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About the author:
Allie is the author of the Suncoast University series, the Bishop Brothers series, and the upcoming Psych 101 series. She lives in sunny Florida with her husband, daughter, and two cats. A librarian by day, she spends her nights writing happily ever afters.
Here is a short sample from the book:
“What floor, sir?”
Sir? I actually command enough respect around here to be labeled as Sir? “Sixty,” I tell him, stepping onto the elevator behind him.
“Oh, seeing the top boss, huh?”
He grins at me, his expression slowly dropping when he sees my face, then bows his head to look down at his shoes, shuffling his feet awkwardly.
He gets off at the fourteenth floor and I ride the rest of the way up by myself, staring at the digital readout as I ascend, trying to decide how much trouble I’m in. It’s ridiculous to be twenty-eight years old and still fearing punishment from your father, but sometimes that’s just how life is.
The nondescript music issuing from the hidden speakers does little to soothe me, the glowing button for floor sixty taunting me. I can’t think of a single time I’ve been called up to Dad’s office that didn’t end in some kind of berating from him.
The metal elevator doors effortlessly glide open as I reach my destination, a soft ding indicating my arrival. Dad would never tolerate any undignified squeaks or squeals from his building.
I step off into a small lobby, his secretary’s eyes filled with sympathy as they meet mine from across her desk outside Dad’s office. “He’ll see you now,” she says, motioning toward the polished oak double doors.
I nod my thanks, wiping my face clear before waltzing inside.
Dad glances up from behind his massive desk at my entrance and slowly takes his reading glasses off so I can get the maximum effect from his withering glare.
Bright blue eyes identical to mine stare at me, his silence unnerving. It’s just one of his tactics, though. Keep quiet so the other person will feel compelled to fill that silence, blabbing all their secrets along the way. But it won’t work on me, Dad. You’ve pulled that one too many times.
I take a seat in a spindly chair across from his desk, the thing not anywhere near as comfortable as his stately leather one. Not that I’ve sat in it when he’s out of the office or anything.
That vein in his forehead makes its appearance, despite his calm demeanor, and I glance around at the heavy wood paneling of his office, doing my best to appear nonchalant too. It probably only makes things worse for me, but I can’t help but try to reverse his psychology tricks on me. I’m not walking in here with my tail between my legs just because he summoned me.
“I assume you know why you’re here,” he finally states when it’s apparent I won’t talk.
“Why don’t you tell me,” I drawl, crossing one leg casually over the other.
He turns the newspaper on his desk toward me so I can see it, a grainy picture of my face staring back at me. The headline reads Heir to Bishop Industries Caught with Underage Girl.
Are they serious with this right now?
“It’s pure tabloid fodder,” I tell him, pushing it away from me. “They took a photo and made up a story.”
He picks up the paper, putting his glasses back on to read aloud, “Gabriel Bishop, son of billionaire Harold Bishop, was photographed Saturday night with a sixteen-year-old girl at a party hosted by Damien Hausman. Hausman has been linked to several underage sexual assault cases and was formally charged and taken into custody in the early hours of Sunday morning after it was found he had supplied alcohol to minors. One intoxicated young woman fell from a balcony at this party, resulting in extensive internal injuries.”
I drum my fingers on the desk, waiting for him to finish.
“The picture above was posted by a now deleted account on the senior Bishop’s ThousandWords app, the social media site that ironically allows no words to be used, letting users draw their own conclusions from photos uploaded. Speculation has abounded as to how much involvement Gabriel had in this tragic party.”
Dad pauses to glare at me, but continues reading aloud when I open my mouth to speak.
“Gabriel has within the last year also been linked to Simon Wagner, the business magnate who recently was indicted for securities fraud and insider trading, as well as Jay Vigeant, the heir to Vigeant Enterprises, accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from his father’s company. ThousandWords featured him together with these two men several times in photos that have since been removed from the site. Trying to cover his tracks, perhaps?”
He drops the paper then, leaning back in his chair to fix me with a steely stare.
I throw my hands up. “What do you expect me to say? It’s literally the point of your app to infer what you want from the photos posted. Now you’re mad when they do that?”
“What were you doing at a party like that?” he grits out, his eyes narrowing further.
I gaze back at him calmly, willing my heart to stop racing. “A friend of a friend invited me. I was bored, so I stopped by for about twenty minutes and left.”
“Did that girl go home with you?”
