Beauty and the Billionaire (Page 27)
Beauty and the Billionaire (Billionaire Boys Club #2)(27)
Author: Jessica Clare
The stiffness in his gaze receded a bit. He regarded her for a long moment, and then his hand tightened on her waist and he pulled her against him for a hard, breathless kiss.
“Someone like you is better than what someone like me deserves,” he said gruffly.
She frowned a bit at that—she’d been talking about money and station in life. But it was clear he couldn’t see past his face. “You shouldn’t talk like that.”
“I speak from experience, Gretchen. You’re the only woman who’s ever looked at me and not been revolted.”
Her hand caressed his scarred cheek, and she brushed her thumb over his lower lip. “Shall I show you just how un-revolted I am by you?”
He growled low in his throat. “You should.”
She glanced around at the empty kitchen, then grinned mischievously. “Does the door to this room lock?”
She shrugged and began to slide backward onto the kitchen island. “Then you’d better hope Eldon doesn’t walk in on us.”
“You’re never going to believe this.” Kat’s voice bubbled with excitement. “It’s wicked amazing.”
Gretchen cradled the phone to her ear and continued typing, logging her current letter. The month was creeping past entirely too fast and she was barely halfway through the enormous trunk of letters. She kept getting distracted by Hunter, though who could blame her? A sexy, delicious man who constantly wanted sex and gave her great orgasms? Every job should come with such distractions.
Still, she was behind in her work and it wasn’t going to get done unless she threw every free minute into it. “My landlord called you?”
“No. Though I did drop off that check. He was kind of pissy about it.”
“We got the payment in for the contract?”
“What’s better than getting paid?”
“You know Astronaut Bill number forty-two? Astronaut Bill and the Tragedy of Europa IV?”
“That was the one with the rampant disease, right? Yeah, I hated that book.” Gretchen wrinkled her nose. “The cover sucked and they made me write in a plotline where Bill cheats on Uranea because he thought she was dead and they needed sex in at least three chapters.”
“It hit the New York Times Best Seller list.”
Gretchen dropped the phone in shock. She stared at her computer screen for a moment, then scrambled to pick up the phone, where she could hear her agent laughing with glee. “You’re joking.”
“I’m not joking! You hit number thirty-four. That’s the extended New York Times list, which isn’t as great as the main list, but whatever.”
“But . . . but . . . how?” Gretchen spluttered, thinking. “The majority of the sales are through truck stops and subscriptions. I sell hardly anything through retail outlets.”
“Well, you sold a shit-ton last week,” Kat said gleefully. “The team over at Incomparable Books is absolutely thrilled and they want you to do more Bill books. As many as you can work into your schedule this year. They don’t even care that you’re late on this other one. Isn’t that awesome? Steady work!”
“Great,” Gretchen echoed, suddenly feeling a little queasy.
“Sales is trying to figure out what the spike in sales came from, but they’re super pleased. They say that if sales keep going the way they are, they might even add your name as a byline at some point.” Kat sounded impressed. “Just think. You could write under your own name.”
“Great,” Gretchen said again.
“So how many Bill books do you think you can fit into your schedule this year? I told them you write fast. At least four, I think. What do you think?”
Four more Bill books, as fast as she could crank them out? Her stomach churned. “I’m not sure. Let me look at my calendar and I’ll call you back, okay?”
“Will do,” Kat chirped into the phone. “By the way, I was going to send you flowers but I wasn’t sure if it would be apropos since you’re guesting over there. But I totally thought of flowers for you. I even bought some shoes in your honor.”
“You’re so thoughtful,” Gretchen said wryly, laughing. “Call you back soon.”
When she hung up the phone, she stared at her surroundings, uncomprehending. Then, the reality of it hit her and she burst into tears.
She felt . . . trapped. God, what was wrong with her? This should have made her happy. Before today, Incomparable Books had been on the verge of booting her from their stable of ghostwriters. She couldn’t hit a deadline and her books weren’t what the fans seemed to want. They wanted Bill having all kinds of sexist, ridiculous adventures and Gretchen had a hard time writing that. But with the success of this book, it meant steady paychecks. It meant success.
It meant she was locked into that misogynistic a**hole Bill for the rest of the year, and possibly several years into the future. And she should have been thrilled.
But instead, she just wept.
It was there that Hunter found her, still on the couch and crying her eyes out. “Gretchen?”
She turned to glance at the doorway and absently dashed a bit of wetness from her cheek. “Hey.” Damn it. Her nose sounded stuffy.
His eyes narrowed and he strode toward her, his fingers moving to lift her chin and tilt her face to him. “You’re upset.”
