Home » , , , , , , » Taming The Billionaire (A BBW Romance) (Max And Ellie #1) by Bea Paydean

Taming The Billionaire (A BBW Romance) (Max And Ellie #1) by Bea Paydean

It’s him.

Waiting in the stage wings is the dark-haired man with the smouldering green eyes from last night and the night before, and the night before come to think of it. He’s been watching me with the intensity of a 1000-watt flashbulb as I do my ‘act’ every night.
Taming The Billionaire (A BBW Romance) (Max And Ellie #1)
Taming The Billionaire (A BBW Romance) (Max And Ellie #1) by Bea Paydean
My ‘act’ happens to be singing a program of songs ranging from power ballads to jazz standards to an audience who probably can’t really hear me without hearing aids. The man has stood out like a saw thumb amidst the mostly older audience who have signed up for a two-week cruise around the Caribbean. He always sits at the same table near the front with an older woman, silver-coifed hair, and pearls. His mother, possibly grandmother or, dare I say it, his lover? There’s no denying that he’s drop dead gorgeous in his tuxedo. Chiselled features, groomed, tall, broad shouldered and not forgetting those mesmerising looking eyes with those long dark lashes. Even from a meter away, I can feel his sexual ‘pull’ and it has caused me to become speechless. He has just said something to me and my mind has just gone blank. It’s as if a thunderbolt has just been shot into my groin. “Do you do private performances?” his lips are curved into a small smile and his well-defined eyebrows are raised waiting for my response. “Private performances?” I say with a dry mouth. I then turn my gaze to the audience whose attention is firmly fixed on the dance show now that my act is finished. I need something to distract me from the man. I need a long cold drink. I move my stare back to his. “Yes, a private performance. Just for me.” His eyes run up and down my body, lingering on my creamy breasts that are almost escaping from my black gown that clings to my curves. My red curls are piled high on my head exposing the long glittering earrings. I’m hot and sweaty having sung my heart out supported by the 20-piece band under the hot stage lights. Ah. It does happen to me ever so often — an older married man (this man looks around his mid thirties) who wants a quick fumble before he goes back home to his wife and children… My eyes narrow and I shake my head. “No. Definitely not!” I have standards, and sleeping with a married man is a big ‘no no’ in my book no matter how devilishly sexy he happens to be. I glare at him and cross my arms over my very excited nipples. “I don’t do ‘private performances’ thank you very much.” He grins, displaying perfect teeth. “That’s a pity. My grandmother is going to be very disappointed.” “Your grandmother?” “Yes. She told me, no ‘ordered’ me to ask if you could sing at her 85th birthday party next month. She’s over there, waiting for you to agree.” Oh. I clear my throat. This will teach me to jump to conclusions. “I’m pretty sure I’m booked up for the foreseeable future.” Liar. Once this job ends next week, I’ll be looking for work, but there’s something about this man that signals danger… “I’ll make it worth your while. Name your price.” His words are low, seductive. I look at him hard, taking in the expensive cut of his clothes. Ok, he’s obviously not short of money. “That’s very generous of you but—” “I never take no for an answer. I’m Max, Max Hunter. A name you’re never going to forget.” I resist the urge to roll my eyes and just fix a smile on my face. I’m expected to be polite to the guests in every interaction. But, his confidence, the way he holds his back straight and his well-modulated voice, is just rubbing me the wrong way. “So is Ellie your stage name?” he asks. “No. It’s my real name.” “Let me introduce you to my grandmother, Rose.” He comes closer and puts his hand on the small of my back. I almost jump from the contact. The heat from his hand burns into my body like a red-hot poker. We walk to the table in silence. “Grandmother dearest, this is the lovely, Ellie,” he announces as he pulls out a chair for me. “The woman with the voice of an angel. This is my grandmother, Rose.” I ease myself into the chair. “Please to meet you.” I smile at Rose and her aristocratic demeanour. She has the same green eyes, but a faded softer version. She returns my greeting but proceeds to scrutinise my face. “You’re very beautiful,” she murmurs. “Such lovely hair.” “Thank you,” I say with a smile. My curls can be uncontrollable sometimes, but today, I’m having a good hair day. “And such a beautiful figure as well.” She smiles at me warmly. “You’re making me blush.” “You’re just as a woman should be, womanly.” “I agree,” Max says lazily. “Ellie’s a stunning looking woman…” I feel myself flushing. “Has my grandson told you about my party next month?” Rose says. I nod. “I hope you have a fantastic day but unfortunately I won’t be able to make it.” “Maybe we can talk tomorrow?” “Don’t forget that we’re flying back to London tomorrow, Gran. There’s only so much of this cruise ship I can take—” “Max,” she admonishes, “I like it here!” He grins. “Sorry, as you know it’s not my kind of thing. But I’ll do anything to please you, you know that.” “You’re such a sweet boy,” she puts her frail hand over his and smiles. Sweet boy? I don’t think so. I watch, touched by the genuine affection between them. “I have to go, management aren’t that keen for staff to fraternise with the guests. Please accept my apologies.” “You stay put,” Rose says firmly, her eyes steely. “Your captain is a good family friend. I am sure he won’t have any objections to you taking the time to make an old lady very happy.” I smile. Her words feel as if they are true. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt. “Yes. I’m sure I can stay for a few minutes.” I’ve been working hard today. During the day, I work in the office doing various administrative tasks. At night, I turn into a glamour puss, my titian hair cascading over my shoulders, my voice sultry, promising things I will never deliver to an audience that is mesmerised by my every move under the dim lights. We spend a few minutes making small talk. Then Rose announces that she is going back to her cabin and that Max should stay here and entertain me. I watch as she leaves the room. “It was nice to meet you,” I say to Max politely. It’s time to leave. “Stay and have a drink.” “No,” I say. “Let’s talk about this ‘private performance’. You’re going to be there.” He leans back into the chair, his eyes glinting. “You’re so sure of yourself, aren’t you?” I say through lowered lashes. “Absolutely.” He takes a sip of his drink. “So, tell me. Why will I be there?” “You know why.” “No I don’t. Sure the money would be nice but I have enough money thank you.” Well, I have the overdraft and my credit card that will help me until I get my next job… “Me. You want to sleep with me,” he says. Is this man for real? I stand up and in the chilliest voice I can manage say, “Good evening Mr Hunter, so pleased that you enjoyed the performance today.” I slither from my chair and without a backward glance walk away from his table, my hips swaying to an internal beat feeling his eyes piercing into my curves. What an arrogant jerk! Chapter Two “I couldn’t sleep last night,” the voice drawls. I look up from my desk into the vivid green eyes of Max Hunter that are fringed with those long dark eyelashes. His good-looking face is staring into mine with an amused expression. “What are you doing here?” I say sharply, trying to ignore his well cut white shirt that’s open at the chest, and the black jeans that cling to his manly frame. He certainly presents an impressive looking figure I have to admit. His expensive smelling scent hits my nose. “The office is for staff only.” He grins. “Your point is? Do you know why I couldn’t sleep?” “I don’t care.” I cross my arms and lean back into my chair. He can report me to management for being rude if he so wishes but something tells me he won’t. Thankfully, the office is empty, so I can be as unpleasant as I want. “I thought I had seen the last of you. Aren’t you travelling back to London today?” “Yes, but not before I’ve had a chance to see you.” I raise my eyebrows. “As I was saying, I couldn’t sleep because my mind was filled with images of a stunning red-head with killer curves. Don’t tell me you haven’t been thinking about me as well?” I laugh. I’m not flattered because I know he’s not telling the truth. I’ve met men like Max before — they’ll say anything to get you into bed using well-rehearsed lines. Nothing about them is sincere, in fact, the opposite. “Am I the first woman you’ve used that line on today?” “Yes, a thousand times yes. My reputation has obviously preceded me.” Reputation? Now why doesn’t that surprise me? My eyes are drawn to his hands. No sign of a ring, but that doesn’t mean anything nowadays. Is he married? Why should I care? He’s not someone I’ll ever see again. “And for the record, you never featured in my dreams and you never will.” My words are delivered with a fixed smile. “Don’t be so sure. I’ve never been one not to accept a challenge like that,” Max murmurs. He sits on the edge of my desk and I move away rapidly, my pulse quickening. “Scared?” he asks. “Scared of what?” “Of me. My dazzling good looks and body that you want to touch…” I laugh. “Don’t flatter yourself.” “I’m not. I can see it in your eyes. Your eyes are the window to the soul and they’re telling me something different…” “Yes, to let me get back to work.” This man is something else! I have to hand it to him, good looking and deluded. “Seriously, you shouldn’t be here. You could get me into trouble.” “Then I’ll be brief. £75000.” “Sorry?” “£75000 for one nights work. All yours if you perform at my grandmother’s birthday.” I shake my head with disbelief. “You want to pay me £75000? Are you mad?” It’s above and beyond the fee that I charge for private functions. In fact, I wouldn’t need to work again this year, or next. Even when I factor in tax, it would be a very, very, lucrative gig. I narrow my eyes. “Is this a joke?” “No,” Max says with a grin. “For that price, you could get a well known popstar. Someone with a name. Why would you want me? A woman who earns her living as a cabaret singer?” No matter how I like to imagine I’m someone else when I sing (a famous act with the lifestyle and success to match), the truth of the matter is that I’m too old at 27 to ever be a success. I’ll be lucky to land this current gig again, no matter how much the audience likes me. This is a temporary position. I am a stand-in because the regular singer broke her leg. “Why me?” “Isn’t that obvious?” “No it isn’t. It’s way too much—” “Hey, don’t sell yourself short—” “What game are you playing? You can’t just approach a random woman and offer her money. So much money…” “Don’t worry. I can well afford it,” he says. Really? I stare at him, noting the full lips, the hint of dark stubble on the chin. The thread count of his shirt looks high, expensive. His dark jeans don’t look cheap either. Can he really afford to pay £75000? No. He’s a chancer. I bet he works as a used car salesman somewhere within the M25. He’s had a good month and brought himself some expensive clothes. He lives with his mother and survives on additional handouts from his wealthy grandmother… “What are you smiling about?” Max shifts along the desk. “Nothing,” I say, and edge my chair as far as I can, ignoring the amused look in his eye. “Do you live within the M25?” “Yes, London.” Bingo. I grit my teeth. “This whole proposition is just to get a date or if you’re lucky, get laid!” He throws his head back and laughs displaying a set of white teeth. “Ellie, I don’t have to throw money about to get laid. In fact, I’ve never had to resort to paying a woman to spend time with me. Most women are more than happy to offer their attention for free because I certainly know how to keep a woman satisfied…” Our eyes lock. His gaze