Home > Claiming the Billionaire (Seattle Bachelors #4)(6)

Claiming the Billionaire (Seattle Bachelors #4)(6)
Author: J.M. Stewart


Sitting in that poor excuse for a prison cell in Iraq, waiting, day after day, to die, he’d thought about her a lot. He had too many regrets when it came to her. Too many unanswered questions. Had he only imagined she’d had feelings for him, too? Had he imagined the tender way she’d stroke his cheek? Or the fierce possessiveness of her embrace in the darkness of night?

He’d thought about the last night he saw her the most. He knew finding him at the auction wouldn’t go over easy, but he had to see her. He needed to see the light in her eyes, her smile. Hell, simply to stand within the same space as her, if only to prove to himself he hadn’t imagined her.

Drawing a deep breath, he squared his shoulders and forced himself to knock on the door. Restless anxiety had adrenaline firing through him, and Tyler turned and paced the tiny hallway. He’d endured three years in an Iraqi prison, had been shot, beaten, and starved, watched men he lived and fought with die in front of him. In awful ways. Yet somehow, the thought of seeing Cassie again had his heart jackhammering his ribs.

When grumbling registered on the other side of the door, he swallowed the thick paste in his throat and wiped sweaty palms down the front of his jeans. Christ. He’d probably drop at her feet if she opened the damn door.

The door finally did open, though, revealing Cassie in all her glory. Being nine o’clock at night, she had on her pajamas. Pink pajamas, no less. She looked different. She’d cut her long hair and lost weight. Cassie had always had a healthy figure. She looked this side of too thin now, her cheekbones more pronounced. Her big brown eyes had a haunted look in their depths.

Of course, he hoped she’d cooled off by now, that maybe she’d come around.

She folded her arms, shifted her weight onto her left foot, and cocked a brow. “What do you want, Ty?”

What did he want? To take her in his arms. Hold her. Spend half the night rediscovering all the ways her body fit against his. To hear her breathing beside him while he slept. Not that he did sleep. Or that he should risk trying to with her, given how he spent most of his nights. But he wanted the luxury of her beside him in bed all the same.

He knew going to the auction she likely wouldn’t even want to see him, but he needed to try. So, he stepped over the threshold, moving into her personal space. Close enough her soft perfume floated around him. Chanel something or other. He couldn’t recall the name, but, God, he loved the soft scent of it. She dabbed it behind her ears and between her breasts, and the scent made him yearn to search her skin for it.

“I needed to see you. You have no idea how much I missed you.” Drumming up courage from God knew where, he smiled. “You owe me a date.”

Yeah, and he owed Dean like twenty years’ salary. Dean had loaned him the money to bid on Cassie at the auction. It would take him years to pay Dean back, but it would be worth it if he could get her to spend some time with him.

“I’m sorry you came all the way out here, Ty, but I can’t go on a date with you.” Cassie straightened her shoulders, which did nothing but press her breasts into his chest, and hiked her chin to a stubborn angle. “I’ve moved on.”

Her words had the same impact now as they had hours ago. They hit his gut as surely as if she’d struck him. So she intended to play it like that.

He shook his head. “You’re a damn stubborn woman, you know that? We argued. So loudly the neighbors pounded on the connecting wall. At some point, I told you to go to hell, and you stormed from my apartment and slammed the door so hard the walls shook. But that’s all it was. An argument.”

His mind filled with the memory of that long-ago night. He’d proposed to her, heart in his hands. She hadn’t reacted the way he’d anticipated. After all the nights they’d spent wrapped around each other, she had the nerve to tell him she had no feelings for him beyond the physical. He’d called bullshit, hoping beyond hope he was right, that she cared more than she wanted him to believe, but all it had done was piss her off.

Now, her breathing ramped up several notches, her chest and shoulders heaving like she’d run a marathon. She stared, mouth open, then turned and stormed off. Seconds later, her bedroom door slammed.

“Why is he doing this?”

Her voice drifted down the hallway and Tyler rolled his eyes. She’d called for backup. Gray no doubt, who probably wanted to kick his ass. Tonight hadn’t gone how he’d imagined it. His mother had made a point to tell him Cassie had grieved hard over his death. They’d been watching a movie with Dean and the girls when the commercial came, flashing Cassie’s gorgeous face. Since coming home, he hadn’t called or gone to see her because he found normal life hard to adjust to. Everything was too damn bright and too noisy, and he was overwhelmed.

One look at her smiling face, though, had the need to see her burning in his gut. After three years of trying not to forget, to remember every little nuance of her, his heart had taken the knowledge and run with it.

Now he almost regretted going to the auction, because if he didn’t know better, he’d swear she was sorry he wasn’t dead.

“It’s been three years. I’m finally starting to move on. Why would he do this now?” Cassie’s voice drifted down the hallway again. She paused, as if listening. Thirty seconds or so later, she came marching back to the front door. She looked down at her phone and touched a button on the screen. “You’re on speaker, Marilyn.”

“Ty, honey, I told you that auction wasn’t a good idea.”

At the sound of his mother’s voice, he could only shake his head. “My mother? Out of all the people you could have called, you call my mother?” It gave him hope. That he was right, and she cared more than she wanted to let on. He took Cassie’s phone from her hand and glanced down at it. His mother didn’t need to be privy to this conversation. “I’ll call you later, Ma. I love you.”

Also something he’d regretted a lot over the last three years. Not telling her how much he appreciated her. Dean had been the golden boy, top of his class, always did what he was told and did it well. He was currently married and the vice president of the communications corporation he worked for.

Tyler had always been the rebellious kid who’d run with the wrong crowd and did everything anybody in a position of authority told him not to. He’d spent a lot of time over the last three years wondering if his mother knew how much he appreciated everything she’d sacrificed for them.

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