The Billionaire's Convenient BrideBy: CJ Howard
Peter blinked in surprise. “Governor Collins!” he breathed out.
The Governor glared down at the woman Peter’s body was buried in. “Carolyn!” he shouted.
She gasped and in the moment that her mouth fell open in horror, the cameras clicked and flashed brightly for what seemed like an eternity before the Governor stepped into the room and closed the doors behind him.
Peter pulled himself from Carolyn’s body and covered himself with a sheet as she bounced out of the bed and grabbed a robe from a nearby chair. The Governor looked at them both furiously.
“What in the hell are you doing?” he demanded.
She ran up to him and grasped his arm, but he shook her hands away. Peter was dressed in record time and turned to look at the old man again. “Governor, I guess you must know Carolyn?” he asked without blushing.
“She’s my wife!” he shouted at Peter.
Peter nodded and pursed his lips. “I am sorry about that, Sir. I didn’t know who she was. I’ll be going.”
The Governor tried to launch himself at Peter, but Carolyn grabbed him and pulled him away as Peter slipped through the bedroom doors and into the living room of the suite, where the Governor’s aides were sitting. One of the men turned and looked at him with thinly veiled rage.
“We are trying to get him re-elected, you moron!” the young man railed at him. Peter lifted his hands in the air in silent apology, and then quickly let himself out of the room only to be greeted by a throng of reporters and cameras just waiting for him to emerge.
The elevator took its time getting to him and though he turned his back to the news crews, they hassled him until the doors of the elevator closed and gave him some privacy.
Peter sighed and silently berated himself for not checking to find out who the woman was. Typically, he wasn’t concerned with whether or not the women he slept with were married or seeing someone else. In his opinion, that just wasn’t his business. It was up to the woman if she wanted to have an affair. He was only interested in the time they shared intimately, and when that was over, he was gone, so it didn’t matter to him what they did before or after his encounters with them. This one, however, was slightly different. He’d been invited to the Governor’s fundraiser so that he would contribute money to the re-election campaign for the man, not to mattress wrestle his wife in their suite during the event.
The fact that the reporters literally caught them in the act made it that much worse. Peter was a local prominent businessman, and he knew it would be a black eye from which he might never recover. He texted his driver and had his car waiting for him as he slipped out of a side door from the hotel as quickly and quietly as he could, wishing he could leave it all behind him.
Two weeks later, the papers were still buzzing about his illicit affair, and photos of him buried hip deep in Carolyn were splashed all over the pages of the newspapers, magazines, and all over the internet. He was advised by his assistant, Nelson, that he should stay out of the public as much as possible and focus on his business deals. It was crucial that he made no further mistakes of any sort, so he stayed in the office of his mansion and worked from there.
He’d been making plans to refurbish some of the area in and around the French Quarter that had been severely damaged by the last major hurricane. Prior to his flagrant affair, he had just scheduled a meeting with some of the city’s officials and business owners to collaborate with him on the project. He poured all of his efforts into preparing an airtight presentation; one that would convince all of them to cut through the notorious red tape that the city officials wrapped the city in and work with him to make the refurbishment a major success. New Orleans needed the facelift, and he knew he was the right man to do it. He just needed to convince everyone else of it.
The day of the meeting finally came, and he rode in the limo to a charming little restaurant down in the Quarter, near the area he wanted to work on. He had secured a private room for the evening and arranged for a Creole dinner to be served to all of them. When he entered the meeting, it was obvious that his reputation had preceded him. The men and women who attended were cold and quiet towards him, and there were several people who had said they would attend and then bowed out after his tumble with the Governor’s wife.
He stood tall and acted every bit the gracious and humble host of the evening, seeing to any of the slightest needs of his guests, and having dinner and cocktails served to them while he made his presentation. He just hoped it was enough.
