I'm getting a few questions about my Billionaire series and thought I'd clarify:
1) Are these full novels? YES - don't let that $2.99 price fool you. It's a full length book!
2) Are these books taking place of the next Bluebonnet book? NO. I'm working on Grant and Brenna's book right now and it comes out in January. I actually just got some cute cover art for it, too!
3) Are these BDSM like 50 Shades? NO. If you like my Bluebonnet books, these are more of the same flavor. Just guys with bigger, uh, wallets.
4) Can I get this book on NetGalley if I'm a reviewer? HECK YES. It's right here: https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/show/id/28225
4) Can the rest of us get a sneak peek? YES, YES YOU CAN!
Even though the bar was thumping with loud music and the crowd was shoulder to shoulder, no one approached Logan Hawkings. He stood alone, an island of calm in a roiling sea of bodies. It might have been the “fuck off” expression on his face, or the crisp cut of his expensive tailored clothing that told people he didn’t belong in this neighborhood. It could have been because he walked with an arrogant swagger that made men get out of the way and women nudge their girlfriends with interest.
None of that mattered. He wasn’t here to socialize.
He moved past the bar, down a narrow hall to a back room. A man—tall, head shaven—stood in front of the door there. The guard wore sunglasses despite being indoors, a suit, and an earpiece with a black cord that wound behind his ear and around the back of his neck. His posture becoming alert, the bodyguard watched Logan as he approached.
With a practiced ease, Logan swept the second and third fingers of his right hand over his shoulder and then rested them on his biceps in the exact spot where his tattoo lay under his clothing.
The man nodded and stepped aside.
Logan pushed the door open and strode down the stairs into the basement. Already there was a thick haze of cigar smoke above the large green octagon table set up in the center of the room. A buffet had been set up off to one side and was being ignored. Beer bottles and poker chips littered the table. Ah, Brotherhood night. His favorite night of the week. Logan gave the room a quick once-over. Everyone was here already; he was the last one to arrive. No surprise there.
The men seated at the table were roughly the same age. All were clean-cut, fit and wore clothes that spoke of money. They all carried themselves with the confidence that success brought, though in some, the confidence was more swagger than anything.
Beside the empty chair held for him sat Hunter Buchanan, the scarred, silent real-estate tycoon, and Logan’s most trusted friend. Next to him sat Reese Durham, a young, brash man on the cusp of hitting his billion-dollar fortune. Beside him sat Griffin Verdi, English aristocracy and the ‘professor’ of their small group. Then was Jonathan Lyons, owner of Lyon Automotives and notorious adventurer and thrill seeker. At his side was Cade Archer, the philanthropist of their group.
The five men barely glanced up from their cards as he entered.
“You’re late,” Reese Durham told him, a cigar hanging from his mouth. He examined his cards, face impassive.
Logan slipped his jacket off and tossed it into a corner, then moved to the only empty seat at the table. Cade raised a hand in greeting. Logan grasped it and then turned to clap Hunter Buchanan on the back. The man’s scars looked hideous in the dim light of the room.
“About time you got here,” Cade said in a pleasant voice. “Reese was just asking about Gloria.”
Logan frowned, shaking his head as he sat down between the two men. “Gloria who?”
Reese grinned at him across the table. “You know. Stacked Gloria with the big blond hair. I guess you’re not seeing her anymore? You brought her to the Stewart fund-raiser a few months ago.”
Had he? Logan couldn’t recall. He hadn’t had a second date with anyone since . . . well, since Danica. Hadn’t been interested enough and hadn’t made the time. “I don’t recall a Gloria.”
“So you wouldn’t care if I dated her? I met her at a party the other night and wouldn’t mind seeing her again.”
“Care?” Logan snorted. “I can’t even recall her face. She’s all yours.”
“Did you know she’s a friend of Danica’s?” Reese asked.
“Then you’re more than welcome to her,” Logan said, his voice cool. “If she’s a friend of Danica’s, she can burn in hell for all I care.”
“Thought you’d say that,” Reese said cheerfully.
