Beauty and the Billionaire (Page 12)
Beauty and the Billionaire (Billionaire Boys Club #2)(12)
Author: Jessica Clare
“My secret is not a secret. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you. You can find it in all the newspapers, too. When I was ten, I was kidnapped from boarding school and held for ransom. The fools thought that because my father was incredibly wealthy, that he’d pay anything for his only heir.” His laugh was cold, bitter, his expression bleak. “They did not know my father well. My father didn’t give two shits about me. He didn’t care about leaving a legacy. He just wanted to see how much money he could acquire before he died. I was simply an inconvenience. When he’d heard I’d been kidnapped, the first thing he wanted to know was how much they wanted. And when he heard the price, he refused to pay it.”
Her lips parted in shock.
“They kept me on a boat for a week. As the days passed, I knew my father wasn’t sending anyone for me, so I planned my escape. I thought it’d be easy to jump overboard and swim to shore. So I did, except when I went over the side, I hit the propeller. It destroyed my face and my arm and tore up my chest.” He held up his hand. “I almost lost all these fingers, but instead I only lost one. I nearly died.”
Holy shit. Her jaw dropped.
“I suppose I should be considered lucky. The propeller was moving at a very low speed and it only destroyed half of me.” The cynicism in his voice made her ache. “The kidnappers panicked as soon as they saw the blood in the water and tried to get away. A nearby fisherman saw me go overboard and swam out to save me. He is why I lived.” Hunter turned away. “Now you know. Never ask me again.”
And he shut the door.
Their tentative friendship had just taken one massive, ugly step backward. Gretchen sighed and tossed the limp sandwich back onto the plate, her appetite gone.
Anger and despair raged inside of Hunter. He tore down the halls of Buchanan Manor, knocking over priceless vases and statues as he passed them. He needed something—anything—to quell this helpless rage he was feeling.
She’d asked about his face. Wanted to know why he was so hideous. She couldn’t see past the scars despite her pretty words.
And it made him furious, even as it made him feel black with despair.
Why was he nothing to her but a ravaged face? Why was she just like everyone else? Why could she not ignore them and focus on the man underneath?
He slammed a hand into a delicate Chinese ginger jar, pleased when it launched off the end table and smacked into the wall. Good. Now it was as shattered as he felt inside.
How could he possibly explain to another person the event that had destroyed his life? Waking up in the arms of strangers as a young boy? The horror and fear he’d felt as they’d held a gun to his head and transported him to the boat? The emptiness he’d felt when days had passed and no ransom was forthcoming? Could they possibly have known that his father couldn’t have cared less that he had a son? That he couldn’t be bothered to deal with the child who had killed his beloved wife in childbirth? The grim determination he’d felt when he’d realized he’d have to save himself, and launched over the side of the boat . . . only to meet a fate worse than death when he hit the propeller?
It had destroyed his life, reshaped him like a crucible.
There was no one to trust. Better to be alone and safe, secure and unharmed. He could count on no one to care for him, save for those he paid. He grasped the delicate doily the vase had been sitting upon and fought the urge to rip it into shreds.
He would always be alone. No matter how much he hoped otherwise, it was just another reminder that he was unlovable. No one would ever see past his face.
A throat cleared.
Hunter turned. Eldon was in the doorway. He coolly surveyed the destruction Hunter had left behind him—the shattered glass covering the hallway, the destroyed priceless vases. He said nothing, simply waited.
Hunter ran a hand down his face, suddenly weary. “Send the cleaning crew in this wing tomorrow.”
“That’ll be all.” Hunter turned, heading toward his room. He’d change and work out his aggression in his private gym. A few rounds with the punching bag, some shadowboxing, some weight lifting, and maybe he’d be tired enough that it wouldn’t matter.
“Shall I send her away, Mr. Buchanan?” Eldon’s quietly worded question made him stop in his tracks.
Did he want that? He could say the word and she’d be out of the house within the hour. No more questions. No more wide-eyed inquiries about his scars. Just him and utter silence once more.
He thought of Gretchen’s lovely face, her laughing eyes and her outrageous sense of humor. Her curves in the dress she’d worn tonight. The way her entire face lit up when she smiled, which was often.
He still wanted her. Still wanted to be around her, wanted to bask in her playful smiles and teasing comments.
“No,” he said abruptly. “She stays.”
“Thank you, Eldon.” He walked down the hallway and shut the door to his room.
Gretchen set her alarm for sunrise. She had a plan, and today she was going to put it into action.
When it went off the next morning, she jumped out of bed, slid into her favorite yoga pants, and dragged her hair into a messy ponytail. She tossed down a can of food for Igor, kissed his head, and bounded out the door in her slippers, heading to the library.
Hopefully she was early enough.
To her relief, the library was empty when she entered, and the customary flower and note inviting her to dinner were not present. That meant Eldon had not arrived yet. Perfect.
