Manhattan Billionaires: BUY 3 GET 1 FREE
Manhattan Billionaires: BUY 3 GET 1 FREE
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Four books. Four bosses. One hot price.
You'll instantly receive:
Big Bossy Mistake
Big Bossy Trouble
Big Bossy Problem
Big Bossy Surprise
- Accidental pregnancies
- Nanny romances
- Single dads
- Grovels galore
- Strong heroines
- Forced proximity
- Sizzling-hot steam!
Billionaire. CEO. Single dad.
And, apparently, my date to Manhattan’s most exclusive ball.
I thought my invitation was a birthday present from my best friend.
The dress, the limousine, the red carpet… I thought they were meant for me.
That was mistake number one.
Then my date arrives, all gleaming cufflinks and tousled hair, steely blue eyes and a body honed to masculine precision.
Arrogant. Charming. Panty-melting.
And melt, they do. Hanky-panky with a rich hottie in the back room of the event I’m crashing?
Don’t mind if I do.
Listen, don’t judge me. It’s my birthday, remember? Nothing that happens tonight counts in real life.
That’s mistake number two.
Because the next morning, I start my new job as the nanny for a high-profile client.
And my new boss, the owner of this swanky Manhattan penthouse, and the father of these two adorable hellions?
Yup. Mr. Hanky-Panky.
But the biggest mistake of all?
Staying with him.
Working for him.
Letting my guard down, falling for him...
And crashing. Splat.
Oh—then I find out I’m pregnant.
Chapter 1 Look Inside
Chapter 1 Look Inside
AS I WAIT for a particularly aggressive toaster to eject my dinner, I have no idea that tonight—the night of my thirtieth birthday—is about to go awfully, horrendously right…er, wrong.
Oblivious, I just lean a sweatpants-clad hip against the counter, butter knife in hand, waiting for the violent pop of my toast.
It’s meaningful, really, that this particular day would change the direction of my admittedly chaotic life. Four years ago, my twenty-sixth birthday marked the day I went from employed and stable—on the surface, anyway—to the hot-mess vagabond I am now. My birthday is less of a celebration and more of a yearly reminder that life has a way of roundhouse-kicking me in the head when I least expect it.
On that fateful day four years ago, I took the pieces of my broken heart and shoved them into my empty chest cavity, then gathered up the pathetic remnants of my courage for a single, final act of self-preservation. Sitting behind the desk that had been my prison for the previous three years, I slid a plain, grey USB stick into the company computer and copied hundreds of documents, photos, reports, and emails onto the device. Those files contained every scrap of evidence I could find about the widespread fraud at the company where I worked—fraud I’d participated in. It was my leverage and my death sentence all wrapped up in one. I shoved the little grey USB into my Converse sneakers, then walked to the beat of my rioting heart until I was out of the building—then I ran.
And ran, and ran, and ran. For four years.
Somehow, I landed in a swanky Manhattan apartment housesitting for a woman who inexplicably got past my military-grade defenses and convinced me to try the whole friendship thing. Now I’m waiting for my life to take another sharp left turn.
The gleaming, stainless steel toaster expels two pieces of golden-brown toast with a velocity that still startles me, even though I’ve used it every day for nearly a week. The slice on the left falls on the counter, scattering crumbs across the polished stone countertop. The one on the right lands dead-center on my waiting plate, ready to be smeared with a criminal amount of butter.
Bonnie buys the nice grass-fed Irish butter. She probably doesn’t even realize it’s a luxury to be able to buy five-dollar blocks of butter without blinking.
Toast for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is something I’ve come to appreciate in my four years of near poverty. Simple, easy, versatile, cheap—if not exactly filling. Bonnie told me I could help myself to anything in the fridge, freezer, and pantry while I housesit for her, but something about accepting that level of generosity still makes me itchy.
My best and only friend moved into this place three months ago and told me she couldn’t bear to leave it unattended while she was away for a business conference. She totally overstated how badly she needed someone to stay at her place, but I wasn’t exactly in a position to protest, so I played along and said I’d stay here.
Accepting her offer felt dangerously close to charity, so I’ve been eating toast for six days to make up for it—even if I have been liberal with my butter consumption. It’s the karmic balance of the perpetually broke. I’ll accept her generous offer to stay here, but I won’t raid her pantry like I would my own.
