Billionaire's Matchmaker

By: Sierra Cartwright

CHAPTER ONE





Rafe Sterling strode through the door of his downtown Houston office and into a Monday morning predawn ambush.

To make matters worse, his shoulder hurt from where he’d landed on it during a bicycle race the previous day, he’d slept badly, and he hadn’t had a single cup of coffee.

Three women stood with their backs to the window, a terrifying army in silk and stilettos.

His mother, Rebecca, had her arms folded across her chest, wearing resolve like armor. His sister, Arianna, was in the middle, and she squirmed under his scrutiny. Good. At best, she was a reluctant accomplice.

The third woman, all the way on the right, he’d never met.

Her well-defined cheekbones were striking, and her lips were painted a wicked shade of fuck-me red. She wore her long brunette hair loose, the locks flowing around her shoulders. But it was the way she studied him, with total focus, that riveted his attention. Her eyes were a startling shade, not hazel but deeper, like gold. For a moment—a fascinating, unwanted, and mercifully brief flash of time—he imagined them swimming with tears of submission.

He cleared his throat, and she broke their connection by glancing toward the floor.

Fuck. Her gesture arrowed through his gut. For the first time in years—since Emma—he was captivated.

Rafe shook his head. He had no patience for relationships, not even with a woman who wore a skirt that hugged her enticing curves.

“Rafe, darling!” His mother broke ranks and took a couple of steps toward him.

Galvanized, he closed his office door behind him. Better to meet the battle head-on so he could get on with his day. “Morning, ladies.”

He crossed the room to drop an obligatory kiss on his mother’s cheek, then he noticed a pile of folders on his desk. Something to do with the visit from the unnamed woman, no doubt.

With distrust, he flicked another glance in her direction. Who the hell was she? “To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?” Rafe eased into his leather executive chair.

His mother took a seat across from him and skipped any further pretense of pleasantries. “You need a wife.”

“Ah.” He slid the manila menaces to the edge of the desk and resisted—barely—the urge to knock them into the waiting trash can. “Understood. Now this is the part of the confrontation where I tell you I will find a bride when I’m damn well ready. Thank you for your time and concern.” He attempted a smile. Judging by his mother’s wince, the curl of his lips was closer to a snarl. “I’m sure you can show yourselves out.”

“Don’t be rude, Rafael Barron Sterling.”

He quirked an eyebrow. His mother hadn’t used his full name since he was in college.

“Your father is planning to marry Elizabeth.”

Rafe opened his mouth, then closed it without speaking. He didn’t need to state the obvious. His parents were still married.

“It’s imperative we make you the CEO of Sterling Worldwide. This madness must stop at once,” Rebecca finished.

“Mother—”

“He bought her a forty-thousand-dollar ring. I saw a picture of it in his email. Gaudy. He has terrible judgment and even worse taste.” She shoved the manila folders back to the center of the desk.

Because of Theodore’s unstable behavior, his mother suspected her husband had the early stages of dementia. His physician disagreed, saying that Theodore was at an age where he’d acquired vast wealth and wanted to enjoy it. The motorcycles he couldn’t ride and the yacht that needed a crew were proof of that, as were the classic Rolls Royce, a chauffeur, a château in France, and a twenty-three-year-old mistress to enjoy it with.

Rafe suspected that both his mother and the doctor were partially correct. Theodore had never wanted any part in Sterling Worldwide. He’d been the unexpected and much pampered late-in-life and third-born child of Barron and Penelope Sterling. His parents had believed Theodore to be nothing less than a gift from God, and they’d treated him as such, indulging his every whim, allowing him to travel the world from a young age, buying him gifts that had been denied to his siblings. He’d also bypassed the boarding schools that the other Sterling children had attended. But his parents had insisted on a college education. They’d made a sizable donation to the university’s foundation to ensure he received passing grades. Surprising everyone, including himself, he’d excelled in business school.

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