Home > The Billionaire's Masquerade (Friendship #1)

The Billionaire's Masquerade (Friendship #1)
Author: Elizabeth Lennox

Elizabeth Lennox - Friendship #1 - The Billionaire's Masquerade

The Billionaire's Masquerade (Friendship #1)
Elizabeth Lennox



Chapter 1

Undertaking a life-altering challenge in the middle of the summer heat? Was she crazy?!

Rachel looked out the tiny window of her rental car, thinking she should have done this in the fall. The temperatures were cooler and she had more energy, more spunk. Rachel Carson took a deep, fortifying breath. She was here now, staring out the windshield and giving herself yet another pep talk.

But as Rachel stepped out of her vehicle here in what looked to be the wilds of Maine, she was surprised that there wasn’t any oppressive heat, no sticky wall of humidity. In fact, the only stimulus she encountered was a bird’s sing-song mating call in the distance and a light breeze that gently lifted the wispy hair off of her neck.

Where was the oppressive heat? Where was the painful smack of humidity that caused a body to long for a cold, refreshing drink? Looking around, she took a deep breath and smelled nothing but….was that nature? She almost laughed, thinking of her childhood memories. As an adult, the only scents she smelled in the morning was coffee, suffocating car exhaust and, depending on the day, the irritating scent of the photocopier ink when someone was running a large print job. It had been a long, long time since she’d smelled anything so…organic.

And the sounds! She stood absolutely still for a long moment. There was nothing but the various birds in the distance and a few rustling sounds as the wind played tag with the leaves on the trees.

If it weren’t for her urgent, career-changing purpose here today, she might actually relax.

Rachel suddenly realized what she was doing and shook her head, trying to clear her mind of both the sad memories as well as the idea that dirt could be a good smell. She hated dirt. She hated the heat of the summer sun pressing down on the top of her head until she felt like sinking to her knees in defeat. She hated the way the humidity made every piece of fabric stick to her skin and wilt no matter how much starch was applied. And she hated the mosquitoes that swarmed around her whenever she stepped outdoors no matter what time of the day.

Not that it was painfully hot right now. In fact, the temperature was warm but still comfortable. Rachel had little faith that the weather during the summer months in Maine could be this idyllic all the time. Nor was she going to stick around to find out. No, she preferred a nice, air conditioned room where the temperature was controlled, the humidity was low and any bug that showed up was crushed under the relentless onslaught of hard soled shoes running through the elegantly carpeted hallways.

Rachel tugged her black blazer down over her hips, smoothing out the expensive fabric in the hope that she didn’t look as terrified as she felt.

“This is it,” she whispered as she stood outside her little rental car, staring at the rough, gravel road ahead of her. “Why the man had to live out here in the middle of nowhere…” She left the end of the disparaging sentence dangling. Her prey was a recluse; no photos of Emerson Watson could be found and he was notoriously grouchy and mean. An ogre, according to some. So it was probably a good thing that the man lived out here all alone. There was no one to irritate him, he couldn’t hurt other’s feelings, and he probably was able to concentrate better. Yes, grouchasaurs should definitely be kept apart from the rest of humanity.

She thought of the animated movie with the huge green man-beast and his funny donkey friend. Keeping that silly image in her mind helped abate some of the anxiety over her unannounced interference in the man’s obvious preference for isolation and solitude.

“But that’s not going to stop me!” She started forward, almost tiptoeing down the dirt and gravel road so that her three inch heels, her favorite red ones that made her feel strong and confident, wouldn’t get dirty. “First impressions,” she gritted out, wanting to make a good one with the ogre in question.

As she walked down the driveway, she ignored the low-level buzzing that was coming from the bushes, pretending to not be nervous about the possible bee hives that were probably hidden in the tall, flowered shrubberies. Instead, she stared straight ahead, refusing to be intimidated by either the length of the driveway or the height of the bushes surrounding her. It almost felt like she was walking out of civilization. The area seemed so isolated, almost lonely back here. Rachel wasn’t the kind of person who needed people around at all times, but there was something almost…desolate about this gravel road. Why would anyone want a narrow, one lane road leading to their house? How could people easily come and go, socialize and network?

Okay, the man is famous for being a recluse. So he probably didn’t socialize a whole lot. He is probably fat and gross and irritating, so no one cared that he had a crazy-long, almost inaccessible driveway because they never visited!

She’d been walking for perhaps ten minutes when she heard a different, non-nature-produced sound. It was very faint, but definitely not a bird or an animal rustling in the bushes. Her shoulders relaxed somewhat. At least there was some form of humanity out here along the rustic, Maine coastline!

Perhaps if she were more laid-back and less goal oriented, she might actually appreciate the beauty around her. But as it was, she had a mission, an objective, and this long nature hike was slowing her down. She was on a time-schedule!

She pulled on the bottom of her jacket one more time, assuming the only person who would dare to be out in this crazy nature stuff would be none other than the reclusive Emerson Watson himself. She smoothed the wisps of hair back that had escaped during her precarious trek and straightened her shoulders, trying to appear as tall and confident as possible.

Taking the last few steps around the latest bend in the driveway, she looked around with what she hoped was a gracious smile on her face. But as soon as she took in the new sight, her shoulders drooped in frustration. This couldn’t be Emerson Watson’s house. The tiny, cozy cottage had all the windows open, a comfortable looking rocking chair on the front porch where several boards needed to be replaced, and weeds grew all over the cracked, concrete sidewalk. She didn’t know what it looked like inside, but as it was, the outside appeared rundown, almost sad.

Nope, the shockingly wealthy Emerson Watson wouldn’t be caught dead in this abode, she thought with disappointment. She looked to the left, and the road continued further through even more bushes. This tiny little cottage must be someone else’s home.

She could see the potential of the cottage. With some work, it could be very quaint and relaxing. Maybe some bright curtains on the windows, some fat pillows and comfortable chairs on the front porch…a handful of shrubs and flowers to soften the outside. Well, and a good coat of paint…yes, this house could be perfect!

But Emerson Watson was one of the ten wealthiest men in the world. He was a legend in the investment community with a reputation for being ruthless in business. The man had built up his investment corporation, luring the wealthiest clients from all over the world, and compounding their wealth several times over with his secretive investment strategies. The Securities and Exchange Commission had investigated his accounts five years ago as a possible Ponzi scheme. Agents were suspicious of his investments because they consistently made money and earned returns significantly higher than the average funds could even dream of achieving. He’d been completely exonerated, and the investigation, which normally would leave some investors doubtful, had instead only added to the Watson legend.

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