By J.M. Cagle
Copyright 2015 J.M. Cagle
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Other Books in the In Love with the Billionaire Series
Book Two: Taking a Risk
Book Three: Making It Work
Table of Contents
“Wow, this looks great.”
“Your sarcasm is the last thing we both need right now.” Tiffany said to her best friend, Jackie, as they tugged their luggage into their new apartment.
“I know, I know.” Her friend replied, giving her a small shrug.
Tiffany couldn’t help but sigh. She dropped her bag down by her feet and looked around the cramped apartment. Just their luck. Of course both of them had had to get fired from their waitressing and bartending jobs in the same week. It was as if the whole universe wanted to play a cruel joke on her.
“Well, at least we have a roof over our heads.” Jackie said, trying to sound chipper.
Tiffany made a grunting noise. She watched as Jackie took only about four steps to get across the small living room and head towards the window that was shuttered closed. With a yank, she pulled open the blinds, as if they were going to see a view that would astound them. Instead, it was just of the apartment complex next door.
“Great brick view.” Jackie joked, but Tiffany could see the defeat in her friend’s hunched over shoulders.
“Come on; help me move the rest of this junk.”
Together, the two of them managed to get their luggage into the house. Downstairs, their boyfriends pulled up with the moving truck. Tiffany crossed her arms and leaned against the doorframe. She avoided Jackie’s gaze. She knew what she was thinking. How is it that we both have boyfriends, and yet neither one of them wanted to move in together with their girl after we lost our last place? It wasn’t something she felt like thinking about right at that moment.
Brad slid out of the truck. His hair was messy and his shirt was untucked over his baggy jeans. On the other side, Jackie’s boyfriend, Wayne, got out. He was holding a giant soda which he took a gulp of. Normally, Tiffany would have felt her heart flutter at the sight of Brad, but today there was no fluttering – just minor irritation when she saw Brad reach back into the truck and grab a bag of chips.
“Where did you guys get the food?” She asked by way of greeting.
“Stopped at the gas station.” Wayne replied as Brad pulled out a hot dog from the bag.
“Gross.” Jackie mumbled, being a vegan.
“You didn’t offer to get us anything.” Tiffany pointed out as Brad shoved almost the entire hot dog in his mouth in one go.
“What was she supposed to eat?” Brad replied with a mouthful of hot dog, pointing to Jackie.
Jackie glanced at Tiffany, as if sensing her shifting mood. “Forget it. Come on, guys, the truck is supposed to be returned today.”
They began to move the furniture they had packed. As Brad and Wayne moved the heavy things, Tiffany began to organize the rest of their belongings. She found herself avoiding the rest of the group. Jackie could seemingly know her every mood, which was what she normally wanted in a best friend. But today, having someone read her mind was the last thing she wanted.
Tiffany opened the door to her new bedroom. She stepped inside of it, feeling the weight of the situation crush her. Together, she and her best friend had moved to the big city. They had both been looking to make it here by the city that had a glittering beach like a jewel along the outskirts of town. They had both had dreams of making it as models here.
Yet, it hadn’t taken long for the dream to crumble around them. And now here they were, in an apartment that was smaller than the dollhouse she’d used to have as a child. Both of them had gotten fired after calling off from work one too many times for a modeling shoot. To make matters worse, the shoot had ended up being nothing but a scam. They had been unable to pay the rent at their nice place by the beach.
“This sucks.” She mumbled to herself.
“Hey, babe, do you want the couch against the wall or what?”
Tiffany jumped slightly, jolted back into the present. Brad was looking at her with a bored expression. Not for the first time since everything had gone to hell, Tiffany felt irritated just looking at her boyfriend. He hadn’t exactly been helpful through this whole mess.
“Against the wall is fine, thanks.”
Brad nodded and wandered off. Her stomach growled loudly. I would have eaten a cheap hot dog at this rate, Tiffany thought as she settled down to start unpacking her things.
“Shame we don’t get to see the sun set over the ocean anymore.” Jackie said with a sigh as she looked out her bedroom window.
“I know. We got lucky with that view.”
Jackie turned on a light on the dresser that Wayne had finished moving into her bedroom and squeezed past Tiffany, who was trying to help her unpack all her clothes. Jackie had a sweet tooth for designer clothes and refused to sell any to try to make money, citing that she never knew when she would have money to get them again.
“This shirt looks identical to the last shirt I just saw.” Tiffany said, holding one up.
“Two different designers. Really, Tiff, you want to get into modeling, but you don’t know the major designers?”
“I know, I know, I’m terrible.” Tiffany said with an eye roll.
There was a thumping noise and then the sound of one of the guys opening a beer. Tiffany closed her eyes briefly. Jackie plopped down next to her.
“Maybe it is good that we didn’t part to move in with our boyfriends.” Jackie said lightly.
Tiffany narrowed her eyes. “Why do you say that?”
“Well, you have looked pretty irritated with Brad lately.” Her tone was casual, as if she was talking about the weather, but the wary look in Jackie’s eyes let Tiffany know she knew the topic was an uneasy one.
“Do we have to talk about that right now?” Tiffany replied, leaning back against the dresser.
Before Jackie could reply, Wayne stuck his head in to look at the two girls. Jackie smiled at him and Tiffany watched her friend’s face. Was her friend as bothered as she was that her boyfriend hadn’t asked if Jackie wanted to move in with her? Tiffany couldn’t tell. Jackie was good at hiding her real thoughts and emotions.
“Yo, we’re finishing up in here and then we’re going to head out.”
“What?” Tiffany exclaimed, “I thought Brad was going to stay the night.”
“Sorry, man, ask him.” Wayne shrugged and headed back into the living room.
