Can’t wait until The Billionaire Replacement is released? Here is an UNEDITED excerpt to tide you over 😉
Declan smiled as he watched Mason and Abby celebrate her book launch. The function room in his hotel had been decked out with crime scene tape and the chalk outlines of dead bodies on the floor. Six foot posters of the book cover were plastered around the room and the space was filled with people milling around, eager to get a signed copy. It was the first time the reclusive A.A. Abernathy had ever attended a book signing and people were lined up out the door, eager to get a glimpse of their favourite author.
Declan had been given an early copy of the book and he had to say he agreed with the critics when they said it was her best work yet. He was proud of her and so happy for her and Mason and the journey they were on. He had worried about his friend for many years, worried that he would never find the piece of his heart that was missing. Seeing the way he and Abby interacted put his fears to rest and he let go of his concern for his friend knowing that he was now in the capable hands of a woman who loved him to distraction.
He wondered what it would be like to be able to chose the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with instead of one being thrust upon you. It wasn’t something he would ever have the good fortune to experience. His family married like marriage was a business merger and he knew his mother had someone already picked out for him. She was just waiting for him to sow his wild oats and when he was ready to settle down, she would spring the trap. He’d seen it done with his older brother.
The Mayfield’s were an old and distinguished family. Of the four friends he had in Alpha Pi Tau, he was the only one who had been born into money. They were all billionaires now, but money wasn’t a new thing to him. He was a billionaire in his own right, of course, building his hotel empire from one run down building to now an international corporation with hotels and resorts across the world. He started with a loan from his family and now he stood on his own two feet, the loan long repaid and his debts satisfied.
But as hard as he’d tried to separate himself from the family, his mother and father still insisted on making sure he chose a suitable wife. And by choosing a suitable wife, he meant allowing them to choose for him. He had so far gotten away with avoiding his mother’s machinations, but with each of his friends finding their one true love, he was beginning to feel the stirrings of wanting to settle down himself. If only it could be with a woman of his choosing and not some daughter of one of his parents’ associates who would bring something of monetary value to the family.
Declan sighed and turned away from the happy scene in front of him. He walked out of the conference room and into the foyer, making a beeline for the front desk to check up on everything. This hotel, The Mayfield in Melbourne, had been his first and still remained his favourite, despite having hotels in nearly every major city in the world.
“Janine,” he said, addressing the woman behind the desk, “How’s the evening looking?”
She smiled at him and then looked down at her computer screen. “With the reunion happening in Conference Room 2 and the Book Launch in Conference Room 1, we are fully booked.”
He nodded, intending to ask another question but completely lost his train of thought when he saw a blonde walk out of Conference Room 2, a phone to her ear. She was stunning and stacked. His mouth practically salivated when his eyes dropped to her impressive rack that was barely contained in the tiny dress she wore. His eyes continued a lazy journey down the rest of her body, his breath stalling when he saw the long expanse of her tanned legs. Her dress was short and her stilettos high and in between was a mouthwatering smorgasbord of lovely, lovely legs. The old ZZ Top song started running through his head as he admired them.
“Shit, shit, shit.”
His eyes popped back up to her face and the scowl that marred her near perfect features as she held the phone to her ear.
“Where the hell are you? You were supposed to be here an hour ago!”
He was rooted on the spot, watching her. He knew it was impolite to eavesdrop on a conversation, but he couldn’t help it.
“Who’s there with you?…No, I definitely heard a voice, a female voice…Are you shitting me? You’re breaking up with me now?…I hope your dick shrivels up and falls off.”
She stabbed a finger at her phone and Declan watched as she took a deep breath and tried to compose herself. She dabbed at the corner of her eyes and smoothed her dress. Her head fell for a moment and he was about to go over and offer her…well, he didn’t know what the hell he was going to offer her, but he wanted to do something, anything, to take that defeated look off her face. But before he could move, she lifted her head, straightened her shoulders and turned on her heel, heading back into the conference room.
Declan straightened from where he had been leaning up against the reception desk and ran a hand down his tie.