“Just do me a favor and don’t bring up Danica again,” Logan said, his tone friendly but with a touch of warning.
The last thing he wanted to do was discuss a money-grubbing gold digger. She was in his past, and he had no intention of dwelling on her. His father had mocked him for falling for Danica. He’d said that Logan was being a stupid fool. Turned out the old buzzard had been right all along.
And that grated more than anything.
“So what took you so long?” Hunter pulled out a stack of chips, glancing over at Logan.
A smooth, effortless change of subject. Logan turned to Hunter and gave the scarred man a check for his share that evening. Hunter added it to the bank and shoved the pile of chips in his direction.
“I have a new driver,” Logan said. “He got lost.” His tone implied that it wouldn’t happen again.
Reese snorted and shook his head. “Excuses, excuses.” He gestured at the pile of chips in the center of the table. “Everyone in?”
The six men consulted cards as they were dealt. As cards were laid face up, Cade immediately tossed a bid into the pile. Four of the men folded. “The paladin there’s got three of a kind showing,” Jonathan said with a disgusted glance at Cade. “You know he can’t lie to save his ass.”
Reese sighed and put his cards down as well, the last in besides Cade. “Hell, you’re right. I fold, too.”
Cade grinned and raked the money toward him. “I might have been bluffing.”
“You weren’t,” Jonathan said, and took another swig of his beer, then leaned back to the catering table and snagged one for Logan. “You don’t know how.”
“All right,” Logan said, taking the bottle and twisting off the cap. He took a quick drink. “Now that we’re all here . . . This month’s meeting of the brotherhood is called to order.”
The men raised their drinks, clinking bottles together. “Fratres in prosperitatem,” they all said in unison, as they did every month. It was the motto of their clandestine society—“Brothers in Success.”
“First order of business is the round table,” Logan said. “We’ll start with Jonathan.”
“Lyons Automobiles continues to sell strongly in all quarters. We’re looking at adding a line of high-end convertibles that will have an electric engine but with enough horsepower to compete at Daytona.” He grinned. “I’m thinking about driving one myself. I’ll spare you the technical details.”
“Please do,” said Griffin in his cultured, bored voice.
Jonathan was undeterred. He picked up his cards, beginning to deal the next hand. “Prototype won’t be ready until next quarter at the earliest, but when we roll them out for mass production, you’ll each get one, compliments of the brotherhood.”
He discussed his car business a bit longer as the hand went on and then turned to Griffin. “You’re up.”
Griffin shrugged, examining his hand. “It’s money. It accumulates on its own.”
“Says a man that grew up with wealth,” Reese pointed out. “Not all of us were so lucky.”
“It’s not my fault I was born rich. Besides, I invested in Cade’s medical research facility,” Griffin pointed out, waving an idle hand. “I’m doing something with my money, at least.”
“Reese?” Logan asked.
“My newest acquisition, the Vegas Flush, seems poised to take the Stanley Cup this year. You’re all welcome to tickets, of course. Just contact my secretary. I’m also looking at acquiring a football team.” He grinned. “Maybe soccer. It’s a sport that can grow here in the States. Might be a solid investment worth looking at if I can get a superstar player to get people into the stands. Still debating.”
They discussed sports teams for a bit and then went on to Cade Archer, who talked about medical breakthroughs at his research facility and some upcoming charity events. Cade was their white knight. He made money, but he insisted on it having some sort of higher purpose or focus on the good of mankind.
The rest of them? They just liked to make money.
Reese, Logan, and Griffin all took their turns, sharing any news of the week, and then the conversation moved on. Hunter was last, and he kept things brief, as he always did. The real estate tycoon man was never one for talking much. He just sat back and enjoyed the company of his brothers most meetings. Tonight, though, he had something to share, and his dark gaze moved to Logan as he spoke. “Got wind of an investment property if you’re interested. There’s a large resort on an island in the Bahamas that’s in need of a cash influx. Exuma District. I have a friend that’s willing to sell to an interested investor, and I think it could be a solid deal.”
