The Bastard Billionaire

By: Jessica Lemmon

“I don’t like Isa,” he snarled.

“Well, then call me Isabella.”

“What if I don’t like Isabella?”

“Then you are welcome to call me Ms. Sawyer, but it’s rather formal, don’t you think? I’d feel enticed to call you Mr. Crane.”

“Mr. Crane is my father.” Eli crossed his arms over his chest, leaning back in his chair. The stance could have appeared relaxed if every muscle in his upper half wasn’t flexed.

“Then I suggest you find a suitable name to call me so I don’t accidentally age you thirty-five years.”

His mouth compressed into a line, but a spark lit his eyes as if he were enjoying the banter. The dark blue flashed with a heat that consumed the room and stole her cheeks. She swallowed thickly, licking her bottom lip as she recrossed her legs. Rather than watch him, she pretended to write in her planner. She was enjoying the banter, too. Her knees weren’t as strong as she’d like.

“Sable,” she said, clearing her throat of the awareness that’d pooled there.

“Say again?” His handsome face contorted.

She lifted her head. “Like my company. That…I work for,” she tacked on. “You can call me Sable if you don’t prefer Isa or Isabella.” It was her nickname after all.

“Sable,” he muttered, and the heated air between them intensified. Eli’s low voice raked along her spine, sending a zap of electricity to her brain stem. In spite of not wanting to feel anything for him, she felt all sorts of confusing things.




“There you go.” She flashed him a quick smile, then went back to her list, ticking off three more boxes before she stood and moved for the exit. “I’ll order for you, then. No preferences on what you eat?”

“No meat unless it’s seafood,” he said.

“You’re a vegetarian?” It was out of her mouth before she’d thought about saying it. She never would have guessed Eli, clearly a man’s man, didn’t eat meat. Now who’s being sexist?

“Sort of.”

“Very well. I’ll let you know when it arrives.” She gave him a curt nod and turned to leave the room, mindful of each step she took and wondering if he watched her as she left.

* * *

For the second time today, Eli watched his assistant’s ass sway and wondered at the chutzpah of this woman. Didn’t she know who she was dealing with? It wasn’t often, if ever, he trotted out his family crest to remind people to respect him, but maybe the reminder was overdue.

“Sable” behaved as if she had little to no respect for his billions in the bank, or maybe she’d worked for so many billionaires in the past, she was bored rather than impressed.

Not that he wanted to impress her.

She’d knocked him off center for sure, and there was no denying that the palpable snap of attraction in the air was as inconvenient as it was enthralling. Eli Crane wasn’t easily enthralled.

She’d succeeded at getting him to fill out the e-mail for a conference call she’d handle later. For the first few minutes, he pecked away with a childlike scowl on his face, answering carefully and succinctly, before deciding he was behaving a tad melodramatically.

Reese would be thrilled at the participation, and his assistant was right—filling out her requests wasn’t time-consuming. Still, Eli wasn’t stepping into COO until he was ready—no matter how many tasks Isabella Sawyer conned him into doing.

He clicked SEND and leaned back in his chair, arms over his chest, mind lost in thought on the upcoming boardroom meeting.

Until a samurai sword blade sliced down his back.

He barely contained a surprised bleat, swallowing down the pain and putting both hands on the arms of his chair to ride it out. It would pass. It’d always passed before.

He counted to three, then back to one, then up to three again. A few low and slow breaths later, the spasm relaxed enough that he no longer saw spots. Used to be the phantom pains, tingles, and stabbing needles came from the part of his right leg he no longer had, but that had since ceased. He’d noticed back pain more and more often lately. He swiped his hand over his brow to find sweat beading there.

God. He hoped this wasn’t a new thing. Or, worse, that the phantom pains were planning to return for an encore.

“Stupid fucking chair.” He pushed himself up and rolled the chair several feet away from the desk. He walked across the room, stopping halfway to prop a hand on the wall and take another breath. The elevator door screeched open. Lunch delivery, he assumed. Sable was nothing less than efficient. She’d insisted on ordering lunch and he had no doubt she’d marched out there and checked it off her planner right away.

He hobbled from his office, straightening his back as he clenched his jaw. He’d made it a habit to limp around the other PAs like Frankenstein’s monster, but with Isa he sensed it was more like being the lame antelope in a lioness’s sights.

A wave of admiration crashed over him in spite of himself. She was seriously underutilized as an assistant. She should be someone’s boss. And not mine, he thought with a frown.

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