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The Billionaire's Pursuit: Billionaire's Clean Romance (The Tycoons Book 1) by Marie Higgins (1)

ONE

Finding the man she’d planned to ruin wasn’t easy. The Country Club’s lounge was packed with people tonight. Nicole Adkins rolled her eyes. Great! Perhaps she wouldn’t have to worry about this after all.

Nicole shook the negative thoughts out of her head. She would do this. It was the only way, and she was desperate to put a stop to Mick Remington.

She blinked several times, trying to get her vision adjusted to the room’s dim lighting. It was imperative that she find her man. Well, Mick Remington wasn’t exactly her man, but he was the only man she was after tonight.

She glanced down at her black, short-sleeve mini-dress with a keyhole neckline collar that hugged her petite figure. With a groan, she tugged at the hem of her dress that ended three-inches above her knee. Her grandfather had purchased this dress for her five years ago, but she’d never had the occasion to wear it.

Tonight was certainly not the right occasion, either, but wearing something so daring would get Mick Remington’s attention. She released a tiny groan. If her father could see her now, he’d wonder where he’d gone wrong. Her father had raised her with high standards, it just so happened that this evening she’d have to put some of her religious beliefs on hold so she could save her inheritance.

If only there was another way.

Thanks to the tabloids, Nicole knew Mick Remington dated fancy-dressed, beautiful women. Although Nicole didn’t consider herself beautiful, she thought this expensive dress might get his attention. Tonight it was important to convince him to spend some time with her, if only for a few hours or however long it took to get information that she could use against him.

She just prayed her angel father wouldn’t judge her right now.

If only her friend hadn’t forced Nicole to go along with this outrageous plan. If it was up to her, she’d find a much prettier woman, dress her up like a model, and make her charm the billionaire. Growing up as the pastor’s daughter, Nicole was the exact opposite of enticing.

A few patrons glanced her way – both male and female. The men’s ogling stares made her uncomfortable, especially when their female dates elbowed them in the ribs and shot Nicole a warning glare.

Losing her nerve, Nicole scampered down a shadowed hallway toward the bathrooms and pressed her back against the wall. With her heartbeat in overdrive, she tightened the cell phone in her hand and dialed her friend’s number. Her friend answered immediately.

“Mary,” Nicole kept her voice low, “I can’t do this. I feel so... cheap.” Her friend’s fit of laughter was so loud, Nicole pulled the phone away from her ear for a moment. When the sound died down, Nicole gritted her teeth. “I mean it, Mary. You picked the wrong woman.”

“First off,” her friend said with a light voice, “you’re definitely not cheap, especially since you’re wearing a Trina Kurk’s designer dress. And no, I didn’t pick the wrong woman. You are perfect for this role.”

“But wearing this dress makes me feel like I could charm the socks off any man who walks by.”

“Great, Nikki. Go with that and use it to your advantage.”

Nicole grumbled underneath her breath. “But this isn’t me. I don’t wear fancy clothes like I’m going to one of Paris Hilton’s parties. I’m more comfortable in a pair of shorts and a tee-shirt and flip-flops.”

“Nikki, don’t worry about what you’re wearing. Keep in mind that you’re a woman on a mission. You must stay focused.”

Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply and slowly. “Yes, I’m on a mission, but I don’t want that man to think I’m like most women with loose morals who regularly hits on him.”

“You’re not,” Mary reasoned. “All you’re trying to do is catch his eye and make him want to date you. Just keep in mind that you should be nice to him until after you’ve found the information we’re looking for.”

“Yes, I hope we can, too.” Frowning, Nicole opened her eyes and sighed. Mick Remington was in town to buy out her grandfather’s company... a company that was going to be hers one day. She couldn’t let Remington take this away from her.

“Nikki? Are his associates still with him?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him yet.” Nicole moved out of the hall and back into the main lounge. She scanned the bar before studying the booths. “Remind me what he looks like again.”

“Seriously, Nikki? Can’t you remember seeing him on that tabloid magazine two months ago?”

“Well, I think I remember,” Nicole muttered.

“Mick Remington is probably the hottest guy in the lounge tonight. Six-foot-four, broad shoulders, dark brown hair, and a trimmed goatee. The article I read about him mentioned his gray eyes will make any woman drool.”

Nicole snorted a laugh. “Well, I can guarantee he won’t make me drool.”

