Home > Her Billionaire Best Friend (The Black Tie Billionaires #4)

Her Billionaire Best Friend (The Black Tie Billionaires #4)
Author: Jo Grafford

Chapter 1: Resolutions






In exactly seven minutes and thirty-two seconds, I’m going to be on a lunch date with the hottest nurse on the planet!

Titus Rand glanced at his watch, hardly believing his luck. After months of dodging a powerful attraction to the tall, athletic-looking ICU nurse supervisor, he’d finally given in to the temptation to ask her to lunch. And she’d said yes!

She said yes! He wanted to shout the words from the top floor of the Gjoa Haven Medical Center parking garage. Instead, he mounted his black Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle Road King and revved the engine. It was hardly a low profile set of wheels for a guy who spent most of his time working undercover, but everyone had their weaknesses. A good, performance driven engine just happened to be his.

Well, that and Jolene Shore.

Getting close to her wasn’t advisable on any level. Every instinct of his was waving a red flag of caution. But for once, he planned to ignore his better judgment. In his line of business, he’d learned that sometimes a person only had a narrow window of opportunity to accomplish a particular goal. Usually, those narrow windows involved bringing dangerous criminals to justice.

Today, that narrow window involved letting his guard down a fraction to allow himself the luxury of a single lunch date. He was pretty sure the attraction was mutual. Or so he hoped. And daydreamed about. And at other times prayed it was nothing more than wishful thinking on his part, because he’d rather take a bullet than hurt Jolene.

Which he inevitably would do if he allowed her to get too close to him — something he was choosing not to think about at the moment.

He strapped on his helmet and throttled the engine of his bike, glorying in the rumble that resonated through his entire body. Riding his Harley was like riding a beast, a modern-day, fire-breathing dragon. It was the only luxury he’d allowed himself since the morning he’d arrived to the U.S. On the days he wasn’t required to stay overnight in Rhys Calcagni’s guest house, he parked it inside his first floor studio apartment that he hadn’t bothered to furnish beyond a single mattress on the floor.

Today he was allowing himself a second luxury in the form of a lunch date. Just one. It couldn’t go beyond that.

Titus rolled his shoulders, relieved to discover the ache in his left bicep was nearly gone. Thanks to a skilled Gjoa Haven surgeon, his torn tendon had been tacked back into place and was healing nicely. More importantly, the two would-be terrorists he’d wrestled at the airport while incurring the injury were now behind bars.

Mashing his gas pedal, he cruised away from the shadowy corner behind the stairwell where he’d parked his ride. Rounding the first corner of the lot faster than necessary, he swiftly zoomed his way down the numerous levels of the parking garage. Passing the main exit, he slowed his speed and rumbled his way to the lesser used rear exit. On a burst of speed, he shot into the sunlight, did a quick wheelie, and made his way to the East entrance where Jolene had agreed to meet him.

His heart pounded to note she was already waiting for him, huddled beneath the glassed-in overhang of the drop-off and pick-up area. She was hugging her slender arms around her white nurse’s smock and bouncing up and down a little, as if the seventy-something-degree weather wasn’t nearly warm enough for her tastes.

Just for the fun of it, he revved his engine as he approached her, enjoying the way several bystanders jolted at the not-so-gentle purr of his bike.

Jolene merely unfolded her arms and rolled her dark, almond-shaped eyes at him. They were a rich shade of hazelnut coffee with a hint of green, and they were infused with both awareness and amusement. She probably knew he was showing off for her benefit.

Good. Anything to get her mind off her exhaustion. A half hour ago she’d confessed to pulling an all-nighter in the ICU. He should’ve offered to drive her home. Instead, he was selfishly indulging in her company. Maybe his lack of sensitivity concerning her need for sleep would make it easier for her to hate him later on.

He removed his helmet and held it out to her, angling his head to indicate she should hop on behind him. He didn’t bother killing the motor, mainly because he wasn’t interested in receiving an offer to take her car instead of his bike. Assuming she owned a car, that is. Truthfully, he had no idea what she normally drove to work or if she took public transportation, for that matter.

Jolene wordlessly accepted his helmet. Instead of immediately putting it on, however, she first reached up to unpin the high and tidy bun she always wore.

To his delight, her thick, dark hair came tumbling down like a waterfall. It was even longer than he imagined it would be, hanging well past her shoulder blades.

Tipping her head to shake it back, she finally put on Titus’s helmet. Then she slung one long, white-clad leg over his bike and hopped aboard.

He sucked in a breath when her arms slid around his middle, warm and without hesitation. Man! He’d almost forgotten what it was like to be held by a woman. It had been over two years since his last date — a movie date with a fellow agent. Their whirlwind relationship hadn’t lasted long and had ended badly, making him swear to be a no-strings kind of guy from then on. He was married to his job. Period.

But just knowing it was Jolene back there on his motorcycle was giving him second thoughts about his dating diet.

He turned his head and raised his voice to be heard above the rev of his engine. “Hang on tight.”

She leaned into him as he gunned it and took off, melting a good ten degrees when she rested her head against his back. It was a short drive to the cafe he’d picked out, less than four miles. And the route went straight through the middle of Anchorage, which meant there were way too many stoplights. He would have preferred to throttle up his engine and let ‘er rip. Then again, it would’ve made the trip go faster, and he was in no hurry for it to end.

As he idled at the last stoplight before reaching their destination, he was alarmed to feel Jolene’s arms around him loosen and her weight sink more fully against him. So much for his attempt to impress her with his tricked-out Harley and his favorite Yup’ik cuisine. Nice going, slick. Their short ride across town had put her to sleep.

Reaching down to place a firm grip on her clasped hands, he debated what to do. Probably best to take her home, which is what he should have done in the first place. There was only one problem with his belated return to his senses; he had no idea where she lived.

The red light flashed to a green left turn arrow. Holding back a groan of immense disappointment, he accelerated just enough to do a U-turn and nose into a curb-side parking spot. Then he killed his motor and kicked down his stand. Time to wake sleeping beauty and ask for directions.

To his surprise, she jerked upright the moment he twisted off the ignition. “Here already?” she mumbled sleepily, sliding her arms from beneath his hand. “Shortest ride in the universe.” She slid sluggishly off his bike, removed his helmet, and shook her glorious, wind-tousled hair back.

Titus was trying to be a gentleman, but he couldn’t help staring. “You sure you feel up to this?”

Shoving his helmet back at him, she shot him an are-you-crazy look. “Are you seriously asking a hungry girl if she feels up to eating?”

“Well, yeah.” He dismounted and secured the helmet. “Not to be insulting, but you sorta did fall asleep on our way here.” Hitching one hip on his bike, he folded his arms and faced her. “Listen, there’s no shame in being tired. If you’d rather me take you home—”

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