Home > His Ex's Well-Kept Secret (The Ballantyne Billionaires #1)

His Ex's Well-Kept Secret (The Ballantyne Billionaires #1)
Author: Joss Wood

Prologue


    In the presidential suite of a boutique hotel on the Via Manzoni, the most luxurious hotel in Milan, Jaeger Ballantyne ran his hand down a slim female back, the bumps of her spine pearls under satin skin.

    The fine cotton sheet covered Piper’s hips and draped her butt. Jaeger couldn’t stop touching her, loving the feel of her warm skin under his rough hand. He’d had women in his hotel room before, probably more than he should have, and while Piper was not the most beautiful female he’d ever had in his bed, she was certainly the most magnetic. Since the moment she’d stumbled into his life a day and a half ago, he’d thought of little else.

    Exceptional gems—the cut and sparkle of diamonds, rubies, opals, emeralds and a dozen more—captured and held his attention. Women? Not so much. Like diamonds destined for the mass market, they were generally nicely cut and well polished but nothing exceptional. And when he did find one a cut above the rest, he enjoyed her and quickly moved on.

    But for some reason, he kept thinking of Piper as a flawless, colorless diamond, the rarest type on the planet. Ridiculous, because he knew there was always another gem to discover, and he never lost his head over sparkly stones or the sweeter-smelling sex.

    Piper Mills made him wonder if walking around headless was a risk he was prepared to take.

    He should have been back in New York City already, Jaeger thought, irritated with his overthinking. He’d originally intended to be in Milan only for the previous evening. But when he’d seen Piper at the Milan branch of Ballantyne and Company, her long legs under a short skirt captured his attention. They’d been designed, he was convinced, to wrap around his hips.

    The intelligence in her light green eyes intrigued him, and the splash of freckles across her nose charmed him.

    Her body had him wanting to make her scream until the whole of Milan knew his name.

    Piper had mentioned owning ten blue stones that family legend said were sapphires, but he was too fascinated by her face to pay much attention. Then she smiled and a tiny dimple in her right cheek flashed, and all thoughts of carats and color disappeared. His breath hitched, his vision swam and he knew he was not leaving the city until he’d taken her to dinner.

    And to bed.

    Fast-forward thirty-six hours and three dates—dinner, lunch and another dinner—and they’d shared some very hot, very fun sex. Jaeger’s thumb ran over her right buttock, flirted with the curve at the top of her thigh and back up again.

    Best day and a half of his life, by far.

    Jaeger bent down and placed a kiss on the ball of her shoulder, pulling a long curl the color of a newly minted penny off her face.

    Piper rolled onto her side, and when Jaeger looked into her eyes, he felt like he was walking in a mysterious forest. Her gaze bounced away from his face, ricocheted off his body and focused on the watercolor painting on the far wall. So the very sexy Ms. Mills wasn’t very good with post-sex conversation. Why did that make him smile?

    Piper sat up and pulled the sheet to her torso. “Um...this is awkward.”

    “It really doesn’t have to be,” Jaeger assured her.

    Piper tucked the sheet under her armpits, pushed a hand through her hair and adjusted the sheet again. “Can we have a quick chat about why I was in Ballantyne and Company?” Piper asked.

    Jaeger could think of a better use of their time, but if talking about her stones made her feel at ease, then he was all for it.

    “Okay, let’s talk sapphires.” Jaeger rolled off the bed, snagging his boxers from the floor. He pulled them on and walked over to the bathroom to pluck a blindingly white cotton robe off the hook behind the door. He opened the robe and Piper, self-conscious, left the bed and hastily slid her arms into the sleeves. Jaeger turned her around, covered her up and tied the belt across her narrow waist.

    Resisting the urge to lower his mouth to hers, Jaeger took her hand, led her into the living room of the suite and dashed the remains of a vintage Cabernet into a wineglass for her. Piper took the glass and curled up into the corner of the couch, tucking her bare feet, tipped with red-hot toes, under her butt. Along with every other inch of her body, he’d tasted those toes. He’d kissed his way up her calves, tasted the sweetness of her inner thighs, the heat and spice of her core.

    And he desperately wanted to do it all again.

    He would; the night wasn’t over yet.

    Deciding he needed a whiskey, he poured two fingers into a glass, sat down opposite her and mentally begged her to make it quick.

    “As I said, I have some sapphires that have been passed down through my mother’s family.”

    “How many stones are we talking about?” Jaeger asked, resting his forearms on his thighs.

    “Ten. There were twelve, but my mom sold two, thirty years ago, to give my father the money to start his business.”

    He realized he knew nothing about her or her family. You don’t need to; you’re not going to see her again.

    “Most of the stones are around an inch, some bigger, some smaller,” Piper continued.

    A sapphire longer than an inch? He didn’t think so. “Are they cut? Uncut?”

    “The smaller stones are cut. There’s one that’s...spectacular.”

    Jaeger knew people exaggerated, particularly when it came to gemstones. The stones were probably half that size. He looked at Piper and sighed when he saw the blissful look on her face. If she were anyone else, he would bluntly have told her the gems were probably fake. A cache of sapphires like she was describing would have been well-documented. Unless you enjoyed royal connections, exceptional and important gems were rarely passed down a family line.

    Unaware of his skepticism, Piper held her wineglass to her chest, her eyes dreamy. “Oh, Jaeger, it’s beautiful. A deep, dark blue, sleepy and velvety and just, God, gorgeous. I just want to touch it, hold it, look at it.”

    “It’s difficult to comment on stones I haven’t seen, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were you,” he said, keeping his voice noncommittal.

    “I have a photo of them. Could you look at it?” Piper asked.

    Jaeger nodded and sighed when Piper bent over to pick up her bag. The cotton robe delineated her heart-shaped bottom, revealed the backs of her thighs. He felt his boxers tighten as his junk moved up to half-mast. The urge to sink into her heat was strong.

    Relax. You’ll have her again. Once more, or twice, before they went back to real life.

    Piper walked back to him and sat on the arm of his chair, her fingers dancing across the screen of her phone. She passed it to him, and Jaeger looked down at the burst of blue on black velvet.

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