The Billionaire's Wife (A Steamy BWWM Marriage of Convenience Romance Novel)

BOOK: The Billionaire's Wife (A Steamy BWWM Marriage of Convenience Romance Novel)
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The Billionaire’s Wife

(BWWM Billionaire Steamy Romance)

 
 

[email protected]

 

www.amazon.com/author/miacaldwell

 
 
 

Copyright Mia Caldwell 2015

 
 
 

This book is a work of fiction. All the characters in this book are
fictitious and any similarity to any person, living or dead, is purely
coincidence.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including
photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the
prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief
quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses
permitted by copyright law.

 
 
 

Overview

 
 
 

The impulsive employee, driven
by opportunity.

 

The introspective billionaire,
harboring secrets.

 

An entire empire hangs
precariously in the balance. For the kingdom to last, they’ll have to face down
a battlefield riddled with dangerous opponents near and far…and a horrible
darkness that threatens to drive them apart forever.

 

But to play the game, they’ll
have to trust one another: the damaged woman who never lets herself look back,
and the hardened man who never lets his walls down.

 

The game is set. The players
are assembled.

 

And the next round begins with
a proposal.

 
 
 

(
Back to Table of Contents
)

 

Prologue

 

Kiona

 
 
 

My heels clicked on the pavement, my
briefcase bouncing lightly with the motion. Suppressing any hesitation, I gave
the quickest glance at my wristwatch –
good, I’ll be right on time
. This was the big one, and I couldn’t
afford to screw this up.

 

Two
interviews down. I’m in the zone.

 

Clinch this last one, Key, and you’re done.

 

My eyes
drifted to one of the store windows on my right. Impulsively, my gaze skated
right over clothes I’d never been able to afford, instead catching my
reflection. Tastefully, I’d chosen to wear a puff-sleeved, soft aquamarine
frill blouse over a dark miniskirt that complimented the tones of my skin. I
topped it off with pantyhose and a killer set of black heels. The clothes were
courtesy of an apparel warehouse reseller, and the accent purse slung over a
shoulder was a clever reproduction, giving me most of the image without the hit
against my checking account.

 

Looking the
part was easy, provided sufficient resources. Like a chameleon, I could contort
my appearance and demeanor to fit any environment, professional or not. It was
the rigorous study that was difficult; learning just enough of the appropriate
skills, knowing how to improvise professional answers out of smoke on the spot
– that was where things got a little tougher.

 

But I’d made
it so far. The first interview had been with my tired, excitable would-be boss,
Larry Higgins. I liked Larry for a number of reasons, primarily that he was on
my team from the start. His mistake had been his enthusiasm and personable
approach; I’d even managed to get him to talk about his wife and darling pair
of kids for a few minutes. There were two questions that I’d fumbled, which
should have been dead giveaways. Although ultimately endearing, Larry foolishly
glazed over my missteps to get a feel for my personality, and to focus instead on
the strengths of my resume.

 

If you could call that complete and utter fiction
a resume…

 

My second
interview had been a little tougher. A man who introduced himself to me only as
Coppersmith, he was higher in the chain – the Director of Marketing. He
was also an older, crotchety bastard with a harsh disdain for bullshit. Dealing
with
him
had kept me more on my toes,
because I couldn’t play a proper angle with him. Instead, I changed tactics,
embracing a few illusionary weaknesses to show him how humble and responsible I
was.

 

 
Honestly, I didn’t think it worked
– he looked not only perceptive, but also powerful within the company. If
I were going to be a liability, he’d sniff it out at the start. Twenty minutes
in I was ready to run and hide, but I forced myself to stay calm and demure,
and that’s when I saw him crack just the slightest hint of a smile.
His
mistake was enjoying my humility, a
card I kept on hand at all times. I’d won him over.

 

Which left my
third…

 

I was at my
destination with a few minutes to spare. The building was an impressive piece
of architecture, and Andrews Enterprises took the prime real estate at the
peak. During the longest elevator ride of my life, I took a deep breath,
whipped out my contact mirror, and gave myself a quick, stern glance.

