About the Book:
Rule #1: Maintain Control.
You think you know me. The cars, the penthouse, the reputation for delivering women to that “Oh, yes, Gavin” moment… Yeah, I’m the bad boy billionaire who drives your fantasies.
But I’ve traveled a long road to get here. And I played by the rules—the ones I wrote to guarantee I didn’t return to whom I was before.
So I asked my best friend and neighbor for help. Kayla agreed—if I support her growing pack of four-legged misfits.
My life is under control again.
Only I’m falling for my best friend. Now, my New York City apartment is full of rescued pups, my country retreat looks more like an animal sanctuary, and Kayla’s guarding her heart.
And I’m running out of time to prove the girl next door belongs with the billionaire.
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I never walk into a room without a plan. I don’t care if I’m entering a board meeting or a bar—I map out my goals beforehand and prepare to execute them. Tonight’s birthday party for my girlfriend’s roommate is no exception. Right now I’m on a mission to locate my date on the rooftop terrace, strip off her panties, and leave her believing today is her special day.
“Gavin!” The twenty-something birthday girl grabs my arm. She’s named after a flower, but hell if I can remember which one. “Now that you’re here, darling, this party is officially lit.”
I raise a practiced eyebrow. “I’m not that exciting.”
Violet—that’s her name—laughs as if I’ve told a particularly hilarious joke.
“In fact, I need to return to work later,” I add.
I want to be clear. I’m not here for Violet’s bash. Tonight, I have a singular goal, and she’s waiting on the roof.
A young hipster in a tailored orange suit sidles up to me. “New product releasing soon, Gavin? I’ve heard rumors that you’re developing new software. If you’re planning a release, I could help with the PR. I’m starting a public relations group, and I’d really love for you to be my first client.”
And I’d love to lick my girlfriend until she screams my name.
I slap hipster dude on the back. “I’m afraid we want different things right now, my friend, and I’ve had a long day.”
“Before I talk business,” I continue, stepping away from the birthday girl and her admirers, “I need a drink.”
I’m eager to give Alexandra an orgasm, but the bar’s on the way to the stairs. I’ve been to the Brooklyn penthouse before, though I prefer having Alexandra come to my Manhattan apartment The twenty-something trust-fund crowd leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I wouldn’t have even crossed the east river tonight, but Alexandra sent me an invitation I couldn’t refuse.
I pause beside the temporary bar set up beside the living room’s floor-to-ceiling windows. “The birthday girl and her friends would like shots. Tequila. Top shelf.”
The bartender nods. “Yes, sir.”
“Violet!” I call over my shoulder. “It’s tequila time.”
The call echoes around the room. A group suddenly crowds around the birthday girl, eager to share in the celebrating. I take advantage of the distraction and open the sliding glass door leading to a terrace. Following Alexandra’s instructions like a treasure map, I find the stairs and climb two at a time.
Overeager? Hell, yes. I want this woman. Unlike her trust-fund former roommate, Alexandra actually works for a living. Her receptionist gig at my gym pays the bills while she tries to launch her acting career. Her friends fall in the take-them-or-leave-them category for me, but I’m crazy about Alexandra’s work ethic.
She understands me on an elemental level.
I grin like a fool when I reach the top of the metal staircase. I can picture my best friend’s reaction to my lofty claim. “Elemental? You just mean she’s good in bed.”
That is precisely what I mean. But Alexandra takes “good” to new levels.
How do you tell if a woman shares your sexual kinks? I ask myself this question on every first date. Given my habit for choosing Mrs. Right Now—my best friend’s label, not mine—I’ve been on hundreds of first dates, and I still haven’t found an answer. And failure is not something I take lightly. I came from nothing, and now I’m worth more than one billion dollars.
Not that I’m into anything from the Fifty Shades playbook. I’m not that kind of billionaire. But nothing turns me on like sex with the possibility of getting caught. I’m not talking public parks or places that might lead to a night in a jail cell. I’ve had enough trouble in my life, and I’m not about to invite any more.
