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Vagrant: A Bad Boy Billionaire Romance by Voss, Deja (1)

Chapter One

Jesse:

I pull back my bow, suck in my breath, and let it all out on the target down the field. There’s nothing more majestic than that combination of trajectory, velocity, and kinetic energy flowing through that arrow as it glides away. The twang of the bow and the thwack of the target the only sounds I hear other than my own breath. Head empty. Focused on that glide.

Anymore, this is about the closest to peace I can find. Every day for the last two years has been some sort of epic grind filled with people, cities, deals, dinners, conference calls and handshakes. Even tucked away in my basement office, working on architectural designs, my true passion is tainted by looming deadlines and clients who don’t want to see my vision. Clients who think they know better than I do.

Sure, I’m the best at what I do. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in today.

My design skills plus Max’s sales skills thrust us to the height of commercial real estate. Everyone wants to work with us. Everyone wants a little piece of what we have to offer. When we started this business though, Max was supposed to be the one doing the wining and dining, and I was supposed to be the introverted designer who got to hide out and make beautiful blueprints.

Unfortunately, as the stakes got higher, so did the demands of these clients. Now they expect to see my smiling face too. And it stresses me the hell out.

What good is it being a young billionaire if you can’t live the life you want to live?

“The fuck are you doing, Jesse?” I hear his voice boom across the field. “We’re supposed to be in Miami in an hour.”

“Do you really need me to go?” I ask, lining up my arrow for another shot. “Can’t you just video call me in if you need me?”

“Yes, I need you to go. You’re my business partner. What if Rich wants to make some changes in the design?”

“He won’t,” I assure him. I let go of the arrow and watch, rapt, as it glides down the field. The wind catches it, tossing it off course for a moment, but it still hits the outer ring of the bull’s-eye.

“But what if he does?” he pleads. “Come on, dude; you know people admire us because we’re the package deal. You have the brains, I have the looks and the big fucking mouth. All you have to do is stand there and nod. Be there just in case. We can go gator fishing afterwards, tonight, if you want. I’ll set it up.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I say, waving him off. I pull another arrow from my quiver and line up my sights. The air around me begins to vibrate, the tops of the trees thrashing around.

“Looks like our ride is here,” Max says as the helicopter touches down on the landing pad on top of the mansion. “I’m not asking for much, Jess. One day. One night. Let’s get this deal locked and loaded and then you can go off-grid for as long as you feel like. I know you’re itching to get out in the woods. Humor me for the next twenty-four hours and I promise I will leave you alone for the next month.”

He’s absolutely right. I’ve been dying to get out of Dodge for ages now. I haven’t gone on an adventure in over a year, unless you count the tourist trap excursions Max is constantly trying to surprise me with. It’s fun and all, but it’s nothing like the real thing: A real off-the-grid adventure. Out in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but a hand-drawn map from some guy you meet at the local dive bar. Hunting, hiking, camping. That kind of real thing.

He wouldn’t get it though. His entire life has been buying whatever experience you feel like having at that moment. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but for some reason the guy latched onto me like glue when we met in college. He’s a generous person. He always saw something in me that no one from my hometown would’ve ever dreamed of for my life. Nothing I could’ve imagined, that’s for sure.

I came up dirt-poor. Hunting wasn’t a pastime, it was a necessity. Gardening wasn’t because we didn’t trust GMOs; it was because we couldn’t afford GMOs. The only way I got into college was on a football scholarship. The only way I stayed in college after blowing out my ACL was doing side jobs for Max’s father, mostly drafting and blueprints for his real estate company. He saw something in me, too. Something he didn’t see in his own son. I didn’t realize how fast the world was moving around me until I graduated one day, and the next I moved into the mansion.

The last ten years have been nothing but extreme overindulgence, and for a while there, I loved everything about the fancy cars, the kind of girls who don’t ask any questions, the fact that I don’t have to cook for myself, do my own laundry, or even think about paying my bills on time. I have a guy for that. I have a guy or a girl to literally do every day-to-day task for me and I can focus all my energy on architectural design and living the good life.

I have more things and more spare time than anyone I’ve ever known aside from Edward and his family. But all that spare time means nothing when you feel like you’re trapped in a cage. I am the kind of man who values his independence. The kind of guy who likes the idea of going out in the woods and not coming back until I have a deer strapped to my back so I can feed my family for the winter ahead. The kind of guy who wants to find a woman who isn’t made of plastic and wants more from life than just champagne and diamond rings.

“I’m only going if you promise,” I warn him. “I need to hit the reset button. I’m going fucking nuts. I got Rich’s job on lock. We have nothing coming up until September. I’m going rogue as soon as we touch down back here.”

“That’s fine. Put on a shirt and get in the helicopter. I don’t think Rich is really into the dirty mountain man vibe you’re throwing off right now. I know the maids appreciate your efforts to always show off those abs of yours, but I’m thinking Rich probably doesn’t want his new luxury casino full of shoeless hillbillies.”

Sure, I feel kind of like a petulant teenager arguing with him about stuff like this, but he knew what he was getting into with me from day one. You can dress me up, but underneath the money, I’m really a man who appreciates the simple things in life.

“Come on, boys,” Patty, our assistant shouts from across the field. She’s struggling to walk through the grass in her stilettos and rips them off and slings them over her shoulder. “I have your suit in the helicopter, Jesse. You’re gonna have to change on the fly.”

I shrug it off and follow them to the landing pad. I need to knock this pitch out of the park because, in less than twenty-four hours, I want to be off the grid.

No cellphones. No suits. No handshakes over Balvenie or dragging Max out of the strip clubs kicking and screaming as the sun is coming up over the beach. Just me and the mountains. Silence and simplicity.

We board the helicopter and I pop in my headphones and watch out the window while Max rambles on and on about what we’re going to do once we hit Miami. I’m assuming by the gestures he’s making it’s going to involve a curvaceous woman sitting on his face.

All I have to offer is a dramatic eye-roll. I turn my music up and watch the scenery from the sky, mapping out my escape in graphic detail. Drawing a blueprint of my freedom. Trying to figure out where exactly I can go that no one will know me, that no one will come looking for me, somewhere far away from anything shiny or sexy that will make Max want to come along for the ride. I need a month of solitude and then I’ll be able to just slip back into this life, refreshed and ready to hit our next billion.

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