Undercover Billionaire Boss: A BWWM Contemporary Romance, page 18
Oh God, Raina!
Kelly wanted to pick up her phone right there and then and call her friend with the news, but experience had taught her to think things through before making a decision.
This one in particular was too huge to screw up. She couldn’t believe that she had rubbed shoulders and spoken with a billionaire. Oh, God, Kelly felt as though she was going to choke on her tongue, so great was her excitement. She stood up to pace unable to sit still any longer. She paced a while and then sat back down to watch the video again.
Without a doubt, the man was Christopher the maintenance guy. And to think that Raina had thought he was homeless! Kelly found herself laughing out aloud.
They had all been taken in. But what had been the purpose of his undercover stunt? She thought back to whether he had seen anything inappropriate during his time with them.
An unpleasant thought crossed Kelly’s mind. If Christopher was Christian that meant that he had believed that Raina had stolen from the company. That would explain why he had disappeared completely from Raina’s life.
Oh, God. Roger was responsible for destroying Raina and Christian’s romance.
A plan was starting to form in Kelly’s brain.
She would convince Raina to take a day off and go with her to the talk. The college was South of Palm Beach and about a four hours’ drive. They would make it a day road trip but Kelly would keep the real reason of their visit a secret. She fired off another email to the organizers of the talk to book for two tickets instead of one.
Kelly was determined to fix what Pervy Roger had destroyed and bring the two back together.
She had not seen Raina that alive and happy in ages. Besides, you didn’t just let billionaires like Christian slip through your fingers without a fight, she thought with a giggle. Not that Raina would be impressed by the money.
She paused what she was doing when another realization hit her. Raina had told her about the private scholarship from an anonymous source. It had all been very mysterious and confusing, but it made perfect sense now.
Christian had spent a lot of time with the kids and had seen how bright and talented they were. Kelly was sure that he was the one who had offered the scholarship, and Raina didn’t have a clue as to who her real benefactor was.
Seeing that it was a Friday, Kelly decided to spend the weekend at Raina’s. That way she had a better chance of convincing her friend to go on the road trip with her. Her heart was beating as fast as a hummingbird’s wings. She calmed herself down and then made the call.
“Hey, girl,” Kelly said, suppressing her excitement. “Do you need an extra hand over the weekend, I could come down today after work.…”
Half past five found her driving down the highway, headed to Raina’s B&B. She switched on the radio and chose a station with soulful music. She hummed along, suddenly feeling as though all was well with the world. The fact that Christian Del Mar was not a stranger would make it easier to approach him. She just had to picture him in ripped jeans and a flannel shirt instead of an expensive suit. Kelly suppressed a giggle.
She swerved her car into the parking lot and sat for a moment to admire the tall, brick building. A swell of pride rose in Kelly that her friend had done so well for herself. From what Raina had told her the last time they spoke, the B&B was doing better than she had hoped.
Kelly glanced at the time. It was quarter past six, probably dinner was being served now. It was far better if she went straight up to the apartment, rather than interrupt Raina’s work. She walked in carrying a small bag.
“Hi Rita,” Kelly said, walking into the reception and smiling at the red and blue haired girl.
“Kelly! How’re you?” Rita said smiling at her.
“Great, I know Raina’s busy, so I’ll just go on up, if that’s OK.”
“Sure, the kids will be happy to see you.”
“Thanks,” Kelly said and stepped up the stairs behind the reception desk.
She knocked slightly on the apartment door before pushing it open.
“Anybody home?” Kelly called out.
“Yes, we’re in the dining room. Is that you, Aunt Kelly?”
Kelly smiled at Crystal’s voice. It had been too long since she’d seen them.
She dropped her bag on the floor and walked past the living area to the dining room. When the kids saw her, they yelled and rushed over, wrapping their arms around her. Oh, Raina was blessed to have the children in her life, Kelly thought as the three bodies snuggled against her. Just then she became aware of another presence and when she looked up, she saw a brown haired woman walking in from the kitchen.
“Hi, I’m Susan from next door. I’m watching the kids for a few hours. I take it you’re a family friend?” she said, eyeing Kelly closely.
“Yes, she’s our friend!” Jeremiah exclaimed. “Kelly, I want to show you the new soccer ball I just got!”
“I am.” Kelly replied to Susan. “My name’s Kelly and it’s a pleasure to meet you.” To Jeremiah she added, “I can’t wait to see it, sweetie.”
“It’s nice to meet you too. I’ve heard Raina mention your name.”
The women chatted a little as Jeremiah ran to get his ball and the girls returned to their homework. Realizing she might be in the way, Kelly decided to return downstairs and see if she could lend a hand.
The dining room was buzzing with conversation and Raina was moving among the diners, making conversation. Sometimes she threw her head back and laughed at something a patron said. Kelly just watched and admired her friend’s easy manner with clients.
Raina caught Kelly’s eyes when she noticed her friend watching her, and rushed to her side.
“I thought you said six, it’s going on seven now,” Raina complained, while embracing her.
“I was upstairs and I met your new babysitter,” Kelly said.