is intense as if I’m the only woman in the whole wide world he would like to keep satisfied. I’m the first to break the gaze. I clear my throat. “That’s nice. I’m glad you can do that and that you’re so confident with your abilities…thanks for the offer but I’m going to have to pass.” I look at the computer screen and open the document that I’m meant to be finishing. The words seem jumbled. I can’t concentrate as all I can hear is my heart hammering in my ears. I think I need to find a boyfriend. It’s been a few years since this body has seen any meaningful action. Singing isn’t a substitute for sex. Something tells me that Mr Hunter would be sheer dynamite between the sheets… Damn that man with his hot body! “So, I’ll see you in a month’s time. I’ll be in touch.” He stands up from the desk. “Hang on. I haven’t agreed to do anything, so there is no point you contacting me again.” “I like you, Ellie. A redhead with fire. Can’t wait for when we become acquainted again.” “You’ll be waiting a long time,” I retort. “I’ll leave my card on the table. See you until we meet again.” He laughs. I wait until he leaves the office before exhaling slowly. It will take a while to shift him from my brain but I’ll know I’ll get there — eventually. I can still smell his scent, feel his presence… I pick up his card from the table. OMG! I shake my head and stare. It can’t be…? Max Hunter? The Max Hunter? I can see why I didn’t recognise him even though he told me his name because he’s shaved off the beard and removed his trademark black rimmed glasses. I lean back into the chair and close my eyes. I want to laugh / cry, not sure which. I’ve just been chatting to one of the richest men in Britain… Chapter Three I’m a fool, a big fool! I’ve been berating myself for days after the encounter with Max Hunter, record boss extraordinaire. I can still hear his laughter has he left the office, mocking, assured. All I could do is remain seated in my chair, flushed red and glad that the office was empty. A billionaire no less… How could I have suggested that Max couldn’t afford to pay me? I should feel flattered that someone like him would want me to perform. Everyone I’ve spoken to has screamed at me to phone him, to bite his hand off and accept. I have to agree, but there’s something about him that spells danger… I’m back at home, trying to look for work. I’m waiting to hear about a possible gig in Manchester. I have to be realistic. I have my share of rent to pay for next month and bills. I need money. I put my head in my hands and sigh. Why am I so determined to sabotage my career? Potentially, Max could open doors. He’s a rich and powerful man and for some reason he wants me to perform. I take a deep breath and reach for my mobile. Time to call Max and swallow my pride. I dial his number from the card on the desk and wait. “Max Hunter.” His voice sounds deep and smooth. Confident. I grip the phone. Go on, speak. “Max, hi. It’s Ellie.” I twist one of my curls with my free hand. “Who?” Oh no. This is embarrassing. He has no recollection of meeting me. “Ellie, Ellie Cavendish. We met last week—” “Just kidding. I know who you are. Ellie, the wonderful Ellie. I knew you’d call me,” he teases. “You couldn’t keep away, admit it.” Don’t be so smug, I want to say. “I…I just wanted to talk about your offer.” Is he going to pretend he can’t remember making it now? “Sure.” “Just one thing, why didn’t you mention who you were when we met?” “I told you who I was.” “Yes, but not the Max Hunter. I didn’t recognise you without the beard and glasses.” “I shaved off the beard and decided to stop wearing glasses. What difference would it have made to you anyway?” I bite my lip. I would have taken him seriously. Perhaps I may even have been a little awe struck. I’ve done my research on him, trawled the internet for information. He comes from a wealthy background, his father being a self-made man in the telecoms sector. Max left school at 16 and started his own record label. As the company became more successful, it diversified into streaming and other music services and technology. On paper, Max is one impressive man. In terms of his personal life, let’s just say he’s left a string of broken hearts everywhere. I read this article where an ex-girlfriend claimed Max promised to make her a star and then dumped her for her sister. Ouch. There are tons and tons of similar stories of women complaining about Max’s scant disregard for their feelings. What do all these women see in a man like him? He’s a cad, a serial womanizer, pure and simple. “So Ellie, what difference would it have made to you,” Max says. “I’m not sure. So, is this a new look?” “Yes. Do you like it?” “You look, younger.” That’s all I’m prepared to say. I think that the beard and glasses detracted from how good-looking he was, and still is. “Well thank you.” I clear my throat. “So, about this gig. I need some more information.” “What do you need to know?” “The specifics. Date, time, location etc. Do you want me to perform with a backing track?” “If you send me your email address, I’ll send you details of the booking with all the information you’ll ever need. No backing track. It will be a live band. So you’re happy to do it?” “Yes. I need the money. Why me?” I say. “You’re a famous record mogul. Your label has several superstars on it. It doesn’t make sense. In fact, you could pretty much get anyone you want to sing at your grandmother’s party. So why me?” “Why not? My grandmother wants you and I want you.” I swallow at his words. “I just want to be clear, this is a no strings attached booking, right?” Max laughs. “Strings? What do you have in mind?” Don’t be a smart-arse. “You’re not expecting anything in return then?” “I’m always open to offers.” I don’t speak. “Ellie? Are you there?” “I was right. You’re just a sleazebag—” “Calm down. You need to lighten up, Ms Cavendish.” He laughs a sound that sends shivers down my spine. “Now, this is a professional booking for your services as a singer. However, if afterwards you decide that you want to get naked with me in the hot tub, I won’t say no…in fact, I won’t stop you.” I can picture it now — Max’s impressive toned body glistening with water, his hair plastered to his head… My body responds to this image with a hot surge of heat to my groin. I’ll play Max at his game because I’m sure he knows the effect his words have on me. “I like the sound of that,” I coo. “I’ll bring my boyfriend. I’m sure he’ll like to frolic in the hot tub with you. And I should mention he’s the violent type. He’s recently been released from prison for GBH.” “You don’t have a boyfriend.” “Yes I do,” I lie. Living this unpredictable life of travelling up and down motorways for work doesn’t go well with relationships. “No, you don’t.” “How come you know so much about me?” “My instincts are telling me that you’re single and have been for a while. But all that’s about to change.” “Let me guess? You?” This man is so self-assured. He obviously thinks he’s God’s gift to womankind. “Yes. I like you. I like what I see and I will have you…” Never! Hell would have to freeze over first. “I’m not available, for you or anyone else. Are you always like this?” I shake my head. “Like what?” “Chasing anything with a pulse.” He laughs. “Hardly. You’ve caught my eye and I want to know you better. I’m offering you a chance to sing and a chance to…use your imagination…” The man’s incorrigible. A billionaire with an ego as big as his wealth. “I’ll see you soon but before I go, give me your email address,” Max says. I recite my email address. “A member of my team will be in touch.” I see. I’m not important enough to take up the billionaire’s time now that I’ve rebuffed his advances. But for £75000, I shouldn’t really complain. I’m rich. Well, after taxes it will be a lot less but still, £75000! “See you soon,” he says. I mutter goodbye and then press the end call button. Thank you, Max Hunter. Chapter Four “You were spectacular tonight,” Max says, his green eyes glinting, handsome in his grey suit. Max’s eyes have not left me throughout my set and when I finish to thunderous applause from the well-dressed intimate crowd of 100 or so well-wishers here to celebrate Rose’s birthday, he grabs my hand and takes me into a dark corner. His attention makes me feel sexy, and I’ve had to remind myself several times that he isn’t the only person in the room. Plus, this is the most well paid gig I’ve ever done and I plan to treat myself to make up for all the bad times because recently there has been way too many. I look up, pleased. I’ve sung my heart out tonight. More so, because I felt the small darts of hope that this could be a turning point in my career, all thanks to this man. Perhaps I’ve been a bit too hasty in seeing him as a total sleazebag. Max has some redeeming features, in fact a hell of a lot — rich, good-looking, and powerful. I admit I was intimidated when I turned up at this house early this morning. House is a wrong word — the place is huge. A Georgian gothic building with amazing acoustics owned by Max’s parents. The vast ballroom has a warm homely vibe and Rose, the birthday girl eye’s are shinning looking resplendent in her white elegant cream dress. When I get to her age, if I look as good as she does, I will be extremely happy. I should be tired after a long rehearsal with the band and then the live performance but I’m buzzing, adrenaline still tingling in my veins. It’s been close to perfect as can be. I feel perspiration running down my cleavage. “Did you hear what I said?” Max says. “Yes. Thank you. I really enjoyed myself tonight. This band is absolutely incredible. Such talented musicians.” The band is now playing an up-tempo number and several of the guests are dancing, including Rose. “Only the best for the best. You were worth every single penny.” “Stop it,” I grin. Doesn’t he ever stop? “I’m so hot, any chance of a drink?” “Sure. Let’s go to the bar. Or why don’t we just go outside, you’ll cool off quicker,” Max murmurs. “This is not a tactic? You’re not trying to get me into your hot tub?” I raise my eyebrows. “Me? Would I do such a thing?” he says, innocently. “Mmmm. Ok, let’s go.” I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Max manoeuvres me through the tables, his hand resting on my bare elbow. I notice an older dark-haired couple staring intently at us, observing our interaction. “Let me introduce you to my parents,” he says. “And my brother if he’s around.” “No, not yet. I need to cool down first. I’m sweating like a pig.” I don’t really want to meet Max’s family while red and perspiring. “There’s nothing like being hot and sweaty. That’s how I prefer to imagine you.” I laugh. “In your dreams.” “Can’t a guy dream?” Max whispers, his breath hot against my neck. I roll my eyes and I’m just about to offer a bitchy retort when I realise we have stopped at the table where Max’s parents are seated. I fix a pleasant smile on my face. “Mum, Dad, this is Ellie.” We exchange greetings. I notice that his mum is watching me carefully, her eyes running up and down from my head to my toes, taking in my high heels and sparkling silver dress that maybe in retrospect is a bit too short for this conservative gathering. I look back and she gives a small smile. “Are you signed to Max’s label?” his dad says, loudly over the sound of the music playing. “No,” I say. Max’s dad is an older but just as handsome version of Max with a sprinkling of silver hair. His mum is just as well preserved with her blue eyes and high cheekbones. “You were great.” “Thank you,” I say, returning his smile. “I’m just going to take Ellie out for some air,” Max says, putting his arms around my waist. I move away as far as I can without appearing to be rude. I want to tell him to get his hands off me before I slap him hard across his face for his forwardness. “Don’t be long,” his mum says. “We’ll be cutting the cake soon.” “Yes, Mum. See you later.” We make our way outside and I breathe out, detangling myself from Max and enjoying the cool evening air