Logan nodded, only half paying attention to his cards. It did sound like something up his alley. Hawkings Conglomerate was all about buying failing businesses on the cheap, turning them into profitable organizations, and then reaping the benefits from that. “Prime location?”
“So I’ve been told. Worth taking a look. There’s a French billionaire interested, but I thought I’d bring it to the brotherhood first.”
Logan grunted, considering. For Hunter to have brought it up, it must have been an excellent deal. Normally Hunter was silent. He contributed funds if one of the others needed cash flow to ensure that his business did well, but other than that he kept to himself. Logan admired that. The man was an island. Logan suspected that he didn’t have many—if any—friends outside of the brotherhood.
“I’m busy right now, but I’ll see if I can work it into my schedule,” Logan said with a nod.
“Maybe you should check it out and take a vacation at the same time,” Reese told him. “Get away from the office for a few days. Forget your troubles.”
Logan scowled at Reese, throwing his ante for that hand onto the table. “My troubles are long gone.” After all, he’d shaken off Danica before they’d ever made it to the altar—a bullet dodged. And his bastard of a father had passed away at about the same time. That was two millstones no longer around his neck.
Reese looked amused at Logan’s response, as if he didn’t believe him. “Oh, really? Because that’s not what—”
“Stay out of it,” Logan said in a warning tone.
Reese simply grinned and shrugged, turned his attention back to his cards. “Suit yourself.”
Logan did keep thinking about Reese’s words, though, and was distracted enough that he stayed in despite having a garbage hand. He ended up losing two grand to Jonathan without even realizing it.
Reese thought he should take a “vacation.”
He wanted to laugh at the thought. Successful men didn’t get vacations. They just got more opportunities. Still, it sounded like an interesting investment, and he liked to keep Hawkings Conglomerate diverse. An island resort was definitely diverse.
He noticed Hunter watching him out of the corner of his eye. Had the real estate mogul decided that he’d toss the gem Logan’s way because he thought Logan could do an admirable job of flipping it? Or did he, too, think Logan needed a distraction?
That thought made his mood sour. First Reese was needling him, and now Hunter was in on it? He wouldn’t have thought that of Hunter. He was the quietest of their small, successful group, but sometimes he saw straight into the heart of the matter.
His father would have sneered at the thought of a vacation. To stay strong and on top of business, you kept a close eye on things and one hand on the rudder at all times. Vacation made you weak. Soft. And Hawkings men weren’t soft. They had poor taste in women, though. His father had married his mother, and that had been a mistake for all parties. And Logan had almost been fooled enough by Danica’s sweet face to go to the altar with her.
Logan stared at his cards, frowning, and tried to conjure up the face of someone named Gloria. Nothing. His memory was full of business meetings and contracts. No women.
Maybe a vacation/business trip was just what he needed at the moment.
“I’ll take a look at it,” he told Hunter.
Two Months Later
“Hate to say it, girl,” Sharon told Brontë and flopped down on her queen-sized bed. “But this is the shittiest resort I’ve ever stayed in.”
“It was free,” Brontë replied, trying to keep the irritation out of her voice. “You can’t really complain about free. Epicurus said, ‘Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.’”
“Uh-huh,” Sharon said in a tone of voice that told Brontë that she wasn’t listening. Instead, she’d picked up the remote and, pointing it at the TV, began to hammer on the buttons. “They water down the drinks at the pool. Did you notice that?”
For the ninth time in two days, Brontë regretted bringing Sharon. When she’d won the trip through her local radio station, 99.9 Pop Fever, she’d been just thrilled to go. Her friends in Kansas City hadn’t been able to come, though—none of them could get off work. Her old roomies from college had “real” jobs with responsibility, and they couldn’t get away from work for a last-minute getaway vacation, no matter how free it was.
Seeing as how Brontë was a waitress at a diner, she had no problem getting the time off. She’d simply asked for someone else to cover her shifts. Sharon had overheard Brontë’s conversation, though, and just happened to have a passport and enough vacation time to be able to make the trip. She’d broken up with her boyfriend, and she could really use a few days away, and wouldn’t Brontë want company on the trip?
