The Billionaire's Wife (Part Two), страница 1
Table of Contents
THE BILLIONAIRE’S WIFE (PART TWO)
The Billionaire’s Wife Series
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
THE BILLIONAIRE’S WIFE (PART TWO)
Copyright © 2014 Ava Claire
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means whatsoever without express written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
The Billionaire’s Wife Series
The Billionaire’s Wife (Part One): November 2014
The Billionaire’s Wife (Part Two): December 2014
The Billionaire’s Wife (Part Three): January 2015
The Billionaire’s Wife (Part Four): February 2015
Note: The Billionaire’s Wife series is a spin off from the His Submissive series. You can find the His Submissive series box set at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.
E-book License Edition Notes
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Jacob Whitmore was terrified.
He stood at the balcony, a tense grip on the railing. I braced myself for him to tell me that I’d forgotten my place. That he owed me no explanation. But when he faced me, his eyes told the truth—and the last emotion I ever expected to see in the blue fire that was his gaze cut to my very soul.
I forgot my righteous anger and the claws of fear that scratched my throat and rushed toward him. Before he could open his mouth, before he told me he was okay, I threw my arms around his neck and held on for dear life.
“It’s going to be okay, baby.” I squeezed him tight, believing my words. We could face and conquer anything together.
He didn’t return the hug, separating himself almost instantly. The second time I looked into his eyes his guard was up, hiding the flash of vulnerability I’d seen. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.”
The apology was a pleasant surprise, but no way would I let it go that easily. I squared my shoulders and put my hand on my hip for good measure. “I was so worried, Jacob. At first I didn’t know if it was me. Or someone else-”
“Like who?” Every perfect inch of his face turned to stone. “Rachel?”
I waved a hand through the air, trying to clear out the negative energy. Her name alone filled the air around us with animosity. “Or whoever.” I locked gazes with him, wanting to make my point very clear. “It’s the fact that you didn’t talk to me. That you didn’t turn to me or believe that I could handle it.” I paused and shook my head when he prepared a rebuttal. “There’s no excuse you can give that will change how hurt I am. I’m your partner, Jacob. You can’t shut me out. We’re better than that.”
I could tell from the stubborn set of his jaw that he didn’t appreciate me essentially shushing him, so I moved closer. I brushed his cheek with my fingertips. He shut his eyes, like he was savoring my touch, and the faintest hint of a smile fluttered across his lips. When he opened his eyes, an emotion I’d never get enough of shined down at me.
He fondled one of my curls, his voice low and intent. “You know how I feel about repeating myself, but I’ll make an exception. I know I shouldn’t have kept this from you. You mean the world to me, Lay. I don’t want you to ever question my commitment to us, or think that I am shutting you out.” He leaned in, his forehead pressed against mine, his words wrapping me in the sweetest embrace. “I love you...and I’m sorry.”
Tears blurred my vision, but I sniffed and held them back. I lifted on my toes and pecked him on the cheek. “So you have a long lost brother.” I nibbled on my bottom lip, trying to figure out a way to state the obvious. “That should be good news—but it isn’t.”
Jacob inhaled deep, releasing the breath in the form of a exhausted groan. “It’s not a matter of good and bad. It would be easier if it was that black and white.” He loosened his tie, then changed his mind and took it off altogether. He turned to the iron cart near the fire pit where a glass and a nearly empty bottle waited. He swiped the bottle, tipping it in the direction of the wine glass, then shrugged and threw it back instead.
The first reaction that came to mind was to gawk; I’d never seen him drink anything straight from the bottle, desperate for the courage. But I put aside my shock and went with option B. I’d literally just told him that he could turn to me, that we were a team. The last thing he needed right now was me to stare at him like he’d just sprouted a second head.
I made my way to the chaise, waiting for him to finish the bottle. He slammed it onto the cart like he’d just taken a shot, the clang of it making me jump. When he turned back to me, he arched an eyebrow, clearly waiting for me to make some unwelcome comment. I said nothing, only nodding at the chair beside me, letting him make the next move.
He strode to his chair, and lowered himself without a word. His eyes were locked on the sky, his hands folded behind his head. I joined him, swinging my legs over and sinking back with a sigh.
We hadn’t even gotten to the meat of what happened, but the stars seemed to twinkle brighter. Stronger. For the first time in days, I didn’t just see the darkness. The light shone just as brightly.
“It happened two weeks ago,” Jacob said finally, his deep, sure voice breaking the silence. “I went to lunch at Bite with Kirkman to discuss the expansion.”
I nodded, remembering how much Jacob had been dreading that meeting. There were talks about opening a Whitmore and Creighton PR agency in Los Angeles. It was an obvious move considering the glitz, glamour, and perpetual scandal that permeated the Hollywood Hills, but with a steady influx of new clients here and abroad, Jacob had a full plate.
