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Her Second Billionaire

Her Billionaires, #2

Author(s): Julia Kent

From New York Times bestselling author Julia Kent comes the second in the Her Billionaires series…

SHE DREW A LINE WITH A ONE NIGHT STAND

When Laura Michaels got one hot firefighter pinging her for a date after joining a popular online dating service, she thought she had won the lottery. A night with Dylan Stanwyck, professional (firefighting) hunk and former model, had been too much. Fearful her curves would turn him off like so many other guys, her pleasant surprise turned to white-hot passion as she broke her own rule and slept with him on the first date.

That turned to regret when she awoke in the wee hours of the morning and found pictures of a hot, buff surfer-type woman with Dylan plastered all over his bedroom. Taking the hint, she made the walk of shame home, deleted him from her contacts and chalked it up to experience.

To her shock, within hours a new guy - Mike Pine, a ski instructor and marathon runner with a body and face like an actor in a superhero movie - messaged her and asked her out. Lightning struck twice in 24 hours! Laura was incredulous but, emboldened by encouragement from her best friend, Josie, she took the plunge and accepted the date.

HE WANTS TO BE LOVED ON HIS OWN

Mike likes simple things. Skiing. Running. Being outside. Uncomplicated love. Good food. For nearly ten years he, Dylan and Jill had a simple love that was achingly easy on the inside, and oh, so complicated from the outside. It worked, though, and made him whole - until Jill's lymphoma diagnosis and her early death.

What he and Dylan had never expected was what came more than a year after Jill's death: an inheritance. From her family's trust fund. More than $1 billion each, with a perpetual income that made everything go from simple to chaotic.

What Laura doesn't know is that Dylan and Mike are roommates. More than roommates. And they are looking for a third in their relationship. More than a third...but Mike has something to prove, first, and snagging this first date with her is just the beginning.

This title is published by Prosaic Press and distributed by Untreed Reads.

Excerpt


 Laura walked over to the coffee maker, put the basket in, dumped in some grounds and started what she knew was going to be the first of many cups of coffee today. As promised, Josie arrived within five minutes, barreling through the front door and plopping down her suitcase-sized purse on the kitchen table, eyes ablaze with curiosity.

"You slut!" Josie said it with a tone of admiration, not condemnation, and the expression on her face was so comical it made Laura burst into laughter. 

"Well, thank you, I guess." 

"No, no, I just mean, damn. So, how does this work? What the hell happened with the firefighter?”

“He's married. Or has a girlfriend.” Josie's face fell, shifting from eager curiosity to self-righteous anger on Laura's behalf. What a great friend. Laura almost laughed at how bulldoggish Josie looked.

“How do you know?”

“Because I woke up in his bed at three in the morning and there were pictures of her everywhere. It wasn't hard to figure out.”

“Maybe it was his sister?” Josie asked, her voice going up high, as if hopeful and as if there was a snowball's chance in hell it was true.

“In a bikini at the beach? Being kissed by him? Uh, no. Unless she's Angelina Jolie and he routinely tongue-kisses his sister – ”

“OK, ewww. Point taken. So the guy is a slimeball and took your home while his girlfriend's out of town. Fucker.” She rubbed Laura's shoulder. “How did you handle it?”

“I woke up, saw the pictures, freaked out on the inside but stayed quiet, got dressed and did the walk of shame home.” Laura gulped a hot mouthful of coffee down.

“So you sneak home after ditching a guy in his bed, after sleeping with him within what? Three hours, four – okay, four hours of knowing him. You find out he has a girlfriend, with pictures of her plastered all over his room, so you decide you're going to come home and write him off and...now you have a date with another guy?” Josie's expression was, to say the least, comical. It was like a graphic of a “what the fuck” emoticon. 

Only in real life.

