I Married a Billionaire: The Prodigal Son (Contemporary Romance) (3 page)

BOOK: I Married a Billionaire: The Prodigal Son (Contemporary Romance)
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“Don’t think of it that way,” he said. “Take it one chapter at a time.”

“No, you’re crazy. No way.” I dried my hands. “Get a real writer to do it.”

“What do you think the difference is between you and a ‘real writer?’” he said, in that reasonable, calming tone that he always used when he tried to talk me into something. And it usually worked, too.

“I don’t know, a degree? Experience? A muse?”

“No,” he said. “The difference is, they decided to write. You know, F. Scott Fitzgerald never even finished college.”

“I know that, but he also lived a life of complete dissolution and married a crazy person.” I hesitated, stopping to turn and smile at Daniel. “I was going to say he didn’t make a very good role model, but actually…”

Daniel’s expression didn’t change, but the middle finger of his right hand very briefly flicked up above the rest.

I giggled, coming over to ruffle his hair and drape my arm over his neck. “Okay, so that was a low blow. I’m sorry. But I’m not writing your biography. It deserves someone who knows what they’re doing.”

“You’re looking at this all wrong,” he insisted, shrugging me off. “You know me better than anyone. That’s the most important thing.”

But I hardly know you at all.

No, that wasn’t true. I knew Daniel, after all this time. I knew him well enough to love him. But there were so many things I didn’t know about him, still.

And that’s when it hit me.

“Fine,” I said. “I’ll do it, but I won’t like it.”

“Well, that was a fast turnaround.” Daniel got up and came over to where I was standing. He wrapped his arm around my waist. “Thank you. I was dreading the idea of more interviews, and more manuscripts to read. It’s starting to feel like homework.”

“God forbid,” I said. I didn’t know exactly what experiences Daniel had in school that left him with such a bad taste in his mouth, but anything even remotely approaching school work practically gave him hives. Well - I’d find out the details soon enough.

Oh, God. What had I gotten myself into?

***

The next morning was Saturday, so naturally, Daniel was sitting in the living room with a huge notebook and one of his ridiculously fancy fountain pens - I swore it was called something like Montblanc Meisterstruck - before I’d even finished my first cup of coffee.

“Ready to get started?” he said, brightly, as I shuffled out and sank into an armchair.

“Not really,” I said. “Do I have a choice?”

He pushed the notebook in my direction. “I got this for you, unless you’d rather type your notes. We’ll record everything, obviously, but if there’s anything in particular you wanted to highlight.” I looked down and noticed a little digital recorder running on the table.

“This is fine,” I said. “How many notes do you think I’ll need to take?”

He shrugged. “Should we go in chronological order?”

“Sure, fine.”

I yawned. He was looking at me expectantly.

“What?” I said, finally. “Go on. Get started.”

“You’re supposed to ask me questions,” he said.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” I set my mug down on the table. “See, I told you I wasn’t qualified to do this. How the hell am I supposed to know what questions to ask you?”

He shrugged. “Most of them started by asking me about my earliest memory.”

“All right, so, fine. Tell me about your earliest memory.” I uncapped the pen and waited.

He took a deep breath. “It was a long time ago,” he said, finally, after a pause.

“Well, I should certainly hope so.”

I couldn’t quite read the expression on his face. I sat there for a while, mindlessly chewing on the end of the pen. The fact that he didn’t notice - and demand that I stop - spoke volumes.

Finally, I noticed that the tips of his ears were tinged slightly pink.

“Are you
embarrassed
?” I blurted out, laughing as I spoke.

He looked at me balefully.

“Come on,” I said. “You volunteered the question, you don’t get to weasel your way out of it.”

He drummed his fingers on his thigh. “Maybe this was a bad idea.”

“Oh my God.” I leaned forward in my chair. “Now I have to know. You realize that, right? There’s absolutely no turning back.”

“I’d rather not,” he said, looking so uncomfortable that I was beginning to feel positively gleeful.

I grinned at him for a while, tapping the pen against my teeth. His eyes silently begged, but I wasn’t giving an inch.

“It can’t possibly be that bad,” I said.

“It’s not,” he replied, quickly. “It’s not. That’s why I brought it up; I didn’t have any trouble telling anyone else.”

“Just me.”

“Just you,” he agreed.

“Well, don’t I feel special.”

A few more moments of silence passed.

“I was…I don’t know how old,” he said, and it took me a moment to realize he was actually coming up with an answer. “I know I was hardly tall enough to see out of the window in the living room. This was in - you know, our first place. When I was a kid.”

“The trailer,” I supplied. Lindsey had told me, but this was the first time it had come up in conversation.

“As you say.” He cleared his throat. “We could see into the neighbor’s bedroom window, very clearly. I remember - thinking back - I remember - every once in a while, my mother or my father would go over there and yell at them to close the god damn blinds but it never happened. If either of them caught me looking, they’d…” he stopped, and frowned. “They wouldn’t be too happy about it. But this time, I suppose they didn’t. Because I just remember standing there for what felt like ages, with my fingers up on the sill.

“She was very tall, the woman next door. Very tall, and very…statuesque, I guess, is what you’d say. Anyway.”

He took a deep breath.

“She, you know, she undressed. As one does. But it was the first time I ever saw anything like that. And I remember it so clearly. Like it was yesterday.”

“Fascinating,” I said. “I don’t know if it’ll really fit the tone of your biography, but…fascinating.”

He folded his arms across his chair, leaning back on the sofa. “I don’t know why I didn’t want to tell you.”

“You’re embarrassed,” I said. “But you shouldn’t be.”

***

Excerpted from
Daniel Thorne: A Life

Daniel Thorne will be the first to tell you that no good idea comes without a price.

It would come as a surprise to most people that the man who has consistently created some of the world’s most cutting-edge, technologically advanced handheld devices spent the first ten years of his life without so much as a video cassette recorder. Sitting in the living room of his parents’ trailer, eyes glued to the thirteen inch TV set with the rabbit ears on top, Daniel did something that many other children in his situation did: he dreamed of something better.

But in his particular case, those dreams turned into a multi-national corporation whose devices became household names. It’s reasonable enough to wonder: what is it, exactly, that sets him apart from the crowd?

I first met Daniel when he was poised on the brink of world fame. At the time, he struck me as stern and quiet. Somewhat aloof. I assumed he was like all great men: self-obsessed, convinced of his own greatness, and used to getting his way. The fact that he rarely spoke to his subordinates seemed to support my ideas about him.

The truth of Daniel Thorne is somewhat different. Those who’ve had the privilege to speak to him at any length will tell you the same story; he is often surprisingly humble and self-effacing, and in general, he dislikes talking about his own accomplishments. When he avoids interactions with others, it’s not out of some sense of superiority. It’s simply because he is shy.

At times, he makes it difficult to talk to him. Sometimes he will try to circumvent the facts, but he hates dishonesty, and so you will find yourself poking and prodding, asking and re-phrasing the same questions over and over again.

But when a smile is coaxed out of him, it makes the whole experience worthwhile.

When it was suggested to Daniel that now was the time to get an autobiography written, he was charmed by the idea. But once the process began, he started to realize what the trade-off was. If he wanted people to know his story, he would actually have to tell it. Warts, skeletons and all.

As always, no good idea comes without a price.

It was, of course, a delicate proposition. Daniel would need someone with whom he felt comfortable, which is no small feat for a man like him. They would need to be able to capture, not just his stories, but the essence of him. It’s been said that no human being can really fit into a book, but he needed someone who would at least try.

The search was grueling. I looked at manuscript after manuscript, because he didn’t feel qualified to make such an important decision on his own. But ultimately, our search led us right back to our own living room.

When Daniel first asked me to write his biography, I balked. I’m not a writer, I told him. I’m not qualified. But he thought all my excuses were nonsense, and finally, I came to recognize the task for what it was: an opportunity to learn about my husband.

Daniel Thorne is an intensely private man. So private, in fact, that writing his biography at all seems absurd. He’s so withdrawn that most of what I’ve written here, in this book, was news to me just as it will be news to you. When it came time for publication, I thought for certain he would balk. I expected him to think twice about allowing everything he’d told me to become public knowledge. But he never said a word.