Tiffany looked at Jackie, who just shrugged. Tiffany couldn’t help but feel bummed that Brad was leaving. Even though she had been feeling mixed emotions lately, she had been looking forward to sharing her bed with him tonight. She always felt weird sleeping in a new place.
She padded into the living room. Jackie was kissing Wayne good-bye. Brad saw her and walked over. Tiffany squeezed his hand.
“Hey, what happened to staying here tonight?”
“I didn’t realize your new place was so far away from school. I have class in the morning,” Brad replied, avoiding her eyes, “But I’ll come by tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay.” Tiffany replied, and Brad kissed her.
The kiss felt hollow. When Brad pulled away, she smiled wanly at him. Was the school really that far away that he couldn’t stay tonight? Tiffany couldn’t help but make a mental note to look it up later. Not to mention that Brad barely went to his classes because he usually has hangover. Not like he cared. It was a community college and he only went to please his parents because they didn’t like his garage band he swore was going to make him rich and famous one day.
Tiffany watched him go. As the door closed, she thought to herself about whether she’d wanted Brad over tonight for his company, or just because she didn’t want to be alone.
“Do I have lipstick on my teeth?” Tiffany asked, and smiled at Jackie.
Jackie leaned over from the passenger seat and looked closely before shaking her head, “Nope. All clear.”
“Good. I don’t want anyone to know how exhausted I am. This is a big deal.”
“I was so worried I had lost the tickets in the move. Good thing I found them.”
That was an understatement. Three weeks ago, Jackie had managed to score tickets to an important industry luncheon at the golf club near the beach. The luncheon was in honor of someone neither Jackie nor Tiffany had heard of. Yet, Jackie had charmed the last casting director who had come close to hiring her for a shoot. He had given her the tickets as a way to make up for the fact that he wasn’t going to hire her after all, saying that Jackie didn’t have a good look to try to sell over in Asia.
“He probably wanted to sleep with you.” Tiffany had said when Jackie had shown her the tickets.
She’d merely shrugged, “Well, he did a bad job of trying it, cause I got the tickets and he didn’t get me.”
Now they were outside of the event, peering at the country club. Tiffany wanted to impress someone here. She wanted to treat the entire event as if she was on an interview. Even though they had hit hardships, Tiffany still wanted to break into the modeling industry somehow. Jackie had the same steely look of determination on her face as they got out of the car.
Jackie was all hips and strange angles, yet oddly beautiful – a size two with her long dark hair and big pouty lips. Jackie, who had been Tiffany’s best friend since they had been young. Jackie looked young and fresh-faced, eager to break into the industry.
Tiffany’s face burned when she thought of her own face and her own secret. Best not to think about that right now, she told herself sternly as they showed their invitations at the front door of the party.
Light classical music played from one side of the lobby. People were mingling, talking about the industry. It was a strange blend of people who worked in the fashion industry and business people from various companies. Jackie rattled off names under her breath to fill Tiffany in on who was who here. Not for the first time, she thought to herself that she should have known these things before coming here.
They crossed the foyer and stepped out to the pool. It overlooked the golf course, and in the distance was the beach. From here, Tiffany could smell the salt from the waves. It was beautiful. The palm trees framed the pool and the tinkling noise of glasses being gently clinked together filled her eardrums. It almost made Tiffany forget about the fact that neither one of them had jobs and that they were living off their savings in a cheap apartment to try to get by.
Jackie handed her a flute of champagne and they walked around the pool together. When they stopped by the buffet table, a man took interest in Jackie. He introduced himself as a photographer and the two began to talk.
Tiffany felt unmoored. It was at these industry events that she became acutely aware that the face she presented to everyone was a lie. She looked young and beautiful, but how long would that last?
Without Jackie next to her, Tiffany found herself floating over to the railing so that she could pretend the golf course was fascinating. She took a sip of her champagne, feeling out of her element.
Jackie was twenty, and more than ready to get into the modeling industry. No one would blink twice at her. But Tiffany was twenty-five. In the industry, that was ancient. Almost everyone would write her off as being too old. So she had lied about her age and had a fake ID to go with it. She looked young, and the lie had been working so far. The only people who knew her real age were Jackie and Brad.
Yet, any time Tiffany was in a room with other models or anyone else in the industry, there was still that nagging concern that they would find out her secret. If they looked at her long enough, they would suddenly realize she was too old to try to be breaking into this industry. Tiffany tried to ignore the feeling she got during these times, but she had been so stressed out from losing her job, the apartment, and the little money she have, that she found herself unable to enjoy the party.
Tiffany scanned the golf club, wondering what it would be like to have so much money that she could golf here. She glanced over her shoulder and saw Jackie still talking to that man. He turned to grab a glass of water from a waitress, and Jackie looked at her and mouthed the word, Mingle!
Tiffany turned around, ready to try to throw herself into the party. Yet, something made her pause. She saw a familiar face heading into the building. She couldn’t pinpoint who it was exactly, but the blurred face bothered the end of her brain, as if she was missing something important, as if this was a face from her past… from home.
It didn’t matter. If she recognized someone from home, that was bad. She shouldn’t be recognizing anyone here at all that wasn’t involved in the industry. Her paranoia over her secret got the better of her and she turned back around, trying to come up with a way to leave the party early. Fake an illness and go sit in the car till Jackie was done. Tell Jackie she had a headache.
In the end, she just told Jackie the truth. The man left to talk to someone else and, before anyone could swoop in and talk to her, Tiffany was there, clutching her arm.
“What’s up with you? You look like you saw a ghost or something.”
“I saw someone. Someone I know from home.”
“What? Who? We’re three states from home, Tiffany.”