“It is pretty freaking amazing,” Laura agreed, nodding absentmindedly as she added two spoons of sugar to her coffee. She hadn't consumed coffee with sugar since tenth grade. Since returning home from her date, though, she'd been doing a lot of out-of-character things, including dating two men on the same day.

“Spill it.”

“I came home, was about to shower, and this guy IM'd me on the dating site. I had just blocked Dylan, actually, and made sure he wasn't in my 'Favorites' anymore. So then Mike – ”

“Suddenly some guy pops up in the chat window on this website and asks you out?" 

“Yes.”

“Worth it?” That was code for whether he was attractive.

“He looks like that actor who played Thor in the movie.”

Josie's jaw dropped. “Not fair! When do I get Captain America hitting on me?”

Laura laughed and finished her coffee. She started to tremble inside, the urge uncontrollable. It was all too much, too intense, and spelling it out for her best friend was making it all too real.

“What's he do for a living?”

“Ski instructor,” Laura mumbled as she hurried to fill her mouth with more coffee and delay the interrogation. Josie rolled her eyes.

Her friend poured herself another cup of coffee, glanced at the clock and said, "Oh shit, I'm late for work, but I don't care, this is, this is – this is awesome! This is great and way, way better than any movie. Plus I have a front seat view!" They both winced at each other and Josie added, “Uh, you know what I mean. Not literally.” She shuddered.

"I'm so glad that I'm meeting your entertainment needs," Laura retorted. 

"Come on, what kind of life do I have? I haven't had sex in seven months. I have to live vicariously through you."

Laura snorted, "Well, it serves you right after years of doing it through you. It's only fair." 

Josie hung her head in mock shame. "Well, yeah, okay, fair enough, but lay off the years comment. I haven't gone through that many men." 

“I beg to dif – ”

“Shut your whore mouth!” Josie threw half an English muffin at Laura's head and, with catlike precision, she dodged it, both women howling with laughter.

Laura paused, thought for a moment, and said, "You know, you can open your own profile and see what pops up. To solve that seven month problem you've got going on there.” She gestured vaguely at Josie's torso.

"Oh, I've seen what pops up. You know the phrase, 'shit floats'?"

Laura just laughed. Ouch. Then again, Josie's last date had been from an online dating site. Turned out to be a sixty-year-old neocon Tea Party activist who used a Groupon for dinner and made Josie pay her half before the coupon. Capitalism at its best – he'd made money off their date. And all Josie had to remind her was a lovely restraining order when the guy wouldn't leave her alone.

"So when is the date?" 

"Tonight." 

"Tonight?" 
"Well yeah, right after work. Mike says there's enough daylight to make the climb in ninety minutes.”

“The climb?”

“We're hiking. One of those hills at the state park outside of town.” 

If Josie rolled her eyes any harder they'd pop out and wander down the hallway out into the street.

“He hikes, too?”

“He's a triathlete.” Laura coughed, the unveiling increasingly ridiculous. Was any of this really happening?

“So wait a minute, Mr. Ski Instructor Gorgeous Triathlete Thor Lookalike chats with you for a couple minutes this morning and already tonight, you,” Josie looked her up and down as if surveying her from hair down to toes, “who are about as athletic as a slug, are going on a hike to the top of one of the biggest hills outside of the city where you will eaten to death by mosquitoes, you will become sweaty and ridiculously tired and then…”

“You're so flattering,” Laura muttered.

“What? You’re gonna what? Climb a mountain, Laura? You have a heart attack when you can't find the remote and have to actually stand up to change the channel.” That gave Laura a reason to pause. What the hell was she going to do? By the time she met up with Mike it’d be six at night. He said it was a ninety minute climb to the top. Granted, it was summer so there was plenty of sunlight until nine or so. But what had she gotten herself into? Did she even own hiking boots?

Josie continued, “Do you even have any shoes that are going to work with any kind of an outfit for climbing a mountain?” 

