The Unmasked CEO: Chapter One

Not long to go before the 24th of January and the release of The Unmasked CEO! I’m so excited! I hope you are too.

But first, it’s time to share with you Chapter One of Simon and Geri’s story. Here it is. Enjoy!

Chapter One

Simon Alexander folded his arms across his chest, annoyed at the uncomfortable feeling being stirred up by the lovefest happening before his eyes. Why did he have to feel envious of his loved-up buddies?

He hid a smirk as Marilyn Grant canoodled with Jarryd Westbourne right in the middle of Brad and Erin Mead’s living room. Well, melt was more an apt term for what Marilyn was doing in the arms of her new fiancé. Heck, the two of them were in the clouds, their faces radiating with a kind of bliss that Simon was certain he’d never ever experienced.

Today was supposed to be Erin’s birthday party and, once again, the celebrations had included an engagement. For some reason, his male friends had a habit of getting down on one knee in one of these get-togethers. It was kind of… motivating.

Simon suppressed a snort at his thought. Him proposing to a woman? What a hoot.

He had to admit, though, that for a while now, a part of him had been wanting some of the love potion these couples had obviously ingested. He was someone who always sought—and got—the best that life could offer, and he couldn’t help but want what they were having.

Problem was, he doubted his ability to stick with one woman forever. He’d sure as hell get bored eating the same food every day, no matter how delicious it was. Wouldn’t that same argument apply to tying himself to the same girl for the rest of his life?

But then again, he hadn’t really tried. It wouldn’t hurt to try, would it?

Cassie Garrett, one of three new mothers in this gang of close-knit friends, sprung to her feet, glancing at the baby monitor that was in a pouch hanging around her neck.

“I got her, honey,” Carter said to his wife.

Cassie flashed an adoring smile at her husband, who was quick to make his way to the guest room where they’d left Chelsea, their five-week-old baby daughter, to sleep.

“I better check on our princess too,” Rick Donnelly murmured, kissing his wife, Lexie, on the temple before following Carter to see to his own eight-week-old, Lara.

“Hey, bring them out here if they’re awake,” Simon called out. He wouldn’t mind carrying the too-adorable infants again. He’d been terrified the first time, seeing how small and delicate they were. But he had the hang of holding babies now.

“Are you getting clucky, Simon?” Lexie asked teasingly.

“No,” he said, sending a comical grin to Julian, Jade and Lucas Renner-Bilton’s four-month-old son.

“You wanna hold him?” asked Natasha Redford, who’d been playing with Julian and successfully getting chuckles out of him.

“Sure.” He took the baby from the very pregnant Natasha, who placed a hand on her full-term stomach, as if feeling something.

“You okay, babe?” Gavin Redford asked his wife, instantly alert.

“Yeah. He just kicked, that’s all.”

Simon couldn’t help but watch as Gavin sat Natasha on his lap, awed at the tenderness on Gavin’s face as he rubbed his wife’s belly.

And that envious feeling poked Simon again.

Honestly, he couldn’t understand himself. He sure as hell wasn’t ready for babies, much less getting hitched to anyone. Maybe he was just so taken by his friends’ lovable kids? Fortunately, he could hand them back to the parents when he’d had enough.

But, yes, he wouldn’t mind having little ones of his own in the future too.

Wooo. Big fucking admission for Simon Alexander, Mile-High Playboy. Maybe he was getting clucky, after all. He never thought that happened to men as well.

Julian started to cry in his arms.

“Hey, little guy. What do you want? You wanna fly on a jet?” Simon made a whooshing sound as he pivoted around.

Julian stopped whimpering and stared at him.

“Aha! You do want Uncle Simon to fly you on one of his airplanes, don’t you?” he said with exaggerated wonder. “Where do you want to go?”

Julian smiled widely, letting out a gurgle.

“You’re a natural with kids, Simon,” Marilyn said with a laugh. “Maybe I’ll bet on you for this round of our Captured by Love game after all. I wasn’t going to, since you made me lose a few times before, but it looks like you’re ready for a family now. You just might beat Tristan and Derek in getting engaged next.”

He shook his head, pulling a funny face for Julian’s benefit. “Like I said before, Marilyn, I’m not after a wife yet. I just don’t want to get turned down again by the nice girls I ask out.”

“I still can’t believe it,” Tristan Grant said in a goading tone. “Mr. Mile-High Playboy Simon Alexander rejected by the last three women he wanted to date. Three rejections in six months. Who would have thought that would ever happen?”

“Hey, don’t forget about the seven who asked me out during that time,” Simon said defensively.

“Yeah, the playgirls, the immature ones, the gold-diggers,” Derek McCarthy quipped, tongue firmly in cheek.

Simon sighed. Those were his words, not Derek’s. And, yes, he was getting sick of the women who sought him out because of his reputation—that of a rich, hunky playboy who liked giving sexy ladies mile-high experiences.

He’d enjoyed that image for years. How could he not, when even some beautiful celebrities and models specifically asked for the owner of Alexander Jets to accompany them to their destinations? Since his clients’ satisfaction was his number-one priority, he was more than happy to comply with their wishes. And, of course, the women were always more than satisfied with him.

But, lately, he’d been getting tired of the kind of girls who clamoured for his attention. They’d been very demanding not only of his time and presence, but also of his generosity. Especially of his generosity. They weren’t even real girlfriends and they had the audacity to threaten to drop him when he’d refused to take them on a luxury trip somewhere or declined to take them shopping.

