The Billionaire’s Cinderella
Fairy Tale Billionaires, Book 3
From the new fairy godmother of midnight romance, Ava Ryan, comes The Billionaire’s Cinderella, the third standalone in the Fairy Tale Billionaire series.
Marriage and relationships aren’t for me.
I have no desire to revisit my failures. Now I work hard and play hard–period.
Until suddenly there she is. Sexy. Unexpected. Sweet. Unforgettable.
One unprecedented night with her only whets my appetite for more.
She’s been burned before, which makes her suspicious of me. Doesn’t think she’s good enough, that I’d prefer someone more… society.
If only she knew how uninterested I am in other women since I first laid eyes on her.
And I hope she never knows the things I think about when I look at her now.
Fairy tales endings are meant for children’s books. I know that.
But I write my own stories…
ISBN-13: 9781953157058 • ISBN-10: 195315705X
Read an Excerpt
So much for the best laid plans of mice and men, I think as I drink the last of my bourbon, toss some bills on the table and get up to go home.
The plan was to meet my two older brothers, Damon and Griffin, here at Bemelmans on the Upper East Side for Friday night drinks. We like to do that every now and then just to debrief and verify that none of us have run our real estate empire into the ground while the others weren’t looking. Things started out well tonight. We got here early, excited over the big deal we closed this afternoon, found a table before the standing-room-only crowd arrived and ordered our liquid refreshment. The pianist struck up something mellow but not drowsy and all was right with my world.
For roughly thirty seconds.
Then Damon caught sight of some sultry redhead at the next table over and took off for greener pastures. Leaving only Griffin and me. Still workable, right? Not so fast. Griffin’s indispensable executive assistant, Bellamy, arrived to deliver some documents on her way to her twenty-sixth birthday party, distracting him with her choice of sexy dresses. I managed to talk him down from the suicide ledge of trying to hook up with her, but my gut feeling tells me that that was a temporary victory at best. At any rate, thwarted sexual desire soured his mood for the night and he left.
Now it’s just me, calling it a night before ten o’clock.
Back in the old days, I’d enjoy the prospect of scoping out the room, setting my sights on someone and zooming in for the seduction. Now? Not so much. Been there, done that. A lot. Don’t feel like doing it again anytime soon. The whole dating scene has lost its appeal now that I think about it, although I use the term dating loosely. As a thirty-year-old workaholic who values his sleep, I’ve discovered that it’s much easier to hook up with one of the trustee standbys that I keep on speed dial (my ex-wife comes to mind) than to start from ground zero with someone new. I could do that now, matter of fact, but I’m not horny enough to muster up the energy. My current idea of heaven involves Chinese takeout, another bourbon and me lounging on the sofa in my apartment watching some team somewhere play some sport. I’m not picky.
Besides, I think as I head for the door, scanning the room a final time just because that’s what men do. It’s not like anyone here tonight has caught my… Has caught my…eye.
My attention snags on a blonde sitting by herself over at the bar, talking on her phone and featuring the holy trifecta: long hair, long legs and heels.
I freeze, my brain sparking out and another set of plans my evening’s activities going up in smoke.
Who is that?
Someone worth a closer look, I decide. Just to see if her face matches the insane body.
I work my way through the tables, grateful for the opportunity to indulge my curiosity about her for a second or two. She’s angled away from me with her legs crossed. Her hair falls in thick waves past her shoulders, sunlight streaked with honey. Her dress is a sky-blue off-the-shoulder-number with the kind of ruffle that always reminds me of fantasy farm girls primed for an afternoon romp in the hay. The skirt cuts away at the top of her thigh, revealing tanned and toned legs that would be a real pleasure to nibble. Her toes are tipped with an angelic pink polish that provides a thrilling contrast to her CFM heels.
Come fuck me.
My pleasure, sunshine.
She’s got a pink pastry box from Valentina’s tied with a white ribbon sitting on the bar in front of her, further piquing my interest. I approach from her left side, easing onto the next barstool down and noting both the absence of ring-finger rings and the sexiness of her laugh. The sound is throaty. Unabashed. Thrilling enough to make the hairs rise on my nape. She smells like some sort of X-rated berry. Sexberry, maybe.
Oh, and the answer to whether her face matches her body is a resounding no.
An angelic face like this shouldn’t belong to any earthly being, in my humble opinion.
