The Millionaire's Deception

By: Wendy Byrne

Buck up, girl. Men like him were so out of her league they weren’t in the same ballpark.

What had Dustin said when she’d broken off their engagement? “Frankie, nobody’s perfect. I’m as good as it gets for you.” She gritted her teeth at the memory. It was amazing how he justified throwing his foibles into her face and labeling them as hers. What was more amazing was that she still talked to him.

More despondent than she cared to admit, she went to the book club ladies’ table and gave her critique of their sign that read Strip poker in the bedroom, not in the Red Room, referencing one of Vicksburg’s gentlemen’s clubs.

Prior to the takeover by Probst, Vicksburg had been nearly identical to Wilcox. Now it was teeming with low-life casinos and strip joints. She’d rather die than allow that to happen to her town.

“Nice sign, la—” The remainder of the statement stuck in her throat as Rafe walked back inside and waved her over. She tried to not seem too eager as she strolled toward him while knowing every eye in the place was on her.

“I’ve got a problem.” He was so close the hairs on her arms stood at attention right along with the remainder of her body. “My bike won’t start. I’m going to need a place to stay, at least for the night.”

She chewed her lip and bit back the rush of juvenile excitement while her nipples practically burrowed through her T-shirt to get his attention. Ms. Francesca needed to cool it.

He wasn’t sticking around because of her. With her luck, he was scouting out places for his wedding, or a guys’ fishing trip.

Or maybe the attack of the bubbles got his wayward thoughts pumping or, more precisely, a particular body part. Phew. Bring her a fan. “You’ll have to go to the next town for a hotel. It’s about twenty miles away, but I’ll have to warn you it’s like a mini Las Vegas there. But maybe you’re into that.” Geez, she was rambling but couldn’t seem to stop. “Edna used to have a rooming house here in Wilcox, but she had hip surgery a while back and hasn’t been up to the challenge.”

“No place else?” He let the question hang in the air, a twinkle in his eye that did very strange things to her libido. What did he mean?

She gulped back the option swirling around her head. Tell him. Tell him. Tell him, the voice in her head whispered. She’d let Dustin stay there for over a month, so it wasn’t like she hadn’t let someone stay in her parents’ apartment before. The other voice yelled in her ear, Are you frickin’ nuts? He’s a damn stranger. Just because he looks like you wouldn’t mind him lickin’ you into submission doesn’t mean he should be your wall neighbor.

Caution won out. “Nope.” She did everything but pat herself on her back for not succumbing to the charms of a potential serial killer. Good going, Francesca, way to keep your head about you for once.

“How about the apartments above the restaurant? Anybody live there?” His smile resembled that of the Big Bad Wolf when he lured Hansel and Gretel into the oven. Trapped before they knew what hit them. Or maybe that was a witch that tried to cook them up; wolf, witch, same difference.

“That’s my place.” Hmmm, the better to eat you with, my dear. She was seriously mixing up her fairy tales.

He shrugged. “Sorry. It looked like two units when I pulled in.”

Tell him. “There are.” Ms. Francesca really needed to stop giving her advice. “The other is my parents’ old place. I use it for storage now. It’s not really habitable.”

“Did I tell you my motorcycle was broken down? As in not moving and in desperate need of a mechanic?” Again with the smile that made her want to check for drool.

“If you don’t mind a little chaos…” —her pulse beat so frantically it seemed to drown out her hearing— “maybe I can tidy it up a bit before we leave for the protest.”

“Dirt doesn’t bother me. Does two hundred dollars a night sound fair?”

Holy crap. That was more than she saw even on a good weeknight. “Including all meals, it’s more than fair.” Not only was he hot, he was generous.

His eyebrows narrowed. “Now what’s that protest thing all about?”

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