Sharon wasn’t Brontë’s favorite coworker, but they got along well enough. And Sharon had given her sad eyes and mentioned the trip so often that Brontë had felt guilty about letting a second ticket go to waste. So she’d relented and brought Sharon along.
After a rocky flight, during which Sharon had whined the whole time, a horrible ferry ride out to the island (Sharon had whined all the way through that, too), and now sharing the world’s smallest hotel room? Brontë was starting to think that next time she’d just go alone. Forty-eight hours with Sharon was about forty-seven too many.
Even though Brontë was determined to enjoy the vacation, Sharon was making it difficult. She was a slob. Her clothing and shoes were strewn all over the small room. She hogged the bathroom and used all the hot water and took all the towels. She’d stayed out all night the previous night partying without Brontë. And she’d nearly cleaned out the minibar already, despite the fact that Brontë had pointed out that it would be charged to Brontë’s credit card since the room was in her name.
“This place is a total roach motel,” Sharon said, tossing her suitcase onto the bed and throwing clothing onto the floor until she uncovered her pink bikini. “You should have asked them to upgrade you to the penthouse.”
“The radio station gave me the vacation. I couldn’t exactly demand anything.”
“I would have demanded a room larger than a closet!” Sharon stripped off her sundress and began to change.
Brontë went back to her guidebook, ignoring Sharon’s incessant complaining. So the resort was a little on the . . . rundown side. Seaturtle Cay in the Bahamas was still a win in Brontë’s eyes. It was free, for starters. She hadn’t spent a dime on travel or the hotel, thanks to the radio station. Which was a good thing, seeing as how she didn’t have two nickels to rub together. Mostly, it was just nice to get away from work. The beaches were gorgeous, and she’d seen a few advertisements for fun excursions like parasailing and snorkeling.
It just had to stop raining.
Brontë glanced out the window at the gray, gloomy skies and pouring rain. She sighed and flipped to the back of the guidebook, wondering if it included a list of rainy weather events.
Sharon finished adjusting her bikini and then glared out the window. “We’re not going to get one day of sunshine, are we?”
“I don’t know. I’m not a weatherman,” Brontë said without looking up, her voice as cheerful as possible. “Maybe you should go to the bar and see if anyone there has a weather report.”
“Now that sounds like a great idea.” Sharon put on a pair of enormous hoop earrings, slid into her sandals, and waved at Brontë. “I’ll be back soon. You want anything?”
Some peace and quiet? “I’m good.”
As soon as she was gone, Brontë exhaled in relief and stretched out on the bed. She grabbed a pair of earbuds and turned her music up to blot out the sound of her neighbors having sex—again. Brontë picked up her guidebook and flipped back to the beginning. A vacation was a vacation was a vacation, and she was going to enjoy this one, damn it. She turned a page. Swimming with stingrays. Huh. Maybe she’d try that. She glanced at the angry, cloudy sky again.
Just as soon as it was sunny.
A hand roughly jarred her awake from her nap. “Brontë! Ohmigod. Brontë! Wake up!”
She jerked up, tugging out the earbuds, only to see Sharon looming over her bed.
The other woman looked frazzled. “Did you not hear the loudspeakers?”
“Mmm? Loudspeakers?” Sure enough, there was a low tone echoing over and over. As she cocked her head to try to distinguish the sound, Brontë heard a voice chime in over the loudspeaker.
“Please make your way to the bus loading area,” it said, calm and smooth. “All guests will be transported to the evacuation site as soon as possible. Please remain calm and do not panic. There is plenty of time to evacuate the area prior to the hurricane. Refunds will not be issued. Guests will be given a voucher for a future visit.”
“Hurricane?” Brontë repeated slowly, as if trying to make the word register in her mind. “Are you serious?”
“Hurricane Latonya,” Sharon said, moving to her bed and throwing her suitcase onto the mattress. “Category three currently and heading toward category four or five. They’re evacuating this entire stupid island.”
