Beauty and the Billionaire (Page 39)

Beauty and the Billionaire (Billionaire Boys Club #2)(39)
Author: Jessica Clare

Maybe, like Hunter, she was still figuring out parts of herself.


The roses continued for a week and a half, until one day Gretchen walked into the cafe and saw only one bouquet sitting on the counter. The roses were the deepest, darkest velvety red, and she immediately recognized them—Papa Meilland.

“Well,” Cooper said as she came around to the back of the counter, tying on her apron. “We finally got a note with the roses.”

“We did?” Gretchen perked up, her hands suddenly twitching with want. “Where is it?”

Cooper’s brow furrowed. “How’d you know it was for you?”

“Just a hunch. Now, where’s my letter? Gimme.” She made a grabbing motion at him.

He dropped a cream envelope into her hand. It simply had a large G printed on the front, and the back was sealed. Hastily, she tore the envelope open and was surprised at the sight of the paper inside.

It was soft, yellow with age, and wrinkled. Gretchen sucked in a breath as she carefully removed the folded paper with reverent hands.

“What is that?” Cooper asked, peering over her shoulder. “Looks old.”

“It’s a letter,” Gretchen said in a soft voice. “And it’s very old.” She touched it with reverent fingers, remembering the contents of the letters at Buchanan Manor. “I need a moment in private.”

“Sure,” Cooper told her, giving her a puzzled look.

She raced to the back room and then shut herself into Cooper’s office, sitting at his messy desk. With trembling fingers, she unfolded the letter and began to read.

My lovely Lulabelle,

I never thought a day could seem longer than twenty-four hours. Once, I cursed that the days were so short, for they seemed to rush past. I have found a way, though, to make the day seem interminably long, for the hours to slow to molasses and minutes to crawl past as if unmoving.

I simply need to be parted from you.

I miss you, my darling. I miss you so very much that my heart aches in my breast. I long for you, for your body next to mine. I long to wake up and feel your hair against my cheek, to taste your sweet breath against mine, to hear your warm and happy laughter. I miss your body, of course, but it is your mind and your spirit I miss most of all. It is you who brings the light and warmth into my life. I am cast into darkness without you at my side.

And so I sit, watching the minutes descend into hours, and count the days until you return to my arms. I live for the day that I can see your brilliant smile again, touch your lips to mine, and know that we will never be parted again. I know that day will come soon, and my aching heart is eased at this.

All my love,


Tears pooling in her eyes, Gretchen clutched the letter to her chest. No raunchy words of love this time. No longing for sex. Just a simple, aching loneliness that spoke to her soul. She hadn’t seen this letter before. Had it been at the back of the box that she’d been unable to get to? Had Hunter read through them, thinking of her? Looking for just the right letter to soften her heart?

It had worked. It had worked wonderfully.

She looked over the letter again, touching it with amazed, trembling fingers. She’d ripped open the envelope in her haste and now she regretted that move. She wanted to keep it and press it into her scrapbook like she had with the roses. Gretchen carefully folded the letter and placed it back into the envelope.

There was an address printed in the top left-hand corner. A return address.

Curious, she read it. Then she read it again.

And then she bolted from her seat. Rushing back into the main room of the cafe, she shrugged her jacket back on, winding her scarf around her neck once more. “I have to run out, Cooper.”

He gave her a concerned look, a frown wrinkling his brow. “You coming back?”

“I am. I just need to see something,” she told him, and rushed out the door before he could question her further.

Gretchen raced down the streets of New York City, her heart pounding as she wove through the crowds. SoHo was always busy this time of day, but she didn’t pay attention to anyone. Instead, she was lost in thought, running her thumb over the green embossed return address on the envelope.

She took the subway toward Madison Avenue. Envelope in hand, it took her a few minutes to locate the building, and then she entered, eyes wide, as she read the placard at the front of the office building.

Buchanan Real Estate—4th floor.

He had an office here in the city? She thought he only worked out of his house. In the entire month she’d stayed with him, he hadn’t left it. Mystified, she entered the elevator.

The fourth floor was a bit of a surprise. Not because it wasn’t the Buchanan offices at all—it was—but that the walls seemed to be made entirely of glass. For a man who prized his privacy, this struck her as either bizarre . . . or deliberate. Glass panels displayed the waiting room of the office, with six chairs neatly lined up next to end tables that were covered in real estate magazines. Fresh roses decorated each table, and at the far end was a reception desk. If she headed further down the main hall, the glass walls continued, and she could see straight into Hunter’s office. She touched her fingertips to the glass, staring at the office. It was set up exactly the same as his office at home, right down to the mirrors on the wall, the enormous TV, and the vase of roses at his side.

His desk was empty.

When had he gotten an office here? Had he always had it and she wasn’t aware of it? More questions that she had no answers to. Gretchen paced the hall, not willing to go inside, not quite yet.

A woman appeared out of one of the back rooms and paused at the sight of Gretchen, and then waved enthusiastically, beckoning her in.

