I am so excited to share an exclusive sneak peek of my upcoming release, Who Wants to Love a Billionaire?
An Ugly Surprise
“I have to admit, I’ve never done this before,” Harry said warily as he helped Julie scale the steps into the carriage. He glanced across the road to Benjamin, who was standing in the shadows and gave him a nod. He craned his neck to look back to see the rest of the security team in position. They were perfectly safe, but it was not advisable for a billionaire to take a nighttime stroll through Central Park. At least they were in a carriage.
“Neither have I,” Julie said. “It’s such a beautiful night though, don’t you think it’ll be lovely?” She settled down on the wooden bench. Harry climbed up into the carriage and gave her a sheepish grin in response. He pulled out a red rose from his jacket and handed it to her.
“A red rose, for the damsel in the red dress,” he said as he gave her his best smolder. “I stole that from a movie.”
“Did you take this from the restaurant?” Julie asked pointedly.
Harry’s smile faltered, a little deflated by her reaction.
Clearly this woman misses nothing.
Despite her disapproval, she hesitantly took the flower. “And I suppose you plan to steal my heart, too?” she asked coyly. Her eyes glowed like lamps, and her lips were round and plump. Sitting in such close proximity sent rushes of heat through all parts of Harry’s body. He swallowed nervously.
“I––” His voice was too high. He swallowed harder and cleared his throat. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
Julie turned away and looked down.
“Oh” was all she said. The carriage began to roll forward and the steady sound of the horses’ hooves hitting the path was relaxing. Harry rubbed his sweaty palms against his pant legs.
You can do this, Harry. Be cool.
He softly pulled back Julie’s white blonde hair from her neck and she turned to look at him. Their noses hovered less than two inches apart. Her uneven breaths tickled his cheeks.
“I only mean, I would never assume your heart was for anyone to own,” he said quietly. She blinked her long lashes and her lips fell apart slightly. “But if it was… then it must be earned. Not taken.” He spoke barely above a whisper. She stared at him for a moment, then he heard her breath catch and saw her pupils dilate. Then her plump lips curved upwards and her eyes sparkled.
The wheels of the carriage bumped, and Julie cried out as she fell forward. Harry instinctively held her up. Had he not reached out; she would have face planted his lap. He inwardly laughed at the thought.
“Are you all right?” he asked as she righted herself, her hand pressed against her heaving chest.
“Yes, I’m fine,” she replied, a little breathless. “That just caught me off guard.”
“Are you always this clumsy?”
Julie glared at him and a look of defiance rose in her face. She gestured to her dress.
“It’s this stupid gown,” she said. “I can hardly breathe, let alone move properly. I’ll have you know that when I’m wearing normal clothes, I’m not clumsy at all.”
Harry gave her a casual smirk.
“Oh really? You sure about that?” he asked, pointing to the band-aid on Julie’s finger. She followed his line of sight and smiled bashfully. Sensing she was a little distracted, Harry moved closer and took her hand. He raised it to his face and gently pressed his lips on her finger. “Well, I’m sorry you don’t feel comfortable. For what it’s worth… you look like a million dollars.”
It was true. Her milky complexion was a stark contrast to the deep shade of red she was wearing, and the dress fit her like a glove, accentuating her curves and flowing out at the bottom. Her blonde hair hung in loose waves over her shoulders and her big eyes had him captivated all evening. What color were they? Amber? Yellow? Brown? Sometimes all three. They kept changing. Like being drawn to a magnet, he moved forward and stopped barely an inch away from her lips. He waited. Her eyes were studying him and he could see her mind racing, trying to decide what to do. Then the carriage jolted, and their lips collided. Harry cupped her face with his hands and moved tenderly. Julie moaned or sighed; he wasn’t sure. Her small hands clutched the back of his jacket, bidding him to continue. Fireworks set off in all directions of Harry’s brain. His lips tingled and he felt it all the way down his arms to his fingertips. The kiss ended too soon, and Julie moved back a little leaving Harry wanting more.
“I’m sorry,” Harry said quickly. Tightness spread across his chest and he padded his jacket looking for the familiar shape of his inhaler. He felt it pressed up against his shirt.
“For what?” Julie asked.
“For the pun.”
Harry pulled out the inhaler and turned away quickly as he took a deep breath.
“Are you okay?” Julie asked.
He calmed. Turned back to her and held up the inhaler with a broad grin.
“You just take my breath away.”
Harry clasped his hands behind his back as he strolled beside Julie along the road. Benjamin and his team were close by but keeping a distance, in the hope Julie wouldn’t notice. He did not want to suffocate her with all the security on their first date, nor deal with all the questions that inevitably came with finding out he had an entourage.
