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The Billionaire's Secrets

By:Meadow Taylor

 CHAPTER 1


The fog was so thick that Chloe didn't see the car until it was almost  on top of her. Certainly, she didn't have time to react. One moment she  was slogging along the road bent under the weight of her bags and  suitcases, and the next moment she was eye to eye with a Rolls-Royce  hood ornament.

The car ground to a halt inches from her, and she could feel the warmth  of the engine against her face. Blinded by the headlights, frozen with  shock, she stood rooted to the spot, not even sure for a moment whether  she had been hit or not. Then she heard the car door open and a man's  voice boomed out of the darkness. "What are you doing? Are you trying to  get yourself killed?"

His voice penetrated the shock. Finally able to react, she let out a  cry. She dropped her bags and staggered back from the car, only to trip  over one of her suitcases and fall on her behind. "I . . . I didn't see  you," she gasped. She raised her arm to shield her eyes from the glare  of the lights, but still she could not see the owner of the voice.

Suddenly she became aware that while he wasn't visible, she was  definitely in the spotlight. Her coat and skirt were bunched up around  her hips, her legs spread at an immodest angle. She felt a hole open up  in her stocking over her knee. One of her cases had sprung open, and  bright white bras, slips, and panties spilled onto the road. Feeling her  face flush with embarrassment, she grabbed at the escaped lingerie and  stuffed it into her old suitcase as she scrambled to her feet.

Without the headlights shining in her eyes, she was no longer blinded, though what she saw almost made her fall over again.

He was standing by the side of his car, his hands in the pockets of his  long black cashmere coat, opened to reveal a pair of expensive jeans and  a designer sweater. He was not wearing a hat, and his hair was black  and thick. Hair to run your fingers through, she thought absurdly. The  dense fog and the dark night suited him. Sexy, dark, mysterious, exuding  wealth, he was so handsome that she wondered for a moment whether the  car really had hit her. Maybe she was dead. But was he some heavenly  angel or the devil himself? He looked angry enough to be the devil. His  eyes flashed fire and his movie-star features were set in hard lines.  "What the hell are you doing here, anyway?" he asked, his voice low and  cold. "This is private property. And you are trespassing."

Nervously, Chloe took a step back. "I'm looking for Widow's Cliff," she stammered. "It's the name of a house-"

"I know it's the name of a house," he interrupted impatiently. "It happens to be my house. And who are you?"

"You're Gaelan Byrne?" she asked in dismay. Perhaps she would have  preferred him to be the devil. Preferable to meet the devil on a dark  country road than to find out this man-so good-looking and yet so angry,  downright rude, even-was her new employer!

"And who wants to know? You're not another damned paparazzo, are you?  I'm sick and tired of you people-why do you think I live way the hell  out here?" The night was cold, and his words came out in clouds, merging  with the fog.

"Paparazzo? No, no, of course not. I'm Chloe Winters." As he still  didn't seem to understand, she added uncertainly, "The new tutor?" She  started to extend her hand but decided against it, instead putting them  both in her pockets. He didn't look like he wanted to shake her hand.  The interviewer had told her he was a widower, so she had expected  someone older. Not even the fact that he had a six-year-old child had  deterred her image of him as grey-haired. Old enough to be her father,  old enough that a romantic relationship would be completely out of the  question. After her last boyfriend, she wasn't sure she ever wanted to  be involved with another man again.

He said nothing, his expression morphing from anger into distaste. Maybe  she didn't need to worry-his bad manners were very quickly making up  for his good looks. But then, bad manners were not very appealing in an  employer, either. She felt a premonition of impending disaster.

"For your little girl," she explained further with a sigh. Did he even  know he'd advertised for a tutor? "I thought someone was supposed to  meet me at the St. John's airport. Nobody came. I figured maybe the car  had broken down or something, and I didn't have your phone number . . . I  had to take a bus . . ." She was on a roll now, reciting the litany of  disasters that had occurred since she left Boston that morning.

Really-she was the one who should be angry. She was the one who had  stood around the airport all afternoon before catching a shuttle to  Puffin's Cove. Then the local bus driver had dropped her on the side of  the highway, telling her the house was still a mile down a dirt road.  Then this man almost ran her over with his fancy car. Her stockings were  torn, she was freezing . . .         