At least she agreed to let me pay rent for the one night a week I’ll be staying here for the next few months. She’s charging me too little, but I’ll deal with that later, when I have enough money to spare.
I’m still getting used to this friendship thing. The give and take. The take is the part I have a problem with, when so often, taking puts you in another person’s debt. I don’t like being in debt. I like being free of all attachments. Free to run if I need to. Free to leave everything behind and know that no one will miss me.
My bare feet make no noise as I pad from her gorgeous kitchen to a massive living room. Yes, massive, even by New York City standards. My previous rat-infested hovel could have fit in the kitchen alone. The plush couch dips as I drop into it, my feet kicking up onto the coffee table. I tear off the corner of my toast with my teeth, chewing mercilessly, not wanting to admit to myself that I’m sick of eating it. That it’s my pride—or maybe my shame—stopping me from digging into the groceries Bonnie must have bought especially for me.
Tomorrow, I’ll be able to eat real food. Perks of the new job. It’s part of the employment contract, so at least I won’t feel weird about eating someone else’s food. I’m going to be a live-in nanny to the billionaire businessman who’s fired every single of the thirty-two other available candidates within a week. The last nanny who was sent—a brilliant childcare provider with six years more experience than me—lasted all of forty-five minutes before she was sent packing.
I’m hoping I last longer than forty-five minutes, otherwise I predict many slices of toast in my future.
Our boss, Linda Delmar—Bonnie’s older sister—assures me I’ll be a great fit. I’m the last name on a long list of qualified nannies specially trained to cater to high-profile clients. Also known as the bottom of the barrel. A noob. A rookie. The agency’s very last hope of keeping this particular uber-rich, single father happy.
Hoping to soothe my nerves, I grab the tablet I’d been using to read earlier. As I flick open an article from my favorite tech publication, my phone buzzes.
Bonnie’s name pops up. How’s the birthday girl? There’s a pause, then, You’re reading that awful technobabble, aren’t you?
I snort, fingers flying over the keyboard. I’d almost managed to forget about my birthday. I still think it’s creepy you know it without me ever telling you. And don’t judge my reading material.
That technobabble is the only thing that makes me feel connected to my old life. Articles and tech publications are one thing I allowed myself after severing every connection I had to the old me. If I can’t be one of the people on the leading edge of tech, working in a lab or a design office, then at least I can read about it.
Three dots appear, and I find myself ignoring the article while I wait for Bonnie to respond. She’s checked up on me every day—much like the way she hounded me for friendship after we met over a year ago. She’s the one who introduced me to her sister and persuaded Linda to pay for my training and certification in childcare.
When we met, I was working at a fancy cocktail bar where Bonnie used to bring her fancy clients for fancy business meetings. Bonnie took a liking to me and decided we’d be friends when she witnessed me kicking out a patron who took it upon himself to pinch my butt cheek. My boss nearly fired me that day—apparently that patron was a regular who spent a stupid amount of money on overpriced drinks. The butt-pincher was some high-flyer at a snooty, soulless investment banking corporation that churned out cardboard cutouts of men in suits, but apparently didn’t teach said suits how to leave a decent tip. I said as much, and my boss’s face turned purple. Bonnie nearly fell out of her chair laughing. She said she hadn’t heard someone say something honest in years, and told me she wasn’t leaving until I gave her my phone number.
A part of me thinks I’m a project to her—a lost little puppy with aggressive tendencies in need of some food, shelter, employment, and a bit of love.
I have my sources, Bonnie responds. A birthday is sacred, and I’m insulted you wouldn’t warn me ahead of time.
I snort and snap a picture of my sad dinner. Sacred, huh?
Bonnie responds in an instant. Just you wait. I have a surprise for you.
I groan. I hate surprises, a fact that delights Bonnie to no end. Six months ago, she showed up at my apartment on my only night off and told me she had a surprise. It turned out to be a disastrous speed-dating event full of people stinking of desperation and blind lust. Neither of us found what we were looking for romance-wise, but I did end up putting a particularly handsy man in a headlock while she threw a pitcher of water at his head. We both ended up roaring drunk, and Bonnie deemed the night a success.
The next morning, I was forced to grudgingly admit I’d enjoyed myself. Bonnie hasn’t let me live it down.
