Billionaire's Second Chance (An Alpha Billionaire Second Chance Romance Love Story), страница 1
BILLIONAIRE’S SECOND CHANCE
By Claire Adams
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2017 Claire Adams
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I gazed out of the window of my plane at the small town I used to call home. I’d left North Reed right after graduating from high school. I’d worked my ass off to get a scholarship to NYU to study accounting, and I couldn’t get out of this town fast enough.
It had been eleven years since I’d been back here, and I could have gone eleven more without missing the place. My mother had different plans. She begged me to come home for Christmas this year. Normally, I just flew my parents up to my place in New York. I owned a gorgeous brownstone in Manhattan that I loved, but Mom missed the traditional holiday vibe of her house. After multiple conversations, I caved and came home.
I even agreed to stay for a month, as long as I could bring Preston, my personal assistant. He kept my life organized, and I could never walk away from my many investments for a month without working. It caused me to get into a fight with Mom, but I won in the end. I needed to keep my life at least a little normal, even being here in Texas.
I hated this place when I left, and apart from my family, I didn’t have any ties here. I was here for my parents, particularly since my father had a heart attack six months ago. Mom handled everything, and we spoke on the phone a lot, but I could tell she wanted a traditional Christmas at home as a family. Dad’s health scare made her want to focus on the important things in life. Who was I to argue with that?
My plane landed on a runway away from commercial traffic since it was my own private plane. I had investments all over the world which required me to travel a lot. It just made sense to buy my own plane. I’d be sending it back to pick up Preston. He was taking care of some loose ends with a client, so he had to take a later flight. I could survive a day or so without him since we were in near constant contact.
I thanked my pilot and walked off the plane. Cold wind swirled around me. I walked over to the rental car agency. I’d booked a car for the month. Mom offered to come pick me up, but it was a three-hour drive, and I would need a car, anyway. Plus, I knew she preferred being close to Dad.
We settled the bill, and I paid with my AMEX before taking the keys out to the parking lot. The white Maserati waited for me. I put my suitcase and smaller bag in the trunk before adjusting the seat to suit my height. It was a nice car, although I preferred my new Bentley at home. Even though this was just to get around town, I liked my vehicles on the upper end. I worked hard for my money, and I liked to spend it, even though Mom never took me up on my offers to buy them cars or a new house. She was happy with their simpler life here and far too attached to their older ranch-style home to ever leave. I grew up there and had many fond memories, so I tried to understand her point of view.
I slipped on a pair of sunglasses before I pulled out on the main road, confident that nobody knew I was here in Texas. Being one of the richest men in the world has its drawbacks, and the paparazzi was one of them. Every move I made was splashed all over every media source, and some that I didn’t make. People believed rumors far too easily in this world, and I made a point of keeping my travel plans under the radar. I didn’t want to subject my family to public scrutiny, choosing to keep everything about them as private as possible.
The road was empty. I listened to the radio in between calls to Preston. One of my investments was dropping, and he was on it every second to decide if I should sell it or stick it out. Market fluctuations were common, and stocks often went right back up after a drop. Any turbulence with a company in the media could cause stocks to drop and come back up once there was a new story in the news. He seemed confident that I should keep it at the moment, and there was something about his easy English accent that comforted me. The man knew his numbers and the trends, and I contributed much of my wealth to his talents.
I approached the town and looked it over with a soft shake of my head. Nothing ever fucking changed here. I glanced at the diner that I spent a lot of time at as a student, the corner store that we’d hit when we needed a quick drink or snack, and I laughed when I saw Grayson’s Barber Shop and Salon. It had been years since I’d had a cut here. I ran my hand through my long dark hair, and I considered getting it cut. I was always so busy in the city and let life pass me by with little time for anything but work. The media made me sound like I was a social butterfly, but the truth was they just caught me when I attended a function with my colleagues. It was convenient for them.
I parked without thinking and turned the engine off. The street was lined with old trucks and modest cars, making this rental stand out. I had no idea how to do small-town anymore, and I shook my head. Mom would like it if I cut some of this shit off my head, and there wasn’t the array of salons here in North Reed like there was in New York.
I locked the car and ignored the looks from shoppers on the sidewalk as I headed to the salon. It looked like any other salon in any other little city. The front was all glass, and one of the old-fashioned barber poles spun in the front. This place had been open long enough to cut Dad’s hair when he was a kid, and it appeared nothing had changed.
My phone rang before I walked inside, and I grabbed it, seeing Mom’s name on the screen. I answered it and assured her I was just getting a quick haircut at Grayson’s. She told me how much she missed taking me there as a little boy, making me roll my eyes quietly as she strolled down memory lane. Her voice had a slow drawl to it that soothed me in the same way that Preston’s did, and I smiled as I leaned against the glass.
