The Billionaire’s Deal (Episode 1) by Crystal Kaswell
Publication date: July 17th 2015
Genres: New Adult, Romance
Kat Wilder is screwed. No parents to take care of her. No money to pay the mortgage for the apartment she shares with her little sister. No chance at a future. She doesn’t even have time to daydream about her passions. She barely gets by waiting tables, getting treated like crap by the wealthy people who think she’s nothing.
Then she runs straight into billionaire tech CEO Blake Sterling.
Aloof, distant, and utterly in control, Blake is impossible to read. He wants Kat to play the role of his girlfriend and he’s more than willing to dig her out of debt. His intentions are good. According to him.
They need to convince everyone they’re madly, deeply in love. Their entire relationship would be a lie. And a big one. The one true thing—the two of them alone, together—that part would be amazing.
It would be Blake’s way. Blake’s terms. Blake utterly in control, inside and outside the bedroom.
There’s no way she can agree. There’s no way she can refuse.
We have dinner at Lotus Blossom, the same restaurant that rejected my job application without a second glance. Blake makes a show of parading in front of the asshole manager who ignored me.
The place is crowded--incredibly crowded--but we are instantly given a table right by the window. Gorgeous view of Fifth Avenue. It's dark out--the entire day lost to an exhausting makeover--and the city lights are in full effect. Yellow lights bleed into the brilliant royal blue sky.
Blake slides his arm around my waist, holding me tightly. There's something protective about it. It's almost sweet. But it must be for show. That's the whole idea here. Our relationship is a ruse. Just for show.
He pulls out my chair for me and pushes it in after me. A perfect gentleman on the outside. Inside, I haven't got a clue, but there's no reason why it needs to concern me.
I slide my fingers over the menu but pay no real attention to its details. Blake is the kind of guy who likes to be in charge of dinner. He'll order for me, right down to my drinks and dessert. If we're staying for dessert.
I take a long sip of my water, avoiding his gaze. It's penetrating again. I stare at the clean, white tablecloth as long as I can. When I can't stand it any longer, I make eye contact. The same penetrating look is on his face.
"This only works if we're honest with each other."
"Okay. I'm tired. I'm starving. I want to go home and see my sister, but according to her texts, she's going out with her best friend. God knows where they're going or if they have fake IDs."
He nods like he understands. His eyes pass over me, his expression softening.
"You like me all cleaned up?" I ask.
"It doesn't matter what I like."
"But do you like it?"
There's this weight in my chest. It shouldn't matter, but I still feel heavy all over.
"I liked you before, too." He reaches across the table, offering his hand. "Look at me, Kat."
"I'm looking at you."
"Like you're infatuated with me."
I draw a circle on his palms with my fingertips. Make my eyes are big as they'll get. Part my lips like I'm desperate to kiss him. "Like that?"
"We'll have to practice."
I slide back into my chair, pulling my arms to my sides. Gaga couples can't be gaga all the time. They get into fights. Isn't the passion the whole appeal of a passionate love affair? Passion isn't just long, desperate kisses and bodies thrashing together in ecstasy. It's screaming and fighting and slapping too.
"What?" I snap. I blame hunger.
"Have you ever loved anyone?"
"No. And no one has ever loved me. If that was your next question." I dig my nails into my now totally smooth thighs. "If you're so good at pretending, look at me like you're in love with me."
He nods. He slides out of his seat and kneels next to me. Several heads turn. He is in the perfect position to propose. He lifts himself up, so he's a few inches from me. His eyes get wide, soft. His lips curl into the smallest of smiles.
Warmth spreads through my body. It's not like before. It's not a coursing, desperate heat. It's in my chest, not between my legs. Blake takes my hand and rubs the pad of his thumb against the skin between my thumb and forefinger. I look away, and he reaches for me. His fingertips graze my cheek, light as a feather. It's warm there, too.
Dizzy. I'm dizzy. It's bright in here. Loud. But, somehow, I can't hear or see anything except him. I can't help but stare into his eyes. That look is pure affection. It's love. Hell, I almost believe it. No, not almost.
I do believe it. That warmth swims to my stomach and cheeks. Breath escapes my body. It's all pretend. An example. But I can't stop the feeling. No one has ever looked at me like this. I want so badly for it to be real. I never wanted anything like this before, but now it's the only thing that matters.
He leans closer. Closer. His lips are an inch from mine. It's not like before. That was passionate, yes, but it was carnal. Nothing but sex. This is sweet, innocent even. His hands slide through my hair, and for a second, I forget my whole appearance is different. My eyes flutter closed and I do forget. I forget everything except the feeling of Blake's lips. Soft. Sweet. Hint of lemon from the water.
He pulls back and brings his mouth to my ear. "It's pretend, Kat. It's all pretend."
I nod like I believe him. "I know."
"Can you do that?"
I nod like I believe in my ability to lie.
He shifts back to his seat. His eyes stay glued to mine. "Good."
"The way you're looking at me. I believe you."
"Oh, yeah, of course." I press my palms against the chiffon, but the fabric does nothing to absorb the sweat. We nearly had sex in a dressing room. I shouldn't be nervous over a kiss and a few sweet glances.
The server arrives with a good evening. Just as I predicted, Blake orders for us. I let my attention shift away, off to some place where it won't hurt me. My only job is to look at Blake like I'm in love. I can absolutely do that without falling in love. Absolutely.