And in case you were wondering? I am not the type to wax poetic about some woman at a bar.
“Enjoy yourself,” she tells the person on the phone. She’s got a nice voice. Throaty and amused. “Have a fuck for me, since I won’t be getting any anytime soon.”
I choke back a surprised laugh at this pronouncement.
“Don’t be so sure,” I say, startling her before I think to stop myself.
“Excuse me?” she says, lowering the phone and turning to face me for the first time.
“Sorry,” I say quickly. “Did I say that out loud?”
“Yeah.” She looks me over, eyes widening before she catches herself and scowls. I get the feeling she’s intrigued as well as outraged, but maybe that’s my healthy ego talking because it knows my brothers and I did okay in the looks department. “You did.”
I shrug. That’s all I can manage until I get my bearings here.
My speechlessness makes this a good time to pause for a moment. I want the record to reflect how difficult it was for me to maintain my game and utter those last couple of sentences when confronted with a woman like this. We’re not talking standard gorgeous here. This is next level. Worse, the electrical surge to my circuits is off the charts. It’s like I’m a bargain-basement amplifier and Jimi Hendrix plugs his guitar into me and riffs his ass off. I’m not used to this kind of power and velocity. What do you want? You think you could do better under the circumstances? Fuck you.
I stare at her, my mind floundering as she stares back.
Here are the basics: she’s got big blue eyes and a sun-kissed California girl look, complete with a dusting of golden freckles across the bridge of her nose, that reminds me of a young Christie Brinkley. Full lips. Dimples. The whole deal.
So she’s got the bare-bones looks covered. No question.
But that’s not the thing that makes me feel as if I’ve been hit with Cupid’s Taser.
I live in Manhattan. I’m used to beautiful women. They grow on trees here. But a large chunk of them—the ones who seem to cross my path most often—have a calculated and vaguely overdone look to them that speaks of thousands of dollars spent on stylists, dermatologists and plastic surgeons that are probably kept on both retainer and speed dial. These women wear fake eyelashes that are like whisk brooms designed to keep you from coming in for a kiss and hundred-dollar lip gloss that winds up smeared all over your lower face if you ever get close enough for the privilege.
Not this woman. That’s not what she’s all about. I see it on her face. I feel it in my gut.
Don’t get me wrong. She’s wearing makeup. I’m observant enough to know that. But she was ninety percent this beautiful when she rolled out of bed this morning.
But that’s still not the thing that makes me feel as though my third eye has been struck by a lightning bolt.
No, the thing that’s got me so undone is the stark contrast between her current frostiness with me and the warm girl-next-door aura she exuded on the phone with her friend just now. The woman I glimpsed before she knew I was there? I’m betting she’s a ride-or-die person. You can trust her with anything. Tell her anything. A woman like that will slide into your life and make it better in ways you can’t even imagine yet.
I’m a great judge of character. That’s one of the skills that keeps me on top of the real estate world. I size up my friends and competitors, make a split-second decision and go with my gut.
My gut is never wrong.
That’s why I listen when it warns me, as she watches me with narrow-eyed suspicion, that something just happened here. Because I want to see the warm side of her again. I really want to earn that right. And, knowing me, I won’t stop until I do. Nothing motivates me like a challenge.
I tell myself to get my head screwed on again, but easier said than done.
I take a steadying breath and plunge in again.
“Am I supposed to apologize?” I ask.
She eyes me skeptically. “Would you mean it?”
I can’t help but laugh. “Not even a little bit.”
“At least you’re honest.”
“Honesty is the best policy.”
“Agreed. So let’s be honest,” she says, swiveling to face me.
Her pull on me is such that I ease closer even though her cold front now rivals the atmosphere on Jupiter.
“Let’s,” I say.
“It’s Friday night. You came here to get a drink and get laid. You saw me and decided I was a likely target.” She makes a show of scanning the room. “Probably because I’m the only blonde here right now. But let me help you out. Just so we don’t waste each other’s time.”
“By all means,” I say, fascinated.
“I came here to meet my friend for her birthday. I have no intention of hooking up with some random guy.”
“I’m not that random,” I say, vaguely offended. “I’ve got a good job. Nice suit. Nice car. Nice apartment. I’m not bad on the eyes. I’ve got all my own teeth. I’m great in bed. Isn’t that a win?”
