The Billionaire's Unwanted Virgin

By: Doris O Connor


"Dearest little Alice, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?" He winked at her in a completely unexpected display of mischievousness so at odds with the surreal situation they were in, that she could only stare at him in her best impression of a goldfish.

Before she could say anything at all, Percy's discreet throat clearing broke the silence, and Lakota straightened up with the grace and power of a sleek panther.

"Ah just in time, Percy. Little Alice here has just agreed to be my wife."

"I did no such thing. This is insane!" Her protests fell on deaf ears, and she was talking to Lakota's retreating back. He turned ‘round just before he disappeared into the house, and gave her such a calculating look that the blood froze in her veins.

"Oh, but you will, my sweet. You simply have no choice at all. Explain it to her, Percy, will you."

****

Alice pushed the perfectly prepared veal parmigiana around her plate, all too aware of Lakota's brooding presence at the other end of the long table. She fidgeted under his dark stare, and giving up on her dinner, picked up the wine glass again. The excellent Merlot stuck to her dry throat, and she passed on that, too.

"Could you get some water please?" The silent young man who'd served them their dinner sprang into action, but before he could reach for the heavy crystal goblet on the side board, Lakota's terse command stopped him.

"Leave it, Brian. You may go now. I'll call when we're ready for dessert. Tell cook thank you for an excellent meal so far."

Brian smiled at Alice and made a hasty retreat. The long room seemed to shrink all of a sudden, as though all the air had been sucked out of it. This was ridiculous. She was marrying the man studying her from under hooded lids, just as soon as it could be arranged. She really had to stop hyperventilating every time he focused on her.

"Is there something wrong with the veal or the wine, little Alice?" He got up as he spoke, picked up the water carafe as he went, and filled an empty glass for her.

"Thank you, and there's nothing wrong. I'm just not hungry, I guess." She avoided his gaze and picked up the glass. His close proximity made her so nervous her hand shook, and the water sloshed over the sides. He sighed and took the glass off her. A jolt of static tingled up her arm at the contact of his calloused fingers, and she held her breath when he leaned down and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. His fingers lingered on the rapidly beating pulse for a few heart-stopping minutes before he straightened and sat down in the chair next to her.

"What happened to the young woman I left in the courtyard all ready to tear me down a strip, Alice? Does the thought of being married to me scare you that much?"

She shook her head.

"It's not that. I … I'm just worried about my mum, I guess. She's not in the best of health, and I don't know how to tell her about … this."

"I see. Where does she think you are right now?"

"Oh she knows I'm here. I had to tell her." She shot him a quick glance, and she could tell she'd surprised him. His eyes narrowed, and he sat back in his chair, interlinking his fingers and propping one of his long muscular legs over his knee. The fabric of his jeans grew taut against his legs, and Alice forced herself to look away from temptation.

"So, what is the problem? Surely from her point of view the fact that her daughter is marrying has got to be better than just throwing her virtue away on what would effectively have been a one night stand? "

The inflection he put on virtue made it sound as though it was an insult, and she flinched. His short laugh in response to her reaction had her stiffen her spine.

"This is not funny." She glared at him.

"I'm not saying it is. I just fail to see the problem here. I am told I'm quite the catch." He winked at her again, and all the fight went out of her. He looked like a little boy up to mischief when he did that, his harsh features softening, and Alice found herself wishing that he would do it more often. It made him seem human, not this overpowering presence that held her and little Beth's future in his large hands.

"My, you think a lot of yourself. I'm surprised you fit through the door with an ego the size of yours."

This time his smile in response didn't reach his eyes, and Alice suppressed a shiver of unease.

"Not particularly, but I make no excuses for who I am or where I came from. Unlike some people I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. My mother, may she rest in peace, worked her fingers to the bone to keep my brother and me fed and clothed. When she died I swore to myself that I would get the people responsible, and nothing and no one is going to stop me. I'm good at what I do. It bought all this, and still, it's not enough for them."

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