Tiger Billionaire

By: Suki Selborne

Chapter 1

“Are you trying to pick a fight with me, Finola?”

Wayne pronounced my name sarcastically. He always did that when he was annoyed.

His face twisted into a half-smirk, half-grimace. And honestly, that was still not as offensive as his table manners.

I sighed.

“Just admit you’re trying to break up with me, Wayne. Be real about it.”

“There you go again, trying to rile me. Always trying to bring me down, aren’t you?”

Here it came. The ‘I could do better than you’ speech. Wayne had been tiptoeing around it since the day we got together, but he’d never quite said it out loud.

He shoveled a chunk of bread in, then chewed it with his mouth open. Nice.

“You think I’m out of your league. That’s why you’re so argumentative tonight. It burns you up inside that other women want me. Hot women.”

“You mean thin women.”

I rubbed my eyes, suddenly exhausted. This evening had been hard work. Just like my day at the office. If only I’d stayed home tonight.

He sat back in his chair, picking crumbs out of his teeth with his thumbnail. “Whatever you wanna call it.”

“No, you think you’re out of my league.” I held his stare. “You think because I’m not skinny, I should think myself lucky to have you. Don’t you?”

I knew this hit home, because he looked shocked when I said it. Shocked that I dared to call him out on it, not shocked because it wasn’t true. I knew it was true.

Then he recovered and just shrugged.

“Your words, babe. Not mine.”

He balled another handful of bread and threw it into his mouth.

Every other time we’d had this conversation, I’d go quiet about now. Then Wayne would sulk for the rest of the evening, like I had to win him over. Then he’d make pointed remarks about how much he’d spent on dinner, like he was hinting that he wasn’t getting value for money. Then we’d go back to his place and I’d feel silently grateful he hadn’t dumped me yet.

Then we’d have very brief, fumbling sex. We’d keep the lights off, so he didn’t have to look at my big Irish ass while he screwed me thinking of someone else.

Then the whole thing would start over a few days later.

But tonight, something inside me just snapped.

“You know what, Wayne?” I stood up so fast the chair clattered to the floor behind me. The waiter taking orders at the next table looked alarmed. “You’re right. You’re so goddamn right. I don’t deserve you.”

Wayne raised his eyebrows in that smug way again, but he hadn’t quite got it yet.

I set the chair back upright and pushed it under the table.

“I don’t deserve a boyfriend who makes me feel like shit because I’m not size six.” My purse was teetering on the edge of the table, so I tucked it under one arm. “I don’t deserve a boyfriend who looks at me like I’m a hog if I eat a donut. I don’t deserve a boyfriend who can’t look at me nude without telling me all my flaws. Actually, one who can’t look at me nude ever because it throws him off his game. I don’t deserve to feel like this at all any more. Nobody does, Wayne.”

I opened my purse and scrabbled for the few scrappy notes in my wallet. Then I lay them on the table in front of him.

He gaped at me blankly.

“What’s that for?”

“For dinner. So you don’t feel you were ripped off by the charity case you’re ashamed to admit you’re screwing.”

I was almost shouting now.

A phone rang and vibrated very loudly somewhere in the restaurant. Its insistent buzz threw me off-balance a little.

I gripped the back of the chair and took a deep breath.

“And now, Wayne? Now I’m going to leave you to all the hot women who want to worship your world-class body. Enjoy it. Don’t ever give your pitiful ex-girlfriend another thought.”

Without waiting for a response, I turned to leave, biting back the tears that threatened to dissolve my anger into self-loathing and shame. I threw open the door and stepped out into the night.

A hand reached out and stopped me before I could escape. It was the waiter.

“Look, I already paid,” I half-sobbed. “Go look. The money is on the table.”

“Your phone,” the waiter said, pressing it into my hand. “Didn’t you hear it back there?”

Damn. That ringing? That was my cellphone the whole time.

I took it and stumbled into the street, swallowing my pride and my embarrassment together. Two missed calls. No messages.

It rang again in my hand. This time, I answered before the voicemail clicked in.

“Is that Finola Malley? It’s Lucy, from the agency.”

“Oh, hey Lucy.”

I felt my stomach lurch. Why would the employment agency be calling me at eight o’clock on a Friday night? Surely this couldn’t be good.

If Lucy was about to tell me I was fired from my temporary job, I was going to be in big trouble. Like homeless and starving kind of trouble.

“Can you talk, Finola?”

“It’s, uh, yes, it’s fine. Is everything okay?”

“Sorry to call you on a Friday night. I’m sure you’re out partying. But this is an emergency, I’m afraid.”

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