Never Never Man Series: Book #4
Consumed by lust for Grey and burdened by my secret, I find my life spiraling out of control. It seems as though nothing good will come of the changes inside me. In fact, the likely outcome is too terrible to consider.
Instead of face it, I’ve decided to hide away from Grey and anyone else who might hurt me or worse yet, judge me. But, if he finds me, I worry about what he’ll say or the decision he’ll demand I make.
What am I going to do?
This is the fourth book in a Billionaire Erotic Romance series presented in serial format. It is not a standalone.
An Excerpt from the Book…
I’d slept like utter shit in recent weeks. I hate not sleeping well. Drives me nuts. It’s funny. You’d think with all the headaches I deal with every day, not much would get to me. And most of the time, not much does.
But things weren’t right. And I couldn’t figure out why.
I stood in the kitchen of my condo overlooking downtown Chicago. The sun was just on the rise. I loved this view. There was nothing else like it. It’s one of those things I’d pay almost any amount of money to keep. Like oxygen. Or water.
Sharp angles stabbed skyward off the towering glass and steel structures, creating all sorts of goddamn colors. Of all the shades my eyes detected most days, blood orange was my favorite. It’s a risky color. Like pleasure. Too much is not good and too little, well, it’s not worth discussing.
Yellow is a friendly shade.
But mix the two together and you get the best of both. Go ahead, I dare you to name one thing in the color of blood orange which you’d turn down. No one would. There isn’t anything. It’s the hue of desire, ambition and lust. It’s all of those things we aren’t supposed to want but wouldn’t feel alive if we didn’t.
Bah. Fuck it.
I poured another cup of coffee as I watched the city yawn to life. I lifted the mug to my lips, and the aromatic steam wafted into my nose, awakening my senses. I read somewhere humans love the smell of coffee because the scent of it triggers endorphins, pleasure centers or some such. Who the hell knows? Could be a pile of horseshit. After a hot swallow, I placed the cup down on the counter.
I glanced down at the opaque blackness as it sloshed back and forth in the cup. Maddie was the only woman I ever met who liked her coffee black. And the stronger the better. No idea why the thought occurred to me. But as I took another sip of the bitter black liquid, I did think of her. I always did now, when I had my coffee in the morning. Thinking of her was almost as much of a ritual as any other I had. It puzzled the shit out of me. Bothered me too.
Fuck that also.
Maddie aside, when it came to my grandfather, difficult though it was, that’s life. You know? You’re born, you live, you die. Plain and simple. Of course it was hard and will be even harder when it finally happens but it’s one of those things you just accept. Still, all that talk of his. Not so much the money, dealing with the trust and the like but all the other things he discussed.
I took another thick gulp of the dark heat.
A wife, kids. Jesus Christ.
Intellectually, I understood where he was coming from, but what he wanted for me, well, it sure as shit didn’t seem possible. The closest thing I had to what he described was Maddie.
And damn it to hell, what was a mess it was.
Just yesterday, I had a long conversation with the film’s director, Susan. Looked as if Maddie pulled another disappearing act. I pressed her about what she knew. She was cagey. All she’d say was Maddie still wasn’t well. Apparently lingering effects of the food poisoning she got. I wasn’t a doctor, of course, but if she was so goddamn ill, why the hell wouldn’t she go get it taken care of once and for all?
In the process of her recurring flakiness, she cost me tens of thousands in lost production not to mention trying to put a picture together where the lead actress is nowhere to be found. Unbelievable! Of course, I couldn’t mention my situation with Maddie to Susan. I didn’t have any interest in sabotaging Maddie’s chances. She was a damn fine actress. But just like with the escort business, she had difficulty staying focused.
Still, Susan was a pro. She’d kept things together and as much on track as she could. In the end, she left it up to me to sort out with Maddie. While she was sympathetic with Maddie’s health problems, she was deferential to me when it came to the final decision about what to do. And that is exactly what I had to figure out.
What the hell to do.
My hands were tied. I had no choice but, once again, to go handle things with Maddie myself, in person. And the list of people I could call upon was short. Really short. Carmen hadn’t heard a peep from her. So, aside from Susan, there was only one other person who would have any idea of where Maddie might be.
When I asked her about it over the phone, at first she brushed off my questions about Maddie, dismissing them. Fed up, I continued to insist she tell me until fucking surprise, surprise, she’d also gone dark. Yet again, I was left with no alternative but to go out there and deal with her. And so later that night when I arrived in LA, I arranged to have Armando drive straight to her travel agency. I lowered the divider between us as he drove across town.
