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Authors: Kendra Little

Tags: #office romance, #workplace romance, #alpha male

The Billionaire Boyfriend Trap (20 page)

BOOK: The Billionaire Boyfriend Trap
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"Everyone except Blake."

My heart didn't a little flip in my chest, as
it always did when I heard his name. Old habits died hard, I guess.
"Maybe he's left Roxburg again." I tried to sound like I didn't
care, but I heard the hitch in my voice. "Now that Reece has
decided not to tear this place down, Blake has no reason to
stay.

"Maybe. But it seems like he hasn't got a
reason to leave now either."

I fumbled the nail she passed me and it fell
through the space between the steps and landed on the ground. "What
do you mean?"

"Didn't you know? He's quit the army."

Holy crap. Blake had been in the army all
this time? That explained the muscles upon muscles. "I didn't even
know he'd enlisted." I took another nail and concentrated on the
task. If I let my focus lapse, I'd wind up with a bruised
finger.

"Apparently he didn't tell his family for
years either. I think they hired a P.I. to locate him, but he never
wrote or called. What kind of guy does that to his family?"

One who wanted to disappear.

"He seemed pretty intense with you
yesterday." Becky's tone was teasingly curious, but I wouldn't get
sucked into answering. "You guys have history." It wasn't a
question.

"We've known each other all our lives. I used
to date him." I left it at that. I liked Becky, but I preferred to
keep our relationship on a teacher-student footing. It was easier
that way.

"Good job," she said, inspecting the
step.

I tested it with my weight. It held so I
jumped on it and it still held. "Coffee first or do I tackle the
garden?"

"Coffee," she said, grinning. "Then I'll help
you. I'm pretty sure I did some of that damage."

I tossed the hammer back into the toolbox and
closed the lid. "Don't sweat it. Considering the chaos of
yesterday, the place came out all right. Besides, gardening is
soothing."

"At least you don't have to clean up your
fence."

"Huh?"

She looked at me like I was stupid. "The
fences all along your street. Haven't you seen them?"

"I haven't left the house." I glanced down
the drive, but my front fence was out of sight. That's the thing
about living in a suburb like Serendipity Bend. The properties were
huge and the fences a long way from the houses themselves. There
could have been a herd of elephants walking down our street and I
wouldn't know it.

"All the fences along Willow Crescent were
tagged overnight," Becky said.

"Tagged with graffiti? All of them?"

"Except yours."

I frowned. "Why not mine?"

"That's what Ellen Kavanagh wanted to
know."

Ellen Kavanagh was the matriarch of the
family, and an indomitable woman. She managed her own business and
it was doing extremely well, by all accounts. She'd been strict
when we were kids and a ferocious advocate for women's rights and
the preservation of Serendipity Bend. From her manicured
fingernails to her Prada heels, she was sharp and fierce. She
wasn't a woman I wanted to aggravate.

I headed down the drive, Becky beside me, and
through the iron gate. Unlike my neighbors, I left my gate open,
partly because I had nothing to steal so theft wasn't an issue, but
mostly because the intercom didn't work. All along the street were
signs of people cleaning graffiti off stone or brick fences. Not
members of the families themselves, but garden staff or someone
they'd hired in. Only my fence remained untouched, and one other
where the fence was a hedge, not brick or wood.

"Whoa," I said on a breath. "I wonder why the
street was targeted."

"I wonder why your place wasn't."

If I had to guess, it would be because
someone out there had seen yesterday's mayhem on the news and had
felt sorry for me. It was the classic David versus Goliath case,
and nobody ever sympathized with Goliath. Maybe they thought the
fight wasn't over and were expressing their anger at corporate
America squeezing out the little guy. Or maybe it was just someone
who saw all the big bare fences on TV and thought their artwork
would look good on them.

"That one's pretty good." I nodded at the
fence directly opposite. It sported a painting of a brightly
colored clown face with tears dripping down his cheeks. The rest of
the fences were merely tagged with the artist's signature, but that
one must have taken some time to complete, and in the dark of night
too. The proportions were all correct, and shadowing had been used
to great effect to highlight the clown's sad eyes and the teary
smudge through the white makeup. It was evocative, beautiful, and
made me want to give the poor clown a hug. I certainly didn't want
to scrub him off. Sadly, that's exactly what the man dressed in
orange overalls was doing.

"Have the police seen these?" I asked, hoping
to delay the process just a little longer.

Becky nodded and laughed. "You live in a
bubble, don't you?"

"I can't see the street from the house." I
shrugged one shoulder. "It's isolated and peaceful."

