The Billionaire's Christmas Proposal

By: Victoria James

“Sometimes I wonder how we’re even related.” She pulled her hair off her face again and her wet shirt clung to her. He let his gaze wander for a split second, and he cursed himself for checking her out again. She was freezing, and he was ogling.

“Come on, I’ll show you where everything is for a shower and you can get warmed up.” She followed him down the empty hall toward the guest bedroom. “There’s only one extra bedroom in here. I had the other made into a home gym. So you’ll be sharing with Danielle.” He stopped abruptly when he realized she wasn’t following him. She was standing in the center of the room, staring out at the view.

“This is gorgeous, Ethan,” she said. The breathlessness in her voice made him stop and appreciate what she was looking at. The Toronto skyline was something he’d seen for the last ten years. He woke to it, went to sleep to it, drank to it, but rarely did he take the time to stop and admire it, or anything really— other than Allie.

He stuffed his hands in his pockets and stared out with her. Snow was falling in a soft, slow pattern. It was a gray day. Not one he’d think twice about. Certainly nothing he’d stop and admire. She turned around after a minute, shot him a smile, and then walked toward him. “Sorry. I know you need to get back to work. Point me in the right direction and then you can get going.”

He glanced at his watch. Yeah, he needed to get back—not that he wanted to. He had a meeting this morning with his brother. They weren’t in business together and he didn’t trust him, but Ethan couldn’t say no. Even though he’d wanted nothing to do with the family business, he was still invested personally. He’d wanted to strike out on his own—and had, with Jackson—to prove that he could. From a young age he’d learned that in order to gain his father’s respect he needed to prove himself. Prove that he was a survivor. They’d written him off years ago, but he was still here. He and his brother had an ongoing competition—started and encouraged basically from birth. He had lost repeatedly to his brother during one year of his life. He had vowed that would never happen again.

He nudged his chin in the right direction and led the way. He pointed toward the kitchen. “Help yourselves to anything.” He paused while Allie slowed in the doorway, then he pointed down the hall that led to his office and gym. “The only place that’s off-limits is my office.” He realized that sounded a little Fifty Shades and continued. “I just don’t want your sister messing things up in there.”

Allie gave him a look that made him think she knew he wasn’t being entirely honest, and she’d be right. But he had private things, and since he hadn’t been expecting houseguests, he hadn’t had the time to…rearrange some items. There were certain things about himself that he didn’t share with anyone. There were parts of his past that only his family knew about, and even then he wished they didn’t.

He opened the door to the immaculate spare room and en-suite. It would be the first time this place was ever used.

“Oh, this is gorgeous. It’s like we’re staying at a five-star hotel. I totally owe you for this, Ethan. I’m coming off a horrid week—”

“What happened? I mean, besides your building burning.”

She rubbed her eyes. “Haven House is closing.”

“What? They can’t close a shelter.”

Allie sat down on the edge of the bed. “Apparently they can. It’s a mess. We haven’t told anyone yet.”

“Maybe there’s something I can do.”

Her eyes locked onto his, and his gut tightened at the light in her eyes. It was almost like admiration or hope. Either way he was screwed.

“I don’t know what you’d be able to do. I don’t have all the details, but I can get them and let you know. All I know is that the landlord is selling the building, and it’s totally within his rights to do that. And what new buyer would want to leave it as a shelter? It’s in a prime location, and we’re guessing it would be rezoned for a condo. That’s all we know. I hate to ask for anything, I mean in one day I’ve asked you for a place to live and now—”

“You’ve never asked me for anything.” He was well aware of the fact that she was the only woman in his life who never asked for a thing. He knew her pride, her determination to make it on her own, and he admired her a hell of a lot for it. Allie didn’t give a shit about material things and appearances like the people in his circles. Like his family. She cared about things beyond the superficial, and a part of him wanted in on that, on that bigger picture crap that went beyond what his acquaintances were absorbed with. He wanted in on Allie.

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