Read an Excerpt
The Mistaken Billionaire
The Muse Series
By Lexxie Couper, Heidi Shoham
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Lexxie Couper
All rights reserved.
"I look like a slutty Jessica Rabbit."
Mila shot her rearview mirror a quick glance. Seriously, had she ever worn so much eye-makeup before?
Through the car's speaker, Josie laughed. "That's the point, sister of mine. Although, by definition, Jessica Rabbit is slutty."
"No, no." Mila grinned, navigating through the quiet Upper West Side — what was it with people in this part of New York and their crazy parking? "Jessica was misunderstood. Her heart belonged to her true love, Roger. Everything she did, she did for him."
"Mila, remind me again why you're not married with multiple babies by now? You're a soppy romantic by nature."
Mila rolled her eyes, weaving around the cars lined up along the tree-lined curb. "I don't have time for romance. And I have other more important things to spend my energy on. Speaking of which, remember the reason why I'm dressed like I am. Because you promised a percentage of your next ticket box sales will go to the laptop fund if I come to your party. I even put contacts in tonight, and you know how much I hate contacts."
"Yeah, yeah, I haven't forgotten." Glasses and china chinked and clinked in the background. "Although I still think it's sad the only reason you get dressed up is to raise money for a group of kids."
Mila scowled a little. One of these days, Josie would get it. She hoped. "Because these kids deserve access to laptops just as much as the rich kids in private schools do. And speaking of rich kids, are you sure you've sent me the correct address? Why are you having a wrap party in the Upper West Side?"
"The Upper? Mila, where are you? I didn't say Upper West Side. I said Lower East Side."
Lower ... "Are you ... Oh crap."
Gales of laughter filled her Hyundai. "Oh my God, sis. For a teacher, you are woeful at listening sometimes. Were you this bad when you were a journalist?"
"And that ends our conversation." Mila scrunched up her face and shook her head. Seriously? Josie was going to poke that old wound? "I'll see you when I get there, brat."
"Love you, sis." Kissing noises peppered the air. "See you soon."
Called ended, Mila shook her head again. Okay, first things first. Find a place to park, then check the address Josie had sent her, enter the new destination into her car's GPS and —
Something small and distinctly dog-shaped ran out in front of her.
"What the hell?" She hit the brakes. Hard.
The Hyundai's tires screeched. Her teeth clicked as the abrupt stop rattled her bones. In front of her car, the Boston Terrier wagged its tail at her and barked, a heartbeat before an oncoming car blasted its horn and sent the poor thing scampering away.
"Oh no." Mila scrambled out of her car.
The oncoming car sped past, its driver shouting something at her she ignored. The dog bolted up the road, tail between its legs.
She ran after it. Stopped, kicked off her stilettos, and ran again. Where did it go? Where did it —
"There." Her heart pounded fast in her throat. Slowing down, she approached the low, leafy bush on the edge of what looked like a small park.
The dog looked out at her from beneath the foliage, eyes wide and shining.
"Hey there, boy." She crouched, holding out her hand. "Are you a boy? I'm going to call you a boy until I know otherwise, okay?"
The dog yapped at her and cocked its head to the side.
"Are you lost?" She lowered herself onto her knees. Thank God, she'd eighty-sixed the fishnets Josie had sent with the dress. "I'm lost. Want to help me not be lost?"
The dog yapped again. The leaves behind it rustled. Tail wagging. A good sign. Now, if she could only rescue the damn thing before someone stole her car.
Inching forward on her knees, she lowered her hand. The bush snagged at her hair with a tug and scrape.
And there goes my do. What will Josie say about the way I look now?
A low chuckle bubbled from her and she smiled at the dog. "When my sister goes ballistic, I'm blaming —"
The dog launched itself at her.
"Hey!" She tumbled backward. Dull pain detonated in her ass as she hit the ground.
The dog leaped on her, licking at her face, long whip-like tail lashing at her knees.
"Okay, okay." She scooped it off her, laughing. "No kissing. Not until you've bought me dinner first."
Straightening to her feet, squirming dog tucked to her side, she brushed the grass and dirt off her butt. Josie was going to kill her. When it came to evening dresses, Josie was designer label all the way.
"Now, let's find out who you belong to, fella." She checked the tag hanging from the dog's collar. The dog, enthralled with the game, did its best to lick her hand and face.
"What kind of person names a cute little Boston Terrier, Reaper?"
Reaper swiped his tongue up the side of her face.
She laughed, wiped at her cheek, and then read the rest of the tag. "Hmmm, whoever owns you needs to buy you a new tag. Some of the phone number is worn away, but the address ..." She frowned. Wasn't she already on the street listed on the tag? Or near it?
Snuggling the dog closer to her, she headed back to her car. "Let's get you home, Reaper."
Reaper yapped and whacked her ribs with his tail.
Thank God, no one had stolen her shoes or her car during the rescue. She tossed her heels onto the front passenger seat, gently placed the quivering, excited dog next to them, and then climbed behind the wheel.
"Just let me park legally." She grinned at Reaper as she put her Hyundai into gear. "Then we'll find out how far away from home you really are."
