The Billionaire’s Princess
Fairy Tale Billionaires, Book 1
From the new fairy godmother of melting-hot romance, Ava Ryan, comes The Billionaire’s Princess, the first standalone in the Fairy Tale Billionaire series.
Friday nights have a routine.
Drinks with my brothers. Maybe a casual hookup later.
Then the ice princess walks into the bar. And it’s game over for me.
I can’t figure her out. She runs hot and cold. She turns me inside-out.
I like to keep my one-night stands cut and dried—my ambitions outweigh my emotions every time. Until she disappears without a trace. And I discover her little secret.
She’s an actual princess.
I need more than one night from her. Much more.
A woman like that deserves the whole fairy tale. She deserves a charming prince.
Too bad I’m the one that’s going to earn all her happy endings…
Feel good. Guaranteed happy endings. Don't miss.
ISBN-13: 9781953157010 • ISBN-10: 1953157017
Read an Excerpt
She glides in like the queen of everything without bothering to notice the fancy Friday night crowd here at Bemelmans in the Carlyle Hotel on the Upper East Side. Forget about making eye contact with anyone or acknowledging the pianist plinking away on the grand. The server gets a nod of thanks as he seats her at the leather banquette against the wall at one of the small round tables nearest where my brothers and I sit. A hint of a dimpled smile as she accepts the menu. Then the server walks off and she lowers her eyes to study the drink selections, retreating into a cool bubble of aloofness that only the brave would dare try to penetrate.
I am nothing if not brave.
Don’t get me wrong. Brave is probably not the first word people use to describe me. Ruthless comes to mind. As do arrogant, brilliant and rich. Generally followed by the word bastard.
For example? Damon Black is an arrogant bastard.
Not that I care what anyone thinks of me. You don’t bring your late father’s floundering property development company back from the brink of disaster and turn it into a billion-dollar-ish real estate empire by the age of thirty-four by tiptoeing around people’s feelings.
I notice everything about her, oblivious to my brothers’ ongoing conversation and too riveted to bother lowering my dirty martini all the way back to the table.
The pale skin and vivid auburn hair that seem to distill and concentrate the room’s rosy glow on her sleek face and swelling cleavage. The way the spaghetti straps of her little black dress skim her kissable shoulders. The graceful neck and the way a single gleaming corkscrew strand of hair escapes her severe bun and trails down her back. The way her long and shapely legs culminate in pretty feet that feature pink-tipped toes strapped into killer heels.
No rings on her left hand. A funny detail I usually don’t care to notice one way or the other but that now gives me a surge of satisfaction that I plan to pretend I don’t feel.
She studies the menu. I study her, my skin prickling with awareness as I experience the slow curl of desire in my belly and lower.
The thing is, this is new for me. Not noticing women in bars, obviously. I notice women. I hook up with women. But lately I do both with all the enthusiasm of a man brushing his teeth before bed. My body needs it and it’s got to get done. I may as well get it over with as quickly as possible so I can move on to more important things. My boredom, which teeters on complete indifference most of the time now, is a hazard of the single’s scene here in the city as much as my chronic workaholism. I’m not excited by too much of anything these days, except for the huge deal my brothers and I closed this afternoon.
Wanting someone to screw is not new for me.
Wanting anyone the way I suddenly want ye olde ice princess over there? Brand new for me.
I don’t believe in romantic love. Let’s put that out there right now. My parents blasted the idea out of my head and left a crater for my heart when they savaged each other during their divorce back when I was ten. I jeer at friends who fall “in love.” But a woman like that? I can understand how she’d put a crazy thought or two into an unsuspecting guy’s head.
“Damon? You with us?” one of my brothers asks.
“Shut the hell up,” I say mildly without ever looking away from her, ignoring their round of sniggering at my expense as best I can.
The server delivers the woman’s martini and slips away again. She looks up suddenly, possibly feeling the weight—or maybe the heat—from all my focused attention on her face. She looks across at me and our gazes connect. I freeze and do my best to overcome the sensation of landing flat on my ass and having the wind knocked out of me.