“I use her services most days after school. Even though I’m downstairs, the kids were spending too much time alone with no one to supervise them,” Raina explained.
“She seems nice.”
“She is, and the kids love her. Now come and sit down, tell me all. Are you hungry?” Kelly’s eye fell on the steaming vegetables and mashed potatoes with chunks of steak.
“Yes please, that looks amazing,” she said and sat down while Raina went to the kitchen and returned with a plate full of food.
“Are you serious? How many people are eating that?” Kelly eyed the overloaded plate Raina set in front of her skeptically.
“You need some meat on those bones,” Raina said. For herself, she went and came back with a cup of coffee. Kelly raised an eyebrow.
“Are you not eating?”
“With the smell of food around me all day, I feel full by evening,” Raina said with a shrug. Kelly looked at her friend closely and detected a hint of sadness in her brown eyes. She suddenly noticed how much thinner her friend had gotten, and how much more tired she looked.
“What is it Raina? I thought everything was going well here?”
“It is and … I don’t know, I guess it’s just me being silly,” Raina said and attempted a smile, instead her eyes flooded with tears.
Kelly was alarmed and she placed her knife and fork back down. Something was very wrong; it was not like Raina to act so vulnerable. “Raina!” Kelly cried out. “Tell me what is it?”
Raina wiped her face with a napkin and then looked at Kelly.
“All this seems so pointless. Everything is going much better than I had hoped for yet I just feel empty inside. I know I have the kids but it doesn’t feel enough. I’m lonely as hell here, Kelly and I can’t shake it away. I keep thinking I’ve made a huge mistake by buying this place. What am I going to do?”
Kelly was taken aback and she did not reply immediately. This was so unlike Raina. She was usually the strong one, the one who carried on with a cheerful attitude whatever the circumstances.
“Is it … Christopher?” Kelly ventured.
Raina shrugged. “I suppo
Kelly fought the urge to tell Raina everything. If she did, chances were Raina would never want to hear his name ever again and she had no hope of convincing her to go on the road trip with her the coming Saturday.
Kelly hesitated, trying to choose her words carefully. “You will Raina. You’re an attractive woman and a really nice person. Any man would be lucky to have you in his life.” Kelly said.
Raina smiled shakily. “Thanks. I’m sorry; I know this is not what you had in mind when you came down.”
“It’s exactly what I had in mind. To be a friend.”
Raina took her hand under the table and held it for a moment.
“Now tell me everything. Is Pervy Roger still being a pest?” Raina said.
“Let’s not spoil the mood talking about that creep. Besides, I have a plan to fix him for good. He’ll never harass another woman again.”
Raina grinned. “You go, girl! Do tell.”
“Another time,” Kelly said, waving her off as though what was going on with Pervy Rog was small potatoes. “Now I have a plan for the both of us. I have a surprise for you next Saturday!”
Raina clapped her hands. “Oh I love surprises.”
“You’ll love this one,” Kelly said firmly, more to herself than to Raina.
There was just no telling how Raina would react when she realized the Christian was Christopher.
“We’ll drive to Paramount in the morning and return in the evening,” Kelly said.
Raina’s face fell. “My surprise is four hours away?”
“Yes Raina. It will be fun, and you need a day away from all this, however captivating it is.”
“What about the kids?”
“What about them? Didn’t you say that Susan is a wonderful babysitter? It’s just one day and I’m sure she’s capable of watching them for a day,” Kelly said, her stomach now in knots at the thought that Raina would refuse.
“I don’t know Kelly. Saturdays are always so busy here. I’d feel so guilty knowing I should be at work.”
“You’ve been at work every day for the last several weeks. Surely even you deserve a break? Your staff seem very capable. I’m sure they can cover for you for a few hours.”
“What shall we do once we get to Paramount?” Raina asked.
Kelly waggled a finger at her. “No! I can’t tell you. That’s the surprise.”
Raina gave it some thought while Kelly watched the different emotions on Raina’s face. She had no plan B and if Raina refused to go with her, then she would have to go alone. But that would not be as effective as having Raina with her.
“Ok,” Raina finally said. “Let’s do it. And Kelly, I warn you, the surprise had better be worth driving all that way for.”
“It is,” Kelly said, feeling shaky now that her plan was underway.
Kelly helped with cleaning up dinner and even stacking the dishes into the dish washer. At eleven, she and Raina said goodnight to the other staff members and made their way up the elevator. They were just in time to see that the kids had been sneaking out of their beds.
“Hi! Aunt Raina, Aunt Kelly,” Jeremiah said, feigning a yawn. “Are you just getting home? I just woke up.…” he said.
“Stinker,” Susan said with a mock frown. “Back to bed!” She pointed a finger and Raina echoed her statement.
The three of them laughed and Susan left for her own home. Raina went with Jeremiah to his room, while Kelly collapsed on the couch next to the girls.
God she was exhausted! How did Raina do it day after day? Still, it had been worth it just to convince Raina to go with her to Paramount.
“Do you mind sleeping on the couch?”
“I don’t care, I just want to lie down,” Kelly said. “I feel as if I haven’t slept for a week.”