“I don’t like seeing you upset. Tell me what it is that’s bothering you.”
She shook her head. It wasn’t something Hunter would understand. “I’m fine. Really.”
He looked as if he didn’t believe her. “Is it something I can fix?”
A wry smile touched her mouth and she stood, moving into his arms. She sighed with pleasure when he wrapped her in his embrace, and she rested her cheek against his chest. “I’m not entirely sure I understand why I’m upset, myself. So no, I can’t ask you to help me fix it.”
“A distraction, then?” Hunter murmured.
“Hmmm,” she said, chuckling. “Now that has merit. What did you have in mind? What do you do to relax?”
“I don’t know if you want to do what I do. I usually exercise or work in my greenhouse.”
She made a face. “Yeah, that doesn’t exactly sound like fun to me. Sorry.”
“I think you’re not giving it a fair chance. Come on.” He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and steered her toward the library door.
Gretchen hesitated for a moment, then let him lead. She should have been working, but working was the last thing she wanted to do at the moment. It was part of the reason she was so unhappy.
They headed into the greenhouse, and Gretchen was immediately hit by the humidity and the perfume of the flowers. While it had its charm, she didn’t share the fascination with plants that Hunter did. They were pretty, they were fragrant, but that was about it.
He took her hand and led her through the rows of green bushes. A hint of satisfaction was stamped across his proud features as they moved through the gardens.
“Are we here to pick me another rose?”
“Two roses? You rebel, you.”
“Better,” he said again. “Which roses are your favorites?”
She ran her fingers along his sleeve. “The ones you give me.”
“Do you like a particular color? Scent?”
She thought for a moment. “I liked the blue one you gave me the first day.”
Gretchen thought for a moment. They were always lovely, which was why she was having a difficult time deciding. It was obvious that whatever this was, it meant something to him. He practically vibrated with enthusiasm. “Which one is your favorite?”
“For you?” He led her past a row of bright yellow blooms and knelt in front of a rosebush covered with red blooms. “This one. Papa Meilland. It makes me think of you every time I see it.”
The flower’s odd name meant nothing to her, but she knelt next to him, curious. “Why?”
“The petals are like velvet, the color a deep red like your hair, and no other rose that I own smells sweeter.”
She smiled at him. “All very good reasons.”
“It’s also one of the more difficult ones to grow.”
She snorted. “You calling me difficult?”
“It’s a fragile flower. It looks beautiful and hardy, but even the smallest of ailments can bring it down. It reminds me that some things require a bit more thought and care.” He smiled over at her, another one of his rare yet charming smiles. “It’s a challenge, but there is no rose sweeter when it blossoms.”
“That’s beautiful, Hunter. Who knew you would get so poetic over flowers?”
“Not the roses,” he said, giving her an intense look that made her toes curl a little.
“So what did you want to show me?”
“One of my passions is the hybridization of roses.”
“Wow. Sounds . . . um, boring. I think.”
He ignored her lack of enthusiasm, still stroking the soft petals of the red Papa Meilland rose in a way that made her panties damp. “I wanted to choose something you’d like. I’d like to create you a rose.”
Now he had her interest. “Create me a rose?”
He got up and gestured at a nearby stone bench. She followed him and was surprised when he sat in the center of it, leaving no room for her to sit. At her raised eyebrow, he gestured at his knee.
Ah, he liked it when she sat in his lap, did he? Gretchen smiled and gave an exaggerated wiggle as she slid into his embrace, her ass nestling against him.
“Hybridization,” he said, brushing her hair off her shoulder and leaning in to kiss her through the fabric of her T-shirt. “Is how all the different varieties of hybrid tea roses are created. They’ve been bred and crossbred with each other for the best qualities—long stems, bright colors, lovely scents. I’d like to see if I can cross a rose just for you.”
“I’m always game for a present,” Gretchen teased. “So when do I get to see my rose?”
He chuckled, and she warmed. Was it her imagination or did he seem more quick to laugh and smile now? “These things take time. It’s a slow process of pollination and experimentation. I’ll have to take one of the Blue Girl roses—that’s the one you liked—that’s budding and force it open—”
“Pollination, experimentation, and forcing petals? Sounds kinky.”
To her surprise, he reached across her front and lightly tweaked her nipple to shush her, sending a jolt of pleasure through her body. “You do that to prepare it for pollination from the other rose. They’re covered to prevent them from being pollinated from another rose.”
“Rose condoms. Gotcha.”
He leaned in and nipped at her earlobe. His fingers continued to tease her n**ples through her clothing, and she felt him hardening against her buttocks. “Do you always interrupt?”
“Yes. But don’t let that stop you.”