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 (9 page)

BOOK: The Bad Boy Billionaire: What a Girl Wants
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My body responded to this kiss, to Duke, just like it had before. I felt everything in me soften, and I felt warm from the inside out. He reached out for me, sliding his fingers through my hair and lightly cupping my cheeks in his palms. I felt cherished. I felt loved.

We kissed there until the candles burned down to nothing. Then we moved to the bedroom, hand in hand. We kissed—just kissed—late into the night. There was something so sweet, innocent, patient and pure about it. Tonight I needed sweet, innocent, patient and pure. So I indulged in the particular loveliness that is an exquisite and epic kiss. Just a kiss . . . but I felt it all over.

 

Chapter Seven

I
WOKE UP
the next morning in Duke’s king-sized bed—alone. Reluctant to leave the warmth but curious about where he was, I pulled on more of his clothes—which didn’t fit at all—and padded out to the kitchen.

“Duke?” I called out his name a few times. No answer. I checked all over the apartment. There was a pot of coffee on, but it had gone cold and he was gone. He must have left hours ago.

“Could have left a note,” I grumbled as I heated up the coffee on the stove.

At first I figured he’d just ventured out to the store again—perhaps he found more cash or had more stock options to give out. I sat down with my notebook, pen and mug of coffee and began to write. But when an hour or two had passed and Duke hadn’t returned, I began to get nervous.

Where was he?

Another hour passed. I got annoyed. So annoyed that I couldn’t concentrate on writing. I started having imaginary fights with him in my head—upon his imagined return I would rage at him for disappearing without leaving a note. That is, when I wasn’t alternating between imagining some tragedy having befallen him. What if he had fallen down the dark stairwell and broken his neck? What if a tree branch fell on him as he was searching for an open bodega?

Curses to the mind of a writer!

My annoyance turned to anger mixed with serious worry. I had resorted to pacing and looking out the windows for signs of him when he finally returned later in the afternoon.

“Where have you been?” I thundered the minute he stepped into the apartment.

“Exploring,” he said with a grin, as if he wasn’t aware that I was now furious for having been left alone, clueless.

“You could have left a note!” I said sharply. “I didn’t know where you had gone or what had happened to you. I was worried! Now that you are obviously fine, I am just pissed off!”

“Shhh, Janet . . .” he murmured, using one of his pet names for me. “Stop freaking out. You want to hear what I did.”

I folded my arms over my chest.

“What did you do?” I grumbled. He crossed the room and pulled me into his arms. I softened against him.

“There’s a room at the Lowell Hotel uptown waiting for you. It has hot running water, toilets that flush, heat, light, and Wi-Fi. And room service. It has every modern-day amenity. So pack your bags, Sweater-Set. We’re going uptown.”

He had me at hotel room. Everything else was icing on a cake.

“Where exactly is this paradise?”

“Sixty-third and Madison,” he answered.

I walked past him, put on my ballet flats and picked up my purse.

“I’m packed. Let’s get out of here.”

“I’m not. Give me a few seconds to get some clean T-shirts and stuff.”

I followed him to the bedroom. He pulled a backpack from his closet and stuffed it with a bunch of his T-shirts, clean underwear, socks and other necessities. That was the thing about Duke: He was insanely rich and lived in a fabulous apartment. But he kept everything else simple. Within minutes we were packed and on our way uptown.

“I don’t suppose this hotel has clean clothes for me?”

“It could,” Duke answered. “The shops uptown are all open. It’s like the hurricane never happened up there. Or we could stop at your place on our way.”

“Isn’t my place out of the way?” Fifteenth and Eighth wasn’t exactly in the path of Duke’s place and this magical luxury wonderland awaiting me at Sixty-third and Madison.

“Maybe a little. But it’s really only, like, three miles,” Duke said. “I’m sure we can handle it. Especially if you change into more practical shoes.”

“Elizabeth Bennett walks three miles on her way to Netherfield,” I said. “If Elizabeth can do it, so can I.”

“I don’t really know what that means, but you can explain it to me on the way,” Duke replied.

I just grinned and asked, “How badly do you want to Google it?”

He grinned right back. “Let’s walk faster. The sooner we get uptown, the sooner I get Wi-Fi.”

