Echo:A Dark Billionaire Romance

By: A Zavarelli



“Matthew.” He glanced at his watch. “Shouldn’t you be getting home?”

Matt looked like he wanted to argue, but thought better of it. He gave him a stiff nod before he stood and glanced back at me with a smile.

“Still on for tomorrow night?” he asked.

“Yeah.” I shrugged, my eyes darting back to Ryland. “Just text me.”

Matt nodded and walked to the elevator bank, leaving me to gather up my things under Ryland’s sharp gaze. I didn’t know why he was still standing there, hovering over me. It took me three attempts to get the zipper on my bag shut, and I ended up knocking over a jar of paperclips in the process.

I moved to clean them up when Ryland stopped me.

“Do I make you nervous, Miss Valentine?” he asked. “You seem to be in the habit of dropping things around me.”

My gaze swung to his, and there was a hint of a smile on his face. He was teasing me, and I couldn’t stop my own lips from curling in response.

“Maybe a little,” I admitted. “I guess I didn’t expect to be seeing so much of you here.”

He leaned back against my desk and scrutinized me with an arched brow.

“This corporation is my lifeblood, Miss Valentine. You can’t accomplish anything in this world without the right amount of motivation.”

“I can see that.” I massaged the tension from my neck, unsure what else to say. I was only highly motivated not to be sleeping on the street.

Ryland surprised me as he reached for my arm and pulled me closer. For a moment, he just let his eyes roam over my face. I wanted to ask him if he remembered, but I couldn’t find the words. And when he swept my hair over my shoulders and wrapped his fingers around the nape of my neck, I forgot them completely.

I shivered beneath his touch as he started to massage the tension from my muscles. His fingers were warm and strong, just like I remembered, and they still made my legs feel like jelly too. I hated that part, but I couldn’t admit it while he was touching me. His breath was hot on my skin, and I was afraid that if I opened my eyes, his lips would be right there. Teasing me of memories past.

He didn’t say a word as he did it, and neither did I. Truthfully, I was a little shocked by his inappropriateness. Why he would risk such behavior in the workplace was beyond me. He acted as though he couldn’t help himself, and yet he pulled away a moment later, leaving me more confused than ever.

“You’re finished for the evening, Miss Valentine.”

His voice cut through me like butter, and when I glanced up into those blue eyes, a jolt of longing hit me hard and swift. He looked like he could use a good massage himself, and for a moment, I wanted to be the one to give it to him. It was crazy, but I had all sorts of hormones surging through my body. A product of my inexperience? I hoped so. God help me if it was like this with all men who showed a slight interest in me.

I gathered up my things and scurried from the building before I could do something stupid.



***



“Will you please come with me?” I begged Nicole. “A bunch of the other employees are going.”

Nicole was so engrossed in whoever she was texting I doubted she’d even heard me. But I continued on anyway.

“Matt will be there,” I added, hoping this might entice her. “And he asked me if you were coming.”

This earned me her attention, and something weird passed over her features as she shook her head minimally.

“Then I’m definitely not going.”

“C’mon, why not?” I pushed. “I can tell there’s something going on between you two. I think he really likes you.”

“Well, I’m not interested,” she huffed.

I knew that wasn’t true, so I kept at it.

“Well, if you went tonight, maybe you two could talk and get to know each other,” I suggested. “No pressure or anything. But I’ve seen the way you look at him, Nicole…”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she snapped. “I said I wasn’t interested.”

I flinched at the harshness of her tone and held up my hands in a gesture of defeat. She was always so happy and easy going, I’d never expected to hit a nerve like I just had.

She sighed, turning away from me as she walked to the window. We had one of the best views in the city from this apartment. The floor to ceiling glass and extended balcony framed the entire bay area. I was sure it came with a hefty price tag, but according to Nicole the Bennett Corporation was footing the bill.

Again, it didn’t make much sense to me, given that Nicole was a program coordinator and not upper management. But when I started to ask questions she got a little funny about the whole thing, so I dropped it.

The place was nicer than anything I ever could have expected to live in. It had a loft style feel and three huge bedrooms. The walls were all pristine white, and the floors cherry hardwood. It was bright and airy, and yet empty somehow. Nicole flitted around the place like a ghost, coming and going without a sound most of the time. I had only lived with her for a couple of weeks, but it seemed like she was becoming increasingly distant. I wasn’t sure why, but I wanted to fix it.

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