The Billionaire's Runaway Bride

BOOK: The Billionaire's Runaway Bride
2.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


The Billionaire’s Runaway Bride
Elizabeth Lennox




Chapter 1


Each day was getting easier, Sophie Randal thought to herself. This living thing was becoming less agonizing. A few months ago, taking a breath had been difficult. Blinking had hurt because her eyes were too swollen from crying and her heart ached beyond what she’d thought a heart’s capacity for pain could endure.


Sophie wiped the sweat absently from her brow before pulling the hydrangea bush more to the left, centered the leaves so they were rounded in the front and then filled in the hole with soil and mulch. “There, that should leave you happy over the winter,” she said to the plant, patting the mulch and gently touching the leaves. She sighed contentedly, knowing she had accomplished something today.


She was productive now, not just someone’s burden. Looking at the plant, she tucked a stray lock of curly red hair behind her ear absently and, with dark blue eyes that finally sparkled with life again after months of appearing blank, looked around with satisfaction at the newly created landscape she’d been working on all day.


“This is good,” she said out loud. “You’re all going to be happy and healthy, aren’t you?” she said, talking to herself as much as to the plants.


Unfortunately, that feeling of peace and satisfaction was to disappear with the next sound, making her heart freeze in her chest. She felt the shadow only moments before he spoke, sending a shiver down her spine in both fear and anticipation.


“Talking to plants again, Sophie?” a deep voice behind her asked.


Sophie froze as fear and incredulity intruded. It couldn’t be! There was no way Jason Randal could have found her. She was even at a client’s site instead of her tiny little cottage or the landscaping company’s headquarters! How on earth could he have tracked her down to this upper class house in the middle of nowhere?


But then Jason had more resources than any one person had the right to have. He was wealthier than anyone else she knew with an obscene amount of money at his disposal, all personally made. He wasn’t the kind of man who had inherited anything. Jason Randal had built up his massive empire by intelligence, amazing determination and, if the news reports were true, merciless strategizing.


So why wouldn’t he now use those resources to find her? Unfortunately, Sophie had assumed that he wouldn’t. She had, in fact, prayed that he wouldn’t. Over the past few months, she had convinced herself that she was too trivial for him to waste the effort and expense. She had been hoping that Jason Randal would just forget that she even existed.


But as she considered that fantasy, she realized that she had obviously been wrong. Incredibly wrong. She’d forgotten one important detail about Jason’s personality. Jason Randal didn’t like sharing. And as his wife, he would want to make sure she was under his wing and acting appropriately.


Sophie stood up and turned around slowly, hoping and praying that she was wrong and that Jason Randal was not standing two feet behind her. Please let it be some other man who had the same kind of deep, velvet voice that made her insides quiver and her heart speed up with anticipation.


As she turned around, her fears were confirmed. The tall, muscular man that had invaded her dreams every night for the past six months, leaving her breathless and wanting each morning upon waking, was behind her, casually leaning against a wooden fence that was bordered by the pretty purple and yellow pansies she’d planted just an hour ago and looking more handsome than anyone should.


Her throat clenched and her eyes surveyed his broad shoulders, flat stomach and long, muscular legs all encased in a masterfully tailored suit. She knew the suit didn’t have any padding in the shoulders. She knew every inch of the man’s body intimately. Unfortunately, her traitorous body was reacting to merely the sight of him.


Jason’s eyebrow went up, just as she’d remembered him doing whenever she’d amused him in some way. “No words, Sophie? Not even a greeting? How ungracious of you,” he said and pushed off the fence to walk towards her. “What are we going to do about your manners?” he considered, taking a stray lock of her fiery red hair and wrapping it around his finger. “Ready to go home, Sophie?”


The last words broke her out of her trance and she reared back, only to be stopped painfully as the hair that was still tangled in his large hand, yanked against her scalp. “What are you doing here, Jason?” she demanded again, unwrapping her hair from his fingers, careful not to touch him in any way. From past experience, she knew that would lead to her wanting him. Humiliatingly, since he could have just about any woman he wanted with a crook of his sexy finger whereas she was a nobody, someone he’d married out of pity.


She raised her face up, determined to not cower around him anymore. She was a new person and she was finished with cowering. She’d done it for twenty-five years but when she’d walked out on her marriage, she decided it was time to stop.


“I am home,” she asserted and turned away, determined to walk back to her truck and drive away.


Her retreat was stopped by a steel band that wrapped around her arm, pulling the rest of her body up against his hard frame and Sophie couldn’t help but cringe. Seeing the anger in his eyes, the clenched jaw and the nerve that was ticking in his cheek, all her old fears came back to her. “You are my
!” Jason said. “No wife of mine will be digging around in the dirt.”


The spicy scent of his aftershave reached her and she fought hard against her longing for his incredible masculinity. She hated the insecurity that crept into her voice, but she couldn’t help it. “I sent the divorce papers already. You should have received them by now,” she choked out, wishing she could put just a small amount of space between her body and this angry man holding her. Jason never showed emotion! They had been married for only a short time and never during that entire time had he ever shown her any emotion other than mild amusement. But he was definitely angry now.


Her words only seemed to infuriate him more but he fought for control and won. “Ah, yes. I received them. ‘Irreconcilable Differences’,” he quoted, referencing the reason she’d stated for the divorce. “But I disagree my love,” he replied, one finger sliding sensuously across her cheek to brush against her extremely sensitive earlobe before dropping to her waist again. “I think we can work through whatever differences you perceive as irreconcilable.”