Pfft. As if he’d cared when they’d upped and left to find someone else willing to fund the extravagant lifestyles they wanted.

Seriously, if he was to keep a girl around, then he’d want someone like his close female friends: caring, smart, independent women who loved their men for who they were, not for the dollars in their bank accounts.

But how could he meet someone like these ladies when their kind was keen to avoid a known playboy like him?

He’d been so seduced by his fast and fun life that he hadn’t been willing to give up his freedom for anyone or anything. Now, karma seemed to have bitten him on the ass and was making him pay for his own emotional immaturity by making him attract only the players and the gold-diggers. His reputation had cloaked him like a bad smell. When the three nice, relationship-material ladies he’d recently asked out had turned him down, each had said something along the lines of “I’m not that kind of girl.”

What a huge blow to the ego and a big wakeup call! Who’d want to be constantly shunned by nice girls and used by gold-digging players? So, yeah, it was time to distance himself from his playboy image. Thirty-two was old enough for that.

Julian made a gurgling sound and Simon made another funny face, bouncing the baby in his arms. To his delight, Julian laughed.

“Aww, look at that,” Rick said, walking back to the party with Carter, both of them clearly smitten by the precious bundles each was carrying in their arms.

Simon smiled. Fatherhood suited the guys. “So,” he said to no one in particular, “what do you think of my planned experiment to go incognito so I can woo a nice girl without my playboy reputation and financial status tainting how she sees me?”

“Do you already have a girl in mind?” asked Brad, who’d been a busy bee making sure that his wife didn’t lift a finger at her own birthday party.

“No. That’s why I want to stay outside of Sydney for a while, where I’m not well known. If I meet someone who has no idea who I am, I can start with a clean slate. And since I seem to be a magnet for gold-diggers these days, I don’t want to be seen as being rich at any level. So my first option is to pretend I’m just an employee pilot working for Alexander Jets. I can service the regional areas where women wouldn’t know me from Adam.”

“Pilots earn above-average salaries, and Alexander Jets is known to be the top private jet service in Australia,” Natasha pointed out. “That can still be attractive to those wanting a boyfriend only for his money.”

“Hm, true.”

“Why don’t you just pick a country town and look for a casual job there as a farmhand?” Tristan quipped. “You’re a smart guy. You can learn how to milk a cow quick smart.”

Simon snickered just as his phone buzzed with a work call. He pulled it out from his pocket and Julian started whimpering again, looking at his daddy with a sad, irresistible look.

“Had enough of Uncle Simon, bubba?” Lucas cooed at his son.

Simon gave Julian to Lucas and answered one of his account managers, who also happened to be his cousin. “Hey, Elle, what’s up?”

“Sorry to bother you when you’re at a party, Simon, but I have a problem. Remember Ingrid Lawrence?”

“Yes.”

“Geri Blaine, Mrs. Lawrence’s assistant, called to say that they need to fly from Brisbane to Sydney this Friday instead of next week. Apparently, Mrs. Lawrence’s grandson, who’s based in Boston, will be in Sydney from Friday for four days only to attend a weekend conference. They want to see each other, hence Mrs. Lawrence wanting to get to Sydney a week early. Problem is, all our planes are fully booked on Friday and Mrs. Lawrence won’t fly commercial because of her dog. She wants a private jet where her dog is allowed to roam free in the passenger cabin with her. So before I suggest one of our competitors to them, I thought I’d call you first to see if there’s something we can do.”

Simon pursed his lips. Seventy-two-year-old Ingrid Lawrence was his newest client. Having recently sold her company that made wildly popular cooking sauces and condiments to an international conglomerate for several million dollars, Mrs. Lawrence had decided to live it up. She was now enjoying the fruits of a lifetime of hard work, doing a luxury around-Australia tour that she hadn’t had the chance to indulge in during her working years.

“Who are our clients flying from Brisbane to Sydney around the time that Mrs. Lawrence wants to be rescheduled?” he asked.

“Well, Tristan Grant is one of them. I’m assuming he’s there with you, and I thought you could talk to him?”

“Ah, good! Leave it with me. Tristan has been thinking of extending his stay in Brisbane to catch up with more people.” He winked at Tristan, who raised an eyebrow at him.

“Great,” Elle said. “One other thing. They need to hire another short-term chauffeur because their current one suddenly resigned due to a family emergency. Geri’s having a hard time finding a replacement at the last minute, especially since it’s a live-in job. Apart from driving them around, Mrs. Lawrence wants an able-bodied man who can also act as a bodyguard because she feels safer staying in rented houses that way. Because of the dog, they always stay in houses rather than hotels. Anyway, I’ve asked around, but I’m not having any luck either. I thought that with your vast network, you might know someone who could refer a suitable person for the job?”

“No one immediately comes to mind. How long do they need the chauffeur for?”

“Two months, ideally. They’ll be here in New South Wales for a month, then Victoria next month. But they’ll accept someone who can only do the New South Wales leg, if that will make it easier to get a chauffeur at short notice. Geri did stress that the guy has to have at least three impeccable references, considering he’ll be staying with the two ladies for the duration.”

“Okay, I’ll ask around. I’ll call you back shortly.”

“Great. Thanks, Simon. Bye.”

“So,” Tristan drawled when Simon hung up, “I take it you want to bump me off the plane on Friday so you can fly someone else, huh?”

Only if you really intend extending your stay in Brisbane,” he answered seriously.