Laura just stared at her as if she’d been reading her mind. “I guess I’ll have to figure that out. All I know is I’m kind of in a super-emotional state right now, Josie. I got an unsolicited chat yesterday morning from a hot firefighter. Went out with him to one of the trendiest restaurants in town and ended up in his bed. When I woke up, I was surrounded with pictures of a women who looked like she was a combination of a beach volleyball player and a surfer. Which I'm not. Ever. At all. It will take me four lifetimes to ever be like that. I slumped out of there and then – boom! – I come home and there's a chat from another guy. I, I don't even have time to think. I don't even know what to I'm supposed to think. All I know is I'm just saying yes to it all. I'm saying yes to life, I'm saying no to doubt and I'm just grabbing the brass ring and – ”

Josie interrupted her. “And you're throwing out the clichés, like you're talking a mile a minute, you won't throw out the baby with the bath water, you aren't going to count your chickens before they've hatched, like you're ...” 

“Oh, shut up.” 

Josie stopped and put her hand on Laura's arm. “Just be careful.” 

“Oh, no, it's fine. I've got condoms.” 

“No, that's not what I'm talking about. You... I just don't want your heart broken again. You deserve – you deserve everything that's going on right now. You certainly deserve to be able to fuck two hot guys in twenty-four hours.”

“I'm not gonna do that.”

“Well,” Josie wiggled her eyebrows, “I would.” 

“Yeah, I know you would.”

“But I'm not you, Laura. And I'm just saying, just be careful with that heart of yours. You – you know what I mean.” 

Laura sighed. “Yeah, I know what you mean.” She squared her shoulders, took in a deep breath, let it out. A nice cleansing breath. “I'm saying yes. I'm saying yes.”

“Great. Will you buy coffee this time on our way to work? I really need a triple latte.” 

“What?” Laura shook her head as if clearing it. What was Josie talking about?

“You said you're saying yes. Say yes to buying me an overpriced coffee. Say yessssssssss.....”

She waved Josie off and got out of the chat window and did what every woman does in the twenty-first century after being contacted by a guy from an online dating website. She Googled him, just as she had Googled Dylan. 

“Wow. What a strange set of results, Josie. Check this out.” Her friend craned over Laura's shoulder to see the screen. His name appeared over and over, followed by a bunch of numbers. Some sort of times, like a race? Wait. The Tri-state Marathon. The Sunshine Regional Triathlon. Oh, my God. He wasn't kidding. 

He really was a triathlete. More than that – he was a steady, longtime triathlete. This wasn't some guy who did it once for bragging rights.

She knew that guys could shine her on, that people lied in online dating sites and they often talked about being athletic which was code for I watch TV on Sundays when the football game is on as an excuse to eat wings. 

But this guy was the real deal. Page after page – she had to go twelve pages in before she found anything other than some race time. By looking at the dates this guy had been doing this for at least the past ten years. Then she found a ski resort page. He worked at the ski resort. That's what he told her, so he had been telling the truth. He was a ski instructor and first aid person. Interesting. 

That was as different from her life as you could possibly get. Same with Dylan.

She pushed aside thoughts of Dylan. Dylan was, as far as she was concerned, off her radar screen. He may still be lingering on her skin in that deep, sensitive part of her belly, and the scent of him might still be on her sweater – and maybe in the crook of her elbow, and behind her earlobe and – 

Oh stop it, Laura, just stop it. The guy had a girlfriend. He was trolling the online dating sites, probably just to find a one-night stand or because he was a sex addict or – who knew? No more Dylan. In fact, she had blocked his number on her phone, removed him from her “Favorites” on the online dating website, and she was 100 percent done. Just wrote him off. No more Dylan.

Mike, on the other hand – Mike was new. Fresh. Untainted. What could she learn from Mike? Some protective voice inside her said, Are you a complete and utter moron? You’re going to go at twilight, during dusk, and walk a multi-mile trail in the woods with some guy you’ve never met yet – are you crazy? 

