Beauty and the Billionaire (Billionaire Boys Club #2)(8) read online by Jessica Clare
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Beauty and the Billionaire (Billionaire Boys Club #2)(8)
Author: Jessica Clare

“What is it?”

“She has brought her sister with her.”

“I have no objections.”

“Yes.” Again, a long pause, and then Eldon’s face seemed disapproving once more. “And a cat.”

Hunter felt his mouth stretch tight against his scars, smiling. “A cat is permissible. I did not state in the contract if she had to leave any pets behind.”

“I see.”

“And have you set up the letters for Ms. Petty’s project?”

Eldon gave a sharp nod. “They have been placed in an authentic Buchanan trunk dating from the Victorian era and left in the Blue Library.”

“And you reviewed them to verify their accuracy? This has to seem like a legitimate project, Eldon. I don’t want her leaving early because she realizes it’s a scam.”

“I have been assured of the age and accuracy of the letters by the gentleman who sold them to me. He insisted that they have been in his family for generations and was only willing to part with them for a large sum.”

“I don’t care about how much they cost. I just want it to be enough to keep her here for a few weeks so I can get to know her.”

“You may trust that it is under control, Mr. Buchanan.” Eldon clasped his hands behind his back and shifted on his feet. “This does, however, bring me to the question of the publisher.”

“The publisher?”

“The one you formed to push Ms. Petty’s project? You hired Mr. Stewart from his publishing house and told him to acquire employees and projects as long as Ms. Petty’s book was given premium attention.”

He vaguely remembered something about that. It had seemed easier to him that he’d set his own publisher up than to approach one of the others. After all, he didn’t care if the business made money. “Is there a problem with Stewart?”

“I believe he wanted to discuss Bellefleur Publishing with you and get your opinion on some of the acquisitions.”

Hunter waved a hand, dismissing the thought. He didn’t give a shit about what Stewart acquired. “Have him talk with my accounting people.”

“They are not fans of this project, just so you know, sir.”

“Why does it matter to them?”

Eldon’s mouth pursed as if considering something unpleasant. “I believe one does not go into publishing with the expectation of making large amounts of money.”

“Then it’s a good thing that I didn’t go into this expecting to make money, isn’t it?” Hunter smiled tightly. “Tell him to contact my accountants. And tell my accountants to give the man whatever he needs to run his business—within reason.”

Hunter moved to the window, gazing out at his rose gardens. They were bare and brown this time of year, the beds carefully covered to protect the roots in anticipation of springtime. They’d be gorgeous then, but for now they were barren. He wondered if she’d like them when they were in full bloom. Did she like gardening? Did she like the outdoors? “You met Gretchen, Eldon. Tell me your thoughts.”

“It is not for me to say, sir.” He didn’t look pleased at being asked. When Hunter continued to wait, he added, “She seemed . . . strong.”

Strong. Hunter rubbed his mouth, thinking of kind Gretchen. She was so beautiful and lively. He’d have no idea how to talk to her. Hell, he still had a hard time figuring out what to say to Logan, Jonathan, and the others and he’d known them for years. Next to someone as lovely and personable as her, he’d be . . . a tongue-tied, scarred lump.

Fucking pathetic.

Eldon cleared his throat. “Will our house guests affect the cleaning schedule, Mr. Buchanan?”

“No, they will not.”

“Then I shall be off to resume my duties, sir.”

“Thank you, Eldon.”

His butler left, and Hunter was once again alone in his study. He forced himself to sit back down, calmly, though his heart was beating rapidly in his chest. Anxiety? Excitement? Or something else?

Buchanan Manor never had visitors. Hunter never had visitors. Even the Brotherhood never came to visit. He usually went to visit them, and with a bodyguard in tow.

He felt an incredible urge to head toward the guest hall in the east wing, where she was housed. He wanted to pass down the hall and perhaps spot her exploring. Did she like his house? Or did she find it old and stodgy and overbearing?

His hand touched the scars on his cheek, feeling the deep, ugly grooves still carved into his flesh after all this time.

And clenched his hands on his desk, quelling his excitement.

***

Dawn broke bright and early, shining through the massive windows along the far wall. Gretchen bounded out of bed, already feeling restless and ready to begin the project. On the other side of the bed, Audrey mumbled and rolled over, going back to sleep.

That was fine with Gretchen. It’d give her a chance to get her bearings.

She dressed quickly, considering the bell pull, and decided to head out on her own. Dinner had been brought to them last night but it had been . . . strange. A few meager sandwiches and a can of tuna for her cat. She’d considered that Igor might not be the most welcome here and had brought cans of food and a portable litter pan, but it was downright odd that the cat seemed to be welcome and her sister was not. And since the welcome had been so incredibly warm she decided that perhaps this morning she’d explore a bit on her own before alerting their host that she was awake.

The halls of the house were eerily silent, to the point that she stopped and turned her phone to vibrate. A phone call would alert someone to her presence, and . . . she paused. Why was she feeling the need to sneak around? There was no one in this mansion. And after all, she’d been invited. So why the vague sense of guilt?

Probably because the butler had been such a jerk. If he was the welcoming party, she could see why no one else was here. She wondered if the owner was quite as big an ass**le as his employee. Perhaps the unfriendly Mr. Buchanan had given his butler instructions to make their welcome an unpleasant one because he wasn’t a fan of the project. Maybe he didn’t want her here and was permitting it only for the sake of the project.

Though if he didn’t want her here, then why would he allow it? Why wouldn’t he make other provisions to take the letters off-site in a controlled manner and have her work somewhere else where he wouldn’t be disturbed?

None of it made any sense.

Gretchen wandered the halls, admiring the costly furnishings and the architecture of the place, but the more that she wandered, the more bizarre it seemed to her. Though the place was spotless, she had seen no one at all. Didn’t a place this huge need a massive staff on hand? She’d seen enough documentaries about British aristocracy and the huge staff that the manor houses carried. This was practically American aristocracy, right? So where were the employees? She found it hard to believe that Buchanan would be doing his own dishes and dusting his library.

She eventually made it back to the main foyer of the house. Then she headed across the hall to the next wing. For some reason, it was oddly pleasing to hear the distant whirr of vacuums. That meant someone else existed in this enormous mansion.

Following the sounds, she pushed open doors until she found the source—an army of maids thoroughly cleaning one room. There had to be twenty women in there busy with vacuums and dusters.

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