The Billionaire's Convenient BrideBy: CJ Howard
“You what?!” she seethed at him and narrowed her eyes, leaning toward him slightly and whispered through her teeth. “You want to rent me? What kind of woman do you think I am?!” The volume of her voice began to increase marginally. “I am not the kind of girl who sells herself to-”
He cut her off again, “No! Wait! I’m not trying to buy you, I just want to rent you for three-” She picked up her cup of water and tossed it right in his face. He sputtered for a moment and looked like he was in complete shock.
Emmaline stood up and turned to leave, but he grabbed her arm and held her back. She turned and glared at him furiously. “You take your hands off of me!” she spat at him.
He looked at her unapologetically, “I still have about twelve minutes, and you haven’t let me explain the whole thing to you. Please, Emmaline, just sit down and hear me out. No fighting, no yelling, and no more water. Just listen to me. You’re just about my only hope of making that project happen to repair and refurbish the neighborhood.”
She scowled at him and he let go of her arm and pulled her chair out for her. “Please?” he asked quietly. She sat and folded her hands in her lap and then looked at him with narrow eyes.
“Alright. I’m sitting. I’ll listen to the whole thing. You have twelve minutes. Go,” she said in a quiet warning voice.
He sat and began speaking in a soft voice. “So Nelson was saying to me that he thinks-”
“Who is Nelson?” she interrupted.
“He’s my assistant,” Peter answered, glad that she had an actual question rather than another fit. “He said he thinks the best thing for me, since I don’t want a real committed relationship, is to find a woman who fits our description, or rather, your description, and get her to let me hire her on as a pseudo wife, a pretend wife, for three years. I would rent her. I’d pay her for her time and work as a public wife, not a private wife, because I don’t want that, and she could help me clean up my image and do what you said… about working as a unit to help the community, and then after three years she could be free to go. We get an amicable divorce, she is paid the whole time, and I’d even make a lump sum at the end for her, and the whole time we live as business partners, but she shows the public that we are married and it makes me look like a respectable businessman rather than a trashy playboy. Remember all your ideas? Well, this is what they’ve come to. That whole thing was your idea, except for the part about renting the wife, but really, let’s be honest, that’s the best possible scenario for me and any poor woman who decides I’m a case worth helping and actually takes up with me for three whole years.”
Emmaline watched him carefully and listened as he continued.
“I just thought I would ask you, because you seem to really fit the bill kind of perfectly. You love the community, you’re a woman of high morals and values, and as you said, you have a good reputation. This would be a way for you to help me get that project done. You said yourself that all my ideas were good.”
“I said they were good, but they needed some work,” she intoned quietly, watching him closely.
“You’re waitressing right now, which means you probably aren’t making much money. This project means a great deal to me. I really want to see it happen. We might be coming from two very different places, but we both want the same things for the city, and together, we could make that happen. It will just take a little sacrifice from both of us-”
“A little?!” she scowled at him.
“Some sacrifice from me and a lot from you, and together we could do this and make it happen. Think of it as a job. You’d have your own room at my house, you’d be paid a tidy sum and have your own car and you could spend your time helping out those who really need it instead of wiping down tables at the restaurant. Surely you could use some extra money.” He was out of good reasons for her to help him. All but one. “Besides, I don’t really have many friends, at least none that are real, true friends, and people who are honest with me to my face. You are definitely the most honest and upfront person I know. If you need some time to think about it, go ahead, but this is something I want to start as soon as possible so I can get that project going.” He sat back in his chair and sighed, sipping his coffee, thinking how thankful he was that she hadn’t tossed that at him.
She tilted her head and considered him. He was being truthful and he was being genuine, and those were two things she valued highly. She’d have her own room, and he didn’t want a relationship, so that took a huge worry out of her mind, but not fully from her thoughts.
“What about sex?” she asked, and he choked on his coffee.
“What?” he gasped, looking at her with wide eyes.
“Are you going to expect sex from this pretend wife of yours?” she asked again, looking at him with suspicion.
He shook his head adamantly. “No. Not at all. This is strictly business, one hundred percent down the line. No sex. No fooling around, no physical contact except things like holding hands in public, and maybe an occasional kiss on the cheek for the cameras when the press is around. Just enough to be convincing. That’s it.” He looked at her and she raised one eyebrow in uncertainty.
“Honestly! I’m not going to start anything with any woman living under my roof. Not that I ever thought there would be a woman living under my roof,” he grumbled slightly.
Her expression softened, though she regarded him carefully still. “How tidy a sum of money are we talking about?”
“How much would you want?” he asked. “It seems fair to me that a million and a half ought to be enough. That comes out to five hundred thousand a year. That should be alright, don’t you think?”
She gaped at him in disbelief. “What!”
He lowered his head and looked at the floor. “Oh, alright. Three million. You’d be doing a lot of public events. Plus… you are putting up with me.”
He raised his head and looked at her. She was staring at him with wide eyes.
“If you do it,” he said, and sipped his coffee.
She continued to stare at him, seemingly adding up figures in her head.
He sipped his coffee again.
“So… will you do it?” he asked, feeling uncomfortable under the lock of her stare.
She shook her head. “I can’t believe I’m going to say this.”
He set his coffee cup down and looked at her anxiously.
“Yes,” she said eventually.
He grinned from ear to ear. “Great! That’s fantastic! I’ll let Nelson know right away so he can get all the details taken care of for you. I’ll give you his number. Please call him this morning. He’ll want to get all your information, and you need to tell him what kind of car you want so he can have it delivered today. Oh! You’ll need to go shopping and get some new clothes…” He looked at her work outfit and then looked back at her eyes. “Uh, all new clothes. You have to look the part of a billionaire’s girlfriend, and stop by the salon, too, please. Get your hair done, nails, the works. I’ll give you an extra allowance for that, that’s all so you can fit the job description, so I’ll pay for all of that.”
She giggled and smiled at him, finally, and he smiled back at her.
“This means you’ll have to date me quite a bit over the next couple of months, so that people believe us when we get married,” he said in a hushed voice.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she said with a slow shake of her head.
He shook his head as well and whispered to her, “Me either. I’ve never had to pay a woman to date me before.”
She rolled her eyes and wrote her number down on a piece of paper, then slid it over to Peter. “Here. Give this to Nelson and have him call me. I have to go back to work.”
Peter looked at her in horror. “No, you don’t!” he said unapologetically.
“Yes, I do. I have to tender my resignation.” She smiled at him, and then turned and walked out of the door.
He sank down in his chair and finished his coffee, not entirely sure that he was making the right choice, but hoping that it was just what his life needed to be turned around. Then he called Nelson and broke the news to him.
Emmaline spent the next week in a flurry of activity. It began with quitting her job and walking out of the sweet little restaurant in the Quarter, and then meeting Nelson. He was incredibly efficient and she was quite impressed with him. He called her within fifteen minutes of her newfound freedom, and he was in the quarter to pick her up in Peter’s limousine within twenty minutes. He took her to the bank first and opened some accounts in her name, making enormous deposits in them and while she was signing paperwork and finalizing her new accounts, he was on the phone arranging to have the car she wanted delivered to the house that afternoon.
The rest of that day and several days after that as well, were filled with shopping for new clothes, going for hair and nail appointments, spa treatments, and furniture shopping for her new room at his enormous house. His house was one of the biggest mansions in the city, and it was nestled on a quiet street in an older neighborhood; it was a grand old masterpiece with wooden floors and tall wide windows. There was a beautiful courtyard and an indoor and outdoor pool that were connected and partially covered by a sliding wall of glass.