The Bastard Billionaire

By: Jessica Lemmon

“I already told you to go.” He didn’t like to repeat himself.

“Very well. I’ll work at the dining room table,” she said. Before he could repeat himself a third time, her ass was wiggling away from him, one hand rising to flip her hair. Over her shoulder, she slid him a thick-lashed glare.

As he’d played up his limp, Isabella was playing up that lithe wiggle.

Eli couldn’t help but think that he’d just met his match.

* * *

Isa didn’t feel the confidence she portrayed as she swished away from Eli en route to his dining room table, but fake it till you make it had become her motto when she’d started her business three years ago in her apartment’s living room.

Old habits died hard.

The endgame was Sable Concierge earning a gold seal from the Cranes, but she’d be damned if she would allow another man to slot her into the category of brainless bimbo. She had a bark and a bite and wasn’t afraid to use either.

Her company was born of the deep-seated desire not to climb the financial corporate ladder her family had so wanted her to scale. She’d named the company after herself, after writing Isabella Sawyer on a napkin in a coffee shop and trying to come up with a combination of letters that sounded both approachable and professional.

Sable won.

She’d started out with one employee: herself. After working nearly ten years for her parents’ financial firm from the tender age of eighteen, Isa had learned plenty about what it took to be a good PA. She was organized, had a good memory, and knew the fastest way to execute any task. Her favorite part of buzzing around Sawyer Financial Group had been taking the stress from the executives’ shoulders and granting them a moment of relief. She was good at what she did. She loved what she did.

And it had never been enough for her parents.

No, her father, Hugh, and mother, Helena, insisted Isa follow in their footsteps. For too many years, Isa kept quiet as they promoted her from assistant to manager. She’d stopped short of being brought into the upper echelon when her soul couldn’t take any more pressure. The financial business was dry as toast. Numbers on spreadsheets and thirty-page forms filled with lawyer-speak so boring Isa’s eyes had glazed over.

She’d hated it.

By her twenty-eighth birthday, she dreamt of a business where she could go back to doing what she loved: organizing everyone else’s busy day onto a tidy planner page and executing tasks by checking off lists. She knew she was overqualified for a starting assistant position, and so her company was born. After a short while she’d grown from one to ten employees, then fifteen, now thirty-two.

She was doing what she loved, owned a business she loved, and there was absolutely no way she’d allow beastly, sexist Elijah Crane to inhibit her success.

An hour later, her planner in hand, she straightened her shoulders and walked back to Eli’s office. Since there wasn’t a door, she rapped on the wall instead. The rainy day cast muted light over the room, which, save the desk lamp and dying fire, was the only light in the room.

“Elijah, I have a few questions for you.”

“It’s Eli, and I’m busy,” he said, not looking in her direction. His face was lit by his laptop’s screen, turned at an angle so she couldn’t see what he was doing. In the reflection of a pair of black-framed glasses, she saw what looked like an e-mail.

He finally frowned up at her when she walked in, grabbed a chair from the other side of the room, and dragged it—damn, it was heavy—to the front of his desk. She sat, crossing one leg over the other and readied her pen over her planner page.

“First item,” she read. “Reese requests your attendance at the board meeting tomorrow afternoon at the Crane.”

“Are you hard of hearing, Bettie?”

“It’s Isabella, or Isa as you prefer, and, no, I’m not.”

His scowl deepened.

“Will you be attending?” she asked.

“No. I will not be attending. Get out of my office.” He tore his glasses off and dropped them on the keyboard.

“Very well.” She struck through the item with a line. “I said I’d phone in with your responses. I assume you ignored my e-mail.”

“I hate e-mail.”

“You’re replying to one now.”

He blinked. Isa swallowed a smile. This man had no idea who he was dealing with and she sort of loved it.

“I kept the e-mail short and sweet, Eli. You can finish it in ten minutes even with that blunt-fingered, caveman-style, hunt-and-peck typing method you seem to favor.” She made a show of checking off the task box on her planner page. “Next: lunch. Will you be ordering out, or do you have special dietary restrictions?”

“I can feed myself, Bettie. I’ve been doing it for years.”

“It’s Isa,” she corrected calmly. “And feeding you is now part of my job. Not literally, of course. I trust you can maneuver a fork to your mouth if you can move around on a prosthesis.”

He blinked again. She’d been testing him. She’d bet none of her employees had spoken of his injuries or prosthetic leg so garishly. But if he insisted on being blunt with her, she figured turnabout was fair play. Especially since he was content to insult her.

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