I
T WAS AN
easy walk over to my place through Washington Square Park and up Greenwich Avenue. We saw the building where the entire front wall had fallen off. The sidewalk had been roped off and police officers milled about.

Just after that, we turned the corner to my street. We’d only gone a few steps when my building came into view.

I stopped in my tracks.

“What is it?” Duke asked, looking at me and then following my gaze.

Sam was sitting on the front stoop of my building.

“Jane!” Sam called out my name when he saw me. Duke’s head snapped up sharply. He dropped the bag he’d been holding and lunged toward Sam.

First his fist slammed into Sam’s jaw and his head snapped back. I might have screamed. Then Duke planted another punch in Sam’s stomach and he doubled over as he fell to the sidewalk.

“Stop!”

Duke just dropped down and kept throwing punches. A crowd gathered—where had they been the other night when I needed help? Some of them whipped out their phones and began to take pictures and record the fight. I felt my blood start to boil. Duke did not need the consequences of a public brawl right now—his reputation in the media was fragile enough and his IPO was just days away.

I didn’t really care about Sam’s reputation. Or the black eyes and bruises he was going to stumble away with.

Sam raised his hands to shield his face—but I think that was instinctive. He didn’t hit Duke back because he knew he deserved this pain. That realization only made me more pissed.

He knew better.

He did it anyway.

The words “Stop!” and “Enough!” were on the tip of my tongue. For a moment, I bit them back. But then logic and reason made their appeal. Duke needed to stay out of the news and Sam needed to get off this island and out of my life.

“Stop! Duke, stop!” I cried out.

I grabbed the back of Duke’s T-shirt and pulled him back just as police officers from around the corner started to push through. The crowd thronged around them.

“Oh hell,” I muttered.

“Is there a problem ma’am?” The officer leveled a stare at me. I felt myself instinctively shrinking in the face of authority. What could I say? I glanced down at my current boyfriend, whose hands were a swollen, red mess and my ex-boyfriend, who was a bruised and bloody mess writhing on the sidewalk.

“Not anymore,” I told the officer.

I did not fancy a trip to jail right now. I wanted a trip to that uptown hotel wonderland Duke had promised me. But first, I wanted to head up to my apartment for clean clothes, make up and other little frivolities and forget all about this drama.

After some negotiating with the officers, they eventually left and the crowd dispersed. Sam had clambered to his feet. He wiped his bloody nose on his sleeve.

“I thought you two were fake,” he said, glancing from me to Duke and back again. As if that explained
anything
.

“And I thought we were real,” I replied softly. By “we” I meant me and Sam. I thought we had really loved each other. I thought we mattered to each other. But I didn’t know about that anymore.

“I just wanted to apologize,” he said. “I was drunk. In a bad place. I’m sorry, Jane.” Sam reached out for my hand. Duke lunged forward, Sam and I jumped away from each other.

“We’re done, Sam,” I said softly, standing behind Duke’s tall form.

“I’ll see you around, I guess,” Sam said with a nod. “Maybe I’ll see you at the reunion on Friday.”

On the spot I decided that I wasn’t going to the reunion after all.

 

Chapter Eight

A
FTER CLIMBING THE
steep front stoop and another four flights of stairs, and undoing the two locks, Duke and I entered the apartment I shared with Roxanna. Everything was just as I had left it. It seemed Roxanna had weathered the storm with her mystery man at his place. I changed clothes, packed a few things (clean underwear! Make up! My own clothes! My laptop!). I found some extra emergency cash I had stashed in my jewelry box. An empty space stared up at me.

“I lost our ring,” I said sadly.

“What are you talking about?” Duke asked.

“The fake engagement ring I got for our charade. I lost it.”

“It was just cubic zirconia, right?”

“Yeah, but it had sentimental memories. I feel like my luck went bad as soon as I lost it,” I said with a sigh.

“Jane . . .” He was looking at me earnestly. My heart started to thud. He seemed larger than life in this small room.

“What is it?”

He hesitated. And then said, “I’m sure it’ll turn up. Let’s go get you a hot shower and room service.”

“Just let me leave a note for Roxanna.” I found some paper—the back of a credit card bill—and scrawled a quick note.

Heading up to The Lowell hotel at 63rd and Madison with Duke. Come over. Hope you survived the storm.

