Undercover billionaire b.., p.23

Undercover Billionaire Boss: A BWWM Contemporary Romance, page 23


Undercover Billionaire Boss: A BWWM Contemporary Romance

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  …and screaming.

  Wait… screaming?

  That couldn’t be right.

  But a woman's panicked scream in the distance wasn’t something he could ignore.

  Paris felt as if she'd already been wandering the streets of the city for an entire miserable day, even though it was probably more like two hours. Her feet were killing her, and she'd spent what little money she'd brought from the hotel on a map that she didn't understand. However, in that very short amount of time, she'd already managed to get completely turned around again and wind up in a smelly alley next to a trashy bar in the middle of nowhere.

  This was not how she had expected her dream vacation to turn out. She was both angry at herself and angry at the student tour group for her situation.

  Yes, she was a loner—when someone moved as much as she had as a kid that was to be expected. Paris had learned a long time ago that making friends was pointless. Just as soon as she got to know someone, she’d be off to a new town.

  Atlanta, her sister, had had the opposite reaction to their childhood though. Rather than retreating into herself, she had become outgoing—the life of the party. Everyone was drawn to Atlanta, and Paris could only watch in admiration.

  Leaving 3 “best friends” in one year had been enough for her. Paris had retreated into herself and consoled herself with the idea that she actually preferred being alone. It gave her more time to think and to study.

  And anyway, in med school, who had time to make friends? There were the people in her first-year study group that she got together with once a week… but they didn’t really count. There were the three other black people in her cohort that she would give ‘the nod’ to when they passed each other on campus, but she didn’t really know them.

  And so, while she was mad at the tour group—how could they have forgotten her!?—on some level, she knew she had no one to blame but herself. If she was more of a ‘people’ person, maybe this wouldn’t have happened to her.

  Suddenly, for one of the few times in her life, Paris felt utterly, completely, desolately, lonely. A wave of self-pity washed over her, but she pushed back the tears that threatened to come and tried to focus on the problem at hand.

  Think, Paris. Think.

  She was a smart girl, she was used to making her own way in the world and having to find her way out of sticky situations. How many times had she been responsible for her brother and sister as a kid? How many times had she had to figure out how to take a bus to the grocery store, carefully count out the change she had found in the couch cushions for the clerk, and read the cooking instructions on the back of the box of mac and cheese?

  She was used to a challenge. She could handle this. Paris straightened her shoulders and tried to ignore the early evening chill in the air.

  The problem was… she was used to handling things in English. She didn't recognize anything, couldn’t read anything, and the urge to break down in tears was becoming pretty overwhelming. Paris had already tried three hotels, but all of them said—in what little French she understood—that they were full.

  She wasn’t sure if her credit card would have had enough to cover a night in this swanky part of town anyway, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to spend the night sleeping in the street.

  Paris was just about to turn around and try to retrace her steps back to the chapel to see if the guard might still be there—he had seemed friendly enough—when two huge men stepped out of the shadows sneering at her.

  “You zeem to be lost, mademoiselle.” One of the men gave her a not-so-reassuring grin.

  “We can, per-haps, ’elp you…”

  Her stomach dropped straight down to her feet. Danger was danger in any language.

  The croque-monsieur she’d had for lunch hadn’t been sitting well with her, and now there was a decent chance she was going to be sick all over herself.

  This was how she was going to die, she was sure of it.

  She did a quick mental assessment of her options.

  Fight? Two against one wasn’t good odds—and who knew what type of weapons they had.

  Flight? The large frame of both men seemed to take up the whole alleyway. There wasn’t much of a chance she could squeeze past them, even if she was inclined to try.

  Freeze? That’s probably what they would expect…

  The men ambled toward her, with dangerous confidence, leering at her and saying things in French that she didn't understand. She didn’t have to understand a word though to understand their intent, and Paris knew it wasn’t going to be a pretty outcome for her—that much she understood.

  She backed up as far as she could into the alley until she hit the grimy wall behind her, hoping she might be able to use it as leverage if the men came too close to her. One of the men had his hand in his pocket, and her mind started spinning over every scenario, every possibility for what he could be about to pull out.

  She only had one option left.

  Paris had no idea where the courage came from, but she knew she was rapidly running out of other options.

  She opened her mouth and started screaming.

  And she just couldn't stop.

  The taller of the two men covered his ears, and started yelling at her in French and running toward her. But her survival instinct was manifesting in hysterical screaming flailing, and while, logically, she knew this might not do her any good in the long run, she also knew it might be her only shot.

  Her mama’s voice rang in her memory. Sometimes you have to just out-crazy the crazy, honey.

  Paris made grunting noises and jumped up and down, flinging her limbs from side to side. Her voice wouldn't quiet down.