But a private rooftop terrace while a party buzzes below? The chance that one of the other guests or a member of the catering staff will hear my girlfriend’s moans and come investigate?
Oh, hell yes.
I spot Alexandra by the railing. She’s staring out at the night sky. Beneath the full moon’s glow, I can see the tops of the trees in Prospect Park. Manhattan’s skyline is on the other side of the building, but all I want is a view of my girl, naked and draped over her outdoor furniture.
A sideways glance confirms the lounge chair is still up here. A heat lamp that would look more at home in a restaurant or at a wedding hovers over the lone chair.
She won’t freeze when I pull her dress to her waist.
I cross the cement pavers and wrap my arms around Alexandra’s slim waist, drawing her back to my front. She can’t miss how the mental picture in my mind turns me on. The evidence is pressing against her lower back. Even in her three-inch heels, she’s a good bit shorter than my six-two build.
“I want to bury my face between your legs,” I murmur in her ear. “I’m going to lay you down on that chair, reach up under your dress, slide you panties down your legs, and—”
“I’m not wearing any underwear,” she announces in her low, sultry voice.
Her voice oozes with the promise of sex, and I would bet my BMW that men call to reserve the squash courts at the gym just to hear her purr in their ear. Until last month, I was one of those guys. After the second phone call, I stopped by the desk and asked her out.
Her response? “I knew you would come to your senses and take me to dinner.”
Bold, confident, and sexy as hell. Maybe she’s the one. Maybe I’ve finally found Mrs. Right.
I step forward, using my body to gently guide her across the patio to the chair. We’ve been here before. Not on this roof-deck. Last time, we slipped away at a museum opening and found a quiet hall. No cameras. I made damn sure there wouldn’t be a recording of my girlfriend on her knees in front of me. But when I zipped up and we returned to the party, I knew I’d found a woman who saw more than dollar signs when she looked at me.
Now she steps free from my grasp. The front of her calves bump against the lounge chair. Then she turns to face me. “But I didn’t invite you up here for sex. At least, not to start.”
I school my expression, dialing down the exasperation and the lust. If she wants to talk first, I’m in. I give her my best you-have-my-complete-attention look, the one I’ve practiced in countless business meetings.
Alexandra is special. She deserves more than a quick orgasm during a party.
“I’m listening,” I say, shoving my hands in my suit pants pockets. I want to be clear. I’m not reaching for her. Not yet.
“First, I have something to show you,” she says.
I hear a trace of nerves in her tone, and I sure as hell like her use of the word show in place of tell. Most women I’ve dated for a month or more eventually have something serious to share with me. Their feelings. Their hopes and dreams for our relationship. Or the expected size of their future engagement ring.
For the record, I’ve never bought a ring.
Alexandra’s fingers work the latch on her clutch, and my gaze follows her movements. Her hands are trembling, hard. Finally, the latch gives, and I catch my breath.
I’m immediately turned on. My imagination’s running wild with the potential outcomes from her little game of show-and-tell. Whatever she’s hiding in her purse must be small. Something that pushes my bold, beautiful girl out of her comfort zone. Something that leaves her shaking.
She pulls out a thin slip of paper and holds it out to me.
My brow furrows. I pull my right hand free from my pocket and take it. It’s in my hand before I realize I’m not holding a paper, but a picture. The image is old and slightly discolored, probably dating back to the days when people used cameras and then visited the grocery store to develop the film.
Like when I was a kid…
My jaw tightens, grinding my molars together as I force myself to look at the image. My childhood and this picture—they aren’t connected. It’s not possible.
But a single glance tells me I’m wrong. I know that scrawny, beaten kid in the old photo. Any thought of sex suddenly takes a back seat to the dread stirring deep in my gut.
“How did you get this?” I demand, looking Alexandra straight in the eye.