Tiffany glanced over her shoulder, “I don’t know. His face seemed familiar. Like I’ve seen him before. Somewhere.”
Jackie looked closely at Tiffany. “How much sleep did you get last night? You sound like a crazy person. No offense. You think you saw someone you know, but you aren’t sure? You know how that sounds, right?”
“Yes,” Tiffany said hurriedly, “I know it how it sounds. But I swear, I’m not making it up.”
Jackie lowered her voice to a whisper, “Are you just paranoid because of…you know…” Tiffany knew she meant her age.
“I’m always paranoid about that,” Tiffany admitted, “But I’m going to go wait in the car, okay?”
She pulled herself away from Jackie, who was protesting her leaving already. Tiffany kept her head low and stepped back into the building. She turned sharply to get to the front door and slammed into someone. With a gasp, she hit the wall next to her and looked up in surprise.
“I’m sorry! That’s my fault. I should have been watching where I was going.”
At the same time as she spoke, the man was saying, “Sorry, I was looking at my phone.”
The rest of Tiffany’s words died in her throat. She had run smack dab into the man she had been trying so hard to avoid. Now that she was in front of him, his features snapped back into clarity. It seemed impossible, but it wasn’t. Tiffany had gone to high school with the man in front of her.
By the look on his face, he recognized her, as well. Tiffany felt panicked. If they had gone to school together, then he knew she wasn’t twenty years old. She wasn’t sure what the reason was for him to be at this party, but it meant that he could tell anyone her real age and blow her chances at landing a job.
“Hey, aren’t you-”
“Sorry, I really don’t feel well, so I really have to go,” Tiffany said in a rush, “Sorry again for bumping into you.”
She breezed past him. She could hear him say something to her back, but she didn’t turn around. Quickly, she walked outside, making a beeline for the car. Once she got in the car and got the A/C going to cool off, she slid down in the chair, staring at the sky.
Tiffany couldn’t believe her luck. Out of everyone to run into at the party, she ran into a guy from high school. The face was finally bringing memories up to the surface. What was his name? Liam, Tiffany thought, from biology one year, and then English the next. Out of all the people to run into, why did it have to be him? Tiffany couldn’t believe her luck. She hadn’t exactly been kind to Liam in high school.
She closed her eyes, mentally rattling off everything that had gone wrong in her life recently. Getting fired for what she’d thought was going to be a break-out job, only to get scammed. Unable to afford their nice apartment, now she lived in a small little place and had a boyfriend whom she felt distant from. Finally, she got to go to an industry party and, of course, someone who knew her was there.
Bad breaks, one after another. If she hadn’t burned every bridge to get here, Tiffany would have packed up and headed home.
There was a tapping noise at the window. Tiffany opened her eyes, ready to see Jackie and tell her not to leave the party already because of her.
But instead, it was Liam.
Tiffany sat up quickly in the car. She could feel her face flushing. She’d run out of the party and was now sitting in a car. She probably looked insane. Quickly, Tiffany opened the car door so she could talk to Liam.
“Can I help you?”
“I’m sorry to follow you out here, but I had to get another look at you. I know you, don’t I?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
Liam scrunched up his nose. Tiffany vividly remembered him doing that back in school. He didn’t look like the nerdy kid she had shared classes with back in high school. He had filled out, as if he hit the gym every morning. Gone were the glasses, probably replaced by contacts. His brown hair was slightly messy from the wind, but his suit was perfectly tailored to him, giving him the appearance of someone who took things seriously. If it weren’t for the brown eyes and the distinct jawline Liam had, Tiffany might have missed him completely.
“No, I know you. From high school. Back home, right? Tiffany?”
Tiffany pretended that it was dawning on her, as well, “Oh, that’s right! Wow, what are the odds?”
“Crazy! I can’t believe it. I never in a million years thought I would run into you here,” Liam exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”
“My friend got invited. But it just wasn’t really my scene.” Tiffany lied.
“Yeah, usually isn’t mine either, but I had a client who wanted to meet me here.”
“Client? What are you doing in the modeling industry?”
Liam held up his hands, “Oh no, I’m not part of that. Not sure if you remember from school, but my dad owned a company that basically worked with smaller companies to give them starter money for a cut later. Investments, really.”
Tiffany didn’t remember. She vaguely remembered something about Liam’s family being rich, but he had been so off her social radar that she couldn’t bring up anything else. Liam had been a hardcore nerd in school, whereas Tiffany had run more in the cheerleader/jock social circles.
Liam must have seen her blank look because he went on quickly, “It’s okay; it wasn’t like major news back in school. Anyway, he passed away a few years ago.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Tiffany said, and meant it – she couldn’t imagine her parents passing away already, even if they were angry at her for packing up and moving away to try to be a model.
“The company was left to me. So I’m trying to get a good handle on things. Make new connections in different industries. Things like that.”
Tiffany nodded, still itching to get away from him before things got too personal. What he was talking about was going over her head anyway. Investments and money? She didn’t really know anything about those topics.
“Well, I hope you get the client. I have a headache, though, so I’m just trying to wait for my friend so we can go.”
“Is your friend a model?” Liam asked, and Tiffany wished she could end the conversation already.
“Yes,” She said quickly. “She’s trying to make some connections.”
“I hope she has a thick skin. From what I’ve seen in this industry, I wouldn’t want to be in any part of it. I just overheard someone talking about how twenty-two might be too old to get into the business. Twenty-two! At least in business that wouldn’t happen.”
“Right,” Tiffany replied quickly, swearing that she was breaking out into a sweat, “Crazy.”
“Listen, I might be able to get something set up for your friend. Why don’t you give me your number and I can let you know?”
