Some books are a fast, headlong rush on a straight, level highway through the night with no distractions, fog, or turns to worry about. Other books are a slow progress up a towering mountain. The air is fine and thin. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe. But you keep pushing forward, even if you can’t tell that you moved at all.
Billionaire #2 was the latter. I’ve been slowly whittling away at it for months. But I never had the huge glorious word counts until the last two weeks. For whatever reason, the book was a slow one. It made for a few crazy big days, but I finally finished the book over lunch today, and completed my first read thru tonight while the Chiefs played. I’d already edited the first 100+ pages or so. I just had to finish, first, and then go back and smooth all the edges together.
So tomorrow I’ll try and read thru again, make sure all my eyes are dotted and my tees crossed, and then Diana and Jackson will be off to my editor. I’ve got edits due back on Mama C, so I’ll grind through them and ship them back quickly too.
Now, for a snippet, since I don’t think I’ve shared much, if any, of this book.
~ * ~
Jackson Montgomery Warring hesitated before passing the stack of documents over to his client. “As both your personal and corporate attorney for more than a decade, I strongly advise you against this.”
Donovan Morgan, CEO of Morgan Industries, leaned back in his chair and smiled at his old friend. They’d known each other since Harvard, and though Jackson had gone on to work for one of the country’s largest law firms, he still handled Donovan’s business personally. “I know what I’m doing.”
Shaking his head, Jackson handed him the stack of documents. “As you wish. At least you’re keeping me as your executor. If anything happens to you, one Lilly Harrison—”
“Soon to be Mrs. Morgan,” Donovan clarified.
“Will be the sole inheritor of your entire estate, regardless of your married status at your death. There aren’t any provisions to keep her from taking you to the proverbial cleaners if you divorce before that time, either, regardless of the cause for separation.”
Donovan signed and initialed each page quickly without reading any of it.
“Does she know you’re doing this for her?”
“No. But I’d greatly appreciate it if you could drop a hint or two about it at dinner.” Just thinking about her fury—and the resulting punishment she’d dole out for giving her literally every single dime he had—made him shiver. “The results will be spectacular”
Jackson checked his watch and took the papers back. “Sorry, Donovan, but I’m due back in Chicago.”
“Dinner,” Donovan insisted. “I haven’t seen you other than a quick sign here and here in months. Aren’t you even going to meet Lilly and offer your congratulations in person?”
His friend sighed without answering, shuffling through his briefcase. Jackson always looked tired. Who wouldn’t after working at least eighty hours a week for most of his life? But there was an edge to him that had Donovan worried. Although not a single hair or thread was out of place, grim lines bracketed Jackson’s bloodshot eyes and he’d hardly met his gaze all afternoon. It was just a gut feeling, something he’d suspected for a long time. Ever since I realized what kept me on the edge, so hard and miserable and alone.
“It’s not a good time for me to be out of the office.”
“Want to talk about it?”
Jackson smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes. “I’m sure you’re dying to hear about all the office back stabbing and shark-infested waters at Larsen & Montgomery.”
“Sure. Even better if you tell both Lilly and me. She’s much more devious than I am.”
A tiny spark fired in Jackson’s eyes. “More devious than you? I find that hard to imagine.”
Standing, Donovan gathered his own briefcase. “Absolutely. Though I ought to warn you that she does tend to curse quite a lot. Come on, man, we haven’t just sat and drank a few beers and talked in years. You owe me.”
He lead the way to the elevator, pausing at his secretary’s desk to get Monday’s meeting schedule she’d already prepared. Rachel Addison was proving herself to be imminently more qualified to be his personal assistant than the last woman he’d hired. She’d tried to blackmail him with a few lewd pictures. Luckily Lilly had found Miss Addison herself and he couldn’t be more pleased. And no, his fiancee hadn’t gone out in search of the homeliest woman she could find. Miss Addison was quite easy on the male persuasion’s eyes and she didn’t quake if Donovan raised his voice. In fact, he was pretty sure she’d promised to call Lilly each time he lost his temper and he’d sorely pay for that loss of control later. He made a mental note to see if he could earn some punishment next week. If Jack would come to dinner and admit why he was in town, Donovan would be covered for a week. At least. In bruises.