She’s insanely gorgeous. Huge eyes with sweeping brows. Oval face. The kind of plump berry mouth that’ll make a plastic surgeon rich quick around these parts.
I watch as she freezes like I just did. As her mouth opens into a surprised little O. As a telltale blush originates across the tops of her breasts, creeps north and settles in her high cheeks. As her expression cycles through surprise and subtle feminine appreciation before ending in an unmistakable flare of annoyance that makes her lips thin.
My glass continues to hover somewhere near my mouth, so I raise it to her in a toast and die a thousand tiny deaths while I wait for her reaction.
She hesitates, clearly thinking it over. Then, to my utter astonishment, she flashes the beginnings of a sexy smile that promises heaven on earth between her legs. My heart pounds and pounds harder as she stands and shimmies her clingy dress into place with some delightful hip action. My mouth waters, I admit, and keeps watering when she picks up her drink and takes a couple of steps in my direction. My floundering brain recovers enough to order me to stand and greet her, which I start to do. I should mention that I usually prefer to do the hunting, but this works for me. If you’re out deep-sea fishing and a swordfish flops onto your boat and lands at your feet, you don’t throw the thing back, do you? No. You don’t. I’m also usually low-key about these interactions, but there’s no stopping my thrilled grin from its complete facial takeover.
Until she stops on the other side of her own little table, lobs a withering frown in my direction and sits facing the banquette she just vacated, presenting me with her lovely back. Leaving me stunned and seriously disappointed.
Like a fucking loser.
My brothers guffaw while I linger there, half up and half down.
“That one’s going to leave a nasty bruise in the morning.” Griffin, my thirty-two-year-old middle brother, claps me on the back in a mock show of sympathy. “You’re going to want to ice it down before you go to bed by yourself tonight.”
He’s right. I snort back an unwilling laugh as I sit again, rubbing my aching chest under the guise of straightening my tie.
I feel dazed. No shit.
She got me. I’m man enough to admit that. She’s got beauty and a sharp sense of humor. I like that. A lot. I’m also betting that she can run pretty hot for the right man.
I am that man. I will be that man. Tonight, if I can help it.
She can sit there with her back to me all she wants, sipping her martini while congratulating herself on her cleverness. Let her enjoy her brief victory. The poor thing doesn’t know that she just took my smoldering fire for her and poured a million gallons of gasoline on it.
But she’ll learn.
“Want me to show you how it’s done?” says my thirty-year-old youngest brother, Ryker, jerking his head in her direction and starting to stand. Just like that, a haze of red filters my vision and it has nothing to do with the ambience here at Bemelmans.
“Sure,” I say, reaching up to push him back down again with all the force I can muster. “As long as you’re cool with that being your last act on earth.”
This kicks off another round of raucous laughter between Tweedledee and Tweedledum, but a bigger problem materializes in the form of a corporate titan wannabe who sidles up to her table with his cheesy grin firmly in place. I watch and wait to see how she greets him, the tinge of jealousy I just felt with my brother now escalating into a wave of bloodlust.
It’s probably her date. A woman who looks like that doesn’t spent her Friday nights alone.
But she stiffens when he steps into her range of vision. Shakes her head when he leans in and says something to her. Speaks loudly and clearly when he persists:
I register the throaty sound of her voice and the British accent even as my inner caveman takes the lead and propels me to my feet. Pretty ironic considering I would’ve sworn as recently as ten seconds ago that I’m not the jealous type.
A murmur of dissent rises from my brothers as I head in her direction without another word.
“Keep it cool,” Ryker calls after me. “We’d rather not have to bail you out of jail tonight.”
But I’m on a mission and don’t have the time or inclination to reassure him. I’m not sitting idly by while some SOB in a shiny suit harasses my ice princess right in front of me. Can’t do it.
“Sorry I’m late,” I say, putting a protective arm around the back of her chair and startling them both. Shiny suit shoots me a glare, but I only have eyes for her and the flare of relief in her expression as she tips her face up to look at me. “Everything okay over here?”
A pregnant beat passes. I raise my brow at her, proud of my one-upsmanship, but she recovers quickly. The glimmer of mischief in her expression warns me that my triumph will be short-lived.