Tiffany wanted to pull her hair out. She wished he was being a jerk to her. Why was he being so nice? At least if he’d been being mean, she could have blown him off. Instead, she had no choice but to give him her phone number.
“Great,” he said to her, clearly oblivious to her plight, “I’ll call you.”
“Great.” Tiffany echoed.
“Where are you?” A female voice rang out.
Liam looked over his shoulder. Tiffany saw a gorgeous redhead coming over to the two of them. Her hair fell down in waves across her shoulders and she was wearing a white pantsuit. Her green eyes blazed when she saw Tiffany.
“Liam,” the woman said, “You just left – where did you go? You have a client who wants to speak to you.”
Something shuttered closed on Liam’s eyes. It was as if a curtain had been closed suddenly across his eyes. Even his posture changed slightly in front of Tiffany’s eyes.
“I know, sorry. This is Tiffany, an old friend… I couldn’t believe it so I had to come out and make sure I wasn’t imagining things. Tiffany, this is my girlfriend, Beth.” Liam’s voice was indifferent, as if he had come out to see her out of boredom.
Beth looked at Tiffany as if she was a stinking fish out by the side of the road. Tiffany offered a small wave since it didn’t look as if she was going to hold out her hand for a shake.
“An old friend?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Why are you here?”
“My friend had an invite.”
Beth’s eyes left Tiffany as if she had lost interest in her and turned back to Liam, “Let’s get back inside now.”
Liam didn’t even get to say good-bye. Beth grabbed his hand tightly and tugged him away quickly. Her high heels smacked loudly against the pavement as she marched Liam off. Relieved, Tiffany slid back in the car and closed her eyes, wishing she could melt away.
It was coming back to her now, swiftly, how she had made fun of Liam back in school. Had he somehow been oblivious to her mocking him in class while she was among her friends? The nerd who seemingly had an answer for everything in class, and was always outspoken, letting everyone know how much smarter he was than the rest of the room. Had he forgotten that Tiffany had used to tease him?
It was all so childish and felt like a million years ago. Now he was offering to give Jackie a contact in the industry, and for what? Why be so kind when they had just met for the first time in years? Tiffany couldn’t sort it out.
It didn’t matter. She doubted that he would actually call. Not after the way Beth had looked at her.
Tiffany shut the front door behind her and pulled out the clip in her hair with a groan. She was feeling irritated, which didn’t shock her since it seemed to be the only feeling she had lately. Job interview after job interview, and she wasn’t feeling confident about any of them.
Jackie was in the small kitchen, making herself a salad when Tiffany walked in. She looked up when she entered.
“How did it go?”
“Not very good. At least I don’t think so.”
Jackie bit her bottom lip, “Same here. I want to save up and get my portfolio done again.”
“Again?” Tiffany remarked, surprised, as she opened up their fridge. “That’ll be, like, the third time since we came here.”
“I know. But maybe my current pictures just aren’t cutting it.”
“For waitressing jobs?” She joked.
Jackie waved her hand. “No, I haven’t had any luck with those either. I got lucky with the last place letting me be a bartender even though I was underage. I just had to lie to anyone who said I looked young and say I was twenty-one.”
“I wish I had that problem,” Tiffany said and then turned around, leaning back and crossing her arms. “I’m thinking about packing it in, Jackie.”
Her eyes widened, “What? Quitting modeling?”
Tiffany nodded, unable to speak. It wasn’t that she didn’t want it anymore. It was that it felt impossible. She kept relieving the fact that she’d seen Liam and bolted from the event, where she could have made some real connections. Instead, she’d ended up in the car an hour before Jackie had left, feeling jumbled. Who was she kidding? She had come here with dreams of breaking into the modeling industry, and yet she ran at the first sign of someone knowing her real age. What would she do if she ever got an actual job? And what if she never did?
Jackie had ended up giving her number out to anyone at the party who’d asked. Even though Jackie seemed unsure of ever hearing from anyone, Tiffany didn’t feel the same. She was sure that someone would contact Jackie. She looked stunning in photos and had a great personality.
Jackie took a step towards her, “No, you can’t. I mean, you moved out here just for this, Tiff. You set off here together with me, for an adventure. To break into the industry. What changed?” She frowned, “Was it running into that guy from your old school?”
Liam. Tiffany had been trying not to think about him since their encounter. He had come to represent the possibility of her secret getting out, all in one person. Jackie must have sensed her thoughts because she shook her head.
“Tiffany, even if a client finds out you’re twenty-five, it doesn’t matter. You could still make it. You just have to let your personality and beauty shine through.”
“You sound like you’ve been watching reality TV again.”
“Maybe a little, but it still doesn’t change the fact that I’m right. I think you’re being way too hasty about this. Think about what you gave up to come here and try this out.”
Jackie was right, of course. Her parents hadn’t taken kindly to her basically giving everything up to move out here. They had thought it was silly. She remembered her dad’s mocking tone when he’d said good-luck to her, and the way her mother had refused to pack up her bedroom, saying it would be here for her when she got back. They didn’t have any confidence at all that she could make a job out of this.
“If you go back now, you know what they’ll be like. You’re just getting cold feet. You’re focusing too much on being old. Tons of people will still hire you even if you are older, Tiff. You can’t leave me now.”
“Just feels like we’ve already been put through so much. Getting scammed. Losing our jobs because of the scam, and now we’re in this tiny little place.”
“Don’t overthink it. Just roll with it.”
“Just roll with it.” Tiffany repeated as her phone went off.
She looked down at it, expecting to see Brad. It wasn’t him, though. He had been silent except for a few texts lately. Tiffany found she wasn’t missing him exactly. Brad was only two years younger than her, and still dragging his feet through community college, clinging to the idea that his band would make him famous. Maybe we aren’t too different in that way, Tiffany thought as she went into her room and answered the phone.