“Well, you just helped me make up my mind,” Tristan said cheerfully. “I’ll stay until next Monday morning.”

“Excellent. Thanks a lot, bro,” he said gratefully. “By the way, does anyone know of a company that can supply Ingrid Lawrence with a live-in chauffeur-slash-bodyguard for a whole month? Or a person who might be interested in the job? The chauffeur will be staying with Mrs. Lawrence and her personal assistant, so I need a name that you guys already trust.” He told them about Ingrid and her travel plans.

“No,” came the replies.

“I do,” Lucas said.

“Great! Who?”

Lucas grinned slyly. “You. Perfect incognito role, dude. As you said yourself, the nice ladies outside of Sydney shouldn’t recognise who you are.”

Simon chuckled, shaking his head.

“Why not? Remember our earlier bet? This chauffeuring-bodyguard gig is the perfect setup for that. You’re an excellent driver and a black belt in karate.”

“You made another bet apart from our Captured by Love game?” Carter asked.

“Yeah,” Lucas said. “As you know, Simon wants to hide his financial status so he doesn’t attract gold-diggers. But how can an uber-wealthy guy with expensive tastes who’s never even set foot in thrift stores hide his identity for any length of time?”

Simon smirked, his competitiveness kicking into gear. “I’m sure I’ll manage well enough being on a chauffeur’s salary, Lucas. How hard can it be? And you’re right. It’s the perfect setup. Since we’ll be hopping from town to town, there’ll be lots of opportunities to meet nice, decent ladies.”

“And if you do meet a nice girl that you like, how long are you gonna lie to her about who you really are?” Marilyn asked with clear disapproval. “I’m telling you that even your devilishly handsome good looks won’t keep a woman if you keep on lying to her.”

“Hey, I don’t intend to deceive anyone for the heck of it. I just don’t want someone prejudging me because of my playboy reputation or wanting me because of my money. I need to break the cycle of attracting the wrong girls and being avoided by the decent ones.”

“So you’re really turning over a new leaf?” Erin asked in a serious tone. “For real?”

He inhaled deeply. “I want to, for the right woman. And I blame you loved-up people for this affliction,” he said, pointing an accusing finger at his partnered friends.

The girls cheered and gave each other high fives.

“Well,” Jarryd said with a grin, “since I’m a happy Alexander Jets customer, put me down as a reference. I’d like to see this happen for you, Simon, and I don’t mind twisting the truth a bit for this important cause.”

The others chimed in with the same offer.

“Thanks, guys,” Simon said with a laugh.

“Just remember, we’re counting on you to come clean after your contract is finished,” Rick warned. “And no playboy shenanigans. We’re putting our professional reputation on the line by giving you semi-truthful references because we want to support you turning over a new leaf.”

“Yes, don’t worry. I understand and appreciate what you’re doing for me. And you know what? I’m really glad I decided a long time ago not to have my photo on the Alexander Jets website. As long as the girls I meet don’t have a reason to Google Simon Alexander, it shouldn’t be a problem hiding my identity for one month. Lucas is right. This job with Ingrid Lawrence is the perfect setup.”

“Good luck, Simon,” Marilyn said. “We’re really rooting for you to find your potential other half.”

“Thanks,” he said, rolling his eyes to hide his embarrassment at the fact that he was truly excited.

This business of finding a special someone couldn’t be all that difficult when his undesirable image wouldn’t be dragging him down, right?

* * *

“If our flight can’t get rescheduled, then we might have to postpone our road trip and go home in the meantime,” Ingrid Lawrence said. “I don’t really want to do that, but Justin will have more opportunities to see me in Hobart since he’ll be there for several weeks to visit his parents after his short stay in Sydney.”

Geri Blaine hid a sigh as she placed a cup of coffee in front of her employer of almost four months. They couldn’t go home yet. Touring Australia with Ingrid as her personal assistant and travel companion was the only reason she was able to stay away from Hobart.

“Someone from Alexander Jets will be calling me soon with an answer, Mrs. Lawrence,” she said as she sat next to Ingrid on the sofa. “Let’s hope they’re able to fly us to Sydney on Friday in time for your dinner with Justin.”

Rolf, the five-and-a-half-month-old Yorkshire terrier, left Ingrid’s side to settle himself on Geri’s lap. Geri petted the pooch, smiling at the feel of his newly trimmed coat.

Rolf closed his eyes, content and tired from his recent play in the park nearby.

“I swear that dog loves you more than me,” Ingrid said with a huff before taking a sip of her coffee.

“He’s just more used to me,” Geri said. What else could she say? Rolf did prefer her over Ingrid.

One of her first tasks when she’d started working for Ingrid was to get a puppy that Ingrid could take with her during her travels. Geri had instantly fallen in love with Rolf when a friend—an expert dog obedience trainer—offered one of his Yorkie pups for sale. That same friend had helped Geri completely house-train Rolf and get him ready for long trips. By the time they’d left Hobart two and a half months ago, not only had Rolf been fully housebroken, but he’d also been travel-ready.

Fortunately, apart from the occasional utterances of jealousy, Ingrid didn’t mind much that her dog preferred Geri. Ingrid was happy enough as long as Rolf slept in Ingrid’s bedroom and sat next to her during plane take-offs and landings to soothe her fear of flying.

Geri’s phone vibrated on the coffee table, the name Alexander Jets flashing on the screen. Please, she said in silent prayer before answering the call.

