Beauty and the Billionaire (Page 3)

Beauty and the Billionaire (Billionaire Boys Club #2)(3)
Author: Jessica Clare

“Gretchen,” Kat said, exasperated. “Are you serious? This is the fourth project you’ve been late on this year.”

She grimaced, expecting this reaction. She didn’t have excuses to give, either. She stayed home and worked all day, but the projects she was getting were less than . . . exciting. And it made it damn hard to sit down and work on them every day. “I had to do a lot of science research,” Gretchen mumbled.

“For Astronaut Bill and the Space Vixens of Dark Planet? Are you kidding me? It’s pulp, Gretchen! Granted, it’s pulp with a huge following, but it’s still freaking pulp. Just write.”

“Yeah, but have you read those books?”

Kat snorted. “Not my type.”

“Yeah, well that makes two of us. I had to read a few of them, too. And you know what happens in Astronaut Bill Conquers the Moon Maidens? He razes the planet of all greenery. All greenery, Kat! How the hell are they supposed to breathe if there’s nothing to produce oxygen?”

“It’s space fantasy.” Kat waved a hand in the air. “Write in some robot oxygen makers or something.”

“But it has to make sense,” Gretchen insisted. “I can’t just phone it in. I can’t write loopholes like that in the story.”

She didn’t know why it mattered so darn much, but the thought of those stupid, big-breasted moon maidens asphyxiating under her watch made her annoyed as hell. Details mattered. And if she got the details wrong, she’d be blasted by legions of fans for doing a bad job. If she did a bad job, the sales would suffer. And if sales suffered? Astronaut Bill would be assigned to a different ghostwriter.

“I don’t know why you get so hung up on that misogynistic crap, Gretchen. Just finish the book and have the copyeditor fill in the holes. That’s what they’re there for.”

Gretchen chewed, saying nothing.

“You know if you turn in late again, they won’t re-up your contract. You need this contract.”

“I know. I’m just . . . struggling.” Every page of Astronaut Bill was painful. They were only fifty thousand words long and the plots were simplistic. Bill gets a mission from headquarters. Bill goes to explore a new planet. Buxom babes are encountered and they need rescuing. Bill ends up saving the day after some spectacular laser gun battles and sexual tension. Piece of cake.

Except she kept getting hung up on the details. And she didn’t much like Bill, which made it really hard to spend time with him every day. But Bill was a paycheck, and a good one, so she struggled on.

“Just tell them I’m sick. Maybe someone died and I had to leave town for the funeral.”

Kat glared at Gretchen. “I’m not going to lie about your family. I’ll just tell them you need another week, max.”


“One week,” Kat said firmly. “But you know they run on tight deadlines and they won’t be happy.”

“I know,” Gretchen said glumly. The rent was due and now was not exactly the time to have a crisis of faith. “I’ll get it finished, I promise.”

“Gretchen, you know I adore you, girl. You’re my favorite client. But I say this with love—you need to get your act together.”

“Consider it together. I promise.”

Kat gave her a wary nod. “Well, did you want to hear about another ghostwriting contract? They asked for you specifically.”

“Me?” Gretchen sat up straighter, surprised. “You serious?”

“Yeah, I don’t know. Do you have connections at any publishers I don’t know about?” Her mouth quirked in amusement. “Especially brand-new ones?”

“Brand-new ones?”

“Yeah, someone’s launching a small publishing line. I don’t know anything about it other than they headhunted one of the best editors I know to head it up, and for their launch title they want you on board.”

This sounded . . . odd. Appealing but odd. “I don’t understand.”

“Me either, kiddo. But they were very clear that they wanted you on this project. Said you had a reputation for ghostwriting and they wanted you on board.”

Gretchen stabbed another forkful of salad into her mouth, thinking. She had a reputation all right, but she wasn’t so sure it was a good one. She took on a lot of projects to pay the bills, but she was also late a lot. She hadn’t been feeling very inspired, and writing could be a damn hard job when you didn’t want to do it.

And lately she hadn’t wanted to do it. But money was money, and rent didn’t pay itself. Her sister Audrey would shake her head and suggest that Gretchen see if she could borrow money from their famous sister, Daphne, but Gretchen hated the thought of it. Being indebted to Daphne ended up being more trouble than it was worth. Gretchen speared another piece of lettuce idly. “So what kind of job is it and what does it pay?”

“It pays three hundred grand.”

Gretchen stopped, fork poised in midair. “Three . . . hundred grand? Seriously?”

“So I’m told. Lead title, you know.”

“And this is a legit publisher? Really? They’re putting out that kind of money?”

“Yeah. Weird terms, though. Ten percent up front, ninety percent upon turn in of an acceptable manuscript. And that’s not the weirdest.”

Most publishers paid half upon signing. Still, thirty grand up front was more than she’d gotten for her last book, so even if the contract went south early, it was still a good investment of her time, all things considering. “What else is weird?”

