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Authors: Violet Walker

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Billionaire Romance: Out of The Cold (Book One)

BOOK: Billionaire Romance: Out of The Cold (Book One)
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Out of the Cold

 

Billionaire Christmas
Story

 

Book One

 

 

 

 

 

Violet Walker

Billionaire Christmas
Story: Out of the Cold

Chapter 1: The Farmhouse

T
hey left New York City behind in a thin rain, Henry Reid’s
tricked out Jeep Cherokee powering along as if the highway was dry
as a bone, easing through the aggressive Upstate traffic with the
grace of a vehicle too big and heavy to risk hitting. Henry sat at
the wheel, his fine, well-manicured hands gripping it steadily and
his green eyes fixed on the road ahead. He was generous-featured
and handsome, nose just a touch overlarge and smile lines starting
at the corners of his eyes--maybe forty, Anna guessed. Whenever
they were together she had the habit of watching his face like she
wanted to memorize every detail.

Anna McCallister,
twenty-three and his secretary, loved him with the kind of
desperate adoration that was usually limited to schoolgirl crushes,
and though it embarrassed her, it stayed in her head no matter what
she did. She fell asleep to thoughts of running her fingers through
his floppy coffee-colored hair, and woke up to thoughts of turning
to see his sleeping face on the pillow beside her. As they drove,
competing with late holiday-makers headed for dinner somewhere out
in the Catskills, she kept stealing looks at him. Henry probably
thought that she had agreed to spend her Christmas Eve with him
because she was dedicated to their work, but Anna did it for the
reason she did everything he ever asked of her: because, despite
the complete impossibility of this real estate billionaire wanting
to date “the help,” she lived to see him smile.


I can’t wait until you
see this thing,” Henry said excitedly. “Two hundred years old,
stone, now with all the modern comforts. Solar array on the south
roof, windmill, network cable in place. All we need is to order
Internet and phone service, load cord wood into the shed and fill
the oil tanks, and she’s completely ready to go. Bet she’ll sell in
a month or two, even in winter.” Henry glanced at her, the
excitement in his voice coloring his cheeks and making his eyes
dance in a way that made her stomach do a little flip.

“It sounds great,” she
replied with a little squeak in her voice that she couldn’t
conceal. She was a small, voluptuous woman, her own hair a shade
lighter than his, falling in waves to her mid-back when she let it
loose. Not that he would know that--she kept it carefully tucked up
in a bun for work. Her eyes were light gray-green, in contrast with
his pine-colored irises, and she tended to line them with kohl to
bring out their unusual pale color. She wore an wool aubergine suit
today, one of her best thrift-store finds and warm enough, paired
with fleece-lined tights, warm boots, gloves and a puffer vest, to
take on the Catskills in late December. She hoped. In reality, she
had only been Upstate a few times since moving to New York City
from Delaware, and she still wondered if she was ready for what the
locals termed “a real winter”.

“I hope so. James told me
today that she’s ready for a tour, and I wanted to get it done
before the holiday. I really hope you don’t mind spending Christmas
Eve dinner with your boss.” He knew she had no family to speak of,
but he didn’t know how much trouble she’d had making friends since
she had come to the City. Shyness wasn’t an asset anywhere in the
world, but in New York City it was a serious handicap, and she was
struggling.

“I didn’t have any plans,”
she admitted, but left it at that. The whole holiday thing
depressed her; it drove home her loneliness and made her feel
pathetic. Besides, the truth was that she couldn’t think of anyone
in the world she’d rather spend a holiday with than him.

“It’s too bad I couldn’t
swing by and pick up Monty,” he mused. “He just adores you. Of
course, it will be nice to have a Christmas Eve dinner without his
nose constantly poking out from under the table in search of
scraps.”

She giggled a little, and
his eyes twinkled in response. Her assistant's duties didn’t
normally involve looking after overly-friendly Rhodesian
Ridgebacks, but she spent so much time volunteering at the SPCA
that handling rambunctious dogs was second nature to her. Now and
again when Henry left out of town, he asked her to look after the
big doofus, who was actually fairly well-behaved except for his
begging habit. “I never really mind doggie begging. He’s a happy
guy. We’ll just have to remember to bring him next time you take me
out here to show off one of your houses.” She prayed that would be
often, and soon. Just taking a quiet drive out to the country with
him made her happier.

He nodded, flashing a
brief grin. Restoring both the old houses and the local economy of
this part of the Catskills was one of his personal missions. She
had never met anyone who loved crumbling stone farmhouses as much
as Henry and could only hope that the steady stream of holiday
homebuyers he counted on materialized. He wasn’t hurting for money
if the risks he took didn’t pan out, but she could imagine his
disappointment if they didn’t. The whole area up here was
economically depressed and filled with ancient, decrepit bits of
American history begging for restoration. His dream was to bring
jobs and money to the area by restoring those houses, and she had
worked hard to help him in every way she could.

