disposal to drag him and his reputation through the mud.”

I held up a rival gossip mag. “And of course, we, as journalists, perpetuate the situation by printing everything that comes out of her mouth.” I grimaced and tossed the magazine back down.

“I already told you, his ex, Celine Danvers, got the rumor mill started again when she and Blake broke up and he filed for divorce. To say that she wasn’t happy with him is an understatement. She’s been going for the jugular ever since, fanning the flames of the rumor mill, suggesting that he told her what really happened the day his father died, and hinting, though not coming right out and saying it, that Blake had something to do with it.”

I thought about that. So I wasn’t so much assigned to define Blake Masters’ rise to success as I was to get to the bottom of the rumors regarding his possible involvement in the murder of his father. I sat back in my chair, not at all happy. How in the world was I supposed to dredge up something like that with an interviewee? Come right out and ask, “Hey, did you murder your dad?”

“Was anyone ever charged with his murder?”

Melanie shook her head. “No.”

I glanced once again through the papers I held. No information regarding the murder of Blake’s father. I would have to get online, access the Kansas County Courthouse or the local police or sheriff’s department in an attempt to gain access to information regarding the crime. Digging around in an old murder was not exactly in my job description, and I had no idea how to go about even approaching the topic with Masters, or if he would shut me down when I started asking questions.

I also knew that if I wanted to get to the bottom of the rumors, I would have to interview not only Blake but those closest to him. That in itself would be another challenge. This was a test, I knew that now. Angela was testing me. If I failed to produce, I knew I could kiss my chances of working on high profile interviews or as a feature writer for the magazine goodbye. My aspirations for advancement could be flushed down the toilet.

Not that I really cared about
this
particular magazine, but it was an opportunity to test my journalistic chops. At the same time, I wasn’t so sure about any of this. My experience as a journalist in North Dallas had been limited to regional garden-variety events, nothing nearly as involved or potentially scandalous as this assignment.

I glanced at Melanie. She had worked at the magazine for several years and was listed as a feature writer and was very good at her job. “Why did Angela give this assignment to me and not to you?”

Melanie leaned back in her chair again. “To be honest with you, Misty, I’m not sure. It’s an odd assignment to give a relatively new writer at the magazine.” She shrugged. “Then again, she’s probably testing you. You know that, don’t you?”

I nodded. “If I do well, my future here bodes well. If I don’t, I’ll probably find myself looking for another job, right?” No one had to tell me that if I got fired, or if Angela was ever called by a future employer regarding my work history, my chance of getting a glowing recommendation would be iffy at best. For the first time in months, I actually began to believe that my decision to join this magazine was a mistake. I had been in such a hurry to move up that I hadn’t carefully assessed the ramifications to the rest of my career goals.

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Melanie commented. “Look, Misty, if you need any help with background or anything, you can call me, okay?”

I nodded, focused again on the papers in my hand. “I have an interview scheduled with Blake Masters for tomorrow morning at nine o’clock. That only gives me the rest of this afternoon to prepare. Dammit!”

“Better get cracking,” Melanie said, gesturing toward my computer.

I nodded, stuffed the papers and the photograph of Blake Masters back in the envelope, and then readjusted my chair. I struggled to focus my thoughts before I started tapping on my keyboard. First, I would Google him, see what was being said about him on the Internet gossip mill. I would then call the local sheriff or police department to see if I could get some information about the murder, although I doubted it. If it was still an open case, investigators weren’t likely to share information. I would have to find another way.

C
HAPTER
2

Blake

“Y
our company’s on the verge of breaking out, Blake. You know that, don’t you?”

The question came from my CFO, Jerry Leben. Jerry had his pulse on everything and didn’t pull punches, which was one of the reasons I hired him in the first place. That was three years ago. Jerry had walked into my makeshift office in the basement of the home I rented, not impressed by who I was, not curious about who I might have been, but with one thought in his mind. Financial solvency. Profits. Getting me on the fast track with my fledgling company.

Hard Impact. The company started with a seed of an idea that germinated from my past. Not the past I’d buried deep within the recesses of my mind, but my past as someone thrilled with everything and anything that had to do with the outdoors. My idea had burgeoned into not only providing exquisite and natural playgrounds for the rich and famous, but also my passion for preserving the wilderness, for giving people experiences they might never have realized if it wasn’t for me and my company.

“Are you listening?”

