The Billionaire's Counterfeit GirlfriendBy: Nadia Lee
The Pryce Family Book 1
Welcome to the Pryce Family series. If you’ve been following my Billionaires in Love series you’ve already been introduced to some members of the Pryce family.
When I first put Mark Pryce and Hilary Rosenberg into Redemption in Love (Billionaires in Love Book 3), I honestly didn’t think they’d end up together. Mark was going to be Gavin’s best friend, and Hilary was forever destined to be a minor secondary character. I didn’t even give her any screen time until the second draft, and I sort of forgot about her until I started writing Forever in Love (Billionaires in Love Book 4). In a scene that was excised later, Hilary revealed that she dated only the most sedate, boring men.
That piqued my interest, of course. Why would a woman as intelligent and successful as Hilary do that? As I delved into her character, I realized that playboy restaurateur Mark Pryce was the perfect man for her, despite her protests to the contrary.
Those of you who’ve read Redemption in Love will get a chance to catch up with Gavin and Amandine. But if you’re a new reader, you don’t need to read any of the Billionaires in Love series in order to enjoy Four Weeks Till Forever.
I'll be releasing Merry in Love (Billionaires in Love Book 5) this winter, and afterward, I'll publish the rest of the Pryce family stories. I hope you enjoy getting to know them!
For Jodi Henley.
Exactly four weeks before his family’s Fourth of July party, Mark Pryce walked into Omega Wealth Management. He’d tried to come up with a solution on his own, but the problem wouldn’t go away. Only one person could bail him out of the mess he was in.
It was late, but he knew for a fact that Hilary Rosenberg rarely left at five.
A woman moved in his peripheral vision, and there she was. He turned to admire her. Unlike the other receptionists at the firm, Hilary was curvy, with generous breasts and hips that flared out in luscious slopes. She was dressed in a pastel mint-green blouse and cappuccino-colored pencil skirt that reached a single conservative inch below her knees. A simple updo revealed the kissable line of her neck. The only non-conservative item on her was a pair of sexy open-toe stilettos that improved the shape of her already gorgeous legs. He itched to reach out and touch her to see if she was as soft and sweet as he imagined, but he kept his hands to himself.
“Hi, Mark. You here to see Gavin?” Hilary walked past him to her desk. His body tightened at her delicious apple and cinnamon scent.
“Actually, I’m here to see you.”
“I wish you’d called first. I’m leaving right now to meet some friends at Z.” She dumped a thick stack of papers into her briefcase and picked up her purse and a gold-plated stainless steel travel mug etched with “A Woman Worth Her Weight in Gold.” Her boss Gavin had given it to her a few years ago on her birthday, saying it described her perfectly.
Her brisk tone pricked his pride. Most women fawned over him. “It won’t take long. We can talk in the elevator.” He offered her his arm and almost chuckled when she predictably pretended not to see it. Well, no problem. If she didn’t want to take his arm, he could do the next best thing—putting his hand at her elbow to guide her in a courtly gesture.
* * *
Generally, Hilary’s interactions with Mark were limited to simple two- or three-minute conversations, mostly consisting of polite greetings. He was a playboy, and she didn’t like playboys.
But she could see why other women succumbed to his charms. He was classically tall, dark and handsome with the clean profile his family was famous for. His blue eyes never failed to make her heart skip a beat, and his face often broke into a killer smile that was as lethal as a strychnine martini. Most importantly he wasn’t some brain-dead idiot who’d inherited all his money. His father had given him a sizable trust fund, but he’d more than quadrupled its value with some wise investment decisions and a series of highly successful restaurants.
God must’ve been in a really good mood when Mark had been conceived. Grossly unfair, but such was life.
As they stood waiting for the elevator, she felt his gaze on her shoes and legs and did her best to ignore the warm sensation slowly spreading upward from her ankles. “So… What do you want to talk about?” she said, keeping her eyes on the elevator doors.
“I need a date for my family’s Fourth of July party.”
