The Billionaire's Secret

By: Julie Farrell

She frowned at him. “You know Graves?”

Jake’s expression didn’t flicker. He shrugged. “Sure – he’s getting quite a name for himself in the industry papers.”

“Is he? And what industry would that be?”

Jake opened his mouth to make an excuse, but luckily the waitress came over to take their order.

“Double Scotch, neat,” Astrid said. “And a glass of water with one slice of lime and no ice.”

Jake grinned at her precise order. “I’ll just have a beer.”

The waitress walked away, and he gazed at Astrid. “Neat double Scotch?”

She shrugged. “You said I needed a drink to calm my nerves, so there we go.”

They shared a smile as she relaxed, letting her defenses down slightly.

He tapped his fingers on the table to the tune in the background. “So you’re new to New York City, huh?”

“I’ve been here six weeks. How did you know that?”

“You’ve got a freshness about you.”

He smiled, wishing he could tell her the truth. He wanted to say ‘I know everything about you, sweetheart. I’ve been falling for you deeper and deeper since my brothers asked me to follow you, listen to your calls, read your emails… I’ve never met a woman like you before. All those little things you do make me want to fuck you all night long, to hold you under the covers… talk about life and the world with you, laugh about stupid stuff. I love how you twirl your ponytail around your fingers when you’re pensive. How your face lights up when you smile. How you always give money to that homeless guy on your block when you walk past him. I love how you try so hard to be professional on the phone, but you pull stupid faces and roll your eyes... How you bend over so innocently, with no idea what effect you’re having on me… you little minx… I love your fantastic body and beautiful face, and I want to take you home right now and fuck you senseless, just to know what it’s like. Just once. I need to know what you taste like…’

Astrid smiled coolly – oblivious to any of this. “Thanks. This is my first proper job since I graduated. I was doing an internship for a year, then this came up and I couldn’t wait to get out of my hometown.”

Jake knew this already. The asshole ex-boyfriend… “Oh yeah? How come?”

“My ex wasn’t exactly the nicest guy in the universe.”

Jake clenched his fists. “What happened?”

She shook her head. “I don’t want to talk about him. How long have you lived in the city?”

Jake shrugged. “A while.”

The waitress brought over their order so they clinked glasses. Jake laughed as Astrid downed her drink in one.

It seemed to go straight to her head. She exhaled slowly and her posture mellowed, then she held eye contact with him. “You know what, I hate men. They’re all bastards. Why are they all bastards?”

Jake chuckled. “Not sure.”

She picked up her water and sipped it. “Thanks for… you know. Coming to my assistance.”

“Anytime, Astrid.”

She called the waitress back. Jake studied her delicate bone structure and blue eyes. Right now he wished he wasn’t a private detective, in the employment of two of the most influential and powerful business tycoons in the city. Adam and Dylan Quinlan. Who also happened to be his recently-reunited older brothers.

He wasn’t sure what was happening to him. He’d always successfully managed to maintain his distance when dealing with targets. But there was something captivating about this one… He knew her routine well now – she left for work at eight in the morning and walked down the backstreets, avoiding the crowds of Times Square for reasons Jake didn’t yet fully understand. She rarely went out in the evenings. Her intercepted emails were professional to the point of being curt. But when she was walking, listening to the music on her headphones, she would sing to herself and smile. There was a vulnerable person behind that hard exterior and Jake wanted to get to know her better – to unravel that enigma.

He knew he shouldn’t have interfered when Graves had approached her back there, but there was no way he could’ve just stood back and let him assault her. He didn’t consider himself a hero, but men who hurt women topped the list of things Jake wanted to destroy in this world.

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