With a deep breath, Gretchen pushed open the glass door and smiled.

“Well, hi there, ma’am,” the receptionist said in a thick twang that told Gretchen that she wasn’t from New York or anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon Line. She wore a cheap suit that was a little too ugly to be anything but homemade, and she had freckles going across a snub-nose and rounded cheeks. She also had the palest, most wild corkscrew blonde hair that Gretchen had ever seen. She waved Gretchen in again. “Don’t just stand in the hall like you done lost your britches. We don’t bite in here!”

Gretchen blinked. My God, this girl was . . . country. What was she doing working for Hunter? “Um, hi.” Gretchen gestured at the hallway that she’d been stalking. “I was just, uh, looking for someone.”

“Well, I’m someone,” the girl beamed. “Can I help you find something?”

She held up her envelope. “Is this the Buchanan office?”

“It surely is,” the girl drawled. “My name’s Maylee—that’s all one word, not two. It’s after my Nana and Pepaw,” she said casually, as if these were things you normally tossed out into conversation. “I’m Mr. Buchanan’s secretary. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too. I’m sorry, I’m just . . . is Mr. Buchanan here?”

“Naw. He went to lunch with some fancy-looking guys.” She pulled a Post-it note off her desk and sat down, whirling in her chair. “Gimme your name again and I’ll tell him you stopped by.”

“It’s Gretchen. I—”

“Oh, my lordamercy!” Maylee clapped her hands together in excitement. “Mr. Hunter’s your beau, ain’t he? Oh, my gosh. You are so pretty! Of course you are.”

Gretchen was having a hard time reconciling stiff, proper Hunter with this secretary who seemed straight off the turnip truck. Had he paid for a new assistant who could take care of all of his needs? Maylee was pretty in a disheveled sort of way. Jealousy gnawed at Gretchen. Was she thinking he’d turned over a new leaf when he’d just decided to buy a cheaper model?

“Mr. Hunter’s gonna be so dang sad he missed you,” Maylee continued, scribbling on the Post-it. She stuck it to her monitor, where dozens of other Post-its fluttered. “He makes me call all the flower shops in the city lookin’ for your flowers, you know. Man’s lost his cotton-pickin’ mind over you, if you don’t mind saying so. It’s really cute.”

And just like that, Gretchen blushed. Maybe Maylee wasn’t a replacement after all. She shouldn’t have doubted him. “Do you know what time he’ll be back?”

“No ma’am,” Maylee drawled. “But if you’ll give me your number, I’ll give you a holler when he gets back.”

“That’s okay,” Gretchen said, her lips twitching to contain her smile. “I’ll swing by tomorrow.”

“I’ll be sure and tell Mr. Hunter,” Maylee beamed. As Gretchen turned to leave, she called out, “Y’all have a nice day, now.”

She barely stifled her giggles until she got to the elevator. Well, she had told him to get himself a nicer assistant, but Maylee wasn’t exactly what she had in mind.


The next day, before she stopped into the coffee shop, she headed straight for Hunter’s office. It was just after lunch and she hoped she’d catch him before he left again. She’d chosen her clothing carefully today, too—casual but still sensual. She wore leggings and knee-high leather boots that showed off her long legs, and a draped tunic sweater that clung to her body. She wore a fringed scarf that she’d borrowed from Audrey—who was always perfectly accessorized—and had worn her hair in a soft ponytail, deliberately leaving her bangs and a few tendrils loose. She’d even worn makeup for the man.

Of course, the look was slightly ruined by the peacoat she’d had to toss over the ensemble thanks to the cold weather, but that was okay. She’d strip it off as soon as she got to his office and show him what he’d been missing out on.

As soon as she emerged from the fourth-floor elevator, her breath caught. Hunter was in his office, typing on the computer. He was intent on his screen, and he hadn’t noticed her in the hallway yet.

His scarred side was facing the hallway, exposed for all to see. Was it deliberate? She hadn’t realized his desk was set up so anyone coming up the elevator would see it.

As she stood there studying him, Hunter glanced up. His gaze caught hers, and he slowly colored red even as he got up from his chair.

Her heart began to pound, and she smiled at him, slowly, sweetly, and then opened the door to the main lobby.

“Well, hi there, Ms. Gretchen,” Maylee called cheerfully. This time she was dressed in a lavender plaid suit, her baby-blonde corkscrew hair pulled up into a messy, frizzy knot. “You caught Mr. Hunter in the office today. Ain’t that somethin’?”

“It sure is,” Gretchen said, smiling. She gestured at the door to his office. “Mind if I go on in?”

“’Course not. Lemme just ring Mr. Hunter.” Maylee picked up the phone.

“He saw me come in,” Gretchen said.

“I know, but I’m s’posed to ring everyone, Ms. Gretchen. Mr. Hunter says it’s the rules.” She held the phone to her ear, beaming. “Mr. Hunter? Ms. Gretchen’s here to see you.” After a moment, she nodded. “You can go in now.”