“No!” I swipe a hand through my hair, tugging at it. “Jesus, Dad. I’m not interested in underage girls. And in my defense, she didn’t look sixteen. I thought she was at least twenty.”
He points a finger at me menacingly. “All it takes is one shot to tell a story. How many times have I drilled that into your head? I own a social media site for God’s sake. Image is everything.”
“I know.” It comes out smaller than I intended, and I clear my throat. “I only talked to her for a few minutes. And I didn’t realize what was going on at the rest of the party or anything about this Damien guy.”
“And the other men?”
“I was photographed with them. Big deal. I’m photographed with a ton of people. I’m not close with either of them.”
Those eyes bore into me and I instinctively pull at my collar, unable to help myself.
“I’m sorry,” I tack on, hoping that’ll satisfy him.
He shakes his head. “Sorry won’t cut it this time.”
My heart speeds up at the look in his eye, but I paste on a devilish grin. “What would you like me to do to make it up then? Ribbon cutting at a new rec center? Charity fundraiser? I’ll even-” I swallow, “I’ll even post a photo at the children’s hospital if you want.” My skin itches at the thought of posting photos of the kids, but I’ll do it if it appeases him.
“No,” he says simply, his lack of theatrics worrying me more than if he was screaming, face beet red, that vein in his forehead throbbing madly.
“Okay… so what then?” I ask, not attempting bravado anymore.
He pushes the newspaper to the side, steepling his fingers together in front of him. “We need you linked with someone else.”
Linked? “You have a girl in mind?”
“I do. Serena Montague.”
I rack my brain, finally settling on the tall blonde from prep school in the grade below me. “The Ice Queen?”
His lips thin. “She has a pristine reputation if that’s what you’re referring to.”
Pristine? No wonder he wants me associated with her. He loves pointing out my every flaw. “Fine,” I shrug. “What do you want me to do? Take her out a couple times? Snap a few pics for ThousandWords?”
“You’re going to marry her.”
My mind blanks. Like literally empties of all thought. “Uh… come again?” I finally manage to croak out.
The barest sliver of delight crosses his face at my discomfort. “I’m buying her father’s company, Montague Media, and he insists on a family alliance for the deal to go through.”
What the hell? “Dad, this isn’t the Middle Ages. You can’t barter me for some business deal.”
“Then you’re cut off,” he says with a little too much glee. “If you can’t hold your weight in this family, you don’t deserve any of my money.”
I stand, my chair overturning in my haste. “Whoa, whoa, hold on. Let’s-” I rack my brain, trying to come up with some alternative. “Let’s figure something else out. I’ll get a job here in the company.”
“I’ll work with Archer. He has too much on his plate anyway.”
“Your brother is doing fine on his own. He’s the CFO for God’s sake. He doesn’t need your help.”
“Send me over to help Connor. The Philippines project is too big for just him.”
“He doesn’t need you either. He’s proving himself more and more every day. Unlike you.”
I ignore his jab, searching for some other way out of this. He can’t be serious, right? Marrying me off to the highest bidder? It’s archaic. “What does Montague Media even have that you need?”
He leans back in his seat, pleased to see me scrambling, loving having me by the balls. “It doesn’t matter why I need it. What matters is you agree to this.”
“Why me? Archer or Connor would make way better husbands. You’ve told me time and again I’m not good for anything.” The familiar pang that usually comes along with that statement is absent, my brain too focused on finding a way out of this for my heart to care.
“You’re good enough for this. Greg Montague wants the connections the Bishop name can give him through his daughter.”
“So invite him to be a member of one of your billionaire clubs. I don’t see why I’m being roped into this.”
He purses his lips, ignoring my suggestions.
“Put him on the board of the company. Make him a VP of something made up. That should satisfy him.”
The vein in his forehead pulses intensely. Ah, I knew it would happen eventually. “Once I acquire Montague Media, he’ll no longer have anything to do with it. He just doesn’t know it yet.”
“So, what, he thinks it’s just a merger? That he’ll still be head of that part of the company? And then you’ll dump him and I’ll be stuck with him as a father-in-law?”
He’s silent as he stares at me, folding his hands over his stomach as he leans even further back in his leather chair.
“That’s not your problem, though, is it? Especially if Serena’s my wife.” He actually might have to come in contact with the Montagues if it was Archer or Connor marrying her, but not me. Dad has little to no reason to see me under normal circumstances.
“This is the way I’ve decided you can best help the company. Marry Serena or move out of the apartment I pay for and cut up your credit cards.”
