Read The Bad Boy Billionaire: What a Girl Wants Online

Authors: Maya Rodale

Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary romance

The Bad Boy Billionaire: What a Girl Wants (8 page)

BOOK: The Bad Boy Billionaire: What a Girl Wants
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And then someone said something that caught my attention.

“I’m wondering when they’ll reopen the bridges and tunnels?”

“No one is going in. And no one is going out,” Frank answered.

Sam was still on this island. He was here, perhaps only blocks away. The thought of it made my skin crawl. But even worse was the thought that he might have gotten in his car to drive home in the storm when he’d been drunk beyond reason. Perhaps cops caught him trying to leave, gave him a sobriety test and put him jail for the duration of the storm. I had no idea what had happened. I only knew that he was out there, and angry and I was afraid to see him.

I glanced at Duke as he chatted with Frank. He’d be pissed to know that I was actually worried about Sam after what he’d done to me—and what he tried to do. I was kind of pissed with myself for caring. But I was a nice person who cared about others, particularly people I had loved with my whole heart for twelve years. And I did not want to lose my ability to experience empathy because of one awful experience.

I still didn’t want to see him. I still
hated
the idea that he was somewhere on this island.

I tuned back into the conversation about all the ways in which the city was shut down or barely working but still carrying on.

“Wait—if the power isn’t on and there’s no way out of the city, what are we going to do about your IPO day and my reunion?”

“We’ll figure something out,” Duke said confidently—and too quickly. We hadn’t had that mature, logical conversation I was supposed to initiate. Now was as good a time as any, right?

“But we should come up with a plan,” I said. Because that’s what I did—planned. Outlined. Prepared.

“It’s too soon to plan,” Duke countered. “We don’t know if there will be power or if we can get out of the city. We might end up spending the night eating cereal and drinking warm beer in my apartment.”

I made an unladylike face. And then persisted in making Duke share my worries.

“But if the power comes back on,” I started, “your party is at the same time as mine.”

“We’ll go to both,” he replied with an easy shrug.

“How? Logistically, it’s practically impossible. Both events are from six to nine, with an hour and half drive in between them.”

“I don’t know, Jane,” Duke answered, completely at ease and unconcerned by an issue that was kind of consuming me at the moment. “I’ll figure something out. Let’s not worry if we don’t have to and don’t imagine the worst-case scenarios.”

“I’m writer. It’s my job to imagine worst-case scenarios,” I muttered. I also had a brain for imagining dramatic events, and hosting imaginary arguments and falling for the luscious fantasies I made up. What served me well in writing fiction could complicate things in real life.

I knew it was a bit ridiculous to worry about these two parties right now—or even at all. I mean really, what a fabulous problem to have! Do I go to the hottest party in Manhattan with my billionaire boyfriend? Or do I show up at my reunion, full of people who dumped me and fired me, with my billionaire boyfriend by my side? And let’s not forget my popular romance novels and the killer dress I would buy with my royalty money . . .

What worried me was old issues between me and Duke resurfacing. I knew he had feelings for me. I knew I wasn’t just any other girl to him. But I didn’t know that, if he had to choose, he would pick me over his work. I wasn’t crazy to worry about that—it had already happened before.

Somehow, we made it work. But sometimes I wondered if he thought his work and his stuff were more important than mine.

After we finished our drinks and gleaned every last bit of info from the bartender, Duke and I headed out, holding hands as we walked toward the river.

“Are you OK?” Duke asked. “You’ve been really quiet.”

“What’s going to happen when Project-TK IPOs?”

“I’ll be a billionaire in truth, so people can finally stop calling me the Bad Boy Billionaire with all that snark.”

For Duke, the success of Project-TK was intimately tangled up with his two previous and massive failures. He’d had a billion bucks and lost it. Built one company, only to have it fail spectacularly. Everyone had written him off. This was his chance at redemption.

But what about
after
redemption and triumph?

“Will you be crazy busy?” I asked.

“Probably,” he said, squeezing my hand.

“Too busy for me?” That was really the question on my mind. My heart.

