Home > The Billionaire Next Door (Billionaire Bad Boys #2)

The Billionaire Next Door (Billionaire Bad Boys #2)
Author: Jessica Lemmon

Acknowledgments

Thank you to Michele Bidelspach for all you do to make my books a success, including this yummy cover. When I requested a long-haired billionaire with facial hair who didn’t wear a suit, you didn’t balk. Publicity mavens Jodi Rosoff and Michelle Cashman, for making publicity look easy when I know you work your tail feathers off. And Jessie Pierce, for your quiet efficiency.

Thanks as always to my agent, Nicole, for your help and praise. I wouldn’t be here without you. Thanks also to my husband, John, who unnecessarily steps out of the spotlight to ensure I have plenty for myself. You’re a big part of the reason I shine.

A special shout-out to Tracy Slemker, who talked with me at length about prosthetic limbs. Any mistakes are my own. Lastly, thank you to Brock O’Hurn for sharing your photos (which inspired Tag Crane’s physical features) and for your encouragement to chase life’s dreams. I wish you continued success with yours.


Chapter 1

 

Eyes closed, Rachel Foster drew in a steeling breath, shut out the din of voices at the surrounding tables in the bar, and said aloud for the first time ever, “Mom, Dad, I resigned from my position at the design firm after Shaun took credit for my work. I moved out of our shared apartment and took a job as a bartender instead.”

Other than background chatter, silence greeted her. She held her breath for a few seconds before opening her eyes. The fifty-something guy across from her blinked, fries gone cold on his plate.

“Should I have started with my ex taking credit for my work, then moved to the resignation? Or is it best to open with the bartender bit?” she asked him.

“I think they’ll love you no matter what.” The man on the guest side of the bar, who’d agreed to play the role of “Mom and Dad,” smiled.

Oliver Something. He had kind green eyes, a plain face, and thick hair dyed a shade too dark for his age and skin tone. He was a regular at the bar where she worked, enjoying the same exact meal (turkey club, no mayo) each and every week. He always ate, but never drank alcohol, only soda. And he had a big, beautiful Great Dane, a dog she would soon be in charge of while living in his gorgeous apartment.

She really needed to learn Oliver’s last name.

“You say that because you’ve never met them.” She grabbed the soda gun from behind the bar and refilled his Diet Coke. “Maybe I shouldn’t tell them at all.”

“Rachel.” He brushed his hands on a paper napkin. “I’m old enough to be your father.”

“Uncle,” she corrected, being generous.

“Older uncle. Either way, I have longer perspective than you do given that I’m closer to the grave, and I’m advising you to tell your folks what’s going on.”

He was right, of course. She hadn’t told them anything, and the least they deserved was the truth.

After her and Shaun’s relationship had imploded, she’d grieved alone and put on a happy voice for her mother’s phone calls. Inside, she’d been aching. Two years was a long time to be with someone. She had begun to accept his faults—like the fact he was grouchy in the evenings and could be abrasive and critical—but when he’d betrayed her and took the promotion she’d earned, she pushed the eject button without a second thought.

“I’ll tell them.” Eventually. She wasn’t ready to call her family in Ohio and drop on their lap that their successful, city-dwelling daughter was not watching the gold nameplate go up on her corner office door. Instead, she was stacking dirty dishes in a bus tub and cleaning sticky, disgusting residue out of the rubber mat over which she poured libations for eight hours a night, five to six days a week.

Still better than being stabbed in the back by the man who was supposed to love and protect her.

She took Oliver’s plate as he reached for his wallet. He extracted a credit card, which he used to pay for everything to earn miles for his many business trips, and set a gold key next to it.

“Front desk knows to expect you tomorrow. Adonis has been asking about you since you stopped by last week,” he said of the Great Dane with whom he shared a life.

She pocketed the key with a smile and settled the bill, swiping the card on the machine a few feet down the bar.

“The front desk was incredibly thorough and scares me a little.” Last week when she was there, they required two forms of ID and took a photo of her to put in their database. “I’m surprised they didn’t ask for fingerprints.” She tore off the receipts and handed them over with a pen. “Adonis is gorgeous, but let’s both admit he only loves me because of the liver treats I fed him.”

Oliver laughed as he signed the receipt. “His loyalty is easily bought. Like his owner’s.”

“Truer words.” She accepted the pen and the receipt, glancing at the tip line to see that Oliver had once again tipped the amount of his meal, which she used to yell at him for but now accepted that he wasn’t going to listen to her no matter what.

“Thank you for doing this, Rachel,” he said. “I didn’t expect to be in Japan for an entire month.”

“You’re welcome.” She’d confided in Oliver one late night how her roommate situation wasn’t working, and she needed to find a new place to live, never imagining he’d offer to solve her problem. As it turned out, he was due to go away on business and his dog sitter had double-booked herself. He’d asked Rachel if she’d take the gig, sharing that he couldn’t stomach the idea of Adonis in a kennel. When he told her his address, Rachel had nearly drooled on the bar top between them.

Crane Tower. Oh la la.

Not only would she live in his glorious fifteen-hundred-square-foot apartment, but he was also paying her. Generously. She could add the money to her savings and put a deposit down on her own place. It was either that or move back home, but she wasn’t willing to concede the battle yet. Chicago may be kicking her around, but she was tougher than she looked.

She hoped.

Once she found a better gig than bartending, a professional and brag-worthy profession devoid of rat-bastard, promotion-stealing boyfriends, she’d be good to go. Not because bragging about her job was important for her, but it was for her parents. They were the ones who were so proud of their daughter, the “city girl.”

Oliver bid her adieu and left as Rachel’s roommate-slash-coworker, Breanna, stepped through the door he held open for her.

At the bar, Bree slid her coat from her arms and stashed it beneath the register. “Soooo. How’s Daddy Warbucks?”

“Bree.” Rachel laughed as she washed a beer glass in the double sink. That roommate situation that wasn’t working? It had nothing to do with Bree or her significant other, Dean. Rachel adored Bree, and vice versa. They’d become close in the two months since Rachel moved in with her, when both Bree and Rachel swore they’d be roommates for years. Then Dean proposed, Bree said yes, and he moved in and well…Rachel was now a third wheel.

She didn’t want to be in the way of what her friends had, which was special. She could tell because she knew what a relationship looked like when it wasn’t right. It was strain and silence and frustration and animosity brewing under a surface that no one disturbed.

“I’m going to miss you when you go live in luxury for a month.” Bree pouted, pushing her full lips out. Her chin-length brown hair was smooth tonight, her eyes sparkling thanks to glittery eye shadow.

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