Beauty and the Billionaire (Page 36)

Beauty and the Billionaire (Billionaire Boys Club #2)(36)
Author: Jessica Clare

He didn’t deny it.

She sighed, as if defeated. “Good-bye, Hunter.”

“Wait.” He stopped her when she tried to move past him. “You need to hear what I’m going to say.”

A wary hope shone in her eyes and she paused, setting down her suitcase. “What is it?”

Hunter studied her upturned face, which was so lovely. So hopeful. So deceitful. “I’ve decided that I don’t care that you only want me for my money. I have more than enough of it. If you stay with me, I’ll continue to pay your bills as long as you continue to provide companionship . . . at all levels.”

The hope in her eyes withered and died. Now she simply looked angry. “You said you loved me just a few days ago.”

“What I feel for you has no bearing on a business arrangement. I want your body. I want what we had before. Name your price.”

Gretchen shook her head at him, incredulous. “You’re killing me, Hunter.”

“One million.”

Her breath caught. “Fuck you. You can’t buy me like that.”

“No?” His mouth twisted into a bitter smile. “You don’t approve of the direct route? Very well, then. I’ll speak with Preston Stewart and see about contracting another on-site project for you. I’m sure we can arrange something.”

Her eyes brimmed with tears. “I ache for you, Hunter,” she said in a quiet voice. “That you think such awful things of me, and that you’re so lonely that you’re still willing to have someone at your side despite thinking they loathe you. That they’re turned off by your face. You deserve to have someone who loves you.” A tear slipped down Gretchen’s cheek. “I wish you nothing but the best. I really do.”

She moved to go past him and he stepped in front again.

“Two million.”

She shook her head. “Someday you’re going to learn that money can’t buy everything, Hunter. You can’t manipulate people just because you have a bigger wallet. It’s going to make you very, very lonely.”

“Three million,” he said quietly.

“Good-bye, Hunter.”

She left the room, leaving him a little surprised and feeling a bit more alone than ever. He’d thought she’d wanted his money. But he’d offered three million dollars for her to give him exactly what they’d already had. Did she want more money? Was this another game just to fleece him out of his wealth?

Or could it be that she truly didn’t want his money? Just him?

He touched the scars on his face.

Scarface. Quasimodo.



The office phone rang.

Without letting it go to a second ring—the assistant in her couldn’t stand to leave someone waiting—Audrey picked up the phone and gave her cheeriest, most efficient greeting. “Logan Hawkings’s office, Audrey speaking.”

“Hey, it’s me.” The soft, sweet voice of Brontë Dawson, Logan’s fiancée, was impossible to mistake. “I need to talk to Logan, but I’m glad I got you first.”


“I wanted to see how things were going with your sister,” Brontë asked. “How is she doing?”

Her sister. Audrey’s mind immediately filled with mental flashes of sickly, wasted Daphne, sprawled facedown on her floor. Daphne, who was on the cover of the latest tabloid, staggering out of a club at four a.m. with coke-ringed nostrils. Daphne, who kept promising her twin over and over again that she was going to change. That this time, she meant it.

“She’s a mess,” Audrey said in a flat voice. “Nothing new about that.”

“Oh, no. Poor Gretchen. She must be taking this breakup so hard.”

For a moment, Audrey didn’t follow Brontë’s comment. “Gretchen?”

“Yes. Your sister?”

“Oh.” A hot flush crept up her face. That was right. She had two sisters. It was just that she normally didn’t have to worry about Gretchen nearly as much as she did Daphne. Gretchen was impulsive and headstrong, but she knew how to take care of herself. Daphne was a mess. “Gretchen’s having a tough time,” Audrey said. “She lost her apartment so she’s staying with me.”

“Does she need money?”

“Money’s not a problem. Daph has money. Gretchen could ask me for money. She wouldn’t take it, though. And money seems to be the least of her problems.” Audrey sighed, trying to hide her annoyance. “She just sits on my couch and cries all day long.”

“Cries? Gretchen? Really? She seems so . . . strong.”

“Well, not when she’s dumped,” Audrey said briskly, pulling out the stack of mail on her desk and beginning to quickly sort it. “She hasn’t moved from my sofa in two days. She just keeps watching bad movies and reading my books and weeping. I came home yesterday to find her sobbing her brains out at Phantom of the Opera. She kept going on and on about how Christine was a bitch because the Phantom needed her love and support.”

“Oh, jeez. That’s awkward.”

“You’re telling me.”

“You know, I never thought Hunter would hook up with Gretchen. He just seems so . . . remote.” Brontë sounded distressed. “I wish I could help her.”

“I can send her to your place for a few days.”

Brontë laughed. “Somehow I don’t think Logan wants to watch Phantom.”