She’s still shaking like a fucking leaf, but she’s holding her chin high. “It doesn't matter.”
“It does to me,” I say, biting out the words.
I’d thought I’d wiped all records of my humiliation off the face of the earth. But now I’m holding a picture of my weakest moment. I recognize the bathroom floor in the image. The tile matches the house where I grew up. And I should know. I spent a lot of time there, licking my damn wounds, knowing I would have to go to school the next day and face the fucking bullies again.
“There are more photos.” Alexandra nods to the one in my hand. “That one isn’t the worst.”
My grip tightens on the picture. Who is this woman? And how the hell did she get her hands on these images? I didn’t even know they existed until tonight. And I’ve spent a fortune to hide my past.
“What do you want?” I demand, lifting my gaze from the picture to look at her.
I take in her smug, excited expression. The nerves are gone, probably buried beneath the misconception that she’s won.
Fuck, I’ve been played. The thought crosses my mind, and I know I’ve come to this epiphany too late. I’ve been sleeping with the enemy this whole time, and I didn’t even have a damn clue.
“Money to start,” Alexandra announces. “One hundred million, in cash. The account information is on the back of the picture.”
“I’m not paying you off,” I snap. But I turn the image over to confirm there is an account listed. “Not for a bunch of pictures of some kid.”
I’m rationalizing now. No one would see these images and connect them to Gavin Black. If this woman tries, my public relations company will crush her. And there is no way Alexandra knows the full story. Gavin Black had a very different childhood than the one in this picture. There’s proof. I know, because I created it myself.
“It’s not just ‘some kid.’ I know who you are,” she says. “And I’m going to share what I know with every media outlet in this city.”
“The hell you will, you—”
“Unless we come to an agreement. One hundred million suggests you’re willing to work with me.”
“Bitch,” I murmur.
My breath turns shallow. I can feel the panic rushing to my chest, threatening to take hold like a heart attack, but I fight it.
So, she knows who I am? So do I. I’m New York City’s most desirable bachelor. I’m also a capable and effective businessman.
I take one more look at the picture. I am not that kid. Not anymore. I can’t be bullied as an adult, not like the broken, scared child in the old photo.
Taking the picture in both hands, I tear it in half. Then I rip the halves into smaller pieces. I look my girlfriend in the eye as I let the shredded remains fall to the ground.
Her mouth forms a half smile. “You’re angry and you’re lashing out.” She speaks to me in a tone I barely recognize. It’s the same sultry voice, but she sounds like a teacher from my worst nightmares. “I understand.”
“The hell you do,” I growl, careful to keep my voice low.
I refuse to draw the drunken revelers up here and make a scene. In part, because she’s right. I’m very close to losing control. I need to get out of here. Now. Turning on my heel, I walk toward the metal stairs.
“I’m not going away!” she calls after me. “I’ve waited too long for this.”
Who the hell is this woman? Why was she waiting to blackmail me all this time?
I file the questions away and focus on making my way through the drunken melee in the penthouse. My cell is in my hand by the time I reach the exit. In the hall, I pause to text instructions to my driver. I need the limo downstairs by the time the elevator hits the lobby. My ride better be ready for a road trip because there’s no way I’m going back to the office. And I’m not calling my publicist, or any other members of my elite, expensive PR team.
Not until I talk to my best friend.
The elevator arrives as I pull up the number and hit “call.” It rings over and over. Then the doors open, revealing a sleek, marble lobby as a familiar voice asks me to leave a message.
I step out into the crisp November night. “Kayla, I’m two hours away from you. I’ll be there at midnight. Be ready, because I’m going to do something I haven’t done in a long, long time.”
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Meet the Author:
Sara Jane Stone lives near New York's Hudson River with her very supportive real-life hero, two lively young children, a lazy Burmese cat, and a very active dog. When she is not finger painting with the kids, she loves writing sexy stories, staying up past her bedtime reading red-hot romance and chatting with her readers on Facebook.
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