Undercover Billionaire Boss: A BWWM Contemporary Romance, page 19
“You just need to be prepared, have stuff to keep them busy.”
“Yeah, like what, cable TV?” Raina said in a dry tone.
Kelly laughed. “You know, books and stuff.”
Raina dropped the argument and pushed her chair back once more. Her anxiety had faded and now she just felt an urge to close her eyes.
“Wake up, sleepy head, we’re here!”
“What?” Raina said, rubbing her eyes in confusion. “I slept for three hours? Crap!”
“Yeah you did, and you probably needed it,” Kelly said.
Raina looked at her surroundings and realized that they were parked outside an old fashioned English pub. It was kind of a ridiculous sight in the midst of all the other seafood restaurants, but she wasn’t going to complain about Kelly’s choice. Her stomach growled and she realized that she was starving.
“Let’s go grab something to eat and stretch our legs,” Kelly suggested.
They walked into the pub, and it was dark after the light from the sun outside. Raina’s eyes took a moment to adjust to the dimness of the room, and she searched for the washroom. When she found it, she excused herself and left Kelly to find a table. She checked her reflection in the mirror above the sink.
Kelly was right; she had lost too much weight. Her face appeared almost gaunt and she looked kind of sickly. Raina made a face and splashed water on her face to wake herself up.
She rejoined Kelly and they placed their orders. When the food arrived she threw herself on it like she hadn’t eaten in a month.
“Gosh, I haven’t eaten like this since I was a teenager,” Raina said, patting her stomach.
“I eat like this all the time. With my metabolism I never gain weight,” Kelly boasted.
“Your arteries are probably clogged with cholesterol.”
“Don’t even mention that word to me,” Kelly said and then burped loudly, making them both look around to see if anyone had noticed, and then erupt into giggles. “So, are you ready for my surprise?”
“Oh, yes, I’ve been ready since this morning.”
“Let’s go pretty ourselves up,” Kelly said and stood up.
“Why? We look fine,” Raina protested but proceeded to follow Kelly into the washroom.
Kelly pulled out a small bag filled with makeup and got to work, doing a little bit of magic to make Raina’s wide brown eyes look fresh and alert, her skin dewy and soft, her lips a deep coral pink that matched the flowers on her skirt.
Raina eyed herself in the mirror and smoothed her black curls, tucking a stray strand behind her ear. “I almost look human again.”
“You look like yourself again. You look beautiful.”
Raina shot Kelly a grateful look. She had needed this outing. “Thank you.”
They left the pub minutes later, their faces freshly done up and skirts smoothed down as best as they could. This time, Raina kept an eye on her surroundings and was surprised when they pulled through the gates of a college.
“What are we doing here?”
“You’ll see.” Kelly’s smile was enigmatic.
“We’re here for the talk, here are our tickets,” Kelly said to the guard at the gate. He waved them through and Raina’s excitement faded. A talk? That was her surprise?
Still, she was here and she might as well try to enjoy. After all, Kelly had gone to a lot of trouble to arrange the trip.
“Ready?” Kelly said, after navigating the car into a slim parking space between two large cars.
“Yeah, sure.” Raina said without much enthusiasm.
Kelly was quiet as they followed directions displayed from the entrance of the large building. They took two flights of stairs that led to a hallway where two young women, students from the college, manned a table at the entrance. Again, Kelly displayed their tickets and they walked into a large lecture theatre and Raina made her way to the back seats against Kelly’s protest.
“Why can’t we sit at the front?” Kelly said.
“Because this talk might turn out to be a bore and we may need to sneak out,” Raina explained patiently.
“In that case, let’s take the seats nearer to the door, at the front.” Kelly tugged on her arm, leaving her little room to protest.
Raina reluctantly agreed and they made their way to the front, a position that did not entirely please her. The hall filled up quickly and she entertained herself by people watching. She looked sideways at Kelly and saw her engrossed in the program that had been handed to them at the entrance. Kelly was hoarding the program, and hadn’t shared it with her.
“Why did you bring me here, Kelly?” Raina finally asked.
“Well, the talk is on entrepreneurship and I thought it’s something you’d enjoy.”
“That goes to show how little you know me,” Raina mumbled.
“Did you say something?” Kelly said, grinning from ear to ear.
She had obviously heard Raina’s comment. She was about to say something when the lights dimmed. Kelly shushed her and pointed to the podium.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this year’s …”
Raina tuned out. She paid attention again when the main speaker was being introduced. He caught her attention for the familiar way in which he walked, as though he was in no rush. Something about him captivated her and Raina sat up straighter in her seat. When he turned, his blue eyes seemed to glow against the lighting of the podium.
“Hi everyone, thanks for having me. My name is Christian Del Mar …”
Del Mar? Like the Del Mar Hotel? Raina felt her panic growing. Did Kelly not know her at all? This is the last place she would want to be. A tightness was gripping her chest, making it hard to breath. She had to get out of there.
She shot Kelly an angry look. “I’m leaving.” she hissed.
