Tempting the Billionaire

By: Jessica Lemmon


“That was my cousin Aiden.” He bumbled to fill the dead air between them. “He wanted to meet your friend.”

“Figures,” the brunette said, barely audible over the music.

He ignored the whistling sound of their conversation plummeting to its imminent death. “She seems nice. Aiden can be kind of an as**s around nice girls,” he added, leaning in so she could hear him.

She rewarded him with a tentative upward curve of her lips, the top capping a plumper bottom lip that looked good enough to eat. He offered a small smile of his own, perplexed by the direction of his thoughts. When was the last time he’d been thrown this off-kilter by a woman? Let alone one he’d just met? She shifted in her seat to face him, and a warm scent lifted off her skin—vanilla and nutmeg if he wasn’t mistaken. He gripped the back of the chair in front of him and swallowed instinctively. Damn. She smelled good enough to eat.

She dipped her head, fiddled with the strap of her handbag, and Shane realized he was staring.

“Shane,” he said, offering his hand.

She looked at it a beat before taking it. “Crickitt.”

“Like the bug?” He flinched. Smooth.

“Thanks for that.” She offered a mordant smile.

Evidently he was rustier at this than he thought. “Sorry.” Best get to the point. “Is there something you need? Something I can get you?”

Her eyes went to the full drink in front of her. “I’ve had plenty, but thanks. Anyway, I’m about to leave.”

“I’m on my way out. Can I drop you somewhere?”

She eyed him cautiously.

Okay. Perhaps offering her a ride was a bit forward and from her perspective, dangerous.

“No, thank you,” she said, turning her body away from his as she reached for her drink.

Great. He was creepy club guy.

He leaned on the bar between the blonde’s abandoned chair and Crickitt. Lowering his voice he said, “I think I’m doing this all wrong. To tell the truth, I saw you crying and I wondered if I could do anything to help. I’d…like to help. If you’ll let me.”

She turned to him, her eyes softening into what might have been gratitude, before a harder glint returned. Tossing her head, she met his eye. “Help? Sure. Know anyone who’d like to hire a previously self-employed person for a position for which she has little to no experience?”

He had to smile at her pluck…and his good fortune. Crickitt’s problem may be one he could help with after all. “Depends,” he answered, watching her eyebrows give the slightest lift. He leaned an elbow on the bar. “In what salary range?”

* * *



Crickitt scanned the well-dressed man in front of her. He wore a streamlined charcoal suit and crisp white dress shirt. No tie, but she’d bet one had been looped around his neck earlier. She allowed her gaze to trickle to his open collar, lingering over the column of his tanned neck before averting her eyes. What would he say if she blurted out the figure dancing around her head?

Two-hundred fifty thou’ a year? Oh, sure, I know lots of people who pay out six figures for a new hire.

“Well?” he asked.

“Six figures,” she said.

He laughed.

That’s what she thought. If this Shane guy were in a position to offer that kind of income, would he really be in a club named Lace and hitting on a girl like her? Why hadn’t he hit on someone else? Someone without a runny nose and red-rimmed eyes. Someone like Sadie. But he’d rerouted his friend to talk to Sadie. Why had he done that? She smoothed her hair, considering.

Maybe you’re an easy target.

He saw her crying and wanted to help? It wasn’t the worst pickup line in the world, but it was close.

Crickitt instinctively slid her pinky against her ring finger to straighten her wedding band but only felt the rub of skin on skin. For nine years the band had been at home on her left hand. She used to think of it as a comforting weight, but since Ronald left, it’d become a reminder of the now obvious warning signs she’d overlooked. The way he’d pulled away from her both physically and emotionally. The humiliation of scurrying after him, attempting to win his affections even after it was too late. She lifted her shoulders under her ears, wishing she could hide from the recurring memory, the embarrassment. Fresh tears burned the backs of her eyes before she remembered she had a captive audience. She squeezed her eyes closed, willing the helter-skelter emotions to go away.