Where the hell would I go? The square footage alone of my place at Bishop Plaza would make most New Yorkers weep with envy. And the limit on those credit cards…
“You’d seriously cut me off? Your own son?”
“I’ve got two others. And they’ve made me a hell of a lot more proud than you ever have.”
I wince, despite my earlier determination not to let him see how he affects me. Why bother competing, though, when Archer has always done everything better? And now apparently my younger brother has surpassed me too.
“I’ll just stay at Connor’s place while he’s overseas. He’ll spot me any money I need.”
“I’ll make both of your brothers aware that if they give so much as one penny to you, they’ll be cut off too.”
There’s a hardness in his face implying this is no idle threat. He means it.
“What’s your problem with me? Do you really hate me that much?” The question slips out unwittingly.
“Hate implies too strong of an emotion,” he replies easily.
I stare at him for a moment then turn around to right my chair, sitting down heavily in it. “Fine. Whatever,” I shrug. “I’ll marry her.” Serena Montague. The Ice Queen of Redmond Prep. What the hell has she even been up to in the last ten years? “But don’t expect me to be some model husband.”
“Oh, you will be. I want wholesome from you. This girl has turned you around. You’re now a one woman man.”
I hold back a hysterical burble of laughter. “That’s how you’ll spin it? She’s reformed me?”
“Yes. And you’re going to be part of the wedding planning. The Manhattan Herald will feature you all over town looking at venues, tasting cakes, picking out flowers. You can’t wait to marry the love of your life,” he points at me again viciously. “Give us some positive press for a change. Everyone loves a love story.”
“Do you seriously think my acting skills are up to this?”
“Go take a class then.” He shuffles some papers in front of him that have absolutely no business being shuffled, a sure sign he’s done with this conversation. “First meeting with the wedding planner and the Montagues is tomorrow morning at nine in the boardroom. You’ll be there.”
He already hired a wedding planner? Before I even agreed? Am I that predictable?
“Yes, sir,” I salute him sarcastically.
He grimaces but otherwise ignores me. “Go get the details from Vivian.”
I make my way out, glancing at the incomparable New York City skyline. He has an even better view here than my apartment does.
“Gabriel,” he barks when he notices me dawdling.
I pick up my feet and stop at Vivian’s desk outside his office, letting the heavy door slam shut behind me, her face filled with sympathy.
“I’m guessing you know then.”
“Who do you think scheduled the meeting tomorrow?”
I nod, jamming my hands in my pockets.
“Oh, sweetie, it’s not as bad as all that. She seems like a sweet girl.”
I resist the urge to roll my eyes at her. Vivian’s never been anything but nice to me and my brothers.
“You want him to set you up with someone next?” I ask, sidestepping her comment about Serena.
“If it means I stay rich,” she laughs, filled with such good humor I can’t help but laugh along with her.
She's right. I get to keep my lifestyle. Money that, if I’m being honest with myself, I have absolutely no claim to. I’ve never worked a day in my life. I offered to help with the company after graduating from college, but Dad never took me up on it.
And all I have to do is marry some girl. It’s not like I planned on marrying anyone else. I mean, someday maybe, but not anytime soon.
I could get divorced eventually… right? Or is this a lifetime commitment?
I shake my head.
One day at a time.
The bartender sets a cheap glass in front of me, leagues away from the Waterford Crystal set and Glenfiddich back at my place. But I don’t want to be home tonight, alone with my thoughts. I’d tried it for a couple of hours and finally gave up. Tonight’s my last night of freedom until I become… engaged.
Just the thought leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
“Thanks, man.” I take a swig, grimacing at the mediocre quality, but they don’t exactly sell the good stuff here.
I’ve never been to this bar, but that’s why I chose it. Somewhere I could lose myself in anonymity, where people wouldn’t recognize Gabriel Bishop, son of tech billionaire Harold Bishop. Heirs to billionaire fortunes rarely frequent the- I glance over at the sign over the bar. That’s right – King’s Pub. Not sure if it’s referencing royalty or a person, but I guarantee no kings are setting foot in this place. The counter is sticky with some unidentifiable residue, and I’m fairly certain I’ll have to bathe in sanitizer when I get home.
But the point of being here is to get drunk and wallow in my sorrows, not worry about what germs are lurking on the surfaces.
I pick up my tumbler again, studying the clear amber liquid, a flash of color catching my attention out of the corner of my eye. I turn, spotting two women entering the bar, clearly out of place. One is pretty in an understated way, with long, dark hair plaited down her back. But my gaze stops on the other woman, temporarily blindsided.
