Home > The Billionaire Shifter's Curvy Match (Billionaire Shifters Club #1)

The Billionaire Shifter's Curvy Match (Billionaire Shifters Club #1)
Author: Diana Seere

Chapter 1

Lilah stared at the stack of bills in front of her. It was an inch thicker than her thumb.

The stack didn’t include the online bills, which were easier to ignore than the ones that stared out at her, crooked and intimidating, stalking her mailbox like a freeloading boyfriend.

Not that she had a boyfriend. In fact, soon she wouldn’t even have a mailbox.

Damn. She logged into her online bank account and stared at her balance. It was three figures. Five if you included the decimal points—which she definitely did. Her student loan payment alone was four figures, forget the decimal points—which she couldn’t because the loan agency kept reminding her every month with emails, threatening letters, and phone calls.

An exhausted sigh escaped her. She dug her fingers into her scalp, massaged the old scar at her temple, and leaned against the cheap desk she and her little sister, Jess, had found on the street last month. Every piece of furniture in their tiny studio apartment was street-picked, except for the futon mattress she slept on. She lined her windowsill with small, scented tea lights, the fruity citrus and calming vanilla masking the scent of desperation in her life.

She looked up to find her reflection staring back at her from the full-length mirror their neighbor gave them a few weeks ago before moving out. It was a tall antique that reminded her of something from a horror movie. Late at night she expected her own reflection to talk to her.

Right now it just showed her a generously curvy woman in threadbare pajamas and loose blonde hair that hung down to her waist. She wished her face didn’t always have that nervous smile on it, as if she were begging the world to be kind.

After sticking her tongue out at herself, she reached for her most recent temp-job paycheck. Processing mortgage paperwork had been more boring than watching paint dry, but it had come with a full-time paycheck for eleven weeks.

Until today. Next week would’ve been week twelve—but they’d chucked her overboard. Laid off. Technically, she wasn’t even laid off—that would have meant she could collect unemployment. But Lilah was a temp. She was just shit out of luck.

So. No more paychecks.

She opened the bank app on her three-generations-too-old smartphone and snapped a picture of her check, depositing it with ease. A photo, a log-in, and—bam!

Her bank balance increased by a few hundred dollars.

Not enough.

The late summer heat floated in through the third-story window of their tiny place in Waltham, making it feel like a sauna. A half-broken fan was all they had to stir the air. A window-unit air conditioner was so far out of their financial reality that it made Lilah laugh to even think about it. The windowsill outside was spotted with drips from floors above them, drops of water from people richer than she and her sister, people who could afford their cell phone bills and the electricity to power sixty-eight-degree coolness.

She kinda hated those people right now.

Kinda really.

Lilah trudged over to the kitchen, abandoning her bills, and opened the freezer. A bucket of ice greeted her. That was her and Jess’s version of air-conditioning. She tucked three cubes in a sandwich bag and put it on the back of her neck. Last week she’d done the same thing with a can of soda.

As if they could afford soda.

If it got any hotter, she’d need to tuck ice into her bra, but looking down at her overflowing rack made her snicker. Try finding room for ice cubes in a double-D bra, even one as old and stretched out as hers.

What she needed was a miracle.

A miracle attached to a pile of money.

“You home?” a familiar voice called out as the front door cracked open with the explosive sound of metal on metal, keys in locks, and the whump of something heavy being thrown on the table. Lilah turned around to see her sister Jess standing there, pointing to an overflowing bag of groceries.

“What’s that?” Lilah asked. Jess worked part-time at the fancy organic grocery store four blocks away that gave her a small income while she took classes. Jess, like Lilah, already had a bachelor’s degree—and the student loans to prove it—but she’d decided too late that she wanted to go to med school. That meant taking catch-up classes.

Biology, chemistry, and physics filled Jess’s days. Those were the very classes that gave Lilah a case of hives. Her degree in hospitality management was more her style.

“We can’t afford groceries right now—we have to make rent!” Lilah stared at the bag of food. She opened the fridge and inventoried what they had on hand. A vanilla yogurt. Some carrots that had gone brown at the ends. A jar of mustard. An inch of ketchup in a clear bottle.

The cupboard held pasta and some rice. They’d find a way.

Jess rolled her hazel eyes. Like most days she worked at the store, she’d tied up her long honey-gold hair in a sleek ponytail. “We have to eat. Geez, Lilah, what’s wrong with you?”

“What’s wrong?” Lilah’s voice rose. “They didn’t hire me permanently at the mortgage company. I was let go today.”

“So? You hated that job.”

Lilah ran her hand through her long hair, yanking it in frustration. “Yeah, well, I loved the paycheck. Kind of like how I love having a roof over my—”

The sound of screeching rubber on asphalt drowned out the rest of her words. They both paused, expecting to hear cars colliding. Instead, there was eerie silence—and then the plaintive cry of a wounded animal.

A dog.

They both ran to the window. Outside, the usual neighborhood lowlifes loitered on their grubby street, where the most vibrant business was a check-cashing place. And a bar. Actually, a lot of bars.

And was that a limo? What the hell was one of those doing here?

The dog’s cries continued.

“Smoky!” Lilah gasped, turning away from the window, her heart pounding. “That bastard hit Smoky!”

Smoky was the neighborhood stray. He should’ve been ill-tempered, given his bad luck to live on the streets, but his was the friendliest face on the block, looking happy to see you, always eager for a pat, his tail wagging.

The limo might’ve killed the poor little guy. Taking three stairs at a time, Lilah flew down the stairwell to the stained security door and out the rusty gate to the sidewalk.

The usual drug dealer was standing on the corner, interrupted from talking to whoever was inside a parked silver Chevy. Under that car, only a few feet from him and still whimpering, was a huddled mass of pale fur.

Smoky.

Jess was right on her heels. “Oh, no.”

“We have to help him.” Lilah glanced up and down the street, preparing to cross, her long hair flying as she whipped her head back and forth to make sure it was safe.

Jess grabbed her arm. “You can’t! That’s the dealer who stabbed somebody last year, isn’t it?”

“Different guy,” Lilah said, although it wasn’t. She strode into the street just as the driver of the limo was getting out. She couldn’t leave Smoky to die in the street with those scumbags.

Then she saw the limo driver pull his arms back, hands on hips, revealing a barely-concealed gun on a holster around his chest. The window in the back of the limo remained up, and why shouldn’t it? Why would some rich dude want to get dirty? Why would he care if he’d run over some poor homeless dog?

The tiny scar above Lilah’s left eyebrow began to throb. It jolted her, making the scene before her look shimmery. Unreal. She pressed her fingertips into the tiny divot and hoped the throbbing would go away. The last thing she needed now was a three-day blinding headache.

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