“Hello, Geri, it’s Elle Milton from Alexander Jets.”

“Hi, Elle. Do you have good news for me?”

“Yes, I do. We can reschedule your charter flight to Sydney this Friday with a twelve p.m. departure time from Brisbane, if that suits.”

Geri let out a relieved sigh. “Yes, that’s perfect. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. As you know, we have a complimentary pickup from your accommodation to the airport. Would you like me to arrange that now too?”

“Yes, please. And did you manage to find a chauffeur service we can contact?”

“Yes. I have the phone number for a gentleman called Simon James. He’s a freelance chauffeur who’s worked for some of our clients before. He likes working in different places and enjoys meeting new people—that’s why he hasn’t sought permanent employment. Apparently he’s available, but only for one month.”

“Fantastic! I’ll have a chat with him and check out his references.” No way Geri would let a stranger spend the whole month with them unless she was sure he was squeaky clean and trustworthy.

She took Simon James’s contact details and finalised the arrangements for their Sydney flight before thanking Elle profusely and hanging up.

“Did she find us a chauffeur?” Ingrid asked.

“Yes. But I need to check his references first.”

“Great! I’m sure he’ll be fine since he was recommended by Alexander Jets. Let’s go ahead with our road trip, then. In a way, I’m glad I won’t be in Hobart while Justin’s there. He won’t be able to force me to see his parents if I’m not around,” Ingrid said with a harrumph.

Geri put a neutral smile on her face. For all of Ingrid’s bluster, she knew that the older lady was hurting far more than she let on. It was public knowledge that Ingrid was estranged from her own son and daughter-in-law, who’d tried to set up a rival food sauces and condiments brand using Ingrid’s recipes a few years ago. It had been a very public family spat, with Ingrid suing and winning. Now that she’d sold her company for millions, Ingrid was set on spending the money she’d worked long and hard for on herself, and not leaving any of it to her son.

Ingrid’s grandson—who was the same age as Geri at twenty-seven—was another matter, though. Ingrid had a soft spot for Justin, even though she hardly ever saw him. So Geri was extremely grateful that her employer preferred not to be in Hobart even though Justin would be spending a few weeks there. Ingrid had no idea whatsoever how much she was saving Geri from her problems by wanting to continue travelling.

Geri dialled the number Elle had given her as she sat at the dining table.

“Hello, Simon James speaking,” came a deep, sexy, masculine voice.

Gosh, Simon James sounded like Chris Hemsworth! The hunky image of her biggest celebrity crush in Thor costume instantly filled her mind.

She rolled her eyes at herself before putting on a professional tone. “Hello, Simon, my name is Geri Blaine. I work for Mrs. Ingrid Lawrence. Your number was given to me by Elle Milton from Alexander Jets, and I understand you’re open to considering a job as our chauffeur and bodyguard for one month?”

“Oh, yes. Thanks for calling, Miss Blaine. I’m definitely available.”

“Right. First, I just want to clarify a few things about the job. If you’re hired, you’re expected to stay with us in various accommodations as we travel around Sydney, the Blue Mountains, and the South Coast—which are the places Mrs. Lawrence particularly wanted to visit. You’ll be on call at all times and there will be no official days off for the whole month, but I’m sure you’ll be happy with the amount of downtime you’ll get. Mrs. Lawrence usually prefers to stay in most evenings, so during those times, you’ll be free to either join us for a meal in our accommodation or do your own thing for the rest of the night. Occasionally, she might not want to do anything for the whole day, so you might have some extra free time then.” Geri rattled off other requirements, including no drinking of alcohol unless there would be no more driving for the day, and advised Simon of the generous pay that Mrs. Lawrence was willing to offer the lucky candidate.

“That all sounds good to me,” Simon said.

“Okay, great. We’re keen to—”

“Don’t forget to tell him I don’t want him wearing those distinctive chauffeur uniforms,” Ingrid interrupted from behind her. “I hate attracting attention like that. Neat casual clothing is fine.”

Geri suppressed a sigh. She wasn’t ready to offer this man the job yet.

“Well, I’m sure you heard what Mrs. Lawrence said, Simon. As I was saying, we’re keen to hire the right person as soon as possible. But first, I need to check your references. Are you able to give me at least three phone numbers of previous clients you’ve worked with?”

“Yes. I have their details right here.”

She took them down as Simon read them out to her.

“Their companies’ customer service departments are open on weekends, so you can contact them today and you’ll be put through,” Simon said. “I took the liberty of explaining that you’re keen to find a chauffeur-bodyguard quite quickly.”

Geri was amazed. The man was well prepared. “Thank you, Simon. I’ll give you a call after we’ve made our decision. I take it you’re free to start on Friday if we do hire you?”

“Yes. Friday’s perfect. And I know Sydney, the Blue Mountains, and the South Coast very well. I can even be your very own tour guide, Miss Blaine,” Simon said lightly.

Something about the friendly and easy way Simon spoke made Geri feel relaxed about him. “Great. And please call me Geri. I’ll speak with you again soon.”

“Looking forward to it, Geri. Bye.”

Geri hung up and opened her laptop that was sitting on the dining table. She Googled Lucas Renner-Bilton of Bilton Machineries, the first name Simon had given her.

Her brows rose. Bilton Machineries was a multibillion-dollar company, and Lucas was the part-owner along with his father. If this Lucas person was to give Simon a good verbal reference, that would be impressive enough.

She Googled the next name, Rick Donnelly of RD Luxury Vehicles.