on my skin. The grounds look beautiful in the silver moonlight, like a painting. “Sorry about that,” Max says. “You should be, putting your hands around my waist as if we know each other intimately!” He grins. “No. I’m not sorry about that.” “What do you mean?” I sit down on the nearby bench, suddenly feeling tired. “I saw my Mum looking at you. She’s convinced that every woman I meet is a gold-digger.” “Is that the kind of woman that’s attracted to you then?” “You better believe it. There’s nothing like being a billionaire in terms of attracting the wrong sort of woman. But it’s not just the money. My good looks and physical prowess is what does it.” I laugh. I can’t help it. Max is so up his own backside that he needs to be surgically removed. “Might the truth be that you attract women in the same way rotten meat does to flies?” “Hey! What have I done to deserve that?” His expression is one of hurt. I smile. “Stop talking about yourself as if you are…so…amazing!” “I can’t help it, because I am!” “Really?” He sits down on the bench. “You’ll find out one day.” I laugh again. “No I won’t.” “You will, you know you will. There’s something between us.” His eyes bore into mine, appearing dark and dangerous. I cross my arms and shift down towards the end of the bench, so aware of him — aware of how easy it would be just to give in to his advances, to feel his lips on mine, to touch him, taste him… “You can feel it too, admit it,” Max says. “I don’t know what you’re talking—” “You’re attracted to me.” “Isn’t every woman?” I jest. I stand up and smooth down my dress. “I’m feeling much cooler now. It’s time to go back in.” That’s not strictly true. In fact, I’m even hotter under Max’s loaded gaze that is lingering on my curves. My stomach has turned into molten lava and I feel the familiar dampness in my knickers due to being in his company. “You are. I know it, you know it. The question is, what are we going to do about it?” He gets up from the bench and stands in front of me, centimetres apart. I look up into his eyes, noticing how big his pupils are, how kissable his lips look. Why does he have to be so damn sexy and drop dead gorgeous? He reaches for one of my curls that have escaped from the top of my head. “I’ve never really had a thing for redheads, but I do now.” I swallow, my mouth dry. “You know what I thought when I first saw you?” he murmurs. I shake my head. “Who is this stunning looking woman with so much sex appeal? Why have I never heard of her before? I couldn’t take my eyes off you. I would have giving anything to have you…” My eyes widen and my breath catches in my throat as I stare into Max’s eyes. Even in my high heels, he towers above me. He releases my curls and then runs his thumb over my bare shoulder making me shiver. “But it’s not just about sex. You know that I find you incredibly sexy, so sexy, I can barely concentrate.” My whole body is on fire, my eyes unable to move from his. He’s going to kiss me, I can feel it… He lowers his head so that I’m close enough to smell his scent. I part my lips and wait expectantly, my body like a tightly sprung coil. I want this. I want him. I think I’ll loose my inhibitions tonight and I won’t be able to blame it on drink. “I’m going to make you a star.” Chapter Five “You’re going to make me a star?” I breathe, shocked. “Really?” I feel momentarily confused. I wasn’t expecting him to say this. Instead, I was expecting the feel of his lips, his tongue, just not these words. Never mind… “Yes,” Max says, his face serious. “You have star quality. I’ve seen you perform night after night singing with such passion. Your voice is beautiful, just like you. You deserve a bigger audience and I can make that happen.” I take a deep breath and move away from him. “You’re not just saying this to get me into your bed? You’re really going to make me a star?” His lips curve into a slow smile. “Absolutely.” “Really?” “Yes.” Wow! I open my mouth to speak, but no words come out. I’ve been singing ever since I could remember. My earliest memories are of me holding my mum’s hairbrush and singing to the mirror. My parents scraped together money they didn’t really have to send me to acting classes and to have singing lessons. But as soon as I became old enough, I realised that there were so many people out there like me with good voices who no matter how hard they tried, were destined to struggle to make a living. I feel choked. It’s one of the few words that I’ve always wanted to hear and finally it’s going to happen. Right now, I want to jump up and down and get on the phone to tell my family and friends. It just takes one lucky break. I was on that cruise ship at the right time… “I don’t know what to say,” I grin, my eyes shining. Wow! “Then don’t say anything.” “No. I just want to understand, what does being a ‘star’ mean?” I’m feeling sober now. I had better make sure our definitions of ‘stardom’ match. It could be all words, just hollow, shallow words. He could be talking about a couple of nights in Blackpool in a working men’s club for all I know. “You don’t trust me? Surely you know about my track record?” Max says lazily. I nod. I can’t argue with his credentials, most of his earliest and successful acts are still with his label, multimillion selling mega superstars. “I just can’t believe it will happen to me. Are you sure?” He laughs. “Of course I’m sure.” “Things like this don’t happen to me. What are the chances of being discovered on a cruise ship? Blimley!” I smile at Max. Right now, he’s my favourite person in the whole wide world. “I’m going to handle your career personally. I’ll be a bit rusty because now I’m the big boss, I have a large department that deals with artists. But you’ll have my undivided attention.” Max outlines his plans including a multimillion-pound marketing budget. “There’s a gap in the market right now for someone like you. You’ll appeal across the various age groups and marketed correctly, across the different geographical territories.” “I have to sit down,” I say. A yawn escapes from my lips. “I’m so tired. I’ve been up since the crack of dawn. I need to go and say goodbye to Rose before I leave. I’ve got her a present. Just something small…” “That’s nice. Why don’t you stay the night? Don’t look at me like that! In separate rooms of course. In your own private wing. A few of the guests are staying. There’s plenty of room here.” “Really? Your parents won’t mind?” The thought of driving down the motorway even though the traffic should be light at this time of night makes me feel even more tired. “No, they won’t mind. That’s settled. Do you fancy a drink? Perhaps a glass of champagne, to celebrate the beginning of our working relationship?” I hesitate. I would love a cold glass of champagne, to savour the bubbles on my tongue but I don’t want to give the wrong signals. I was this close to kissing him (or rather imagining that he wanted to kiss me). I should stay away from him socially. It will be strictly business from now on. “No. I’m tired. Maybe another time.” “Ok,” Max says. He smiles. “Let’s sort out somewhere to sleep and go back to the house.” I smile back, a wide toothed grin that feels as if it’s bubbling up from somewhere deep inside. I’m going to be a star! “Thank you Max. You’ve made me one happy girl,” I say. “My pleasure.” We start walking towards the house, he stops before he reaches the door. “There’s something I want to do,” he murmurs. “What?” He lowers his head and lightly brushes his lips on mine, a sensation so light that I almost believe that I have imagined it. I look into his darkened green eyes and my breath catches in my throat, my heart thumping hard. He’s set my whole body alight with just one simple kiss. My lips have turned into a mass of over excited nerve endings, shooting desire straight to my groin. I straighten and brush past him, opening the door quickly. I can’t go there, I can’t respond to Max’s sex appeal. I’ve known that since the moment I’ve seen him. “Hey, slow down,” Max calls, his tone amused. I turn. “Show me where I’m going to sleep tonight. No funny business. I’m not in the mood.” I put my hands on my hips and glare. He grins. “Chicken.” Chapter Six Can life get any better? I’ve been up for the last two hours just laying in bed fully clothed mulling over Max’s words, excitement bubbling in my veins. Not surprisingly, I’ve not been able to sleep, but I want to thank Max’s parents for letting me stay and to see Rose before I leave. I’ve been waiting for a ‘decent’ time to leave as I’m not sure they’ll be awake yet. When I went to bed, the party appeared to be in full swing with people that had recently arrived. Max tried his best to persuade me to join the party but I resisted. Max’s mother has been kind enough to find me some spare clothes but not surprisingly, they are a little snug on my curves. Several dress sizes too small in fact. I much prefer to be wearing fresh clothes than wear the clothes I did the day before. I jump off from the bed humming and open the curtains to let in the sunlight. I’m richer, with a great future ahead and a man who holds my future in the palm of his hands has recently kissed me. The memory of the brief kiss that Max and I shared last night keeps popping up in my head and recreating the sensation of arousal. If he is going to be a big player in my life, it can’t happen again, no matter how much my body might want it. I walk out through the bedroom door and on to the large corridor that has several rooms leading off it. I spot a member of staff coming up the main stairs. “Hi, can you tell me where Max’s room is?” I say. “Mr Hunter junior?” The older lady with grey hair says as she gives me a kind smile. “Yes.” “Up the next set of stairs and first door on the left.” I thank her and then follow the instructions. I stand outside Max’s door, indecisively. I do not want to give him the wrong impression by turning up at his bedroom but I want to clear the air about the kiss and make sure that his promises were not just hollow words said on the spur of the moment. I knock and wait. “Come in,” he calls a few seconds later. I open the door slowly and stop dead in my tracks. OMG! Max is sitting up in his bed with a startled look in his green eyes, traces of stubble on his chin and his hair tousled. It’s his naked chest that holds my attention. I knew he had a good body. I could tell by the way he walked and by the way his shirts stretched across his broad chest. But without clothes, Max is seriously hot! His torso is firm and muscular, just like his biceps and all I want to do right now is put my hands all over his body… I want to remove the bedding covering his legs (and my clothes for that matter) and just make up for lost time of being single without a boyfriend… I gulp several times and fix my gaze firmly on his face. I don’t know what’s happening to me, but I’m turning into a lust-crazed woman. “Sorry,” I say. “I hope I didn’t wake you, but I’m going to go home now.” “Stay and have breakfast,” he murmurs. His eyes have a knowing look as if to say he knows the effect the sight of his sexy body has had on me. “No. I really want to get going now. Please thank your parents for their hospitality.” I lick my dry lips and push my hair from my face. “I will. I’ll be in touch.” I take some deep breaths. “Max, I just want to thank you…what’s that noise?” I narrow my eyes. “What noise?” “It’s coming—” What! My mouth drops open. A blonde woman with pneumatic breasts has just emerged from underneath the bedding. I stare at her as if she’s an alien that has descended from Mars, and she giggles. How the hell didn’t I notice the outline of her body under the sheets? The answer is obvious — my attention was taken with Max’s attributes. Max! I want to wring his neck. “Why did you let me come in?” My voice sounds high-pitched, shrill. “Why didn’t you say you had company?” Max grins. “I thought you were my mother and I expected her to pop her head round the door, sigh, and then leave.” WTF! My mouth drops open for the second time as