Declan smiled as he watched Mason and Abby celebrate her book launch. The function room in his hotel had been decked out with crime scene tape and the chalk outlines of dead bodies on the floor. Six foot posters of the book cover were plastered around the room and the space was filled with people milling around, eager to get a signed copy. It was the first time the reclusive A.A. Abernathy had ever attended a book signing and people were lined up out the door, eager to get a glimpse of their favourite author.
Declan had been given an early copy of the book and he had to say he agreed with the critics when they said it was her best work yet. He was proud of her and so happy for her and Mason and the journey they were on. He had worried about his friend for many years, worried that he would never find the piece of his heart that was missing. Seeing the way he and Abby interacted put his fears to rest and he let go of his concern for his friend knowing that he was now in the capable hands of a woman who loved him to distraction.
He wondered what it would be like to be able to choose the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with instead of one being thrust upon you. It wasn’t something he would ever have the good fortune to experience. His family married like marriage was a business merger and he knew his mother had someone already picked out for him. She was just waiting for him to sow his wild oats and when he was ready to settle down, she would spring the trap. He’d seen it done with his older brother.
The Mayfields were an old and distinguished family. Of the four friends he had in Alpha Pi Tau, he was the only one who had been born into money. They were all billionaires now, but money wasn’t a new thing to him. He was a billionaire in his own right, of course, building his hotel empire from one run down building to an international corporation with hotels and resorts across the world. He started with a loan from his family and now he stood on his own two feet, the loan long repaid and his debts satisfied.
But as hard as he’d tried to separate himself from the family, his mother and father still insisted on making sure he chose a suitable wife. And by choosing a suitable wife, it meant allowing them to choose for him. He had so far gotten away with avoiding his mother’s machinations, but with each of his friends finding their one true love, he was beginning to feel the stirrings of wanting to settle down himself. If only it could be with a woman of his choosing and not some daughter of one of his parents’ associates who would bring something of monetary value to the family.
Declan sighed and turned away from the happy scene in front of him. He walked out of the conference room and into the foyer, making a beeline for the front desk to check up on everything. This hotel, The Mayfield in Melbourne, had been his first and still remained his favourite, despite having hotels in nearly every major city in the world.
“Janine,” he said, addressing the woman behind the desk, “how’s the evening looking?”
She smiled at him and then looked down at her computer screen. “With the reunion happening in Conference Room 2 and the book launch in Conference Room 1, we are fully booked.”
He nodded, intending to ask another question but completely lost his train of thought when he saw a blonde walk out of Conference Room 2, a phone to her ear. She was stunning and stacked. His mouth practically salivated when his eyes dropped to her impressive rack that was barely contained in the tiny dress she wore. His eyes continued a lazy journey down the rest of her body, his breath stalling when he saw the long expanse of her tanned legs. Her dress was short and her stilettos high and in between was a mouthwatering smorgasbord of lovely, lovely legs. The old ZZ Top song started running through his head as he admired them.
“Shit, shit, shit.”
His eyes popped back up to her face and the scowl that marred her near perfect features as she held the phone to her ear.
“Where the hell are you? You were supposed to be here an hour ago!”
He was rooted on the spot, watching her. He knew it was impolite to eavesdrop on a conversation, but he couldn’t help it.
“Who’s there with you?…No, I definitely heard a voice, a female voice…Are you shitting me? You’re breaking up with me now?…I hope your dick shrivels up and falls off.”
She stabbed a finger at her phone and Declan watched as she took a deep breath and tried to compose herself. She dabbed at the corner of her eyes and smoothed her dress. Her head fell for a moment and he was about to go over and offer her…well, he didn’t know what the hell he was going to offer her, but he wanted to do something, anything, to take that defeated look off her face. But before he could move, she lifted her head, straightened her shoulders and turned on her heel, heading back into the conference room.
Declan straightened from where he had been leaning up against the reception desk and ran a hand down his tie.
“What’s going on in Conference Room 2?” he asked Janine.
“School reunion,” she replied.
“I might just head in and check that everything is running smoothly,” he said, stepping away from the desk and heading after the blonde.