Beauty and the Billionaire (Page 7)
Beauty and the Billionaire (Billionaire Boys Club #2)(7)
Author: Jessica Clare
Was she going to be fired from this job before she’d even started it? Just because she’d been bored and curious? Shit.
Damn it all. That had not been how he’d wanted to meet Gretchen.
Hunter had planned it all carefully in his mind. He’d leave her some friendly notes, letting her know that he had an interest in the project he’d cultivated for her. He’d meet her in a well-shadowed room and let her have the impression that his face was not that bad. After a few chance meetings, he’d reveal to her his face and give her a chance to consider it in stronger light. Not daylight. Daylight was too harsh and unforgiving. Then, maybe when she was comfortable with his . . . disfigurements, they could move past it and be friends.
He’d not intended for her to see him. Naked. Fully exposed in more ways than one. His hands twitched, needing his pruning shears. Time in the greenhouse working on his roses always calmed him. Perhaps a few hours of tending to them would give him a chance to calm down and digest how things had already gone horribly wrong.
Hunter stared at the empty walls of his bedroom. No mirrors adorned the walls. He didn’t want to see his reflection staring back at him. Not in this personal space. His hand touched his newly shaved chin, and he thought for a moment, trying to see his face through her eyes. All he could see was one normal side of his face, and the other hideously distorted and scarred. The finger he was missing. The lacerated white lines that remained on his arm and chest.
Hunter dressed quickly and strode out of his room. Try as he might, he couldn’t get out of his mind the horrified little gasp she’d given at the sight of him. She’d seen everything. His scars had been laid open.
And she’d been revolted.
Gretchen nervously deleted and undeleted the last paragraph of chapter thirteen, chewing on her lip. Any moment now, that tall jerk was going to show up and ask them to politely leave. Or hey, since it was Eldon, it probably wouldn’t be so politely.
And then what would Gretchen tell her agent? Tell Audrey? I sort of got a look at the owner’s junk when I went exploring, and he’s not a fan of being ogled. That would go over well. God, how could she have messed this up so quickly? She hadn’t even been here a full day yet. She glanced over at Audrey, but her sister was curled up on the bed, flipping through a magazine and glancing occasionally at her phone.
Next to her computer, Igor flicked his wiry little tail and whacked her on the wrist with it. She idly reached over and rubbed her fingers on his soft head. She had zero interest in working on more of sexist Astronaut Bill and his twerpy ladylove. She wanted to go look around. She wanted to take a good look at those letters she’d been sent here to transcribe and somehow turn into a book.
More than that, she wanted to find that nak*d man she’d spied on and apologize for gawking at him.
Maybe she could introduce herself. He had to be Buchanan. She could have asked Audrey about him, but then Audrey would be giving her suspicious looks and wanting to know just why Gretchen was so curious about the man. Gretchen didn’t want to field questions about him. He was a dirty little secret she was intrigued by, and didn’t want Audrey to ruin it for her with her disapproval. So she said nothing.
She thought of the curious way his face had been twisted on one side. She wondered what would have caused such—
At the knock on the door, she jumped.
Audrey sat up, swinging her legs off the side of the bed and tossing aside her magazine. “Don’t move,” she told Gretchen. “I’ll get it.”
Gretchen remained seated, but her gaze was glued to the door, peeking at it over her computer screen.
Sure enough, the sinister figure of Eldon lurked in the doorway. “Ms. Petty.”
“Good afternoon,” Audrey said coolly. “Can I help you with something?”
Oh, no, Gretchen thought, unable to look away. Mr. Buchanan had complained about her snooping. He’d told that horrible butler that Gretchen had seen his junk, and now he wanted her gone. This was where her spying would be laid out and confessed, and she’d be embarrassed in front of her cool, competent sister and the unpleasant butler. She was going to be fired before she’d even begun. She just knew it.
“I’m here to show the other Ms. Petty the project she will be working on, if now is a good time.” Eldon’s lean face turned in her direction, waiting.
Not . . . fired?
Really? She sat for a minute, utterly surprised. Why had Mr. Buchanan not sent her away? She’d seen him in his birthday suit.
“Is now a good time?” Eldon repeated, his voice flat with dislike.
“A good time?” Was it ever. Anything to get away from writing. Gretchen snapped her laptop shut with an almost gleeful air. “Now is perfect. Audrey, can you keep an eye on Igor for me?”
“He’s a cat,” Audrey said with a hint of amusement, walking back to the bed and picking up the magazine. “Exactly how much watching does he need?”
“Just make sure he doesn’t eat a tassel or something,” Gretchen called out, heading out of the room and shutting the door behind her. She couldn’t help but smile at Eldon’s disapproving face. She’d thought for sure that he’d come here to send her away.
“Lead on, my friend,” Gretchen said cheerfully. “I can’t wait to see this project.”