She keeps typing. You need to let loose, and I have just the thing for you. It’s on the way to the apartment right now. Might encourage you to dust off the old hoo-ha and take her for a ride.
My hoo-ha is just fine, thank you. I slump down in the sofa, sliding my empty plate onto the coffee table as I grin like an idiot. You take way too much interest in my sex life.
What sex life? I can almost see Bonnie’s arched eyebrow, the bone-deep snark permeating through her text message. How she manages to fool people into thinking she’s a professional at her Wall Street job is beyond me.
She’s typing another message when the buzzer sounds. I frown, heart suddenly thumping. I haven’t celebrated my birthday in four years. Haven’t had anyone to celebrate it with. Haven’t had anyone who cares about my birthday, about my sex life, about anything relating to me.
In fact, I’ve gone out of my way not to celebrate my kick-to-the-head anniversary.
Bonnie cares, though. And she’s my friend. She planned a surprise for me. So, against my better judgement, I press the button on the intercom. “Yeah?”
The voice that comes through is muffled. “I’m looking for Danika Jen—” The end of the name cuts off, but my heart thumps. No one but Bonnie knows I’m staying at her apartment. This is obviously her birthday surprise.
I hesitate. Even though Bonnie does things like birthday surprises and speed dating, she still understands my boundaries. She knows there are some things I don’t talk about. Parts of my past I’ll never divulge. But the thought of having strangers coming up to this apartment, this sanctuary…it makes me nervous. I left my old life behind and vowed to never be weak again. To never be in a position where I’d have to steal something for leverage. To never feel so powerless that I’d have to arm myself with a sledgehammer, destroy my life, then walk away.
My heart beats against my ribs, a painful, violent warning. Don’t let them in, it says. Take your things and leave. Bonnie’s gotten too close. Forget about the job tomorrow. Run. Run. Run.
I suck in a deep breath to settle my raging thoughts. Those instincts are what had me bouncing from small town to small town for years. What had me changing my phone number every month, looking over my shoulder at every turn, heart stopping every time I saw a tall man with midnight-colored hair. My instincts brought me to New York, where I hoped the big city would let me slip into anonymity.
I’m safe, I tell myself as a ragged breath saws through my throat. I’m okay. It’s the truth, too. My ex hounded me for a few months, but once I ditched my email and phone number and got my name changed, the pestering stopped. I haven’t heard from him for years.
One more breath, and the fear subsides. I can do this. It’s a birthday present my one and only friend planned for me. She’d be upset if I refused. She let me stay at her house for a week, rent-free, and I owe her this. I can shake off my demons and be normal, for once.
“I’ll buzz you up.” I press the button to unlock the front door of the building, then scoop my plate off the coffee table to deposit it in the kitchen. By the time I’m done, a knock sounds on the apartment door. I take a deep breath. How is this related to my sex life? Bonnie better not have hired a male escort for me. I swear she would. She wouldn’t even have to see the expression on my face to pee herself laughing at me.
But when I open the door, four women stare at me from the other side of the threshold. The one in front is a tall, lithe woman with shiny brown hair that looks professionally blown-out, her slim body clothed in a tailored pantsuit. She looks me up and down. “Are you Danika?”
She arches an eyebrow, taking in my sweats, my fuzzy socks, the old t-shirt with the hole in the armpit that I’ve had since middle school. Her eyes flick to the floppy, slightly greasy mass of brownish-blond hair plopped on top of my head. “I was told you’d be ready and showered by the time we got here.”
I frown. “I wasn’t told anything. Who are you?”
The three women behind her exchange glances. One of them is holding the handle to a little trolley, the middle one has a garment bag over her arm, and the third is carrying a huge duffel over her shoulder. They all blink at me, oozing elegance and superiority. I scratch the side of my head, sending tendrils of greasy hair falling from my bun.
The shiny-haired lady in front huffs. “We’re late, Danika.” She arches her brows and gestures past me. “We need to get started.”
I could slam the door in their faces. I could lock the deadbolt and climb under my blankets and forget about this whole surprise.
But my phone buzzes across the room, and I grit my teeth against the instinct to hide. Bonnie planned this. I’m safe. I’m okay. No one’s coming after me. This is the first birthday present I’ve had in years. Years.
So I step aside, letting the four women breeze in, smelling of hair products and expensive perfume. They glance around the apartment with an assessing eye, and the lead woman points to a huge mirror at the other end of the living room. A flurry of activity erupts.
