The Billionaire & His CastawayBy: Alexa Riley
(An Alexa Riley Promises Book 3)
Chapter One Madeline
“Is it always this dead around here?” I ask the bartender, glancing at the empty restaurant as I take another sip of my bubbly strawberry drink. Maybe I should’ve gone to the Italian place instead, but this one is supposed to be the best restaurant at the resort. Looking around at all the empty chairs, it makes me think maybe the website lied.
“Just a slow week,” he says, drawing my eyes back to him. Just like everyone else around here he has an incredible tan, making his bright blue eyes seem even brighter in the dimly lit restaurant.
I guess working on an island would give anyone a tan. I had lain by the pool half the day and just turned red, but luckily it faded fast and I wasn’t burnt. I never tan. I go from pale white to cherry red and then back to pale again.
“I noticed the pool was empty, too,” I tell him. In fact, everything has been kind of dead. I’d only got in this morning, but there doesn’t really seem to be anyone around except for people who work here. Maybe that’s why they’re giving out free trips to anyone who would participate in a free survey--a survey that had taken me twenty minutes to fill out. It had the silliest and most ridiculous questions, but I wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. The resort might be deserted, but it’s beautiful.
“No one to keep you company?” he teases, leaning over the bar and shooting me a crooked smile.
A little pink hits my cheeks when I realize he’s flirting with me.
“Unless you count my book or the poolside server, then no.” I smile back.
I’m not used to being flirted with. I’d gone to an all-girls liberal arts college in New York, graduating only three months ago. Afterwards, my brothers forced me back home. The four of them own a private security firm together, and men aren’t allowed within ten feet of me. Normally it’s not a problem because my brothers look kind of scary unless you know them. All of them have been in some form of service at one time or another. They’re probably losing their shit right now after finding out I’m not tucked away at home. I can’t help but giggle internally as I think about how I gave them the slip. Finally, a point for the little sister.
“Well I’m off tomorrow so if you--”
“She’s busy,” I hear an all-too-familiar voice say from behind me, making my heart skip a beat. Turning my head slowly, I see the man who stars in my dreams every night. He’s been there for the last three months, since I first met his arrogant, handsome self at a fundraiser. It was a charity event one of my brothers had taken me to. They had an extra ticket since their firm was covering the security.
The event’s honorary guest was none other than Kenton Monroe, one of the richest men in New York. No, scratch that, one of the richest men in the world. I’d only known that because of my brothers. I don’t pay much attention to people of wealth or the society pages in New York. It isn’t my scene, but in all fairness, I don’t really have a scene. And now that I’ve graduated, I feel even more adrift.
It didn’t take much to realize how powerful he was. Everyone in the room seemed to notice him. Then his eyes had trained on me with a look of distaste and his jaw had hardened. His eyes narrowed--exactly like the look he’s giving me right now. Only this time, his eyes are on the bartender.
“Mr. Monroe. I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t know she was one of yours.”
One of his? How many does the man have? Probably a lot with how many women fell all over him the night of the fundraiser. Those women looked nothing like me. They actually looked like they belonged there and hadn’t pulled a discount dress out of the back of their closet. Worse, they didn’t get the look that I’d gotten.
“I’m not his,” I finally protest, catching my bearings. I’m so far from his. I will never be his, no matter what my body wants, regardless of that fact that my brain keeps pulling him to the surface every time I close my eyes.
“Keep telling yourself that, sweets,” Kenton says smoothly as he finally pulls his dark blue eyes to mine. I freeze as he leans in and kisses my bare shoulder. I move away slightly, pretending I don’t like it, even though my body wants to lean in to the soft touch.
“Stop calling me that,” I grit out as he slides onto the bar stool next to mine, casually throwing one of his arms along the back of my seat. His other arm rests on the bar in front of me. It’s as if he’s trying to cage me in. If anyone walked into this area of the restaurant, I don’t think they’d even be able to see me. His size and his position block me from view.
“I’ll eat whatever she’s having, and I’ll take my normal drink,” he tells the bartender, ignoring what I just said.
I hate that stupid name. It makes me feel young, and that’s not why I came here. I came to have a little adventure and to maybe finally lose my virginity. I don’t want to be sweet. I want to be sexy. Maybe even sinful. Or any other “S” word that makes me feel more like a woman. Not just the Caldwell brothers’ sweet little sister.
“What are you doing here? Did my brothers send you? What did they say?” I fire off the questions in agitation. They can’t make me leave. “I can’t believe them. I’m 22 years old, for God’s sake. Oh, just wait until I get back. I’m getting my own place. See how much they like that,” I huff out.
A slow smile starts to spread across Kenton’s face, making him look even more stupidly handsome. A man should not get to look that good, and look good he does. From his short black hair and dark blue eyes, to his large, muscular frame, he looks like Adonis come to life. Isn’t he supposed to be, like, sitting behind a desk, not lifting weights or whatever men do to look like that? Oh God, I bet he doesn’t even have to try. He’s just built like that.