 

Key, you’ve got this. You’ve spent a month
preparing for this next thirty minutes. It’s in the bag.

 

I slipped it
back into my purse, straightened my shoulders, and kept a winning smile on
stand-by. When the doors opened, I signed in, sat in reception, and waited with
a wide-eyed, sincere grin on my face.

 

One year here, and everything will fall into
place. You can get yourself out of this godforsaken city and never look back.
Just act the part and –

 

“Hi, are you
Kiona?” A chipper, lithe, young ginger woman asked politely, brushing her curls
aside and extending her small hand.

 

I stood up
and graciously shook it.

 

“That’s me!”

 

Out comes the smile. I know how to play this
game.

 

“Fantastic,”
she returned my expression warmly. “You were scheduled to have a dual-interview
with our hiring manager and training coordinator, but there’s been a change of
plans. I’m Kylie, the executive assistant for Cole Andrews. I’ve been asked to
personally interview you for his review myself.”

 

My smile
didn’t falter, but my core withered. Cole Andrews was the man in charge, and
one of the richest men in the city – if not
the
richest. This wasn’t part of the plan. I hadn’t prepared for
this.

 

Fuck.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

(
Back to Table of Contents
)

 

Chapter 1

 

Kiona

 

Four
Months Later

 
 
 

Anyone else would have been too
intimidated to step foot into the fully staffed conference room during the
quarterly corporate meeting, especially with Cole Andrews sitting at the helm.
But that’s my trick: I’m not
just
anyone else
.
I’m
anyone
I need to be at any time. Right now, that meant that I was Kiona
Walker, the secret weapon of the Andrews Enterprises marketing department.
Fearless, adaptable, and quick on my feet, I perform borderline
magic
for these people on the regular.

 

That’s what I
made them all believe, anyway. Backing it up took a little work, and a couple
of Saturdays here and there, but it was such an easy persona to slip into while
temporarily embracing the atmosphere.

 

It’s no
wonder that it was me who Larry asked to infiltrate the board meeting.
Overworked and underappreciated, Larry helmed our merry little band of
miracle-workers. Ever since I’d started working here and had to pay attention,
I’d pictured Larry as a startlingly thin former frat boy. Standing six foot
four, with a perpetual smile on his face and bags beneath his merry eyes, he
looked more in place behind a smoking grill with beer in hand than leading the
marketing team for one of the most exclusive e-commerce developers in the
world.

 

“You called
for me, Boss?” I asked, leaning through the doorway to his enclosed office.
While we all had our cubicles, Larry’s office was some sort of constructed,
homey chamber that he inherited from the office’s previous leasers.

 

Larry was
already standing, reaching into the inner pocket of his hanging windbreaker
– my eyes immediately slid to his motorcycle helmet, in its usual spot atop
his bookcase. When I first interviewed with Larry, I hadn’t imagined that he
was such a motorcycle aficionado as he wound up being, but it only added to his
charm.

 

But that
charm was presently gone. As Larry turned to face me, his characteristically warm
expression was stonily grave. “We’ve got a problem. I ran the numbers again,
and Coppersmith is about to give Andrews the wrong reporting figures…and I’ve
got to run downstairs and put out a fire.”

 

“Must be a
hell of a fire,” I remarked calmly, holding my elbows with arms crossed. That
was his polite way of saying
Somebody
fucked up, and I’ve gotta go fix this shit.

 

“Little bit.”
The faintest glimmer of a smile tugged at his lips. Larry looked absolutely
exhausted. I realized that he’d still been behind his dual monitors when I left
the previous night.
How long was he
working last night?
“I don’t know how long this is going to take –
can I trust you to run the revised report to the conference room?”

 

I glanced
down at the red binder on the edge of the desk. “You’ve got it. I’ll head
straight there.”

 

“Lifesaver,”
he chuckled, darting out the door around me.

 

“Damn right,”
I chuckled, watching him give a quick wave of recognition before disappearing
down a corridor.

