The Billionaire's Arranged Marriage

By: CJ Howard

She pushed his hand away and pulled her dress strap back up over her shoulder. “It’s time to take you to him,” she said quietly as she pulled her seatbelt on and backed the jeep out of its hidden spot in the beach dunes.

Reed frowned and turned his head to look out of the window. “I guess,” he said quietly.

They were a short distance down the road when she looked at him and asked, “Why don’t you ever come in me? Why do you always want to come in my mouth?”

He shook his head. “I don’t want to have a kid. I’m just practicing a little loss prevention.” He tossed her words back at her and laughed. She smiled at him and took his hand in hers, raising it to her lips and kissing it before letting it go and driving him home.

She turned off the main road and slowed her jeep down as it made the long rounding curve toward the enormous mansion at the end of the drive. She shook her head. “No matter how many times I’ve seen this place, it always intimidates the hell out of me. No one should live in a place that big. Seriously. It’s just you, your dad and your brother. What do three guys need with that much room?”

Reed shrugged and sighed. “I have no idea. I’m never here.” Then he looked around and saw that his car was parked near the garage where his father’s cars were kept. “Wait!” he said sharply. “What’s my car doing here? I thought it was stolen!”

Confusion rushed through his mind. He furrowed his brow and tried to remember if he had somehow brought it home, but he knew he couldn’t have. He’d been at the hotel for three days and even the valet manager said that his car was there for both days until it had disappeared that morning, and he knew he hadn’t driven it home.

He was at a loss.

Daisy leaned over and kissed him deeply, holding him close to her as long as she could, before he pulled away from her and waved her away, heading into the house, and in his mind, into the lion’s den.

Carter was sitting as his massive mahogany desk in his large and stately office, working on his computer, when Reed walked in. Carter did not stop working to look up at him, but kept on typing while he greeted his son in a stern tone.

“It’s about time you showed up. Sit down.”

Reed sat down, his hangover still wreaking havoc with his body. He waited quietly for his father to finish what he was doing and turn toward him. It was a full five minute wait before Carter closed the screen of his laptop and turned to look at his son.

“You have truly hit the bottom of the barrel, young man. I’ve talked with you several times about your wild partying and carousing. We’ve discussed the damage your actions and debauchery have done to tarnish the public image of our family and our business, and no amount of my intervention has made a difference to you.

“I can no longer give you a mere lecture or occasionally turn a blind eye. I can no longer leave it in your incapable hands to correct your errant behaviors. I can no longer continue to let our attorneys clean up your legal messes or produce the funds to repair the aftermath of destruction that you leave in your wake; particularly in the form of monetary settlements for both people and property. You are old enough to know and do much better than you’ve wasted your youth doing.”

He stood up and walked around his desk, his eyes sharp and piercing as they held Reed’s in a steady gaze.

“Have you seen the news today?” His father leaned against his desk and folded his hands in front of him.

Reed shook his head silently.

Without looking away from Reed, Carter reached back onto his desk and grabbed a stack of newspapers, which he tossed in Reed’s lap.

“You’ve managed to expand your reach beyond the society pages and land on both the business and front pages,” Carter said with quiet anger.

Reed looked down and picked up the stack of papers he was sitting beneath. There he was, staring at photos of himself. He was drunk in a fountain in one, dancing nude with the redhead and the blonde in a private club in another, hanging out of his car and vomiting in one, and making out heavily with both girls in a corner booth at a swanky restaurant.

They were clear pictures of what his last few days had been like, and he couldn’t remember doing any of the things he was seeing in print.

He realized he should feel shame; that he should be remorseful, but he only felt like a hollow shell as he sat there silently beneath his father’s reproachful eyes.

“Have you nothing to say to me?” Carter asked, his eyes penetrating his son as though he might find the answers he sought if he only looked hard enough.

“Nothing, sir,” was Reed’s reply.

“Well, Reed, I have something to say to you,” Carter said, sliding his hands into his pockets. “There’s a girl I want you to meet.” His tone remained quite serious. Reed blinked in complete surprise. He’d been expecting another lecture, but nothing like what his father had just said, and certainly not what followed. “Actually, you’ve already met her, but you haven’t seen her since you were children. Her name is Jillian. Her mother is one of my oldest business acquaintances and her family has considerable control over some of the largest technology companies in Japan.”

Reed felt his memories sifting slowly through his mind, like sand in an hour glass, one by one, bit by bit, until finally the distant faded memory began to come back to him slowly.

There was a girl named Jillian. Her mother was Asian and her father was African-American. She was very different looking than other children he had known. He was a few years older than her, and when they met, he’d been fascinated with her. Reed remembered his father suggesting that he show her the gardens on the grounds behind the home, and he led her outside. She was quiet and shy, quite a bit smaller than him, and hesitant to follow him.

He had coaxed her outside and when they got to the garden, she was more interested in the flowers and trees than she was in him. It had frustrated him, so he had pretended to be interested in the jade bracelet she was playing with underneath her sleeve and he asked her to show it to him. She said she couldn’t, that she wasn’t supposed to have the bracelet and she had sneaked it that morning. He promised he would keep her secret and he begged her to take it off. She complied, removing it from her wrist and handing it to him so he could look at it. But instead, he turned and ran from her, laughing and looking back over his shoulder at her, wanting her to chase him.

She had chased him, panicked and crying, but she wasn’t as fast as he was, and when he looked over his shoulder again to see if she was still behind him, he had tripped and fallen, and the delicate jade bracelet had flown out of his hand and hit one of the marble columns in the atrium near the garden.

It had shattered into several pieces and when he saw what had happened, he was afraid he would be in trouble, so he ran away and left Jillian there in the atrium among the shards of broken jade. He had never seen her again since, but when his father asked him if he knew anything about it, he had lied and said no. He’d been scolded for not showing Jillian the garden as he had been instructed to do, but that had been the extent of his trouble.

“I remember Jillian,” Reed said quietly, watching his father in confusion.

Carter nodded. “Good. I want you to take her out on a date. It’s obvious that you are spending time with the wrong sort of women and she is the kind you should be seeing.”

Reed’s jaw fell open. “Date her? Carter, I don’t even know her!” He couldn’t hide the shock in his voice.

Carter leaned forward and placed his hands on the armrests of the chair that Reed was sitting in. “I’d venture a safe bet that you don’t know the women you were photographed with in these newspapers either, but that doesn’t seem to stop you.” His tone lowered slightly. “Let me make this crystal clear for you. You have humiliated our family. You have shamed our business. You have seriously sullied our public image. You have run out of options. Reed, you will date this girl, and only this girl, or you will find yourself without your car, like you did this morning, and without any finances whatsoever.

You will be forced to get a job, and as you have absolutely no work experience, you could reasonably expect to be hired at some sort of fast food facility or a big box discount warehouse store.

“You do not have a choice. You date the girl or you are on your own. Do you understand me, Reed?” Carter’s face was inches from Reed’s.

Reed looked at his father’s eyes and realized that every word he had spoken was no mere threat. The concept of losing his precious red Ferrari was beyond anything he was willing to imagine, not to mention his enormous allowance.

Flashes of his wealthy playboy lifestyle vanished in his mind and were replaced with thoughts of him asking whether drive-thru customers wished for fries with their meals. He felt an untold horror rise up in him and he nodded his head adamantly.

“I’ll do it, Carter,” he said right away.

Carter stood up and straightened his jacket. “Good. I’ll get you her contact information. Call her today and set up a visit with her immediately. You are finished with your wild ways.”

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