another, almost identical woman reveals herself from under the covers. I close my eyes. There is only so much of this ‘scene’ I can take… “Ellie,” Max says. I open my eyes. “What?” I snap, glaring at him. “Why don’t you come and join us?” his eyes are smoking hot. He puts his hands behind his head, the muscles of his torso rippling with the movement. I look at him scornfully, ignoring the giggles of the two simpering women leaning against him. “You’re disgusting!” He laughs. “You need to get out more. Girls, say hello to Ellie.” “Hello,” they both chorus. “Aren’t you going to say hello?” Max teases. I turn and walk quickly to the door, shaking. I open the door and then slam it hard. What was I thinking? You can’t trust this man, let alone anything he says. My illusions of stardom have disappeared. I should have known better and trusted my instincts. Max Hunter is trouble with a capital ‘T’. Lesson learned… Chapter Seven “Ellie, hi. Am I forgiven?” I shake my head, berating myself for having picked the phone up. It’s Max, his sexy smooth tones coming out of my mobile phone reminding me not to trust attractive men with dark hair and green eyes. “What are you seeking forgiveness for?” I say through gritted teeth. “Well, you ran out the room as if there was a fire.” He laughs as if it’s the funniest thing he’s ever heard. “I didn’t run out the room. I was just a bit surprised.” ‘Surprised’ is the wrong word, more like ‘traumatized’. One woman I could understand, but two? And where did these women come from? I don’t remember seeing them last night, but I was so focused on Max and singing that I paid very little attention to anything else. That man, he doesn’t deserve my attention. Man whore. That’s what he is. I remember how absolutely delectable he looked when I first saw him in the bed, before I discovered his two sidekicks. I want to undo every positive physiological response I’ve ever had to him. His talk last night about turning me into a star was just a ruse to get me in to bed and once he had what he wanted, I would never hear or see him again, just like that poor woman I read about online. I don’t believe how easy I fell for his routine. I’m a fool. “You made me so hot and bothered that when you left me, I succumbed to the temptation that was offered—” “Hang on, you’re blaming me?” I put the phone down on the coffee table and laugh. That one chaste kiss, a warm sensuous pleasure was a reason enough to drive him into the arms of those two women? He’s incredible, absolutely incredible… I pick the phone up. “I hope you enjoyed yourself. It was nice knowing you and thank you very much for the gig. And about your offer—” “I meant every word of it. I think you have the potential to be big. Global.” “Really?” Who was I kidding? “I’ve decided to turn down your offer.” “So that’s it?” His voice sounds disappointed. “You don’t want me to make you a star?” “Yes, that’s right.” He exhales. “I never had you down as a prude—” “I am not a prude! Isn’t one woman enough for you?” Maybe I am a prude, but I’m just an old-fashioned girl. A ménage…? “I like women and I enjoy sex. One woman, two, three or whatever the number, why does it bother you so much what I do?” he teases. I open my mouth and close it shut. He’s right, why am I bothered? It’s not as if he’s my boyfriend. “Are you jealous?” he taunts. “No!” There’s no way I’m jealous of those Barbie dolls with their fake breasts. At least mine are natural thank you very much! “Are you sure?” I ignore his question. “Do you have a sex addiction?” I ask. “Are you a heavy user of prostitutes and other such unsavoury practices?” He laughs. “No. I have never used a prostitute. But in terms of wanting sex, no more than most men. I work hard and when I have the time, I play hard.” “But why not just one woman?” “Ellie, sweetheart, what’s the big deal? I don’t have a wife or girlfriend. I’m single and nothing is going to stop me enjoying the pleasures of the female form in all its glory.” I swallow. “But I rather have had you in my bed than those two women…” My hand grips the phone, disturbed by his low voice. “That’s nice.” I clear my throat trying hard to shift the image of Max and me together — our body’s slick with sweat, his hand touching my breasts, pleasuring the intimate parts of me with his skilful fingers and tongue… Stop it, get a grip… “I…I wanted to know when I’m getting paid,” I say eventually. I take several deep breaths. His private life is his own business and I should only focus on things that concern me. The first thing I did after driving all the way from Oxfordshire this morning was to check my bank balance, looking forward to seeing it in credit for once. It wasn’t. He laughs. “Ellie, Ellie…” “What are you laughing at? I assumed the money would be in my account yesterday or if not today. Didn’t you get my bank details? I sent them with the contract.” “Yes I did. But I’ve decided that I’m not going to pay you, yet.” “Sorry?” “Yes. I’m not going to pay you just yet.” “Sorry? Did I just mishear what you said? The contract stated that—” “Come and have dinner with me tonight and I’ll make sure the money is in your account plus a 10% late payment fee. I want to see you again and I’m not prepared for you to disappear from my life. Come on Ellie, one meal. I’ll be happy for you to tell me the error of my ways, convert me to the commandments according to Ellie Cavendish. Are there many things that I’m doing wrong, or is it just my voracious sexual appetite?” He pauses. “Ellie, are you there?” I scrunch my eyes shut and try to forget the mocking tone of his voice. These rich men are all the same. Control freaks who think it’s funny to mess with ordinary people. Max is able to use his money into manipulating me into having dinner with him. What a bastard! He promised the money would be in my account yesterday. I throw the phone down on the table in a fit of rage. Who does that man think he is? How dare he? I sit on the sofa breathing hard. I was counting on the money and I had made plans. Uncharacteristically, I let rip some rude words from my lips. Is this Max’s idea of a sick joke? When I pick up the phone, my voice is hostile. “I never want to see you in the flesh ever again! And don’t say another word. You’re an arrogant prick who likes to play games. I hope you’re happy—” “Ellie, lighten up! A candlelit meal for two. Just you and me together. Don’t you like—” I press the end call button. As soon as Monday comes, I’m finding a solicitor to sue the pants of Mr-three-in-a-bed-Hunter. He’s messed with the wrong woman! Chapter Eight Why can’t that man just do the decent thing! It’s not even eight o’clock in the morning and there are several messages from Max — voice and text’s on my mobile phone, reiterating what he said yesterday. I decide to give him one last chance and dial his number. He answers the phone straight away. I really don’t want the hassle of looking for a solicitor and the expense of writing letters or the DIY route using the Small Claims court. “Ellie, thank you for returning my calls,” Max chuckles. “Where should I take you tonight?” I grit my teeth. Nowhere, absolutely nowhere. I decide to ignore his question. “Do you realise I’ve now got texts of you admitting that you’re blackmailing me? How you’re withholding payment?” He laughs. “And?” “I’ll upload them online. I’ll let the world see what type of man you are. I might even go to the police.” “I think you’re on to something there. I’ll happily confess how I used blackmail as a last resort after the woman that I’m totally smitten with has turned me down.” “You’re smitten with me?” “Yes. Totally.” “Liar! Since when?” “It’s true. Ever since I saw you on that cruise ship. Hell, I wasn’t even meant to be there. My grandmother’s friend became ill at the last minute and she didn’t want to go on holiday by herself. I thought I was destined to be bored rigid. But then I saw you, with your titian curls and a body that could make a man forget what day of the week it is.” He pauses. “Anyway, it’s up to you what you want to believe.” I sink back into the sofa. The flat is silent. My flatmate, Tess, is fast asleep having comeback from her shift as a nurse. Max’s words make me feel…funny but then I realise it’s just another one of his tactics to get what he wants — sex. This man has sex, sex and sex on the brain. “I’ve changed my mind, about the meal.” “You have? Really?” he says. “Yes. What harm could it do? I want the money. I don’t want to spend money on solicitors and I don’t want this thing to be dragging on. I’ll come to dinner and you can transfer the money into my account.” “I’m glad you’ve seen things my way.” I grit my teeth. “Yes, me too. We can talk about my career and how you’re going to spend millions and millions of pounds on launching me to the nation.” “Ha. You nearly had me fooled,” Max says. “Sorry?” “I don’t believe you have any intention of coming to dinner.” “You don’t know me very well. My word is my bond. Come on, where are you taking me?” I inject as much enthusiasm into my voice as I can manage. I hear him laughing. “I’m not sure. But why don’t we say eight in the evening? I’ll text you the location as soon as I’ve decided. Wear something sexy for me.” His voice is smooth as silk. I laugh. Does he never stop thinking about sex? “I will.” I pause. “When will the money be transferred into my account?” “It’s already there.” Oh. “See you at eight.” I say goodbye and then logon to my bank account from my laptop. Yes! The money and an additional 10% is there. I laugh. *** The banging from the front door wakes me from my slumber. I jump up from the sofa and walk to the door like a zombie. I’m going to tell Tess off. She has this habit of forgetting her key. I open the door, and my eyes widen. Max. “What are you doing here?” I say. He’s dressed all in black, looking devilishly handsome. In fact, too, handsome. There’s no way I’m letting him in especially not when I’m alone in the flat — Tess is still at work. He grins, his green eyes dancing. “We had a date tonight? Remember? I knew you wouldn’t turn up. So, I thought I would come to see you instead.” I laugh and shake my head. He’s right. I had no intention of going to a restaurant with him, now or anytime in the future. I wanted him to be waiting in the restaurant and then to eventually realise that I wasn’t coming as payback for his earlier ‘blackmail’ attempt. After all, I have the money now, why do I need to have anything more to do with him? I’ve now come down to earth with a bump and the thought of being a superstar has lost its shine. With this money in the bank, I can put out my own music. I can find a producer, the material, and whatever else I need to do. I don’t need this billionaire mogul to help me do it. I can be a star on my own terms. Can’t I? “Can I come in?” Max says. Before I’ve had a chance to respond, he steps into the flat brushing past me in the process, giving a waft of his gorgeous smelling aftershave. I slam the front door shut in annoyance. “I love what you’re wearing,” he murmurs. I look down at my warm plaid pyjamas and smile. With my curls pulled back into a ponytail and my baggy garments, I’m probably a very unattractive sight in Max’s eyes. But tough, this is the real me, minus the makeup and the sexy dresses, the private Ellie who loves to watch TV eating a tube of Pringles and a glass of wine. If this were a date, I would be horrified for him to see me like this. “Don’t start! It gets cold in here. The central heating has packed up and the landlord’s dragging his feet about getting it repaired.” “It suits you. You look…cute.” Not. I grin. “Why can I smell food, and what’s the time?” I yawn. I must have fallen asleep on the sofa, under the warm blanket. “It’s 8:00 pm and I’ve brought a takeaway.” He holds up two big paper bags. “Yum. I’m starving. Well now that you’re here it seems a shame to let the food go to waste,” I say as my mouth waters. *** “You’ve got a good appetite,” Max says, his lips curved into a smile. “Does this look like a body that doesn’t