The Billionaire's Heart (His Submissive, Part Four)

By: Ava Claire


Colors swirled and weaved across the ancient canvas, telling a story as powerful today as when it was first created.

A man in a busy Hawaiian shirt stepped up beside me, snapping a picture. “Wow. Bello.” He hustled away without another word, off to fall in love with another painting.

I turned back to the vibrant swirls, nodding my head in silent agreement. Wow was right. Wow that I was in the Galleria dell'Accademia, surrounded by art spanning centuries. Wow that I'd spent the morning with Jacob Whitmore, the billionaire CEO of Whitmore and Creighton, playing the gawking tourist as we took in Venice.

Caging the butterflies was impossible when he'd ignored his buzzing cell phone, focusing all his attention on me. But whoever was at the other end spent three hours trying and failing to reach him and finally, I insisted he answer it. I used the time to catch my breath because a smile, the slightest touch from him, was enough to send electricity sprawling all over me. Jacob was finally letting me in, letting me see the man beneath the hard as nails image he broadcast to the world. He occupied every part of me, leaving nothing but a single truth.

I love him.

I cleared my throat and turned from the painting. There was something about the red strokes that was visceral. Passionate. It evoked emotions that would do nothing but complicate things. I loved him—it was as obvious as the nose on my face, but guys like Jacob Whitmore didn't say those words. To love was to show weakness.

I glanced down at the museum map and when my eyes shot back up, a woman stood firmly in my path. My brain formed the words ‘excuse me’ but nothing came out when I recognized familiar green eyes, ripe with contempt.

"Rachel?" I said, taking two steps back.

The sound of her name garnered a scowl as she pulled the visor of her hat down a few inches. Decked in a non-descript white tee, jeans, and floral flats, she was a long way from the glamorous Rachel Laraby that had the rest of the world enamored. Unfortunately, even dressed down she was breathtaking. Eyes glittered in the shadow of her baseball cap; round, plump lips sang even without the sheen of lipstick; curves taunted. Pangs of self-consciousness burned even though I knew the summer dress I wore flattered my lithe shape. She just had that effect.

"What are you doing here?" I asked, already knowing the answer. Why else would she be here? "Rachel, if this is about Jacob-"

"Shh!" she hissed, glancing about nervously. "I need to talk to you. Privately."

I raised a brow. "Say what?"

"Do you have a minute so we can go somewhere and talk?"

She couldn’t seriously believe I wanted to go anywhere with her after she made it obvious that she wanted to take me down. “No, Rachel. I don’t have a minute.”

“I’m wearing a ball cap for Christ’s sake. Trust me, I wouldn’t be dressed like this and talking to you unless it was really important.” She saw that I was seconds from just plowing past, so she gave me a long, pleading look. “Please, Leila.”

"You've given me hell since the minute we me. What could we possibly have to say to each other?" I said, not wavering. Well, not until I saw the muscles in her face tighten and she snapped her mouth shut.

Whoa. Was Rachel Laraby actually holding back a quip? This was getting stranger by the second.

"What I have to say needs to be said.” She took a step closer. “I'm trying to do you a favor, Leila."

I looked at her incredulously, remembering our last exchange when she admitted to setting me up with the paparazzi. She wanted to help me alright—right over a cliff. "Yeah..no thanks." I moved around her, pausing only when she gripped my elbow. I let my gaze drop to her hand then slowly creep back up until I had her in my sights. When our eyes met, she released me immediately.

"Wise choice,” I said icily. “We really don’t have anything to discuss. If Jacob is no longer overseeing your events, neither am I."

"This isn't about any event," she snapped. "This is about Jacob."

“Of course it is.”

“Not about me and Jacob.”

“Uh huh.” I rolled my eyes. “You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t believe you. Or want to spend one more second talking to you.”

I was all but ready to leave her in my dust until she jutted her chin out defiantly. The odd nervousness she’d displayed over the past few minutes melted away like someone had suddenly screeched “Cut!” She rolled her shoulders back and her stance went from unsure to confident. Her bright eyes took on the self-righteous glint that I knew all too well.