It was a three hour drive
from the city into the west end of Ulster County, where his project
restored houses in cooperation with the local housing initiative.
His foreman on the project, a local named James Thompson, was
scheduled to meet them there in a few hours. Meanwhile, there was
nothing to do but sit next to the man whose company she coveted
most and struggle to find something interesting to say.

Fortunately, Henry was a
talker, always going on about his projects or his ambitions or his
dog. Never girlfriends, she noticed, and he didn't wear a ring.
That just added fuel to her inappropriate fantasies. Right now, she
watched his lips move, that Cupid’s bow curve to them and the way a
little smile kept coming through as he talked. “...Forgot to ask if
you eat beef. Sorry about that. I figured I’d cook for
us.”

Oh wow.
“Beef’s fine,” she mumbled, her heart rate
jumping. He was going to cook for them. He might be crap at it for
all she knew, but the thought was there. It was very hard not to
misinterpret that as something romantic. She struggled with her
feelings, and couldn’t stop smiling. “If I had known you were going
all out I would have brought dessert.”

“Oh no, no problem, got it
covered. I bake for a hobby, when Monty lets me anyway. He’s a damn
muffin thief. That’s why he’s got a goddamn muffin butt. But
anyway, don’t worry, I've got a Dutch apple pie in the
trunk.”

God, could you be any more
perfect?
She squirmed and clenched her
knees together under her skirt, doing her best to fend off even
more unrealistic but delightful daydreams.

 

Outside the window, bare
trees flashed past, the ground carpeted in fallen leaves slowly
graying as the season’s icy rain worked them down into the soil. It
had snowed a few times so far, little more than frost, which melted
away as soon as the sun touched it. Out here, though, winter was
sinking its fangs into the land faster. She saw glimmers of snow on
the peaks as they drove down the state route, and when she took off
her glove and touched the window, the glass felt like
ice.

“Did James say something
about the weather?” he asked distractedly as he kept an eye on a
tailgater in his rear-view mirror. People Upstate drove like they
all had to pee. The beater Chevy behind them honked its horn, and
she glanced at the speedometer. They were already five miles above
the speed limit and it still wasn’t enough for this impatient ass.
Henry let his foot off the gas gradually, slowing down
incrementally until the Chevy driver was practically on their
bumper. More honking. The idiot finally swerved over and passed
them, flashing an obscene gesture out his window.

Anna let out her breath in
relief. “God, if they’re in that much of a hurry they should just
pass and be done with it,” she mumbled.

He grunted in agreement.
“Yeah, well, that would take an actual effort besides stepping on
the gas and laying on the horn. Folks should just disappear out of
the way instead. Pull off the road, speed up to match them,
otherwise just let ‘em through so they can keep being lead-footed
assholes.”

“How do these people get
through winter without ending up in a ditch?” she wondered
aloud.

 


Oh, well, trust me, a
bunch of them do end up getting pulled out of ditches every damn
year. James tells me stories. All we need is a little snow and ice
and it turns into bumper-cars out here.” He laughed a little and
then laughed louder as a rust-eaten Subaru took the place of the
Chevy in his rear-view.

It was around five by the
time they pulled off the state route onto the gravel drive that led
up to the new project. Anna looked around eagerly as the trees
flashed past, seeing a fox trot past a cluster of maples near the
drive. A quarter mile up the hill, the drive opened out into a
broad oval of gravel surrounding the detached garage --once an old
carriage house, now sturdily rebuilt and with a steel shingle roof
on top.

“And here we are!” Henry
sounded proud as he pulled up to the garage and cut the engine.
“What do you think?”

Anna looked up the hill
above the garage and saw the farmhouse looming over them. It was
large—she guessed at least three bedrooms--and of the same
steel-roofed stone, but the south face of its roof was covered with
solar panels. New double-paned windows gleamed in its walls, and
stone planter boxes waited below, empty until spring. “It’s
beautiful,” she said quietly, her mind still mostly on his smile.
“I can’t wait to see the inside.”

Chapter 2: Storm Warning

A
door slammed, and a tallish, broad-shouldered man walked out
from behind the garage, wiping his hands on a rag. James Thompson,
the project foreman, was one of those Dutch-descended mountain men
whose families had occupied the Catskills since the 1600s. He
looked the part, too: sharp features, white blond hair, eyes like
chips of lake ice. His usual uniform of work boots and jeans was
supplemented with a battered fleece-lined bomber jacket. He always
looked a little grim, but when he saw Anna in the passenger seat,
he offered her a small smile.

BOOK: Billionaire Romance: Out of The Cold (Book One)
4.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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