like food?” I say as I lick a bit of black bean source off my chopsticks. The food is all gone, with just the empty cartons remaining on the coffee table, and I’m feeling like a stuffed melon. “Maybe you can show me later?” he says, grinning. “It’s certainly a body that I would love to become acquainted with…” I roll my eyes and lean back into the sofa. “No. As much as I love seeing you, I’m going to have to kick you out.” The small flat feels even smaller with Max in it. Right now, we’re sitting on the sofa that’s way too tiny, and I have to be ever so careful not to touch Max’s denim clad leg every time he moves. I don’t like the way my heartbeat accelerates from the contact. And whenever he looks at me, it feels as if he’s touched me intimately causing a tingling sensation in the pit of my stomach. “But I’ve only just got here,” Max protests. “No, two hours ago.” The time has passed quickly as we’ve talked about our families and hobbies. The topic of turning me into a star and the two blondes has not been mentioned. “Haven’t you got work in the morning?” “Yes, but I’m the boss. Surely you don’t want me to go?” “Yes I do.” The more time I spend in his presence, the greater the danger of yielding into his sexy unspoken demands… “I’m enjoying myself, here with you—” “I’m not going to be another notch on your bed post. Your bedpost must have lots and lots of notches on it.” He smiles. “I’ve never claimed to have lived life like a monk. Sure, I’ve had relationships that didn’t work out. But what about you?” “There’s nothing to tell. I’ve had a few boyfriends, but my work is a problem. I have to travel to where the work is.” I pause. “Well, we’ve had a nice chat and it’s time you went home.” “But I like it here. Even if you’re wearing your pyjamas!” “Max, time to go. I get it. You’re sulking because you’re going to have to go home without having got down and dirty.” I laugh. “Isn’t what you had planned?” He doesn’t answer. “Max?” I tease. “We’re grown adults you and I. You must know that I find you very attractive. I know the feeling’s mutual,” he says. “No it isn’t!” Max grins. “Why are you in denial? You want me.” My heart hammers erratically against my chest. “No, I do not want you. I have what I want, a healthy bank balance. I don’t need anything more.” “Come here,” he growls. I fold my arms. “No.” Max laughs and moves closer so that our bodies are touching. “I don’t give up that easily.” I swallow. He tilts my chin and our eyes lock. With his other hand, he removes the hair band that’s holding my curls into a ponytail. My hair tumbles over my shoulders. “That’s better.” His face move closer so that are lips are millimetre apart. My breath catches in my throat as I stare into his eyes that are glinting with desire. “Ellie, I want you…” I gasp when his lips touch mine, warm, sexy, and demanding. It’s as if someone has taken a match to my body and set it on fire. His tongue probes my lips apart and skilfully entwines itself around mine. Our kiss deepens. His mouth is warm and moist creating a delicious sensation that sends shoots of lust throughout my body. This is why I knew I shouldn’t have let him touch me. I can’t resist him. I knew from the moment I saw him. He makes me weak at the knees and I know that if we ever sleep together, I’m going to be hooked… I groan as he continues tantalising my mouth. He breaks our kiss, his breathing ragged. “Let’s go to the bedroom. We can get more comfortable there.” He reaches for my hands. “I’ve got everything covered.” “What do you mean?” “I’ve got enough condoms to last us the whole night—” I snatch my hand back. “So I was right, the food was a prelude to sex.” I fold my arms. “Those stories I read about you on the internet were all true. Multiple women saying the same thing, sex obsessed, dropping them when ever it suited you just for a younger skinnier model—” “Don’t believe everything you read. Nine times out of ten it will just be some media hungry woman trying to carve a career for herself on the back of our dalliance.” “Out, out, out! I’m not going to be another notch on the Hunter bedpost.” “Ellie,” he laughs, “don’t be so dammed sensitive. Like any sensible man, I just wanted to be prepared just in case. You can’t blame me.” “Get out, Max Hunter. Don’t come back.” I watch as he leaves the room without a backward glance. Good riddance! Chapter Nine “I need your help,” I say to my friends, Colin and Adam. They live in the flat next door. I’m sitting in their stylish kitchen drinking a cup of coffee. “I’ve invited Max to my flat this afternoon —” “Some sense at last! You’ve finally decided to stop being a child and have some adult fun,” Adam chides. “When was the last time your bedroom saw some action?” “Stop!” I say with a grin. I’ve had an earful of them both saying how stupid I am to have rebuffed one of the hottest men in the UK. They can’t believe that this struggling singer would have also turned down Max’s offer to make them a star. Max has been contacting me almost daily. He just doesn’t know when to give up but he’s finally worn me down. “I want you to help me.” “How?” Adam says, puzzled. “You can do my make up,” I say as I point at him. Adam’s a very talented and highly sought after make-up artist. He spends a lot of time travelling up and down the country for his work. “And you, Colin, are going to give me a haircut and give my locks the five start treatment.” “You go, girlfriend!” Colin lisps as he beams his approval. “We’ll turn you into a sex goddess that Max won’t know what’s day it is, yet alone year!” He grabs a handful of my curls and tuts disapprovingly. “Look at these split ends. Absolutely disgraceful. I thought I told you to come to the salon for a regular treatment?” I grin ruefully. “Sorry, I’ve been preoccupied. But I’m a rich woman now. I have money in the bank. I don’t need to take advantage of your generosity.” “That’s ok. That’s what friends are for. Anyway, you can return the favour by singing at a function.” “Cool. Just tell me when and where.” “The end of this year. A winter wedding.” Colin says. “Our wedding,” Andrew announces. “Huh?” I look at them both in surprise. “Wow! I don’t believe you’ve finally managed to make me speechless, but you have. Congratulations!” I open my arms and they both walk into my embrace. I squeeze them hard, my arms barely able to contain their muscular frames. I feel the beginning of tears springing in my eyes. “It’s the best news I’ve heard all day. Where’s the champagne?” “No champagne,” Adam says with a grin, releasing himself from my arms. “You my girl, are not drinking any alcohol. You have to get ready for Prince Charming. I don’t want you burping champagne fumes while getting up close and personal with Mr Billionaire.” “But I want to celebrate your good news,” I say. “It’s not every day I hear that someone I know is getting married. Drink, now!” Colin hugs me hard. “We will celebrate, but later. Right now, our mission is to make you look even more beautiful than usual.” “Thanks, guys. You’re fab!” *** Max is here in the building and any second now he’s about to walk into the flat. I open the front door and quickly walk into the bedroom. I feel like a million dollars. Both Colin and Adam have worked their magic and I look good enough for the cover of a glossy magazine. That’s what the mirror told me when I glanced at it earlier. My curls have a life of their own, bouncy, shiny and soft to touch. My skin glows with life and my makeup is better than I can ever do for myself. My light brown eyes look huge, almost Bambi like. I hear the front door close and then Max calls my name. “I’m in the bedroom,” I call. Let’s hope he’s in the mood for some fun and games. “Ok. I’ll just sit on the sofa—” “No. Come into the bedroom. I’ve been waiting for you. In fact, I think it’s time to take our relationship to the next level. Today you can do anything you want with me. We can spend the rest of the day using all the lovely condoms I have here…” “Really? Ellie, you’ve got no idea what you do to me, absolutely none,” Max says as he pushes open the bedroom door. He enters the room and stops. A surge of desire shoots through my veins as my eyes are drawn to Max’s crotch. The fabric of his trousers can barely contain the swell of his erection. I swallow, my breathing shallow. He’s just so freaking sexy… “Hi,” I say. “Hi yourself.” He stands in the doorway watching me, his darkened gaze moving from my face to my bare shoulders and my cleavage, which is just about contained within my black silk negligee. “You look good enough to eat. So damn hot. I wasn’t expecting…this…” I smile. “I’m not complaining but I am surprised. Are you sure it’s what you want?” Max says. I nod. “More than anything…” “The last time I was here, you threw me out!” “Well deserved, I thought.” “But who can blame me for wanting with you?” He smiles, and raises an eyebrow. “You’ve been sending out mixed messages. Blowing hot and cold.” “Can’t a girl change her mind?” I murmur. “I suppose so,” he grins. “Let me just get rid of my clothes and I’ll happily join you in bed and I’ll show you how much I want you…” I watch with baited breath as he slowly undoes the button on the front of his shirt and cuffs. He throws his shirt on to the floor. My mouth begins to water at the sight of his toned body, lightly tanned with his skin taunt over his muscles. My gaze wanders slowly back to his face and his eyes that are turning my insides to putty. Maybe it isn’t too late… He advances towards the bed, his eyes narrowing. “What’s that noise?” “What noise?” My heart rate accelerates, and my body becomes completely still as I feel a foreboding sinking sensation. Carl’s head is the first to emerge from under the duvet followed by Adam’s. Carl kisses the side of my neck while Adam runs his fingers through my hair. “Would you like to join us?” I tease. Max’s response leaves me cold. His eyes have turned a thunderous black and his gaze darts from the two men then back to me with scorn. “Enjoy the party,” he says flatly. “Max, are you sure you don’t want to join us?” My words trail off and I shrink and avert my gaze, concentrating hard on the pink duvet cover. “I’ll see myself out.” “Max,” I call. I hear the front door slam, causing the whole flat to vibrate. It’s too late. Chapter Ten “Go, on. Run after him,” Colin urges, seconds after Max’s departure. “Why should I?” I say. “I’ve just giving him a taste of his own medicine. I thought he would find it funny!” “Well he didn’t,” Adam says dryly. “You should have seen his face. Get your arse out of gear and find him. Such a handsome hunk. What a great body. So sexy. If you don’t go after him, Colin and I will.” “I agree,” Colin says. “Such a beefcake. Yum, yum.” I find myself being forcibly pushed out of the bed by the two men. “Don’t come back without him,” Adam says with a laugh. “Why am I feeling like the bad guy here? You both thought it would be funny!” “It would have been if he had reacted differently. Just go and sort it out.” I sigh hard and pull on a pair of jeans and a top over the silky negligee. I find my shoes and keys and leave the flat. I run as fast as I can to what I think will be Max’s most likely route to get away from here — the tube station. I’m right. I see the back of Max and call his name loudly. He turns. “Max,” I say breathlessly. “Sorry.” His eyes are cold. “Sorry?” “I…” The words die in my throat. I didn’t think he would be so angry. Everything about him is rigid. His shirt is not fully tucked in and some of the buttons are open. He couldn’t get away from me fast enough… “Do you know how happy I was to hear you say you wanted me to come and see you?” Max says. “I didn’t realise—” “Go back to your bed. Enjoy those two men!” I grab Max’s arm. “Let’s go somewhere to talk. In private. Please?” We’re causing an obstruction on the busy pavement, and one man has already given me a dirty look. Max stands still, his eyes narrowed. “Ok. Lead the way.” We walk several metres to a small alleyway. I wish I’d never thought up this silly idea. The joke