Raina laughed. “I felt the same way the first two days. After a while you get used to all the running around and it becomes second nature.”
Kelly took her toiletries with her to the bathroom and brushed her teeth before jumping into the shower. No matter how tired she was, the shower was a must. She was used to showering every night before bed.
When she poked her head into Raina’s bedroom to say goodnight, Raina was fast asleep.
Kelly laughed softly to herself. So much for it becoming second nature. The way she saw it, Raina needed an extra person downstairs. It was too much work for her to be waitressing while being a hostess and then cleaning up afterwards and being a maid and receptionist at the same time.
The road trip would give them a lot of time to talk.
The more time she spent watching Raina that evening, the more she had seen just how much of a toll the B&B took on Raina. She had lost a lot of weight and her face was a little gaunt. She knew the exhaustion was probably coupled with worry about the kids … and thoughts of Christopher.
Kelly just hoped that everything would go as she had planned. She bit her lip, uncertain if she was doing the right thing.
It would be a shame for two such wonderful people to lose each other forever over a misunderstanding.
“Be good for Susan, I’ll be back by evening. And Jeremiah make sure you eat up your lunch!” Raina said, her feet stuck to the floor.
Her earlier excitement about the road trip with Kelly had faded to the ball of anxiety in her body.
“We’ll be fine Raina, go on, Kelly is waiting downstairs,” Susan urged, giving Raina a gentle push.
“Alright, one last hug, come on girls.”
It took three more minutes for Raina to finally leave. Downstairs, Kelly waited in her car and when she saw Raina, she gave her a wide grin.
“This will be a life changing trip!” she said.
“Yeah, why?” Raina said, sliding into the passenger seat.
Raina threw her bag in the bag seat and belted up. She was a little nervous at Kelly driving. She was known for her enthusiasm for stepping on the gas.
“I hope we can beat the weekend rush,” Kelly said, guiding the car towards the road.
“Oh we will, eight is early enough,” Raina replied, feeling remarkably relaxed now that she was out of the house.
“You look well rested,” Kelly said.
“Thanks. I slept better last night. I guess I needed this trip more than I thought. If only you’d give me a hint of the surprise!”
Kelly just laughed in reply and trained her eyes ahead. Raina pushed her chair further back as they entered the highway and relaxed.
“By my calculations, we’ll be in Paramount by noon, time enough to have a light lunch and then my surprise follows,” Kelly said.
“How exciting!” Raina exclaimed, feeling giddy at the day ahead.
She felt like a little kid out on an adventure and she laughed aloud at herself. The scenery outside had changed from cityscape to coastline.
Once on the highway, she felt a little anxious at the cars zooming past but worse were the trucks. She pushed her chair to an upright position and grabbed the seat to curb her nervousness.
She hadn’t thought about the accident in a long time and now the memories of Mira and Byron hit her full force.
They had been on a trip just like this one, when their lives had been cut short. For all Raina knew, there was a drunk man out there, behind the wheel of a truck and driving over the speed limit. She inhaled deeply, trying to calm herself.
“Slow down will you?” she said to Kelly.
“What are you talking about? I’m doing the speed limit,” Kelly said, her tone indignant.
Raina glanced at the speed gauge and saw that her friend was right. Relax, Raina. She tried to recall the statistics for highway accidents and comforted herself that the percentage was actually quite small. She didn’t want to think
“I don’t know how you do it, Raina,” Kelly said, making Raina realize that she had missed part of her sentence.
“You weren’t listening, I’m talking about the B&B. It’s damn hard work.”
“It is,” Raina admitted, and then she sighed. “I’ll be honest, there are some days when I miss the Del Mar terribly. I miss knowing what my job is, and having it be predictable day to day. With the B&B I’m needed everywhere. Sometimes I feel as though am being pulled in ten different directions.”
“How about employing someone else, like a kitchen manager or an assistant?” Kelly said.
Raina had thought of that and had dismissed it just as fast. “I don’t see why I should. Martha managed alone for God knows how many years, I should too.”
“There you go being superwoman when its completely unnecessary. Can you afford to employ someone?”
“Yes, business is good. I’ll give myself another month or two, if it’s still feels like too much, I’ll do it.”
“Good girl. We all need you to be healthy you know. You’re losing too much weight.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?” Raina teased.
“Nope, not when you weren’t fat to begin with. You have curves in all the right places, girl. You need to keep ‘em!”
They fell into companionable silence after that and Raina let her mind wander. Kelly resolutely drove on, not even glancing outside which aroused Raina’s curiosity even more.
“What kind of road trip is this, where we don’t even get to stop and see the sights?”
“Not to worry, this road trip has a mission. Next time we’ll take a longer one, perhaps with the kids,” Kelly said.
Raina shuddered. “Really, Kelly? Try a ten-minute journey with them and tell me if you still want to go with them.”
She imagined the countless times they would need to stop to pee and the complaints from Crystal that she was bored. Chantal would be the only one composed, her hands folded neatly on her lap, patiently waiting for the journey to come to an end.
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