“I actually own the place,” he says with a little laugh, as if he finds my little tantrum funny.
I roll my eyes at that. Or course he owns the place. I would be surprised, but he’s so rich, it’s easy to believe he owns just about everything he touches. He leans in a little more, and I try to pretend I don’t notice his closeness. I pick up my drink and take a few big gulps. The bubbles burn the back of my throat.
“Of course you do.” I try to look anywhere but at him as I put my glass back down on the bar with a hard click.
“I knew that wouldn’t impress you. Not even in the least.” His words are lazy, and I can tell he’s saying them with a smile, but I keep my eyes on the bartender as he makes his way back over with Kenton’s drink. He sets it down and tells us our food will be out shortly.
“Stop looking at him,” he growls next to my ear, making me jump. I finally pull my eyes to his, and I can’t read his expression.
“Do they know?” I ask, wanting to know if my brothers sent him here to check on me because he’s close to them. I wonder if they want to make sure, once again, that a man isn’t within ten feet of me. But Kenton is. He’s so close I can feel the heat of his body. Smell the sun on his skin.
“I’m sure it’s only a matter of time, but no, I didn’t tell them, if that’s what you’re asking.”
I relax a little at that. I’d left them a note telling them I was going away for a few days and not to worry. But nothing I could’ve done would make them not worry. I’m their little sister by a good ten years, a whoops my parents had late in life.
Their overprotectiveness was cute when I was younger, but it took on a whole new form when our parents died. I was fifteen and had been left in their care. It would be a lie if I said I didn’t sometimes like it. It’s sweet, and I know they’re only trying to protect me, but it has been starting to wear me down since I left school.
“Is there something you need? Or can I eat in peace?” I cock my head towards him.
I still can’t get a feel for him. The first few times I’d met him, he made me feel out of place, like he didn’t want me around. Then he’d started trying to talk to me. I just gave him the same icy coldness he’d given me, and I actually think that might have blown up in my face. Now he acts like he wants a piece of me. Boys want what they can’t have, and the saying rang loud in my head. It’s ringing now, and for some reason, I want to hold on to it, because Kenton is cocky. He looked at me like I didn’t belong, but I wouldn’t give him the time of day, and now he’s interested. This feels like a small piece of revenge, and I’m probably enjoying it a little too much.
“Can’t I enjoy the company of a beautiful woman?” He gives me that half smirk again.
“I’m sure there are plenty of beautiful women to keep you company, Mr. Monroe, but I’m not among them.” I run my eyes over him. “And you’re not my type,” I lie, and I feel his body stiffen around me.
I don’t even know what my type is, regardless of what my late-night dreams tell me.
The bartender comes back, placing our plates in front of us. “Can I get a to-go box, please?” I ask him. He nods and heads towards the back once again. I’m not up for a verbal sparring match with a man like Kenton.
“Don’t go.” His tone is different now. It’s soft and sweet and almost sounds like a plea.
I push my stool back and stand, and he makes no move to get up himself. His arm is still on the bar in front of me, but the other’s fallen off the back of my chair.
“I don’t know what’s going on here. One minute you’re kind of a jerk and dismiss me, then the next you're doing this weird flirt-with-me thing,” I say, shaking my head. At least, I think it’s flirting. My experience with men is almost zero, after all. “Either way, it doesn’t matter. It’s not happening. This,” I motion between us, “would never work. I mean, think about the first night we met. You could barely stand the sight of me.”
“That’s not true. I-”
I hold my hand up, cutting him off.
“Let me just be frank so we can stop this. My brothers work for you, and we keep running into each other. I don’t want it to be weird, and I don’t want them to lose your business, but you and I can’t happen. You’d break my heart.” I grip the edge of the bar, my nails digging into the wood. “When I fall in love, it’s going to be with a sweet man who doesn't scare the bejesus out of me.”
I stress love instead of sex, because for some reason I don't want him to know I’m a virgin. I want to lose my virginity to someone who isn’t going to break my heart in the process. Thankfully, the bartender comes back at the end of my little speech and starts packing up my food. Kenton just stares at me while I just watch the bartender box up the food and grab the bag.
“I got it,” Kenton says, grabbing the check from the bar top.
“Thank you.” I give him a tight smile, like a part of me isn’t aching from shutting down what could’ve been. That I hadn’t thought for a minute that maybe, just maybe, I could spend a few sexy nights with this man in paradise. But the aftermath would be too painful. I’m just like he said--sweet. I have no idea how to begin to be sexy.
I’d have to see him again in New York. And what would it be like if, after all that, I’d have to see him with another woman? Heck, I’d been jealous that night at the charity event and we’d said maybe two words to each other.
“It’s always a pleasure,” he says, standing and moving his own chair out a little so I can easily get by.
“Goodnight, Mr. Monroe.”