She continued searching for the man her friend had described, but she couldn’t find anyone who fit that description. Mary’s boyfriend had insisted Remington was here, so she didn’t dare leave just yet. The longer she studied each person in the room, ease began to settle her nerves. Could she hope he had already left?

“He’s not here,” she told Mary, trying not to feel relieved that she wouldn’t have to go through with this after all.

“No, he’s there. I just talked to Kent.”

Nicole stepped into the lounge a little further, continuing to hold the phone to her ear. Out of the corner of her eye, a handsome man with broad shoulders and dark brown hair captured her attention as he walked away from the bar and to a booth, holding a drink. He scooted on the seat and set his drink next to a folder of papers on the table.

Crap! Nicole frowned. He was here. “I think I see him.”

“Is he still with his associates?”

“No. Remington is by himself.”

“Great!” Mary’s voice lifted with excitement. “Now make your move, babe. Strut your stuff in front of him.”

Nicole rubbed her forehead, but it didn’t relieve the pain knocking against her skull. “Mary, I don’t—”

“Stop it, Nikki. Tell yourself you can do this. You must. Kent is there and will help you, I promise. As soon as we hang up, I’ll call him to make sure he’s ready.”

Nicole glanced at the four cowboys standing at the bar, flirting with the cute server girl wearing tight leggings. “I see Kent and his friends. They’re near Remington’s table.”

“Perfect. Give me a minute to call, and then you can make your move.”

Nicole clicked off her phone before sliding the cell into her purse. Sucking in a deep breath, she squared her shoulders. Mary was right. This must be done. It didn’t matter how underhanded the plan; someone needed to stop this man.

Wealthy businessmen like Mick Remington were parasites. The only reason men like him were billionaires was because they destroyed people’s lives. She had no other choice. She must stop him from ruining more people in his pursuit of money and glory.

Mick Remington had learned from the best. His father had been the destroyer feared by all large business owners. Whenever they heard Remington was in town, every business doubled up on their shareholders. Now his son held the destroyer title since she’d heard the elder Remington was retiring.

She wrung her hands against her waist, mentally going over her checklist. She’d charm Mick and convince him to tell her about his next business takeover. If that didn’t work, she’d go against her morals and let him take her to his hotel room and she’d slip a sleeping pill in his drink. Once he was passed out, she’d look for information that would help them fight the takeover of Adkins Dev-Tech, her grandfather’s company. And, if that didn’t work, Mary was ready with her camera to take pictures of Remington to sell to the tabloids. It was rumored that Mick hated to have his picture taken without consent.

Nicole shivered with anxiety. She prayed it wouldn’t come to that. Would she even know what to do at that point? Besides, blackmailing a successful businessman like Mick Remington could be dangerous.

From over at the bar, Kent’s phone chirped, and Nicole swung her gaze in his direction. He pulled it from his pocket and answered it. As Nicole focused on the four cowboys, Kent’s gaze met hers as he talked to Mary. He gave Nicole a nod.

Everything was set just as they’d planned.

Nicole’s heart pounded so hard, it threatened to bruise a rib or two. Maybe, break one. This was it. It was now or never.

Taking a deep breath for courage, she ran moist palms over her dress to help dry her skin faster. She also tried to pull the hem of the dress down to cover more of her bare legs, but the material wouldn’t budge. On shaky three-inch high-heels, she headed toward Mick Remington’s table, keeping her focus on the back of his brown head of hair and wide shoulders.

With each step, she clenched her jaw a little tighter. How could she act sweet and docile toward him when she loathed the very ground he slithered upon? What if he found her attractive? He’d want to touch her. The very thought of being so intimate made her stomach roll.

Nicole’s plan had to succeed. Grandpa James’s disease had grown worse. He had one foot in the grave, and she would inherit the company after he was gone. But not if Mick Remington sank his uncaring claws into it first. If that man took over, the town’s very existence would be depleted.

Yeah, no pressure. It wasn’t like everyone in Maple Springs source of income rested heavily upon her shoulders.

As she passed Kent, he laughed out loud and jumped back. He stomped his cowboy-booted heel directly on her foot. Crying out, she stumbled away from him... and fell right into Mr. Remington’s lap. The man’s muscular arms wrapped around her waist as a gush of air escaped his mouth, brushing her cheek. He smelled like mints – not alcohol. How refreshing.

