Authors: Ava Claire
Tags: #billionaire love, #alpha male romance, #ava claire, #billionaire romance, #billionaire erotic romance, #alpha male, #billionaire
The humor in her eyes froze over. "You're mad about something, but it's not my bad joke. How about we talk about that instead of you jumping down my throat?"
I knew she was right. I was taking my frustration out on her, because I didn't have the guts to face Jacob
“Talk to me, Lay,” she said softly.
All of a sudden the cameras seemed to zero in on us. Paparazzi leaned in for an exclusive, ‘The billionaire’s wife tells all!’
I gulped hard, but the knot was firmly planted in my throat with no intention of budging. It didn’t matter that the photogs breathing down my neck was all in my head; they were still camped out on the other side of the street, well out of ear reach. But I still couldn’t make the words come out.
Our waiter unloaded our food and I could have kissed him. It bought me a few moments of silence, stuffing my face so the truth was buried behind my spinach and cheese ciabatta. But I knew I’d have to eventually spill the beans. My sandwich was half gone and Megan was still waiting. And not so patiently.
“How’s your pasta?” I asked, deflecting her stony glare.
“Delicious,” she answered shortly, dabbing her mouth. “Are you going to tell me what’s up or are we going to make awkward small talk like we’re on our first date?”
I cracked the smallest of smiles. “You’re not going to let up, are you?”
“Well, in that case...” I swiped the bottle of Merlot and topped off my glass. “Obviously, it has to do with Jacob. And me.”
Her eyebrow arched, the silent ‘Duh’ hanging in the silence after my both obvious and vague admission.
I held the bottle upside down, trying to get every last drop of liquid courage. The easiest thing would be starting at the beginning, but I was
going to share what went down on the balcony. So I fast forwarded to the heated conversation I overheard.
“I think-” I paused, replacing the uncertainty with fact. “I know Jacob is keeping something from me.”
Megan sipped her italian soda, digesting the words as she stared at me strangely. No words. No assurances that I was acting mental and reading into nothing. Just dead silence.
I picked up the mantle, glaring her down. “After all the crap you gave me about opening up, I open up and now you’re speechless?”
She shook her head. “Not speechless, just unsure of how to put this without making you go off on me. Under normal circumstances, bring it on.” She playfully flexed her muscles. “But I don’t think either one of us wants those kinds of headlines with our stalkers across the street, waiting for something picture worthy.”
I waved off the paparazzi, focusing on other parts of her response. “How to put what?”
She ran her fingers through her hair, tugging the red strands into a low bun. Pulling her hair back? This was serious. Her jade colored eyes locked onto me and she pulled no punches.
“I’m getting an overwhelming sense of déjà vu, Leila. You overhear something or he does something seemingly normal. Then you concoct this elaborate story where your husband, or boyfriend if we’re looking back, is doing things to destroy your relationship.”
“I don’t have to concoct anything,” I said indignantly. “Real life is dramatic enough.” As insulted as I was by her dismissing my statement, I couldn’t blame her. With Rachel Laraby in the wings, I had questioned and doubted Jacob’s love. Instead of trusting that he wanted me, and me alone, I let Rachel get in my head—and it almost cost me the love of my life. “I get that this probably seems similar-”
“Very similar,” she clarified.
“But it’s different,” I finished adamantly. “I know Jacob loves me, I really do. But I also know that he’s hiding something.”
She spun her fork in a slow, thoughtful circle. “Have you asked him about it?”
“What a great idea!” I said sarcastically, gulping down half my glass of wine. I focused on the numbing warmth of the alcohol instead of the fact that she was right. Asking him about it was a surefire way to get some answers, but it wasn’t quite that simple. “If I ask him, I’ll have to explain how I know.”
I didn’t have to say more than that before Megan started shaking her head. Again. “Oh, Leila.”
“What?” I said defensively, nursing my glass of wine. “I wasn’t snooping. Not technically.”
“Right.” She held the ’i’ for several seconds longer than necessary, illustrating just how well she knew me.
“I was going to see him, and I overheard him on the phone arguing with Alicia,” I explained. “He even said, ‘This changes everything’!”
