Authors: Meg Watson,Marie Carnay,Alyssa Alpha,Alyse Zaftig,Cassandra Dee,Layla Wilcox,Morgan Black,Molly Molloy,Holly Stone,Misha Carver
Bundle Copyright: Meg Watson
Published: July, 2015
Publisher: Meg Watson
All titles are reprinted with permission. Copyrights are retained by the original authors.
“Her Billionaire Benefactor” copyright 2015 Marie Carnay, “Taming The Heiress,” copyright 2015 Alyssa Alpha, “Need” copyright 2015 Alyse Zaftig, “Baby For the Billionaire 1: Just One Night” copyright 2015 Cassandra Dee, “Satisfying The Billionaire Collection” copyright 2015 Layla Wilcox, “Untouched: Boston Buyer’s Club Book 1” copyright 2014 Morgan Black, “Ripped” copyright 2015 Molly Molloy, “Taken by a Stranger” copyright 2015 Holly Stone, “Billionaire Seeks an Heir Part 1” copyright 2015 Misha Carver, “His Captive, Book 1” copyright 2015 Meg Watson
The right of the individual authors to be identified as author of these works has been asserted by them in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, copied in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted without written permission from the publisher. You must not circulate this book in any format.
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Please note that this is a work of adult fiction and contains graphic descriptions of sexual activity, graphic language. It is intended for mature readers aged 18 and over only. No sexual activity occurs between blood relatives. All persons depicted are over the age of 18.
“Your clothes are ready, miss.”
Bryce dropped the curtain and glanced at the bed. “Is that new?”
The butler shrugged. “I thought you could do with a new dress. Something you could wear in the city.”
She blew out a thick breath and tried to smile. “Thanks, Malcolm. It’s lovely.”
“Is there anything else I can do for you?”
Stop up this gaping hole in my chest?
“No, you’ve done so much already. I just—I didn’t—” Bryce’s voice faltered, and she paused.
You’ve known this day would come for years, Bryce. Get it together
. Alston’s face flooded her mind—stern, disapproving, fatally handsome—and she shuddered.
Malcolm gave her a pat on the arm and a brief squeeze. “It’s okay. This is a big day.”
Not just a big day. The last day.
She wanted to run into his arms and hug him like she used to. Back when her arms barely reached around his middle and her head only came up chest high. When he’d pick her up after every fall and hug away every bruise. Back when her twenty-first birthday seemed a million years away and ice cream solved everything.
She cleared her throat and glanced back at the window. Would anyone miss her? Or did all that end when the guardianship expired? “Do you mind if I email now and then? Just to check in and see how everyone is?”
“Of course. We’ll all miss you. Even Mister Hayes.”
Bryce nodded. Mr. Hayes. The one man who never gave her the time of day. The one she’d give anything to know. But her time had run out. She turned to the bed and fingered the black silk. A simple A-line designed to highlight her assets and skim over her plentiful hips. A perfect day-to-evening dress. What a waste.
“You have the right to be happy, Bryce. But you have to make it happen.”
She snapped her head up and looked at the butler.
But before she could ask, he waved her off.
“I’m sorry, don’t mind me. A bit sentimental, I guess.” He straightened his jacket and took a step back. “If there’s nothing else, I’ll leave you to it.”
“Thank you, Malcolm. For everything.” He’d never know how much a friend he’d been to her. Family. She’d never forget him.
Bryce turned back to the window as he strode out of the room, hiding her unshed tears with a whoosh of her hair. In a few short hours, she’d be leaving. Never to see Malcolm, the rest of the staff, or her benefactor ever again.
A pang of regret hit her in the gut and she gripped the curtain so hard the rod trembled above her head. It wasn’t the money, the lavish estate, or the education Bryce would miss. It was Alston Hayes. The man who’d taken her in when she had no one and nothing. And who was about to usher her out the same way.
Pulling the fabric aside, she scanned the grassy hills, searching for a smart rider on a sleek black horse. The man who’d swooped in and given her a butler, cooks, chauffeurs. The best boarding school. A top-tier college education. Everything but himself. The one man who made her pulse gallop with a nod and her panties dampen with a smile.
. On the crest of the hill. Poised on the back of his stallion like a damn prince charming. Bryce’s pulse quickened, the curtain shook with her trembling hand, and he tilted his head. Alston was staring at her. She knew it.
