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  A Damaged Billionaire Romance



  © 2018 Stephanie Brother

  All Rights Reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locations is purely coincidental. The characters are all productions of the author's imagination.

  Please note that this work is intended only for adults over the age of 18 and all characters represented as 18 or over.



  Who is the man behind the mask?


  I mask the real me, buried deep under the dark secrets in my past.

  I pretend that nothing touches me.

  I pretend I don’t need anything or anyone.

  Then Analie Taylor kisses me and my façade begins to crack. I want her gentle touch and honest words. I need her to ignite the flame of the me I left behind so long ago.

  But letting her see behind the mask is not an option because how could she ever forgive what I did when I can’t even forgive myself.


  When I meet Robert Harrington at a masked charity ball, I think I know exactly who he is. Charismatic, good looking, and funny, he’s everything I want in a man. For a while, it’s perfect, then he lifts my mask to kiss me and everything falls apart.

  I think that I was wrong to like him, but I know he’s concealing something; I know because I have scars of my own.

  It’s not until tragedy strikes that I find out the truth about Robert Harrington, but it is too late for us both?

  This is a Damaged Billionaire romance of 30,000 words with no cheating and an HEA.



























  The ball is in full swing but I’m lagging behind. I hate to think of myself as being reserved, but this is a work event, not a night out with my friends, so I’ve been on soft drinks for the last hour. I’m just reaching for my first glass of champagne when a deep voice says “Nice mask.”

  I turn to find I’m standing in the shadow of a very tall man in an impeccably fitted tuxedo. His broad shoulders are the first thing I notice, then his smile as he looks down at me. It’s at that point I realize the reason for his comment; he’s wearing a phantom of the opera style mask that conceals half his face, and it’s exactly the same as the one that I’m wearing.

  The uncovered part is pretty damn gorgeous; one twinkly blue eye, a high cheekbone, smooth tan skin and a set of luscious lips that my gaze lingers on a little too long. His grin widens as though he knows what I’m thinking and I curse myself for letting him form the impression that I’m appreciating him. I curse myself again for feeling a little aroused by his cheeky confidence.

  “It’s a masked ball,” I reply with a shrug. “It was this or one of those glittery masquerade ones, and I can’t look at those without thinking of 50 Shades of Grey.”

  The masked stranger laughs a deep and infectious chuckle that makes me smile.

  “You know you just confessed to reading dirty books?” he says.

  Ugh. He got me. I’m not embarrassed, though. “There isn’t a woman in here that hasn’t read something smutty at some point in their lives,” I reply, turning from the table displaying the tray of drinks and surveying the ballroom. The Plaza has done a great job in decorating their ballroom for a Halloween fundraiser. There isn’t a fake cobweb or glow-in-the-dark skeleton in sight. Instead, they’ve used dark drapes and twinkling lights to create a perfect backdrop for candle filled pumpkins, and huge branches that suspend cascades of golden leaves. The stage is set with giant free-standing candelabras topped by dripping candles that look like something from Dracula’s castle. It might be Halloween but there isn’t a ghoulish mask to be seen.

  “See that woman,” I say, pointing to a woman in her fifties who is swaying by herself in the corner.

  “The one in red?” he asks.

  “Yeah. I bet her kindle is stuffed with erotica.”

  “You think?” He doesn’t sound sure and I raise my eyebrow.

  “Yeah. Her leather mask is a dead giveaway. She’ll be a closet BDSM enthusiast.”

  The stranger chuckles and drinks some champagne, his tongue darting out to lick his lip in a way that sends a rush of heat between my legs.

  “Does it take one to know one?” he asks.

  “That would be telling,” I say, trying to keep the half of my face that’s revealed as straight as possible.

  He moves closer and whispers, “Nothing wrong with telling.”

  Damn. He smells good too. “We’ve just met and you want me to confess my sexual predilections?” I say, feigning shock. It’s not like me to be so flirtatious but there’s something about this night and this man that’s bringing it out in me.

  “Well, if you really feel like you need to get them off your chest, I’ll be more than happy to be a sympathetic ear.”

  “Oh, you would, would you?” I snort with laughter. “So generous of you.”

  “What can I say…I have a weakness for a woman in distress?”

  I glance to the side, catching the panty melting grin he’s shooting in my direction. God, he’s cheeky in the best way, and possibly the worst too. What is it about men who know how to flirt that’s so appealing, even though you know that they most likely turn on their charm to every woman they come across?

  “So what makes you think I’m in distress?”

  “Well, you’re at a fundraiser by yourself.”

  “How do you know I’m by myself?”

  “I’ve been watching you. That dress…” He trails off looking down the length of me like he wants to lick the route his eyes follow. My dress is pretty great; teal silk, form-fitting and asymmetric, off the shoulder with one fluted sleeve. More daring and attention drawing than I’d ever usually go for.