“And then you asked him what ‘this’ was?”
I dropped my eyes to the remains of my sandwich. It was completely eviscerated, like my flimsy excuse. “Natasha was on the prowl. She saw me in the hall and I was too embarrassed to go in. But I’m going to ask him about it tonight,” I added quickly.
“You haven’t even asked him about it and you’re already freaking out?” She let out a whistle. “You’re setting him up to disappoint you. You know that, right?”
“No, I...” I had no defense, unable to come up with a comeback or concrete evidence to disprove what she said. Sure, the signs were there: long hours at the office, the ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’ that went down a few mornings ago, and the conversation I overheard all pointed towards Jacob going through something. Something he hadn’t shared with me.
Maybe it was a recent development. Maybe he was planning on telling me sooner, but he knew I was stressed about the new client.
My heart twitched guiltily as I hung my head. “You’re right,” I said, surrendering. Owning up to it.
“Well, cheers to that,” Megan jokingly held up her glass. “Pretty sure that’s the first time you’ve ever willingly admitted I was right about anything.”
“Keep it up and we’re going to give the photogs a first row seat to me taking you out,” I said, tossing my napkin at her. "Well that's my latest drama," I groaned, in dire need of a subject change before I embarrassed myself further. "How are things going your way?"
She jerked her fork over her shoulder at the paparazzi. "Impromptu photo shoots aside, things are pretty good. My kids are still kicking ass and taking names-"
"Same as your boyfriend, apparently," I winked.
A year ago Cade Wallace, an action movie star that looked every bit capable of ripping someone to shreds on and off the screen, was battling a series of box office flops.
Cade defied the critics who called him box office poison. His last movie was The Last Job, where he played a hit man with a heart of gold—and it was the highest grossing action movie of the year. And if the spy thriller that premiered last week kept selling out theaters and getting praise from the same folks who mocked him, he was in for another record breaker.
I was happy things had turned around for him, and not just because he was dating my best friend. He’d gone from my idol, a celebrity crush that made me sweat and act like I was twelve instead of twenty-four, to a charmingly vulnerable man that was more than muscles and a ferocious screen presence. And then there was the flirting; something innocent that ballooned until he kissed me, flagrantly disregarding my relationship with Jacob. With time, he respected the boundaries of our friendship, and he and Megan started dating. The past was so far in the rearview that I could barely make it out on the horizon. Even Jacob had let go of any bad blood. The name ‘Cade Wallace’ used to turn his usually calm facade into that of a boxer, but now he was cordial when he was mentioned. I could tell from the way Megan fidgeted that she still felt a little weird talking about him with me.
I couldn’t help but smirk at the transition from tough love to coy and quiet as she bit her lip, avoiding my gaze.
“You and Cade have been dating for nearly as long I’ve been married. You know I’m not secretly holding any grudges, right? As long as he makes you feel like the awesome, beautiful woman that you are, we’re good.” I went serious, wanting to make sure I wasn’t mistaking her awkwardness about my colored past with Cade for some more recent transgressions. Maybe there was some sort of alpha male oddness going around the city, and our guys had it bad. “He’s treating you alright?”
The nervousness that settled over her relaxed and the smile returned to her lips. “Better than alright. We had our issues, you know all about that.” She gave me a look that summed up all the drama when Cade pursued her and she was sure he was just like the guys she usually gravitated toward. Guys who definitely did
treat her alright. “But he looks at me and I swear we’re the only two people on the planet. And when he tells me he loves me, I believe it with everything in me. I never had that before.” She cleared her throat, emotion getting the better of her. With a sniff, she reached for my wine glass. After she downed the rest, she perked, tears of happiness still glittering in her eyes.
I could see how happy she was and after all the hell her ex’s put her through, seeing her smile and finally get the happily ever after she deserved made tears sprint to my eyes too.
We both fanned our eyes, red faced and laughing. “Now if they would just take a picture of me where I don’t look completely awful, I’d be set,” I quipped. I picked at the rest of my sandwich. “I wish I could tell you it gets easier with the photographers, but you pretty much have to embrace it, or ignore them.”