"You'll want to give me a few minutes of your time, dear,” she said with her trademark condescension. “If you think having ass shots all over the internet was bad, just you wait until the world finds out about Jacob's bdsm contracts with his assistants."

My mouth fell open. The tourists and museum goers around us chirped and bustled, but the only thing I heard was ‘bdsm’ echoing over and over. I didn’t even bother with how she figured it out. At this point, it really didn’t matter.

She knew.

Say something. Act like you don’t know what she’s talking about. Say something, Lay! But I was frozen. Worried a single word, a single movement, would set her off.

"Good." Her features were as firm as the marble statues standing a few feet away. "Thank you for not insulting me by playing stupid."

I glanced over her shoulder, looking for my lifeline. I saw Jacob near a cluster of paintings in the far corner, head bowed in concentration.

I returned my attention to Rachel, searching for some tell-tale sign that she was bluffing. I rushed over the vindictive curve of her lips, the stubborn set of her jaw--all of that was old news. Her eyes wouldn’t lie.

My heart jumped to my throat.

She'd do it.

Without hesitation.

"Bathroom." A victorious smile sliced across her face. "Now."

I followed her, weaving in and out of the crowd, the colors bleeding into one another. We stepped into the expansive restroom and I expected her to scan it to see if we were alone, but she just walked to the sink.

“Couldn’t fit enough antibacterial in my disguise to do any good.” She crinkled her nose. “Do you know how many people have brushed up against me in the past fifteen minutes?”

I didn’t respond, chewing on my lip to fight the urge to remind her that normal people were the reason she got to live like a queen.

She stopped washing her hands, clearly surprised I didn't take the bait. "No bleeding heart comment to make, Leila?"

She had me right where she wanted me. Of course I’d play nice when she had my back against the wall. "No."

"Good." She pulled off her ball cap, brown locks spilling from its confines. Anyone else would have had a bad case of hat hair, but Rachel's looked professionally tousled. Still she toyed with it, trying to get it to fall even more perfectly.

"From the ‘holy shit’ that was written all over your face,” she said after a moment, “I take it you signed his little contract and agreed to be his sex slave?"

"Sex slave?" I said indignantly, red flushing my cheeks. "I'm no one's sex slave."

"Sex slave, submissive." She shrugged. "Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. When you were together, it was all because you signed the dotted line, right?"

My mind shot back to Jacob’s hands on me. He played my body like an instrument, making it sing in ways I never knew were possible. To an outsider, maybe the idea of submission was so black and white. Hell, at first, even I was leery.

But that was before Jacob opened my eyes. It was more than domination and control. It was spiritual. Giving him my body, my soul, my heart--nothing had ever been so simple. So right.

She reached in her back pocket and pulled out a small tube of lip gloss and popped the lid. She smoothed the applicator over her lips then rubbed them together for what felt like an eternity.

"So this is what’s going to happen." She pushed the tube back in her pocket and faced me, perching on the edge of the sink. "Jacob is gonna take you to lunch. Or dinner." She shook her head, rethinking it. "Nah, lunch. I can tell from your shade of pale that you won't be able to sit on this until dinner time."

I watched her gather her ebony hair into a low bun and tuck it back into her ball cap just as an elderly woman with two kids shuffled in the bathroom.

"After ordering, you're going to excuse yourself,” she continued, not even noticing them. “And that's all you have to do to keep your…” She scrunched her forehead, trying to find the right word. “boss from losing every ounce of respect he's built since he strutted out of business school."

The older woman was chatting with the little girl not in the stall. Even though I had a feeling our conversation didn't even make their radar, I leaned in toward Rachel, trying to be as confidential as possible. Being so close that I could smell the sugary notes of her perfume made my stomach lurch. The desire to do her harm raced through my mind

"I don’t think you cared about him at all.” I stared at her intently, waiting for the blow to land. “Not if you want to ruin him like this.”

Her mouth opened and closed and for a second, she faltered.

"We can figure this out without involving anyone else," I said quickly, latching onto the moment of weakness. We both cared about Jacob and as jilted as she felt, there was obviously a part of her that didn’t want to hurt him. Why else was guilt burning in her eyes?

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