A hurricane? It seemed ridiculous. Brontë had seen something about it on the news. Something like “not heading anywhere near the Bahamas.” The news was apparently a big fat liar.
She sat up in bed, alert. “Where do we go?”
“We’re all going to be shuttled over to a nearby cruise ship and taken back to the mainland.” Looking stressed, Sharon pulled a pair of jean shorts on over her bikini. “This whole vacation has been doomed.”
Brontë believed in making lemonade out of lemons as much as the next person, but she was starting to agree with Sharon. “I can’t believe the hurricane’s heading this way.”
“Yeah. It’s supposed to be a big one, too. Pack your stuff. We have to go.”
They packed quickly, Brontë far more than Sharon, who had crammed her suitcase full of clothing and shoes and now found it wouldn’t all fit back in since she’d purchased some things in the gift shop. Sharon spent a good twenty minutes deciding which outfits to take with her and which to leave behind, and wailing about all of it. Just when Brontë was about to leap over the bed and take over, Sharon said she was ready. Suitcases in hand, they made their way out of the room.
A sea of people wandered the hallways, tourists with suitcases and small children. People were crying and arguing, and everyone was shoving to get ahead. The line for the elevator stretched down the hall and the bland, too-calm evacuation message played over the loudspeaker over and over again.
“Stairs?” Brontë asked Sharon.
“In heels? Down twenty floors? Are you kidding me? We can wait for the elevator.”
Brontë bit back her retort. “Fine. We’ll wait for the elevator.”
They did, and had to wait nearly half an hour just to get on the stupid thing. They made it down to the lobby only to find that it was packed shoulder to shoulder with guests. It was a complete and utter mess, and Brontë’s stomach sank at the sight of it.
Sharon pushed her way forward, and Brontë followed her. There was a line of buses in the parking lot, barely visible through the relentless rain and the crowd of bodies waiting to get out of the hotel. One harried looking man with a clipboard was trying to keep order—and failing miserably.
As they stood waiting, a man with a Red Cross symbol on his rain slicker headed inside. “All right,” he yelled, and the room quieted. “We’re going to need you to form an orderly line. Have your identification and your passport out and available. We’ll be taking you all to a nearby cruise ship that has agreed to sail back to the mainland and out of the storm’s way. Again, please have your passport and identification ready.”
The crowd murmured, digging into pockets and pulling out wallets. Brontë pulled out her small purse and removed her passport and license.
Sharon got a panicked look on her face and started digging through her purse.
“Sharon?” Brontë said nervously. “What is it?”
“I can’t find my passport,” Sharon said, moving aside as the line of people surged forward to get onto the bus.
Brontë pushed her way to Sharon’s side, trying not to be annoyed. “Is it in your suitcase?”
“I don’t know! It should be in my purse.” Sharon opened her purse and began to dig out a random assortment of makeup and brushes. She dropped a lipstick, and it rolled away under a sea of feet. Sharon stared after it, her gaze full of longing. “Shit. I loved that color.”
“You can buy a new one,” Brontë told her, her patience nearly gone. “Find your passport.”
Sharon’s eyes widened. “Do you think it’s at the bar?”
“Either the bar or the room.” Seeing as how those were the only two places Sharon had been since they’d gotten to the resort.
“Bus number two is loading,” the man called. “Please form an orderly line for the evacuation!”
They ignored him. Sharon clutched a double handful of makeup and was still digging in her purse. “It’s not in here. Can you go back to the room and check?”
Brontë stared at Sharon. “Seriously?”
“Yes!” Sharon snapped, no longer bothering to be friendly. She stuffed the makeup back in and sat down on the floor, unzipping her luggage and ignoring the mob glaring at her. “I’ll check my suitcase here and then go to the bar and see if it’s there. We can save some time if you go double-check the room for me.”
“Line up for bus number three!” the man yelled.
“How many buses do they have?” Brontë asked nervously. “I don’t want to be left behind.”
“I’ll call your cell if I find it,” Sharon said. “Leave your suitcase here, and I’ll watch it for you.”
