The Billionaire's Christmas Proposal

By: Victoria James

They rode the elevator to the top floor, and she refused to look at herself in the mirrors again. Instead, she listened to the sound of her sister texting and held on to Hook’s leash tightly as he attempted to make friends with the women in designer clothes. Judging by their expressions, no one had any sympathy for the dirty, one-eyed dog or herself. Her sister was at the opposite end of the elevator, clearly pretending she didn’t know them. She nudged Dani out of the elevator when the doors opened, and the three of them walked past the almost empty reception area. The soft glow of a light at the end of the corridor made relief seep through her, until the sound of soft voices grew louder as they walked toward Ethan’s office. They slowed and looked at each other.

“Sounds like a woman,” her sister whispered.

She wasn’t surprised. And she shouldn’t be disappointed. Disappointment implied feelings other than friendship. She had none of those. None. She looked down at her clothes and tried not to weep like a baby. They peeked through the glass wall of his office. Allison ignored the tiny little flip her stomach did at the sight of Ethan. The man could wear a suit like nobody else. He was tall and built in a way that made it very obvious he didn’t spend all his time sitting behind his desk. Ethan came from a long line of old money, and he carried himself with the confidence and dignity of a man who had grown up among society’s elite but was also capable of striking out on his own.

When she’d first met Ethan—at their best friends’ wedding—she’d been charmed, floored, and, well, smitten. And smitten was not a word that was part of her regular vocabulary, but it applied in this circumstance. He’d made it very clear he was interested, and she’d made it very clear she was not. He intimidated her. Not to mention the fact that Ethan hadn’t had a serious relationship in…um, ever. She wasn’t interested in being just another one of the women he slept with. So, difficult as it was to ignore the man’s charms, she was determined. Even when he looked at her with those warm, whiskey-colored eyes and his mouth that always seemed to have a secret smile just for her. Nope.

So in the meantime they had become good friends. They saw each other frequently because of Hannah and Jackson and the fact that they were godparents to their first child, Emily.

Her sister nudged her, not taking her eyes off the window. “Who’s Lawyer Barbie?”

Allison followed her sister’s gaze. Lawyer Barbie indeed. What and who Ethan did in his personal or professional life didn’t matter to her, or shouldn’t matter to her.

“Actually, she might not be a lawyer. Maybe she’s this hot model he’s dating who likes to wear business suits that show off long, killer legs—”

“Stop talking.” Her gaze moved past the woman, who was sitting in an unnatural pose on the corner of his desk. She did have killer legs, but Ethan wasn’t noticing her—in that way at least. His gorgeous head was downturned, looking at something in a file.

“Maybe we should wait till she leaves,” Allison whispered to Dani.

“Agreed. I feel even worse for you now. In fact, you’re lucky I’m standing here with you so I can vouch for you in case security calls the insane asylum or whatever to drag—”

“Thanks. That’s just what I needed to hear,” Allison said. “Let’s slowly walk back.”

Hook suddenly started barking at his reflection with a fury, the high-pitched sound echoing in the silent office. Allison sucked in a breath as she made eye contact with Ethan. Mortification anchored her crappy rubber boots to the marble floor, and only the scattered bits of remaining pride kept her from weeping.

“Nice job, Hook,” Dani muttered.

Allison wasn’t paying her perpetually smart-mouthed sister any attention because instead of Ethan staring at her in horror, the man jumped out of his chair and bounded out of the room as though he were running to rescue his beloved…someone. But it was her he was running to, which made her heart swell and her throat constrict because the look in Ethan’s eyes made her forget that she looked like an escaped Christmas-loving sociopath. He made her feel like—

“What the hell happened to you, Allie?” The harshness in his deep voice was softened by the worry in his light brown eyes. His large hands gripped her upper arms and warmth seeped into her cold body.

“I, uh, I’m…” Her voice sounded hoarse, and she realized her throat was clogged with something akin to emotion…tears of some sort, because someone actually cared about her. Not someone—

“What’s wrong with your voice?” he asked, frowning.

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