has backfired. I just didn’t think he would react like that. Does he care about me? “Are you jealous?” He hesitates. “I don’t like the idea of you with another man, let alone two men. So, yes, I’m jealous!” “That’s rich. One rule for men, and one rule for women. You looked happy enough when I saw you in bed with two women. Exactly why shouldn’t I enjoy the pleasures of two men?” I’m not sure that Colin and Adam would agree. I can guarantee they’ll be begging me to pass them Max’s details as they both were taken with his dark looks. I smile. Maybe Max might enjoy their attention… “What are you smiling about,” Max snaps. “Nothing,” I say, innocently. “Remind me to introduce you to some friends of mine.” “What has this got to do with what we’re talking about?” “Nothing, absolutely nothing. I’m just so glad that you introduced me to the idea. Thank you Max of a threesome. You’ve opened this innocent girl’s eyes.” He stares at me for a long time before speaking. “You like to play games, huh? You invite me round to your flat and I find you in bed, but not with one, but two men! Isn’t one enough?” “Why should one man be enough for me?” I say provocatively, my eyes dancing. “I never had you down as that kind of girl. I guess I had you wrong—” “It isn’t what you think! It was a joke. I thought I would give you a taste of your own medicine. Teach you to see the errors of your fun-loving ways!” “A joke?” “Yes. The two men are Colin and Adam. Gay and proud. I’ve known them for years and they live in the flat next to me. In fact, they’re planning their wedding next year.” Max shakes his head and then puts his head in his hands. “A joke!” He pauses. “Will it’s certainly crystallised the feelings I have for you.” He looks up. I swallow. Feelings? What type of feelings? Are these the usual sex driven ones, or something more? “What are these feelings?” I croak. “I want an exclusive relationship. Just you and me, no other parties.” Max grabs me and pushes my back against the wall. I feel the hardness of the bricks against my body. “I want you, Ellie Cavendish and I’m going to have you. No games.” He puts his hands flat on the wall either side of my face so that I can’t move or run. I swallow, mesmerised by him. I know he’s telling the truth, I can feel the sincerity of his words. His eyes are dark, glinting, and combined with his closeness are causing a stirring heat in my groin. “If you don’t want the same, then I’m happy to part company now. I want a grownup relationship. To wine, dine, take you on dates. To get to know you better…” His voice is low. I open my mouth to speak, but close it. I don’t know what to say. What he’s offering sounds like every girls dream. A gorgeous man with tons of money who is single with no baggage. He ticks every box, well, apart from his ‘blackmailing tendencies’ and his belief that he’s God’s gift to women. I want him. Right now in this darkened alleyway off a busy main road if he were to kiss me now and even have his wicked way with me, I know I wouldn’t put up any resistance — none whatsoever. But, I think about those stories of women I found online, all saying the same thing, how he dumped them, used them. This could be me nursing a breaking heart in a few weeks time. “Well?” Max looks at me, waiting for his answer. “I have some reservations.” I repeat my concerns about his past. “Not that again. Ok, I’ve not lived my life as a monk and yes there a plenty of women with bad things to say about me, but they are in the past. This is about you and me, right now in the present. So what do you say?” What can I say? The hottest man I’ve ever met wants him and me to be in a relationship. “Let me think about it,” I say softly. “What’s there to think about? You either want me or you don’t—” “Just shut up and kiss me!” I command with a grin. He obliges and I feel the earth move under my feet. Max sucks my bottom lip gently, sending shockwaves throughout my body. “Didn’t you find it funny when Colin and Adam emerged from the sheets?” I say sometime later, once we’ve come up for air. “Like a hole in the head,” Max grins. “You had me convinced. I wanted to kill those men with my bare hands. The thought of them enjoying you made me want to…thank goodness I just walked away instead. Don’t do that again!” “Oh, Max. That’s so sweet.” “Why don’t we go back to your flat?” His eyes glint. I swallow. “Let’s just take this slow. No rush.” I don’t want to be another statistic on Max’s long record sheet. I want to be more than a number, much more. “Alright. We’ll take it on your terms.” “Thank you.” I kiss him on the lips and smile. Sometimes a joke can pay off… Chapter Eleven “This no sex thing is driving me wild,” Max says, a smile curving his lips. “I’ve never dated a woman so long without getting her between the sheets. My balls are blue!” I laugh and put my hands on my hips. I’m in Max’s office waiting for him to finish off some paperwork before heading out for dinner. “We’ve only been dating for three months—” “And that’s three months too long without sex,” he mutters. I laugh again. The truth is I’m in no rush to slip in between the bed sheets with him. I would love to, but I want our relationship to be different from the one’s he’s had previously where sex has always been on the agenda from day one. Our dates always end up leaving me a tad frustrated with all that pent up sexual energy. We talk and kiss a lot and at the end of the night go our separate ways with a smile on our faces. My dreams are always full of a sexy dark haired man with green eyes… “All in good time. When I feel that you deserve it,” I tease. “It’s been my mission to tame you. To teach you how to be a better man. A relationship isn’t all about sex.” “Am I that bad?” he says, grinning. “Well. You’ve never had a long-term relationship and you’re in your thirties. I think that speaks for itself.” “I’ve just never found the right woman — until now.” His words hang in the air. I swallow. “How long are you going to be?” I peer at his computer screen, feigning interest. “Not long now.” “You said that ten minutes ago. No. Turn your computer off. It’s a lovely summers evening and I know you’d rather spend it outside with me rather than working. So, turn it off!” “No,” he says. “No?” “You’re going to have to make me,” he murmurs. “How?” “Use your imagination…” I turn his computer screen off and stand in front of his chair. “What do you have in mind?” His eyes roam down my body hungrily lingering on my short skirt and white top that clings to my curves. My lips part. “Ah. I see.” In a quick movement that takes him by surprise, I straddle him, sitting on his lap. I hear his sharp intake of breath and a thrill runs through my body. “You’re an incredibly naughty woman. I like it.” He grips me firmly, his hands going under my top and touching my bare back, causing me to shiver. “What are you going to do to me?” I smile and toss my curls. Right now, I feel…incredibly sexy. My body has started to heat up in response to his closeness. I feel his erection firm and throbbing through the thin material of my knickers causing a burning fire. His eyes are dark, smoky. I want to touch him…everywhere so much that it overwhelms me. “Ellie,” he growls. “I want to take you in every conceivable position on the desk. If you don’t want that, you’re going to have to get off my lap as you’re driving me wild!” I swallow. I do want it. But I don’t want our first time together to be with my legs wrapped around his body as the rest of his staff hears our moans and groans through the thin office walls. I want it to be private, just him and me. I get off his lap reluctantly. He watches, his expression unreadable. I feel a frisson of guilt. I’ve always known that Max is a man with a high sex drive. At times, he’s been incredibly open about his past sexual shenanigans but sometimes I wonder what does he see in me? Curvy Ellie who could do with losing a couple of stone, not as sexually experienced as him. Will I, just one woman, be enough for him? “Come on. Let me take you to dinner,” he says. I give him a small smile. We make our way out of the office and into the still busy streets of the City of London. The weather is gloriously balmy. “When I went out for lunch, I passed this jewellery shop,” Max says, pointing to a shop along the busy stretch of road, “and I saw these earrings and I thought of you—” “No!” “I wish you would let me buy you something nice,” he says. He grabs my hand and forces me to walk quickly to the shop. “No. I have everything I need,” I murmur and drag him away from the shop window. “You can pay for dinner tonight. There’s an eat-all-you-can special for £14.99 at the Chinese we went to last week.” He laughs. “You’re certainly not with me for my money, just my hot sexy body.” I grin. “Yes.” He’s so right. I’m still tingling from sitting on his lap. I need something to distract me and a piping hot plate of sweet and sour chicken will do the trick nicely. Well, a good enough substitute, for now… *** I feel stuffed, deliciously stuffed. Max and I are walking arm in arm alongside the embankment with the breeze from the Thames providing a cooling effect. “What?” I say, raising my eyebrows. He’s been looking at me and just not saying anything. “Nothing,” Max shakes his head and grins. “What?” “I was just thinking I’m a lucky guy. I’m walking down the road on a fantastic summer’s evening and I have the most beautiful woman in the world on my arm!” I laugh, feeling very flushed. “Max, Max, Max…” The opposite is true. I’m with one of the most stunning men in London. I’ve lost time of the countless number of women who’ve ogled Max as he strolls leisurely in his crisp white shirt with all the confidence of a man who has everything. These women can look, because they’re not having him. “Ellie, Ellie, Ellie…” I clear my throat. “There’s something I want to ask you.” “What?” “If we don’t sleep together soon, is this the end of our relationship?” “No, of course not!” I stand still. “You know I love sex, but it’s not everything. Life is so much more than what happens between the sheets,” Max murmurs as he runs his hands through my curls. I swallow, unable to look away from his intense gaze. “Come back to my flat and spend the night. I really want to be with you.” His voice is husky. I stare into his eyes, drowning. He’s the most beautiful man I’ve every met. Charming (although he can drive me up the wall sometime with his large ego), intelligent, sexy, and he wants to be with me. There is nothing stopping up from taking our relationship further, to becoming physically intimate. It’s time. The time is right. “Ellie Cavendish,” he says, “please, I need you.” “I need you too,” I whisper. He puts his arms around my body and kisses me so hard that my knees buckle with longing. Max Hunter, what are you doing to me? Chapter Twelve We enter Max’s flat in silence, the air palpable with tension. I kick off my shoes and sit back on the sofa. He joins me seconds later. We stare at each other. I drink in his face. Even though I know he’s shaved this morning, dark stubble covers most of his chin. I move my gaze to his full lips, so kissable, and then back to his darkened green eyes framed by those long dark lashes. My pulse quickens. He looks as if he wants to eat me. I want him. I reach for his face and trace the contours of his chin with my finger. He holds my wrist and then puts his lips on my pulse that is now at dangerously high levels. I guess this was inevitable, him and me. I just can’t believe how I’ve held out so long when my body has been demanding that I let Max work his magic. We kiss. Max entwines his hands in my hair and his lips crush me hard. My senses are being tantalised by the erotic feeling of his moist tongue as he explores my mouth. I moan and arch my body toward his, wanting to maximise the contact between us. My nipples have become rock hard, aching for his touch, and my groin has turned into warm gooey melted toffee. My body is reacting towards him and I know that it won’t take much to push me over the