Was I really here for a fucking month? I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself. I called Preston once I finished with Mom’s call, craving a connection to New York. I needed to think about my new life for a moment instead of the old one. I felt stuck here as a kid and getting away was such a relief. I even tried to get my folks to move to a nice place outside of New York City, but they were having none of that idea. I was lucky to have them join me for the holidays since I still had an aunt and uncle out here that my parents were close to.
Preston told me that things were moving in the right direction now. I felt better when I ended the call and turned to walk into the salon. It was still the same long room lined with stations and a basic desk where you pay. A red-haired woman glanced up from a book that she wrote in and smiled at me. “Hello, there. What can I do for you today?” She was a Texas girl, complete with the accent and the easy way she spoke.
“I don’t have an appointment, but I was hoping to get a trim,” I said as I walked over to the counter.
She nodded. I guessed she was a bit younger than I was since I didn’t recognize her. Most people who lived here stayed as opposed to leaving, and I saw her look down at something.
“Of course. Have a seat and someone will grab you soon.” She smiled brightly.
I walked over to the chairs to sit down. I looked befor
I reminded myself to slow down while I was here. The last eleven years of my life had been so fast-paced that this made me feel restless. I was mostly off for a month, apart from keeping track of my stocks and bonds, and I needed to slow down and enjoy life. I’d done the work needed to get my money, and I was incredibly successful in business. I had nothing to worry about, but my mind kept racing twenty-four hours a day.
My phone chimed with a text, and I saw that it was from Mandy, a woman I spent some time with back home here and there. She got an invitation to a pre-holiday party in Manhattan and asked me if I would attend it with her. It was only the sixth of December, but the parties were already starting. I was going to miss a lot being here, but Dad scared me with his heart attack. I needed to spend some time with my family and get back to my roots again. My parents wouldn’t be here forever.
“Did you have an idea of what kind of cut you wanted?” A sweet drawl filled my ears, bringing something to life inside of me. I frowned and glanced up, seeing a familiar pair of wide hazel eyes.
Holy shit. It was Rebecca Silver, or at least, I thought her name was still Silver. She was my high school sweetheart back when I lived here. She still looked gorgeous, and I felt a slow smile crossing my face.
“I just wanted a little off the top,” I said. “It’s grown out some.” I ran a hand through my messy waves. I looked like this back when we were dating, and I looked into her eyes to see if she recognized me.
She licked her full lips, and I was certain she did. Rebecca sounded comfortable when she first spoke but now looked a bit nervous to see me. Granted, it had been some time, but nothing terrible happened between us before. We were just going in different directions and made the choice to break up. We were like many of the couples in school when they ended up going to different colleges.
She stayed behind just like she said she would. I wondered what else happened in her life in the past eleven years.
Was she married? My eyes trailed down her curves, not seeing a ring on her left hand. She might have gained a few pounds in the time we’d spent apart, but I also dated a lot of stick-thin supermodels and actresses now. They barely had tits, much less any hips, and the girls here in Texas had a little meat on their bones. I missed that and thought about hooking up with a few fresh faces while I was here, maybe even hitting a bigger town for a night out with some of the guys.
Seeing Rebecca right away was not in my plans. She took a deep breath and looked into my eyes.
Oh, my God. The moment Austin looked at me, I knew who he was. I’d never forgotten those bottomless dark eyes or the way he made me feel when we were teenagers. He answered me when I asked what type of cut he wanted, but seeing his handsome face distracted me. I had no clue what his answer had been.
Austin Harris was here. I hadn’t heard a peep from him since he moved away eleven years ago. He’d broken my heart, but I hid that from him back then. Only Mama knew how I felt.
I told him to come on over, and Austin stood, showing me how muscular his tall frame was now. He was gorgeous, even more so in person. I’d seen him on television and in magazines. They always talked about how rich he was or which famous woman he was dating this week.
The women he went out with didn’t look like I did, now or back in high school. They were typically blonde, skinny, and drop-dead gorgeous. He lived a completely different life now. I pressed my hands to my skinny jeans before I led him to my station in the back corner.
Blake Shelton played on the radio, and I watched him take a seat. He looked massive in the chair. I took in a deep, slow breath and slowly lowered the chair. Lord have mercy, but he’d grown up.
“So, what did you say you wanted to do with your hair?” I asked softly and met his gaze in the mirror. I secured the barber cape around his neck. He kept looking at me with a smirk before explaining that he just wanted a trim.