  If she was going to go down, she was going to go down screaming. And screaming. Until even her ears started to ring with the sound of her own voice.

  When Paris saw the man reach back into his pocket and pull out a switchblade, she wasn’t sure if she should stop her screaming and flailing, or redouble her efforts. She wasn’t going to go down without a fight, that much was certain.

  Suddenly, a large shadow loomed over the men and seemed to fill the alleyway. The shorter man with the switchblade suddenly flew forward to the ground, landing on the pavement with a violent thud, his face hitting the stones with a sickening crack.

  The taller man spun around, screaming in French as the man on the ground groaned and gurgled in pain. Paris was far enough in the alley that she couldn't quite make out what was going on, but all at once the taller man was on the ground too, a splatter of blood following him through the air. Time passed in slow motion as both of the men scrambled to their feet, their hands raking against the cobblestones, and ran from the alley as fast as their feet would carry them.

  Paris watched them disappear in stunned silence, and then bent over as her breath heaved and she retched several times. She sank slowly to her knees, her hands on the hard, uneven ground beneath her, grateful that she was unharmed.

  It was only when she was certain they were gone that the reality of the situation fully washed over her, and she began crying hysterically. There was no holding back now—her body shook uncontrollably. She wouldn’t have been able to stop even if she had wanted to.

  And then, there were arms around her.

  Strong arms.

  Long, muscular arms, pulling Paris tight to a hard, wide chest clad in a leather jacket and an obscenely soft shirt. He—whoever he was—smelled like heaven in the stench of the alley, his cologne subtle, but enveloping, like nothing she had ever smelled in her life.

  As she sobbed into the stranger's chest, she took in deep lungfuls of him, her hands grasping his shirt, her fingers curling around the soft fabric, finding strange comfort in the anonymous man's gentleness. He ran his fingers up and down her back and whispered gently to her in an accent she couldn't place.

  “Shhh... shhh... you're safe now. You're safe. Just breathe. Breathe. No one will hurt you now.”

  Paris tried to breathe deep as he said, but it onl
y came out as choked sobs. She felt his shirt soaking underneath her, and guilt over the fact that she was ruining his clothing was enough to make her pull away. She wiped away her tears, and a small amount of makeup, with her balled up fists as she locked eyes with the man who had just saved her life. And suddenly, she had trouble breathing for an entirely different reason. He was the most gorgeous person she had ever seen in person, or possibly, anywhere at all.

  His chestnut brown hair was thick and wavy, with just the perfect amount of muss. His eyes were wide and curious, sparkling crystal blue with freckles of green scattered throughout. He looked as though he was cut from pure marble, chiseled cheekbones and a granite jaw made kind by a defined arch in his lip and a slight dimple in his chin. Paris had never believed in fairy tales, but if she had, this was exactly what she'd always imagined the hero of one would look like. He looked like a page torn out of a child’s picture book, and she could barely breathe just looking at him. His smile was honest and it changed the entire structure of his face; it practically lit up.

  “Are you okay? Did they hurt you? Do we need to take you to a hospital? Ah, merde… Do you speak French? Avez-vous besoin d'aller à un hôpital, mademoiselle?”

  Hearing French pour out of those beautiful lips made Paris’ knees weak. She almost wanted to pretend she did speak French, just so he'd keep using the language. But she knew she'd look pretty ridiculous just nodding at him with a goofy grin on her face. So she was forced to mumble in her very unromantic English tongue, “Uh, no. No, I'm okay. They didn't hurt me. They just scared me. Thank you... Thank you for saving me.”

  He reached up and gently ran his fingers over her jaw, as if he were checking to make sure she was being truthful. Just the touch of his hand sent shivers through her entire body.

  “Are you sure you're not hurt? I'd be happy to accompany you to a doctor... Miss?”

  Paris realized that she'd forgotten her own name. This man, his eyes, the way he was looking at her... She'd totally forgotten her own name, and anything else about herself.

  “Me? Oh... I'm... Martell. Wait, no. Sorry. I'm Paris. Paris Martell. Gah. Sorry, I think I'm still shaken up. And your name?”

  His eyebrows furrowed as if she'd just made a really off-color joke, and he was waiting for a punchline. But slowly, his eyes softened again, his cheeks turning a lovely shade of rose.

  “Alex. Call me Alex.”

  Alexander couldn't believe he'd just pummeled two men in a scummy alley in France like a proper brute; he'd gotten into a fight like young men his age were supposed to do. Getting into rows and scrapes was what one was supposed to do in his youth, wasn’t it?

  Granted, he had been able to win the fight thanks to a decade's worth of martial arts training with a master and almost twice as long at fencing, but it still was a rush to be able to do something “regular” guys did.