“Wait!” Kelly whispered urgently. “Wait—don’t you see? Don’t you see who it is?”
Raina turned her attention to the stage in confusion. What did she care about the Del Mar Group’s owner? She had been fired after all? He was probably some old, pompous geezer. Some ancient, rich, white, asshole, who spent his days counting his money and looking down on all the little people he’d trampled on to get where he was.….
She raised her eyes to the podium, and her angry gaze slowly turned curious, and then … astonished.
Raina’s heart stopped beating. She stared at the man in disbelief.
It couldn’t be, could it? It was Christopher up on that stage! But no … it was … Christian Del Mar… but it was also Christopher.
She gripped the chair in front of her and kept her gaze on the man. She listened to his voice, watched his body movement. And she knew.
Christian Del Mar was Christopher Smith, without a doubt.
A swelling of anger started in her stomach, growing bigger and bigger, so that when she turned to glare at Kelly, she felt as though she would burst. Kelly nodded in reply, her expression solemn.
“How could you?” Raina hissed. “How could you not tell me?”
“I only learned last week, Raina. I’m sorry, I thought you’d be happy!” Kelly said.
“Happy? Are you crazy? How can I be happy at such deceit? He lied to me! You lied to me!” She didn’t know which betrayal hurt the worst.
“Hush!” voices around them called out.
Raina gave Kelly one last glare before turning her attention back on stage. Her heart did a somersault despite her anger and feelings of betrayal.
Christopher—no, Christian looked so handsome standing there. She watched the movements of his lips and her mouth ached at the memory of them kissing. The happy memories they had shared flooded over her, making her momentarily forget how angry she was. Then he said something about Del Mar and the reality hit her like cold icy water.
Christopher, Christian, or whatever his name was, was the owner of Del Mar Group of companies! Why the hell had he deceived her? Why pretend to be some lowly maintenance guy, pretending that he cared for her and the kids, when his worl
He must have laughed at their small lives and petty problems. The more she sat there watching him, the more her anger grew. She felt humiliated, knowing that while she had given him her heart, she had surely never been anything but a momentary distraction to him. All the dreams she’d shared with him—he’d never intended on being a part of them.
If she had been able to reach the stage, she would have walked to him and slapped him hard on the face. But then again, she never wanted to speak to him ever again.
Raina turned to Kelly, her voice ice cold. She hissed “I’ve seen your surprise and now I’m out of here. Thanks so much for this. I think I would have preferred to spend the rest of my life not knowing. At least then I could have pretended Christopher had actually loved me.”
Her voice caught in a sob, and she ran out without giving Kelly a chance to respond.
Once outside, Raina kept walking. Walking and walking and walking. She didn’t know where, she only knew she wanted to get away from both Kelly and Christoph—Christian.
She felt sad and used and broken.
Why had he picked her? There were so many other women available to him, why her? Why leave her heartbroken and yearning for something she could never have? One thing was clear in Raina’s mind.
People like Christian—rich, successful, handsome billionaires did not go for girls like her. Maybe he had wanted a change—a little trip to the “wild side.” Raina sneered. She’d had too many bad first dates that had started with some bastard saying he’d always “wanted to know what being with a black girl was like.” Jerks. It stung to find out that she had just been a momentary distraction for Christoph—no, Christian.
Whatever his reasons, Raina now felt a searing dislike for him.
The memories of him kissing her and making love to her brought a bitter taste to her mouth. Twenty minutes later, she reached the small town. She asked for directions and made her way to the bus depot. Luck was on her side and she got a ticket for a bus leaving for Palm Beach in ten minutes.
She felt a stab of guilt at ditching Kelly, but her supposed best friend had a lot to answer for. How could her closest ally, who supposedly knew her, have the nerve to drive her across the state to meet a man who had lied to her from day one? A man who had used her and then discarded her. Raina settled in a seat next to the window and stared out forlornly.
Christopher Smith. She snorted, and shook her head at how stupid she herself had been. Just remembering how he had lied so easily and pretended to be a maintenance man got Raina’s blood racing again. She brought back the image of his real self. As Christopher he’d had grey eyes, but his real eyes were blue in color. She tried to recall the instances where they had spent the night together. Had he even removed the contact lenses?
Oh, Christian! Raina thought her heart aching, her eyes filled with unshed tears.
Had he seen her sitting in front at the lecture? Most likely not, and she preferred it that way. She thought of the last time she had seen him, his face a cold mask of disdain after catching Pervy Roger nibbling on her neck.
Christian probably would not have wanted to see her either.
Her chest rose up again when another unpleasant yet maddening thought crossed her mind. Christian thought she was a thief! He must have believed Roger’s allegations. How could he after the nights they shared?
It was just as well that they did not stay together. Clearly he had had zero trust in her. He didn’t know her at all, if he could have believed those allegations. The least he could have done was talk to her first, given her a chance to explain her side of the story. Raina tried to fall asleep, leaning her heard against the window, to escape the thoughts of Christian going around and around in her mind.