“What’s going on in Conference Room 2?” he asked Janine.
“School Reunion,” she replied.
“I might just head in and check that everything is running smoothly,” he said, stepping away from the desk and heading after the blonde.
Brandi walked back into the reunion and headed to her seat, a fake smile on her face. The other women gathered around the table looked up at her, their own fake smiles in place, as she sat down.
“He still not here?” Courtney said with a sad pout, insincerity dripping from her words like honey.
“No,” Brandi replied with a tight smile, “He’s been held up at work.”
Jennifer tut-tutted. “That was a habit I made sure Bradley got out of quickly after we got married,” she said and the others nodded agreeably like she was all-wise and knowing.
“You definitely need to have strict boundaries with them,” Lisa said, “And you need to set them early.”
The three women had been friends with Brandi at school, although ‘friends’ was a loose term. ‘Frenemies’ might be a more appropriate word. They were all married, of course, and if Brandi wasn’t mistaken, they had all had ‘work’ done.
She sighed and admonished herself for such uncharitable thoughts. Just because she was in a bad mood didn’t mean she should take it out on these women. Who knew what they had going on in their lives behind their perfect Facebook status updates and hashtag-no-filter Instagram selfies? They may have been bitches when they were teenagers, but that didn’t mean they were now.
“So when are you getting married?” Courtney asked.
Brandi may have told a little white lie. She may have inferred that her and Justin were engaged but had yet to choose a ring. She hadn’t seen the harm in it when it was unlikely that she would see these women again any time soon. It had been ten years since they had graduated had she hadn’t laid eyes on them in that whole time, what were the chances that she would see them after this night? If Justin had asked her to marry him a month ago, she would’ve jumped at the chance, but over the last couple of weeks or so she had begun to see a difference in him. He’d obviously hooked up with whoever that other woman was. She should’ve seen the signs, it wasn’t the first time it had happened to her.
Brandi picked up her glass and took a large gulp before answering. Fake smile in place she said, “We haven’t set a date yet.”
The other women nodded but they shot knowing glances to one another. They didn’t believe her. They probably thought that she didn’t even have a boyfriend and that she had just made him up. Okay, so she had been stretching the truth a little bit, but she did have a boyfriend when she stepped into the reunion, it just so happened that he broke up with her a few minutes ago, over the phone, while he had another woman wrapped around his cock.
Brandi took another large gulp of her wine, emptying the glass. Fuck men. They were all the same, the bastards. She didn’t need a man in her life anyway. She was an independent and successful businesswoman with a collection of vibrators. What the hell did she need a man for anyway?
“So what are you up to these days?” Lisa asked.
Brandi smiled genuinely this time as she answered. “I’m a children’s entertainer.”
“A children’s entertainer. I dress up as different characters and entertain kids at parties and other functions and I—” The women sniggered behind their hands. “—do volunteer work in the children’s hospital,” she finished softly.
“You dress up?” Jennifer said, “Like, what? Barbie?”
The women sniggered again and Brandi tried to keep her smile in place. She was used to this reaction. Other women didn’t understand and men just thought it was something dirty to comment on. It didn’t help that she had more than a passing resemblance to the well-loved doll and she did, in fact, sometimes dress up as Barbie. She even had a real life pink Corvette and a pink VW Beetle to complete the illusion.
“Sometimes,” she answered, “Although Elsa is more popular at the moment and of course with the new movie out, Belle, from Beauty and the Beast is a frequent request.”
“You do this as a job?” Lisa asked barely disguising her sneer.
“I do,” Brandi replied. She was also a computer programmer but they didn’t want to know that. Probably wouldn’t believe her either. “What do you do?”
“Bradley and I decided that it would be better if I stayed home with the children,” Jennifer said with a sniff.
Brandi smiled, “Oh, so you’re a children’s entertainer too,” she said, “Only you don’t get paid for it.”