“Is this Tiffany?” Came an adult-sounding male voice.
“Yes, sir. May I ask who is calling?” She replied, hoping that this was a scout or someone calling her for a second interview.
“Oh, hey.” She replied, trying to hide the disappointment in her voice.
“I was just calling about our discussion in the parking lot the other day,” Liam said, and his tone was formal. “In regards to a talent scout for your friend. Wanted to get some information on her.”
“Oh, yeah, sure,” Tiffany replied. “Need her number or anything?”
“That’d be great, thanks.”
Tiffany rattled off her friend’s number and then asked, “Think you’ll have anything for her?”
“Not sure yet. I’ll let her know.”
“You okay?” She couldn’t help asking, “You sound sort of robotic.”
There was a slight chuckle on the other end of the line, and then when he spoke next, the formal tone was gone, “I’m about to start a meeting and have to look professional.”
“Ah, gotcha. Sounds fun.”
“Not even a little bit. But I’ll call you later.”
The phone call ended and Tiffany found herself staring at the phone with a strange feeling in her stomach. She couldn’t pinpoint why exactly. Liam had been kind enough upon their meeting. Yet, as soon as his girlfriend had popped up, he had changed completely. Even now, on the phone, until she had said something, Liam had sounded cut off again.
She wished that she could remember more about him from high school, but she was drawing nothing but a blank. As Tiffany curled up in her bed, her eyes grew heavy. She felt stressed out and apparently exhausted. The last thing she saw was her hand clutching her phone.
“Tiff, wake up!”
Tiffany jolted awake, pulling herself out of her dream, in which she’d been back in biology class. Only this time, Liam had been the teacher and he’d kept staring at her in a manner that twisted her stomach. He had been walking over to her as the class emptied out, about to ask her something…
Now Jackie’s face was looming over hers. She looked excited.
“What?” Tiffany mumbled sleepily.
“I got a call from one of the guys from the party. Turns out he works at the country club and wanted to know if I was interested in working there. I smooth-talked him into both of us getting interviews!”
“What?” Tiffany repeated, sitting up.
“Interviews at the country club just crawling with the elite! There is no way you can go home now, got it?”
Tiffany quickly recounted her conversation with Liam, which made Jackie’s eyes widen. “A possible scout? Why didn’t you take this for yourself?”
“He knows my age, remember? No way.” She replied, hugging a pillow close to herself.
Jackie looked at her closely, but then dropped whatever she was thinking about saying, and instead smiling. “Interviews tomorrow at two, okay? Let’s knock this out of the park!”
Tiffany smiled, “You got it.”
Tiffany fiddled with her skirt. She was waiting in the foyer for Jackie to finish up her interview. Tiffany had gotten the job almost instantly. She had made sure to be as charming as possible upon entering, but it didn’t seem as if it had mattered. It seemed more like the man, Mr. Johnson, was more into Jackie and that they were going to the jobs anyway because he was so smitten with her. Because of this, Tiffany had been at ease in the interview. Mr. Johnson was too old for Jackie, but obviously wanted someone pretty around as a waitress. Tiffany felt that the two of them could have gone in there juggling like clowns and still gotten the job.
“Hey, you’re here.”
Tiffany looked up to see Liam in the foyer. He was wearing golf clothes, with a pack of clubs slung over one arm. He was sweating slightly, obviously just having come in from playing on the course. He smiled a little at her and her stomach did a flip. She leaned forward slightly in surprise, remembering she hadn’t eaten yet today.
“Now who sounds formal?” He said to her, glancing over his shoulder, “I don’t have a lot of time to talk. Bigwigs over there. What brings you here?”
“Just got hired as a waitress here. My friend is in there, too, for her interview.”
“Ah, not surprised. Mr. Johnson always hires the pretty ones.”
“Yeah, she’s gorgeous.”
“Not what I meant.”
Tiffany started, looking closer at him, unsure of his meaning. Just then, one of the men in his group came over to him. And just like last time, Liam’s face changed. His eyes, so full of warmth moments ago, melted and his look was replaced by an ice cold countenance. His posture stiffened. It was amazing how quickly it changed.
“What are you doing over here, Liam, hitting on someone?”
Liam turned, blocking Tiffany from the man’s view. She lowered the hand that she had been lifting to give the man a small wave.
“No one, just someone who works here. Let’s go in for lunch.”
Together, the two men headed off into the dining area of the country club. Tiffany’s jaw went slack. What the hell had that been? That was the second time now that someone else had come over and Liam had changed. Just someone who works here. In spite of herself, the words stung, which was absurd. Technically, she was someone who worked here, right? Yet, it wasn’t as if they were strangers. He had her phone number!
“Oh my God,” Jackie’s voice came to her, hushed and rapid-fire. “Tiffany, why didn’t you tell me that was who you meant?”
Tiffany turned her head to see Jackie sitting next to her, following her gaze into the dining room, “What? How did the interview go?”
“Fine, I got it,” she said, waving her hand like it didn’t matter. “Why didn’t you tell me your friend from high school was Liam Cunningham?”
“Uh, why does it matter?” Tiffany replied, wondering why her friend knew his full name when she hadn’t even been able to remember his last name.
Jackie pulled out her phone and, after typing something in, shoved it towards Tiffany. Tiffany took it and looked down at the image.
Jackie whispered, “He’s the leader of International Lending Company. He’s worth billions.”
“Billions?” Tiffany squeaked out, “Like with the letter ‘b’ and not ‘m’?”
“Billions,” Jackie repeated, “I can’t believe you didn’t know that, Tiff. He’s not just rich. He’s like mountains of money in his pool rich, if he felt like it. And he’s talking casually with you like that!”