I watch one of them flip open her trolley to reveal row after row of makeup. The other lady opens her duffel bag and pulls out a folding chair. The garment bag gets unzipped, and I spy a bit of silvery, bedazzled fabric.
Shiny Hair Lady gestures a manicured hand to the black canvas chair—the type of chair a movie director sits in. Frowning, overwhelmed, I let my feet carry me to the chair and plop myself down. The lady with the duffel bag hands me a glass of champagne.
Okay. Sure. Happy birthday to me, right?
“My name is Erica. I’ll be doing your hair,” the duffel bag lady says. Her gleaming blond hair is gathered in a sleek, low pony. She points to the woman with the trolley. “This is Yasmin. She’ll do your makeup.” Yasmin nods, still unfurling thousands of compartments from her trolley as if it’s an enchanted box. Erica points to the woman with the garment bag. “Nathalie is our assistant.”
My eyes flick to Shiny Hair Lady. “And you are?”
Her smile is nothing short of predatory. “I’m Viviane Howard, the director at Howard Styling. Your personal stylist for the evening.”
“Stylist,” I repeat, tasting the word. What in the world is Bonnie planning?
“We only have”—Viviane glances at her slim wrist, where a delicate silver watch dangles—“two hours to get you ready. For this type of event, it’s going to be tight. The car will be here to pick you up at six o’clock. Your arrival is slotted for six-thirty, so we have to be quick.”
I frown. “What, exactly, is the event I’m going to?”
Erica tilts her head. “It’s the Summer Ball.” The words come out slowly, as if she thinks I’m dense. “The biggest event of the year.”
My mouth dries up between one breath and the next. I’ve heard of the Summer Ball. It’s like the Met Gala, except more exclusive. Fewer celebrities, more billionaires and politicians. Invitations are kept highly confidential, and what happens behind closed doors is anyone’s guess. Those rich people could be sacrificing babies to the altar of money, for all the general population knows.
And I am definitely, definitely not invited.
Bonnie may rub elbows with hedge fund managers all day long, but even she doesn’t have Summer Ball invitations to hand out to her poor puppy-dog friends.
Viviane exchanges a glance with Nathalie. “We are at the right place, right?” Before the younger woman can answer, her eyes bore into me. “You’re Danika Jensen?”
“I’m Danika Jenckell,” I answer, frowning. How would Bonnie get the name wrong? “Are you sure”—I clear my throat—“are you sure you have the right person? I don’t know anything about the Summer Ball.”
Bonnie wouldn’t do that…would she? This isn’t speed dating at a dive bar. How does one even get tickets to the Summer Ball? I heard they cost upward of fifty grand, and only the upper echelons of society get to go. How much money is she spending on this? Why would she think I’d even enjoy an event like this? It sounds like a nightmare.
No, this is wrong. There’s been a mistake.
“This is the right address,” Nathalie says in a watery voice, glancing up from her phone. “We’re in the right place.”
Viviane chews her lip, smearing red lipstick over her teeth. She looks uncertain for the first time since she buzzed at the door, but quickly snaps her cool demeanor back in place. “We’re in the right place. You were expecting us, no?”
“Y-yes.” I frown. “My friend told me she had a surprise for me.”
“How can I get a friend like that?” Erica says, sighing wistfully, tapping my shoulder to get me to face the mirror again.
I snort as I settle into the seat. “Just be a hateful hag most of the time and hope someone takes pity on you. That’s what I did.”
Erica flicks her long golden ponytail over her shoulder and gives me a sly smile. She gives me a rundown of what she’ll be doing with my hair, then thrusts shampoo and conditioner in my hands and orders me to go take a shower. For some reason—shock, probably—I comply.
As I wash my hair with the most delicious-smelling and expensive-looking shampoo I’ve ever seen, I think over what’s just happened. Bonnie said this was related to my sex life. Is she trying to set me up with one of her rich friends? Is the Summer Ball actually a billionaires’ swingers party? Should I shave my hoo-ha in preparation? Is this all some elaborate ruse? Why would my name be spelled wrong?
The more I think about it, the less sense I can make of it. When I emerge from the shower in a cloud of steam, I’m nearly convinced they have the wrong person. There’s been some kind of mix-up. All this glamour…it’s not for me. With my bathrobe wrapped around my body, I square my shoulders and step into the living room, determined to get to the bottom of it. They’ve got the wrong girl. This isn’t Bonnie’s surprise.