“Well, this is me,” Julie announced as they came to a stop. Harry looked up at the steps to a multi-story apartment.
“You have a green door,” Harry thought aloud. Julie looked up at it.
“Yes, I do.”
Harry gritted his teeth.
Why did I say that?
Nerves were kicking in again.
“Green is my favorite color, so I’ll remember that.”
“You’ll… remember the color of my door?” Julie’s puzzled look sent blood rushing to the surface of Harry’s skin. He was certain his entire face must look beetroot red now.
“I don’t know why I said that, I don’t mean to sound—”
“—like a stalker?” Julie asked. Harry stopped breathing for a moment and stared at her in horror. Julie’s face broke out into a wicked smile and she brushed his arm with her fingers.
“You’re lucky I find it endearing and not creepy.”
Harry gulped. What now? Do they hug and say good-bye? Could he lean in for another kiss? Maybe he should shake her hand. While he stood there, his brain running through the scenarios, Julie rose on tiptoes and gently brushed her lips against his cheek.
“I’ve had a wonderful evening,” she said. The warmth in her voice made Harry feel fuzzy and happy inside. He nodded, unable to find his voice. Julie eyed him carefully, her head tilted to one side. She turned away, then shot him one more look.
“You know, you’re a bit different. But you really are a gentleman,” she said. Harry could detect a hint of surprise in the tone of her voice. He swallowed and raised his hand in an awkward wave.
“That’s me.” He flashed her a Cheshire cat smile. Julie shook her head to herself and picked up her dress as she climbed the steps.
“I had a wonderful time too,” Harry called after her. “I think you’re great. Better than great. I’m sorry I’m weird. But I’d like to see you again!” Sweat started to form above his lip and across his brow.
Stop talking. Stop talking.
“You will see me again. We’re going to that charity event, remember?” Julie called back, now fiddling with her keys. She stood at the top of the steps in the elegant gown, and her long blonde hair flowed freely to her lower back. She looked like a goddess.
“The charity thing…,” Harry murmured to himself. His mother’s face popped into his head and he jumped with realization. “Oh yes, the charity thing. I’ll call you about it tomorrow?” He shouted. Julie nodded back at him as the door swung open.
“Good night, Harry.”
He raised a hand to his heart as it fluttered with excitement at the sound of his name.
Harry returned to his apartment in a haze. He paid no attention to the muttering staff grouped together across the street. He did not hear Benjamin speaking to him in urgent tones as they sat in the back of the car. He was not even aware of the engine rumbling and the car swinging side to side as the driver navigated the roads. He just sat in a bubble of happiness, replaying the events of the evening.
Julie twirling her platinum hair and blinking at him coyly across the dinner table at the restaurant. The way she gazed at all of the lights in their private balcony and took in the view. She scrunched up her nose and wriggled it to the side at one point, as if trying to scratch an itch without using her hands. And she sat so poised and elegant, though a hint of a pout told him that perhaps she would prefer to be wearing something more relaxed.
“It’s this silly dress, you see.”
He couldn’t remember the exact words she used, but Harry found it refreshing that Julie was so honest. In the Hollywood business, women rarely said a word about their clothes in a negative way. All the actresses walked in the most impractical shoes and dangerously tight and revealing gowns. Harry often wondered if there was some unspoken competition between the women: Who wore it better, whose heels were highest, how many ruffles could they fit on a skirt?
“Sir, I need you to listen.”
Harry blinked out of his daze and looked at Benjamin.
“Sorry, I was miles away….”
“Yes. I need to make you aware of an event.”
“What is it? Pushy paparazzi? Rogue reporters?”
“This is no laughing matter, sir.”
“It has been brought to my attention that you were being followed.”
“It is uncertain at this stage, and we were able to deter the individual from coming too close.”
“Who do you think they are? Surely you have your theories.”
“If I’m honest, I think it was a hired investigator.”
Harry stared at Benjamin’s bushy brows with intensity as he tried to process the news. He puffed out the air from his cheeks as the car came to a stop.
“Right, well thank you for informing me.” Harry made to leave the car.
“That’s not all.”
He stopped short and looked pointedly at Benjamin, whose face had turned grim. He slowly pulled out a crumpled piece of paper from his jacket.
“He gave one of my men this. It’s addressed to you.”
Harry took the note and smoothed out the creases to read the single line.
Walk away now, or I will destroy you.
Fans of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and Maid in Manhattan will love this one.