It was a mean thing to say, but with Justin breaking up with her and the constant jabs from these women she was at the end of her patience. She had the utmost respect for women who chose to stay home and look after their kids but she just couldn’t help getting a dig in at Jennifer’s expense. If she felt it was okay to disparage Brandi’s career then it was only fair that Brandi could disparage hers.
“Oh no,” Jennifer said with a mean smile, “That’s what we pay the nanny for.”
“Little Miranda has a birthday party coming up,” Courtney said, “Maybe we should hire you.”
“You couldn’t afford me,” Brandi mumbled.
“Pardon?” Courtney said, leaning forward.
Brandi smiled insincerely, “I said I will have my assistant forward you my business details.” And if Courtney tried to book her for a party she would, unfortunately, be too busy. There was no way she was going to put herself in a position where these three ‘friends’ could make fun of her.
She loved her job. She got a lot of enjoyment out of making little kids smile and she loved the work she did at the children’s hospital. What she didn’t understand was why women like these felt so threatened by her. Threatened enough to feel it necessary to put her down every chance they got. Lucky she had thick skin or she would be a basket case.
Declan strode into the conference room and looked around. It was a typical school reunion, ten years, if the balloons were to believed. He hadn’t gone to his. He’d been in Dubai or some other exotic locale setting up one of his resorts. He didn’t need to prove anything to the people he went to school with which was really the only reason to attend a school reunion, wasn’t it? So you could rub it in the faces of the people who thought you’d amount to nothing. Well fuck that shit. He didn’t need their validation to see himself as successful.
He caught sight of a blonde head seated at a table and headed in that direction. He was sure it was the same woman he’d seen out in the lobby. The question was, how would he lure her away from her friends?
“It’s such a shame we’re not going to meet your fiancé,” one of the other women said, “What was his name again?”
“You said he works in finance? Maybe he knows my David?”
“No, actually he—”
“Do you think he will be available to attend the Children’s Hospital Benefit that’s coming up?” another one said.
Declan didn’t always understand women. He loved women, all sorts of women, but he didn’t always understand them. Not outside the bedroom anyway. But it was quite clear that these women were attacking the blonde with their veiled niceties and not-so-subtle digs at her being at the reunion alone. Without really thinking through the consequences, Declan strode towards the table, his panty-melting smile in place.
“Sorry I’m late, sweetheart,” he said as he leaned down and nuzzled the neck of the blonde. She smelled fantastic, by the way. “You know how work can be sometimes.”
She stiffened and the other women at the table fell silent as all eyes turned to him. The blonde looked up at him, her eyes slightly narrowed and he thought for sure she was going to give him away.
“I thought you said you couldn’t get away?” she said instead and he let out a breath.
“After we spoke on the phone I realised what an arse I was being, so I came straight away.”
“This is your fiancé?” a dark haired woman asked. Her lips had that distinct fish-mouth look that is the result of too many fillers and her brow remained perfectly smooth although he could see she was trying to frown.
“Hi,” he said reaching across the table to shake her hand. “Declan Mayfield.” He shook the hands of the other women at the table, keeping one hand on the shoulder of the blonde. He didn’t want her to run away before he had a chance to introduce himself properly.
“Mayfield?” one of the other women asked, a blonde one. Although the blonde hair wasn’t nearly as stunning as the blonde hair that brushed his hand where it sat on the mystery woman’s shoulder. “As in…”
“That’s right. The Mayfield is mine.” He shot them all another panty-melting grin and then turned his attention to the reason why he was in here in the first place. “Come and dance with me baby.” He murmured in her ear.
He liked the way a shiver travelled along her spine and she looked up at him, her blue gaze assessing. She could still call his bluff, but he didn’t think she would.
“I’m still mad at you,” she said as she stood.
She was tall and in those sky-scraper heels they were at eye level. He liked that. He liked that a lot.
“Come on now baby,” he said softly, sweeping a stray strand of hair over her shoulder, his fingertips gliding over the golden tanned skin. “You know you can never stay mad at me for long.”
“I’ll dance with you,” she said, “But I would still like an explanation.”
“Of course,” he said, leaning in to brush a sweet kiss on her cheek.