Whoa. This man owned a chain of car dealerships that sold Ferraris, Porsches, BMWs, Mercedes Benzes, and the like. Mr. Simon James was quite well connected.

She looked up the third reference, Jarryd Westbourne of Westbourne Constructions.

Her eyes bulged out. Gosh, she should have recognised the name. Jarryd had been in the news a few weeks ago for helping police catch a fraudster. She remembered how very good-looking Jarryd was, not to mention being a billionaire.

Wow. If these three people gave Simon glowing references, she most certainly would snap him up as their chauffeur. The phone numbers Simon had given her matched those appearing on each of the companies’ websites, so she knew they weren’t fake.

She called Westbourne Constructions first, introducing herself and asking for Jarryd Westbourne. She still got surprised that she was being put straight through to the boss. She’d never heard of a busy CEO taking phone calls on Saturday afternoons just to give a reference for a contract worker. Simon James must really be held in high esteem by these people.

Fifteen minutes later, Geri sat back on her chair, totally impressed. All three men had vouched for Simon’s trustworthiness and reliability, with each saying they’d use his services again and again. They’d even stated that they’d done security checks on Simon—for which Geri didn’t have the time or resources—and Simon had passed them all.

“We found our chauffeur, Mrs. Lawrence,” she called out. “I’m happy to hire Simon James.”

“Good,” Ingrid said absently. “I know I can count on you to do all the checking and worrying.”

Geri forced out a chuckle. Ingrid had no idea why she had to be extra careful about people they connected with during their trip.

She’d considered confiding in Ingrid about her predicament, but it was way too risky. Ingrid might sack her. Things had a way of being misinterpreted, and Ingrid might believe that she didn’t want to go back to Hobart because she’d stolen her younger sister’s money.

Shaking her head to push away her unwanted thoughts, she dialled Simon’s number.

“Hi, Simon, it’s Geri Blaine again.”

“Hello, Geri,” Simon said, his tone rich and delighted.

“I’ve spoken to your references and, yes, we’d like to hire you.”

“That’s great! Thank you. I’m looking forward to working with you.”

And I’m looking forward to seeing the face that goes with that voice.

Ugh, she and her weakness for deep, sexy voices! For all she knew, Simon was married with five kids.

That would be a good thing. In fact, she’d prefer it if Simon was nowhere near as good-looking as his soundalike, Chris Hemsworth. She didn’t need to be distracted by a handsome co-worker when she had her safety and future to worry about.

***End of Chapter One***

That’s it for today. Chapter Two will hit your inbox tomorrow!

You can now pre-order The Unmasked CEO from the following stores:

Amazon US | Other Amazon stores | Apple iBooks | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

Google Play and other store links will be available soon.

Don’t forget to check out The Unmasked CEO Release Giveaway exclusive to my newsletter subscribers! Check it out here.

Much love,
Miranda xoxoxo

The Unmasked CEO Release Giveaway

Mark your calendars! The Unmasked CEO (Captured by Love, Book 7) is releasing on the 24th of January.

I had so much fun writing Simon and Geri’s journey to HEA, especially when I had to write a lovable dog into the story.

For the Captured by Love series, I usually get the covers done before I start the book. That way, I can print them, stick them on the wall in front of my desk, and get some inspiration while I stare at the hunky guys whose stories I’m supposed to be writing, ha ha!

My wonderful cover designer, Viola Estrella, suggested the above cover for The Unmasked CEO with the dog as the “special object”. (You might notice that for each Captured by Love book, there’s an object on the cover that is incorporated in the story.) Well, I fell in love with the dog! He’s just so cute, right? And, yes, the sexy guy is easy on the eyes too.

So I thought it would be fun if I have dog-related questions as entry options for The Unmasked CEO Release Giveaway. Again, this is exclusive to my newsletter subscribers, and two people can win a signed paperback of The Unmasked CEO. The giveaway is open until midnight on the 25th of January, Sydney time. Check out the questions and enter the giveaway!

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*****

I also can’t wait to share with you Chapters One and Two of this book. You’ll be getting them in a few days before the book releases. In the meantime, you can now preorder the book from Amazon, Apple iTunes, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. Click here for the links.

Much love,
Miranda xo

The Unmasked CEO

He is tired of being a gold-digger magnet.
Simon Alexander, the CEO of a private jet service, is ready to lose his Mile-High-Playboy image. Keen to break the cycle of attracting gold-diggers and being rejected by decent women because of his reputation, he pretends to be Simon James, a freelance chauffeur. When he meets the beautiful Geri Blaine, his new boss’s personal assistant, he believes he’s finally met the right type of woman. But will Geri stick around when he comes clean about his real identity?

She has no choice but to keep the money that’s not hers.
Geri Blaine’s job as a personal assistant and travel companion of a wealthy seventy-two-year-old lady is perfect for her. Needing to hide from a ruthless ex-convict who is after her sister’s money, travelling constantly with her employer was an ideal situation. She quickly finds herself falling for Simon James, their new chauffeur. But what will Simon think of her when he discovers that she’s on the run with the money her sister accuses her of stealing?

*****

 

 

Exclusive Giveaway Winners + Send A Little Love

Hi there! I have very important things to share with you today.

First, I want to say thank you to everyone who has grabbed their copy of The Unknown Billionaire which released on the 30th of September. I’m truly grateful for all your support.  Most of the readers and reviewers who connected with me after reading Marilyn and Jarryd’s story said that they loved it! If you don’t have the book yet, you can find the links to the stores here.