“We’d barely put in our drink order when this kid dashes to the table,” he continued gruffly. “He was on staff, but he wasn’t our waiter. He could barely speak without tripping on his next word and he was just staring at me with stars in his eyes. I assumed he was a fan and thanked him for watching the show. Finally, the starstruck look faded and he told me he was my brother.”
All the questions that swarmed my head since Jacob first told me his secret flew from my lips. “What’s his name? What does he look like? Where has he been?” When I stole a look in my husband’s direction it was crystal clear that he wasn’t in the mood to play twenty questions. “Sorry,” I winced. “This is all just so-”
“Thrilling,” he finished, in what I was sure was the most un-thrilling tone I ever heard.
“You’re right. It should have been good news. Great news, even. Growing up, I used to wish I had someone. A little brother or sister I could confide in. Protect. I had friends, but I couldn’t talk to them about how much I missed my father. Or how much I missed my mother, even though we lived under the same roof. They wouldn’t get it.” He glanced at me, his eyes on fire with emotion before he extinguished the flame. “His name is Cole Sommers. He’s slightly shorter than I am, lean, blond...with my mother’s eyes.”
“He’s Alicia’s son?” I gasped, the weight of it dropping and leaving me breathless. All signs pointed to that reality, but I’d just assumed it was another love child of Jacob’s father. After
I turned away, embarrassed that my outburst wasn’t doing anyone any favors. The warmth of Jacob’s touch spread from my arm all over my body. I was supposed to be comforting him, but he was comforting me.
He squeezed and released, his fingertips just barely kissing my skin. “I was just as surprised when Cole dropped the bomb. Kirkman made up some sort of excuse and left me alone with him. Before I could ask for proof, he whipped out a manila folder. Inside was a birth certificate with my mother’s signature.” Jacob withdrew, slumping back against the chair. “He went on about his life but I zoned out, completely locked on the birth certificate. I was entranced by my mother’s signature. I traced every curve, wondering what was going through her mind. I raced through memories, images, trying to figure out if I noticed weight gain or any strange cravings.
But how would I? Boarding school was my home. I only came home for Christmas break and that Christmas I was with my grandparents. Once I started questioning if it was all some conspiracy, I just stopped. I told him I needed to do my own investigation and I’d contact him once I verified his story. I went to my mother, who categorically denied the whole thing until my investigator proved Cole was who he said he was.”
I was literally just at that witch’s house and I wanted a do-over. Instead of finishing my water, I should have thrown it, and the fancy cooler, at her head. The act of keeping Cole a secret was bad enough, but to prolong the inevitable and lie to Jacob’s face? That was just cruel, even for Alicia.
I tried to grasp at the positive. Jacob had a brother. This was an opportunity. I still had so many questions. “What was he like?”
“He seemed friendly.” Jacob massaged his neck, rolling his head from side to side. “Polite, other than dropping the bomb during my business meeting. When I told him it wasn't the time nor place, he backed off immediately. He said he'd wait at the cafe across the street if I wanted to talk. Since Kirkman was no help at all and excused himself, I had no reason to not take the kid up on his offer.”
“Kid?” He’d been tossing that word around. “How old is he?”
I waited for more. Anything—but Jacob was staring up at the sky like figuring out the cosmos was preferable to talking about any of this. I was balancing on a tightrope. Cautious. Mindful of every movement. The wrong move, the wrong question, could send me spiraling. So I chose to roll back onto the chair and give Jacob some time to breathe and process. Once I stopped waiting for him to tell me every last detail, he opened up.
“I met him at the cafe. Before I could even get the word 'money' out he made it clear that he didn't want a dime. He pulled out the folder again and pulled out that damn certificate-”
Jacob stopped and I turned to him. I saw the way he clenched and unclenched his fists. His relationship with his mother had always been a difficult one. Alicia couldn't take out her frustration about her husband's infidelity on its rightful target, so Jacob was left with a mother that treated him like an inconvenience. But this was bigger than sending him off to boarding school and ignoring every sign that he needed more. Deserved more.
“I just knew it was my father. After Venice and everything and his track record, it was right up his alley. Seeing her name on that certificate was like a knife to the gut. So I had the most awkward cup of coffee of my life, took the folder and we parted ways. Then I did my own research. I learned everything there was to know about Cole Sommers and throughout the whole process I kept hoping that I'd find out there was some mistake. I bargained with a God I haven’t talked to in years. I asked that if Cole was my brother, to make him Carlton's son because keeping it from me was too cruel, even for my mother.”
He went still. Dangerously so. When I pulled myself up and leaned in, I saw he wasn't as still as I thought. His fists were twitching, like he was dying to punch something. Or someone.
“Jacob, are you okay?”