With a bag packed, we went back down the stairs and tried to get a cab but didn’t have any luck. I’d seen more available cabs during a rainy rush hour. So we walked more than 50 blocks. Still, it wasn’t as far as the distance Elizabeth walked to Netherfield.

T
HE LOBBY OF
the Lowell Hotel was, in a word, fancy. I was, in a word, completely unpresentable. It’d been a while since I showered. Days had passed since I had applied make up or even combed my hair. I had just walked, like, fifty blocks. All I could think about was how close I was to a hot shower, a hot meal and clean underwear.
Heaven.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Austen,” the posh lady at the front desk said when we walked in. “Your room is ready now.”

We took the elevator up to the tenth floor and walked down the hall to our room. Duke opened the door and we stepped into a massive suite.

The spacious sitting room was decorated in understated neutrals—blues, greys, beige. There were big couches you could sink into, a gleaming wooden dining table that could seat eight, a big flat screen TV, plenty of light from large windows and French doors that opened to a private terrace that overlooked a quiet courtyard. To the right I saw double doors leading into a master bedroom with a king-sized bed made up with crisp white linens and loaded with pillows. Opposite was another room with two double beds—in case Roxanna wanted to crash with us, Duke explained.

Everything was gorgeous, luxurious, and I wanted to weep with relief and gratitude.

“Don’t cry yet. Not until you’ve seen the bathroom. And the shower.”

The bathroom was a large expanse of grey marble with a deep soaking tub and a separate glass walled shower. Freshly fold white towels were stacked on a rack, and fluffy terry cloth robes were hung up on the door.

Heaven was a five-star hotel.

Duke took my bags out my hand.

“Why don’t we get you into a luxurious, hot shower,” he said, leading me back to the bathroom. “You take as long as you want and don’t worry about me. I’ll keep myself amused with the Wi-Fi.”

I smiled. “You and your Internet obsession.”

“My Internet obsession is paying for this room,” he said with a grin. Then he said, “Enjoy,” and shut the doors behind him.

I turned on the water. When the glass walls began to steam up, I stripped off my clothes and took a good look at myself in the mirror. The bruises on my arms stood out. They had faded to a gross yellow-ish purple. But if I looked past the marks of that bad thing, the rest of my skin was lovely. Pale, smooth, soft. My breasts were still firm and round. I was still pretty slender—all that walking around the city and the Hurricane diet. I was still pretty. Except for that haunted look in my eyes.

I wanted to let it go. On the other side of the door was a man who cared for me. He took care of me. He loved me. He would never hurt me. I wanted to revel in that. I did not want to be caught up in bad memories of an attack I didn’t deserve by a man I no longer loved.

I stepped into the shower and let the hot water wash over me. I unwrapped a fresh bar of soap and I lathered up. I tried to wash it all away. What had happened would never leave me. But I didn’t want it to define me. So I washed my hair—twice. I scrubbed and washed until I used up that little mini hotel bar of soap.

Eventually, I felt clean. Refreshed.

I had put all my heartache and troubles onto the page—literally, that notebook was tucked into my bag—so I didn’t need to carry it around any longer. And I had washed away Sam’s cruel touch. I hadn’t done anything wrong. But I had a lot of things going right.

I wrapped myself in one of those fluffy robes and I blow dried my hair just because I could. Then, having washed my past down the drain, I went out to my future.

“Hey,” I said, pressing a kiss on Duke’s cheek. His head was, as usual, bent over his phone
and
laptop. But he looked up at me, blue eyes sparkling. “Hey you.”

“I feel better.”

“You look good. Really good.”

“I think I might lie down for a moment,” I said, giving him a coy smile over my shoulder as I strolled into the bedroom. A king-sized bed beckoned.

“I think I might join you,” he said, shutting his laptop and setting aside his phone.

“But the Wi-Fi might get lonely . . .” I murmured.

“Fuck the Wi-Fi,” he said as he stood and followed me into the bedroom.

He caught up with me, pressing a kiss on the back of my neck. I sighed and turned my head to kiss him. Duke’s hand stretched around to untie the knot of my robe before pushing it to the floor.

Totally nude, I turned to face him.

BOOK: The Bad Boy Billionaire: What a Girl Wants
13.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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