Exclusive Giveaway Winners

Today it’s time to announce the winners of the giveaway exclusive to my newsletter subscribers. Thank you to all those who entered! I enjoyed reading all your answers. And guess which of my book covers was the favourite by those who entered the giveaway. It is the cover from The Unintended Fiancé! I can see why. I so love this cover too!

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As for the favourite couple among all of my characters, Lucas and Jade from The Unwilling Executive came out on top, followed closely by Carter and Cassie from The Undercover Playboy. Woohoo! Interestingly, each couple in all of my eighteen titles has been mentioned at least once. I was really thrilled by that.

Now for the winners of the giveaway! These names were chosen randomly and I’ve double-checked their emails to make sure that they are indeed on my mailing list, which was a requirement to enter.

First Prize Winner: Rachel

Congratulations, Rachel! You won signed paperbacks of Books 1 to 6 of the Captured by Love series.

Captured by Love Books 1-5 smaller size

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Second Prize Winners: Angelica and Jana Leah

Congrats, ladies! You each won a signed paperback of The Unknown Billionaire.

Winners, I’ll be emailing you with a request for your shipping addresses so I can send you your prizes. Watch out for it.

I have to say I enjoyed that giveaway so much that I’m excited to do another one soon!

Send A Little Love — Breast Cancer Awareness Month

sendlittlelove-copy

Most of you in my mailing list know about my recent battle with breast cancer. I know first hand how simple acts of thoughtfulness can lift the spirit of someone who needs it most.

This October, I joined with over 100 authors to donate over 2,000 books to cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and their families. If you know someone who has been touched by cancer, send them and their loved ones one of the books we’ve donated for this cause. Go to http://RomanceHasAHeart.org and browse through the selection of books that can be given as a gift. Supplies are limited so hurry before they run out.

Well, that’s all from me today. I can’t wait to tell you what I have in mind as a contest for next time. It will be linked to the cover for my upcoming book, The Unmasked CEO (Captured by Love Book 7). More on that in a few weeks.

Till then, take care.

Much love,
Miranda xoxo

 

 

The Unknown Billionaire: Out Now!

unknown-billionaire-release-3Finally, the time has come! Happy release day to The Unknown Billionaire! I’m so excited for you to read Jarryd and Marilyn’s story. Today, if you haven’t already done so, you can grab your copy from the following stores:

Amazon US | Other Amazon stores | Apple iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | All Romance Ebooks | Google Play

Will his billion-dollar fortune cause him to lose the woman he loves?
Jarryd Westbourne is shocked to have inherited a billion-dollar fortune from the mother who’d given him up for adoption. Unfortunately, business complications force him to keep it a secret from everyone for a period of time, even from Marilyn Grant, the woman he’s crazy about. When his birth mother’s husband suddenly challenges the will and accuses him of foul play, he ends his relationship with Marilyn to protect her from any scandal. But can he ever win Marilyn back if she discovers what he’s been hiding from her?

Can her love survive a necessary deception?
Marilyn Grant was heartbroken when Jarryd Westbourne dumped her unexpectedly. But she believes that Jarryd broke up with her only because he’s intimidated by her parents being billionaires while he’s only of average means. She’s keen to prove to Jarryd that she doesn’t care one bit that his wealth is nowhere near her family’s. After all, love and trust, not money, are the foundations of a lasting relationship. And Jarryd is one guy she knows she can trust…

*****

I truly hope you enjoy The Unknown Billionaire. I have definitely loved writing it.

And if you haven’t entered the exclusive giveaway yet, don’t forget to check it out!

Exclusive Giveaway To Celebrate The Unknown Billionaire’s Release

Happy reading, and let me know what you think of The Unknown Billionaire, ‘kay?

Much love,
Miranda xoxo

 

 

 

The Unknown Billionaire: Chapter Two + Other News

Hi! Did you get to read Chapter One of The Unknown Billionaire yesterday? Hope you enjoyed it.

You can now pre-order The Unknown Billionaire from iBooksBarnes & Noble and Kobo. The links to Amazon, Google Play and All Romance eBooks will be available soon.

Also, The Unyielding Bachelor (Captured by Love Book 2) is on sale for US$0.99 to help boost the visibility of the Captured by Love series, but only until the 1st of October! If you already have a copy of this book, thank you so much! You might want to share this news to friends who would be interested in this limited time sale. (At the time of writing, the price on Barnes & Noble hasn’t reduced yet. Please check there again in a few hours as it should go on sale there too.)

As promised, here’s Chapter Two of The Unknown Billionaire for your reading pleasure. Just a handful more sleeps before the book releases! Yay!

The Unknown Billionaire: Chapter Two

Marilyn’s heart skipped before banging hard in her chest. Jarryd was walking towards the patio. What had Lucas told him?

She swallowed, marshalling her courage. “Why, hello there, stranger,” she called out, keen to pretend she was in no way affected by his proximity.

Jarryd smiled back, making her heart race faster.

He stopped in front of her, his chest heaving from his deep inhalation as he eyed the vacant space in the two-seater couch. He seemed to be hesitating.

Her excitement disappeared in a flash. Damn him. Couldn’t he make it less obvious that he didn’t want to be close to her?

“You don’t have to sit next to me if you don’t want to,” she said, meaning to sound teasing but hearing the hurt in her own voice.

“Marilyn,” Jarryd said, his tone chiding.