“I’ll make time for my girl,” he said firmly. Then he smiled that infamous, roguish smile and his blue eyes sparkled and still . . . still . . . he took my breath away.

Then I tripped over the sidewalk and lurched forward.

“Careful,” he said, catching me.

“I’m a little tipsy. And I had just one glass of wine.”

Like the other night. Just one glass.

“Do you think it was my fault?” I asked suddenly, as the awful thought occurred to me. Had I somehow
asked
for what happened to me?

“What are you talking about?” Duke asked, confused.

“The bad thing that happened with Sam. I had been drinking. Just a glass of wine, but I hadn’t eaten so I was probably a bit tipsy. Was it my fault?”

Duke stopped. He turned to face me, placed his palms on my cheeks and made sure I was looking into his eyes when he replied.

“No, it was not your fault,” Duke said firmly. “No woman deserves what happened to you, and I don’t care how much she’s had to drink. He’s a pathetic ass and if I ever see him, I will beat the crap out of him. You did not deserve what happened.”

“It was just one glass,” I said in a small voice.

“Even if it had been ten,” Duke said, “it shouldn’t have happened. Either way, Sam is to blame.”

“Thank you,” I said. I knew it, logically. But those awful girl doubts crept in. Duke chased them away. I inhaled and exhaled and resolved to not to doubt myself so much.

“Are you sure you don’t want to involve the cops?” Duke asked, anguish in his voice.

I knew I should. I knew what Sam did was wrong. But the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t see the point. Would the police even believe me? I had the bruises on my arms, but no one had seen the assault and I doubted we could track Sam down with the city in such a mess. The police were probably busy with other stuff right now.

Sam was going through a rough patch. A trip to jail wouldn’t help. I had loved him once and didn’t want to ruin his life over a stupid thing he did when drunk.

But then again . . . how many men went through rough patches and got drunk and didn’t assault women who cared for them? Plenty. But how could I have loved someone who had this capacity for violence lurking inside of him? It was hard to reconcile and I quickly gave up trying. I just wanted to forget.

We got to the East River after crossing over the FDR. Lots of people were out, competing for a patch of cell service. We wandered until our phones started vibrating with incoming messages.

Sam Chase:
I’m sorry

Sam Chase:
R U ok?

Mom:
Just want to check in on you! Let me know you’re all snug as a bug and ok!

Sam Chase:
Please let me know you’re ok.

Sam Chase:
I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me.

Roxanna Lane:
I’m with mystery man at his place. Are you ok?

Sam Chase:
Jane . . .

Sam Chase:
Please Jane. I’m sorry.

Mom:
Janie! I’m so worried about you. Let me know that you’re ok.

I replied to my mom and Roxanna letting them know I was fine and with Duke. I deleted all the messages from Sam—it felt so good.

“Any news?” Duke asked.

I shook my head no. “You?”

As we walked home, he told me all about his team, where they were stranded and how everyone was making plans to meet up at apartments of those with power. So they could keep working. The world went on. Even without power.

L
ATER, DUSK WAS
falling and we faced another cool evening lit by candlelight. I sat on the couch gazing shamelessly at Duke. He stood, hands in his pockets, staring out the window.

“Another romantic night in,” Duke said, turning to me.

“Is it wrong if I say that I’m tired of romantic nights in?” I replied, shutting my notebook and shaking out my hands. Seriously: how did people handwrite so much?

Duke took my hands in his and started to massage them, rubbing out all of the tension. I sighed. Bliss.

“What do you want to do tonight?” he asked.

“Take a shower. A long, hot shower.” It was the truth. It was also impossible. There was no running water this high up without the electric pump working.

“And your second choice?” Duke asked with a wry smile.

“I want my own clothes. And a proper meal. And real light. And toilets that flush.”

“Not loving your taste of Regency living?”

“I love how flattering candlelight is,” I conceded. Everything little thing was so soft and lovely when lit by candles instead of overhead fluorescents. “But I confess: I want my modern conveniences back.”

“I could boil water on the stove and make you a bath.”

“We don’t have water,” I grumbled. Buildings this tall required electricity to pump water to the higher floors. Running water wasn’t an option. God, I missed it.