     



 

Suddenly, he started to laugh, but there was no warmth in it, and his  eyes still shot lightning bolts at her. He was definitely laughing at  her, not with her.

"It's not funny," she protested, feeling a slightly hysterical edge creep into her voice.

He stopped laughing. "You're right, it's not funny," he said soberly.  "It's infuriating." He threw up his hands. "I can't believe my assistant  hired you. Not only do you walk down the centre of dark roads not  paying any attention, you can't even arrive on the right day."

"It's the right day," she said defensively. "It's April the seventh today."

"And you were to start on the seventeenth."

"No, the seventh," she insisted. "The man in Boston who interviewed me told me the seventh."

"That man in Boston is my second-in-command. I can assure you he has  never made a mistake in his life." He leaned against the car and crossed  his arms. He looked her up and down as if he had never seen anything  that disgusted him more. Chloe wouldn't have been surprised if he found  the squashed bugs on his windshield more appealing. "Let me correct  that. Never made a mistake until he hired you. What did you do? Flash  those sexy legs at him?"

Well, at least she had scored points for having nice legs. Or had she?  Wasn't he accusing her of seducing his assistant? She opened her mouth  to make some sort of retort in her defence, but no words came to her.

He looked pleased that he had rendered her speechless. He opened the car  door, then turned to her. Chloe was very aware of his dark, smouldering  eyes locked on hers. "You've got half a mile more," he said coolly. "I  have a meeting tonight, and you've made me late. The housekeeper will  let you in. Now, pay attention to where you're going. If you miss the  house, you'll walk right off the cliff. And you wouldn't want to do  that-it's a three-hundred-foot drop onto the rocks, and it's been done  before."

It was obvious that he was waiting for her to get out of his way.  Mortified, Chloe grabbed her bags and struggled to the edge of the road.  And while he had sounded as if he would be delighted if she fell off a  cliff, the least he could have done was offer to take her bags!

"Consider it a chance to redeem yourself," he said, watching her  impassively. "If you get to the house alive, I'll reconsider my decision  to fire you on the spot." He got into the car and put it into gear. She  stood among her bags and watched helplessly as the huge silver car  rolled past her. He didn't even look at her, and within moments the tail  lights were swallowed by the fog.

The sound of the car soon faded too, and in the quiet she could hear the  distant roar of the ocean. Angry tears pricked at her eyes as she  arranged her bags in her arms and continued on the road to the house. It  was so dark and misty she couldn't see more than a foot in front of  her. Conscious now of the threat of cars, she walked on the edge where  the gravel met the grass. She wasn't too worried about dropping off a  cliff-the bus driver had said to keep to the road and it would lead her  right to the door. As she walked, she thought back to Gaelan's words.  You'll walk right off the cliff, and you wouldn't want to do that. It  was pretty obvious that if she did, it wouldn't bother him in the least.

How had she gotten herself into this mess? She hadn't even started her  new job, and already everything was going wrong. That is, if she still  had a job. It wasn't looking too hopeful at the moment. It surely wasn't  what she'd pictured when she had answered the ad in the back of the  magazine for retired teachers. Not that she was retired. She had, in  fact, been fired. All thanks to Shawn.

But the ad had looked like the answer to her problems-a job and a way of  putting distance between herself and Shawn. She had met Shawn on a  whitewater rafting adventure trip in Maine a year earlier. He was a  teacher too, and their relationship seemed natural. Before long, they  were living together. A few months later, she lost her job at a private  school due to declining enrolment. The financial crisis had hit the  Boston banking community hard, with many families pulling their kids  from the school. Out of a job and short of money, she was also forced to  leave her master's in education program a few credits shy of her  degree. Luckily, she found another teaching position at a nearby  boarding academy. True, she lied on her resumé about already having that  degree, but it was a requirement for the job, and what else was she to  do? Her parents couldn't help-the stock market crash had wiped out  almost all their retirement savings, and now they were forced to work at  the Home Depot on Cape Cod to make ends meet. The headmaster never  would have even known-if it hadn't been for Shawn.         

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