“What?” she asked, arching an eyebrow.

“Don’t say it like you think I have something against sitting next to you.”

She gave him a saccharine-sweet smile. “Well, you do, don’t you? Don’t worry. You won’t burn yourself. There’s no spark between us, remember?” Ugh, what the hell was wrong with her?  Did she really need to pick at that wound right now?

Jarryd’s lips curved into a semblance of a smile as he proceeded to sit next to her on the love seat, his fingers grazing her knee as he settled himself.

Zap.

Startled, she glanced up at Jarryd.

His eyes were round, probably as much as hers were.

“Sorry,” Jarryd said, his voice croaking. “Must be some static.”

“Yeah, what else could it be?” she asked tightly.

Jarryd sighed. “Lucas said you’ve been wondering about my real reason for ending things between us. I thought I’d explain.”

She sat up straight and fixed her gaze up ahead. No way would she look like a yearning mess of a woman who was missing him terribly—even if she was that.

Silence.

“Look,” she said, giving Jarryd a small smile. “I don’t have a problem with you ending things between us. I’m not someone who’d force a person to be with me against their will. My problem is I can’t relax about something when I think I haven’t been given everything I need to know. And what you told me as your reason for not wanting to see me anymore just struck me as being untrue.”

Oh God. She hoped she didn’t sound like an egotist who couldn’t believe that a guy had ditched her.

Jarryd stood up and went to the nearby chair.

Her eyes smarted. Was he really that uncomfortable with her now?

But her breath caught when Jarryd dragged the chair so he was facing her fully.

“Marilyn,” Jarryd said as he sat down, holding her gaze. “Two months ago I was totally muddled. Someone close to me died nine months ago, and complications had arisen because of that. I was having a hell of a time with personal problems.”

Her brows furrowed in concern. “Died? Who?”

“A… relative. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to involve you in the mess. Like I said, I was totally muddled back then.”

“Are you okay now?”

“Things aren’t fully sorted, but yes, I’m okay now.”

She stared at Jarryd, her heart constricting. So he’d been grieving and he hadn’t needed her comfort? He’d had a difficult problem and he hadn’t wanted to share it with her? That said a lot.

“I didn’t mean what I said when I broke up with you,” Jarryd said.

She frowned. “Which bit? That we have no spark?”

Jarryd nodded eagerly. “Yes! I didn’t mean to say that.”

“And yet you did.”

“Like I said, I was totally muddled.”

“So what did you mean to say?”

“Well, I actually meant to say that we didn’t have enough spark. But I wouldn’t have meant that either.”

She shook her head to clear her confusion. “What?”

“We have extraordinary chemistry, Marilyn. That can’t be denied.” Jarryd looked down to the ground. “But I needed to pour a lot of time and energy into my issues, plus I didn’t want to involve you in them. So with everything I was going through, I thought it was best not to continue with our relationship.”

She took a deep breath. Okay, right. Not ready for a relationship. That she understood. How many times had she used that same excuse with some of the men she’d dated after she’d discovered she didn’t want something long-term with them?

But she had to know something else. “Did my parents have anything to do with your decision?”

Jarryd looked at her sharply. “What do you mean?”

“I have a feeling you weren’t impressed by the fact that I’m the daughter of Barry and Alice Grant of Grant Ace. I thought you might have been… well… intimidated by them being so rich.”

Jarryd’s brows furrowed. “No. I was surprised when you told me who they were, but I’m actually impressed. Not by them being rich, but with you not using your parents to get ahead in your business. I bet not many of your clients know who your parents are.”

“I see,” she murmured, her chest compressing further. There it went—the final sliver of hope she’d been hanging on to. Clearly and plainly, Jarryd just didn’t see her as someone he could share deeper and more meaningful things with.

She nodded, finally accepting it. For Jarryd, all they’d had was a strong physical attraction. They might have had extraordinary chemistry—still did, if her body’s reaction to his closeness was anything to go by—but it was still only physical.

The feelings weren’t mutual, after all.

Marilyn squared her shoulders and rose to her feet. She’d had to break a few men’s hearts in the past herself. She could understand Jarryd, even if he was hurting her.

“Thank you for explaining things to me,” she said with a smile as she smoothed her dress. “Anyway, I’m feeling a bit hungry. I’m gonna go get something. See you later.”

She hurried away from him and made a beeline for the dessert table. Something sweet should make her feel better, shouldn’t it?

She stared at the different cakes on offer, forcing herself to ignore the ache in her chest. She wasn’t going to show him how much she was hurting.

“Can’t decide?” a voice said next to her.

She smiled at Simon Alexander. “They all look so tempting.”

Simon leaned close to whisper in her ear. “I have it on good authority that Jarryd likes chocolate mud cake. I’m sure he’d be over the moon if you spoon-fed him some on that love seat.”

She frowned at him. “Have you been speaking to Lucas?”

“Hey, everybody knows that Jarryd’s got the hots for you. So he finally ’fessed up, huh? He’s done nothing but look at you all day.”

Marilyn rolled her eyes. What bad timing for people to be bringing up this Jarryd’s-got-the-hots-for-you crap. “Turns out I’m not ideal girlfriend material.”

“What?” Simon asked in shock.

She shook her head, trying to look nonchalant. But her expression must have betrayed her, because Simon was now inspecting her face.

“Hey, it’s cool,” she said. “A person can be physically attracted to someone, but not be interested enough to want a relationship with them. It happens. It’s not a crime. I’ve been guilty of the same thing in the past.”