“About bloody time, Ruprecht darling,” she says smoothly. “You know I’ve been worried about your proctology exam this afternoon. I do hope your bottom will be okay.”
I choke back a startled bark of laughter. A ringing relative silence follows. I’m not sure which one of us is more horrified, me or Shiny Suit. The guy actually backs up half a step. As though he expects some flesh-eating germ to leap from my ass to his and wants to maintain a minimum safe distance.
She stares up at me, those clever eyes gleaming with an unmistakable gotcha.
I award her several more points before reminding myself that two can play this game.
I hadn’t planned to touch her—not yet—but plans change. So I bend and give her a lingering kiss by her ear, savoring both the subtle hitch in her breath and the scent of lavender that clings to her warm skin.
“The only thing I love more than a challenge is a wicked sense of humor,” I murmur.
Maybe I’m imagining things, but I detect a tiny feminine hum of pleasure at my touch.
“Don’t worry,” I say in my regular voice for the benefit of our audience as I pull back. “All of my private parts are in excellent working condition. You’ll see later. Make a new friend?”
She sends me a subtle narrowed dagger of a look before focusing on Shiny Suit.
“Not really. Some men see a woman alone at a bar whilst waiting for friends and act as though they’re in the buffet line at some horrible cafeteria. You know the type of awful man I’m talking about, don’t you, darling?” A pointed look in my direction. “Anyway, this stranger was just leaving. Because I don’t pick up strange men in bars.”
“Ah,” I say, shaking the startled man’s hand and putting a hand on his shoulder to steer him out of the way as I ease into the banquette opposite her. “You can’t blame a man for trying. Have a good night, buddy.”
“I’ll do that,” the man says sourly, now holding his hand out as though it’s been dipped in warm elephant shit.
“Oh, don’t worry,” I say brightly. “It’s not contagious.”
The man walks off, muttering darkly and shaking his head. Leaving me alone with a flinty-eyed female who evidently doesn’t appreciate my humor.
“I thought he’d never leave,” I say. “And couldn’t you give me a better name than Ruprecht?”
“Why on earth would your name matter when you’re about to go back to your own table?”
Something about the throaty voice, upper-class British accent and withering disdain coming from that mouth drives me absolutely freaking insane.
I put a hand over my heart and try to look wounded.
“This is my reward for rescuing you just now? Not very friendly, is it?”
“The word friendly has never once been used to describe me. I’m happy to buy you a thank-you drink. Once you fuck off to your own table.”
I laugh. I can’t help it.
“I’m glad I made the walk over here. This will be more fun than I thought.”
She frowns. “What will?”
“Warming you up,” I say, staring her in the face.
Vivid color stains her cheeks. “I do not need warming up.”
“I disagree,” I say with an easy shrug. “I’ve lost three toes to frostbite since I walked over here.”
“Then by all means,” she says, her expression stony. “Walk back before you lose the rest. If I’d wanted to be bothered, I’d have sat at the bar. I repeat: fuck. Off.”
“If you don’t want to be bothered, you need to do something about that face and body. Those eyes.” My voice gets husky, much to my surprise and irritation. Women fall into my lap. I don’t throw myself at their feet and creep along the edge of stalker territory on the slender hope of getting them to smile at me. “And you’d probably stop with the dirty talk if you knew how much those words coming from your lips in that accent turns me on.”
Something about my unsmiling delivery of this information seems to catch her off guard. She hesitates, her eyes widening as she opens her mouth and manages to say zip.
We stare at each other, my breath held during the agonizing wait for her verdict. Because I will leave if she insists. I won’t be happy about it, but I will.
She looks bewildered. Uncertain.
Also unwillingly intrigued and hopeful.
“You’re not married, are you?” she finally asks.
“No,” I say, deciding not to add that if I were married, I’d lie my ass off about it for a chance to spend the night screwing her senseless.
Something in her expression reluctantly eases. The sight of this softening loosens up my chest and allows me to breathe.
“Felon? Sociopath? Pedophile? Fraudster?”