Kat suddenly looked uncomfortable. She reached for her wineglass. “Well, there are unusual working terms.”

“Uh-oh. Am I going to like the sound of this?”

“Probably not, which is why I didn’t mention it when we first sat down. It’s strange, Gretch. Really strange. Apparently the project they want you to do is an epistolary novel of sorts. There’s some old letters someone found in an attic of a very old, very famous mansion. The publisher said the letters were really romantic, so they’re seeing this as some sort of quasi Anne Frank meets The Notebook sort of project. They think it’ll be huge. But there’s a catch. You can’t take the letters off the property.”

“Okay, that’s a little picky, but do-able.” She was starting to get excited about this project. Anne Frank meets The Notebook? Launch title of a new publisher? With that kind of money for an advance, it sounded promising. “Who’s name am I writing under?”

“Don’t know yet. They didn’t want to release it until the project was agreed upon.”

“So where’s this house?”

“Mansion,” Kat corrected. “And it’s in Hyde Park.”

Her mouth went dry. “Like . . . the Vanderbilt one?”

“Close. You know the one with the white columns and the crazy rose gardens?”

“Holy shit. Yes, I know that one. Buchanan Manor.”

“That’s the one. And that’s the location of our letters.”

“That’s so cool,” Gretchen said, fascinated. “I’m totally in on this project.”

“I think you need to think about it.”

“Why? The money’s awesome, the house is fascinating, and it’s a lead title. What is it you’re not telling me?”

“It’s the house. You heard the part about the letters not being able to leave the premises?”

“Yeah, but what’s the big deal? I’ll just drop in on some weekdays and take photos. I don’t mind going on location if the pay is right—which it is.”

“You’re going to be very on location. As in, if you take the job, they want you to live on site for the duration of the project. They don’t want you coming back and forth. The owner’s a bit of a recluse and doesn’t seem to like traffic much, so he’s insisting that the ghostwriter live on the premises with him.”

“Do what?”

“Live. On site. With the owner. He’s the one who doesn’t want them leaving the premises.”

“That’s a little . . .”

“Creepy? I know. That’s what I said and that’s why I think you should turn it down.”

She thought for a long minute. The money was nice and the house was intriguing, but the thought of living there with a stranger? That tipped things over from eccentric to downright bizarre. “Exactly how many letters are there, again?”

“Several hundred.” Kat gave her a curious look. “You’re not considering it, are you?”

“Not seriously,” she admitted. “Though it would be cool to visit the house and see what it’s like on the inside. And the money would be nice. But . . . ”

“Yeah, it’s that ‘but’ that makes me keep pausing. You want me to turn them down?”

Gretchen toyed with her fork, thinking of the expensive salad on her plate that she couldn’t pay for, at least not until a payment came in. “Not yet.”

Kat shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

She shoved a crouton around her plate. Three hundred grand could be several years of financial security, even in pricey New York City. “And they asked for me, huh?”

“Who knows. Maybe the recluse is a big fan of Astronaut Bill.”

Yeah, right. Or maybe she was the only idiot available who would actually consider the job. Gretchen sighed to herself and then nudged Kat’s fluffy wheat roll. “You going to eat that?”


“Never worry, Uranea. I’ll stop them with my trusty laser sword.” Astronaut Bill put his hand on the sheath at his waist.

Uranea gasped, her small hands flying to her mouth. Her bosoms quivered with distress. “Oh, please be safe, Astronaut Bill!”

“They won’t know what hit them,” Bill said grimly, dragging his immense blade from its sheath. Uranea gasped again, clearly impressed by the size of it. “Now I’ll send them on a one-way ticket back to the stars . . .”

Gretchen rolled her eyes at her own page and took a sip from a water bottle. Garbage. Pure and utter garbage. If Uranea walked into Cooper’s Cuppa and ordered a drink, Gretchen probably would have hauled across the counter to punch her in the face.

Hmm. She made a note to herself: have Uranea punched in face in next chapter.

Stupid Astronaut Bill. Stupid Uranea. She kept hoping for a black hole to suck them into another dimension and then she’d never have to write about them again, but nope. No such luck.

Gretchen checked the timer on the oven again. Ten minutes until the next batch of her cookies were done. She could get in a bit more writing. Bracing herself for a few more paragraphs of the hated duo, she began to type once more. The bell at the counter chimed, and she looked up from her tablet, where she’d been drafting the next scene between handling the store’s customers.

Cooper moved past her before she could get up, a bustle of white shirt and bright red apron. “I’ll get it, Gretch. You’re busy.”

She was . . . busy? She raised an eyebrow at his back. Here she was, slacking on the job at his business, and he was going to let her? He was either the nicest boss in the world, or . . . hell. Brontë had been right when she’d pointed it out to Gretchen the other day: Cooper was totally in love with her.