The butler began to walk down the hall, glancing over his shoulder at Gretchen as if to reassure himself that she was following him. “Mr. Buchanan wanted me to set proper expectations for you in regards to this project.”
“Proper expectations? I think I hear a lecture incoming.” She barely resisted trailing her fingers along a lovely mahogany table. Pretty sure that wouldn’t meet the proper expectations.
“This will be a quite lengthy project,” Eldon droned in his dry voice. “It should take you at least a month to catalog and go through the letters.”
“I’m fine with that.”
“The letters are very old and should be handled with care.”
“Duh. I’ll be careful.”
He gave her a scathing look. “Further, they are not to be removed from the premises. They are also not to be photocopied or scanned in. Mr. Buchanan is very concerned about the privacy of the project and the family’s wishes.”
“Whatever you say,” Gretchen told him. “I’m just the hired help. You just point me at the letters and I’ll get to work.”
There was a wealth of unpleasantness in that one word, but Gretchen was determined not to let it bother her. “So the letters are from the Buchanan family’s archives? Is that correct?”
“I am not at liberty to discuss things,” Eldon said, his voice seeming to get even stiffer.
“Well, can I ask Mr. Buchanan about them? I—”
“Mr. Buchanan is busy. He is not going to be involved. Do not disturb him with your questions.”
“And that’s fine, but I just thought that since—”
“You are not to bother Mr. Buchanan!” He turned a baleful gaze upon her. “He is a very busy man and does not want to be disturbed. Your being on location does not mean he is at your disposal.”
Whoa, what had crawled up his ass? Had Buchanan said something to him? Gretchen raised her hands in a defensive posture. “I wasn’t suggesting that. I was just going to say—”
“If you are not interested in reviewing the project, Ms. Petty, I can let the publisher know that we are in need of another writer.”
“If you’d let me finish a sentence,” Gretchen snapped, “you would know that that is not what I’m saying at all. Just show me the damn letters.”
She half-expected him to snap back at her, but he only smiled.
“They are right this way,” Eldon said, gesturing. His voice was as cool as ice all over again, as if he didn’t have to try to be nice now that he’d gotten his way. “Please follow me.”
It was apparently time for a new plan. If she wanted to say hello—and apologize—to Mr. Buchanan, she’d have to see him when Eldon wasn’t around to glare at her. Maybe a late-night visit?
Nah, that’d probably just be weird. He’d think she was creeping on him.
They moved down a long hall decorated in seemingly old-fashioned gilt and blue furnishings. Gretchen made a mental note of this, because she’d be damned if she was going to ask Eldon to show her where the room was again. Too bad she hadn’t brought her phone, since a GPS would be needed for this enormous building. So she noted the surroundings. Blue sofa, old picture with ridiculously ornate frame, case full of Fabergé eggs along the hallway wall, more blue settees, a golden statue, and an old oil painting of the ugliest man she had ever seen (also dressed in blue), wearing a powdered wig.
Then, they turned into a sunlit hallway, and Eldon paused in front of a pair of wooden double doors.
The butler glanced back at Gretchen. “I don’t think I need to remind you to keep these doors shut at all times. The library has many old and priceless books, and the hall here is quite sunny and could age them.”
“Of course,” she murmured, resisting the urge to shove his hands off the doorknobs and sweep the doors open herself. For a moment, she felt like a kid at Christmas. The house had been spectacular so far. What would the library be like?
Eldon pushed the doors open and stepped aside, and Gretchen stepped in, looking around in wonder.
The room was large, though that had been expected. At least as long as a basketball court, the room was two stories, with a flat, painted ceiling of a bright blue mural of dancing Greek characters. The room itself was floor-to-ceiling rosewood, shiny and gleaming. Row upon row of neatly ordered books lined the walls, and there were a pair of curling staircases on the end of each side of the room. Wrought-iron railings lined the second floor, and dotted amongst the endless rows of books were objets d’art. A small piano was delicately situated in the far end of the room near a few more dainty settees, a portrait hung off a decorative easel in another corner. A massive Victorian globe held a place of honor near the large fireplace.
It was a room of wonder and imagination. Gretchen was utterly delighted at the sight of it. Holy crap. I get to work in here for the next month? But she kept her cool and asked, “So this is where I’ll be working?”
“Indeed.” Eldon sniffed. “I should like to remind you that nothing is to be removed from the library—”
“And please do not touch anything you do not feel you need for your project. Some of these items are quite valuable—”
“And then I must remind you—”
“Not to open the doors and let the sunlight in because the books will turn to dust. Right.” He’d told her that not five minutes ago. She wasn’t likely to forget. “Do you want to warn me not to feed Mogwai after midnight?”
He stared at her.
“Never mind. Eighties joke.” Gretchen put her hands on her hips, trying not to show her excitement. She couldn’t wait to explore this place, but that wouldn’t happen with Eldon hovering. She needed to act like this was no big deal, and as soon as his back was turned, then she could do all the leisurely exploring she wanted. Time to seem bored.