“Nope.” My ears burn. “Just a guy intrigued enough by a woman to stick his neck out a little. Risk making a fool of himself. Which is not something I normally do. Take my word for it.”
“Well,” she says, her voice somewhat warmer as she breaks eye contact and smooths her hair behind her ear. I’m not going to lie. It’s something of a relief to be out from under her high beam. The intensity of the pull I feel toward her when we look at each other is starting to mess with my head. “You’ve come all this way. A good couple meters from your table. You may as well have a drink. Fuck off immediately after that.”
“Works for me,” I say, relieved.
We start to smile at each other, but she catches herself.
“As long as you understand that this is just a drink until my friend gets here.” She hitches up her chin. Gives me a stern look. “I’m not going upstairs to the hotel with you. Or anywhere with you.”
The statement is patently absurd. The electricity is so thick between us you can almost hear it crackle.
“You don’t believe that, do you?”
My curiosity gets the best of me and maybe her innate honesty gets the best of her. Whatever. I wait, my entire existence poised for her response. She hesitates, her color high as her attention dips to my mouth. That feels like answer enough.
Until a pair of shadows looms over our table, breaking this growing spell between us.
“So much for drinks and dinner with us,” Ryker says, automatically turning up the wattage of his toothpaste commercial smile for the benefit of an attractive female. “Can’t say I blame you for ditching us, though, Damon. Want to make the introductions?”
Since I don’t want to admit to my brothers that I haven’t managed to get her name yet, I decide to start with them.
“The ugly one here is my middle brother Griffin,” I tell her wearily, eager to get these two jokers out of the way before they cause any undue mischief. She laughs in a display of flashing white teeth and dimples that makes something swoop inside me. “The stupid one is my youngest brother Ryker.”
“Carly.” She shakes both their hands in turn. “Pleasure.”
Even her name pleases me.
“You can do so much better than this guy,” Ryker says, jerking his head at me. “Don’t you want to reconsider now that you know you have better options? Maybe ditch him and come to dinner with us?”
“No,” I say sourly. “She doesn’t. Bye.”
“I can almost always answer questions directed at me,” she tells me. “I’m very proud of that skill. I learned it in primary school.”
I scowl. Meanwhile, my brothers nudge each other and grin with delight. I can only imagine the commentary I’ll receive from them later.
“But I have promised Damon a drink, boys,” she continues. “I’m regretting my decision already, but there you are.”
“Ah,” Ryker says. “Well, if you change your mind, we’ll be happy to —”
“Bye,” I repeat.
More laughter at my expense followed by good-natured waves as they head back to their table, leaving me alone with Carly and a pounding heart.
She raises a brow at me. Represses a grin under the guise of pursing her lips. “Where’s my drink? I was promised a dirty martini.”
“I was promised a dirty martini,” I say, signaling for the server to bring us two more.
“Your brothers seem quite lovely.”
“They’re a nightmare.” I throw in a dramatic shudder just to make sure there’s no further question of her taking off with one of them. “Between the nose picking and the bedwetting, they’ve disgraced the family a thousand times over.”
She laughs again, a full-throated edition this time that engages her sparkling eyes and dimples.
I watch greedily, trying to remember that this is not my first smile, laugh, flirtation, woman or, God willing, hookup. But feeling my skin sizzle as I try to dial back my excitement, it sure feels like it.
“Christ,” I mutter, shaking my head at myself and ruffling my hair with both hands.
She looks bemused. “What?”
I tell myself to slow it down. But the words pour out, unstoppable.
“I’ve been dying to make you laugh. I thought I could handle it. But that’s not a normal laugh. It’s been spiked or something. It went straight to my head.”
She doesn’t know what to make of me. I can tell by the vague frown between her brows and the way she chooses her words.
“Don’t bother flirting with me, sir. I already told you it won’t work.”
“You said something about not fucking me tonight,” I say, shrugging. “Neither one of us believed it at the time. Still don’t as a matter of fact.”
She glares at me, oblivious to the server as he drops off our drinks and fades into the woodwork.
“You’re a cheeky prick, aren’t you?”
“You have no idea,” I assure her.
