The Billionaire Scoop: A BWWM Romance (Secrets & Deception Book 1)

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The Billionaire Scoop
A BWWM Interracial Romance
Mia Caldwell
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Introduction

M
aribel Gibson
always wanted to be extraordinary.

Having grown up in the Deep South, she not only dealt with racism, she triumphed over it.

No matter what came her way, she turned the situation around to her benefit.

So when she moves to New York in pursuit of a journalism career, she thought her life could only get better. But as her main job opportunity slips through her fingers, she suddenly finds herself all alone and jobless in a big city, panicking.

But then chance presents her with an unexpected boon: the scoop of a lifetime in the form of an unhappy billionaire. Regardless of how she feels about the man spilling his story, she knows it’s her shot to get in the big leagues, and she’s about to take it.

J
im Craig only wants normalcy
.

The son of a billionaire and forced into the family business, Jim longs to be just a regular guy.

His whole life, his dad pressured him into more, more, more, and now, facing one of his worst fears—an arranged marriage of all things—he takes off before he can go through with it.

He seeks refuge in a bar and runs into beautiful woman who tempts him to take a load off and spill everything.

L
ittle does he know
, the beautiful stranger is a reporter, and they both might get more than they bargained for once their secrets come to light!

T
he Billionaire Scoop
is a standalone BWWM interracial romance on the sweet side. No cliffhangers!

Spinoffs coming soon.

Part I
COLD FEET
Prologue

J
im could barely keep
his feet on the ground—literally.

Every few seconds his feet lifted, his body rising a few inches above the Loeb Boathouse floor, and he had to silently talk his tall, broad-shouldered, suited frame into staying put—his large hands locked behind him, his body facing the long aisle lined with a delicate white runner and colorful petals prepared for his bride.

He scarcely felt the presence of over a hundred—perhaps several hundred—people sitting patiently while he waited quite impatiently for his soon-to-be-wife to appear.

Then the Bridal March began, and the attendees turned toward the entrance.

Jim’s body threatened to lift from the ground again, but he stubbornly kept his feet planted, concentrating on keeping everything together as the pivotal moment neared.

Suddenly, it seemed a light fog had crawled into the room, and it was when the bride appeared that Jim suddenly realized he was trapped in a lucid dream.

He wondered at the positive feelings he’d experienced in anticipation of this moment—so unlike what he usually felt when thinking about his upcoming nuptials.

As he remembered whose hand he was expected to take in marriage, he began to dread the moment the woman hidden under the veil reached him.

Yet strangely, the anxiety that plagued him in his waking life refused to take over.

Jim began to suspect that all was not what it seemed when his eyes examined the veiled woman in the distance again—something about her did not feel familiar; she didn’t look at all like the girl he had promised to marry the next day.

The woman now slowly walking toward him holding a bouquet dominated by peaches and cream in her gloved hands was pretty much completely covered, but even with all the lace and silk and flowers in the way of her features, he realized something was very wrong.

His fiancée, Lucy, was petite, blond, and fair-skinned, and this woman, though also rather slim, seemed taller, and as far as he could tell, her hair was darker, as was her skin.

Only curiosity remained as Jim tried to figure out who was taking measured steps toward him, and once she arrived, he immediately gripped the bottom of her veil and threw it over her head, not caring for the impropriety; he had to see the bride.

Shock pulsed through him as a beautiful, unfamiliar face greeted him—brown-skinned with warm brown eyes so unlike Lucy’s heavily-mascaraed, wide blue ones.

Though his brain did not recognize the sunny woman, his heart seemed to, and he was once again flooded with emotions that made his body take on a weightless quality again, and he started lifting from the ground once more.

This time, the beautiful stranger lifted with him, her red-stained lips in a gorgeous, heart-melting smile.

Jim no longer made an effort to keep his body grounded as they rose together.

Jim felt himself grinning as he lay alone on his silken sheets, wishing he didn’t have to open his eyes once his blaring alarm filtered into his consciousness.

Chapter 1
Jim


T
his is
for the greater good,” Jim mumbled to himself as he adjusted his tie for at least the twentieth time, avoiding looking into his own eyes as he assessed his reflection.

It felt like even his mirror image was judging him—firm jaw set in disapproval, eyes more olive than sea-colored today.

Jim had no doubt every part of his tux was perfect, customized for his tall, muscled frame, every thread and button exactly where it should be, but he couldn’t keep his hands from smoothing it here, tugging at it there.

“Take it easy,” his best man Scott said, this time with a heavy hand on his shoulder.

A few minutes earlier, his old friend had said soothingly, “Relax,” and a few minutes before that, in a fake chipper voice, he’d made the mistake of saying, “It’ll work out—it’s for the best.”

That
statement had only worked to raise Jim’s blood pressure, and Scott realized his error quickly.

How the hell was it best to marry someone he didn’t love?

No matter how many times it had been rationalized to him by Scott and his own father, in particular, the thought of going down the aisle to tie himself to Lucy still unsettled him to the point that he was sure his stomach would give up its contents any minute now.

While fiddling with his tie yet again, Jim took a few deep breaths at Scott’s latest gentle suggestion, finally looking himself in the eye.

His reflection didn’t seem so judgmental now, only unsettled.

“I dreamt I was marrying someone else last night,” he said flatly.

“What? Who?” Scott said, sounding almost personally offended.

Jim shrugged.

“The face is fuzzy now, but either way, I’ve never met her. Just something my brain made up. Anything but Lucy, I guess—even someone who doesn’t exist.”

“Come on, Jim—Lucy’s hot!” Scott said. “At least, there’s that. It’s not like you’re marrying some troll or some old divorcée with baggage. You’re getting hooked up with a young, gorgeous blonde. What more could you possibly want?”

Jim spun to stare at Scott, realizing for the first time that his oldest friend didn’t know him that well at all.

Scott seriously thought he wanted to be forced into a marriage with someone he didn’t care about in order to inherit an empire he wasn’t sure he wanted anything to do with? That he wanted the woman he was supposed to spend his life with to be anything like Lucy, of all people? Did Scott
really
think he didn’t mind getting trapped with a vapid, gold-digging narcissist?

Jim reigned in his emotions, realizing he probably looked poised to attack as he glared into Scott’s baffled face once he saw Scott raise his arms in a sort of defensive gesture while taking a step back.

Jim turned to the mirror again, letting out a particularly heavy breath to try to calm back down before he almost physically kicked Scott out of his dressing room.

Scott might not know him as well as he’d hoped, but he knew his friend pretty well; he knew Scott’s sensitive, touchy side wouldn’t be able to handle the rebuke and he’d stand there sulking in front of everybody waiting out there—that is, if he even got over their spat soon enough to show up on time.

Jim took another deep breath and brought his thoughts back to the woman he was supposed to marry.

His sentiments had surprised him as he stood there glaring at Scott.

Where had they come from?

He had never put into words what he really thought of Lucy before then—dating her had been just okay and he hadn’t had to do it much; he always had work to distract him.

Besides, Scott was right—Lucy was a nice enough girl who was quite pretty and smiled a lot, and though she talked about a lot of silly shit girls usually talked about—fashion and trips and trends—she was young and rich, so she was doomed to be frivolous about a few things since everything had pretty much been handed to her; it wasn’t her fault she didn’t have to work for anything.

She was exactly the kind of girl he was always meant to marry—a socialite, an heiress. A woman used to the finer things in life and intent on maintaining or further improving her standard of living. A woman who kept herself made-up and beautiful to make sure she was paired with an equal or better—like him.

The daughter of a multi-millionaire was a perfect match for the son of a billionaire.

So what was he so concerned about?

Like Scott said, it could’ve been far worse.

“You need me to grab you another drink?” Scott offered. “You look like you could knock a few more back before you head out there.”

This time, all tension evaporated as Jim tried and failed to hold back a laugh at the thought of himself all crisp and formal stumbling out there after one too many drinks.

The image appealed to him, and he was tempted to accept Scott’s offer—after all, there was a possibility his insobriety could force a postponement; they wouldn’t let him go through with the whole thing without all of his wits about him, would they?

But he knew far better than that—they sure as hell would.

Too many people were counting on him and Lucy sealing the deal.

No way would his dad let anything stop this merger—Jim would only succeed in pissing off the man already so heavily disappointed in him, and who knew what the fallout would be from that?

“I’ll be fine,” he said to Scott gently, fiddling with his tie once more.

Take one for the team,
he reminded himself.

“You sure?”

Jim nodded then turned to his friend.

“I have accepted my fate,” he said. “Now give me a few minutes to get my final thoughts together. I’ll see you out there.”


Final thoughts,”
Scott repeated with air quotes and a goofy smile. “Jesus, man—you make it sound like a funeral.”

Scott shook his head as he headed for the door, still grinning.

Jim watched the door close behind him.