Josie knocked her out of her reverie. “He seems interesting. I'm trying to imagine you running a – ” Josie gasped, “ – marathon.” Wheezy laughter. “Uh...I just can't.”

“You just lost your free latte.”

"You know me, I'm a fast metabolizer of caffeine – that's what my genetic testing showed me. You have to get me one! This – ” she pointed to the cup of coffee Laura had just made her – “isn't enough!” She mooned a begging face.

“Did your genetic testing show that you consume enough caffeine to mimic a sun-addled mosquito on crack every day?" 

"Yes." 

"Really?" 

"Yes, I did." Josie nodded soberly. "And so therefore, that explains why I need you to buy me a triple latte, Miss I'm Going to Say Yes to Life." Josie frowned, "So was the sex any good last night?" 

"What?! Why are you asking me that?" 

"Well, we're talking about saying 'yes,' so it seemed like a natural segue..." 

"Well, yeah, of course it was good." Laura rolled her eyes, her chest heaving a bit as she sighed deeply. "Too good." 

"What do you mean, too good? Is that possible?"

“Well, it's too good when it turns out he has a girlfriend. He was just, phew – oh boy, Josie.”

“The best you've ever had?” Josie asked.

“Well,” she sighed heavily. “Yeah.” 

“You're sure he has a girlfriend?” 

“Yeah, the pictures made it clear.” 

“Damn. Well, maybe you can say 'yes' to this guy you're seeing tonight.” 

“Yeah.” 

“Yeah.” 

* * *

Huff, huff, huff. Laura was more out of shape then she'd ever imagined. Her idea of exercise was lifting her hand from her mouth to the bag of Doritos or lifting the spoon out of the pint of Ben & Jerry's. No, she chided herself, that wasn't really true. She took the stairs at work, and that wasn't a joke, considering the fact that she worked on the thirty-second floor. And she and Josie power walked around her neighborhood (Josie jokingly called it their Mugging Prevention Program), but this kind of sustained prolonged, effort that used muscles that involved the hard work of uneven terrain, hiking along the trails and the woods? This she wasn't used to. 

And that was okay. Really. Mike was a sweetheart who slowed his pace down and who was absolutely, fantastically interesting. Talking about everything from books that Laura hadn't read since college, but had always loved, to movies – who knew he had a Christopher Guest obsession, too? She couldn't wait for a second date where they could sit and watch Best in Show, and she could enjoy having that someone finally who appreciated the humor. 

Second date? She was getting ahead of herself. 

And she really liked that.

"Laura, are you okay?" Mike asked, a look of concern covering his face as she wheezed slightly while rounding a bend and staring at the tall hill leading to the summit. Too tall. Too high. Too little air. Ah, hell. What had she agreed to? Huff huff huff.

"Oh, I'm fine," she lied. "Just not used to these, you know, tall hills. I'm more accustomed to doing eleven street blocks downtown while carrying my morning latte. Not hiking up a steep mountain while carrying a stainless steel water bottle. I'm adjusting, though – I'll be good.”

He smiled and stared at her. "You're a good sport you know?"

"I have to be. I don't think I have the oxygen to run away.” 

They both laughed in unison and Laura felt a warmth spreading through her. She couldn't quite believe the way that the past two days had gone. First, she'd had an absolutely amazing date with Dylan. She could still feel him on her skin, even though she had slunk out of his apartment doing a walk of shame like a sorority girl sophomore learning how to navigate the world of one-night stands. Then again, it wasn't exactly her fault that he had pictures of his current girlfriend all over the place; funny how that killed the mood. And now here was this golden boy, smiling at her and standing there like Thor at the gates of Asgard, taking her on a hike. 

Mike was about as opposite of Dylan as you could possibly get. Tall – if he was shorter than 6'5” she'd be surprised – blonde, maybe Danish, with piercing blue eyes and the lanky body of a 30-something guy who walked like he was seventeen and still a little awkward. Just looking at his body told her he was a true athlete, and he had told her himself he was a ski instructor, so obviously he was coordinated, toned and balanced, and could move with fluidity and grace whether they were hiking, skiing, or...in bed?