“And why would I waste my time with such an arrogant arse, pray tell?” she demands.
I lean closer, dying to touch her as I rest my elbows on the table.
“Careful,” I say, giving her a pointed once over that lingers on her eyes, lips and cleavage. “You’re going to want me inside you before the night’s over. Don’t make it too hard to get yourself back on the playing field.”
She makes an outraged sound, her face flooding with color. But before she can let me have it with both barrels, as she clearly intends to do, her phone buzzes on the table. Lobbing a final glare in my direction, she checks the display and scowls.
“Well, this is brilliant,” she says. “Now my friend Michele’s gone and canceled on me.”
“Works for me,” I say with a cheery toast.
“I’ll just bet it does.”
“Don’t look at me like that. I had nothing to do with her not coming.” I pause to reconsider. “Other than hoping and wishing for it.”
She rolls her eyes, unable to entirely quash her amusement. That’s about the time that the pianist ends his solo set and a new performer takes the mic, introduces herself and launches into a tender and plaintive rendition of “Since I Fell for You.” The one thing the setting needs to become even more spellbinding than it already is. I watch her sing the opening few notes, then turn back to Carly.
She levels her gaze on my face. Steady. Smoldering. Expectant.
Honest to God, it’s all I can do to think a coherent thought when she looks at me like that.
I open my mouth, my voice on a three-second delay.
“What if we drink our drinks and listen to the music. See where the night takes us. Can we do that?”
“Yeah,” she says softly. “We can do that.”
“Good. Come sit with me. So you don’t have to crane your neck.”
I slide her drink over to my side of the table and she follows suit, easing into the banquette on my right side. I shift closer, taking care to brush my leg against hers.
“This is better, isn’t it? Easier for you to see the singer this way,” I say.
As if the singer is remotely on my mind at this moment.
“Make yourself comfortable,” Carly says dryly, looking a little startled.
“I will. Thanks.”
With that, I wrap my arm around her waist and pull her even closer. I leave my hand right where it is when I’m done, somewhere between waist and belly and not that far north of her pussy. She feels solid. Warm. Vibrant. Thrilling. To my immense pleasure and surprise, she covers my hand with hers, lacing our fingers together. I kiss her bare shoulder in response, noting the way she gasps and helplessly turns her head toward me. As though she hopes I might accidentally kiss her lips before pulling all the way back.
But I don’t. I sit there holding her and listening to a voice so evocative and beautiful that it makes my nape prickle. Maybe the martinis have been stronger than I thought because for one wild second I think that I could live and die in this moment. Then it occurs to me that I’d rather die with her legs wrapped tight around my waist and me buried to the hilt inside her.
So I use my free hand to take her free hand and raise it to my mouth for a lingering kiss. And when I’m done with that, I lay her hand on my thigh, palm up, and trace letters while we listen to the music.
W. A. N. T.
Y. O. U.
She ducks her head and grins, curling her fingers around mine.
“Look at me,” I murmur, tapping her chin to make sure she does as I say.
She does, reluctantly, her glittering eyes taking up my entire field of vision at this close range. I wonder again what color they are, but there’s time for that. I’ll find out later.
“If you don’t want me, now’s your chance to say so,” I tell her.
“You know I want you,” she says, much to my profound relief. I didn’t think she’d admit it so easily. “But I never do this sort of thing.”
There’s only one possible response to that.
“What you and I have done before is irrelevant to what you and I are going to do with each other tonight.”
Her eyes unfocus as she thinks this over. Zero in on my face once she decides.
“And what’s that?” she asks, a soft and secret female smile curving her lips.
I stare at her for a beat or two, lost.
Swear to God, I am going to fucking eat this woman alive.
“You’re going to wait for me in the lobby while I book us a room upstairs,” I tell her. “When we get up there, you’re going to let your hair down so I can see it. You’re going to let yourself go and have fun with me. You’re going to be a tiger. All night. And I’m going to do my best to make you come harder than you’ve ever come in your life. No questions asked. No regrets.” I pause, giving my words time to sink in. “Deal?”
A subtle but delightful shiver runs through her.
“Deal,” she says.