He took her hand and led her to the small dance floor where a few drunk couples stood swaying to the cheesy eighties music. Declan pulled her into his arms and she came willingly. Her body moulded perfectly against his, all the important bits lining up, and he thanked the makers of high-heels everywhere.
“Is your name really Declan Mayfield?” she asked as he moved with her to the music.
“It is,” he said, “And I really am the owner of this hotel.”
“You own The Mayfield Group?”
“I am The Mayfield Group,” he replied with a grin.
“Why did you do that? Why did you pretend to be my fiancé?”
He shrugged. “I heard you on the phone. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a damsel in distress.”
“I didn’t need rescuing.”
He shrugged again. “Maybe not, but I heard those women. They were going easy on you, but if you hadn’t given them answers soon, the claws would have come out.”
She sighed and he shifted his arms to hold her closer.
“Can I ask you a question?” he said.
She looked up at him and bit the corner of her lip. The big, blue eyes, the plump lip caught between her teeth…he had to hold back a groan as his cock twitched. “What’s your question?”
“What’s your name?”
Her eyes widened and she laughed – giggled was probably a more descriptive word to ascribe to the sound that came out of her mouth. He wanted to hear it again.
“You did all of this just to get my name?”
He grinned at her. “Not just to get your name, but we can start there.”
“How do I know you are who you say you are Mr. Mayfield? You could be some random stranger for all I know.”
“It’s an easy enough thing to prove. Come upstairs with me and you can see that my mother makes me write my name in all my underwear.”
She giggled again and her eyes lit up with mischief. “I didn’t realise labelling your underwear was an acceptable form of identification. I’ll have to remember that next time I renew my passport.”
“So, you have your name written on your panties? Maybe we should go upstairs so you can prove to me who you are.”
She leant closer to him and whispered in his ear. “I’m not wearing any panties.”
He groaned and pressed his burgeoning erection into the juncture of her thighs. “Now you’re just teasing me,” he said, his voice rough.
“Thank you for the rescue,” she said, stepping away from him. “You can go back to work now.”
She turned and walked away, back to her seat, and he was sure she wiggled her arse just a little bit more than was necessary. He couldn’t let her go that easily. He still didn’t know her name.
“Where’s your delicious fiancé?” Jennifer asked.
Brandi took her seat and resisted the urge to fan herself. She could still feel the thickness of his arousal against her and it was making her uncomfortably damp. “He had to go back to work. He just stopped in to apologise to me for standing me up.”
“Is he really a Mayfield?” Courtney asked.
“Sure,” Brandi replied, “He owns The Mayfield Group.”
“No, I mean, is he really a Mayfield? You know as in Mayfield Savings and Loan? The oldest finance company in Australia?”
“I’m pretty sure he’s the youngest son,” Lisa said looking at the screen of her phone.
“Did you just Google my fiancé?” Brandi asked.
Lisa shrugged, “Of course I did.” She turned the phone around to show Brandi a picture of Declan. He was standing in front of a huge office window that looked out over what she thought might be some small European country – there were snow-capped mountains in the distance, so definitely not Australia. He had that half grin on his face as he tugged at a cuff of his suit and he leaned against a large wooden desk.
“It says here,” Courtney said, reading from her phone, “That he started The Mayfield Group with a loan from his parent’s bank but then repaid the loan, including interest, within five years.”
“With the help of his trust fund, no doubt,” Jennifer sneered.
“Not according to Wikipedia.”
“He has his own Wikipedia page?” Brandi asked, reaching for her glass and taking a large swallow.
“He’s one of the youngest billionaires in Australia, of course he has his own Wikipedia page. So does his family.”
Brandi was no stranger to wealth. Her own family could be counted in the richest families in Australia, but they were ‘new’ money. Her grandfather had made it big in computing, before computers were a household item. Her dad now ran Sabre Management Systems and she worked for him part-time, just to keep her hand in. But they had never really been accepted by the established families like the Mayfields. As was evidenced by the women surrounding her at the table. They were all from ‘old money’ families and had married into other ‘old money’ families. Her father might be able to buy and sell them but because his fortune was only made in the last fifty years, they were still considered outsiders.
