The Billionaire's Christmas Proposal

By: Victoria James

Allison shook her head. “We can’t go there. They’re beyond capacity, and now that they’ve been told they have to close…no.” In the last decade of being on her own, she had learned how to survive. She’d built up her own life, gotten her dream job, and found friends she considered closer than most family. But since learning the shelter she worked at was being forced to close because of some big corporation wanting to use the property for its real estate value, it seemed she couldn’t quite shake off the feeling of being tired. Tired of the fight, of the constant uphill battle she was facing. She never regretted for a second that she’d brought her sister to live with her, but it was another mouth to feed, more responsibility. And now this; everything in the world she had worked so hard for had gone up in smoke. Literally.

“Hello? Allie? Now what? I’m freezing.”

Now what? She buttoned up her coat, knowing where they’d go. Maybe she’d known the minute it had happened. Maybe she’d been dying to call him the second she’d managed to get them out into safety. Maybe she’d wanted to hear his voice, reassuring her. He was the one person they could go to, and he’d take them in without question. The only problem was she didn’t want to be indebted to him, or anyone. She also knew she could rely on no one but herself. She had learned that lesson at a young age, and being the optimist she prided herself on being, she could say it had given her backbone. Really, if she only relied on herself, then no one could disappoint her. She had no expectations of anyone, except herself. This theory/policy of hers did complicate relationships, because if you were used to always taking charge and never needed anything from anyone, well, the relationships became very one-sided.

Nevertheless, this was one of those times she was going to have to reach out, but it wouldn’t be for long, and of course if he said no then she’d come up with Plan B. Always have a Plan B, Allie. Now they’d go to Ethan because…Ethan was Ethan. Ethan Dane was the guy she’d been trying to keep at a distance ever since her best friend and his best friend had gotten married. Their relationship was purely platonic only because she insisted it remain that way. She was either a saint for being able to resist a man like Ethan, or she was an idiot.

She looked down at her ensemble and cringed. Well, she had no choice; she needed to see him. “Let’s go,” she said to Dani and started walking away from the commotion outside the building.

“Uh, hello?” Dani said, catching up to her. The sidewalks were slushy, and the farther they went from the building, the quieter it became. Luckily, she’d been able to snatch her purse before evacuating the apartment. “It’s like eight o’clock in the morning; where are we going? A hotel?”

Allison gave Hook’s leash a little tug when he started lingering near a fire hydrant. This was not the morning for fire hydrant loitering. “No, we’re going to see Ethan.”

“Ethan? Yes! It’s so great you have loaded friends.”

“We’re not going to overstay or take advantage. Just a couple of nights until we can get a new place.”

“Perfect, then we can go to Hannah and Jackson’s.”

“No, they’re at the cabin until New Year’s.”

“There’s a bigger problem we need to address—you’re about to walk into your hot, rich friend’s condo looking like that.”

“It doesn’t matter what I look like.” Though she did cringe at the thought of Ethan seeing her looking like a bag lady…or troll. “Besides, Ethan’s not at home now anyway.”

“Where is he? And why are we walking?”

“He’s at work, I’m sure—”

“At this time of the morning?”

“Most people work for their money, Dani.” Ethan may have come from a very privileged family, but she knew how hard he and Jackson Pierce—his business partner and best friend—worked. It was one of the traits she admired about him…among others. Not that it mattered. Different worlds, different problems. And despite her turning him down three times, they had managed to maintain a friendship. They would be completely wrong for each other.

They turned the corner and made their way into the financial district, and Ethan’s building loomed in the distance. It was dark and cloudy; the snow on the ground was now mostly brown slush. The sidewalks were full, most people dressed in suits and coats, rushing to work. Dani plowed through the revolving door at the entrance, and Allison couldn’t help but gasp at the image of herself in the mirrored foyer. Her sister had been right. She looked like a hideous little troll. Bag lady would have been a step up. She avoided eye contact with people in the elevator and kept her head low.

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