He still felt pretty bad about leaving the bachelor party Scott threw him a few days ago early, but he just couldn’t shake the feeling of dread.

He doubted most of the guys noticed since they were free to enjoy the gyrations of shapely half-naked girls and complimentary alcohol.

Jim checked his watch then stared into the mirror, knowing he would wait until the last possible minute before getting in place.

He needed to spend his final moments blanking his mind, shifting into auto-pilot mode, imagining he was somewhere else…

The door creaked open again.

“Jesus, Scott, I said give me a minute!” he bellowed.

He turned toward the door, cursing himself for not locking it behind Scott, but instead of his best man, his sister Judy was peeking in, sharp dark eyes startled.

“Shit, I’m sorry—come on in, sis. What’s up?”

Guilt flooded him as he took in her familiar thin, dark-skinned frame.

She had been so disappointed at being left out of the wedding party, but as usual, put on a good face about it.

“Just checking on you. Scott had this weird look on his face and something twirled in my gut.”

Jim’s unease dissipated briefly as he grinned at her.

“You mean the heart-shaped butterflies or…?”

She slapped him on the arm before covering her mouth and glancing away, looking embarrassed.

She had to know he knew about her crush on Scott, right? Her eyes practically got stuck on him every time she saw him.

That’s probably what bugged her the most about not being in the wedding party—not having a chance to be escorted up the aisle by Scott.

Scott probably hadn’t noticed the crush, and Jim was glad it looked like his sister wouldn’t make a move; Scott didn’t deserve her.

Sure, she was a grown woman now, but he still felt protective.

He still remembered when she was first brought home—a tiny, dark brown baby with silky black curls being held by his pale, blond mother, her blue eyes shining with joy.

He forgot when exactly he stopped telling people Judy was adopted, his defenses raising immediately every time he was asked. She was his sister, and how that came to be didn’t matter.

Judy sobered up, wringing her elegant hands a little as she said, “It’s so weird, Jim—no one looks genuinely happy. Well, besides Lucy’s parents, of course.”

“Don’t feel bad for me, Judy. I chose to go ahead with it, remember? It’s the right thing to do.”

Judy shrugged dismissively but held her tongue this time.

It was obviously too late for advice.

You think mom would be pleased with your decision?
she had asked him once, and that one stung had most of all.

Didn’t she get it? It didn’t matter; their mother no longer had a say in anything.

No matter how many times Judy mentioned he had other options, he knew better.

This was the only way.

J
im took a final breath
.

He had reached a state of blankness—as if his body had finally shifted to auto-pilot.

No more horrific visions of a life with Lucy manipulating him into social functions he couldn’t care less about. No more regret for agreeing to go through with a sham of a marriage. No more sorrow at his love life being reduced to a merger. No more self-pity, self-loathing, self-flagellation.

Duty called.

He nodded at Scott as he closed the dressing room door behind him, and they headed for the lineup.

It’s for the family. The good of the company. It’s the least I can do for the man who made it so that I wanted for nothing.

Maybe he and Lucy could grow into the marriage like his dad said.

Ha! Fat chance.

He took in the formally dressed crowd.

Lucy had kept it small, according to her: a hundred people.

Her dad happily let her do whatever she wanted, and Jim stayed out of it; he knew the wedding was mainly for the bride.

He let her pick the venue, the entreés, the colors.

He went with her idea of having just a best man and a maid of honor.

The flowers, the centerpieces—all up to her.

She got to pick everything—even her ideal groom—and he had a choice in nothing.

Why the heck had she picked an evening wedding, though?
he’d wondered, because instead of getting it over with nice and early, he’d had all day to dread the ceremony.

He should have put his foot down on that one aspect, but he had distanced himself so much from the idea of the whole thing, that he didn’t want to think about any single part of it.

All he’d had to worry about was his tux.

His eyes darted around the room as his mind raced and his heart pounded, his body coming alive with horror once more.

Oh god, was she going to try to get pregnant right away? To seal the deal with a kid?

That was one thing he’d put his foot down on—he definitely wasn’t ready for a child.

He’d delay by playing on her vanity—she wouldn’t want to lose her figure just yet.

As Lucy appeared, a huge smile on her face and a diamond-studded crown on her golden head, her slim frame draped in silk, everything in Jim stilled.

It was real. It was happening right now.

She looked beautiful, no doubt, but the bile finally rose from his stomach.

He covered his mouth and took off for the nearest exit, barely making it out before the contents of his stomach came up.

Then, before anyone could get their senses, he kept running, knowing there was no way in hell he was going back.

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