Reaper barked his approval.
And at the cars passing them as she navigated into the first spot she came upon.
And at the elderly couple walking arm-in-arm on the sidewalk, their smiles only for each other.
A pang of something tight shot through Mila's chest. Josie was right. She was a romantic. The notion of true love made her ache. But she was also pragmatic and a realist. True love was all well and good, but honestly? What were the chances she was going to find it?
Reaper bounced onto her lap when she killed the engine, mashing his muzzle against the window a few times even as he tried to lick her face at the same time.
She laughed, calming him down with a gentle pat. "I've got to give you points for enthusiasm, boy. Now, let's see if we can work this phone number out first."
She checked his tag again. The fourth digit could be a three or an eight. "Let's try three."
Three went to a woman who didn't own a dog, never owned a dog, and no way in hell would ever own a dog.
"Okay." Mila raised her eyebrows at Reaper. "Clearly not your owner. Let's try eight."
She dialed the numbers, scratching behind Reaper's ear.
"You've reached Thomas St. Clair," a deep smooth male voice stroked her ear through the connection. "Leave a message."
A chill razed her flesh, followed instantly by a rush of prickling heat.
She killed the call with a stab of her thumb, pulse pounding in her temples.
Thomas St. Clair. The dog was Thomas St. Clair's dog?
Of course. Who else would own an adorable, playful Boston Terrier and call it Reaper but St. Clair, the master of horror, the famous author notorious for being as enigmatic as his books were successful, a man who shied away from public attention and refused to ever give a serious answer when he was in the public eye.
Thomas St. Clair, the man responsible for the death of her journalism career.
The man who had changed her entire life without even once —
Reaper scrambled onto her lap and licked her face.
A shaky laugh fell from her. Did he sense she was unsettled? She scooped him up, gave him a gentle hug, and returned him to the passenger seat. Her heart raced. A hot lump sat low in her stomach.
"Thomas St freaking Clair."
Reaper let out a playful yap at her groan.
Entering the address on Reaper's tag into her car's GPS, she scratched behind his ears again. Could it be possible? Could Fate do this to her? Maybe she'd guessed the numbers wrong? After all, the tag was worn and scratched quite a bit.
Once again, Reaper barked, tail slapping the seat back.
Head spinning, she smiled at him. "I like you. If I had time for a dog, I'd get one like you. Maybe I should steal you from St. Clair? Revenge for how he treated me all those years —"
Reaper scurried onto her lap and licked her face.
She grinned, heart still thumping. "Thank you."
A little black and white checked flag popped up on the screen. "Okay, we are close. Only a block. Shall we walk or drive?"
Reaper yapped and whacked her with his tail.
"Walk it is. Let's go get you home, fella." She opened her door. "And give your owner a piece of my mind about your tag."
Oh boy, this was going to be ... interesting.
* * *
Hell. There was no going back now. The demon's blood flowed through his veins and he —
"He what?" Thomas St. Clair wriggled his fingers over the keyboard. "He tore apart? He burned? He ... he ..."
"Fuck. What did he do?" He wriggled his fingers again. Placed them on the keyboard and started typing.
He called his local Amway representative and ordered laundry detergent.
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.
Ramming his middle finger to the delete key, he erased the ridiculous words. Amway representative. Was Amway even a thing these days?
"Note to self. Find out if Amway is a thing."
He stared at his computer, a hot pressure wrapping around his chest. Okay, time to get serious. It's not like the manuscript was due in a month or anything.
Oh, that's right. That was exactly when it was due. A glance at the word count at the bottom of the screen sent a cold lick through him.
Goddamn it. Sixty thousand words still to write. By his estimate. Probably more like seventy thousand, what with the way his protagonist was fucking about instead of getting on with things. How the hell was the plot going to progress if his goddamn golden-boy hero, fallen-angel protagonist refused to freaking — He shoved his chair backward as he straightened to his feet.
This wasn't getting him anywhere. Perhaps it was time to admit what he'd been avoiding for way too long now.
The words just weren't coming. Hadn't been coming. For a long time now.
Downstairs, his smartphone rang. And rang. And fell silent.
Glaring at his screen and the flashing cursor mocking him on it, he let out a rough breath. Drink. Food. Maybe a walk with Reaper. Or a run by himself. Something to clear his head. Perhaps he should buy a new car? Were there any Ferrari dealerships open at — he checked his watch — seven fifteen on a Friday night in the Upper West Side?
Hell. There was no going back now. The demon's blood flowed through his veins and he — The unfinished sentence taunted him. The world's most successful horror novelist. The man who'd first hit the New York Times bestseller list at eighteen.
"Fuck." He snagged his chair and dropped back onto it, rolled it closer to his desk, and placed his fingers on the keyboard again. "You can do this, St. Clair. You're a goddamn international sensation. You can finish this book. Or at least this goddamn sentence."
Hell. There was no going back now. The demon's blood flowed through his veins and he —
"Called his agent and informed her he was quitting and becoming a professional dog groomer instead." He pushed away from his desk, huffed at the absurd — and yet somehow appealing — sentence, and stormed from his office. Reaper would love it if he became a dog groomer.