The image of his startling blue eyes seemed etched in her mind. His smile, the very same one that had lit her world months ago, the one that had brought her such joy—now, the memory of it only brought her pain.
Christian looked around at the animated faces. Hands were still raised for questions and he wanted to take as many as possible. He pointed to a young man at the front.
“Sir, my question regards motivation. How did you manage to remain motivated during those years when you were—?”
Christian screwed his eyes, shielding them from the light with his hand, seeing what he thought he couldn’t possibly be seeing. But sure enough, that was Kelly seated behind the young man who had asked the question.
What was she doing here? He asked the young man to repeat the inquiry, and he answered it automatically, his mind on Kelly. Was it something to do with Raina? The kids? Was Raina all right?
He rushed through the next questions and then excused himself.
He was too unnerved by Kelly’s presence to pay attention to anything else in the theater. After the applause, Christian came down from the podium. He was immediately surrounded by people and he signaled for one of the ushers to bring Kelly to wait for him.
As soon as he could he extracted himself, held Kelly by the arm and shepherded her to a secluded corner behind the stage.
“Kelly, how are you?” he said. He was distantly pleasant, but his voice was tight.
“I’m well, thank you.”
They stared at each other warily, neither knowing what to say next.
“How did you—,” Christian started.
“I found out it was you—” Kelly’s words tumbled over his.
They both paused, then Christian offered her a seat. “Please. Tell me. How did you find me? Are you all right? Is something wrong with Raina—”
“Yes, she’s fine. In fact, she was here less than twenty minutes ago.”
“Raina was here?” Christian asked, his heart beating rapidly. He looked back out toward the audience. “Where is she now?”
“She left when she realized who you are,” Kelly said in a flat voice. “Look it’s a long story.”
“Come, let me take you where we can have a little privacy,” Christian said hurriedly when he heard the hesitation in her voice.
He took her to an office and he shut the door behind them.
“It’s like this, Mr. …”
“Call me Christian.”
Kelly started talking. And talking. And talking. She found that once she started she couldn’t stop. She barely took a breath, and she didn’t let Christian interject a single question.
“Raina was innocent. She did not take any money from the company. She never would, she’s an honest and kind person. You were with her! You must know that!” Kelly’s voice accused him and it shot through him, stinging like an arrow piercing his heart.
Christian held on to a thin thread of hope that his suspicions had been wrong. All the months since he had left Palm Beach had been hell for him. He missed Raina day and night and he questioned his judgment constantly. How could he have been so wrong about a person?
“Your Uncle Roger is the one behind it all. He set Raina up and now he’s about to do the same for me.”
“Why would he pick on her or you for that matter?” Christian said, his mind racing with possibilities.
“Because we wouldn’t sleep with him.”
Kelly began detailing Roger’s continual abuse of the staff, and Christian’s mouth dropped open. How could he have been so blind? That Roger was capable of such disgusting behavior was nothing he had wanted to see, he admitted to himself. Kelly’s numerous stories about the many incidents over the years started adding up. Christian recognized some truth in what she was saying as he thought back to the number of staffers that had been let go by Roger.
Most of the names on the list had been young women, Christian realized with dismay.
Christian thought back to the scene he had seen between Raina and his uncle that day. He zoomed in on the memory of her expression. Was it possible that Raina had not worn the face of a woman in ecstasy, but had worn an expression of fear? According to Kelly, she had been petr
“Did he hurt her?” His tone was murderous, his hands balled into fists. He wanted to punch his uncle in the face and break every bone in his body.
“No, he didn’t. Let me show you something on my tablet, and then you’ll really believe me.”
She removed her tablet from her bag and turned it on. She put it at an angle where Christian could observe over her shoulder. What he saw turned his stomach. He couldn’t believe that Roger was capable of such violence and against someone so helpless.
“God!” he muttered, completely sickened.
When it was over, Christian said to Kelly: “I’m so sorry. That is absolutely unacceptable! Are you okay? Is Raina? Where is she—I need to see her.”
She nodded, “I’m fine.”
Kelly went on to tell him about Roger’s schemes and how he had implicated Raina. Christian felt murderous. He clenched and unclenched his fists. After all the work he had done to ensure that Del Mar employees were well taken care of, his very own uncle was destroying it all, and worse, destroying lives.
A thought crossed his mind, one that had been bothering him. If Raina hadn’t stolen money, then where had she gotten money from.
“What about the money that Raina spoke of that day in your office?”
Kelly looked at him blankly.
“The five hundred thousand?” He prompted her memory.
“Oh that? It was from the insurance company of the driver who killed her sister and brother-in-law.”
It was getting worse and worse. Christian was starting to realize what a stupid ass he had been—how he had treated Raina, leaving her without any explanation. There was no excuse for the way he had acted. He was starting to see how she would have experienced his actions and it was gutting him.
She must believe he didn’t care about her. But nothing could be further from the truth. She had occupied his thoughts daily—hourly—since he had left her.
He had reached the inescapable conclusion that he loved her. He loved her desperately.
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