  “So you’re a benevolent stalker?” I say, secretly pleases that he’s noticed.

  “Stalker, no. Benevolent, sometimes. A little bit in love with how clingy that fabric is, totally.”

  “That tux is pretty clingy too,” I say, looking him over from head to toe as slowly as I can. He’s a damn fine specimen of a man; at least six foot three with an athletic build. His fair hair glitters under the twinkling fairy lights and his eyes sparkle with amusement.

  “Glad it meets your approval.” He shifts his feet to widen his stance and draws himself to stand as straight as a soldier. All I can think is ‘impressive’, but he needs my approval like a hole in the head. From what I can make out, this man has a seriously inflated ego.

  “Who says I approve? I just say it was clingy. That could have been a polite way of me saying it looks like you bought it when you were a few pounds lighter.”

  His laugh is a full belly one, and he doubles forward, resting his empty hand on his thigh.

  “Damn girl, you know how to wound a g

  “It was my specialty in College; ‘male put downs 101’.”

  “You must have got an A+.”

  “My lecturer wanted me to do a doctorate in it,” I chuckle.

  The music changes to something slower and we’re buffeted by a passing group that is heading towards the doors, maybe for a smoke.

  “So, we’ve been talking for the last five minutes and I haven’t introduced myself,” he says switching his champagne to his left hand and holding out his right for me to shake. I take it formally, doing a little curtsy to exaggerate his sudden seriousness. “Robert Harrington.”

  “Dr. Analie Taylor,” I reply and he shakes his head.

  “Please tell me you didn’t really do a doctorate in male-put-downs-101.”

  I smile because how can I not. He’s just too damn cute and quick minded. “Nah. Psychology.”

  “Ah…now I’m really scared. Put downs I can take. Analysis, not so much.”

  “You have skeletons in your closet?” I ask flippantly, expecting him to respond in a jokey way. It surprises me to see something dark pass over his expression. It’s only there for a few seconds before he masks it but it’s enough to set my professional brain in motion, wondering what he was concealing with all his humor and charm. Maybe his phantom of the opera mask isn’t the only one he’s wearing to the ball.

  “Well, it is Halloween,” he says after a beat. “I wouldn’t fit in very well if I didn’t have at least one skeleton.”

  “There isn’t a person in here without a skeleton,” I say, wanting him to understand that he isn’t alone. After years of listening to patients, I can confidently say we are all one big succession of wounds, healing, and scar tissue.

  “So what’s yours?” he asks.

  “I thought you guessed mine earlier. Closet BDSM enthusiast here.”

  “God, I’d love to see you in leather or PVC,” he says. “I can be masterful too if that’s what you like.”

  “Maybe I’m a top,” I tell him. “Maybe I like digging my stiletto heels into the chests of poor helpless men and making them beg.”

  He shakes his head and knocks back the rest of his champagne. “I’ve got all sorts of images in my head now.”

  He isn’t the only one. I have a desperate urge to see him unmasked; to peel off his clothes layer by layer and play with him physically as we have been verbally. It’s been a long time since I felt a spark of attraction to a man. Maybe it’s my interest in the mind that makes it harder. I’ve always been very cerebral so it takes a special kind of spark from witty conversation and plenty of intelligence to get me thinking about anyone this way. Unfortunately, that combination doesn’t come along very often.

  “Glad to have stocked your spank-bank,” I reply.

  “Yeah, I’m always looking for new material for that,” he says rolling his one visible eye. “You want another glass of champagne?”

  “Why not.” I’m already light headed and it’s good to be able to let my hair down after a stressful few months. My new job at Mount Sinai is exactly what I’ve been working towards since I was ten, but it’s all that expectation that has made it a high-pressure change. I know I shouldn’t be worrying so much about the impression I’m making in the department, but I can’t help myself. My career has been my main focus for a long, long time.

  “So where do you work, Dr. Analie Taylor?” Robert asks, passing me another glass of champagne.

  “Mount Sinai. I’m attached to the burns unit, hence my attendance tonight.”

  “Ah,” he replies, glancing around. “It’s a worthy cause.” His voice is tinged with sadness; another hint of that skeleton he’s hiding, maybe.

  “What’s your involvement in the charity?” I ask. ‘Burn – Relief, Recovery, Reconstruction’ is an unusual good cause to be involved in unless you have some experience of burns. Most in attendance are motivated by events that have happened in their own lives.

  “I’m a major donor,” Robert say, waving his hand as if to say it was no big deal.

  “That’s great,” I say. “They need all the funding they can get to support those who are affected. It can take years of therapy to recover from the effects of burns, whether it’s happened directly to you or to someone you know.” I watch him as I say it, trying to gauge his reaction. He’s staring straight ahead, avoiding looking at me, then he gulps down the rest of his champagne and holds out his hand.

