The Bastard Billionaire

By: Jessica Lemmon

“Most people call me Isa.”

He hummed. The rough and tumble sound snagged her chest and her heartbeat kicked up a few notches.

This was awful. Just awful. Attraction to the wrong man had happened to her twice in her life. Once with her second boyfriend, to whom she’d bequeathed her virginity, and once with the man her parents had picked for her, who had turned out to be king of the jackasses. Twice she’d lived to regret following her hormones. She’d make no such mistake a third time. Especially with her business on the line.

“As I was saying, Mr. Crane.”


“Elijah,” she corrected, forcing a smile.

“No…” His eyebrows lowered and he cocked his head in thought. “Go back to Mr. Crane.”

He was pushing her. She was supposed to react. Lash out. Start arguing. This was his pattern. A few more pokes and he’d expect her to turn and run out crying or shouting how she’d never return.

Too bad, buddy.

“Very well.” She straightened her shoulders and tried again. “Mr. Crane. So, your brother tells me—”

“What if I call you Izzie?”


“Nah, that’s no good. Oh.” He snapped his fingers. “Bella.”

“Absolutely not,” she clipped, letting her control waver. Her ex had called her Bella and she’d hated it.

“No, you’re right.” Eli’s mouth pulled into a frown. “That’s worse. I don’t like any of the short names for Isabella. What if I call you…” He snaked a gaze over her dress, which was professional and a respectable length. His trickling assessment made her feel as if she wore next to nothing. “Bettie Page?”

He leaned back in his chair, his shirt molding to a very fit chest. “You sure you’re from Sable Concierge? Not a call girl service?”

“Mr. Crane.” Her voice held an authority demanding respect. Enough was enough. She refused to let him bully her, whether the air snapped with wayward attraction or not. Whether he thought she was a lowly PA or not. She was not his plaything. And her choice of dress, no matter how evocative this male chauvinist found it, was nothing to be ashamed of. “I will not allow…”

He pushed to standing, up, up until he loomed, and then he took one heavy step toward her, then another. He favored the leg with the prosthesis, clad in a shoe to match his other one, the metal-colored leg peeking out from a tear in his jeans.

“I changed my mind, Bettie.” He tilted his head to one side, a rogue gleam in his eyes as he stared her down. “You can call me Eli.”

* * *

This one promised to be fun.

Sable Concierge had sent over an assistant who was not only female, she was sex in stilettos. The second he laid eyes on her, half of him expected her to tear off her glasses, pull her hair down, and give him a lap dance. Only she wasn’t wearing glasses, and her hair was already down.

Dark, nearly black locks flowed over her shoulders in thick waves. Her eyes were fringed with jet-black lashes, and even slitted with disgust, they were more of a whiskey hue than flat brown. Her curves didn’t stop at her shoulders. The cream-colored dress she wore hugged every hairpin turn on her body, and hers was a body made for hugging.

Reese. That son of a bitch. He had to have known what he was doing when he had them send this assistant in particular. Eli shook his head. Low blow, brother.

“Listen, sweetheart—”

“Eli, you will respect me while I’m working for you. You’ve done a decent job of disrespecting my coworkers, and I will not suffer their same fate.” She jutted her chin forward, pinning him with those whiskey eyes again. “I’m accustomed to being underestimated because I’m a woman.”

Yeah, he’d noticed the woman part.

“I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of being undermined.” She sent a glance down at his prosthetic leg and snapped it back to his face.

Confident. It was the only word that flitted through his startled brain. He looked deeper, beyond the high cheekbones, fantastic rack, and manicured eyebrows. Worry lines bisected her eyebrows, suggesting she wasn’t bulletproof. She was a woman who fretted regardless of what she wanted him to believe. Over her work? Her home life? His eyes snapped to her full, red mouth, and he noted a small silver scar at one corner.

“I don’t give anyone the opportunity to underestimate me,” he answered, yet his thoughts returned to his family and the way they were trying to take over his life. Trying to force him into a mold of their making. Well meaning, maybe, but facts were facts.

“That’s a luxury I’ve never been afforded, I’m afraid. I’m often underestimated before I open my mouth, as you’ve aptly proven.”

Between them, the air hung thick with challenge, neither of them willing to back down first. She’d rendered him speechless. Eli sucked his tongue against his teeth. Isabella Sawyer was complex. Just what he didn’t need in his life. A complex, confident woman who challenged him.

“Do you have another desk?” she asked, eyebrows lifted, her hand wrapped around a gargantuan orange leather tote.

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