"Or lonely."

I blinked at her, but she didn't notice. She
was waving at her sister and Reece standing at the Kavanagh gate.
They waved back. Becky took my hand and dragged me over.

I steeled myself for my first proper
conversation with Reece since he'd called off the bulldozers. The
few minutes he'd spent telling me he would leave my house untouched
didn't count. I'd still been buzzing from the protest and my
encounter with Blake, and he'd been on a high after kissing Cleo.
Maybe he was going to tell me he'd changed his mind.

Cleo embraced me before I could even get "Hi"
out of my mouth. I glanced past her to Reece and he gave me a
sheepish smile.

"It's never quiet in Willow Crescent," he
said.

"What a mess," Cleo said, pulling away from
me. She nodded at the clown. "That one would look good on canvas,
but it doesn't really suit the street." We all stood with our backs
to the Kavanagh gate and looked at the sad clown.

"I don't know," Reece said. "There are a few
clowns living along here."

"Mega rich ones," Cleo said, hooking her arm
around his waist. "I bet they're not crying."

"Money can't buy happiness and all that." He
kissed the top of her head. She glanced up at him with so much love
in her eyes it hurt to be an outsider looking in. I felt like I was
intruding.

"Apparently your mother thinks I had
something to do with this," I said, crossing my arms.

Reece frowned. "No, she doesn't."

"But she is wondering why my fence wasn't
targeted."

"We all are," Cleo said. "But not because we
think you had anything to do with it."

It was easy to fight with a Kavanagh, but not
when a Denny joined forces with them. I liked Cleo and Becky. I
didn't want to argue with them. I let the matter drop.

"The police are inspecting the CCTV footage,"
Reece said, pointing out the security cameras attached to the
nearby gates. "They'll probably catch their suspect soon enough,
especially with that tag. It's pretty distinctive."

"I just hope the poor kid gets let off with a
warning," I said. "Graffiti is hardly a hard core crime."

"In that case, you'd better hope he doesn't
come back. There are some along here who want to see him given the
maximum sentence."

Figured. The residents of Willow Crescent—of
Serendipity Bend for that matter—prided themselves on their
manicured lawns and perfect hedges. If the graffitist were a poor
homeless kid like so many of them were, they wouldn't care what
happened to him as long as he stopped. They had never had to worry
about where the next meal was coming from or how to keep themselves
warm in winter. I included myself in that. I may not be as wealthy
as everyone else in the Bend, but I'd always had a roof over my
head. I did hope that I was more sympathetic than most,
particularly to a talented artist which our graffitist clearly
was.

"I was on my way to come and see you," Reece
said to me. "I've got a proposal for you."

"Kicking me out already?"

"I won't be going back on my word,
Cassie."

I swallowed and didn't say anything.

"I want to renovate," he said.

"So you said yesterday. You haven't changed
your mind?"

He smiled. "No. It needs work and I'm
worried—we're worried—it might fall down around you."

I was under no illusion that I had Cleo to
thank for this change in his attitude. "You don't have to," I told
him.

"I do. It's a landlord's responsibility.
Besides, I want to. If I let the property go now, it'll cost more
to fix it later. It's more economical to attend to problems before
they become major."

That attitude I understood. It sounded more
like the way Reece would think. He was all about the money and
protecting his investment, rather than ensuring I remained dry in a
downpour.

"Okay," I said. "Just let me know when the
builders will show up."

"That's the thing." He cleared his throat. "I
want to hire Blake."

"No!"

"Come on, Cass, please. He knows what he's
doing."

"I'm sure he does, but I don't care. I don't
want him around."

Cleo and Becky exchanged speaking glances.
"He needs something to do," Reece went on. "He's at a loose end,
and he's someone who needs work or he'll go mad. I'm worried—"

"I said no. Find him something else to do if
he's bored."

"Cassie," he said quietly, ominously. "It's
my property. If I want to employ my brother, I can."

"It's my home, not a property. And as the
tenant, I'm within my rights to refuse to have a particular
tradesman there." I didn't know if that were true or not and I
didn't care. The thought of having Blake within the same walls as
me was making me feel light-headed. It had been bad enough seeing
him yesterday, but to see him all day, every day, would turn me
into a pathetic mess. I couldn't let my students see me like that.
I couldn't let Blake see me like that. "I don't want him near my
house or me. Is that clear?"

"Abundantly," came a voice behind me as sharp
and cold as a steel blade. A voice that made me hot and cold all
over. Blake.

 

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ads

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