The Billionaire's Unwanted Virgin

By: Doris O Connor

The pictures of Lakota at Zeb's funeral had broken her heart. Taken on the very day Zeb had won her in that auction, the pictures showed him standing to one side as he'd watched the proceedings with such an aloof expression the papers had branded him heartless. But Alice recognized the look of a man with such an intense grip on his emotion, that to show any would open the floodgates. She recognized it because she'd worn the same look over and over again over the course of the last year. She'd had to, because if she'd fallen apart, everything would have unraveled so much sooner. Beth and Mum needed her to be the strong one.

It was those pictures in the end that had convinced her to take him up on his offer. If he was curt with her, it was because he was hurting inside. She could deal with curt. If only she could say the same for her body's unreasonable reaction to his presence.

"Love doesn't exist."

His harsh words held censure and such disdain it settled like a vise on her chest and squeezed.

"Of course it does. How can you say that? You loved your brother, didn't you? And your mother?"

His whole body tightened in answer, and his lips curled into a cynical sneer. He poured himself some more wine and stood at the French windows to look out at the vast expanse of garden.

"There are those that would call me incapable of love. I'm the heartless monster, haven't you heard?" He raised his wineglass in her direction in a mocking salute. "The freak who couldn't bring himself to care enough about his own brother or the grieving fiancée."

He drained the glass in one go and put it down on the table so carefully, that action, too, gave Alice the chills. It was far too controlled, too contained for this big man, to be anything but an act.

"I'm assuming she wasn't really engaged to your brother? I mean, he wouldn't have made that … that … bid for me if he had been, would he?" She was aware her voice had risen to an unnaturally high level as she pondered that possibility, and she hastily cleared her throat. "Not that it matters much now, I suppose."

"Ah, little Alice, that would interfere with your views on love completely, wouldn't it?" His black eyed gaze held her captive, and she couldn't have looked away now if her life had depended on it.

"I refuse to believe that anyone could be so cruel, and if he did that, then he obviously didn't love her. So, no, actually it doesn't change my views on love. It just would reiterate my generally dim view on men though."

"Ouch. And there was me thinking the reason you're still a virgin is that you were simply waiting for the right man, not that you had a dim view of them. More like you realized you could cash yourself a lot of money, by selling it to the highest bidder."

"How dare you?" She glared at him, and he shrugged his shoulders, looking so impossibly gorgeous and male, her fingers itched to throw her water glass at him. Anything to remove that haughty, superior air and to get an honest reaction out of him.

"I dare, because it's the truth. You did barter it to the highest bidder, did you not? Or did someone hold a gun to your head at the time? No, I thought not. Where were your haughty ideas of love then? Did it not occur to you that the man who purchased you, could well be in a relationship? Married with kids? Or perhaps worse still, use you to satisfy some sexual fetish?"

He looked her up and down with such disgust, she was glad she was sitting.

"A man like your brother, you mean? Would he have used me for those ends? And if he would have done, what does that make you? You're marrying me, but at the end of the day, it's the same thing, just dressed up, is it not?"

She jumped at his reaction. In the blink of an eye he crossed the room and stood in front of her. With his hands on the arm rests of her chair, he caged her in, his nose inches away from her.

"You are going into this with your eyes open, lady. It was your choice to come here and claim your payment. It is your choice to walk out of that door. I am not forcing you to sign those papers."

As if to make the point he released her and stood next to the bell that would summon Brian in an instant.

"Just say the word and you're free to go. Without your money of course, and if you breathe one word of this to anyone, your cute little ass will land itself a one way ticket to jail, and I will make your mother rue the day she ever gave birth to you."

His quiet and controlled manner made the words even more chilling, and Alice could do nothing but stare at him. How had she thought she could deal with him?

"You would do that to people you've never even met?" she asked.

"In a heartbeat, sweet little Alice, in a heartbeat."

Something broke inside Alice at those words.

"You really are a cold-hearted bastard, aren't you?"

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