  Once the bastards he'd beaten up were gone, and all of his senses had settled down, he became aware of the small woman cowering in the shadows. Alexander was aware he still had some blood on his fists, so he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a handkerchief to wipe it away before he approached her. He didn't want her to believe he was as brutish as the men who had tried to attack her, so he cleaned himself up and tossed the dirty kerchief into a nearby trashcan.

  The woman was sobbing hysterically, and Alexander gathered her into his arms to try and console her. He hated himself for thinking it, but her curly hair gathered around his face, and she smelled of magnolias, and lavender; he couldn't help but be entranced by just the aroma of her, like a walk through a warm garden in the summer. The firm yet yielding feel of her in his arms—it was nothing like holding Whitney.

  Whitney was skin and bones, subsisting on a diet of cigarettes, vodka, and the odd seaweed salad. Skinny girls had their own beauty, but Alexander had always gravitated to women like those in the paintings he loved: curvy, full of life, and soft. He felt like he could hold this girl forever, and he'd never even gotten a good look at her face.

  When she pulled away from him, his shirt was soaked through with her tears, but he didn't even care. She balled her fists up like a child and rubbed them at her eyes, smearing her eye make-up, and making her look like a party girl from the 70s. Alexander wanted to laugh, but he held it back. And then, she started staring.

  Perfect, he had thought. My cover is blown. Here comes the groveling and the simpering.

  But she just stared at him, saying nothing. Finally, compelled to fill the painful silence, he started asking a million questions, some in French, all of which she answered no to. When he finally asked her what her name was, she stumbled adorably.

  Paris, he thought. What a thoroughly adorable name. Paris. He avoided making what he knew had to be the obvious remark about her name matching that of the city.

  And then, she spoke again—but, he thought he surely must have heard her incorrectly. What did she say?

  Had she just asked him his name?

  Did she really not know who he was?

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  Excerpt from Billionaire’s Baby Bargain

  Billionaire’s Baby Bargain

  “I’m sorry… what did you say?” Colin Strathmore said slowly. His voice was pure ice.

  “We do sincerely regret the mistake—” The clinic director said nervously.

  “This is a hell of a lot more than a mistake.”

  “Well, it is unfortunate, yes, but nothing like this has ever happened before.”

  “And so how do you plan to fix it?” Colin said smoothly. His demeanor was calm, but his voice held a dangerous edge. The rhythmic rapping of his fingers against the mahogany table was the only thing that betrayed his anger.

  Doctor Moore looked around the room nervously, unable to meet Colin’s glare. Her eyes lingered on the framed plaques and awards for philanthropy she saw in the opulent office, on the expensive trinkets on the shelves and desk that had been clearly placed there by an interior designer. The room was laid out to be as intimidating as possible, and it was working.

  Beside her the lawyer, Clarkson, had interjected. “Well, we have offered Miss Robinson a generous financial package to fix the mistake.”

  “Enlighten me. How exactly would that fix it?”

  “Well, if Miss Robinson terminated the pregnancy then there would be minimal damages to you.”

  “Terminated?” Colin stood up. “You thought you had the right to ask her to terminate the pregnancy?”

  “It did seem like the most logical solution,” Doctor Moore offered nervously.

  “And you didn’t think I should be consulted before you made this offer?” He was outraged.

  Colin turned his back on them, staring out into the immense cityscape that was sprawled before him from his office on the top floor of the Strathmore Financial building. He was known for his stoicism, for his emotional restraint, but by God—! There was only so far he could be pushed.

  He wanted to punch the lawyer right in the middle of his face and toss the incompetent doctor out on her ass. He clenched his fist several times as he struggled to regain his composure.

  He had made a deposit at the sperm bank at one of the most difficult points of his life. Newly divorced, and diagnosed with cancer when he was only thirty-five, doctors had told him he should do what he could to protect his future chance at having children.

  The radiation therapy had been successful, but the doctors had been right—his ability to father any children in the future had been compromised. It was not impossible, they had told him, but the sperm mobility was quite low and it was unlikely he would be able to have any children naturally.

  The deposits he had made at the clinic might be his only chance at having a baby.

  His voice was level. “I take it you are here because Miss Robinson did not terminate the pregnancy?”

  “Er— yes. That’s correct.”

  Colin closed his eyes. “How much does
she want?”

  “I’m sorry?”

  “I presume she has a number in mind?”

  “Um… I don’t think she can be persuaded to terminate, I’m afraid.”

  Colin whirled and leaned over the desk, slamming his hand on the hard mahogany surface. “How much will it take for her to sign over custody of the child?”

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  Mia Caldwell, Undercover Billionaire Boss: A BWWM Contemporary Romance



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