Tiffany looked back down at the image on the phone. It was a picture of Liam in a suit, next to the company logo. His network was listed underneath. More money than she knew what to do with.
“Didn’t you say you went to a private school?”
“Well, yeah, but I was there on a scholarship for that. My parents couldn’t actually afford it.”
“Well, his could.”
In spite of herself, Tiffany looked up at the dining room. She could see Liam in the corner, leaning over the menu, talking to an old guy across the table. Liam, a billionaire? No way. How could that be?
“You’re telling me you never realized it? He got the business from his dad.”
“No, I…” Tiffany tried to recall Liam in high school, to try to remember more information about him, but nothing came to her mind, “No, I barely remember him. My friends and I used to make fun of him a lot. He was such a dork.”
“A dork with tons of money.” Jackie whispered, taking her phone back.
“I can’t believe it.”
“Well, believe it. The guy you’ve been casually chatting with is totally loaded. The meeting over there is probably them discussing millions of dollars.”
“No way, he said he just helps different people start up their business and gives them loans. How could he be a billionaire from that?”
Jackie shrugged, “Look it up online. I only know that he’s not married, he’s a billionaire, and he’s talking to you.”
“Well, forget it;” Tiffany said quickly, “He acts funny. Nice one second and pretending I don’t exist the next. Like I need to deal with that. Besides,” she added on as an afterthought, “I have Brad.”
“Right, Brad. Where is he, anyway?”
Tiffany stood up. “He’s been busy. Come on, let’s go.”
The two of them left the country club. At least we have jobs, Tiffany thought to herself. She wasn’t going to think about Liam. She wasn’t going to think about his quick remark of not what I meant when she’d been talking about Jackie. She wasn’t going to think about how he’d said she was just some girl who worked there.
Better to put him out of her mind completely.
Tiffany finished serving a group of grumpy old ladies their drinks and headed back towards the kitchen. It was her second day of work. Her feet were aching, but it was going well. Jackie was holding her own as well, offering up grand smiles to anyone who gave her an attitude, which seemed to disarm them.
Tiffany was getting ready to serve a new table that had just sat down in the corner when Mr. Johnson pulled her to the side. He looked sort of like a weasel, the more Tiffany looked at him. His hair was balding and he had a bad comb-over, and his suit was a size too big. He was also constantly sweating, as if the pressure of dealing with rich people all day was too much for him.
“The table in the corner,” he said to her in a low voice, “Is filled with important people; do you understand?”
“I thought everyone here was special.” Tiffany quipped, echoing his words from yesterday when he’d been training her.
“More special,” he snapped, “Take good care of them.”
With that, she was ushered out into the dining room again. Tiffany headed over to the table and faltered slightly. Liam was there at the table with the same old guys as before. Great, she thought to herself as she walked over to the table, introducing herself.
There was no recognition in Liam’s face as he ordered his drink. For some reason, this irritated Tiffany. As she headed back to the kitchen, she tried to pinpoint why. What did she want him to do? Say hello? He was in a business meeting, after all.
When she came back to the table with everyone’s drinks, she placed Liam’s scotch in front of him. He sniffed and handed it back to her, avoiding her eyes.
“I didn’t want ice in this.”
Tiffany could have sworn that he had said he wanted ice in his scotch. But, with all the men staring at her, the last thing she was going to do was disagree with him. Liam still didn’t look at her.
“I’ll fix that for you, sir.” Tiffany said, taking the drink back to get another.
The rest of the lunch went on like this. The men handing everything back if there was even the smallest issue with it. Liam not looking at her, simply stating his issues with the food. Tiffany was feeling frazzled. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he had simply looked at her once, or even apologized for his curt tone. But he came off rude and cocky, as if Tiffany was too stupid to understand the easiest of orders.
“Are you new here?” One of the men finally asked her when she came back with a refill. “Usually, they know exactly what we want.”
“Yes, sir, I am new.”
“Make sure to review it with the boss next time, shall you?” The man said as he took his drink.
Tiffany wanted to slap him, but instead smiled. Liam laughed along with the table. She could feel her face flushing as she stalked off to find Mr. Johnson and demand to know why he hadn’t told her any of the special rules for the table. But he had left already for the day, stating he had a headache, and leaving Tiffany to wrap up the table on her own.
By the time they all left, Tiffany was relieved to see them go. Liam ignored her on the way out and soon they were out in the parking lot. As soon as they left, Jackie was by her arm, whispering.
“You look like you want to punch something.”
“Worst table ever,” Tiffany spat, “Bunch of jerks ordering me around like I’m too stupid to understand what they want.”
“I told you,” Tiffany mumbled back as she turned around, “He’s just a rich jerk, too.”
Brad downed the shot and hooted, high-fiving Wayne and asking for another. It was Saturday night, and both Jackie and Tiffany had the night off. They were all downtown by the beach, bar crawling. Brad was quickly becoming drunk, with Wayne hot on his heels as they acted like fools. Jackie was sipping on a drink that tasted like a peach smoothie, but Tiffany was drinking water. She had somehow gotten stuck as the designated driver for the evening.
Tiffany had originally thought that the night out would help her darkening mood. With no modeling prospects on the horizon, she took comfort in the fact that she had a job. But the encounter with Liam four days ago was still rubbing her raw. No matter what she did, she kept replaying it in her head. How nice he was one second, and then mean the next. To make it worse, no matter how many times Tiffany told herself to forget about it, it was creeping into her head, again and again.
So a night filled with drinking and dancing had seemed like the perfect cure to her problem. But then she had been stuck as the designated driver and her plans came crumbling down around her.
