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