The Billionaire's Wife

BOOK: The Billionaire's Wife
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The Billionaire's Wife

The Complete Collection

Ava Lore

 

Copyright 2012 Ava Lore

 

Kobo Edition

 

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Ava Lore at
Kobobooks.com

 

Kobo Edition, License Notes

 

This book is licensed for your
personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other
people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please
purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and
did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, the please
return to kobobooks.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting
the work of this author.

 

This book is a work of fiction.
Any resemblance to persons either living or dead is purely coincidental.

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Chapter One: Bartered Proposal

Chapter Two: Bartered Seduction

Chapter Three: Bartered Bride

Chapter Four: Bartered Desire

Chapter Five: Bartered Submission

Chapter Six: Bartered Passion

Chapter Seven: Bartered Pain

Chapter Eight: Bartered Betrayal

Chapter Nine: Bartered Surrender

Author’s Notes

Excerpt from
His Acquisition (The
Billionaire’s Muse, Book #1)

About the Author

 

Chapter One:

Bartered Proposal

 

 

“I'm coming, I'm
coming!”
I yelled, wiping the last bit of
clay from my hands as I stalked to the door. Someone outside was being awfully
OCD with my doorknocker, and if they kept it up Mrs. Andersen from next door
was going to leave another passive-agressive note shoved in the doorjamb,
bringing the total this month to seven. And it was only the fifteenth.

Exasperated, I ripped the door open.
“What?”
I snapped
automatically. Then my breath caught.

Jonathan Dare, founder of the multimillion dollar venture capital
firm of Onyx Capital, and my biological and nominal father, stood in the
hallway.

“Felicia,” he said.

I slammed the door in his face.

That was my first mistake. What I should have done was beat him
to death with the expired fire extinguisher sitting across the hall—an
apparently permanent fixture that had been there since I moved in almost a year
ago—but hindsight is twenty-twenty. Instead of committing patricide I very
calmly began to root around in my tiny apartment for my phone while my father
hammered on my doorknocker. I finally found it on top of a pile of library
books that had been due during the last presidential administration. They had
been serving time as the bedside table next to my futon. As a starving artist,
I had to go with whatever worked.

I switched on my phone and called my therapist.

My father shifted to using his fist on the door. “Felicia?
Felicia, please!”

“Shut up, shut up,
shut up,”
I muttered as I listened to
the phone ring. My heart soared at the click on the other end, then plummeted
when the canned voice of my therapist informed me that she wasn't in right now,
but that blah blah blah she was very sorry, blah blah, strove to serve her
blah, leave your blah and blah blah and she would blah blah blah blah,
beep
.

“Shit!” I hissed, and only an intense consciousness of exactly
what the damn phone was worth kept me from throwing it at the wall.

“Felicia, I need to talk to you!” In fine New York tradition, my
father's voice was barely muffled by the flimsy piece of wood between us.

“Go away!” I hollered, stomping back to my sculpture. I looked at
it helplessly. I suddenly couldn't remember what I was supposed to be making.
Desperately I milled about, gathering materials, rearranging them and thinking,
manically, that it was about time I reorganized my workspace. Anything,
anything
to keep my mind off the fact that my shithead of a father stood outside my
apartment. I hadn't seen him in almost four years. In fact, I had barely seen
him at all when I was growing up. Once when I was seven he mistook me for the
head housekeeper's niece. That's how great a father he was.

“Felicia...”

My jaw clenched. “Fuck off! I don't want to talk to you!”

“Felicia, it's your mother!”

I froze in the act of rearranging some of my self-designed tools.

Mom.

Was she okay? I had just talked to her two days ago. She had been
fine then.

I chewed the inside of my cheek.

A lot can happen in two days,
I thought.

I shouldn't have opened the door. I knew better. My therapist,
whose advice I could both ill-afford and ill-afford to disregard, had taught me
all about setting boundaries with my family. Preferably, she had said, an
official international boundary. But I hadn't listened, had I? And now my
father was here. Talking about Mom.

Taking a deep breath, I opened the door. My father started,
pausing in mid-pound.

“What
about
Mom?” I demanded.

Relief flickered over his face. “We need to talk,” he said.

“We can talk here,” I told him. “And you can make it quick.” It
was the sort of decisive, ruthless command that would have made him proud of
me, once upon a time.

Instead, to my utter horror, he burst into tears.

I stared at him. I had never, ever seen my father cry. In fact,
if you had asked me five minutes earlier if he were capable of it, I would have
told you that reptiles couldn't produce tears.

I stood in the doorway, wavering, my heart in turmoil. He was a
shitbag, sure, but he was
my
shitbag father. And he didn't look so hot,
now that I had time to study him. His hair, usually so meticulously combed, was
in disarray, and his stupidly expensive Italian suit was wrinkled as though he
had slept in it. It looked too big on him, too, and I was shocked to realize
that he had lost weight. Jonathan Dare had always been a robust man, a college
football star gone slightly to seed. Now he looked like a man wearing my
father's skin, draped over a bony frame I didn't recognize.

Glancing back over my shoulder at my unfinished work, I
hesitated.

My father saw my moment of weakness. Another mistake. He pounced.

“Felicia, please. We have to talk.”

I was going to regret this. I
knew
it.

Nevertheless, I found myself giving in to him, like I always did.
Because I wanted him to love me. Because I needed his approval. Apparently
knowing this wasn't enough to fight it.

“Fine,” I said. I grabbed my keys and purse from beside the door,
and stepped outside. “Let's get this over with.”