“They’re going to be drunk soon, and we are only on the second bar.” Jackie said to her, glancing over at the two guys.
“Well, at least we didn’t have to work today. I can’t believe how busy that place is all the time. It never slows down. I guess rich people don’t have much to do. Oh, hey, that reminds me, I forgot to tell you earlier.”
“Tell me what?”
“I got a call from a scout who wants to shoot some test shots with me. Said he got my contact information from Liam, so I guess he was true to his word.”
“Hey!” Tiffany exclaimed, “That’s great. I hope it goes okay.”
“I’m a little nervous, but it’s cool that he pulled through, isn’t it?”
Tiffany nodded, non-committal. She didn’t want to talk about Liam even though part of her was happy that he had kept his word about having someone call Jackie.
“I still think you should have told him you wanted to be a model, too.”
“Maybe, but I didn’t want to deal with him knowing that and my age.”
“I still think you’re overreacting about the age thing.”
Tiffany opened her mouth to reply, but it was at that point that Brad crashed over to their table. He reeked of booze already and his hat was on backwards. He leaned in and gave Tiffany a sloppy kiss.
“What’cha guys talking about?” He slurred.
“Just work.” Tiffany said quickly.
“Ah, sounds boring. Ready to go to the next place?”
Off they went to the next bar. By bar four, Tiffany found herself headed outside for some fresh air. The outside patio of the bar was crowded, but the beach was almost empty. There was a sharp breeze tonight that made it too cold to sit next to the water.
Tiffany plopped down into the sand, wishing she could snap out of the funk she was in. She drew lines in the sand, soaking up the cold air into her lungs. It felt good. The music from the bars was distant out here. The waves coming in touched the tips of her toes. She lowered her head in between her legs and breathed out slowly. There was no one near her. Just herself.
Tiffany stayed like that for a few minutes. When she looked up, a dark shape was heading in her direction. Alarmed, she stood up, ready to head back to the bar. The man was nearly on her as she turned around. His hand suddenly lashed out and yanked her back. Tiffany went to scream and the hand covered her mouth.
“Don’t move,” the man hissed, and the stench of booze was on his mouth, “Give me your wallet. All your cash.”
I’m being mugged! Tiffany’s one thought repeated over and over again as she stared at the dim lights of the bars ahead of her. No one would be able to see them. She was too far away. The noise she could have made would be carried on the wind, away from the bars.
“Where is your wallet?” The man hissed, and something dug into her back.
Tiffany’s heart stopped. It felt like a gun. She didn’t know. Her head swirled and she closed her eyes. The man’s hand was still roughly covering her mouth. She jerked her head to her purse next to their feet.
As the man lowered himself to pick it up, Tiffany turned around. She knew screaming would be useless. She could only watch as he lifted up her purse.
And she froze.
Behind the man, out of all the people in the entire universe, was Liam. It was as if he’d appeared out of a dream. Almost in slow motion, the man stood back up, staring at Tiffany. His face was in a shadow from the hoodie he wore. As he turned around, she didn’t stop him.
That was when Liam decked him in the face.
The man took a tumble and fell face-first into the sand. Quickly, Liam put his full weight on him and tossed Tiffany back her purse.
“Call the cops.” He said to her gruffly.
With shaking hands, Tiffany called the cops. Liam had the man pinned down. The mugger was struggling, but eventually stopped moving once he realized he was screwed over. The police came by five minutes later, already having been on the beach since it was a Saturday night.
The flashing lights brought attention to the beach. Some people crowded around to watch the mugger get pulled away in handcuffs. Another officer was asking Tiffany questions about what had happened when she heard her name being called.
Through the crowd, Jackie burst through. She had taken off her high heels and barreled towards Tiffany.
“What happened? Are you okay?!”
“I’m okay,” Tiffany said quickly, hugging her friend. “Almost got mugged, but Liam here took care of it.”
Jackie looked over in surprise at Liam. The officer was asking him questions now. Jackie looked back at Tiffany.
“Did you know he was here?”
She gave a shake of her head, “No, he just appeared. Like out of a movie.”
There was another cry of her name. This time, it was slurred. Brad and Wayne broke through the small crowd. Wayne toppled into Jackie, who held him upright as Brad asked Tiffany what had happened.
Tiffany recapped it quickly, although she couldn’t help but feel irritated. Brad was already quite drunk. Yes, she had gone down to the beach on her own and couldn’t blame him for not coming with her – although it wasn’t as if he’d offered once to come with her. Instead, another guy had come along and saved her.
As Brad’s drunken mind attempted to catch up with the story that she was telling him, Tiffany couldn’t help but remember their conversation when she’d broached the possibility of their living together. Brad had looked at her as if she had had five heads and they were all speaking in different languages.
“Hey, you know, I thought this was casual.”
“Casual?” Tiffany had repeated to him, slightly baffled. “We’ve been dating since I moved here a year ago. I was thinking we were getting serious.”
But Brad had balked, stating that they both weren’t ready for such a big change. He’d said he’d help her move and help her find a new job. Since then, things between the two of them had felt oddly stilted and thrown off balance. Their easy conversations that Tiffany had used to enjoy seemed to grind to a halt. Now being around him felt like a task.
And now, staring at Brad as he slurred about how glad he was she was safe, Tiffany couldn’t help but glance back at Liam. He was still talking to the police officer. He was wearing casual clothes, as if he had been just taking a stroll along the beach. Tiffany looked around to see if she saw Beth anywhere, but it seemed like Liam was alone.
For the first time, Tiffany noticed the quick beating of her heart when she looked at him.
By the time everything had quieted down, it was almost an hour later. The crowd had left, having lost interest once it was clear the mugger was arrested and there would be no more excitement.
