(Single Brothers, #1)
Publication date: April 27th 2021
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Arman wasn’t supposed to be the one.
I dumped him when we were 17 and married a man my parents picked for me.
Either way it’s the past, and now I have a daughter and finally left my ex.
On my way home to the beach, I didn’t expect to run into Arman, the nicest and sweetest man I’d ever met.
He’s hotter than ever.
★ And a trillionaire.
And I am not looking for a relationship even from the one man’s kiss that still burned in me.
I don’t get what he still sees in me.
I’m a mess, but you’d never have expected what happened because I absolutely hadn’t.
Once we were alone, I clinked glasses with her as she grew quiet. “Now, it’s your turn. What happened?”
She sipped her wine and closed her eyes. The lines on her face grew deeper, and my heart sped up. I wished I had the power to erase whatever pain she had.
Then she met my gaze. “Two days ago, I hit the road. My husband has a new girlfriend and a new victim of his anger. I want a divorce and to not have to run.” She brushed her cheek, and I peered closer. Under her makeup, there was a trace of a bruise. “And I have no place to live, no job. I used my last few pennies to get here, and I’m probably dreaming that all will somehow be okay.”
My heart ached for her. Her pain was palpable. I brushed against her hand. “I’d like to help.”
She finished her glass and shook her head. “No. I have my mother. I don’t need a handout.”
Pride often stopped people. I poured her the second glass and changed tactics. “Look, I need an assistant who can handle my never-ending schedule and help me coordinate events.”
The food came, and she waited till we were alone and then asked, “So you’re offering me a job?”
I would do anything to keep her smiling and happy. And I’d never had an assistant stick around for too long. I didn’t trust the ones I hired enough to train them fully, and the better ones all ended up quitting on me. Maddie was perfect. I’d always trusted her.
I cut my food. “I’d need you to take my calls, arrange my schedule, run events—which is your specialty—and ensure that everything I need to do in a day is organized. I’m hard to please, my HR manager said, but I pay well.”
She stared at her plate like it was a lifeline. I didn’t want to cause her pain, so I waited. Then she asked, “You’re serious?”
I sipped my wine to clear my palate. “Fuck yeah. You’re not scared to talk to me, which already gives you an advantage over the last few assistants, who couldn’t handle the job.”
She cut her burger in half and grinned like she’d just found a present from Santa. “So, you’re a demanding boss.”
Maybe not entirely with you. She’d accepted my help, and this way, we would stay in touch. And when she was ready, she would tell me more.
I tasted my food, which was perfectly cooked. “The job would come with a place to stay that’s close to me and in the right school zones.”
The second I said that, I felt my face heat. I hadn’t meant to push. The information had slipped out. We ate in silence. But my shoulders felt stronger, like I could handle whatever problems she threw at me.
As we finished, she sipped her wine and then said, “Maybe I should say no to the job. I don’t want to take your charity.”
Right. I said too much. The truth was, I was drawn to her. “It’s not charity. I’ll take a lot of your time, so the place is a perk of the job. The markets in other countries means I need you at strange hours. And you’ll be able to save some of your paycheck if you’re good at budgeting.”
She twisted her glass, then she sipped her wine and took a deep breath. “Let me think about it. I didn’t meet you tonight so you could give me a job. I haven’t decided what we’re going to do yet or even slept really. I just thought it would be nice to catch up.”
At work, I was the boss and solved all problems. I was sure I could figure out her problems, too, but I would need her permission and her trust. So I changed directions. Since we’d talked about my family, I asked about hers. Her father had died two years before, and she hadn’t come home. I’d looked for her when I was on the island the weekend of her father’s funeral.
I sipped my wine. “Your dad wouldn’t want you working for me.”
“That doesn’t matter.” She sat straighter. “He died two years ago.”
My family was my support system. I put my glass down. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost mine.”
She wiped her face and said simply, “Yeah, well, your family is not a lot like mine.”
That was true, but she was all I’d wanted at one point. I whispered like we were sharing a secret no one else should hear, “No, but when we were kids, I wanted us to find a way to work out. I missed you that summer when I was eighteen and alone here.”
“With your family, you were never alone.” She held up her glass. I did the same, and we clinked them. “If I’d been here, maybe my life would have been very different, but let’s just be thankful we had this evening.”
“Fair enough. I’m with the only woman who ever dared to tell me no.”
Her eyes widened, but she finished her sip. “That can’t be true.”
Actually, it was. I handed my platinum card to the server, who then left. “It is. Money usually makes people agree to anything.”
She tilted her head like she agreed and finished her glass. “We all need it.”
The last thing she needed to do was lie to herself. I finished my own glass and shook my head. “No, we don’t. It’s a tool, but it’s not the reason to do anything.”
“Tool, right.” She threw her head back and laughed. “You sound like a rich boy. Thank you for meeting me tonight, but I should get home.”
And once again, she hadn’t given me permission to fix her life. The waitress returned with my card. I signed and then walked out with Maddie. “I’ll pop over tomorrow, and we’ll talk about the job again. You can read over the contract via email.”
She sucked in her lips, but then she texted me her email and headed toward the black truck that her mother usually drove to the garden. She turned and waved. “Good night.”
Most women I had drinks with offered to warm my bed, but that wasn’t Maddie. She was a lady. I had no idea what I needed to do to get her to trust me, but I had to figure out how to prove myself to her. For some reason, she made the world nicer to live in when I was around her. And I knew it was wrong, as she was married, but I wanted to find out if she still tasted like she had when I was a boy.
USA TODAY bestselling author Victoria Pinder moved cross country and now lives in Denver though her books always take her right back to Miami, where she lived for years. She’s currently expecting another baby and raising the first one, both of whom inspire her writing. Somewhere in between using drama to make her humdrum days seem more interesting and falling in love with happily-ever-afters to offer hope to her readers, she takes to her fictional world where all her characters in Miami might mention or meet each other in one huge world and discovers what her bold heroine and her brainy, sexy hero might need to really find true love. You can follow her on twitter @VictoriaPinder