 

*

 

I took him to the local coffee chain, which I hated, but I didn't
dare take him to Rick's or Shade's Cafe. I didn't want his presence to taint
the places I actually
liked.

“Okay,” I said as we sat down across from each other at dark
wooden tables carefully designed to look intimate and indie. “What's going on?”

He stared down at the cup in his hands, and I tried not to do the
same. I'd noticed the significance of his order the second he'd placed it:
smallest size, black coffee. The cheapest thing on the menu besides water.

My father
never
ordered the cheapest thing on the menu. He
always said that looking poor invited being poor. That little cup of coffee
between us on the table sent alarm bells clanging in my head, even more so than
his tears. He
could
have been crying just to manipulate me, but
appearing
poor?

Something was
definitely
very wrong.

“Felicia, I need your help,” he blurted suddenly. “Everything's
gone all wrong, and I can't fix it. I need you, you're the only one who can do
it.
Please,
Felicia.”

Oh my god.
I stood up. “You said this was about mom,” I
snapped. “I'm leaving.”

“She's sick.”

Perhaps, I thought, sitting down was a better idea.

I sat. I blinked. “What?” I said, stupidly.

Tears brimmed in his eyes again, and I could have almost sworn
they were real. But why would my father cry over the woman he had married? As
far as I could tell, he'd never given a second thought to her after the ink on
the marriage certificate was dry.

“She has cancer,” he said, and the words came out in a sob.

I felt cold. Looking down at my hands, I flexed my fingers,
trying to warm them up. “What do you mean, she has cancer?” It was a stupid
question. But I'd just talked to mom two days ago. Why had my father flown all
the way out here to tell me she was sick? Why couldn't she have told me in a
phone call? Surely she was already in treatment.

None of this felt
right.

My father shook his head and mopped at his eyes with a napkin.
“We found out a week ago,” he was saying, “but we couldn't start chemo.”

My mouth went dry. “Why not?”

He brought his hands to his face, and I was shocked to see them
covered in liver-spots, wrinkled and papery. They were the hands of an old man.

“I'm ruined,” he said.

My mouth dropped open. “What do you mean, ruined?”

He shook his head, unable to speak, and took a few deep breaths.
“There's no money left,” he said finally. “It's... it's gone.”

I pressed my lips together. “It's
gone?”
I couldn't
believe it. My father was richer than King fucking Midas. How did that kind of
money just... disappear? “How the hell did you manage that? You don't have the
houses? The cars? All the artwork?”

“It's all leveraged. Everything. I owe it all.”

Shock numbed me. “You... is this about the company, or you?”

“Both.”

“You crossed the streams?” How was that even possible? The
corporation should have had enough equity and assets to fund any venture, no
matter how stupid.

“It was private. I wanted to start up a new company on my own.
But it didn't work. And the company... well, financial empire building isn't
what it once was. We're broke. I'm broke.”

I sat there in silence. Across the coffee shop someone burst into
laughter and the noise grated against my nerves.

“Are you on drugs?” I finally said. “What on earth made you do
those things?”

He finally lowered his hands, but he didn't look at me. “Maybe,”
he said. “Maybe I was.”

Holy shit,
I thought. “How much do you owe?”

He told me. The number he quoted was so huge that even if I
grabbed a plane and sacks full of dollar bills and spent a month dumping money
into the Pacific, I wouldn't have come close to making a dent in what he'd
wasted.

I sat and stared at him some more. “Are you for
real?
Jesus Christ, meth-heads are better at money than you. What the hell is wrong
with you?”

He just shook his head and I realized that was all I was going to
get out of him.

I leaned back, reeling. “Why don't you guys declare bankruptcy?”

“Because... it's my life, Felicia.” I flinched at my name. “I can
still fix it, I just need enough capital. And I could cook some books and get
it, but...” He trailed off. “Your mother should have started chemo last week.
But I can't afford it. Every bill is past due, my credit is tapped out, and I
dropped the insurance a few months ago to free up some money...”

This couldn't be real. No one could have been this stupid.

“So it's just pride that's keeping you from saving mom.” I stared
at him, cold with fury. If he wanted to ruin his own life, well, he was welcome
to it, but to drag mom down with him... I couldn't stand it.

“No,” he said, and he finally looked up at me. “No, I have a
plan. I have a backer. Someone who believes in my vision. I can get it done,
but I need his help. And... there's a condition.”

I had an oddly clear premonition. “This is one of those
Indecent
Proposal
things, isn't it?” I said. My voice was too loud. Heads turned in
our direction. “Holy shit. I'm your
daughter.”

“No!” he said, his face flushing, his eyes darting this way and
that. “No, it's not like that.”

“What, I have to sleep with him and he'll give you a million
dollars and I'll see diddly? Is that it?”

“No! It's...” He turned to his omnipresent briefcase, popped it
open, and pulled out a contract as thick as a paperback book. He extended it to
me, but when I just stared at him, he set it on the table between us.

“It's a marriage proposal,” he said.

I started to laugh. “Oh my god. Oh my god. You were always such a
humorless dick, I thought you were serious there for a while!” It still wasn't
very funny—joking around about cancer was a seriously shit thing to do—but the
relief I felt was so welcome that I felt I could forgive it. After all, if all
his sins had been as relatively innocent as a joke about cancer he would have
practically been a shoo-in for heaven instead of the soulless earth-bound lich
he was.

BOOK: The Billionaire's Wife
6.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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