An interesting choice of topic. Mark was well aware it wasn’t her job to provide him with dates. She sipped her coffee, taking her time…until he cleared his throat discreetly and rocked on the balls of his feet. She lowered the mug and took a deep breath. “Don’t you have a girlfriend?”
“No. We broke up two months ago.”
“What a shame.” Not. Everyone knew Mark never dated anybody for more than three months.
“I know. That’s why I’m asking you.”
She choked on her coffee, and he pounded her lightly on the back. Wheezing, she drew away from him. “Are you serious?” she asked, looking into his eyes.
His gaze didn’t waver. “Yes.”
Why wasn’t he laughing at her gullibility? Her skin prickled. A serious yes was not the right answer to her question. She turned away, looking straight ahead. “Surely you can find someone before the fourth.” The mirror-like elevator doors reflected everything, and he made eye contact with her reflection. “You have a month,” she said into her mug.
“I could, but ‘someone’ won’t do. I need somebody Mom can’t intimidate or manipulate to get to me.”
“What’s your mother trying to do?” Everyone also knew that Ceinlys Pryce wanted her children to marry into impeccable families.
“She’s either giving my dates false hopes about marrying me or trying to get them to stay away.” Even as his tone remained even, he rolled his shoulders. “I can’t deal with that. Not all relationships were meant to go somewhere, and every time she tries to get them to leave me, they start clinging like scotch tape.”
The elevator arrived—finally!—and they stepped inside. Even with just the two of them, the interior seemed tiny today. She took a small step sideways to give herself more room. It didn’t help. She could see their reflections again, this time on the inside of the doors—how his tall, strong body towered over her and made her feel somehow protected. Every time she drew a breath, the clean scent of soap and warm masculinity teased her. Her stomach fluttered like it was keeping hundreds of butterflies prisoner.
Her fingers tightened around her mug. “I’m afraid I can’t help you.” She kept her tone brisk. The key was to discourage him before he could work his charms. “I have a boyfriend.”
“That doctor guy?”
“His name is Walt Goldstein, and he’s a pediatric surgeon,” she said, more sharply than she planned. Stable and staid, Walt was the perfect man for her. It’d taken years to find someone as wonderful as him, and no billionaire playboy was going to criticize him in her presence. “He saves babies’ lives.”
“He drives a Lexus with a license plate that reads BABYDOC.” Mark’s lips curled in the reflection. “Who gets a vanity plate with a Caribbean dictator’s nickname?”
She tried not to scowl. “It’s not like he’s Haitian. Not everyone thinks of Duvalier when they see BABYDOC.” She certainly hadn’t…until now.
“Fine. Let’s give him some credit and assume he really doesn’t know any better. He still misses dinner an awful lot.”
“And you track stuff like that.”
“I avoid giving tables to people who don’t show.”
Apparently, she and Walt had canceled one too many reservations at Mark’s restaurants. “I’m sorry,” she said stiffly.
“It’s not your fault. And I don’t think he’ll care if you go to some party with me on the fourth. There’ll probably be a baby he has to operate on that day anyway.”
She frowned. “Don’t be mean.”
“Oh come on, Hilary. There’s something odd about a guy who keeps cancelling.”
“Gavin,” she said, referring to her super-busy boss—and Mark’s best friend, “used to cancel his dates with his wife, but that didn’t mean he doesn’t love her.”
Mark smiled. “And what has your doctor given you to make up for canceled dates? A private jet, perhaps? A yacht?”
“He’s just doing his job.”
“And I’ve helped you do yours. So you owe me.”
Now that got her gaze swinging his way. “You have? I do?”
“Remember that special client luncheon you scheduled at Morrigan’s? They screwed up the reservation, so I let you guys into the VIP area at La Mer at the last minute?”
He moved so that they were only inches away from each other, his body radiating an inviting heat. She always knew his eyes were blue, but not that they were the shade of the sunny Pacific. They beckoned her to say yes to whatever he was proposing because he was going to make it amazing for her. Her breath caught, and she couldn’t speak through a hot lump in her throat. She should step away, but her legs felt like they were rooted in place.