Echo:A Dark Billionaire Romance

By: A Zavarelli

I swallowed and bobbed my heel up and down as I waited for him to speak. He grabbed a folder from the top of his desk and started rifling through some paperwork, and I used the opportunity to study him discreetly.

Success looked good on him. He wore dark wash jeans and a gray blazer with an open collared dress shirt beneath. Smart and casual. Every time he moved, the fabric stretched across his chest, giving me a little glimpse of the muscular power that lay beneath. He loomed larger than my memory had done him justice, standing at around six feet at least. Now fully grown, I only stood at five foot one myself. My height and hair color had always hindered my ability to blend in, or at least I had thought.

The temperature in the room didn’t improve when he swung his gaze back to me. He appraised every inch of me with a neutral expression before he scanned my resume with obvious disinterest. I’d never felt so small, so unsure. I had no idea what to do or say in this situation, and I even found myself questioning the way I sat.

Yet, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from him. The tension was still there between us even now. I could feel it, so why couldn’t he?

“You don’t have much experience,” he observed.

I shrunk back into my chair and closed myself off, trying to dispel the bitter taste in my mouth. While I had been busy fantasizing about this man who didn’t even remember me, all he could say was how little I had to offer him. I may have been five years older, but I wasn’t any wiser. This was my golden opportunity, and it was swirling down the drain with every passing moment.

I searched my mind desperately for the right thing to say, anything that could salvage this chance, but I was coming up short. And the longer I sat there, not speaking, the more awkward things got between us.

“I’m a fresh canvas,” I blurted. “You can do what you like with me.”

The minute I’d said the words I was mortified, and my cheeks burned in agreement. Ryland sank into his leather chair, drumming his fingers across the white surface of his desk while he studied me. His eyes darted to the marble paperweight twice more, but he still didn’t touch it.

It only served to remind me how much I didn’t fit in here. This man was neat and tidy and had a place for everything. Gone were the passion and fire I thought I’d once seen in him. Had my memory altered him so drastically? I was certain this was it. He was going to tell me to leave and never come back. But regardless of my feelings, I needed this job. More than I wanted to admit. So I decided to try another tactic. One that I wasn’t proud of.

“You don’t remember me, do you?”

He looked up at me, and something passed between us. I thought I saw heat flare in his eyes, but it happened so quickly, I couldn’t be sure if it was just my imagination. Because a moment later, he snapped his gaze to his watch with disinterest.

“I apologize if my manners are lacking,” he said. “Did I meet you at a benefit or something?”

Okay, so that wasn’t going to work either. I gave him a tight smile and decided to accept my fate. I would be sleeping in a homeless shelter soon enough.

“It doesn’t matter,” I replied. “It was a long time ago.”

He nodded and pressed the button on his intercom, calling out for Nicole. We sat in silence until she appeared in the doorway a moment later. He gestured her inside, and I clung to her presence as though it were a life-preserver.

“Nicole.” He greeted her as he readjusted the marble paperweight discreetly. “Is this the last of the interns?”

This. Being me. I shot Nicole a pleading glance, but she just smiled and kept her cool composure.

“It sure is, boss.”

“What do you intend to do with this one?” he queried.

“Well, I thought she could work up here. Stacey is always whining about how much stuff she has to do…”

“Here?” he asked incredulously. “On the fifteenth floor?”

Oh God, this was humiliating. Not only did he not remember kissing me- a kiss I’d long since been dreaming of- but he was treating me as if I was a complete and utter waste of space. I wanted to tell him not to worry about it. I wanted to tell him I didn’t need this job or any more of his time. But none of those things were true, and I had to swallow my pride and accept whatever scrap of kindness he would offer me.

“Is that going to be a problem?” Nicole smiled sweetly.

He mulled this over for a moment before giving a dismissive wave of his hand. “Fine.”

As we walked out of his office, I had conflicting feelings about my new job. Though my self-preservation was relieved at the prospect of an income, my indignation won out. He’d just treated me as if I was trash, and I couldn’t keep my mouth shut any longer.

“He’s kind of rude,” I whispered to Nicole as soon as we were in the clear.

She shot me a defensive look and shook her head in disappointment. “He’s really not. So I would withhold your judgments about him until you get to know him.”

Chapter Three

“You’ve put all these labels on wrong!” Stacey screeched, reaching for another handful of TUMS from her ever-present bottle.

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