Brontë hesitated. She really didn’t want go hunting for the missing passport. Sharon had been awful to room with, and it had only been two days. Two very, very long days. She was almost at the point where she didn’t care if Sharon stayed or not. And now there was a freaking hurricane on the way, which just made things go from bad to worse. “There’s a hurricane, Sharon. I’m sure they’re not going to bother to check everyone’s passports. They’ll let you on without it.”
“Please, Brontë,” Sharon said, and her voice sounded tearful even as she began to rip her suitcases open and frantically dig into messy piles of clothing. “Help me, Brontë. It won’t take five minutes! I promise I won’t let them leave without you. Look at all these people standing here. It’s going to take them an hour to evacuate everyone.”
There were a lot of people, Brontë had to admit. And there had been a line at the elevator upstairs. It would take a while for the resort to clear out. She thought of the upset wobble in Sharon’s voice. Damn it. With a sigh, she pulled out her cellphone and waved it in front of Sharon’s face. “Call me the moment you find it,” she said in a firm voice. “Hurry,” Sharon told her.
No “Thank you.” No “I appreciate it.” No “You’re the best.” Just a “Hurry.” Figured. Parking her suitcase next to Sharon, she turned and ran for the elevator.
She was definitely going on the next trip alone.
The passport wasn’t in the room. At least, Brontë was pretty sure it wasn’t. It was hard to tell with the mess Sharon had made of things. But Brontë had dutifully upended the garbage can, searched through the assortment of half-used bottles in the small bathroom, shaken out every towel, and even looked between the mattresses.
And then, because she hadn’t gotten a call from Sharon and because she felt like she couldn’t go back without Sharon’s passport, she checked one more time. Anxiety made her stomach feel as if it were tied in knots. Were the buses still downstairs? They wouldn’t leave anyone behind, would they?
Brontë moved to the window and peered out, but it was raining even harder, the skies gray and dark. It was impossible to see anything out there except more rain.
She checked under the bed one last time and then couldn’t stand it any longer. She was just going to have to admit defeat. With a final glance at the empty room, Brontë closed the door behind her.
The hall was empty this time, but that annoying tone was still going off over the loudspeakers. Crossing her arms over her chest, she headed to the elevator and hit the button. She drummed her fingers as she waited, every second seeming like a million years. She checked the screen of her phone for a message from Sharon. Nothing.
The elevator door chimed. It opened slowly, revealing a lone occupant. A man in a double-breasted gray suit stood at the back of the elevator. There was a white name badge over one breast of his jacket, indicating that he worked at the hotel. He frowned at the sight of Brontë, looking as if he was incredibly annoyed that the elevator had bothered to stop on her floor.
Yeah, well, she was annoyed, too. Brontë stepped inside and smacked the lobby button, even though it was already lit up. She punched it a few more times for good measure. Great. She was probably in the elevator with the manager or something. She supposed it was lucky that she’d gone back to the room and not Sharon. If Sharon had seen the manager, she’d have filled his ears with complaints about how horrible the hotel was. The free hotel.
She stared at the buttons, watching them light up as the elevator moved down. Twenty floors, and she’d been on the nineteenth. The man on the elevator must have been in the floor above her. The penthouse. If she had to guess, Brontë would have assumed those guests had been evacuated first. Maybe the manager had gone up to count the bathrobes or something.
They were evacuating the entire island. Good lord. So much for her fun, relaxing vacation. She’d been trying so hard to make this vacation enjoyable, and it had fought her at every turn, as if determined to suck, and hard. So much for “fun” or even “relaxing.” Brontë’d never felt so stressed out in her entire life.
A freaking hurricane. The perfect way to cap off the world’s most horrible vacation.
The elevator panel lit up on two. Brontë drummed her fingers on her arm, waiting for it to roll over to one. And waited . . .
And waited . . .
The elevator shuddered just as the power went out. The elevator car was plunged into darkness, and Brontë lost her breath, terror gripping her.
“Great,” the manager said behind her. “Just fucking great.”
A hysterical giggle rose in Brontë’s throat. Nope. That was the perfect way to cap off the world’s most horrible vacation.