Tempting the Billionaire

By: Jessica Lemmon


Sean August never did come around, stubbornly depriving Shane of his forgiveness until the end, as if it cost him to give it. He’d grown accustomed to the accusations, and his father had spouted them until the day he died. The man may have disowned him, but father and son were connected by more than helixes of DNA. They shared the same tragic past. And as much as Shane wished that past had died alongside his father, it hadn’t. It persisted, stymieing his breath like a lungful of accidentally swallowed bathwater.

The moment his butt hit the couch, the weight of the long day settled squarely on his shoulders. An hour ago, he’d been in the middle of the most relaxing evening since who knew when. Now his to-do list scratched at the back of his mind like a dog wanting in from the rain.

Should have known if he played hooky from his evening routine he’d pay the price. He could run, but he couldn’t hide. He gave a longing look to his glass of wine. Its siren song may hum, but his regimen wailed.

Relaxation would have to wait.

He headed for the kitchen, glass in hand, reminding himself that his regimen had gotten him this far in life. He dumped the wine unceremoniously down the drain and flipped on the faucet, watching the liquid swirl from red to pink to clear.

You should have been here, not out screwing around!

The disembodied voice of his father echoed in his mind before fading into the clock’s solemn ticking in the other room. What his old man didn’t realize was Shane hadn’t needed the constant reminders to know how greatly he’d failed.

He knew better than anyone the impact of a single choice, how a seemingly innocuous decision had irrevocably changed his mother’s life.

Or, more accurately, taken it.





Chapter 6



So? How’s it going, Ms. Rat Race?” Sadie asked, sipping her blush-colored wine.

Today marked the end of Crickitt’s first week at August Industries. Sadie had invited her to the wine bar down the road from her apartment to celebrate. The place was packed to the walls, but they managed to snag a table on the patio before it filled up.

Rather than tease Sadie for her equal participation in the Giant Maze of Life, Crickitt said, “I like it. It’s different from what I was doing before, but not in a bad way. As much as I loved working for myself, it wasn’t always as fun as it sounded.”

Sadie gave her a dubious glance. “Yeah, working a grueling four hours a day must have been rough. And then to have to eat, drink wine you didn’t pay for…” She elevated her glass and took an exaggerated drink. “I don’t know how you stood it for as long as you did,” Sadie finished with a teasing wink.

Her bestie may have crammed Crickitt’s former career into a nutshell, but essentially, it was the simplified truth. And hadn’t Crickitt described it the same way over the years? As if she was living in enviable luxury while her personal life silently crumbled down around her ears.

And, yes, part of her former workday had been spent in slouchy sweatpants. But she wasn’t lounging on the couch watching daytime television. There were meeting notes to prepare, orders to enter, customers and team members to call. Errands like trips to the bank and post office were an almost daily affair. By the time most people were commuting home from work, she’d already put in a full day. There’d been plenty of evenings when she’d rather not have packed her car full of display products and headed straight into rush hour traffic.

Just remembering the hustle of those days was exhausting. Or maybe it was the memory of Ronald alongside her career that had her grousing at the basket of complimentary crackers.

“You’re right, I’m being ungracious,” Crickitt confessed. “But it is nice to have my evenings back. What I wouldn’t have given back then to spend more—” She cut herself off, realizing what she almost said.

More evenings with my husband.

She took a hearty swig of her wine, expecting the crushing weight of loss, or loneliness, to press down on her. It didn’t come. Oddly enough, life had recently struck her as simplistic. She wasn’t defined by Before Ronald or After Ronald, he was simply a notch in her timeline, marking the separation from past to present. She used to have a husband. Now she didn’t. And she felt…fine.

“So what do you do at August Industries?” Sadie asked, saying the name of the company with a deep, reverent bass and pulling Crickitt from her self-analysis.

“Mostly, I handle Shane’s schedule. I thought I did a lot in my business, but he puts me to shame. I schedule his meetings, conference calls, company announcements, business dealings, pitches…”

“You call Shane August of August Industries by his first name?” Sadie asked.

Crickitt shrugged. “He’s a person.”

