Home > The Billionaire Shifter's Curvy Match (Billionaire Shifters Club #1)(8)

The Billionaire Shifter's Curvy Match (Billionaire Shifters Club #1)(8)
Author: Diana Seere

“You know her name?” Gavin was suddenly inches from Asher’s face, ready to fight.

“Of course,” Asher replied, swishing his drink casually as if Gavin weren’t bearing down on him. The affect enraged Gavin. Hearing Lilah’s name on his brother’s tongue enraged him more. “And you know damn well, Gavin, that you cannot have her.” He paused, frowning. “You can have her. Bed her. That is fine. But you won’t marry her.”

Gavin bristled. “I’ll marry as I wish.” He walked over to his television and picked up a giant foam finger, a memento from the last Patriots game he attended in his club box. He slid his free hand into it.

Asher’s eyebrows inched up. “As long as the one you wish for is a shifter.”

“How do we know that Lilah is not one of us?” Gavin asked, the words out in anger, unable to be retrieved. He could smell his own craving and felt a keen sense of desperation welling up.

Gavin didn’t do desperation. Anger would be a fine substitute, though.

Anger and his hands on Lilah, stroking and teasing, laving and loving—

Asher’s face contorted, eyes on Gavin, his expression pinched in disgust. “You can’t stop thinking about the human, can you?”

Gavin pointed the foam finger at Asher. “We’re human as well.”

Asher rolled his eyes and shoved the finger to the side. “Not entirely.”

“More than enough.”

“Too much,” Asher said with a well-worn bitterness. He finished his drink and marched into the shadows of the penthouse. A sloshing sound followed as he refilled his drink.

The truth dawned on Gavin. “You don’t want me to marry a human because of what happened to Claire.” Claire was Asher’s late wife, a human who had died during childbirth.

Asher’s turn to get in Gavin’s face, the mention of Claire enough to turn him bright red and seething. A small sense of victory pinged deep inside Gavin, for breaking through Asher’s cool, casual exterior took tremendous skill. He was unflappable.

Except when it came to his late beloved.

“Marrying a full human is pure folly,” Asher hissed, his alcohol-soaked breath tickling Gavin’s nose. He could feel the whisky in his brain. “It is stupid and dangerous.”

“What if I don’t have a choice?” How could Gavin explain the feeling of pure fate, the loss of control when he had been near Lilah, how some part of him was a magnet, drawn without choice to her?

“You? Gavin Stanton, the billionaire biotech king? You are the epitome of smart choices.” Asher drained his full glass and set it on the table next to the glass doors. His voice was taunting. That wasn’t a compliment.

He was right, though. Gavin had to give him that.

“Then give me that choice,” he countered, eyes narrowed, locked on Asher’s dark, angry orbs.

The air was charged with electricity and resentment, with the past and the future, with all the many slights and sorrows, joys and celebrations that passed through decades—centuries—of being family.

Gavin could feel his brother cataloguing each incident, every interaction, racing through an archive of the family dynasty. As the heir, he had both great wealth and tremendous power. The responsibility was extraordinary.

And Gavin had threatened it all by becoming a powerhouse on his own.

“If I give you that choice, you will choose wrong. The family cannot afford that.”

“Then you’re ruling the family by fear. Not respect.” Gavin poked Asher in the chest with the silly foam finger twice, enraging his brother. Asher grabbed it and threw it out the balcony doors, where a breeze caught it and sent it over the railing, floating down into the street.

“When did you become so childish?” Asher asked with disgust.

“When did you become so bitter?” Gavin countered.

And with that, Gavin brushed past Asher and marched straight out of his own apartment, needing to be anywhere but here.

 

 

Chapter 4

 

 

At three o’clock on Monday afternoon, Lilah showed up for her first shift at the Platinum Club.

Although a few doubts lingered, and her stomach quivered with nerves, she was eager to walk through the luxurious, glossy office-building lobby and take the elevator up to the club as instructed.

The documents that Eva had sent to her were convincing, impressive, and seductive. The promise of an advance on her paycheck at the end of her first day—an amount more than she made in a month at her last job—made her light-headed.

First thing tomorrow morning, she’d pay off a few of her most pressing debts and take her sister out for a real meal. On Wednesday, her day off, she’d take Smoky to the vet and the doggie salon. And in a few weeks, if she could cut it at the club, she’d start looking for an apartment in a better part of town and even find some affordable landscaper and housecleaner to help out her mom. Just once would make her so happy.

The Platinum Club. Movie stars, financial titans, baseball players, senators.

And a decent paycheck. She’d talked to an ex-waitress at the club—her phone number had been included in the documents—and been reassured there was no stripping, no lap dances, no harassment.

“They could get plenty of that somewhere else,” the woman had said. “The Club is a classy place. You’ll see.”

Given that the ex-waitress was now a feminist studies professor who hosted a show on NPR, Lilah was convinced. Fantasies of paying off her enormous student loans in a single year, as the professor had, ran through her mind. Or helping Jess with medical school.

And it made more sense for her to be a waitress than a secretary if she wanted to work in hospitality management and tourism someday. She didn’t have to give up on her dream after all.

Heart pounding, she checked the number over the glossy doors—fifty-five—before striding inside in her black pants and ballet flats.

Eva had insisted she arrive in nondescript clothing. They’d take care of her “attire,” as she’d called it.

Swallowing over her dry throat, Lilah approached the vast reception desk, where a gray-haired man in a black suit sat between crystal containers displaying exotic fruit and flowers. “Hi.” Her voice caught, and she cleared it. “I’m Lilah.”

“Of course you are,” the man said, his voice as serious as an upright British butler in a Hollywood movie. “They’re waiting for you.”

She hesitated a moment before nodding and walking over to the elevator. Everything was as respectable as the mortgage company where she’d been temping, although much more expensive. In seconds she was inside, gliding upward to eleven. Her palms sweated. When the doors slid open, she forgot how to breathe.

But then she was looking into the friendly round face of a woman no older than she was. “Lilah?” the woman asked. She was a short and curvy brunette with huge blue eyes.

Lilah nodded.

The woman hooked an arm through hers. “I’m Molly. Oh my God, this is going to be so much fun. You’re beautiful!”

“Fun?”

“I get to make you up. After today you’ll get dressed by yourself, but I’m always here if you want help or something new or whatever.” She released Lilah’s arm to pull her own messy brown hair into a ponytail. “I was a theater major. My parents were so depressed, thinking I’d never move out of the house. But look at me! Isn’t this incredible?”

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