“No!” she cried, trying yet again to pull away from him. “Why? Why in the world would you want to stay married to me?” Sophie had heard too many times from her father that her hair was too wild for any respectable man to pay attention to her. The titian curls swirled around her shoulders no matter how hard she tried to subdue them with pins.


Her eyes were pretty, she knew but her skin was too white and her lips too full to be classically pretty, which were the kinds of women Jason used to date before he’d married her. She knew because she’d seen the pictures of those women, smiling in the newspapers as they walked on his arm - elegant, classically beautiful women who were confident and daring, everything she was not.


She was too thin. The only part of her anatomy that showed any sign of femininity was her large bosom which she’d learned over the years to conceal out of shame, a shame that her father had impressed upon her at the first sign of their impending bloom.


“Why wouldn’t I?” he said, loosening his hold but not letting her go. “You’re my wife.”


Sophie’s chin went up a notch as she desperately searched for the small bit of confidence she’d gained in the past few months. “You’ve said that but I won’t do it anymore. You married me out of pity and I won’t be pitied by anyone!”


Jason’s hands dropped down to his sides and his hard, dark eyes looked down at her in surprise. “Pity? Why in the world do you think I married you out of pity?”


Sophie put several feet between them, rubbing her arms together although the early spring afternoon was unusually warm. Nor was it because he’d hurt her arms. Jason would never hurt her. It was more that any touch from Jason burned her skin, melting her insides and making her mind turn from whatever it had been thinking and focus only on him and the heat of his hands or body. It was a dangerous road and one she was determined not to go down. She had pride now. She wasn’t going to lose it simply because her traitorous body wanted to melt into his.


“Don’t worry about how I know. I just do. You don’t have to hide it anymore, Jason. It was very noble of you to marry me after my father’s death and show me kindness but I’m okay now. I can survive on my own.”


Jason looked around her, down at the ground where the rusty tools were laying and her filthy work gloves were tossed. “Is this what you call surviving?” he demanded. “You gave up on our marriage and the position as my wife in order to live here, in this tiny village and drive that?” He waved to the ancient truck with the other gardening tools in the back.


“Yes!” Sophie claimed, not ashamed of her job or what she chose to drive. She didn’t expect him to understand. Jason lived in an enormous mansion with rooms decorated by the best designers, his personal chef cooked extravagant meals for which Jason may or may not be home for, and the rest of his staff waited on him hand and foot, pushing themselves to be noticed by the man who saw everything but handed out praise sparingly because his standards were exacting.


“Don’t be ridiculous, Sophie,” he scoffed. “I’ve seen where you live. You have no food and there is barely room for a person to live. That is not surviving!” he claimed.


Her eyes flashed with the news that he had been inside her tiny cottage, investigating the contents enough to know that she didn’t even have a carton of milk in the refrigerator at the moment. “It is my choice and you have no right to judge me!”


Jason took several steps towards her, intimidating her despite her intentions not to let him. “You made your choice when you took the vows to be my obedient and faithful wife,” he enunciated.


“That makes me sound like I’m a dog,” she countered.


He actually smiled and the humor reached his dark, enigmatic eyes. “I can assure you, I definitely don’t consider you a dog in any sense.”


Sophie hated the feelings his smile created within her. All those silly butterflies kicked into overdrive simply because of his charming smile. “What do you want from me?” she asked, crossing her hands over her chest as if she could shield herself from his charm.


“I want you to get into the car and come back with me, for starters.” He didn’t pause to see if she would obey; he turned on his heel and moved in the direction of the waiting limousine.


Sophie watched him for about two steps before she gritted out, “No.”


That stopped him. Probably because he’d never heard it before. Definitely not from any of his employees and never had Sophie had the courage to say it during their marriage. Jason turned around and raised one dark eyebrow in mild shock as he took in her stubborn stance. “No?” he asked with deadly and terrifying calm.


Sophie didn’t like the amusement still in his eyes. She thought a different tactic might be more effective since her current one was only making him angry or amused, she wasn’t positive which. Softening her stance, she turned her eyes to pleading, her palms up in the hope that she could make him understand her position. “Jason, our marriage was a farce and you know it. Let’s just let it die as it should.”


Instantly his lips firmed in anger. “Because I disagree that it is over. And until I agree, I will not grant you a divorce.”


Her eyes widened and her whole body recoiled at his statement. “You can’t do that!” But she knew he could. He had enough wealth and influence to do just about anything he wanted.


“Don’t challenge me on this, Sophie,” he said calmly.


“I will,” she said although her body was now shivering in fear, both of what he could do to her physically with one touch of his hands, melting her into a ball of sexual desire; and also because Jason never backed down. When he wanted something, he got it. She’d seen it too many times during their short marriage and she’d always prayed she’d never be on the opposite side of Jason Randal.


He didn’t respond until he was standing less than an inch from her, his angry, dark blue eyes looking down into her stubborn green ones. “Then you will lose. Get in the car.” He didn’t ask, he simply commanded and assumed that all his orders would be followed immediately. And why shouldn’t he make those kinds of assumptions? All his employees followed his instructions to the letter without any sort of resistance or argument.

BOOK: The Billionaire's Runaway Bride
2.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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