Read The Billionaire Bargain 3 Online

Authors: Lila Monroe

Tags: #romance

The Billionaire Bargain 3

 

The Billionaire Bargain 3

 

By    L I L A     M O N R O E

 

Copyright © 2015 by Lila Monroe

 

The Billionaire Bargain 3

 

Cover Design: British Empire Designs

 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic or mechanical, including emailing, photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and
retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or
dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

For the real Grant Devlin

Table of Contents

 

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

EPILOGUE

 

ONE

 

Grant’s
body, powerful and strong, covered every inch of mine. He gazed
deeply into my eyes before dipping his head to kiss my neck, and I
moaned as he teased and tortured the sensitive skin there with his
teeth and tongue. His hard cock nudged at my thigh. I was slippery
with desire, so ready to take him in. I reached for him—

Beep
beeeeep. Beep beeeep.

The
ancient clock radio beside my bed went off, and my hand slapped out
at it automatically. The sun was coming through gauzy white curtains,
making a dappled pattern over the faded hand-stitched quilt my mother
had made me when I was still a kid. I gazed up at the walls, the dust
on my Speech Team trophies and the curled corners of my old rock-star
posters. At the end of my childhood bed, Mr. Teddy stared back
reproachfully, as if he could sense how lonely and displaced I felt.

This
should have felt like a refuge, a safe haven. I should have felt
welcomed, and relieved. At home and at peace.

But
all these things I used to treasure so much just reminded me that
while they had stayed the same, I had become a completely different
person.

And
that completely different person was a total fucking screw-up.

No.
No. I’d promised myself I was going to be positive for at least
an hour today. I wasn’t going to think bad thoughts about
myself, or my decisions.

No
matter how much I deserved it.

 

• • •

 

“Rise
and shine, Lacey Spacey!” Mom said, dishing out a healthy
portion of quinoa and acai berries onto my plate.

I
eyed them skeptically.

“They’re
very good for you!” Mom said mock-reproachfully as she caught
my look. “And they’re delicious. Try them, honey! You
won’t know until you try them, will you?”

She
was trying to be cheerful for me, but all it did was make me feel
like I was four fucking years old. “Yes, Mom.”

I
took a bite. Okay, it wasn’t terrible. The berries were a
little sour, but not bad.

But
damn, I missed the days when Mom made comfort breakfasts of bacon and
eggs and a foot high stack of blueberry waffles with whipped cream.

“Aren’t
you going to eat any more?”

“I
guess I’m not very hungry.” I pushed the food around my
plate. Who could work up an appetite for this stuff? Yeah, it was
definitely my breakfast that was causing my lack of appetite, and not
the way my stomach kept twisting every time I thought about Grant or
the company or—

Yeah,
face it, Lacey. This could be nectar and ambrosia from Mt. Olympus,
and you’d still be picking at it like a bird.

Dad
came in with the morning paper, and a cup of chicory coffee—Mom
and Dad were apparently protesting the treatment of workers who
harvested actual coffee, which was morally admirable but also keeping
me from getting any damn coffee—and kissed Mom on the cheek.
“Ah, both of my two favorite girls! How’s the quinoa?”

“Great,”
I said, crossing my fingers under the table. “Very—full
of texture. Interesting texture. Yeah.”

“You
know, we get that from the local farm down the road, the Lee family,”
Dad said for the seventh time already. “Completely sustainable,
and you should see the tomatoes they get!”

“Tomatoes
are a very spiritual fruit,” my mom added. “I think we
could all learn a lesson from tomatoes, the way they thrive in the
driest conditions.”

“We
certainly could,” my dad agreed, setting down the newspaper. “I
had a conversation about that just last week down at the meditation
center—”

I
took a big bite of quinoa and chewed as noisily as I could, hoping to
drown the rest of it out. I loved my parents, but sometimes a girl
just longed for the days when they thought ‘meditation’
was something you did in court when two sides of a business dispute
couldn’t come to an agreement.

I
was so busy chewing quinoa and feeling resentful that I almost missed
the quick flash of worry in my mom’s eyes, and the way they
darted to the side pointedly before my dad—a little too
casually—picked up the paper again, turning the front page away
from me. But Mom and Dad, great as they were, were not exactly
super-spies, and so despite their efforts I caught a glimpse of the
headline they were trying to hide:

DOES DEVLIN MEDIA CORP HAVE A FUTURE?

It
didn’t even mention Grant by name, but fresh pain still stabbed
into my heart as if I had been shot back into time to that moment in
the hotel when I had seen what I had to do, when I had made my fatal
decision.

Tears
gathered at the corner of my eyes, and I swilled a glass of organic
green tea to try to hide my face, but I could feel more, welling up
under the surface.

Oh,
damn. Why did giving him up have to be so hard? Shouldn’t it be
easier, when I knew it was for the best?

“I
think I’ll take an early shower,” I said, standing
abruptly before either of my parents could see how upset I was.

“But
Pumpkin, you didn’t finish your acai berries—”

“I’ll
have them for lunch!” My voice wobbled slightly as I ducked
past them. Maybe she would just think I was getting really emotional
about fair farming practices.

I
made it to the other side of my bedroom door before the tears began
in earnest. I slid to the floor, and let them flow.

“I
did the right thing,” I told the back of my old teddy bear. “I
care too much about Grant

to
have some fake wedding. It would have been so much worse if I had
gone through with it.”