“Was he asking you for a no-strings affair back there?” Simon gestured to the patio.

“No,” she scoffed. “Can we talk about this later? Now’s not a good time.”

“Sorry,” Simon said, putting an arm around her and giving her a sympathetic squeeze. “I didn’t mean to be nosy. Want me to be your date for the rest of the day and keep him away?”

She dipped her head onto his shoulder. Simon was her best male friend whom she’d known for over ten years. A few years back, before Simon had decided he much preferred the bachelor lifestyle, they’d tried dating for real. But when it came to trying to sleep together, they’d ended up laughing so hard at their attempt to end up in bed that they’d given up then and there. Much as they adored each other, they simply didn’t have that physical chemistry.

“I doubt you’d need to keep him away,” she said with a little sniff. “I bet he’s the one who’s going to keep on avoiding me, not the other way around.”

“Hey, it’s his loss. Anyway, let’s change the subject. Have you decided on whether to go on Biz Q&A or not?”

“Not yet,” she said, picking a strawberry and nibbling on it. Jarryd wasn’t a big fan of strawberries. So there must really be something wrong with the man to give her up, right? Hah!

“It’ll be great for your charitable works,” Simon said as he led her towards one of the several outdoor seats.

“I’ve thought about that. I’m still surprised that Patrick contacted me personally after my parents declined the offer. I don’t like being in the spotlight, as you know, but I get that it’s about helping the young entrepreneurs who go on it. And, yes, I suppose I could mention some of my charity fundraising events and lift their profiles.”

“Starting with our Captured by Love game,” Simon said with a laugh. “Imagine asking people from all over Australia—the world, even—to bet on which bachelor will be the next to get stupid and give up their freedom.”

Marilyn chuckled. “Don’t give me ideas, because I’m liking the thought of taking this game to another level. And when I do, I’m gonna campaign so hard for everyone to bet on you,” she said, wagging her finger at Simon. “There’ll be so much pressure that even you will have to seriously consider finding a nice girl to fall in love with.”

Simon snorted. “I’m not susceptible to that kind of pressure.”

She sighed. “I wish I could go back to not caring about finding someone special. I don’t know why I’m so intent on finding my soulmate all of a sudden.” Her gaze involuntarily went to the patio. Jarryd was no longer there. Against her will, she searched the yard for him and found him sitting with a bunch of others near the outdoor bar. She caught him watching her and Simon, before immediately averting his gaze.

“I’ve never known you to be such a quitter,” Simon quipped.

She frowned at him. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me,” Simon said unapologetically.

She saw her scowling image reflected in the lenses of Simon’s dark sunglasses. “And what would you have me do? Force myself on someone who doesn’t want a relationship with me?”

“But he’s still attracted to you, right? So what’s wrong with no-strings? You’ve done that a few times in the past. And it’s not like you’re in that much of a hurry to get hitched, are you?”

“I don’t know if he’s still attracted to me right now,” Marilyn said with a pout.

“That he can’t make himself stop looking at you tells me a different story.”

“Is he looking this way again?”

“Yeah,” Simon said with a chuckle. “Like he doesn’t want to but can’t help himself.”

Too bad she’d left her sunnies on the coffee table on the patio. She, too, would love to watch Jarryd without being obvious about it.

“I think he still has a huge crush on you.”

“You think?” she asked in a pathetic voice.

“Maybe Jarryd’s just the type who thinks he might be insulting you with a suggestion of booty calls. Have you considered a casual fling for the time being?”

“No. I should have spoken to you earlier, Mr. Playboy,” she said with playful sarcasm. “Only you would suggest something like that to me.”

Simon laughed. “Tell me again why I never got to show you how good I am in bed.”

It was Marilyn’s turn to laugh out loud. “Because this was what we ended up doing whenever we tried to have sex.” She pointed to herself, chortling.

“Yeah,” Simon said with a wide grin. “So what’s stopping you from telling Jarryd you’re okay with no-commitment fun? Snare him the sneaky way, I say.”

She let out a long breath. “I don’t know.”

“Think about it while I get a drink. Want me to get you one since Jarryd’s sitting right next to the fridge?”

She shook her head. “I’ll join you over there after I go to the bathroom. Might as well prove to Jarryd I’m okay with being around him.”

Simon snickered before heading off.

She chewed her lip as she walked towards the house. Would she really consider a casual relationship with Jarryd?

Well, didn’t some long-term relationships start out as sex-only affairs? She only needed to look at some of her happily-in-love friends to know that was true.

Her brain traitorously reminded her of her hot days and nights with Jarryd. Oh, she’d had the strongest orgasms of her life with him. “I don’t mind booty calls as long as they’re from Jarryd,” she mumbled to herself.

Problem was, from what Marilyn could gather from their brief chat, her being hurt further had a much higher probability of happening than Jarryd falling for her. Would she really be so stupid as to put herself in a hurtful, embarrassing situation when Jarryd had already given her everything she needed to have closure and move on?

***End of Chapter Two***

Hope you enjoyed that. As I’ve mentioned above, you can now pre-order The Unknown Billionaire from iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. The links to Amazon, Google Play, All Romance eBooks and Smashwords will be available soon.

And don’t forget to check out the exclusive giveaway happening right now where you can win signed paperbacks of some of my books!

Talk to you again in a few days when all the book links are available.

Much love,
Miranda xoxo