Without thinking, she reached out—hand palming the glass, lips parted in anticipation—waiting for him to rescue her. But she wasn’t a princess and Alston Hayes wasn’t a savior. He spurred his horse on with a flick of his crop and disappeared without so much as a nod.
I need to grow up
. The curtain fell back into place and Bryce turned to pick up the dress.
Might as well go out with a bang.
She slipped out of her robe and put it on, zipping it up and hiding her ragged emotions in the fluid drape.
Grace and dignity. That’s what he’ll see
. With a deep breath, she picked up her purse, turned off the light and shut the door on her life.
A few minutes later and she stepped out the front entrance. The chauffeur stood alongside the black Bentley with a propped up smile.
“Your bags are in the trunk, Miss Meadows. Are you ready to leave?”
No, but I should be
. Bryce nodded and handed him the final bag. “Thank you.”
She slipped into the back as the chauffeur set it in the trunk.
This is it
. She closed her eyes and leaned back on the seat, breathing in the scent of sumptuous leather for the last time.
Goodbye, upstate New York. Hello, NYU
She should be thrilled. A chance to finally be on her own. Graduate school in the big city. New friends. New life. The path to a career. Just Bryce Meadows. Not a charity case. Not an orphan. She shook her head with a snort. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t shake the sense of loss.
“Miss? Are you all right?”
Bryce blinked her eyes open and squinted at the bright outside light. “Malcolm? Is that you?”
“Yes, miss. I hope I’m not disturbing you.”
“No, I’m just…leaving.”
“Yes, I know. And I’m sorry to delay you, but Mr. Hayes asked that I give you this.” The butler held out a white envelope and Bryce raised an eyebrow.
“O-kay. Thanks.” She took it and set it on her lap before giving Malcolm a nod.
“Miss? Mr. Hayes would like you to read it now, please.” He gave her a small bow and she sighed. Alston couldn’t even be bothered to tell her goodbye, but she had to read his letter while sitting in the driveway?
She opened the envelope and pulled out a single sheet of thick cardstock.
Please join me for drinks in honor of your birthday tonight. Eight o’clock in the wine cellar. Enjoy your present.
She turned it over and looked around, eyes darting in confusion.
“Miss? Mr. Hayes also asked that I give you this.” He held out a slim, black velvet box, and Bryce took it with a frown. He never sent gifts. And he never invited her to anything.
She opened the lid and almost dropped the box on the floor of the car. A platinum necklace sat inside, with the largest diamond pendant she’d ever seen. It hung from the chain like a ripe pear, luscious and sparkling. Outrageously expensive. And he wanted her to have it?
Bryce opened her mouth, but no words came out. She glanced up at Malcolm and he grinned.
“Can I help you out of the car, miss?”
“I…I guess so. Yes. Thank you, Malcolm.” She shut the box and gripped it in one hand. Alston gave her a diamond necklace. And wanted to have drinks. Was he just saying goodbye? Or was this the start of something more? Something she’d wanted for far too long?
“My pleasure, miss Bryce.” Malcolm took her free hand and helped her out. “I’ll let Mr. Hayes know to be expecting you.”
“Y—yes. Please.” Bryce stepped away from the car and glanced up at the house.
“The necklace will be lovely with that dress.” Bryce glanced down at the scoop neck and the miles of cleavage she could see from her angle. Malcolm had a good point. “Yes. I think you’re right. Thank you, Malcolm.”
“Of course. I’ll speak with the chauffeur.”
Bryce nodded and stepped to the side as Malcolm said a few words. In moments, he disappeared inside, the chauffeur drove off, and she was alone. She stood in the driveway, staring up at the mansion she’d lived in but never called home. Alston was in there somewhere. And in a few short hours, she’d be sitting across from him, drinking a glass of wine and trying not to lose herself in his brown eyes.
Somehow, she didn’t think she’d succeed.
* * * * *
Alston tightened the Windsor knot and smoothed the blue silk. The necklace had been an impulse. A gift he hadn’t been sure of bestowing until he’d seen her sashay down the front steps toward the town car. Ass like a pendulum. Up, down, side to side. Flowing black silk whooshing her out of his life forever. He slipped on the midnight blue jacket and frowned at his reflection. He never doubted anything. Except Bryce.