“Drop me off out front, Armando.” I said. “I won’t be long.”
After another minute or so, we pulled up outside the location. I straightened my tie as Armando exited and opened the door for me. Nodding in his direction, I snapped my jacket and walked towards the front door.
Like an animal on the hunt, my senses heightened as I approached. Tingles of intent shot up my spine. The concrete crunched beneath my shoes as I marched with focus. Nothing was going to keep me from Maddie for another goddamn minute. As luck would have it, the lights inside flickered off, and Katy emerged into the soft orange glow of streetlight-illuminated night.
She gasped as our eyes met.
On instinct, I moved to grab her by the arm but at the last instant, thought better of it.
Katy’s mouth fell open as she watched me close on her. She flinched.
“Look,” I began with the last ounce of restraint I could summon. “All I want is a goddamn answer. I know you know where she is and what’s going on with her.”
Katy crossed her arms at her chest.
“Grey,” she began. Katy hesitated for a moment as if she’d been considering what she’d say to me when we got face-to-face. You could always tell by the way someone moved their eyes. Up and to the left was to recall a memory. She tipped her hand as she uttered the rehearsed line. “You know, before you went to get Maddie from her parents’ house, I actually held out a bit of hope for you. I thought I even liked you. But what you’ve done, your callousness. It’s disappointing.”
I’ll tell you. Flying halfway across the country has a way of making a man dour and certainly in no mood for accusations, innuendo or judgment.
The fingers of my right hand twitched as she sputtered her speech. I felt my jaw flex as I clenched my teeth.
Stifling rage, I glared down at her. “What. The. Fuck. Is that supposed to mean?”
Katy shifted in place but didn’t change the hard angles of her posture. Instead her face withered with displeasure.
“First of all, don’t cuss at me like that, and secondly, I think you don’t care what happens to Maddie so long as it doesn’t affect your bottom line. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the movie or the concierge business. If she’s doing anything to disrupt your precious cash flow, oh boy, do you ever come running.”
I felt the muscles in my upper back ripple and flex. I slid my tongue between my lips, readying myself for a reply but she thwarted me and instead, continued to ramble.
“But, when have you ever been there for her, Grey? Do you know the first thing about what she wants? Deep inside? Have you ever asked her how she feels about you? What you mean to her?”
I thinned my lips.
“No, you know what, Grey? You haven’t. And do you know how I know that? Because Maddie told me.”
“Cut the shit, Katy!” I snapped. Heat escaped from between my lips. “Don’t act like you’re a saint here all of a sudden. We had our own arrangement if you’ll recall, so don’t pretend as if you have no role in this.”
“In the business, Grey?” she began. “You’re right. I do. I won’t argue with you on it. That’s something I’ve apologized to Maddie for. We’re working through it. Like friends do. But the two of you, it’s different.”
I scoffed. “You don’t know the first thing about what goes on between Maddie and me. Save the best friend horseshit for someone who buys it. Now tell me where she is.”
“Goddamn you, Grey!” she shouted. “Don’t you see what’s going on here?”
I ran my fingers through my hair as she stalled. I bit my lip so hard, I almost pierced it. “Where is she, Katy? Tell me or… fuck!”
I raised my hand to my face and dragged my palm down across my mouth as I attempted to prevent a full outburst.
“No.” Katy replied as her lips pinched tight. “I’m not betraying her, Grey. You’ve hurt her too much. You need to leave her alone. Having you around is only going to make things worse.”
“Things? What things Katy?” I said as I leaned towards her. “Maddie owes me something. An explanation, for starters. I’ve got the equivalent of millions of dollars invested in us… her. I have a right to protect it.”
“It? Grey?” Katy replied with skepticism. “Is that what Maddie is to you? It? Another chip to be bargained? Contract to be negotiated? World to conquer?”
Katy stepped close and scoffed.
“Go fuck yourself.” She sniffed. “You asshole.”
She glared at me for another moment or two before spinning around and walking in the other direction. I turned my head towards the waiting limo, catching Armando’s glance in the process. His eyes widened for a moment and then he snapped his head back towards the steering wheel in fright. I swallowed hard as I realized the shit show I’d allowed myself to be reduced to in front of a goddamn strip mall in Westlake.
“Katy,” I called out, as she turned the corner to walk to her car. “Wait. Please.”