Caramel curls tease the tops of her shoulders, a fitted blue dress and heels accentuating her trim figure. Her lips are painted a pretty pink with long lashes framing hazel eyes. She glances around hesitantly, following the woman she entered with over to the other end of the bar where they order. She studies a barstool, only settling onto it after carefully wiping it off.
The woman’s got standards then.
The other patrons don’t pay any attention to them as the bartender hands them each a martini, which I’m surprised they even serve here.
I watch her surreptitiously as I finish my whiskey, mulling over the idea of getting lost in a woman tonight instead of alcohol. It would save me a headache tomorrow morning at least. And who knows when I’ll get laid again? I’m not quite convinced the Ice Queen will be so accommodating.
I get a refill, standing to stroll over to her end of the bar, something about her drawing me forward, an innate sensuality she’s projecting despite the sweet image she’s trying to portray with the business appropriate dress and soft makeup. “I’m guessing this isn’t your normal hangout?” I motion to her with my glass, taking another sip as she turns her head my way. The burn of the alcohol isn’t so bad this time.
I swear there’s interest in her gaze before she quickly shuts it down, those hazel eyes even more striking up close, with flecks of golden brown interspersed among the green.
“Doesn’t look like your kind of place either,” she replies, giving me a once over. She’s right. The suit I put on earlier in an attempt to impress Dad costs what most people make in a month.
The woman beside her smirks into her martini glass, then turns away from us, checking something on her phone.
I lean an elbow on the bar, immediately regretting my decision once I remember what likely lurks there. “Maybe we could find a place that would suit us both a little better.”
She sets her drink down, turning fully toward me, amusement flirting over her lush lips. “And where might that be?”
I give her a smile, the one I’ve had women describe to me as panty-melting. “My apartment.”
She nods, clearly entertained, but for some reason, it doesn’t seem to bode well for me. “Did you really think you could convince me to sleep with you after talking to me for not even a minute? That I’d be so hot for you, I’d ditch my friend to go home with you, some random guy, to have sex at your place? Are you actually putting in that little effort and expecting a reward?”
There’s a choked laugh coming from the direction of her friend, and it takes me a second to realize my jaw is dropped. I quickly slam back the rest of my drink, just wanting this god awful day to be over already.
She takes a long draw from her martini, holding eye contact with me, then delicately sets it on the bar. “But seriously, better luck with the next girl. Whoever ends up in your bed tonight after that half-hearted pickup attempt is definitely a keeper.”
She turns to her friend, dismissing me, and all I can do is chuckle to myself at her chastisement. She’s absolutely right. That was a weak attempt by anyone’s standards. I wouldn’t be in the best headspace for anything tonight anyway.
“My apologies, ladies,” I murmur, pulling two twenties out of my wallet and sliding them across the counter to cover my tab and then some. “Next round’s on me. Have a good night.”
I button my suit jacket and exit the bar, not bothering to glance back. I know when to call it quits.
I wander around the city for an hour until my feet ache, the wingtips I’m wearing meant more for the boardroom than trailing aimlessly across Manhattan, then catch a cab to the Upper East Side, not wanting to bother my driver this late.
Tomorrow’s the first day of the rest of my life.
I walk into the conference room bright and early, fifteen minutes before the meeting is even scheduled to start, thank you very much. I’m resigned to whatever may happen today, and if I’m headed down this path, I might as well meet it head on.
A trim figure in a lavender dress is bent over at the front of the room, pert ass wiggling in the air as she retrieves something from a tote bag at her feet. I take a moment to appreciate it, averting my gaze as she straightens and turns around.
Both of us freeze, staring at each other as recognition hits.
It’s the girl from the bar.
“You,” we say in eerie unison. It would be comical in any other situation, but I don’t need the woman I hit on here in this office.
Those gorgeous hazel eyes narrow on me. “Did you not get the message last night?” she asks, placing the folders she took from her bag on the long, polished table. “Are you harassing me at work?”
I rear back. “Don’t flatter yourself. I’m here for a meeting.” Wait, did she say she worked here?
“This room is reserved for my meeting. I’ll go talk to Vivian.”
She moves past me, but doesn’t make it far before stumbling to a halt. I hold out an arm to catch her, but she steadies herself on the back of a chair, swiveling toward me slowly. “What meeting are you here for?”
“Wedding planning. Why?”
“I’m the wedding planner.”