“Only two options, huh?” She inhaled deep, then faced the street and waved. “I guess sometimes,” she said through clenched teeth, “You just have to not give a fuck.”
She said it so simply, but it resonated with me. There was only one way to find out the answers to my questions. I had to summon up my courage. Put all the fears of ‘what if’ on silent, and just do it.
, I thought to myself.
I’ll ask him about it tonight.
I plastered a smile on my face, then I waved at them too.
orking late. Don’t wait up, love.
Under normal circumstances, after all I’d done over the past hour, Jacob’s text would have sent me spiraling down and I’d console myself by eating everything in sight...and then I’d turn to the liquor cabinet. Considering the root of the romantic night I had planned was to find out if he was keeping something from me, his short, somehow curt
sweet text revealed nothing.
In fact, the empty chairs standing in front of untouched plates of spaghetti and the delicious red I knew he loved was still corked, begging to be drank and the quiet just intensified my questions.
I glared down at my phone. My first instinct was to type back a wordy response, explaining that I’d made dinner and even dessert—personally made it, not ordered out—and I needed him home. Because I needed answers.
Was he keeping secrets? Why would he keep anything from me?
I put my phone on the table, safely out of batshit insane texting range. This was probably why he kept things from me. Because he didn’t want to worry me. Didn’t want me to jump to ludicrous conclusions. I was leaps and bounds better at keeping my cool, but Megan was right. Reading into things was signature Leila behavior.
So I sat back in my chair, closed my eyes and breathed in and out until the image playing on the back of my eyelids was Jacob, tense above a stack of deadlines. Not Jacob purposefully keeping things from me and throwing a wrench in our romantic evening.
And then I knew just what to do.
Sure, I could be a little crazy, but I had my charms. And my questions would be answered in time. There were more pressing issues, a way for me to show him what I had in store and give him something to think about besides work.
Warm from head to toe, I extinguished the candles, my pursed lips craving Jacob. Needing to be wrapped around him. Craving the feel of him pulsing and hardening until everything but his body and my body was irrelevant.
The savory aroma of meat and spices didn’t dull my hunger. I needed a different kind of sustenance. A satisfied fullness that had nothing to do with my stomach.
I dashed up the stairs to our bedroom, the early evening sky a blue-ish purple that reminded me of the way Jacob’s eyes changed when lust took over. What would his eyes look like when I popped over to his office to surprise him?
There was only one way to find out.
I zeroed in on the closet, pressing a button that rotated my dresses and revealed the storage space where I kept odds and ends. Post cards from Venice. Mementos from our favorite restaurants. My wedding bouquet...and a long, slender white box.
I picked it up and shook it, just like I had all those days ago. The day my life changed forever and I agreed to be Jacob’s submissive.
I ran my fingers along its spine, tracing the edges as I lifted the lid.
The trench coat was draped in the box. The ebony material was soft to the touch. And just like the day it was given to me, I stripped down. I shimmied out of my bodycon dress, and the only items keeping me from the nude were the lingerie I'd ordered from Paris: a strappy, blood red bra and a gorgeous caged back pair of panties that showed more ass than it covered. When I saw it I knew they were perfect. All the straps reminded me of being tied up. Bound for him. And the panties? They were a visual come hither. He wouldn't be able to suppress the urge to grab it. Squeeze it. Spank it.
A warm ripple of longing fluttered through my groin as I pulled on the trench coat. I made sure the knot was secure. I still had a journey ahead of me, the walk past the security guard, and a ride in the elevator until a wardrobe malfunction would be more than acceptable.
My heart pumped with excitement as I breezed into the elevator and practically sprinted toward the lobby. I hailed a cab, the wind rustling my curls. I unpinned my bun and let my hair free. I rolled the windows down and imagined it was his fingers gliding through my hair. Tugging it as he pulled me close and kissed me like he couldn't get enough of my lips. Like he couldn't get enough of me.
I knew what lay beyond this buzz. The worry on the edges of the throbbing anticipation. But I put up a mental wall, not letting my doubt chip away at the desire. There would be time for questions. A time for me to breathe when he told me it was no big deal. For now I was just a woman, going to surprise her man in nothing but underwear and a coat.