Peter hit the nail on the head. He could not have delivered his proposal any better. The men and women who were present had begun the evening with cold disregard for him, and though he had plied them with wine and whiskey throughout the evening, as well as some of the best food to be cooked up in the Quarter, they still saw the benefit to the community in the endeavors he was suggesting that they undertake.
At the end of the evening, he could not tell if they were fully sold or not, and he felt his stomach drop when one of the more prominent business owners of the neighborhood spoke up after he ended his presentation.
“Peter, there is no doubt that what you have shown us tonight would be a tremendous help to the community, but I’m going to be honest with you. Not a single person in this room is interested in doing any sort of business with you right now. Your deplorable behavior has disgraced this town with a shame that it rarely sees, and that’s saying something for a place that boasts the tawdriest of celebrations in the country. I’d like to be a part of something like this, but not with you at the helm of it. Thank you for your time and your ideas, Peter.” Then the man rose up and walked out of the room without even shaking Peter’s hand. The others agreed, though more subtly, and all of them followed suit.
He watched them go and sank into a chair at one of the tables. The waitress came to him and handed him a tumbler of whiskey.
“Here. This one is on me,” she said, knowing that he needed it pretty badly.
“Thanks,” he mumbled. He took a swig of it and raked his fingers through his golden hair. “I can’t believe it went that badly.” He let out a sigh.
She’d watched the whole meeting and she knew his intentions were good, but she also realized that no one was going to let him do anything because of his recent scandal, among many other indiscretions. She looked at him sitting there in misery and decided to talk with him about it. “They are right. You have good ideas. They need some work, but you have really good ideas, and what you want to do would benefit the community, but no one wants to rebuild anything with a playboy who doesn’t have a care in the world.”
He looked up at her sharply and paused for a moment. He hadn’t bothered to look at her at any point that night and she had been their private server through the entire meeting. She stood before him, her hand on the curve of her hip, her head tilted and her hair pulled up in braids around her head. She had a dark caramel color to her skin and warm dark brown eyes. Her body was curvy and petite, her limbs muscular, and her facial features delicate and soft. He blinked up at her as she looked down at him. He struggled to remember what it was she had said, and then her words cut into him again and he drew in his breath to respond.
“I do have a care! I care quite a bit!” He felt annoyed about her calling him a playboy, but he couldn’t deny it at all.
“I know that. I watched your presentation. I can see that you care. The people in here can see that you care, but no one outside of this room has any idea at all that you care about anything but women, drinking and parties. You have one of the worst reputations in the state,” she said, not feeling the slighted bit of guilt. She knew he had to hear it, and she was fairly certain that no one else would ever tell him. She began clearing away dishes and bottles and his eyes followed her as he spoke back to her.
“I didn’t know that was the Governor’s wife! I thought she was just some woman at the party. Just another woman coming on to me who wanted to have a good time!” He raised his voice defensively, but hoped not to attract any attention.
She felt miffed at his attitude and wasn’t shy about telling him why. “You are out with different women all the time. You think the people who live here don’t see you? You think they don’t know that? Your reputation didn’t come from that one incident. No, no. You have a terrible reputation from one side of Louisiana to the other, and it’s been building for years. It isn’t that you don’t have good ideas, and it isn’t that people don’t want to make changes around here for the better, but no one wants your hand in anything they do because your hands are dirty, and no one wants to touch what’s dirty,” she said with finality as she walked out of the room with a loaded tray and he watched the door close behind her. Minutes later she came back with a fresh glass of whiskey for him, and as she set it down, he looked up at her and spoke with a softer tone.
“Sit down with me for a minute, will you?” he asked miserably.
She had a few minutes and he looked like he didn’t have a friend in the world. She felt sorry for him in a way, but there was also a part of her that didn’t trust him fully. She lowered her brows at him and frowned but he picked up the glass of booze with both hands and tilted his head at her. “I will wrap my dirty hands around this glass and I promise not to touch you with them. I just want to talk a bit more. No one ever talks to me with the honesty that you are giving me.”