“We’re really screwed aren’t we?” Duke said, grinning, even though there was nothing amusing about his. Still, his amusement was kind of infectious and I couldn’t help but smile and sigh and lament my tragic fate of having my hands massaged by my hot, devoted boyfriend after a day of writing what felt like a truly great book.

“I told you. I had the worst luck lately.” But maybe I was kind of lucky. Because I had found a man I loved and work I loved.

“And I told you I’m lucky.”

He pressed a kiss on my lips. Just a quick little press of his lips against mine. I wanted more. I didn’t want to feel Sam on me anymore. I wanted new feelings to wash away the old ones.

“Since we’re living it up Regency style,” Duke began, “why don’t we play cards, drink brandy and make ridiculous wagers?”

“How do you know all that?”

“I read your books, Janine,” he said, calling me a wrong version of my name, as he did to be cute sometimes.

Not being a Regency gentleman, Duke did not have brandy stashed in his apartment. Unfortunately, he didn’t have cards, either. He did have a bottle of really good whiskey.

“Now what do we do,” I asked after we settled on barstools at the kitchen counter with our drinks. A mass of candles were scattered around, illuminating this little corner of the world.

Before he answered, Duke checked his iPhone. Of course it was off, and he was having a phantom phone moment. “Damn it. Habit,” he said. “What did people do before the Internet and Twitter?”

“I once read about an eighteenth century house party in which all the guests would write and exchange little notes to each other after supper. It was like instant messenger before the Internet.”

“Are you trying to get me to write you love notes?”

“Maybe. Or perhaps I have another ulterior motive,” I said. Without waiting for his response, I ripped out a sheet of paper from my notebook and wrote something across the top. Then I folded the paper and slipped it across the counter to him.

How did you meet Felicity?

“It’s been on my mind,” I confessed.

He scrawled a quick response and pushed the paper back to me:
I knew you were going to ask me about her.

I pursed my lips, annoyed. That wasn’t an answer. I gazed at him for a second and then wrote:
Is anything in her book true?

Duke grinned and wrote quickly:
She does mention that I’m the greatest lover she’s ever had.

Finding that it’s easier for me to write how I feel, rather than say it out loud, I wrote:

I don’t want to hear about you with other lovers.

“Me neither,” Duke said softly. We gazed each other. The candles flickered. No one spoke, no one wrote. But something was understood.

Duke wrote something on our little sheet of paper and pushed it over to me.

I read it:
Where do you see yourself in five years?

“What is this, a job interview?” I said with a laugh. He just shrugged and pointed to my pen and paper. I was supposed to answer. For a second I tapped the pen against my lips, thinking. Then I wrote the truth:

For the first time, I have no idea where I want to be. I have no plans. I want to be happy. Writing makes me happy.

And then I hesitated because this was, possibly, a big question with a big answer. Then I added one more line:

You make me happy.

It was as close as I could come to saying that I wanted to be with him in five years. Or maybe forever.

Duke then started to write what seemed to be a novel. I watched him as he wrote. Dark tousled hair falling forward into his eyes, fixed on the sheet of paper. His hands strong and determined. His lips parted slightly and I imagined kissing him.

We—me and Felicity—had a thing. A relationship. But we were too young and had too much money, which led to too much trouble. She wasn’t good for me and I wasn’t good for her. We broke up years ago. She’s writing the book because she needs money for her brother’s medical bills. I offered to pay because if it weren’t for me fucking up the company, as employee #4 she’d be a millionaire. But she wanted to do this for herself. So I don’t care what she says about me. I owe her this. If you trust me, those old secrets can’t hurt me now.

But I want you to know the really important stuff: I just want to be with you.

I scanned the words, letting out a deep breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. I knew him . . . maybe not all the details . . . but I knew the real man underneath it all and he was good. He was kind. He was generous. And we were in love. There was only one response to what he had written.

I leaned over and pressed my lips to his. It was a slow, gentle, tentative kiss. Kind of like a first kiss when you’re still young and unsure. After what had happened . . . this was like starting over.

BOOK: The Bad Boy Billionaire: What a Girl Wants
7.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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