It was all he could do not to race for the elevator doors and leave his friend to flirt with his assistant. She was a beautiful, intelligent woman but she didn’t do a thing for Donovan. She wouldn’t have made him blink an eye even before Lilly. She didn’t have the kind of power he craved.
“Look how easy I’m making your job in handling my estate,” he said. “I’m not even asking you to write up a lengthy pre-nup.”
“Haven’t I taught you anything about being attorney yet? It’s all about the billing, and you’re doing me no favors by making my job easy.”
“At this point in your very lucrative career I don’t think missing out on a few hours of billing is going to hurt your bottom dollar.” Donovan turned his attention to his secretary. “Is Mr. Warring’s hotel room taken care of?”
“Of course, Mr. Morgan.” She didn’t even glance at her boss—she was too busy making starry eyes at Jackson. She rose up out of her chair and slid an envelope containing the room card toward him, flirtatiously keeping her finger on it. Her clothes were more office appropriate than the killer heels and short leather skirt that Lilly had once worn in to make him drool, but the silk blouse was low cut enough to give Jackson a good look at her cleavage. If he was paying attention. “I’ve booked the best suite for him the entire weekend at the Saint Paul Hotel as you asked.”
Jackson didn’t even notice. He must be sick or nearly dead. After the years he’d seen Jackson with the ladies back in college, he knew damned well his friend was straight. So maybe he’s no longer into vanilla women, either. There was only one way to find out. He’d have to see if he could get Lilly to give a small—extremely modest—demonstration and then watch Jack to see how he reacted.
“I can’t do the whole weekend. Maybe dinner, assuming there’s a later flight out, but you’ll owe me a ride to the airport.”
Donovan picked up the envelope for him and slipped it inside his coat. “Gladly, as long as its Sunday afternoon at the earliest.”
Ignoring his protests, Donovan took the skyway toward his parking ramp. “I’m seriously worried about you, Jack.”
“My secretary would give her right arm to have you smile at her and you didn’t even know she was alive, let alone notice the double Ds she tried to show you. Since when does Hollywood Warring miss out on a pretty girl?”
Jackson let out a startled laugh that was more genuine than anything Donovan had heard from him all afternoon. “Hollywood?”
“Isn’t that what they used to call you in your frat house? All that golden boy charm and slick tongue. You had all the ladies standing in line.”
“I haven’t heard that in a long, long time.” Jackson smiled but it was tinged with sadness. “Those were the good old days, Donnie and Jack running amok on campus.” When Donovan took him to his car, Jackson paused, eyes narrowed. “I thought you lived in downtown St. Paul.”
“Not any longer. Get in. It’s just a short drive.” While he waited for his friend to get settled, Donovan called home. “Is Lilly there yet?”
“No, sir,” Chris replied over the car speakers. “Jacob is already waiting for her at the warehouse, though. Should I send him in to bring her home?”
“Yes. I’m on my way with guest in tow.” Donovan hung up and caught his friend studying him. “What?”
“Your fiancee is at a warehouse and you have to send someone in to get her? Sounds weird, my friend.”
“Jacob’s her driver.”
“She needs a babysitter? What kind of woman are you marrying?”
Backing the car out and heading for the ramp exit, Donovan snorted. “Don’t you dare tell her that on top of the other reason you’re in town or I’ll be in big trouble.” I probably wouldn’t be able to sit for a month. “She’s working on a stained glass project I commissioned back in July and she gets very involved in her work.”
“So involved she needs a driver. And you have a…what, butler? At home?”
“She doesn’t drive and she doesn’t cook.”
“What does she do?”
Donovan had to swallow, his hands gripping the wheel firmly. You have no idea, my friend. You couldn’t possibly imagine what she does for me. “She loves me. That’s all I need.”