“Am I okay?” His voice was like smoke, wild and elusive. “I had, have a brother. All those years when I thought I had no one: a father who didn't give a damn, and a mother who cared about everything but her son-”
He cleared his throat and in that moment I knew I'd get no more out of him. The pain Alicia caused ran too deep and if my head was spinning with all of this, Jacob had to officially be in 'fuck this' territory.
So I put all questions about what came next on hold and committed Jacob's brother's name and place of employment to memory.
“You hungry?” I chirped. “Pasta sounds kind of perfect right now.”
He grunted something that sounded like ‘sure’ and I practically flew back into the apartment. I was a flurry of hands and pots and noodles, only pausing when I turned to the fridge. I held onto the bar with both hands, breathing deep and exhaling until I felt like I'd pushed all the air from my body. Emotions consumed me, running the gamut from ‘choke my mother-in-law’ angry to heartbreaking sorrow for Jacob. What he said about having someone, having a brother or sister to turn to, having someone...
Tears stabbed my eyes as I tore open the fridge and dove into the produce drawer. The tomatoes stood no chance as I sliced and diced brutally. I flipped on the stove, mesmerized by the flame. There was no changing the past. No way to turn back the clock and give Jacob and his brother the childhood and relationship they deserved. But they could still get to know each other. They just needed the opportunity.
I turned to face the dining room table, a plan taking root.
I couldn't take away Jacob's pain, but I could help him get to know Cole.
With everything going on with me and Jacob, I'd been dodging my mother's phone calls. On one hand, her fierce love never made my question if she truly cared for me. I knew that my mother loved and supported me; that at the end of the day when the dust settled she'd be there. But it wasn't all warm and fuzzy. The fierce part meant that she was incapable of not meddling. Incapable of not pushing me in the direction that she felt was right—my desires be damned.
Returning her calls before would have meant lying, which would have been pointless. Even via phone she would have sniffed out the truth, and then she would have showed up at our doorstep, ready to play relationship therapist.
But now that the truth was finally out and in the open I didn't send her call to voicemail when her name splashed across my screen. I took a deep breath as I backed out of the parking space and angled toward the exit. “Hi-”
“Is everything okay? I've been calling and calling and I had this bad feeling in my gut.” She took a breath. “Is everything okay with you and Jacob?”
Her sixth sense was downright eerie. I glanced at my phone in awe, then remembered I was driving downtown where I'd need every sense and ounce of attention on the road. “Everything is fine, Mom. Sorry it took me a bit to get back to you.”
“A bit?” she snorted. “It's been nearly two weeks. If it wasn't for your father I'd be in the city right now.” The phone shifted, the crackling sound probably the result of her shifting it to her other ear to give my dad a look. Her volume dimmed, the next bit for him, but I still heard her loud and clear. “I was not overreacting, Earl. She could have been dead in a ditch or God knows what.”
“Luckily, I'm not dead in a ditch,” I shook my head, smiling at my mom's brand of crazy. It just wouldn’t be complete without the necessary guilt trip. “Work has just been crazy, Mom.”
“Uh huh.” Her disbelief oozed from the phone. “Well, I'm glad you could squeeze me into your busy schedule.” Like she could sense me rolling my eyes and fishing for an e
“I'm good.” 'Now' was left unsaid. I had no interest in hashing out what happened between me and Jacob. The last time I let it slip that there was trouble in paradise she launched a mission to fix my relationship that ended up making Alicia avoid any functions that had my mother's name on the RSVP list. There was no love lost between the two of them and learning that Jacob's mother had a child that she kept from her son for 24 years would do their tenuous association no favors.
“He's good too,” I said cryptically. “Everything is good.”
I rolled my eyes, glancing at my screen. Just a few more blocks until I arrived at my destination. “How about you and Dad?”
“Your dad is just fine. Working on his latest project in the garage and keeping all sorts of noise. And I'm doing just fine. Worrying about my only daughter, but fine.”
“Don't worry about me, Mom,” I sighed. “I'm living the dream, remember? Rich husband, incredible job-”
“All the money in the world can't buy happiness.”
I practically slammed on my brakes. My mother had always made it quite clear that my ultimate goal should be marriage and being well taken care of. The fact that her daughter met and married a billionaire was like one of her soap operas had come true.
“Hello?” she said, all but tapping the mic. “You still there?”
“I am,” I said, picking my jaw off the floor. “You just caught me by surprise.”
“Jesus,” she huffed. “Give me a little credit, Leila.” Before I could remind her about the paparazzi or any number of things she’d done that contradicted her statement that there was more to life than men and celebrity, she added, “I know I’ve made some missteps, but your happiness is paramount. You’re my daughter, and I just want you to be happy.”
I’d been so eager to arrive at my destination so I could disconnect but now that I’d arrived at Bite Restaurant and we were having some sort of moment, I wanted to savor it.