But as soon as I walk into the room, Viviane’s eyes are wide as she snaps orders at her team. She glances at me, waving me forward. “We got the time wrong. The car will be here in twenty-five minutes. You need to move.”
“Sit.” Viviane snaps her fingers to the director’s chair.
I try to shake my head. “There’s been a mistake.”
“Of course there’s been a mistake. We have to get you ready for this event in less than half an hour. Go, go, go!”
“No, I mean a mistake about me.”
“That’s not my problem.” Viviane grabs my elbow and drags me across the room. A hair dryer flicks on, and Erica appears in the mirror behind me. I try to say something, but the noise drowns me out. Erica won’t meet my eye. Where she was all easy smiles and friendliness before, now her face is a mask of grim determination.
Yasmin gets to work on my face, and I can’t speak as she tilts my head back and forth, ordering me to close my eyes, open my mouth, look up, look down. By the time she steps away from me and the hair dryer flicks off, I look like a different person. My eyes appear larger, somehow. Lips are glossy, skin airbrushed. My golden-brown hair is silky, falling in soft waves down to the center of my back.
Damn. I’d kill to be able to have a team like this around me full-time. I’ve never looked this good in my life.
“Up.” Viviane’s orders are clipped. She nods to Nathalie, who holds up a dress toward me. I’m only wearing underwear, no bra, but the ladies don’t seem to mind. Viviane just snaps her fingers to hurry me, checking her watch again.
With a deep breath, I drop my robe and step into the dress. Nathalie slips it over my shoulders and zips it up behind me, and I turn to look at myself in the mirror.
My eyes widen. “This is…obscene.” I run my hands down the front of the plunging neckline, where my boobs are on full display. And I mean full display. Two thin straps hold up silver, sequined fabric, the neckline diving between my breasts almost down to my navel. From solid to sheer, the fabric shimmers and shifts so I don’t know what’s skin and what’s actual fabric. It looks like water or ice or a million twinkling jewels. The dress hugs my waist and hips before flaring slightly over my legs. It fits like it was made for me—minus the chest area.
At least my nipples aren’t showing. Everything else is, though.
I frown as Viviane crosses her arms, then lifts one hand to pinch her chin between her thumb and forefinger. She tilts her head, staring at my chest. “Have you…” She cups her hands in front of her chest like she’s holding a couple of cantaloupes. “Have you had work done since we asked for your measurements?”
“Are you asking if I got a boob job?”
“We were told you were an A-cup.”
I just laugh, then look in the mirror again, shaking my head. “You definitely have the wrong person. This is what I’ve been trying to tell you. There’s been a mix-up.”
Viviane opens her mouth, but her phone rings before she can say anything. She glances at the screen. “Car’s here.”
“Did you hear me? This isn’t my dress.”
“Of course it isn’t. We’ll be back to pick it up in the morning.”
“We need to go.”
The other ladies have already packed up their gear.
Eyes wide, I slip on a pair of shoes that are thrust toward me—they fit, somehow. Maybe this was Bonnie? How else would everything fit? And I usually wear things with no cleavage, so maybe she just got my bra size wrong.
I stare at myself once more in the mirror. A little thrill pierces my stomach as I glance at the plunging back of the dress, the way it hugs my curves so perfectly. I feel…pretty. Sexy. Beautiful.
Maybe it’s pure vanity that stops me from protesting anymore. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s my birthday, and I haven’t had anything to celebrate it in years. Maybe it’s just the no-nonsense look on Viviane’s face that makes me follow her out the door, accepting the matching clutch she gives me before thrusting my keys, wallet, and phone inside.
I glance at the phone’s screen while we ride the elevator down. Bonnie’s message settles my nerves: Hope you make the most of your present ;)
Heart thumping, I slip my phone into my clutch. She planned this. My best friend got me a ticket to the Manhattan Summer Ball. Me.
There’s a slight chill in the air that has goosebumps sweeping over my arms and shoulders. The driver, clad in a black uniform complete with matching hat, gives me a small bow as he holds the back door of the car open, and I slip inside. Viviane adjusts my dress once more, then nods, satisfied.
Mistake or not, I’m going to the Summer Ball.
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