Of course, the day I finally meet a super hot billionaire in a killer suit, the only thing I feel is an overwhelming desire to punch him in the dick.
I can’t stand rude people, and he’s seriously dimming my holiday spirit.
It’s already suffering. I’d do almost anything for my family—and they know it—which is why I’m currently navigating a previously undiscovered level of hell ten days before Christmas. And a winter storm is forecast to hit any minute, so that’s a fun bonus.
The Manchester-Boston Regional Airport isn’t actually hell, of course. It’s really nice, to be honest. And it isn’t previously undiscovered, either, considering how many people have bumped into me. I’d rather be almost anywhere else.
But it’s my aunt’s first holiday since losing her husband (to another woman, but we don’t talk about that) and my cousin bought Aunt Marilyn a plane ticket to Georgia so she can spend Christmas with her. Aunt Marilyn asked my mother for a ride to the airport, and since I drive a Jeep and my mom signs my paychecks, I got volunteered.
“At least she’s not flying out of Logan, so you don’t have to drive to Boston,” my mom had said when I gave her the classic sigh-and-eye-roll combination daughters master well before adolescence and rarely outgrow.
Aunt Marilyn’s through security and officially out of my hands, so it’s time to caffeinate and get out before the picturesque flurries I arrived in turn treacherous. I’ve almost reached the tail end of the line for coffee when a raised male voice catches my attention.
Nearby, a tall man with dark hair in a sharp business suit is arguing with two airport employees. They look tired and he looks angry, and I frown. Jerks who take their anger out on people who don’t deserve it is definitely near the top of my pet peeves list, along with people who don’t like dogs and shoppers who put unwanted groceries back on the wrong shelves.
He’s undeniably attractive—physically, at least—and I wander a little closer as I listen to the exchange. It sounds like he left something on the plane, and there’s a procedure for dealing with that. I get the impression the employees have explained the procedure to him several times already, but apparently he thinks he’s special.
“Why won’t anybody help me?” he demands, not yelling exactly, but definitely with an aggressiveness in his tone.
“Maybe because you’re being a jerk,” I say loudly, unable to help myself. “But hey, there’s still time for the Ghost of Christmas Future to visit and show you the error of your ways so you can stop making everybody else’s holiday stress worse because you can’t keep track of your carry-on crap.”
He turns to face me and I brace myself for a blast of the airport equivalent of road rage. At least he won’t be unleashing it on people who can’t dish it back to him without losing their jobs, though.
The man looks at me, his blue eyes so intense I shiver, and I wait for the yelling to start. Instead, he deflates slightly—there’s no other word for the way his expression and tense body soften—and runs his hand over his hair. Judging by its messy state, it isn’t the first time he’s done it today.
Then he turns back to the employees he’s been arguing with. “I’m sorry. I understand you’ve done what you can, and I apologize for taking my frustration out on you.”
My eyebrows arch in surprise. That isn’t the outcome I’d been expecting. And I’m even more shocked when he turns to face the people behind him, waiting for assistance, and apologizes to them for the unpleasant disruption before walking away.
When the man sits on a bench, I know that’s my cue to move on. There’s a long line for coffee and I want to hit the road. But when he props his elbows on his knees and drops his head into his hands, I can’t bring myself to walk away. It isn’t in my nature to ignore somebody who’s obviously in distress, even if he made a horrible first impression. He did apologize, after all.
“You okay?” I ask, sitting on the bench next to him. He shakes his head without lifting it, and I have no idea what to say next.
Then he sits up straight so quickly it startles me, and he waves a hand at the lines of people. “What good is being a billionaire if I can’t get out of a damn airport?”
A billionaire? That’s new. I’ve never met a billionaire before, but it explains his temper tantrum. The guy’s probably used to getting his way. “Are you really?”
“Yeah.” He turns those blue eyes on me again. “I can’t prove it, though.”
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Natalie. Natalie Byrne,” I say to be polite while I type his name into Google. A few clicks later and I’m staring at a stern photo of him—not a dark hair out of place—on a website that talks about holdings and portfolios and stuff. “Okay, so just buy the airport and then they’ll have to help you.”
He snorts. “If I could prove who I am, I wouldn’t need to buy the airport. I left my briefcase on the plane.”
“Did you check the lost and found?” I ask, and he sighs. Of course he did. “Sometimes it takes a while for stuff to turn up.”
“They said it could be hours, if it’s found.” He shakes his head. “I don’t have hours. I have to get out of here now. I’d come back another day for the briefcase, but my phone and my wallet are in it, so I’m stuck in an airport with absolutely no way to call anybody or rent a car. Or buy the airport.”
“You put your phone and your wallet in your briefcase?” I ask, belatedly realizing he probably isn’t in the mood for that question.
Red tints his cheeks, and I’m not sure if it’s anger or chagrin. “I left a meeting and went straight to the airport. I keep my wallet and my phone in my suit coat pocket, but I knew I’d get hot on the plane and take the coat off. I didn’t want them to fall out, so I locked them in the briefcase, which the attendant made me put at my feet. I rarely carry the briefcase with me when I fly and I was so focused on getting off the plane, I left it.”
“You must have an assistant or two—or twenty. You can use my phone to call one of them.”
“Thanks, but there are two numbers I know off the top of my head. One of them isn’t answering, and the other’s on an island getting married and I told her to turn her phone off for the occasion because I didn’t want to forget and call her.”
“You’d forget she’s getting married?” That sounds like something a billionaire would do.
“She’s been my right hand for more than a decade. It’s a habit to reach out when I need something—like when I find myself stranded in an airport with no money or identification.”
I’m still clicking around his site. “Can’t you contact people through the website? There are a lot of numbers and email addresses here.”
“I don’t employ the kind of people who would give my credit card number to anybody who calls the contact number claiming to be me,” he snaps, his frustration coming through again.
“Okay, so call your credit card company. Or do you pay people to remember your mother’s maiden name and the street you grew up on?” The look he gives me probably scares the crap out of people who care if he’s mad at them. I’m not one of them, so I shrug. “Just a suggestion.”
“I don’t have time for that. I need to get to Stowe right now.” His jaw flexes. “It’s an emergency.”
“Oh no. Did some fourth-generation small business owner refuse to sell his soul to you?”
I expect another of those potent glares, but he’s too busy looking around as if somebody’s going to swoop in and save him. People probably do that on a regular basis. “It’s a family emergency. There’s nothing in Vermont I want to buy.”
“With your charm and holiday spirit, I’m sure people will line up to help you,” I say, standing up because I’m about to walk away. I don’t want to end up in a ditch because I was listening to a poor little rich guy’s problems. I don’t have any cash on me, so there’s not much I can do for him. “Good luck.”
“Wait. You’re leaving, right? I’ll pay you to drive me to Stowe.”
I hesitate. “You already told me you have no money.”
“No, I told you I have a lot of money. I just don’t have it on me right now.” He stands, practically vibrating with tension. “I can get you the money within days. Before Christmas, so you’ll have time to buy more presents for people.”
I ask myself if any amount of money is worth spending two and a half hours—or more, depending on the snow—trapped in a vehicle with this man.
I already know the answer to that, though. And I also know the amount. “I’ll get you to Stowe. For one hundred thousand dollars.”