edge, to be wallow in the depths of ecstasy. He stops and just stares, both hands cupping my face, his thumbs massaging the sensitive points on my neck. “Is something wrong?” I say, breathlessly. “No. I was just thinking how beautiful you look right now,” Max murmurs. “I want to remember this moment — the moment you trusted me. I won’t let you down, ever.” I smile. “That’s so sweet, but right now, less talking. We can talk afterwards.” I push him backwards so that he falls back on the sofa. I reach for his belt, careful not to touch the large swell visible through his trousers. There will be plenty of time for that later. He laughs. “Easy tiger. Don’t let me stop you doing what ever you want to. I’m all yours.” “That’s what I like to hear,” I say, licking my lips. He’s just so damn sexy and he’s all mine to enjoy. I’m a very lucky girl… I continue to undo his belt, buttons and zip of his trousers. I run my fingers lightly over his bulge that is peaking out of his tight white underpants and shiver. I do this several times, conscious of his quickened breaths. I remove my fingers and stare into his eyes. “Ellie,” Max groans, “don’t stop.” I smile slowly. I can’t wait to see him in all his glory. I want to touch and taste every inch of him — to have my mouth suck and lick whatever he’s hiding under those underpants. I move my hand back to his groin and move my thumb slowly up and down his shaft. I watch Max’s face as he responds to the movement. His mouth parts and his eyes watch me, full of longing. My breathing has become shallow as I continue touching him. My underwear feels damp and I can feel myself perspiring, as I’m so aroused. I take a deep breath and then slip my hand into his waistband and make contact with his hot and throbbing erection. I gasp and then swallow. He’s just so freaking hot. My finger circles his shaft and moves rhythmically up and down the solid flesh. “Ellie,” he groans. “You’re going to have to take it easy. I’m in a very, very, sensitive state right now. I’ve spent months wanting you, craving you. This is what you do to me. I’m in the brink of losing control…Ellie…” I ignore his words. I just want to pleasure him. I want to see his face because right now it’s one of the most erotic things I’ve ever done. “Ellie,” he warns, “stop…” He grabs hold of my wrists. “What’s wrong?” I say, so turned on by his response. “We have all night.” “You’re a very sexy minx, Ellie Cavendish,” he growls. “It’s your fault. You make me feel so…sexy.” “It’s my turn now. I want to get you naked. But first, I’m going to take my clothes off,” he says, his voice thick with desire. He sits up and removes his clothes so that he’s naked. My eyes feast on his body, unable to speak. His body is absolutely beautiful. Well defined, muscular and with hair in all the right places. His shaft is large, thick and I now understand why he’s always believed that his God’s gift to women, because he certainly is. He’s simply divine and what’s more, he’s all mine. “Stand up,” he commands, his eyes glinting. I get up from the sofa. He kisses me hard and I hold on to him, feeling his large erection pushing against me. “I’m going to take your clothes off and then I’m going to make love to you all night long.” “I love the sound of that,” I murmur. We kiss again, our tongues entwined. Max runs his hand up and down my body, cupping my bare bottom by sliding his hands under my knickers. “You have way too many clothes on. Just too many.” He removes my top and bra. He groans. “Your breasts are incredible, Ellie. Absolutely incredible. So beautiful…” My lips part as I watch his awe filled gaze as he surveys my large erect nipples. I almost jump when his fingers make contact with my sensitive peaks. He rolls them, touching, pulling and rubbing. His attention sends shots of desire to the pit of my stomach and to my core. He cups both breasts with his hands and takes one sensitive tip in his moist hot mouth. I gasp as his tongue circles and tantalises my nipple. I swallow when he moves on to the next breast. I throw my head back and just give in to the exquisite pleasure that he’s producing throughout my body. He stops and then proceeds to remove my skirt and underwear so that I’m naked. I feel vulnerable, exposed. I look into Max’s eyes and I know he likes what he sees. “You’re so gorgeous,” Max says as he runs his hands over my soft stomach. His fingers move lower until they rest on my mound. My legs part automatically, allowing him easy access to my incredibly wet and engorged folds. I gasp as his thumb tantalises my clit and at the same time, his fingers move in and out of my moist core. I start to tremble and feel mini spasms in the lower half of my body. “Max,” I say, “now!” “What?” he murmurs, his fingers causing mini shockwaves as he continues stroking my clit. “I don’t want to stop. I’ve only just started. I want to put my tongue—” “I want you inside of me. Please, Max.” I want him so much. I’m going to explode if it doesn’t happen soon. My body is so aroused and just the smallest additional touch of his fingers is going to bring me to an earth-shattering orgasm. Max grins and grabs my hand. We walk quickly to the bedroom and he puts a condom securely on his shaft. I lie down on the bed. He kneels above me and gently moves my legs apart. His mouth makes contact with my slippery folds and I buckle from the sensation of his warm lips on my sensitive flesh. “Max! What are you doing?” I say, breathlessly. “I just want to taste you. You taste so good,” he murmurs. I grip his head hard. “Max, I’m begging you to just make love to me. Please Max. Now!” He sighs. “Ok. Anything to please you.” I bite my lip hard and wait. Within seconds, I feel Max’s large girth fill my core. OMG! He runs his hands through my hair as he thrusts hard inside me. I put my head in the crock of his neck and close my eyes. My body, slick with sweat, is on fire. Every nerve ending is alive, tantalised to breaking point. Max increases his thrusts as one hand massages my clit. OMG! I’m going to faint. My orgasm hits me hard. I open my eyes and stare at Max in wonderment, my breathing shallow, my body screaming. “Ellie, Ellie,” he says at the top of his voice while in the throes of and intense orgasm. He kisses me hard and continues thrusting until his body convulses violently. “Now that’s exactly how I’d imagined it,” Max says, seconds later, his voice hoarse. “Perfect.” I look into his darkened eyes and nod. “I’ve never had such a sensational experience with a man. You’re amazing, just like I knew it would be.” He grins and kisses me lightly on the lips. “Give me a few seconds to recharge my batteries and we can do it again and again and again.” I stare into his gorgeous face and just melt. Can’t wait for a repeat performance… Chapter Thirteen “Would you still want to be with me if I were a penniless man working as a mechanic in a backstreet garage?” Max says. I frown. “Where’s this question come from?” I watch as Max gets up from the bed, stark naked. He’s been restless all night. In fact for the past few nights. Something is worrying him. I know he’ll tell me eventually. Perhaps this is what’s worrying him? “Well?” Max says, his eyes fixed on my face. “Of course. I don’t really care about your money. It’s your body and mind that interests me more,” I drool, my eyes feasting on his impressive proportions. Even after being together now for a mind blowing six months, I’m still awe struck over his yummy body. Since that summer evening when we made love, I’ve been totally smitten with Mr Max Hunter. He smiles. “You have a one track mind! But are you not impressed with my wealth?” “I don’t like the tone of this conversation. Apart from the money you paid for the gig, I’ve never taken any of the expensive gifts you’ve offered. When we went to Wales to meet my parents, we travelled economy class and I paid for the ticket!” I pause. “Since you’ve been with me, I’ve had a positive effect on your spending habits. You spend money like it’s going out of fashion. I want you, not your money, silly.” I throw the pillow at him. He grins. “Sorry.” “What’s gotten into you? Are you with me just because of my ‘beautiful’ singing voice? Would you be with me if I had a voice as rough as a badgers arse?” “Point taken,” he says. We both laugh hard. “You know,” Max says thoughtfully, “I wish you would move in with me.” “Not this conversation again.” Don’t get me wrong, I like Max’s flat or should I say penthouse. It’s large, spacious, and full of items of furniture that are pristine. I love the large bed I’m lying in now and the oversize duvet that feels cool and luxurious to touch. But, I’m fond of my flat, the shabby furniture, the row of teddy bears on top of my wardrobe. Max’s flat makes me feel grown-up. It reminds me of the difference in our incomes. “I like waking up next to you,” Max says. He comes and sits on the bed. “I want to do it all the time, not just on a weekend and the odd day in the week. I mean it’s been great you staying here for the past few days but I want you here with me. Permanently.” “It’s a big step. Let’s not rush this. Ok?” I swallow. “Let’s talk after I come back from Wales at the weekend. I haven’t seen Mum and dad for ages, it’s a shame you can’t come. They love you to pieces.” “That I can understand!” “Big head!” I tease. “Ok, I hear what you’re saying about living together.” “There’s no hurry,” I say. “I just want to be with you.” “Me too.” I don’t want things to go wrong for us. I’ve seen it happen— couples who’ve had a good relationship, move in together, and break up. Maybe the magic disappears when the woman finds herself picking boxer shorts off the bedroom floor, cleaning the pee off the toilet seat where the guy can’t be bothered to aim in the right direction. Max isn’t a slob — he lives in a clean and tidy way. He also has a cleaner who visits twice a week and as a result, his place is spotless. But right now, our relationship is just perfect, and I don’t want to spoil it. “I’m going to keep asking you until you agree.” He kisses me gently on the lips, his eyes never leaving my face. “I wish…” “What?” “I wish you’d also let me help you with your music career. I still want to make you a star. That’s the one thing that’s in my power to do. You deserve it.” “Oh Max, you’re such a sweetheart. You know that I’ll always seek your advice but I need to do this my way, even if I don’t succeed.” “Ellie—” “It’s important to me. I don’t want to hear or find out that you’ve opened doors for me.” He grins. “There is one thing.” “Max!” “I got someone in the IT department to redo your website.” Max stands up from the bed and moves into the doorway. “It looks a 1000% better now. You won’t believe the difference when you see it.” “Max Hunter, you wait until I get my hands on you!” I jump up from the bed and advance towards him, my eyes narrowed. Yes, my website wasn’t great. I found someone to do it, a friend of a friend and it cost me several hundred pounds. I was conned, I could have done a better job myself. Max happened to see the site, but I made out that I was pleased with it — deliriously pleased. “This is just the beginning of a slippery slope!” “I’m willing to do penance for my sins.” His expression is rueful. “What?” “Whatever you want.” He grabs me into his embrace. “And that includes worshiping your body.” He kisses the side of my neck. A soft moan escapes my lips as I savour the feel of his naked flesh against mine, the pressure from his hardness. “Ok, but you can never interfere again with my career plans.” “Yes.” I sigh. His eyes are full of mirth and suspect he’s not particularly sorry for the website but I do know he will do his utmost to worship my body, over and over and over… Chapter Fourteen “Sorry to disturb you, Ellie. It’s Joanne, Max’s PA. Have you seen Max recently?” I sit up from the bed, and say sleepily, “Hi Joanne. He’s not here with me. Have you tried his flat?” I yawn and glance at the clock. Gosh. I didn’t mean to sleep for so long. That’s what happens when you don’t work regular