When she opened them she saw Shane had backed away some, either to give the semblance of privacy or because he feared she would burst into tears and blow her nose on his expensive jacket. She could choke Sadie for bringing her out tonight.

Come to the club, Sadie had said. It’ll get your mind off of things, she’d insisted. But it hadn’t. Even when faced with a very good-looking, potentially helpful man, she was wallowing in self-doubt and recrimination. She could’ve done that at home.

“What experience do you have, Crickitt?” Shane asked, interrupting her thoughts.

She tipped her chin up at him. Was he serious? Either his half smile was sarcastic or genuinely curious. Hard to tell. The temptation was there to dismiss him as just another jerk in a club, but she couldn’t. There was an undeniable warmth in his dark eyes, a certain kindness in the way he leaned toward her when he talked, like he didn’t want to intimidate her.

Maybe that’s why she told him the truth.

“I’m great with people,” she answered.

“And scheduling?”

She considered telling him about the twenty in-home shows she held each and every month for the last seven years, but wasn’t sure he wouldn’t get the wrong idea about exactly what kind of in-home shows she’d be referring to. “Absolutely.”

“Prioritizing?”

Crickitt almost laughed. Prioritizing was a necessity in her business. She’d been responsible for mentoring and training others, as well as maintaining her personal sales and team. It’d taken her a while to master the art of putting her personal business first, but she’d done it. If she focused too much on others, her numbers soon started circling the drain, and that wasn’t good for any of them.

“Definitely,” she answered, pausing to consider the fire burning in her belly. How long had it been since she’d talked about her career with confidence? Too long, she realized. By now, her ex-husband would have cut her off midsentence to change the subject.

But Shane’s posture was open, receptive, and he faced her, his eyebrows raised as if anticipating what she might say next. So she continued. “I, um, I was responsible for a team of twenty-five salespeople while overseeing ten managers with teams of their own,” she finished.

She almost cringed at the callous description. Those “teams” and “managers” were more like family than co-workers. They’d slap her silly if they ever heard her referring to them with corporate lingo. But if she had to guess, Shane was a corporate man and Crickitt doubted he’d know the first thing about direct sales.

“You sound overqualified,” he said.

“That’s what I…wait, did you just s-say overqualified?” Crickitt stammered. She blinked up at him, shocked. She’d fully expected him to tell her to peddle her questionable work background elsewhere.

Shane reached into his pocket and offered a business card between two outstretched fingers. “Even so, I’d like to talk to you in more detail. Are you available for an interview on Monday?”

Crickitt stared at the card like it was a trick buzzer.

“I’m serious.” He dropped the card on the bar. “This isn’t typically how I find employees, but”—he shrugged—“I need a personal assistant. And someone with your background and experience is hard to come by.”

She blinked at him again. This had to be some elaborate scheme to get her to bed, right? Isn’t that what Sadie told her to expect from the men in these places?

“How about one o’clock, Monday afternoon? I have meetings in the morning, but I should be done by then. If the job’s not a good fit, at least you looked into it.”

Well. The only interview she’d managed to arrange since her self-inflicted unemployment was for a thirty-thousand-dollar salary and involved her working in a government office. And she’d lost that job to a kid ten years her junior. She’d be stupid to pass up the opportunity for an interview with this man. Even though part of her couldn’t imagine working for someone as put together as Shane. But he didn’t seem demanding, or overly confident, just…nice.

Which brought about another niggling thought. This was too easy. And if she’d learned a lesson from recent events, wasn’t it to be cautious when things were going suspiciously well? And this, she thought, glancing in his direction again, was going a little too well.

“What do you say?” he asked.

Then again, as her dwindling savings account constantly reminded her, she needed to find some sort of viable income. And soon. If the interview turned out to be a sham, the experience would still be worthwhile, she thought with knee-jerk optimism.

“One o’clock,” she heard herself say.

Shane extended his hand and she shook it, ignoring how seamlessly her palm fit against his and the warmth radiating up her arm even after he’d pulled away. He excused himself and made his way to the door. Crickitt watched his every long-legged step, musing how he was taller than Ronald and walked with infinitely more confidence.

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