Home > An Unlikely Deal (Billionaires' Brides of Convenience #6)

An Unlikely Deal (Billionaires' Brides of Convenience #6)
Author: Nadia Lee

The Boy


The boy in the garden is no more than four. He is a handsome child, with bright brown eyes and the silkiest of dark chestnut hair. His black shirt is neatly pressed—thanks to the housekeeper—and his blue denim pants are tidy as well, except for a streak of dirt from the yard where he wrestled with his twin.

He takes hold of his mother’s soft, manicured hand with his own, which is sticky with sweat and candy from earlier. She flinches and tries to pull away. When he doesn’t let go, she yanks her hand from his grip and stares at her palm with distaste. She takes out a handkerchief and wipes it.

His gaze rises to her face.

“’Ommy?” he says when she ignores him.

She sighs. “It’s Mommy, not ’ommy.” Her voice is impatient.

“I love you!” he declares, not bothered by the correction, looking up at his beautiful golden mother with a cherubic smile.

She shakes her head. “What did I say about manipulation?”

“What’s ’ano’olation?”

“Manipulation,” she corrects him again. “When you say things like ‘I love you’ you’re trying to get the other person to say it back. Manipulation. Putting pressure on someone.”

The smile on his face slips. He just wanted her to know how much he loves her.

“You’re being needy,” she continues. “Needy children are the worst. Why are your hands so grubby?” She opens and closes the palm he held, then wipes it again.

He looks down. “I’m sorry,” he whispers.

She doesn’t acknowledge him. Instead, she wrinkles her nose and disappears into the mansion.

The boy remains standing in the garden, unsure and alone.

 

 

Chapter One

 

Lucas

I do not make a habit of reminiscing about my exes. Nor do I make a habit of stalking our former haunts.

So it is with the greatest annoyance and puzzlement that I find myself back in Charlottesville, Virginia. I have nothing there—no friends, no business interests. Well…there’s that house. I really should put it on the market and move back to Seattle permanently, but somehow I can’t bring myself to pull the trigger.

For fuck’s sake, just sell the place and get the hell out of here. Cut all ties.

Rainwater drips down the pothole-sized windows as my plane slows on the tarmac. The cabin crew hands me a spare umbrella.

My assistant had my Mercedes dropped off at the airport yesterday before starting her vacation. I claim the car—no luggage to get—and run a rough hand over my face. My left leg aches. I should probably move someplace where the sun shines all year long.

Instead of going to my own house to soak the throbbing limb in hot water, I drive to the duplex, park across the street like a fucking stalker, and watch the sad little building through the rain-blurred windshield.

She doesn’t even live here anymore, but somehow I keep coming back. Like a damned boomerang.

The bitch kicked you to the curb when you were at your lowest. Fuck her.

Yes. Fuck her. Forget she exists. Get myself a hot chick to bang so I can move on. Scarred or not, I’m young and rich. It won’t be a problem to get a willing girl.

The duplex’s exterior could use a fresh coat of paint and a bit of landscaping, but the management company won’t do anything until the place looks like a dump. They know just as well as I do that college kids don’t care all that much about curb appeal.

The scuffed blue door stays stubbornly shut. It was raining when we had our first real date and she let me pick her up from her place.

In my mind’s eye, I see the door opening…Ava stepping out… She’s in a long-sleeved shirt and old jeans with frayed hems and stitches, and her feet are encased in a pair of black boots she bought on clearance at a department store the year before. I quickly put an umbrella over her to shield her from the icy raindrops and lead her to my car. I don’t want even a drop to touch her soft, warm skin.

Idiot.

No matter how much I will it, Ava isn’t coming out. She left me two years ago. She couldn’t have made it clearer that she didn’t want anything to do with me.

A pretty blonde walks by on the other side of the street, a bright orange, white and navy blue umbrella showing her school spirit. Her white UVA medical school shirt stretches across young, perky tits. The skirt she’s wearing is short and shows off long, shapely legs. Her canvas shoes are wet, but she doesn’t seem to mind.

Med school. Must be smart. And she’s easy on the eyes.

But my body remains coolly uninterested. It’s as though after the accident, somebody flipped my libido switch off…leaving me deadened to one of the best pleasures in life.

If I were the superstitious type, I’d suspect that Ava cast some kind of dark spell on me before she left.

The muscles in my left leg twinge, and I rub the thigh with an impatient hand. It acts up every time it rains, even when I’m seated. Maybe the pain’s making it difficult for me to get interested. I’m not a masochist.

The blonde knocks on Ava’s old blue door, and a boy comes out. They hug and kiss. The view twists something inside me.

What the hell am I trying to accomplish by coming back?

I pull out and drive away. It’s over.

It was over two years ago.

For a so-called genius, it’s taking me an awful long time to accept that fact. I can deal with numbers and patterns. But figuring Ava out… That always eluded me.

No time for this bullshit. Let her go. You have three months left to find a wife.

The muscles in my neck tighten until they feel like steel. The idea of marrying anyone spikes my heartbeat, and the roast beef sandwich I had for lunch churns in my gut. If it were just me, I’d say to hell with everything. But if I don’t marry…if all of us don’t get married…none of us are getting our grandfather’s damned paintings.

I don’t fucking want a wife. I’m not like my brothers. Pretty Boy Ryder found one—well, he felt compelled to marry his assistant after knocking her up. My twin, Elliot, found a stripper to marry for a year. But I can’t let my brothers and sister down. My sister Elizabeth in particular would be devastated.

The paintings are rightfully ours. If Grandpa had had a better lawyer—or a better brain for business—they would’ve come directly to us rather than our asshole father, who is now using them for his own twisted amusement. Julian is a borderline sociopath who likes to watch people weaker than him squirm at his command. It enrages him that he can’t fuck with us—his children from his first wife are too wealthy and well-connected, and Elliot and I made our own fortunes when we were twenty-one.

I drive past the guard manning the gated community in Charlottesville. He gives me a bored nod. The verdant lawn stretches endlessly, trees big with branches that defy gravity. Their leaves are still a vibrant jade, but a tinge of orange, yellow and red has started to creep in, a discordant sign of the end of summer. Homes are stately in stone and brick, with elegant white-framed windows. Beyond them is a golf course, which I’ve never used.

I only bought an “estate” here because it had an acceptable house for sale. Ava was studying at the University of Virginia, and flying back and forth between the east and west coasts didn’t appeal. That’s ten hours per round trip I could’ve spent with her. Seattle didn’t have anything for me. Still doesn’t, which is why I haven’t moved back after finishing my treatment at the UVA hospital.

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