“He’s a billionaire.”

“He’s very common.”

“He’s hot.”

Rather than agree, which she did, Crickitt hedged. “You didn’t think so that night at the club.” She lifted her wineglass to her lips to keep from saying more.

The truth was it’d become increasingly difficult for her to ignore the strain of Shane’s biceps beneath his sleeves. She was only a woman, after all, and any woman could appreciate the way his long legs stretched out into a purposeful, confident stride. But noticing him at work had led to thoughts of Shane outside the office…thoughts, if she wanted to continue to stay employed at August Industries, that were best kept to herself.

“That night he was just another guy trying to pick up a girl. I didn’t know he was Shane August,” Sadie said, lowering to near baritone to say his name.

“Well, it doesn’t matter how good-looking he is. He’s my boss,” Crickitt said, unsure which of them she was trying to convince.

“If he were my boss,” Sadie said with the rogue lift of her brow, “I’d saunter into his office, perch on the edge of his desk, and ask if I could dictate.” She snorted.

Crickitt laughed, the sound not all that convincing to her own ears. For some reason the idea of Sadie garnering Shane’s undivided attention made her prickle.

“I’ve been so busy I haven’t asked about your date with Shane’s cousin. What’s his name?” Crickitt said, deliberately shifting subjects.

“Aiden.” She lifted one shoulder in a shrug and avoided looking at Crickitt. “It was nice.”

A blush crept up Sadie’s neck. Crickitt never thought she’d see the day. “Sadie Ann Marie Howard.”

Sadie flinched. “What?”

“You like him.”

Again with the shoulder shrug, but a smile spread her lips. “He’s okay.”

“And the sex?”

“Crickitt!”

Crickitt laughed. Sadie never acted embarrassed about…well, anything. “That tells me everything!”

“Stop it, it’s not like that,” Sadie said.

“Is that why you’re glowing like a stoplight?”

Sadie’s jaw dropped.

Crickitt shook her head. “A dirty, one-night-stand-having stoplight.”

Sadie became fascinated with the table, running her thumbnail back and forth in a scratch on its surface and fervently avoiding looking her best friend in the eye. “It wasn’t one night,” she murmured. “I’ve seen him twice.”

Crickitt was stunned into silence. She didn’t think of Sadie as trampy, but she did tend to have a lot of first dates that didn’t morph into seconds. Then again, this was the woman who had fed her wedding invitations into a shredder moments after her fiancé announced he was leaving her for her sister. Was it any wonder Sadie discarded her dates like tissues out of a box?

“He’s not like other guys,” Sadie said.

“Meaning?”

Sadie tilted her chin. “He’s charming and funny in this oddly genuine way.”

“He has hair down to his shoulders,” Crickitt said, recalling Sadie’s penchant for bulky athletes or suave businessmen.

“I know,” Sadie said, a wistful smile on her face.

“Wow.” This was more serious than she’d imagined. Crickitt decided to let her friend off the hook. “Keep me posted on that.”

“Oh, I will.”

* * *



Saturday morning, a motorcycle roared into Shane’s driveway. Shane stepped out of his front door as Aiden slipped his helmet off. His hair was back in a ponytail, but several strands had wrestled their way loose.

“You need a haircut,” Shane lectured.

“You need not to shave,” Aiden retorted.

“Hippie.”

“Yuppie.”

They smiled at each other, and Shane held the door open for Aiden. “Come on in, man.”

Once inside, Aiden shrugged out of the leather jacket he wore whenever he rode. “What brings you my way?” Shane asked. “Need money?”

The expression on Aiden’s face suggested he might pop Shane in the mouth for even joking about such a thing. Shane expected as much. “Coffee?” Shane held up the pot after pouring himself a cup.

“That, I’ll take.” Aiden sat on a kitchen chair. “I was visiting Mom and thought I’d swing by.”

“How’s she doing?” Shane delivered his coffee. They both drank it black, no frills.

Aiden’s mouth formed a grim line. “The same.”

Shane nodded. “I guess that’s good. At least she’s not worse.”

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