“Now now ladies,” Declan said, his voice flowing over her like a silk sheet and making her think of dirty, dirty things. “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”
He pulled out the chair beside her and sat. His cologne wafted over her and she subtly inhaled the citrusy scent knowing that it would be her favourite smell from now on.
“I thought you had to go back to work,” she said, turning to him and accepting the drink he handed her.
“No need,” he replied with a grin, “I checked in with Janine at the front desk and if there’s a crisis, she knows where to find me.” He turned back to the other women. “And where are your delightful husbands? Don’t tell me they stood you up?”
“They’re sitting at the bar,” Courtney said indicating with a wave of her hand the three men sitting with their backs to the rest of the conference room.
“Brandi was just telling us that you own The Mayfield Group,” Jennifer said and Declan turned to Brandi, his eyes wide and a mischievous grin on his lips. So much for keeping her name a secret. “Haven’t you just opened a casino on Le Beau?”
Brandi frowned. What the hell was Le Beau?
Declan smiled easily as he relaxed back in his chair. He slung an arm across the back of hers casually as he answered Jennifer. “That’s correct. It’s my first casino though, not my first resort.”
“Where’s Le Beau?” Courtney asked and Brandi was glad there was someone else in the group who had never heard of the place.
“It’s a small island in the Balearic Sea,” Declan replied, “Off the south coast of France.”
“You have a casino on a French island?” Lisa asked, leaning forward.
“Technically the island belongs to Merveille,” he said. The others nodded knowingly, but Brandi was still in the dark. She knew where France was but had never heard of Merveille. “Have you ever been?”
The women shook their heads.
“We vacationed in the south of France once,” Jennifer said, “But didn’t get to Le Beau.”
Brandi shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Declan had moved closer to her and the heat radiating off his body was making her flush. It had absolutely nothing to do with her girlie bits wanting some attention from him. His hand had somehow found its way to her opposite shoulder and her was circling the bare skin there with the tip of his finger. It was driving her to distraction.
“I think I need some air,” Brandi said, standing abruptly. If she didn’t move she was worried she was going to climb into his lap and rub herself up against him. She had no idea why she was so horny. Being near Justin had never had that affect on her.
“I’ll come with you,” Declan said, standing to his feet and smiling at her, wickedness in his eyes.
Oh God the man was going to kill her with his smiles and his glances that practically set her on fire.
She smiled at her friends and walked away from the table, heading for the balcony off the side of the conference room. She could feel him behind her, his eyes caressing her. She stepped out onto the balcony and his hands were immediately on her waist. She turned to him, to protest, but the words died on her lips as he lowered his head and kissed her. Oh God. Her skin burned and her stomach clenched as he slid his lips across hers. He nipped her lip and she opened for him. His tongue swooped in and she felt her eyes roll into the back of her head as the taste of him overwhelmed her senses.
“What say we get out of here,” he murmured against her lips.
“I’m not going to sleep with you,” she said before taking the initiative and kissing him.
“You know what they say about getting over a breakup?” he said as he trailed kisses down her neck.
“No. What do they say?” she asked breathlessly.
“The best way to get over a man is to get another one under you.”
She groaned as he pulled her tight against him. She could feel the hardness of his cock and it only made the dampness between her thighs wetter.
“I don’t even know you,” she said as she slid her fingers into his hair and pulled his mouth to hers for another kiss.
“I know the perfect way for you to get to know me a whole lot better,” he whispered in her ear before sucking her earlobe into his mouth.
“Where do you live?” she asked as his tongue lapped at the sensitive part of her neck below her ear.
“My place is too far,” he said, “But I have a room upstairs.”
“Lets go,” she said before she changed her mind. She was just drunk enough and just angry enough at Justin to want to do something crazy. Sleeping with Declan Mayfield seemed like the perfect revenge on her cheating arsehole of an ex.
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