The Billionaire's Secret

By: Julie Farrell

What he needed to do right now was to stand up and walk out of here, otherwise he was in danger of blowing his cover. But how could he leave her in this state? And what if Graves did know where she lived? And that kiss had been something else…

He opened his mouth to ask her again about her ex. Apart from the fact that she now had Graves on her back, he was genuinely worried for her safety because of this ex-boyfriend. Jake hadn’t seen the guy, but he’d heard Astrid talking to him on the phone – and apparently the ex was desperate to find out where she’d moved to and to get her back – with force. When he’d heard Simon talking to her like that, Jake had felt his role change from stalker to protector.

Adam and Dylan would not see it like that.

Astrid asked the waitress to bring more Scotch. “Want some?” she asked Jake.

“Not while I’m working,” he said. “I’ll stick to the beer.”

She eyed him up. “You’re working?”

Shit, how had he let that slip? He was always so careful. What was this woman doing to him?

The waitress brought over another double, and Astrid downed it again. Jake watched her with fascination. She seemed so uptight, yet vulnerable. He wanted to comfort her, to kiss her… to fuck her all night long.

“Men,” she slurred. “Men are all bloody bastards.”

“Some men are okay,” he said, not meaning himself. He didn’t treat women badly – he just never seemed to connect with them on anything more than a physical level. There was too much shit from his past holding him back. And usually they only wanted him for his good looks and abilities in bed. What else could he offer? He wasn’t sure. He certainly couldn’t give Astrid what she wanted.

He listened to her rant. She was cute when she was angry…

“My ex-boyfriend’s a bastard. Cole Graves is a bastard. And those smug asshole Quinlan brothers. They were put on this earth to make my life a misery, I swear.”

“You don’t like the Quinlans?”

She squinted drunkenly at him. “I can’t talk about it.”

“Okay.” He allowed the silence to hang between them. When he’d been a cop he’d always been an expert interrogator – because of the things he didn’t say and the times he knew when to remain quiet. He was a good detective – could’ve been a great detective if they hadn’t kicked him off the force.

The waitress brought over another drink for Astrid. This time she cradled it. “There’s this new technology the Quinlans are investing in – or which they want to invest in. My job as a federal health-and-safety inspector is to check the safety of the project, but they’re ignoring me as if I’m an inconvenience. They treat me like the enemy, but the government just wants to protect the people of America. Why don’t they understand that?”

Jake tried not to let his guilt tear him apart. “I’m sorry to hear they’re giving you such a hard time, Astrid.”

She rested her elbow on the table, and her chin on her hand, and sighed heavily. Then her face suddenly lit up. “Oh, I love this song!”

Jake listened. He loved this song too. “You wanna dance?” he asked.

She gazed at him in shock. “A guy who likes to dance? Man, you must be too good to be true.”

He chuckled. He’d always loved to dance, but a few weeks ago his kid brother Joseph had given him a few tips on how to look reasonably cool on the dancefloor. Now it was time to put them to the test.

He stood and offered his hand. “Come on, or the song’ll be over.”

She giggled and stood up. No one else in the bar was dancing – in fact, they were all watching the game on the huge TV suspended at the other end of the room.

Jake led Astrid a little way from their table, and they halted opposite each other. He reached out and put his arms around her, holding her securely. She stiffened.

“Relax,” he whispered.

Astrid stood on the spot. “I feel like a teenager at the prom.”

“Look into my eyes,” Jake said. “And enjoy yourself.”

He brushed his fingers across her cheek. She gasped at his touch, and it turned him on to see her so aroused. He smiled powerfully into her eyes, then he rested one hand on her shoulder, wrapping the other arm behind her waist.

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