Echo:A Dark Billionaire Romance

By: A Zavarelli

“You are?” I blinked in confusion. “But you’re so young.”

She stiffened at my blunt observation, and I slumped against the tree. I didn’t mean for it to sound rude, but it was a truth that couldn’t be ignored. Nicole was only a year older than me, which would put her at twenty-two. Even if she was fresh out of college, I didn’t see how she could already be running an internship program.

“I am young,” she agreed. “But I’m in tight with the CEO. And I may look sweet and innocent, but I wouldn’t underestimate me, Brighton.”

She smiled as she said it, but there was also a slight edge to her voice that I found a little odd. It disappeared a moment later when she picked up her cupcake.

“Now we just need to talk about finding you a more permanent place to stay.”

Chapter Two

As the elevator signaled its arrival to the top floor of The Bennett Corporation, my stomach somersaulted with nerves.

This place was so different to what I’d been expecting. It was a young environment, filled with fresh faces and an abundance of energy. But that didn’t fool me into thinking I was anywhere near being in my league. During this morning’s presentation, I’d been surprised to learn that the CEO was only twenty-nine years old. According to the manifesto, Mr. Bennett founded this Corporation as a simple cloud storage provider. But over the last three years it had quickly expanded into one of the biggest tech giants this side of the Mississippi.

As I’d filled out paperwork with some of the other interns, I heard them dropping terms like ‘MIT’ and ‘Stanford’. I tried not to let it get to me, but when they started talking in tech speak, I was completely lost. Then one of them tried to include me in the conversation, asking where I went to school.

I’m sure I looked like a fish out of water as I tried to come up with something clever in response. But there was nothing clever to be said. I hadn’t gone to college because that wasn’t an option for me. Even if I had, I doubted I’d ever be as smart as any of these people. I’d spent the majority of the last few years trying to put food on the table and keep up on the rent. I didn’t have time for any other interests besides basic survival.

If Nicole hadn’t been standing on the other side as the elevator doors opened, I might have bolted. I didn’t know what I was doing in this place. I had no skills, no qualifications, and I had no idea how she’d managed to convince them I’d be of any use in this company.

The entire building was a conglomeration of marble and glass, and every line was so clean you could have sharpened a set of Ginsu knives on them. I was afraid to walk across the floors because they were so shiny, and every cell in my body was insistent I didn’t belong here.

Nicole gripped me by the shoulders and gave me a quick once over. I was wearing the white rose printed dress and matching baby pink cardigan I’d found on my bed this morning. Since she’d asked me to crash at her apartment, Nicole had insisted I borrow her clothes as often as I liked. With the designer labels, it was a very tempting offer. But these particular ones made me look sweet and innocent, which was definitely not the style I was going for. When I told her as much, she argued and said they suited me.

Still, Nicole was a lifeline, and I was grateful for her help. Even though I was nervous and uncomfortable, she’d gone out of her way to get me this job. I needed to suck up my own insecurities and do her proud.

“Don’t worry.” She smoothed her hands over my shoulders. “He’s going to love you.”

“Sorry?” I blinked at her in confusion. “Who’s going to love me now?”

“The CEO, silly.” She tugged my hand and started walking down the hallway. “Ryland Bennett. You’re going to meet with him now.”

My heels dug into the floor as I came to an abrupt halt, my apprehension for the shiny tile of little concern to me now.

“What do you mean I’m meeting with the CEO?” I croaked. “I thought this was an internship. The other interns are downstairs going to some sort of meeting, shouldn’t I be with them?”

“That’s for the techie group.” She smiled. “And Mr. Bennett insists on knowing every person that works for his company. Even the interns. He says it makes for good business practice. And he’s the billionaire, so I think he would know.”

“I’m sorry.” I ground my feet into my pumps to keep from falling over. “Did you say, billionaire?”

“Yes, of course I did.” Nicole threw her head back in laughter. “Didn’t you even look up the company? He’s on the freaking Forbes list, Brighton.”

I cast my eyes to the floor and shook my head. It hadn’t even occurred to me, which only proved how wrong it was for me to be here. I was just a simple girl from Illinois. I kneaded dough in a bakery. Interning for a tech giant? It was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard.

“I shouldn’t be here,” I blurted. “This was so stupid of me.”

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