 

Clutching the
report against my chest, I briskly strolled past the small sea of cubicles and
offices towards the far door. The conference room wasn’t far – I merely
needed to stroll along the edge of the call center, then the programmers’
grotto, and finally down a private hallway to the closed door at the end.

 

I smiled
politely at several of my coworkers in different departments as they glanced up
from their work and waved. Although I’d only been here four months, I’d already
made some waves with my professional output. It might have put me on the outs
with my co-workers, but I got lucky. The company was fond of throwing lavish
quarterly company parties, and the timing of my employment meant that the
second one was due relatively shortly. To my surprise, the Facility Manager
wheeling out the karaoke machine had given me the chance to solidify some
casual friendships with the rest of the staff.

 

Fitting in
was
always
one of my strong suits…

 

Few of my
coworkers dared to step into the Corporate Corridor, our colloquial name for
the hallway of private offices to most of the on-site upper management.
However, the place virtually
nobody
dared
to go was the conference room, situated behind the door at the very end.
Protocol dictated that one does not
simply
enter the conference room
when
the door is closed, and to my complete lack of surprise it was already shut.
However, I wasn’t about to make the next two rungs up the ladder look like
complete idiots in front of the company founder, so I broke the rule and went
for it.

 

Knock, knock.

 

I hear a
dampened speaking voice behind the door pause, and the room became eerily
silent. I gave it a few seconds, waiting to see if anyone would spare me the
trouble and simply pop open the door for me. Naturally, that didn’t happen, and
I was aware that they were a second or two away from resuming...

 

Knock, knock.

 

The silence
hung for a moment, but then there was the sound of a separate female voice
– an aggravated trill that I could barely hear. No chairs shuffled or
footsteps approached, so I straightened my shoulders, lifted my chin, and
twisted the doorknob.

 

If you’ve
ever seen a conference room in some Wall Street film or television drama, you’ve
got the right starting point. The board table was a large, finely polished,
wooden surface of chestnut cherry, situated atop three cubed pedestal bases.
This gave the table the illusion of floating in mid-air between the twelve
confused men and women – facing me from their chairs in various states of
annoyance. The room itself featured tasteful light mocha walls and strong,
mahogany bookcases, all lined with ledgers and binders. The exception was that
every top shelf of every bookcase was empty, save for numerous awards, framed
certificates, and trophies that the company had won over the last eight years.
The far wall was an expensive solid sheet of glass, offering an unremarkable
view of the buildings across the street – unless you were the
founder, seated at the end, who could glance down the curved street towards the
beautiful, sprawling park in the distance.

 

Speaking of
the founder, Cole Andrews was the only person at the table without some
variation of an angry grimace or confused stare plastered across his face.
Relaxing comfortably in his executive chair, he merely tilted his face in my
direction, his stony stare lazily falling upon me.

 

My breath
caught in my throat for a moment – startlingly handsome, relatively young
Cole Andrews had never really paid me any notice. Whenever I’d see him, he was
moving through the office with singular purpose. Now he was staring
right at me
with his characteristically
cool glance, and all I could do was marvel at his beautiful eyes.

 

God, he’s fucking sexy.

 

His
professional detachment was legendary in these offices. Privately, a number of
the marketing people referred to him as
Cold
King Cole
, regardless of a complete lack of relation to the old British
nursery rhyme. For one, Cole Andrews wasn’t British. Additionally, he was the
furthest thing from a
merry old soul
that
I could imagine – his expression was locked into perpetual stoicism, and his
posture was downright statuesque. Don’t even get me started on the rest of it…I
think he’d burst into indomitable fury if a gaggle of fiddlers burst into his
office.

 

Brushing my flushed
thoughts aside, I walked over to Coppersmith, handing him the binder. My
confidence was briefly rattled when I realized that he was sitting just two
chairs down from Mr. Andrews, separated only by the executive assistant –
a chirpy, young woman with thick curls and glistening eyes.