She sat down at the letters and began to work, glancing at the door repeatedly. Excitement was making her twitchy, and it was hard to settle down into the latest letter. They were so incredibly dry. Lula wrote to someone named Ben over and over again, and Ben never wrote back. It was so boring to read, like a one-sided conversation. Like she cared about household life a hundred and thirty-odd years ago? Like readers would?
When she finished transcribing the latest description of what bushes were flowering and how many times the neighbor had visited Lulabelle, she carefully folded the letter back into the yellowed envelope and replaced it in its spot in the trunk. Yawning, she pulled out the next letter and glanced at the date.
Three months had passed since the prior letter. Huh. She glanced down at the trunk, then back at the letter. Were they out of order? She flipped through the envelopes, but sure enough, there was a three– month gap between letters.
My dearest Benedict,
So much has changed since we last wrote.
Yeah, Gretchen thought to herself. Like winter into spring. Not exciting.
I cannot believe we are to be parted once more. The three months we spent together were Heaven on earth. I wake up in the morning, wanting to feel your form next to mine, but you are gone. My hands slide into my pantaloons and I must touch myself, trying to remember the feel of your mouth against my most delicate of female parts.
Gretchen’s eyes widened. Holy shit. That was . . . graphic. “Lulabelle, you little Victorian sexpot, you.”
My father is very against our marriage, as you know. However, I cannot help but think that if he knew of the carnal ways that we had tasted each other, the hours we had spent in each other’s arms, that perhaps he would relent. Still, I shall keep our secret as you have instructed.
Tell me when you will return to me and, until then, imagine my hands where yours should be.
All my love,
Well now. Things had just gotten a bit more interesting. Curious, Gretchen reached for the next letter and was surprised to see a masculine handwriting. Benedict had actually written Lulabelle back. Interesting. All the prior letters had been penned by one hand—Lula to Benedict.
It shall only be a few months that we are to be parted. You know that I cannot marry you as long as my fortune is no more than that of a beggar’s. Your father will never look upon me as a proper suitor for you unless I become more successful. Give my business time to take off, beloved, and we shall soon be together.
Your letter to me fired my loins and my imagination. My body aches to sink deep into yours once more, to feel your plump thighs wrapping around my waist as I move deep inside you. I know what we write is scandalous, but I do not care. If we cannot be together in person, let us be together in spirit. I know my mind is filled of thoughts of your mouth upon my maleness. It is an image burned into my mind.
Write me again,
Wow. So Lula gave old Ben a blowjob? She is a total vixen. Good for her. Gretchen pulled out the next letter, fascinated, and began to open it. The project had taken on new life with these latest letters, and now she couldn’t seem to read them fast enough. They were dirty and wrong—terribly wrong considering they were dating back to the Victorian period, but man, were they juicy.
For the first time, she tried to picture the duo. Lulabelle would have been dressed in some sort of frothy concoction of a dress befitting the times. Her appearance was never mentioned, other than she was concerned with fashion.
She pictured Benedict like she did Hunter, though. Tall, serious, and deliciously, wickedly scarred. Wounded inside and out. Maybe that was why he’d never written Lula back until now. Maybe she’d reached out to him over that three-month break and crashed through his barriers, and now he’d let her in.
I know my mind is filled of thoughts of your mouth upon my maleness, Benedict had written.
Gretchen suddenly envisioned herself, kneeling in front of Hunter, taking his c*ck in her mouth and working it as his hand knotted in her hair. Warmth pulsed through her body and she resisted the urge to fan herself with one of the delicate letters. Whew.
The door to the library opened and Gretchen jumped in her chair, whirling around.
Eldon stood there, looking just as surprised as she was. Of course, Gretchen couldn’t stop blushing now that she’d been more or less caught reading the letters. Not that she wasn’t supposed to be reading them, of course. It was just that they were . . . dirty. And it made her feel weird to be seen reading them. Did Eldon or Hunter have any idea how incredibly graphic the letters were? Was that why they’d wanted someone to transcribe them?
“You’re here early,” Eldon said, his voice disapproving. He held a tray in his hands.
She waved a letter at him. “Thought I’d get a head start on things. Don’t bother making me breakfast, by the way. I made my own.”
“I did not make you breakfast,” he said flatly, as if it were the last thing he’d planned.
“Yeah, I guessed.” He never made her breakfast.
Eldon moved into the library and set the tray down on the nearest end table. On her tray was the rose of the day, singularly beautiful and crisp, the bud just beginning to unfurl. Today’s color was a red so deep that it almost seemed like velvet.
To her disappointment, there was no note from Hunter inviting her to dinner. That was fine. She wouldn’t let him retreat away from her. She had plans.
When Eldon straightened, he turned to leave.
“Wait,” Gretchen said, jumping to her feet. She grabbed the folded paper on the edge of the desk that she’d written this morning and held it out to him. “Can you please give this to Hunter?”