The throbbing pain in her foot brought her back to what she was doing on his lap in the first place. Tears gathered in her eyes from the pain Kent had inflicted upon her. He knew how small her feet were since he’d teased her about them. Now she worried he’d broken some bones.

“Uh—sorry Miss,” Kent slurred and returned to the bar, chuckling.

Tomorrow she would make him pay dearly for this. But at least she had Remington’s attention.

Nervously, she turned and met Remington’s dark stare. Worry etched his handsome expression at first, but within seconds, kindness replaced it as his gaze practically caressed every inch of her face.

A sharp breath caught in her throat. This couldn’t possibly be Mick Remington. From what she’d heard, the man didn’t have an ounce of kindness.

Nicole blinked a couple times and focused back on the dream-man still gazing at her with a look that didn’t fit his reputation. Had she fallen on the wrong person?

Sweeping her gaze over his features, she double-checked to see if he was really Mick Remington. He resembled the man Mary had described, but somehow his skin seemed darker as if he’d just returned from enjoying the sandy beaches of Jamaica. Definitely, a possibility since Mick constantly traveled all over the world – according to the tabloids, anyway.

She swallowed hard. “I’m... I’m sorry for falling for you... I mean on you.” Embarrassment heated her face. Had she really said that? What an idiot she’d been... a very confused idiot.

Nicole struggled to move off his lap, but when she put her weight on her injured foot, the pain intensified. Stumbling, her shoe fell off in the process, and she sank back to his lap. “I can’t seem to stand.”

“How badly are you hurt?” His voice held a hint of concern.

“I can’t put pressure on my foot. I don’t know... it might be broken.”

Mr. Remington’s large hand slid down her leg until it hooked over the heel of her sore foot. His touch was so tender. So warm. Tremors of unexpected delight danced across her skin. She quickly silenced a traitorous sigh before it exited her mouth.

“Let me take a look.” He bent, inspecting it closer.

His hot breath caressed her skin. Goosebumps rose over her body from her neck, clear down to her toes.

She froze. It wasn’t just the pain from her bruise torturing her now, but the way his gentle fingers brushed over it.

He straightened. “It’s going to be a nasty bruise, but I don’t think it’s broken.”

Nicole forced a smile. “Thanks, but I should be leaving—” She moved to stand again, but his arms tightened around her waist.

“Sweetheart, you shouldn’t step on your foot now. It’s starting to swell.”

Her heart flipped from the nickname he’d given her. And why was his voice so stimulating when he said it? The pain must be affecting her hearing, too.

“But, I can’t stay on your lap all night.” From the mere idea, her face grew hotter. “I don’t even know you.”

“How about we change that right now?” His eyebrows lifted. “I’m Mick Remington. And you are...”

The woman that’s going to destroy you!

As much as she wanted to say those words, the sound of his deep, yet soothing voice brought odd sensations trickling over her. Her throat turned dry, as did her mouth.

She refocused on her mission and licked her parched lips. “I’m Nicole.” She couldn’t tell him her last name. He’d know exactly who she was related to. Quickly, she used her mother’s maiden name. “I’m Nicole Stanley.”

His gaze did a quick sweep around the room before landing back on her. “Are you here alone?”

“I’m not supposed to be.” She swallowed hard and began her lie. “But my date stood me up. I was on my way out the door when I was pushed onto your lap.”

He ran his hand softly over her knee, stirring the heat inside her up another level. They were way too close for her comfort.

“I really feel awkward sitting on you like this.” She motioned her head toward the empty space next to him on the booth’s seat. “Would you mind if I scooted over there?”

He gave her another devastating grin that lifted the right side of his mouth higher than the left. Dimples creased in both cheeks. Why did he have to have such an adorable feature about him? Regardless, she must stay focused on her goal.

“I would mind because I think this is very cozy, but I wouldn’t want to make you uneasy in any way,” he said.

Shifting her on his lap, he slid his hands underneath her legs and eased her onto the empty space beside him as if she was as light as a feather. He kept her injured foot propped on his thigh.

Nicole sucked in a breath and heat rushed over every inch of her body. Silently, she cursed her reaction to this gorgeous man. She prayed she wouldn’t be fighting him and her traitorous body all night long. There was no way she could endure that much torture.

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