Home > The Taming of the Billionaire (Billionaires and Bridesmaids #2)

The Taming of the Billionaire (Billionaires and Bridesmaids #2)
Author: Jessica Clare

Chapter One

“Watch your feet,” Bianca told Edie as they approached enormous Buchanan Manor. She took her sister’s arm in hers, trying to help her up the tiered entryway with its big rock staircase. “Can you handle these steps? They’re kind of narrow—”

“Christ, Bianca. I’ve got a limp, not a goddamn peg leg.” Edie shook off her sister’s clingy arm with annoyance. Bianca always did this. She treated Edie like she was made of glass instead of someone who had a bad knee. Most of the time she ignored it, but heading up to the big house, she was nervous as it was, and Bianca’s Florence Nightingale act was getting old. Most of the time, her limp wasn’t even that bad.

Bianca gave Edie a wounded look and withdrew her hands. “I’m sorry. I was just trying to help. I know your leg gets tired.”

“I can handle five steps,” Edie grumped, though she was already feeling guilty. She was in a bad mood and taking it out on Bianca. It wasn’t her sister’s fault that Edie was nervous and jittery tonight in the face of a big party. Edie wasn’t a fan of mingling or social events, and adding in the forbidding-looking Buchanan Manor just took things to the next level. The house was enormous and gothically creepy, despite the well-manicured gardens and the fleet of cars parked along the long circle drive that spoke of many other guests.

But she wasn’t doing this because she wanted to party, Edie reminded herself. She was doing it for her friend Gretchen.

Her knee flared with pain at the top of the steps, but she ignored it, because damn it, she wasn’t going to lean on perfect Bianca as they went in. Instead, she straightened her long oversized black tunic sweater, striped leggings, and her chunky necklace. It wasn’t all that dressy so she’d paired it with a colorful scarf in her wavy hair as a nod to a special occasion. Bianca, of course, looked like utter perfection with her smooth blonde waist-length hair and her navy boatneck top and matching fitted mermaid skirt. Bianca wore four-inch heels, because of course she had to look glamorous even though Edie was the one invited to the party. Edie herself was in orthopedic shoes. It was either that or her knee would give out midway through the night.

Not that she was bitter about that kind of thing.

Bianca’s long fingernails picked at Edie’s shoulder. “You have cat hair on you.”

She pushed aside Bianca’s hands. “I always have cat hair on me. No one will care.”

Bianca’s big, sad doe eyes fixed on her. “You know I care, Edie. What if there are cute, eligible men here?”

She wanted to make a face at her beautiful sister. The moment Bianca had heard that Edie’s friend from college was marrying a billionaire, she’d clung to Edie, insisting that she go to the party because poor Edie’s foot would surely ache if she drove herself and what if she had to stand on her feet for too long? She’d need help back to the car if her leg gave out and Bianca, of course, would always selflessly be there for her sister.

Right. Bianca was “selfless” all right, because she liked to be seen as the sweet, giving, angelic sister. Edie knew her sister was more interested in finding out the net worth of any guys at the party, even though she’d never say such a thing aloud. Bianca kept calculating thoughts to herself, because they weren’t ladylike. But Edie knew her transparent sister well. Bianca didn’t have to say a word and Edie could tell all the thoughts going through her lovely head.

And if Edie was covered in cat hair, it didn’t matter because no one would ever look at Edie while Bianca was around anyhow.

Except for maybe a cat.

Edie rapped the brass knocker on the big wooden door of the manor house.

“This is so elegant,” Bianca murmured, smoothing her hair. “So very Downton Abbey. You think they have servants?”

“No, I’m sure Gretchen cleans seventeen bathrooms by herself,” Edie said sarcastically.

“Seventeen bathrooms? Really?”

“I’m guessing.” She eyed the windows of the manor house, what she could see from the entrance. How many rooms did this place have? The size of it rivaled freaking Buckingham Palace or something.

But in the next moment, the enormous door opened and Gretchen peered out onto the steps. Her eyes widened behind black-rimmed nerd glasses and she lit up. “Ohmigod! Edie! You’re here!” She flung herself forward, wrapping her arms around Edie’s smaller frame. “It’s so good to see you! Was the drive long?”

Edie pried herself out of Gretchen’s exuberant embrace, laughing. “About four hours. But of course, seeing you is worth it. How are you? How’s Igor?” She studied Gretchen. Her friend looked fabulous, her face glowing, her red hair bouncing around her shoulders like a fiery cloud. She wore a plain black dress, which didn’t surprise Edie. She and Gretchen were on the same wavelength when it came to “dressing up.”

“Ha! Of course you’re asking about that little skin-bag the moment you get here.” She grinned and gave Edie a happy little shake, then tilted her head as she noticed Bianca. “Oh. You brought someone. Hi, Bianca.” Her tone changed, her happy smile growing a little more forced. “I didn’t know you were coming.”

Edie winced. She loved Gretchen, but Gretchen didn’t like Bianca. “I needed someone to drive,” Edie said, making an excuse for her sister, who wanted to be at Gretchen’s party more than Edie did. “You know how long drives hurt my leg.”

Gretchen blinked. “Of course. I’m just . . . We now have an odd number of guests.”

“Oh, I don’t have to go to the dinner,” Bianca said in a soft, sweet voice. “I’ll be perfectly fine in the kitchen. Please don’t change your plans for me. I would just feel terrible.”

“No, it’s okay, I guess. Just keep your mitts off of the scarred-up one. He’s mine and I’ll cut you if you even look at him sideways.”

Bianca’s big eyes went wide. “Um.”

“She’s joking,” Edie told her sister. “Aren’t you, Gretch?”

“Sure. Joking.” Gretchen gave Bianca her most evil looking smile and waved them in. “Come on. You can meet the other guests.”

Edie limped forward, eyeing the foyer as they walked in. Double staircase, lined with red carpet. She sincerely hoped she wasn’t going to have to go up that. “Nice house.”

“Oh, it’s a beast,” Gretchen said easily. “Comes with the man, though, so I don’t mind it so much.” She shut the door behind Bianca and Edie and then paused. “So. Before we go in, I need to talk about my fiancé.”

That sounded ominous. Edie kept her face carefully bland. She’d googled Hunter Buchanan on the Internet but hadn’t been able to find any pictures of him. Was he super old and Gretchen was marrying him because . . . money? It didn’t sound like something Gretchen would do, but Gretchen thrived on impulsive decisions and she was impossible to predict.

“I’m sure he’ll be lovely,” Bianca said in a sweet voice.

“Actually, he’s not,” Gretchen told her bluntly. “Which is what we need to talk about.” Her gaze fixed on the two women. “Hunter’s a bit shy. He doesn’t like it when people stare at him, because he’s got a lot of scars and he’s missing a few fingers. I’m telling you now so you’re not surprised later. And I’m also telling you because he’s camera shy and if you guys are hoping for some sort of singing-or-dancing-down-the-aisle bullshit, it’s not going to happen. In fact, if anyone suggests it, I will rip your tongue out.” She eyed Bianca. “I’m very protective of Hunter, and the only reason we’re having a big wedding is because I want it and because he wants to make me happy. If it was up to him, we’d bring someone here and get it done in an afternoon.”

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