Mr.
Teddy did not gain the power of speech to respond to me, but that was
okay. I had all my rebuttals ready in the form of a daydream that had
been playing nonstop in my subconscious since the day I met Grant
Devlin. Since the day I saw the way his suit hugged his strong
shoulders, the way the light glinted off his perfect smile, the way
his eyes looked like the answer to every question I’d ever
thought to ask and a few I’d never dared to—

But
it was stupid to keep dwelling on what-ifs and what-could-have-beens.
Grant clearly wasn’t. He hadn’t called or tried to see me
once.

He
must really hate me now.

That
thought made another sob choke in my chest, and I bowed my head

Get
over it, Lacey.

He
obviously has.

 

• • •

 

The
doorbell rang, and lifted me slightly out of my gloom.

“Oh,
is that Katie?” my mom said from her downward-facing dog pose.
“Can you get that? I can just feel my chakras releasing their
tension, and I don’t want to leave them all spiritually
clogged.”

“Sure,
Mom,” I said, just barely suppressing my eye-roll reflex.
“Wouldn’t want you to have to call that spiritual
plumber.”

Of
course, Mom and Dad don’t actually lock their doors these
days—something about a lack of trust blocking their karmic
energies—so Kate was already knocking the door open with her
hip before bounding in, her arms full of shopping bags. “I come
bearing the delights of the great city!”

“Is
coffee one of those delights?” I asked. “Also, put that
down and let me hug you.”

“The
hug isn’t dependent on coffee?”

“Girl,
if you did bring me coffee, I might kiss you.”

“Try
not to, Stevie’s being jealous as hell lately.” Kate
dropped the shopping bags and enfolded me in a back-breaking hug
before diving back down to retrieve the bag of coffee beans and a
grinder. “Ta-da!”

“You
are a lifesaver,” I gushed as the smell of coffee wafted up
toward my nostrils, my eyes practically leaking all over again with
sheer gratitude.

“And
there’s more!” Kate informed me, dropping to her knees
and pulling out each item with a triumphant flourish before setting
it on the coffee table. “Your favorite sweater! Burgers from
the fast-food place next to work! Noodles from that fast-food place
next to your apartment! Candy bars from that old-timey candy shop
down by the beach! The latest CD from that band we saw last time we
went out for margaritas! Shampoo!”

One
of these things was not like the other.

“Shampoo?
Kate, my parents don’t live in a mining camp in the year 1870.
I can actually get shampoo here.”

“But
can you get shampoo that doesn’t smell like eucalyptus and
self-righteousness?” Kate asked, her eyebrow raised.

“Okay,
point taken.”

“Girls,
girls,” my mom said, shaking her head in a way that would have
come across as more stern if she hadn’t been smiling fondly,
and also doing a yoga pose that meant her head was upside down while
her butt was sticking straight up in the air. “Eucalyptus has a
very healing energy. And that shampoo company donates ten cents from
every purchase to help preserve koala habitats.”

“Sorry,
Mrs. N,” Kate said. “But koalas are on their own as far
as I’m concerned. Did you know they have a huge chlamydia
problem in zoos?”

“All
the more reason to support them in the wild,” my mom said
calmly, as if Kate hadn’t just forever ruined every cute koala
picture for me forever.

The
three of us chatted about various topics for awhile—my dad’s
attempt to graft solar panels onto his Volkswagen Beetle, and Kate’s
latest rejection from someone who had initially seemed interested in
marketing her lingerie line.

Eventually
my mother decided that enough negative energy had been released from
her spine, and straightened up to head off to the kitchen and fix us
up some kale-banana smoothies with extra whey powder. Kate could
barely contain her excitement, and by “barely contain her
excitement,” I mean that she shot me a look that could’ve
turned a gorgon to stone.

There
was a brief, awkward silence as my mom left and we both wondered if
either of us was going to point out the elephant in the room.

Three
seconds was about how long I held out before broaching the subject.
“So…so I bet it’s been pretty bad? The fall-out?”

Kate
waffled for a second. “Lacey, you don’t need to be
hearing this right now—”

“Please,”
I said, taking her hand. “Whatever everyone’s saying
about me, it can’t be worse than what’s running through
my head. I just want to stop wondering.”

She
broke eye contact and tried to take her hand back. I held tight.
“It’s probably best to make a clean break—”

“Katie,”
I interrupted. I could feel my throat starting to choke up. I’d
beg if I had to. “
Please
.”

Kate
sighed, but relented. “The papers and gossip mags and blogs
can’t get enough. The party line everyone’s trotting out
is that Grant figured out you’re a gold-digger.”

I
felt pain like a shard of glass stabbing into my heart.

Kate
went on, staring straight ahead as she recited her news like she was
reading it off a teleprompter: “He sent you packing, you’re
hiding out licking your wounds. Meanwhile, Grant is a doing a Batman
act and hiding out too, licking his wounds.” The faintest
suggestion of a smile ghosted over her lips. “One paparazzi
snuck onto his balcony. Grant almost threw him off before his butler
intervened.”

A
few weeks ago—God, it seemed like a lifetime ago—I would
have made a crack about Grant having a butler. Now, joking was the
last thing on my mind. All I could think about was how much I must
have hurt Grant, for him to let people say those things.

And
I had no one to blame but myself.

“A
gold-digger,” I said, trying not to let my voice show the way I
felt that tiny parts of me were cracking, shattering, and splintering
apart inside. “Well. That’s a good angle. I’m glad
he thought of that.”

“I’m
sure Grant didn’t—” Kate began soothingly.

“It
doesn’t really matter,” I said. My voice sounded like it
was coming from very far away. It sounded cool and clinical, and
nothing like I felt. “It’s all a PR spin, whosever idea
it was. And it’s a good one. I couldn’t have done it
better myself.”

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