“How are you doing these days, Rebecca?” he asked. I noticed a trace of his accent, and I smiled.
“I’m good. It’s North Reed, you know? I’ve seen you on television now and then. It seems that you’re well.”
“I am,” Austin replied, sounding like a man as he leaned back confidently in the seat. He was just eighteen when he left, and while Austin always had a plan for his life, he was more successful than I thought he would be now.
“I can give you a shampoo before I cut it, if you’d like. It helps when I cut wavy hair like this.” I reached out to touch it, stopping as I caught his gaze in the mirror again.
“Anything to make it easier on you,” he replied.
I told him to follow me to a sink. Austin got comfortable in the chair and leaned back. I wet his hair with a warm spray, and he locked gazes with me. Sensations rushed through me that I hadn’t felt in years. I pumped some shampoo into my hand and stroked it through his thick hair. I did this every day with almost every customer, but there was something intimate about being this close to Austin.
We were quiet as I washed his hair, but I normally didn’t talk too much at this point. It was a little noisy, and I preferred to think of this part as a chance to let the customer feel spoiled. There was plenty of room for talk when I did the service they requested. He looked at me, but I focused on rinsing all the shampoo out and conditioning, with only a few glances his way. I still reeled with shock at seeing him, and I needed to control the way my hands were shaking.
I wrapped a towel around his neck and eased Austin up with a hand on his shoulder. I took a deep breath and smiled. I led the way to the chair, tucking a brown curl behind my ear. He sat back down and got comfortable.
“So, just a little off the top?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said.
I picked up a comb and worked it through his soft hair.
“Everything is good here in town?” Austin asked, sounding a bit forced to me.
“It’s North Reed. Nothing much changes here.” I shrugged. I pulled his hair up to see what the ends looked like. “Don’t they cut hair in the big city? This is long.” I tried to sound like I was teasing him, but I could hear my voice shaking as I spoke.
“There are a lot of choices there, actually.” Austin sounded annoyed, and his dark eyes looked down at the floor. “I just got busy and didn’t think about it for a while. I work for myself and presentation isn’t always important.” There was a sense of loftiness in his voice that made me feel small. I shrank back.
He was the arrogant ass they portrayed him as on television, after all. I’d hoped that there was still some of the sweetness that Austin had back in high school. It wasn’t often in the two years that we were together, but I did see that side of him.
“I see,” I murmured. I went to grab the scissors and dropped them. I groaned.
Get it together. He won’t be here forever.
“How long have you worked here?” Austin asked. I forced a fake smile to my face.
“Ten years,” I said. “I graduated from beauty college and they hired me immediately.” He looked at me in the mirror again.
“You saw that through,” he said.
I nodded. We both had our plans and seemed to have gone through with them, even if they were like night and day.
“I did,” I said. I bent over to get the scissors, managing to get a grip this time. I smoothed his hair through my fingers and trimmed the ends. Austin always had gorgeous hair, and I enjoyed the sensation of my hands in it again. “I thought I saw that you were flying somewhere for the holidays. They made such a fuss over it. Wasn’t it the Bahamas?”
“That was just to throw the paparazzi off. They’d f
“I would imagine,” I murmured, giving him a sympathetic glance. “I heard about Mel, and I’m so sorry, Austin. I hope he’s well. That’s what the word is.”
“He is. The doctor is making him relax and eat better, which he hates. That’s part of why I’m here. Mom didn’t want him traveling too much, and she begged me for a traditional Christmas.” Austin shrugged. “How is your family doing?”
“They moved to Arizona when Dad retired from the factory. Scottsdale. They love the heat, and I tolerate it to visit them as often as possible. I miss them, but my sister, Kim, is still here, working for the library. We live right down the street from one another.” I smiled at the mention of my baby sister.
“Did you stay in your parents’ place?” Austin asked.
I nodded. “She rents a cottage down the road, though…” I let my voice drift off.
“What is it?” Austin asked.
I swallowed the lump in my throat. “There’s some issues with the library. You know how old it is. It’s in dire need of repairs. The city is having a hard time fitting that into the budget. As much as parents love it for their kids, nobody wants an increase in their taxes.” I glanced at Austin in the mirror as he frowned. We’d all spent hours there, reading as kids, and doing schoolwork once we were older. It wasn’t big like some of the ones in the larger cities, but it had a special place in my heart. Kim worried about having to move out of North Reed, and I didn’t want that.
“It concerns you,” he said.
“Yeah, if they can’t fix it up, Kim will lose her job. I’ve invited her to move into the house if need be. We can figure it out if worse comes to worst.” I pushed my worry away and snipped some more hair off.