 

“Pardon the
intrusion, sir, but I’m afraid there’s a mistake with your figures. These are
the corrected numbers.”

 

Coppersmith
had apparently been promoted, not long after he interviewed me. This meant that
he was the most junior corporate leader at the table, and would have to show
the others how capable he really was. By extension of his stuffy, self-serving
personality, he would clearly choose to preen his reputation for accepting
zero
bullshit.

 

Lashing out
was the inevitable conclusion. His withering glance drooped to the binder I
held out, then to the one already open in front of him.

 

“Impossible.
Larry Higgins already gave me this one personally. Take that and get out.”

 

Repressing
the urge to smack him upside the head with the delivery in my hand, I converted
my irritation into a winning smile. “Understood, sir. However, Larry was
working so hard last night that I offered to compile the numbers for him. With
my history for perfectionism, he trusted me. I’m afraid that the mistake is
mine. Here are the corrected figures.”

 

Coppersmith
glowered at me, contemplating my words. Finally, he begrudgingly took it from
my hand. “I am going to have a word with Larry.”

 

“Understood,
sir. My apologies for the intrusion.”

 

I glanced up,
and Cole was already gazing away, his stare lost down the street.
He probably wants to be here as little as I
do,
I thought to myself as I noticed a hint of sadness in his gaze.

 

“Run along
now,” Coppersmith grumbled, waving me away with a brisk, wrinkled hand.

 

 
I nodded cordially, turning back towards
the door and avoiding the aggravation of the other corporate members. Before I
could leave, my eyes fell upon some of the information on the projected screen
– and I stopped in my tracks.

 

“Sir,
that’s…wrong,” I paused, pointing at the screen. “You have here that the Ashen
account is running over-budget.” I stepped closer, pointing out a specific area
on the projected page. “We had Accounting get in touch, and they freed up
another $10,000 for us…” My finger moved to the
Staff Investment
column. “…And Toby figured out an After Effects
trick to automate some of the motion graphics work, so their immediate commercial
needs are being met with a full three days’ of work shaved off. Furthermore,
Toby and Samantha are collaborating and staggering their work, so that the
final product renders overlap and they can maximize their time appropriately.
We’re actually running ahead of schedule and thirty percent under budget.”

 

I turned back
towards the table, not sure what to expect. If anything, I was afraid that I’d
be banished from the room and reluctantly punished by my boss – possibly
even put on some sort of probation. My gaze fell upon the only face in the room
that mattered. Cole Andrews was sitting forward now, his elbows uniformly
against the table, fingers clasped.

 

Is he…is that a smirk?

 

“Miss
Walker,” Coppersmith stammered, standing to his feet. “You have interrupted
this private meeting for long enough. Leave this room this instant, and let
Larry know that I expect to–”

 

“Enough.”

 

Everyone
turned to the founder, who had concentrated his gaze on Larry’s superior. I
couldn’t really see his look from across the room, but it was far less pleasant
than it had been just a moment before.

 

“Sit down,”
Cole Andrews commanded, and Coppersmith reluctantly slid back down into his
seat. He turned his gaze back towards me; it was no smirk, all business. “Is
this true?”

 

“Yes, Mr.
Andrews.”

 

A crisply
dressed, older woman with cropped, graying hair angrily spoke up, leaning back
into her executive chair. “Why on
Earth
are
we hearing this from
you
?”

 

“I…” I
paused, realizing that they – including Andrews – were all
expecting an answer from me. “I don’t know who is in charge of that
information. It doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the revisions I just
offered. However, these
were
somewhat
last minute changes, so it’s natural that they might not have entered your
compiled reports.”

 


How
last minute?” A middle-aged Italian
woman in a modest, casual suit asked.

 

“As recent as
this morning, I believe.”

 

“Unacceptable,”
the older woman cut in. “These are the kinds of things we need to know to
properly
conduct
these meetings.
There was a breakdown of communication here. The Ashen account is our priority
right now! If we’re running under budget, well, that changes damned near
everything
we’ve already discussed!”

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