Yeah, well, neither did Audrey. She had enough trouble on her hands with Daphne. Gretchen’s misery just compounded things and made her feel even more helpless. If there was one thing Audrey didn’t like, it was feeling helpless. Give her a problem she could tackle any day of the week. Emotional stuff? She was not good with that. “I’m not quite sure what to do with her.”

“Well, it’s obvious! We have to get the two of them back together. Hunter’s so lonely and Gretchen’s so bold and clever. I think she’s good for him. Logan said that he’d never seen Hunter happier than when they were together.”

Audrey tried to picture the grim-faced billionaire as happy. She couldn’t. Still, it was obvious that their breakup had devastated her normally easy-going sister. “I’m not good with match-making, Brontë. Fair warning.”

“Me either. But we’ll ask Logan to intercede. Hunter will listen to him.”

“What’s this ‘we’ stuff?” Audrey said drily. “You’re his fiancée. I’m merely the hired help.”

Brontë laughed again. “Okay then, I’ll handle it. Put me through to him.”

“Just get her off my couch,” Audrey said with a smile, and then patched the call through.

Having one troubled sister was plenty for Audrey. The last thing she needed were two miserable sisters living with her. If Brontë and Logan could fix the situation with Gretchen, so much the better. Audrey loved her sister, but she was helpless when it came to relationships.

Her twin was proof of that.

Chapter 13

Even a week later, Hunter still craved her.

He’d f**ked up somehow; he’d offended her with his offer and instead of going back to his bed and resuming their stable relationship full of lies, she’d left him.

He felt more alone than ever before.

There was Eldon, of course, but Eldon was hired to assist him with tasks, not to offer companionship. He’d preferred that for so long, and yet now? Now the house seemed too quiet, too lonely.

Hunter hadn’t realized how quickly Gretchen had changed his life. How much he’d had to look forward to now that she was in it. When he reached across the bed, it was empty. There was no warm, cheerful smile to wake him in the morning, no one to bring him coffee before turning to her own work. No one to walk through the gardens with. No one to appreciate his efforts in the greenhouse. No one to talk over his day with. No one to caress and hold and love. No one to say bold, exciting things to shock him out of his shell.

He needed Gretchen back.

Rubbing his face to clear his mind, Hunter scanned the ever-growing list of unopened emails in his inbox. For some reason, he hadn’t had much of an appetite for work this week, and things were piling up. He scanned them with disinterest, pausing at Preston Stewart’s name. He clicked on it.


It seems we’re in need of a new ghostwriter for our launch book. Any suggestions? Let me know who you have in mind.


Hunter immediately dialed the man’s phone number, his heart pounding.

“Preston Stewart speaking.”

“Why do we need a new ghostwriter?”

“Ah. Mr. Buchanan. Very nice to talk to you again. I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the party the—”

“Explain to me,” Hunter said, cutting in through the editor’s niceties, “why we need a new ghostwriter.”

“Well,” Preston said. “I got a call from Ms. Petty’s agent earlier today. She’s off the project. Since we haven’t signed anything, there’s no money to collect as of yet. Kat and I were still working on negotiations—”

“What do you mean, she’s off the project?”

“I mean she quit. She doesn’t want to do it.”

“Did you offer her more money?” Gretchen needed that money, didn’t she?

The editor laughed. “Mr. Buchanan, that’s not how publishing works. I—”

Hunter hung up. He stared at the phone, thinking. Gretchen had quit. To teach him another lesson? But her agent had said she needed money. He didn’t understand.

Damn it, he didn’t understand women. He didn’t understand any of this. Frowning, he thought to himself for a moment, then stared at his monitor. He wanted to call Gretchen’s agent, see what was going on. He didn’t remember her name, though. Kat something. That wouldn’t get him very far. There were a million agents in New York City. He drummed his fingers, thinking.

Then he jolted to his feet. Of course. Logan’s assistant was Gretchen’s sister. She’d know where Gretchen went off to . . . and she’d know why Gretchen declined the contract. He wanted answers.

Hunter hit the speaker button on his phone. “Eldon?”

“Yes, Mr. Buchanan?” The assistant’s voice was as cool and monotone as ever.

“Bring the car around. I need to go out.”

He waited for Eldon to ask where. To protest. To tell him he was busy and couldn’t drop everything at a moment’s notice. To crack a joke.


But all Eldon said was “Of course.”

Hunter was on edge the entire drive. Traffic was bad this time of day, and he had to bite back his impatience. It wouldn’t do any good to lose his temper at Eldon since he wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow.

Eventually they pulled up in front of Hawkings Conglomorate’s primary office building. “Wait here,” Hunter said in a clipped voice. He got out of the back of the sedan before Eldon could get out to open his door. “I’ll be back shortly.” He slammed the door to the sedan and crossed the sidewalk, dodging pedestrians. Normally he’d tense up, his nerves on edge, waiting for people to stare at his face and flinch. To stagger backward and move out of his way.