I refocused my attention on Jerry and the three other people huddled around what I called the war table. Next to Jerry sat my media relations guru, Ruby Rutledge. She took care of all the marketing, publicity and anything else that fell under the umbrella of media relations. She eyed me thoughtfully, then nodded, agreeing with Jerry. I made a face and then glanced at my second-in-command and best friend, Matt Bauer.

“Blake, you and this company have to make a point,” Jerry continued. “If you don’t, rumor and innuendo can take down this company faster than an explosive. Tell me that you understand that.”

I looked at Jerry and barely refrained a grimace. I had no patience for this. I was preparing to take my chopper up to check on my newest acquisition in southern Oregon, but Jerry called an emergency meeting. My board of directors now sat around the table, staring at me. Insisting that I agree to this supposedly in-depth interview or exposé, or whatever it was called, believing that it was probably the only way to save the reputation of my company.

I didn’t agree. “Do you know what happened the last time I was so-called interviewed?” I asked, sending a look toward Ruby. “You know how that ended, don’t you?”

“Blake—”

“You know as well as I do that the only thing these people — I won’t even call them journalists — want is dirt on me.” I shook my head and lifted my hand as Ruby opened her mouth to protest. “They ask one or two questions about the company and then they want to know everything and anything about my private life, my relationship with… with my ex-wife, the rumors about—”

“And it’s got to stop,” Jerry interrupted. “Don’t you think it’s time, Blake? Don’t you think it’s time to settle the rumors once and for all?”

I darted a glare at Jerry, my jaw clenching. “The past needs to stay in the past. I refuse to discuss my relationship with Celine. I don’t care what she says about me, but I won’t stoop to her level and engage in tit-for-tat. I don’t have time for that and I damn well won’t play those games.”

Ruby shuffled a few papers in front of her, then glanced up at me. “You’ve become a trending topic on Facebook and Twitter, did you know that? There’s even a new website. You want to know what it’s called?”

“No,” I snapped.

“It’s called, ‘Did He or Didn’t He?’”

“Hell’s fucking bells,” I ground out, shaking my head. Would I ever be able to put the past behind me? My company was on the rise. Had been doing just fine until Celine started muddying the waters. Again. For the billionth time, I mentally kicked myself for ever getting involved with her. I’d been lured by her beauty, that charming smile. Those tits. Too bad that behind her outward persona was a putrid snake, one that would stop at nothing to get what she wanted. She would lie, cheat—

“Focus, Blake, focus!” Jerry said. “You
do
understand why this is necessary, don’t you?”

Once again, I stared down at my CFO. “To be honest, Jerry, no, I don’t. It will just turn out like all the others. Don’t you get it? They’re not interested in the truth. They’re not interested in how Matt and I grew this company from my basement to this.” I swept my arm to encompass my offices, my location on prime property overlooking the bay. “They’re not interested in statistics, growing assets, the properties, the opportunities. They’re only interested in juicy gossip.” I paused and stared at the faces around the table looking somberly back at me. “My life is not juicy gossip. And I certainly won’t open myself up to today’s idea of journalistic reporting and end up in a worse spot that I’m in right now.”

“Blake, nobody’s suggesting you do that,” Matt broke in, his voice calm and measured, as usual. “The point is, the magazine is one of the top sellers in San Francisco and Northern California. It will be good publicity for the company, don’t you agree?”


Sweet Success,”
I scoffed. “What kind of a name is that for a so-called serious magazine?” Silence greeted my question and I exhaled with impatience. “I’m just going to talk about the company. Does everyone here understand that?”

“That’s all we want you to do,” Matt said.

I rubbed a hand over my face and felt the bristle of whiskers. I hadn’t even shaved today. Matt, the voice of reason. Matt, the one who always managed to ground me when I was flying off the handle, which seemed to be more recently of late. Matt, who had cautioned me to tread lightly when it came to Celine, but of course, me being me, I’d rushed headlong into the relationship with the woman thinking — foolishly — that she was the one for me. The one I could finally settle down with. The one who believed in me, trusted me, and didn’t take me for granted.

Idiot,
I reprimanded myself. I’d let her beauty blind me to what became obvious the moment we exchanged our vows. Maybe that’s why I’d turned into such a cynical bastard over the past few years. Maybe that’s why I was so upset about my board agreeing to this interview.

BOOK: Hard Impact: An Alpha Billionaire Romance Novel
9.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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