For years, she’d been an afterthought. He’d plucked her out of the spotlight in an effort at damage control. Orphaned with a stray bullet two days before Christmas by one of his security guards. The media ate up that kind of tragedy like an all-you-can-eat buffet. He’d needed to do something to silence the critics. Show his company’s compassion and dedication. Highlight his charity and maintain his image.
And he’d done just that. Malcolm took care of her day-to-day needs and Alston had signed all the checks. New clothes, books, toys, whatever his best employee thought she’d needed. As soon as possible, he’d shipped her off to boarding school and washed his hands of her. She’d come back in the summers, of course. Gangly and awkward and quiet. A mouse of a thing who kept to herself and left him alone. The way it should be.
But then she grew up. Graduated Yale at twenty with a dual degree and a body no man could resist. Rich chestnut hair. Pouty, lush lips. Full hips that screamed dominate me. And he wanted to. All night long.
Legal status be damned, he couldn’t stop imagining her. Blindfolded, bent over, begging for him to take her again and again. Her back arching in need, lips whispering his name as he claimed her for his own.
If she were any other woman—a stranger he’d met on the street, an employee, shit, even a maid—he’d just take what he wanted. But not Bryce. Not a woman he’d taken in as a minor, even if he didn’t raise her. He ran a hand through his brown hair, tucking an errant strand behind his ear.
He should have sent her away. Ushered her out the door like he’d promised all those years ago and been done with it. But he couldn’t. Not without saying goodbye. Turning away from the mirror, he buttoned his jacket and took a deep breath.
. One night to talk, smile, drink champagne and flush her out of his system for good. Then he’d be able to breathe.
Stepping into the hall, he gave his butler a smile.
“Ensure that we’re not disturbed. No calls, no interruptions.”
Alston strode down the hall, tugging his shirt sleeves out of his jacket as his shoes echoed on the marble. The wine cellar sat on the opposite end of the house, and the walk afforded him time to prepare. By the time he pushed the thick wood door open, he’d composed himself.
Or so he thought.
Damn it to hell
. Bryce stood by the table, teeth digging into her plump, pink lip as she drummed her fingers on the table. The necklace he’d given her nestled between the outrageous swell of her breasts. His dick twitched as he thought of taking its place.
The same black dress hugged her curves, and a pair of strappy sandals showed off crimson toes. Bryce was all woman and spectacular. “The necklace suits you.”
She gasped and her black lashes fluttered against her cheeks. “Oh! Hello, Mr. Hayes. Thank you for this—it’s beautiful.”
“Alston. Please, you know you can call me Alston.”
“I’m sorry. It’s just—” She trailed off and he motioned to the waiting chair.
“Sit. The champagne’s waiting.”
Bryce nodded and slid onto the seat and Alston did the same. After spreading his napkin in his lap, he lifted the bottle from the chiller.
He filled two glasses and raised his. “To your twenty-first birthday.”
With a brief smile, Bryce raised the glass to her lips and drank. The bubbles slipped past her lips, disappeared down her throat, and Alston almost groaned out loud.
To be that champagne
As she set down the glass, she pressed her lips together and glanced at the table.
“What is it?” Holding back was easy to spot.
“Why did you invite me here? And give me this?” She stroked the necklace, running her fingers up and down the chain.
“It’s your birthday. I thought drinks and a present were in order.”
“You’ve never given me a present before. You’ve never even said happy birthday before. Why now?” Her green eyes rose up to meet his and he had to look away. When she put it like that, he sounded despicable.
“Yes. Well, I’m here now. Happy birthday.” Alston took another sip of champagne and leaned back in the chair, looping an arm over the seat as he commanded his body to still. Women didn’t fluster him, damn it. “So, tell me. What are your plans post-college?”
Bryce scrunched her eyebrows and set the glass down. “I’m attending NYU. A Ph.D. Program in Psychology.”
Alston cocked his head to the side. “Ambitious. And what would be your focus?”
“It’s not exactly cocktail conversation.”
She sat a little straighter in her chair. “I’d like to explore tragedy. How it shapes people’s lives. Transforms them. For some, it gives purpose, for others…the opposite. I want to know why.”