Okay, so he would go buy a Ferrari and one of those mobile dog bath trailers and hit the streets. Good plan. After he got out of this tux and made himself a PBJ, that was.
He headed for his bedroom, tugging at the black tie knotted around his neck. No point in going to a dinner honoring him if he couldn't finish a simple sentence.
Darth Vader's theme from Star Wars wafted up the stairs from the living room, bringing him to a halt at his bedroom door. His agent. Had she been the one calling earlier? Why was she calling now? To remind him of the dinner? To ask how the words were going?
How were the words going? He shook his head, and hurried down stairs. Amazingly. Unbelievably. Best stuff he'd ever written.
Reaching his smartphone where it sat in its dock, he let out a dry laugh. "Yeah, I'm fucked."
Hell. There was no going back now. The demon's blood flowed through his veins, and he offered his agent thirty percent to forget he ever existed.
"Thomas St. Clair," he said into his phone, gut clenching. "Writer of words."
"Tommy," Shelby Newell — agent extraordinaire and sometimes-soulless ghoul — gushed through the connection. "I'm about to head into the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel so I'm sorry if I drop out, but I just wanted to check everything is good for this evening."
He flicked his computer monitor a look, inspecting his reflection on its dark surface. "I'm dressed. Just waiting for my date to get here and fix my tie."
"Excellent. Now about that" — static scratched his ear — "hope to sort it out soon."
"What was that?" He frowned. "Are you in the tunnel already?"
"Yes. Just a"— more static —"see if I can —"
The line died.
He frowned at his phone. Sort what out soon?
"Doesn't matter." He shook his head. "I'm not going anyway."
Cancel my date. He tapped out the text to Shelby. I'm staying in to write.
Write. Yeah, sure. Watch bad TV with Reaper, more like it. After buying the Ferrari and registering his dog grooming business. "Reaper?" His shout echoed around his house as he made his way to the kitchen. "How do you feel about becoming the spokesmutt for a business called Doggy Style?"
Doggy Style? He snorted. Man, he should be a writer.
Silence greeted his call. Frowning, he cocked his head, waiting for the distinct click-click of Reaper's claws on the polished floorboards.
No click-clicks. No happy yaps. No crashing of furniture.
His frown deepened. When was the last time he'd seen him? When his housecleaner was here? When was that? Over an hour ago?
He ground his teeth. "Goddamn it, the little bastard's got out a —"
His doorbell chimed.
He hurried down the stairs to the front door, yanking his undone bowtie free from around his neck. No words coming, a deadline looming, pretentious dinner he really didn't want to attend, and now his escape artist of a dog on the loose — again. Not the best Friday night he'd had, that's for certain.
"Maybe I shouldn't have cancelled my date." He wrapped his fingers around the doorknob. "Maybe we could have gone dog hunting together instead."
He opened the door wide. And forgot how to breathe.
"Is this your dog?"
He stared at the woman standing on the other side of his front door holding a squirming, panting, tail-wagging Reaper in her exquisite bare arms, her mesmerizing grey eyes full of consternation.
My God, she's stunning.
And familiar somehow. Or maybe that was just his sexual fantasies talking.
A shimmering blood-red dress hugged her tall, svelte body and delicious curves, its high hem revealing thighs that spoke of a love of good food, and an equal love of yoga, or running, or getting hot and sweaty in some form of exercise. Burnished copper-red hair tumbled around her face and shoulders in a mess of waves that only served to highlight how incredibly creamy her skin was. She was a picture of sexual perfection — a picture made even more sublime by the twigs and leaves clinging to strands of her hair and the dirty smudges on her knees.
She moves like smoke, following him, tracking him. Demon blood or no, the carnality of his reaction to her terrified him.
Thomas blinked. Words. Words in his head. Holy fuck, words. New words.
"You're early," he blurted. "And you have Reaper."
The sexual goddess frowned. "Early?"
"For dinner." He ran his gaze over her, taking her all in. Sex and sin and wicked thoughts and dirty deeds. That's what she was. When he'd asked Shelby to organize a plus-one for him for the dinner, he hadn't expected someone so ... so ...
"You are gorgeous."
The woman's eyebrows shot up. She hugged Reaper closer to her chest, causing the curve of her breasts to push up higher in the plunging neckline of her dress. "I'm sorry?"
"Gorgeous. Stunning. And perfect. But early." He glanced at his watch. "Thirty minutes early. No matter. You've returned Reaper and ..." Words and sentences flowed through his head. The grey fog shrouding his plot grew thin. The demon blood could make his fallen angel question everything. Rather than succumb, perhaps he could —
"I think you have me —"
He didn't let her finish. Instead, he grinned. "Come in. Come in. Let's get the dog out of your arms. Where was he? In the park down the road? He likes that park. There's a tree there he's particularly fond."
Excerpted from The Mistaken Billionaire by Lexxie Couper, Heidi Shoham. Copyright © 2017 Lexxie Couper. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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