“Maybe,” she says with an offhand shrug. “For someone else. But I’m not in the market tonight.”
“I heard you say you won’t be getting fucked anytime soon.” I press my hand to my heart in what I hope is a convincing show of sincerity. “I’m willing to do my part for the cause.”
She remains stubbornly unpersuaded by my charm.
“Let me cut to the chase. I’m sick of men,” she says. “And I’m not even a natural blonde. So you’re wasting your time.”
“You’re the most interesting woman I’ve run across in a while,” I tell her, working hard to stifle my amusement at her expense. She’s the one who’s wasting her time trying to talk me out of wanting her, poor thing. As if I care about any secrets she keeps with her stylist. “At this point? I doubt I’d care if you weren’t even a natural human, sunshine.”
Something in her expression slams closed with the force of a guillotine dropping. It takes my amusement and a healthy portion of my ego with it.
That’s when I realize that I’m flirting, but she’s wounded.
“Yeah, okay.” She hops down from her stool, smooths her skirt and slings her bag over her shoulder, looking stony. “Have a great night.”
I’m not going to lie. The sight of her about to take off, possibly forever, sends a low-key wave of panic through me. It also makes the analytical portion of my brain race into overdrive as it tries to figure out why she’s like this. Maybe it’s something simple. She’s diagnosed me as an asshole and can’t stand my presence for another second, for example. That would be fair. But my gut says it’s something else. Something that has nothing to do with me.
“Who did this to you?” I ask, putting a hand on her arm as she grabs the cake and turns to go.
The quiet urgency in my voice seems to take her by surprise.
It takes me by surprise, to be honest.
She hesitates. I remove my hand.
I can almost taste her ambivalence. I wage a private but epic battle between my fear of driving her away and my need to state my case for her to stay. Need wins.
“Listen,” I say. “If you hate my guts, tell me and I’ll leave you in peace. Honesty is the best policy, right?”
“You want to know what I hate?” she says without missing a beat. “I hate men who don’t show up or call or text or do anything that they say they’re going to do.”
Whoa. There’s a lot of vehemence there. The kind of thing I normally give a wide berth, especially on a first conversation. But, much to my surprise, I don’t feel the urge to duck and run.
I want to hear more. I want to hear her entire story.
“I hate men who sign up for dating websites and act like they want a relationship when really all they want is for you to sext them so they can add your boobs to their collection. I hate men who waste your time when they know or should know that they have no intention of being who you need them to be. Men who act like they care about you when they really don’t. That’s what I hate.”
Bingo. Bad breakup, like I thought.
“So you hate unreliable men,” I say, grateful for every puzzle piece about her that drops into place.
“But what if that’s not me?”
We watch each other in a wary silence for a moment, both taken aback by my evident sincerity. I gotta tell you, it’s a remarkable moment for several reasons. First, because I’m putting this much effort into a stranger who’s showing every sign of being needier and/or higher maintenance than the average bear. Second, because she seems to believe me. Most of all, because the entire weight of my world feels like it’s hanging in the balance, which is giving this thing way too much importance.
Either we want to have a drink together and ultimately fuck each other tonight, or we don’t. Simple. If the answer is no? No harm, no foul. We’re not researching a cure for cancer.
But it sure feels like something that matters.
“How about this?” I say before she can decide against me. “Let me buy you a drink. Keep you company until your friend gets here. See if I can get you to remember how to flirt.”
That gets her. Her dimples make a brief appearance.
And I feel like I can breathe again.
“That’s quite a mission for a Friday night,” she says, using her free hand to smooth her hair and twiddle with her earring as a pretty blush creeps over her cheeks. “You sure you’re up for it?”
“I’m positive. And I’m hoping to get a slice of cake out of it.”
“I’m happy to give you a slice of cake to go,” she says sweetly.
“You and the cake are a package deal. I want both. And I hope that’s ganache.”
Her jaw drops. “You like ganache?”
“I live for ganache.”
That does it. She bursts into a tinkle of bright laughter that makes her eyes sparkle and does twisty things to my insides. I’m not joking. My heart pounds. My blood surges and my mouth dries out.
She affects me. Big time.
I sweep my arm wide to usher her over to my table, which, luckily, hasn’t been taken yet, thinking that too much of her at one time would be as bad for my system as eating that entire cake by myself. But I’m not planning to let that stop me…
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED