Authors: Rachel Bond
THE BILLIONAIRE’S PLEDGE
Copyright ©2015 by
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher, except for the use of brief quotations for review purposes.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, incidents, and places are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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Savannah LaMont locked the door of her web-design shop and strolled along the cute little downtown of Hood River, Oregon, enjoying the warm September afternoon and wondering where the hell she was going to come up with $386,000 in the next couple of weeks.
In her 27 years she’d found that life could either be awesome or a bitch. Right now it was being a real B-I-T-C-H.
Hood River was not your classic American small town, and Savannah—with her checkered past racing to catch up with her—didn’t want it to be.
She pushed away the thoughts of money that haunted her every waking moment and thanked her stars that she’d gotten out of New York City. Here in the windsurfing and kiteboarding capital of the world—a hip and hilly little town on the banks of the mighty Columbia River that divided Oregon from Washington—she had finally found her place in life.
She passed the bookstore, the hardware store, a couple of windsurfing and kiteboarding shops, a yoga studio, a jewelry store, a frozen yogurt place that had just opened. She knew them all, like a group of friends. The non-stop breeze that brought water-sports enthusiasts from all over the world blew her sandy-blond hair into her face, and she brushed it aside without thinking.
The famous Hood River wind was a blessing and a curse for the town, bringing tourists but driving many of the locals freaking bananas. At least here she could finally be free of Charles and his obsessive stalking (not to mention his obsessive
, but that was another story).
Unfortunately the thought of Charles reminded her of the debts that had followed her across 3,000 miles of American soil. $286,397.68. She knew the number by heart, because she’d stayed up so many nights poring over the invoices from the video production company and the web programming company and the graphic design firm, not to mention various other subcontractors she’d hired. The biggest job of her life had dropped in her lap a little over two years ago: $550,000 to build an interactive website for a wealthy husband and wife who were starting an art gallery. They’d paid her $75,000 up front, which had seemed like a lot at the time but now, she realized, was far too little to start such a huge project.
She rounded a corner, almost bumped into a group of guys coming down the steep sidewalk, and headed up the hill to the next street.
She had been the project manager, the “architect” of the website, hiring all the other talented people to make it happen and having them bill her directly. After nine months of work, the “wealthy” couple had turned out to be not so very wealthy, and also—how could she put this nicely?—the husband had been a rat-fuck scumbag sack of shit. Yeah, that was about right. She’d gotten another $25,000 out of them, but they hadn’t paid the rest, and Savannah was on the hook for all of the subcontractors’ bills.
She passed the sandwich shop and waved at a woman inside whom she’d chatted with a number of times. It was that kind of town.
She sighed and went back to obsessing over what had happened. Lately the subcontractors she’d hired had started to come after her with collections agents. Two of them were suing her. She’d lost her New York apartment and both her employees, and finally decided to relocate to Hood River and start over. Here in this laid-back town, less than an hour from the world’s only year-round skiing at Mt. Hood, she’d found a place that felt like home for the first time since she’d left her parents’ house at 17.
She tried very, very hard not to even think of the
money she owed: $100,000 to her parents, who were both elderly with serious health issues. They’d invested in the business early on, and hadn’t seen a dime of their money since. Now they’d started asking about getting their investment back, because it turned out it was the bulk of their savings and her father owed the hospital for a recent life-saving operation on his heart. There was the very real possibility that she would have to declare bankruptcy, close the business, and maybe even get evicted from her small apartment and end up homeless.
? Who was she kidding? It was about to be a fact, as cut and dried as the fact that she hadn’t been touched by a man since Charles had grabbed her arm that final night and—
Damn it, don’t think about it! Not now.
She shivered and brushed another lock of hair away from her face while stepping into Cuppa, her favorite coffee shop.
The place was bustling, as usual. Bleached-blond twenty-something guys lounged around, swapping stories of the day’s adventures on the water. Fit retired men were right there with them, wondering what the wind was going to do tomorrow. Day trippers from Portland rested their feet and marveled at the contents of their shopping bags. Kids played with their parents’ iPhones. That was one of the only problems with Hood River: Savannah wasn’t fond of the crowds of day trippers. The town was full of them in the summer and fall, even on weekdays.
Her tanned, athletic legs carried her easily toward the counter and she said “Hi” to Elaine, who was working the espresso machine.
“Taking the day off?” Elaine asked. It was a running joke they shared. Savannah’s office was about three blocks away on a downtown side street. She came over to Cuppa almost every day for a latte and a bit of socializing…and to get away from her depressing office-slash-shop-slash-money-pit.
“Well, not the
day,” she said with a hint of a wry smile. “Just the morning and afternoon.”
Elaine laughed and finished pulling the espresso. “John?” she called out. A lithe, sunburned man of about 25 got up and grabbed the shot, smiled at Savannah, said “Thanks” to Elaine, and spun back to his table. Savannah watched him move (like a dancer, she thought) and gave a sigh inside. Plain and simple, she wanted him.
. But as usual he didn’t notice her, and she knew her long, long dry spell would continue.
Elaine started whipping up Savannah’s usual drink, a tall decaf soy latte.
Maybe if Savannah were a different person. A different
of person. More outgoing and less shy. More confident and less self-conscious. More drop-dead gorgeous and less…what?
? She tried to think of herself as the girl next door, but that wasn’t right. The girl next door was Meg Ryan, or Sandra Bullock, or Jennifer Lawrence. Or maybe some new kid she’d never even heard of. And they were all majorly good looking.
She watched John sit down and crack a joke. His friends laughed.
Nope, I’ll never have him. Or anyone as perfect as he is.
She may as well start looking for a new version of Charles—short, out of shape, a slob with a crappy job.
A crappy-job slob? A crappy-job blob-slob?
She smiled. She hated the idea of settling, but wasn’t it better to settle than to be alone forever?
She turned back to Elaine, who was putting the finishing touches on the latte.
“Forget about him already,” Elaine said in a low voice, tilting her head toward John’s table. “He looks good on the outside, but he treats women for shit. Unless they’re kiteboarding model types, in which case he treats them
better than shit.”
“So…like crap, then, you mean?”
Elaine pursed her lips. “What’s right above crap and shit? Dirt? A bit better than that, but yeah. More or less like dirt.” Elaine paused. “Listen, Savannah. I’m your biggest fan around here. You know that. But you’re never going to find a guy unless you make a
there. Stop playing so shy.”
“So you tell me—every other day.”
Elaine flicked her eyebrows up and down.
There was a lot more Savannah wanted to say, but she wasn’t in the mood for a long conversation right now. She paid for the latte and dropped a dollar in the tip jar. Elaine acknowledged it with a nod and a smile.
“See you tomorrow!” Savannah said, snagging the to-go cup and giving an exaggerated wave with her free arm while raising her eyebrows high, the way Elaine had. She was practicing being as friendly and outgoing as possible, and she found it helped to do grand things sometimes.
,” Elaine said. “
As Savannah headed for the exit, she passed a man she hadn’t noticed on her way in, sitting at a table near the door. He was saying something into his phone and looked agitated. His short brown hair was carefully coiffed, and he wore an expensive-looking white dress shirt and charcoal slacks. In a town full of athletes, pseudo-hippies, day-trippers, and retirees, he stood out like a giraffe in a herd of cats.
But the weirdest thing about him was that he looked somehow familiar.
When Savannah got back to her office, she unlocked the door, went in, and turned the Open sign around. Not that it mattered much—she got almost no walk-in business. She plopped down in her ratty second-hand office chair and checked her email while sipping the latte.
Oh, God, there was an email from Charles! What did he want? And one from Mom, too!
. How could they both have emailed during the fifteen minutes she’d been out of the office? Maybe they were working together, conspiring to multiply the amount they could annoy her by emailing at the same time. Which one to read first? She decided to start with her mother’s.
Hi sweetie! Gray was just here and he says hi. He’s taking us to the City tomorrow to see that new show. You know the one. Your father’s dying to see it.
Anyway, I wanted to check on the loan, honey. Do you think you’ll be able to send the $50,000 we talked about? It would really help. When we got your father’s hospital bill, we couldn’t believe it. The insurance is a joke.
OK, we love you!
Gray was Savannah’s brother. They were both named after towns in Georgia for some silly reason that Savannah herself could never understand.
She stared at the email, her eyes focusing on the “$50,000” part. It was all she could see.
Such a huge amount of money!
Ten times more than she had in all of her accounts put together, including personal, business, and retirement. She’d hinted to her mom that maybe she could pay her that much sometime soon, but it had been a white lie. A
white lie, if there could be such a thing. She hated lying, especially to her mother, but secretly she’d hoped the new project from WindJammers NW would come through and she could bill the first half up front and send the proceeds to her parents. But the project hadn’t happened and now weeks later she hadn’t confessed that she wouldn’t be able to send anything.
She took a few deep breaths to try to calm down, and sighed them out. Somehow she would get through this. She just didn’t know how right now. She wiped a drop of nervous sweat from her forehead.
She steeled herself, closed her eyes for a few seconds, then opened them. She clicked on the email from Charles. What she read chilled her blood.
Baby baby baby, I’m headin you’re way. Yep yep that’s right I booked a TICKET an everything and I can finally see you’re new place Way Out West!!!! Just like ol time like when we first were together you remember, you and me baby baby. Be there on the 22
can you pick me up at the airport???
Call text email tweet carrion pigeon smoke signals laser beams