The Bastard Billionaire

By: Jessica Lemmon

Eli arrived at the table as Isa returned with a bag of takeout.

“You’re making a face,” she said. “Do you not like Indian food?”

“I like all food.”

“Except for meat unless it’s seafood.”

“Right.” She didn’t ask him to expound and he was glad. He was sick to death of qualifying his preferences since his unwelcome trip home.

Honorably discharged was a shitty way to say goodbye.

“Do you eat a lot of takeout?” Her tone was conversational as she unloaded foam containers and plastic ware. “I do. Too much. Probably I should cook more, but I’m so busy at work.” She paused to send him a glance as she folded the paper bag neatly. “Lots of people need assistants.”

He didn’t respond.

Her full lips pursed as she set the bag aside. He watched as she stacked her sleek laptop, planner, and phone and pushed them to the side. Her pen rested flush against the stack. It was like watching a live-action game of Tetris.

“You do this a lot?” he asked before he thought about it. He was supposed to be running her off, not conversing.

“Do what?” When she tilted her head, her long, dark hair hung at her side like a drawn curtain. He was momentarily blinded by how damn gorgeous she was. He blinked out of his stupor and waved a hand in her general direction. “Assist.”

“Oh, of course.” She opened the lid to her food and handed him a plastic fork.

A tantalizing, spicy scent curled into his nostrils and his mouth watered.

“This is my job, after all. I’m well versed in how to serve,” she said.

Seemed an odd choice for someone who was so damned bossy. But maybe that was her specialty. Bossing around her boss.

“Well, this can be your last day. I don’t need your help.” He dug a fork into his food and scooped up a bite. Holy hell, it was like having a mouthful of fire ants. Sweat coated his forehead anew as tears pricked his eyes.

“I should have warned you, I had them make both our entrees the same heat level.” She took a dainty bite and chewed, not reacting to the hellfire the way he had. “Today isn’t my last day, Eli, but if you’d like, I can finish up after lunch. I have another assignment that needs my attention.”

Mouth the temperature of Hades, he reached for the water bottles on the table, knocking one over to get to the other. By the time he’d drained one and caught his breath, Isa had finished half her food and was pecking into her phone at the same time.

“What’s it going to take to get you out of here?” he croaked, cracking the lid on the other bottle.

She finished typing on her phone, shut off the screen, and set it aside. Before she answered, she ran a tongue over her teeth, pushing her lips out and making him curious if they tingled the way his did.

He hadn’t lusted after a woman since the last woman he’d lived with. Clearly he needed to have a conversation with his dick, because this was not the one to start with.

“Start by telling me what had you cursing and grunting earlier. Did you hurt yourself?” She cocked her head.

“No,” he lied.

Her eyebrows jumped briefly. “You don’t have to tell me. I’m not your nurse.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“You don’t answer any of mine.”

“Dammit, Sable.”

Her nickname suited her. It was exotic like her eyes and matched the deep brown of her hair. Her steady gaze reminded him of the spice in the food. She was almost too hot for him to handle.

“Forget it.” Rather than continue to argue, he pushed himself from the table and stalked back to his office, fists balled at his sides in frustration. Having a woman here—sharing a meal with her—reminded him of a time he couldn’t get back. A time in his life when he’d opened up, but it hadn’t been enough. The one time when everything blew up in his face.

In his office, he glanced down at his leg in consideration.

Correction. Twice.

Twice now life had blown up in his face.

Chapter 3

Three of the longest days of my life,” Isa told Chloe. She plunked her tote onto her desk, where her assistant sat tapping out an e-mail.

After completing her third day at Eli’s beck and call, Isa realized she wasn’t at his beck and call. He didn’t “beckon” or “call” her to do anything. She’d been the one pushing and prodding him. This assignment was certainly different than any in her past experience. Eli wasn’t piling to-dos on top of to-dos onto her shoulders—quite the opposite. She spent most of her day trying to keep busy and e-mailing Reese to ask what to do next.

That stopped tomorrow.

She understood the gist of what Reese wanted and refused to keep bugging the busy CEO for details. The man had plenty to do that had nothing to do with his stubborn mule of a brother. Though, she admired the way he behaved as if Eli were part of his job. Worrying over him like a mother bird fretting while her baby attempted to leap from the nest.

“And…done.” Chloe tapped the keyboard with flair and waggled her hands in front of her like she’d performed a magic trick. “So you survived another day with Cranky Crane?”

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