fixed hours. I’m glad that I’ve not needed to find work yet. I’ve been prudent and the money from Max’s grandmother’s birthday gig has hardly been touched. Luckily, I’ve been able to bag some fantastic gigs on the back of it. I just hope that Max hasn’t been pulling any strings behind the scenes, because I would kill him if I found out. “Yes, I’ve tried his flat but he’s not answering. He didn’t turn up for work yesterday. It’s so unlike him.” Joanne says in her soft Scottish accent. “Really?” Max is a workaholic. He works long hours but recently he’s begun to cut down since we’ve been together. I totally understand why he works so hard. He employs a lot of people who depend on him. It’s a big responsibility and he’s driven to do his best — a bit two driven if I’m honest. Plus, he’s still fixated on making me a star. But as I keep telling him, I’m going to do this myself. I’m not going to use his connections or his influence to help me. “I’ve tried all of his contact numbers and I’ve even phoned his Mum and Dad, but it’s as if he’s vanished from the face of the earth.” Don’t be so dramatic, I want to say. “He’ll turn up. He’s probably just running late.” “It’s 11:00 am. Max is normally at his desk by 7:00 am. When did you last see him?” “Friday night. I left his flat and then drove to my parent’s house in Wales. I’ve just recently got back.” And the first thing I did was to crawl into bed with exhaustion. Driving sure makes me tired. “And has he been in contact since?” “Yes, we’ve texted each other.” I flush at the thought of our x-rated text. Max has such a filthy mind with a filthy imagination. He certainly knows how to get me hot and bothered… I frown. On Friday, he told me to stay away from him as he thought he was coming down with a cold. He knows how paranoid I get about colds. It’s the worst thing to happen to a singer to be all bunged up full of mucus. “Something’s wrong. Do you think we need to contact the police?” “Don’t overreact, Joanne.” I can imagine Joanne’s lined face creased in worry. “He’s probably just decided to take the day off. I’m sure he’ll be ok.” I bite my lip, not totally convinced by my own words. “I’ll track him down and send him back to work as soon as I find him.” “Thank you, Ellie,” she says. “He has some important meetings lined up and he can’t miss them.” “Don’t worry. Everything will be ok. I’ll be in touch.” I say goodbye and then end the call. Is it another woman? My heart starts to pump hard. Why has that thought even entered my head? I’ve had no reason to doubt Max’s fidelity. He’s attentive, loving, playful, and content. But, he’s gone from a man who’s had his share of dalliances with the opposite sex to being in a monogamous relationship. Is it too boring for him, just him and me? Does he crave the arms of multiple women? When I’m with him or away from him, thoughts like these have rarely entered my head. I lay paralysed in the bed for several minutes biting my lip anxiously. I get up. No, I shouldn’t think these things. Max has given me no reason to believe that he would cheat on me. But why hasn’t he turned up for work? I jump in the shower and get dressed quickly. I check my phone, call, and text Max. But as expected, there’s no response. I sit on the sofa and my fingers hover over my laptop before turning it on. It boots up and I type Max’s name into the search engine, my heart beating fast. If he’s been up to no good, then there might be something there… What I do see is pages and pages of items of him with various women, his business dealings, his words about the future. What are missing, are photographs of Max and me. We don’t ever appear in public together. I’ve refused. I want to make it on my own terms as a singer just as a matter of personal pride. I don’t want fame by association either. I slam the laptop shut. It’s time to visit Max’s place. Maybe he’s there with some woman… Stop it, Ellie, don’t torture yourself. *** The journey to Max’s place feels long, torturous. I spend a few seconds outside the main doors, willing for the flat to be empty, hoping that he’s forgotten to tell Joanne that he’s in a meeting across the other side of the world. I let myself into his flat with the spare keys that he insists that I keep with the view that I can pop in anytime I fancy. I call his name and my voice just echo’s around the large open plan room that incorporate the kitchen without a response. There’s a bottle of opened wine, but no glasses on the top of the work surface. My eyes dart around the room. Everything looks normal, tidy. Where the hell are you, Max? I call his name again but still no response. I walk slowly to the bedroom door, my heels making a din on the wood. I stop and put my hand on the door handle. I can’t hear anything, which is a good sign. The worst thing I could possibly hear right now would be the sound of a female or several female voices. Giggles. That sound would kill me… I’ve not been able to shift those dark thoughts of Max being unfaithful. Until today, I didn’t realise how much Max’s past still plays on my mind. When he comes back from wherever he is and after I give him a verbal dressing down for worrying me, I will have to tell him about my thoughts. I guess I’m not very secure. I don’t want to lose him, now or ever. The sigh of relief that I let out when I open the bedroom door and realise it’s empty, is palpably loud. I shake my head and laugh. Where are you Max Hunter? I sit on the large bed dominating the room and kick off my shoes. The sumptuousness of the mattress reminds me why I always like sleeping at Max’s place. It always feels as if I’m in a five star hotel. Everything is clean and fresh. I frown. This bed has not been slept in… Something is not right. Since we’ve been seeing each other, I have been in contact with Max every day in some form or another. He wouldn’t just ‘vanish’ like this, without telling me. I get up from the bed and make my way to the windows that look out on to the River Thames, deep in thought. I spend minutes racking my brain of where I think Max could possibly be. I turn from the window and stop dead in my tracks as my eyes notice what is on the floor next to the bed. Max. I scream and scream and scream until my throat seizes up. He’s lying on the floor motionless, a pool of blood dripping from a large gash on the side of his head. I touch him tentatively. His skin is ashen and cold and I suspect his been lying like this for hours. There is heavy bruising to the side of his face. His eyes are closed and they are double his normal size. Who has done this? What the hell have I been thinking, imagining that he was doing something he shouldn’t have been doing? I want to take back every single bad thought, every unspoken accusation. Max, my Max… I lean down with trepidation, hoping to feel the gentle movements of his breathing. I put my cheek to his nose and wait. Nothing. OMG! Breathe, Max, please… Contact Details I’ll be happy to hear from you, so don’t be a stranger! Website: https://beapaydean.wordpress.com Keep reading for a sample chapter of Having The Billionaire. Having The Billionaire Is Max going to live? That’s the only question on my lips in what has to be the worst 24 hours of my life. Max is in hospital, still in a comma after I found his battered body in his flat. I arrived at the penthouse after being alerted by his PA that he hadn’t turned up for work — she was worried, with good reason. I’m still in shock, tired and anxious, waiting in a hospital corridor hoping that the next update from the doctors and nurses will bring some good news. I’m praying as I’ve never prayed before. I want him to turn the corner and regain consciousness. I’ve realised that I never want to be without him. I love him. Until this point I’d never given a name for what I’d felt for Max. The fluttering in the stomach, the wanting to be with him, the stolen kisses. If I’m honest, it scares me rigid of just how much I’ve felt on top of the world since our relationship has ramped up a gear. I’m in love with my billionaire and if anything were to happen, I don’t know what I would do… I don’t know long his body was lying there but I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t found him in time. I bite my lip and close my eyes briefly. Max’s mum and dad will be returning from the canteen with another cup of coffee and another snack I will have to force myself to eat just to be polite. Even for someone like me who likes to eat, food is no substitute for a worried mind. I can’t stand the inactivity, I want to do something, make Max better. I want to find out who did this and make them pay. “Ms Cavendish?” I look up, startled. It’s the doctor with the silver hair and glasses. My expression becomes one of eager anticipation, followed by a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. Please tell me good news, please. He smiles. “Mr Hunter is awake.” “Really?” I jump up from the chair. “Yes. He regained consciousness about ten minutes ago…” I stop listening to what the doctor is saying as the tears fall down my face with relief. I want to hug this man hard and his team for making sure Max is ok. “He is going to be ok, isn’t he?” “The initial signs are good. We’re going to run some more tests shortly but you might want to see him for a few minutes.” “Thank you. Thank you so much. When can he go home?” I want to look after him, feed him, and never let him out of my sight. I think I might have to go head to head with his mother over this. No doubt she’ll want to take Max back home with her. I don’t want to fallout with his mum, not so soon into our relationship, but she has to understand how much I love him. I need him — I need to be with him. “We’ll know the answer to that question once we’ve run more tests. If you like to follow me.” I trail behind the doctor and enter the intensive care ward making my way quickly to Max’s bed. He’s lying flat, his eyes half open. A bandage covers his dark hair. He moves his lips slowly when he sees me. “Ellie.” “Max,” I gulp, my tears making everything seem woozy. I hold his hand. “I can’t believe that you’re alive! I thought you were dead. You were so still, and you weren’t breathing…” He grips my hand hard. “As, you can see,” he croaks, “I’m still very much alive and kicking. I may be bruised all over with broken ribs but I’m not dead, yet.” “Don’t do that to me again! It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen when I saw you lying there.” I shake my head. This should be a happy moment, not one full of tears. I dry my eyes with a tissue from my handbag and blow my nose. “Your mum and dad are here, they’re still in the canteen. I’ll go and get them because I know they’ll be so relieved—” “No. Not yet. I don’t want Mum fussing,” he says softly with a grin. “You haven’t seen Mum in action when she’s doing her Florence Nightingale routine. It won’t be pleasurable being an invalid!” I smile back and grip his hand hard pleased that he seems to be ‘normal’, talking and even making jokes. “So, what happened? How did the burglars get in?” Max is very security conscious, his flat is like Fort Knox, but obviously something went wrong. It’s the first time that I fully appreciate how his wealth makes him a target for crime. “The police were here earlier. They wanted to speak to you but you were still unconscious—” “No police!” Max’s vehemence takes me by surprise. “But someone tried to hurt you. They left you there for dead. Who was it? Was it more than one person? They have to be brought to justice. How dare they! How dare they do this to you. I feel so angry, Max, just so angry!” He doesn’t answer but turns his head. I sit in silence conscious of Max’s breathing and the buzz of all the equipment still monitoring him. “Why are you being like this? Max, talk to me. What happened?” He turns his head slowly towards me. “Max? Tell me, what happened? Did you interrupt an attempted burglary? Did you walk in on them?” “It wasn’t a burglary. Someone wants me dead.”

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