Because, after all, no good idea comes without a price.

Three

“Maddy, how are you?”

I turned around, slowly. My yoga teacher rarely said more than few words to me personally; she was a busy woman with a lot of students, and that was absolutely fine with me. So why on earth was she suddenly making a point of talking to me?

“Fine,” I said, cautiously, rolling up my mat. “Why do you ask?”

“Oh, I just…” she was eyeballing my midriff.
Oh, God. Please no please no please no.
“I just thought - I have pregnant yoga class too, you know. If you’re interested.”

My mortification must have been written across my face, because she immediately stepped backwards, raising her hands a little. “I know, I know, I shouldn’t say anything. But it’s just - not all of the poses we do in here might be the best thing for you, if you’re…” She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up.”

“Do I
look
pregnant?” I realized I was putting her into an impossible position, but she had violated the cardinal etiquette rule about assuming pregnancy - tabloid or no tabloid.

“Well - no. I mean -” Her eyes were very big. “Of course not. I just thought - I read that…”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said, flatly, shoving everything into my bag and heading for the door. I was so consumed with my irritation that I almost collided with someone as I came out of the door and went around the corner.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I exclaimed, as the other person jumped out of the way just in time. As I looked up, I realized that it was Genevieve Winters.

“Hello,” she said, smiling a little hesitantly. “How’ve you been?

Genevieve was one of the only journalists who’d been kind to us during Daniel’s insider trading scandal; in fact, my current success as an artist could be mostly attributed to the fact that she featured a picture of one of my sketches in an article she wrote. But due to her obvious crush on my husband, relations between us were slightly strained.

“Fine, thanks,” I said, re-adjusting my bag on my shoulder. “Why are you stalking me at yoga?”

“Stalking is a strong term,” she said, still smiling. “Is there somewhere we can go and talk?”

We ended up at a hole in the wall deli a few blocks away, sitting in front of some “world famous chicken salad sandwiches” so we wouldn’t get odd looks for sitting down without ordering anything.

“I hesitate to even bring this up,” she said. “Because it could just be some lone crazy. But, I thought it merited someone’s attention. And Daniel…” She took in a deep breath through her nose. “Well, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you what happened.”

“Please do,” I said. I took a bite of the sandwich, because it was something to do. Damn, the chicken salad
was
pretty good.

Gen interlaced her fingers and started to talk.

“A few weeks ago, right after that ridiculous ‘baby bump’ story broke, I got an anonymous email asking if I knew whether or not it was true. I have no idea how the person got my email address, unless they just guessed at it. That’s the downside to corporate email accounts, they all have the same structure. I get some weird ones occasionally. This one included. I had no idea why he thought I would know that, and I told him so. He responded that he’d seen my name on the byline of that ‘very nice’ feature from back during the insider trading thing, and he thought I might have some kind of contact with you and Daniel. I said that I didn’t really, but that as far as I knew, you weren’t pregnant.”

“I’m not, by the way,” I said, around a mouthful of chicken.

“I figured.” She smiled, briefly. “Mind you, all of this happened in the space of a few hours. When a few more days passed and he never responded, I assumed he was just some wannabe stalker or something. I kept them on file in case anything came up down the line, but with things like this…you know, you just tend to forget about every little lone odd thing that happens, right?”

I nodded. I had no idea where this was going, but I was beginning to feel a distinct sense of unease about the whole thing. I set my sandwich down, half-eaten.

“Sure, go on,” I said, finally, when it seemed like she was hesitant to continue.

“I will,” she said. “I’m sorry. It’s just…it’s just that it’s so weird, and you’re going to think I’m completely insane for even entertaining the idea.”

“Just spill, for Pete’s sake.”

She took another deep breath. “That’s when everything started to get
very
odd.”

After another moment of silence, she absently picked a rosemary leaf out of her bread, twirled it around in her fingers, and then finally began to speak again.

BOOK: I Married a Billionaire: The Prodigal Son (Contemporary Romance)
13.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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