The Billionaire's Kiss

By: Avery James

Prologue


Logan Harris poured himself a pint. The dark amber ale foamed up over the lip of the glass and splashed onto his fingers as he placed it down on the bar. It was well past midnight, and, though the staff still needed to make the final preparations for the next day's grand opening, Logan had asked everyone to leave early. He liked to spend one last night alone in every empty space before opening it to the public.

If he breathed in deeply enough, Logan could still smell the sawdust from construction mixing with the warm ocean air. The brewery had been built at a breakneck pace in order to open for summer. The time from permitting to completion had been a record, and yet no detail had been spared. Logan had personally inspected every inch of the facility from the tap lines to the shingles.

The copper brew kettles gleamed in the dim light. Everything was in place. Everything was perfect. Logan took his pint, headed out onto the deck, leaned over the railing and watched the lights of a lone boat passing in the channel. Everything was ready. Every beam, every brick, every draft line and tabletop was perfect. He took a long, slow sip of the beer and placed it down. Tomorrow night’s grand opening would be perfect, and soon he'd have to find some new project somewhere else. He watched the far-off passing lights and felt the cold ocean wind blow past his body. Logan ran his fingers through his tousled blond hair and kept his eyes on that ship.

He was going to do this one right. He was going to learn from his mistakes in Jackson Hole and Denver. He wasn’t going to self-destruct once the hard part of the work was over. He wasn’t going to treat his work like one giant party, drinking to excess and sleeping around. He wasn't going to slip back into those old habits. "This time will be different," he told himself. "This time, you'll find what you're looking for." This vow had become as much of a tradition for him as the first drink. "This time will be different," he said one more time. As Logan turned back inside to lock up for the night, he had no idea how right he was.





One


Callie leaned over her drink and feigned interest in the handsome man sitting across from her at the bar. The pulsing blue lights of the club lit up his face and gave his eyes an otherworldly glow. Gavin Hughes was handsome. He was the right age for her. He even had the right job: chief of staff for an up-and-coming Congressman. There was only one problem: he was a blackmailer. Why do all the handsome guys have to be such creeps? she wondered. Ok, there were other problems, too. Mainly, he was boring. How can a handsome criminal be so completely uninteresting? She had been flirting with him for over an hour, and she was struggling to keep the conversation going. The loud house music made it hard enough to hear her own thoughts, never mind Gavin's voice. "So what makes you tick?" she shouted to him.

"Same thing as everyone else,” he said. He puckered his lips in a half grin.

"Happiness?" Callie asked. She wanted to say "a chance at finding love?" Instead, she threw up her hands and added, "Money?"

"Power," Gavin said, moving closer to Callie, close enough that she could smell his cologne and the hint of vodka on his breath. He placed his hand on her shoulder and smiled like her reluctance to pull away was some kind of consent to his creepiness.

One drink in, and Callie could already tell this was going to be a long night. In her three years at her sister’s company Haven Communications, Callie had played many roles — lawyer, investigator, spokesperson — but there was one role she never particularly liked playing: decoy. Tonight, she felt more like the bait than the decoy, and Gavin looked ready to devour her.

The worst part was that this whole thing had been her idea. Callie had been taking on more and more responsibility over the past year, and she was anxious to prove that she could deal with every problem her clients had. With her sister almost due to give birth to her first child, Callie was poised to start running the entire organization. She just had to get through this night first.

Her official objective for the night was to glean as much information from Gavin as possible without letting him know what she was doing. Unofficially, she was just stalling Gavin long enough for her co-worker Rich to go through his place and search for a hard drive containing certain compromising photos of a Senator's daughter. He would also be looking for any compromising photos of Gavin for insurance, none of which was exactly legal.

Not that Gavin deserved the protection of the law. Callie was sick of playing defense with jerks like Gavin. She wanted to go on the offensive and keep him from creating headaches about her clients for the foreseeable future. If only she didn't have to sit so close to him, the whole thing would have been fine. Gavin leaned in a little closer and rubbed Callie's shoulder. "You look so sweet, but I bet you have a bad side. Why don't we go back to my place so we can see just how bad you can be?"

Wow, this guy didn't waste time. Callie had to do everything within her power not to run out of the bar, screaming "Creep! Creep!" at the top of her lungs. Instead she mustered a smile. "We could hang out here for a bit longer,” she said as innocently as possible. “After all, I wouldn't want to be one of those women who just gives in to her urges. I'd hate for you to lose any respect for me." The only urge Callie had was to slap him.

Gavin laughed. "Like I said before, people in this town only respect one thing: power. If I were hanging out on the street in cargo pants and a t-shirt, you wouldn't have given me the time of day. But you came over and talked to me. Now why is that? It's all about power and the perception of power."

Wardrobe be damned. If it weren’t her job to stall this creep, she'd keep her distance no matter what he was wearing. She imagined throwing her drink in his face and smiled. "And what power do I have?"

"The ability to give me what I want,” Gavin said.

"That's funny," Callie replied. "I was thinking the same thing about you." She leaned forward, suppressed her gag reflex, and kissed him on the cheek. "I'll be back in a minute. And, don't worry; I always get what I want."

Callie skirted the edge of the dance floor and made her way over to the women’s bathroom. She wondered how long she could hide out there before Gavin decided to give up on her. She paced back and forth along the length of the bathroom, clacking her heels against the polished concrete floor. She hated everything about the club, the stupid throbbing lights, the cold, industrial aesthetic, the terrible, dead-eyed women and men obsessed with showing off their newfound wealth and status. Soon enough, she'd have to touch up her makeup to give herself an excuse for running off.

Callie pulled out her phone and checked for any messages. Rich was taking too long. If she didn’t hear back from him soon, she’d have to take drastic steps. She counted the seconds as she paced and wondered whether or not Rich had finished his job. She could feel the first pangs of a headache starting to pulse deep behind her eyes. She rubbed her temples and tried to calm herself. Why hadn’t he called yet?

She stepped up to the sink and placed her purse on the counter, grabbing some blush and patting her cheeks. Well, that killed about ten seconds, she thought. She looked down at her phone again. Rich should have been done. Callie looked over at the tall blonde next to her. The woman's dress was so tight that it looked like an anatomy lesson. Callie pretended to fiddle with her makeup and stole a glance at the blonde. She looked to be about forty, no ring on her finger, and enough makeup to hide the wrinkles starting to form around her eyes. Is this what I'm in for? Callie wondered.

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