She, on the other hand, felt like a giant cotton ball right now. A sweaty, huffing cotton ball. Who wanted nothing more than to relax in a hammock with a pitcher of sangrias. 

And an oxygen tank.

Yet here she was, about a quarter mile from the summit of some crazy-ass hill that he wanted her to climb to the top of. She could expand her horizons. This was something new. He was sweet, quiet, kind of taciturn – but not in a bad way. Nothing was awkward. Nothing was uncomfortable. He was just was a man who didn't talk too much. He preferred, obviously, to act, to stretch, to move – to move up that damn hill. Which she now stared at as if she were looking at the top of Mount Everest. 

"So, we're really going to climb up that?" she asked, trying to keep the skepticism out of her voice. 

"Yep, we really are!" he grinned. "But," he patted the log next to him where he'd sat down, stretching out his long legs, his arms toned and golden, eyes kind and nervous. "We can take a short break."

"A short break?" Eek. She didn't mean to sound so overwhelmed, but if she paused, took a deep breath, and did an inner inventory, she had to admit that this hike was killing her. This may be her true walk of shame, especially if Mike had to call 911 and have her hauled down this mountain on a hand-held stretcher. With her luck, Dylan would be the paramedic on call.

Don't think about Dylan!

"Okay, a long break." His hearty laugh put her at ease. What was most comfortable, though, was what he didn't say – how he just moved from laughter to quiet, the silence self-composed and genuine. He wasn't shifting around or twitching in his own skin. He just wasn't going to say anything if he didn't have anything to say, and yet his nonverbal communication was calm and sweet. Mike was just there, with Laura, and the two were spending time together. That was enough.

She liked this. It was new. Time and space were enough, and as the seconds unfolded gradually into minutes, the minutes now more than an hour, she felt like she was spending time in a bubble with this new man, learning an entire new language of mindfulness.

"Whew," she said, collapsing on the log next to him, trying to suck in her belly at the same time as her hamstrings cried out in relief.
Laura suddenly felt like a complete ass, her calm focus from just seconds ago vanquished, replaced by a self-consciousness that was most unwelcome. Not exactly experienced with dates like this, she'd overdressed and now, many miles into this hike, she was dripping with sweat, her hair limp and plastered against the edges of her face, her body flushed with the heat and the exertion of this long hike of this crazy tall hill. She felt about as feminine as a wet tissue and yet that kernel of woman in her did have a spark of femininity, because she was responding to Mike in ways that shocked her. 

Her body should have been spent from the night with Dylan. But rather than finding herself halting or tentative, it was as if what she had done with Dylan the night before had opened her up like a flower blossoming, giving permission to show its true colors and to spread itself in full glory – and right now, Laura was ready to spread herself again. 

Easy, girl, she told herself as she stole another look at Mike.
What was it about these two? Dylan was incredible last night and yet she’d already crossed him off her mental list of eligible partners because the guy obviously had a girlfriend – or, worse, a wife. Who keeps the pictures of some gorgeous woman all over the place in their bedroom otherwise? And now here she was, less than fifteen hours after sneaking out of Dylan’s house and heading home for what she thought would be a nice, big cry and a pint of ice cream, finding herself with yet another incredibly hopeful relationship staring her in the face. 

Literally. She looked up and realized that Mike was watching her, his head cocked to the side, a little half grin making him look boyish and absolutely adorable. "What are you thinking, Laura?" he asked.

"Uh..." she stammered, completely unwilling to tell him what she was really thinking. "Oh, I was just marveling at how beautiful it is here."

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ISBN (Print):
ISBN (Electronic): 9781937544089
Genre: Contemporary
Date Published: 11/19/2012
Publisher: Untreed Reads

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