  “We should dance,” he says. “Have some fun before all the serious stuff happens.”

  Before I know what’s happening, he’s taken my almost empty glass, put it on the table and dragged me to the center of the dance floor. The song playing is slow and mellow, and Robert draws me against him, keeping hold of one hand and settling the other against the small of my back. He’s a good dancer and knows how to lead. I relax against him, my face just under his chin where I can smell his warm cologne again. It’s something crisp and ocean fresh.

  “Your hair smell of apples,” he says quietly.

  My heart skitters in my chest; a mixture of arousal and fear. I know it sounds odd that I’m scared. Maybe scared is the wrong word because I feel unusually comfortable in the arms of this stranger. Maybe anxious is a better word.

  I like him.

  And I think he likes me. But he doesn’t know me. He can’t see the truth.

  He can’t see the specter in my closet and if he could, I can guarantee we wouldn’t be dancing right now.

  We sway in silence for a while and I’m glad because I need some time to regroup. Robert is solid and warm and funny and just a little bit vulnerable and I’m kicking myself for feeling this connection.

  I like this man.

  Enough that I’d want to accept his number if he offers it.

  Enough to kiss him maybe.

  I look up at his mouth and those soft lips of his. Definitely enough to kiss him. I’d do it in spite of the skeletons and risk the rejection after.

  “What are you thinking about?” he asks softly.

  My eyes flick to his and my heart seems to still. I feel like I’m in a movie getting swept off my feet by a Hollywood hero. “That would be telling Mr. Harrington,” I say with a small smile. “A woman needs to keep some mystery about herself.”

  “Mystery is overrated, Analie.”

  “You’re pretty mysterious.” He smiles wryly and I a raised eyebrow.

  He shrugs. “Sometimes it’s better to keep things to yourself.”

  “That statement is the psychologist’s equivalent of holding a red rag to a bull.”

  Robert smirks and suddenly spins us around, the lights above creating streaks of light as I gaze at the ceiling. The champagne’s made my head foggy, but he holds me tight enough that I can surrender to his movements without concern.

  “You’re a witch, Analie,” he whispers. “A beautiful, bewitching siren.”

  “I have you under my spell.” I’m part joking and part serious. There’s something in the air between us that I can’t explain; threads that connect us in a magical way that happens sometimes, even when you barely know someone. If I was a romantic, I would think that we were having some kind of psychic connection or that our souls might have known each other in a previous life. The fact that I’m not a romantic leads me to consider that the pull is all down to hormones.

  “I never stood a chance,” he mutters as the final beats of the song play out.

  He slows us to a stop and I draw back to look up at his face. It’s hard to see what he looks like with his mask still in place but it’s his eyes that have me mesmerized; one clear and blue as a sapphire, one shadowed within the hollow of the mask, both burning with something I can’t put my finger on.

  Maybe it’s sadness or maybe regret. Maybe it’s fear of some sort because the way he utters those words sounds tinged with unease.

  The lights flicker and the DJ taps the microphone. "That's all the dancing for now. We’re moving into the formal part of the evening so if you can all take your seats, plea
se, for the speeches and presentations."

  I look at Robert, wondering what’s going to happen next. The seats are allocated so we won’t be sitting together but it seems as strange to say ‘goodbye’ as it feels uncomfortable to say ‘see you later’.

  "Where are you sitting," is what I decide upon in the end, needing to break the silence that’s developed between us.

  "I'm not," he says glancing towards the stage. "Look, I've got to go and do something but I'll see you afterward?"

  "Sure, over by the champagne again. I'll probably need another glass after the boring speeches."

  He smirks. "I hope they won’t all be boring." He reaches out to cup my bare shoulder and his hand is so warm and large it startles me. "Later," he says, before striding towards the stage



  What am I doing? Tonight isn’t about flirting. It’s not about finding a woman to warm my bed. It’s not about seeking oblivion in the arms of a stranger.

  Tonight is about penance.

  It’s about righting a wrong in whatever way I can find.

  Do charity work, my therapist said.

  Helping people is supposed to make me feel better about myself. Maybe it does, just a little, but a little is not enough.

  I walk past a little girl wearing a dress that looks like a bucket of candy floss. Her right arm is withered with puckered skin that would look more fitting on a ninety-year-old. My throat tightens.

  My heart picks up pace in my chest.

  I’m getting closer to the stage. Public speaking has never been my thing, particularly when there’s applause. I don’t want to be congratulated for what I’m doing here. They wouldn’t be so appreciative if they knew the truth about me. My motivations are far from squeaky clean.

  “Robert,” a man’s voice bellows over the chattering of people finding their seats and greeting those they’ll be sharing a table with. It’s Johnathan Brickman. A face from my past that I would never have expected to be here. I try to smile as he holds his hand out for a formal greeting. Old habits die hard.

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