Brad and Wayne started heading off towards the car, eager to get home, mostly because they were so drunk. Jackie glanced over at Tiffany as she walked away, clearly giving her space to talk to Liam.
Finally alone, she turned around to face Liam. He looked almost sheepish after the scene that had just unfolded.
“I want to say thank you, but that doesn’t seem like it really means anything after what you did. Saving me from that mugger.”
“I didn’t know it was you at first. I just saw this figure looming over a woman on the beach. I come out here sometimes to jog or just take a long walk to unwind. And when I saw the flash of the gun, I knew I needed to do something fast.”
“Well, it was amazing. It was like you just appeared. And the punch you gave him!”
“I’m just glad you’re okay.” He said in a soft voice.
Tiffany shifted her weight, suddenly feeling shy. Now that she was aware of her quickening heartbeat, she couldn’t seem to meet his eyes. That strange twisted feeling in her stomach hadn’t been something she had eaten. She understood it now.
“Well, thank you.” She repeated, unsure of what to say.
Liam smiled a little, a lopsided smile, “I actually should apologize.”
“For the lunch the other day. I know I didn’t treat you very well.”
Tiffany had forgotten she had been mad at him. It seemed silly to still be angry with him after he had saved her from being mugged. She waved her hand.
“It isn’t,” he said, and took a step closer to her, “I have to explain myself. What I do…I deal with a lot of jerks. It’s a boys club, and one big, giant pissing contest. Everyone wants to impress everyone else. The business has gone international and has investors now. I have to please them all the time.”
“So, what, you show a weakness and they lunge, wanting blood?” Tiffany replied, half-jokingly.
“Yes, basically,” Liam replied, completely serious, “I try to shield people from my life. What it includes. What I have to deal with. And I should have been kinder to you. It’s difficult, juggling different hats to wear depending on the situation.”
Tiffany thought about herself, about how she had to lie about her age and wanted to be a model, and the different masks she put on depending on where she was, and understood. It still smarted to have been treated like an idiot, but it made a little more sense now.
“Well,” she replied, “At least you have Beth, right? To be yourself around?”
A strange expression crossed Liam’s face. It was so quick that Tiffany wondered if it was just the shifting of the clouds over the moon. But in a second, it was gone and his face was back to normal.
“Yes, Beth is great.” He said evenly.
“Tiffany, hurry up! We want to go home!” Brad’s voice came across the beach.
Tiffany looked behind her to see that Brad had lumbered back from the parking lot. Even from here, she could see he was swaying.
“Who is that?” Liam asked her.
“My boyfriend,” Tiffany mumbled, suddenly feeling embarrassed by his behavior, “I should get going.”
She turned back to him. Liam nodded at her as Brad shouted for her again. Tiffany wanted to say more. The words were on the tip of her tongue. But instead, she gave him a small wave and jogged across the beach to get to Brad and the others.
In spite of herself, Tiffany glanced behind her shoulder to get one last look at Liam. He had turned now, facing the ocean, a solitary figure that she couldn’t quite figure out.
Tiffany plopped down into her bed almost as soon as they got home. Jackie trailed after her. She knew she was going to ask her a bunch of questions, but Tiffany didn’t know if she felt like answering any of them. She rolled over to face the wall.
“Don’t pretend you’re asleep already.” Her friend said, coming into her room.
Tiffany rolled back around, “Okay, okay.”
“You just had a really scary experience. Do you want to talk about it?”
It was the first time since it had happened that Tiffany let herself fully think about it. It had been terrifying to have someone attack her. She could still feel the gun against her, and shuddered at the memory.
“Just scary,” She finally said to Jackie, “I shouldn’t have gone down to the beach by myself.”
“No, you should be able to go on the beach and not be afraid of getting mugged.” Jackie said quickly, defending her.
Tiffany offered her a wan smile, “I guess so. The bar was just so crowded and hot. Needed some fresh air.”
“I should have gone with you. I got too caught up in making sure Wayne wasn’t going to start a bar fight or something stupid.”
“It’s okay. You did enough just making sure Brad stopped hounding me in the car.”
Jackie laid next to her on the bed with a sigh. “What a jerk. He’s such a prick when he drinks. Coming after you like that, asking why you wandered off to hang out with a guy. I mean, Liam saved you!”
“He’s just drunk.”
“Still. Absurd. I don’t even want to think what could have happened if Liam hadn’t shown up.”
“Yeah, me too.” Tiffany replied, and then fell silent.
Some part of her didn’t want to talk about Liam anymore. She didn’t like the way it made her stomach feel, all twisted and odd. She didn’t like the way her heart started to beat faster. It just made things complicated.
“You’d think a billionaire wouldn’t walk around the beach with us commoners.” Jackie joked as she got up off the bed.
Tiffany gave a small laugh and Jackie wished her good-night. Tiffany didn’t even bother getting out of her clothes. She turned on her side, pulled the covers around her, and fell asleep.
The sound of someone banging against the front door was what jostled Tiffany wide awake in seconds. Still terrified from the mugging of the night before, she rolled off the bed, as if she could hide behind it. Jackie had left earlier for her morning shift at the country club, leaving Tiffany alone.
It took her a few seconds to catch her breath and realize no one was breaking down the front door to get to her. Tiffany stood up as she heard the banging against the front door again. She smoothed out her wrinkled clothes, wondering if it could be the police. Would they come by the next day to follow up with her? She wasn’t sure how the procedures went.
Yet, when Tiffany opened the door, it was the last person she’d expected to see. Liam’s girlfriend, Beth, stood in the doorway. She was dressed in long black pants and a white blouse. Her hair was pulled up in a tight bun, and she was wearing Chanel sunglasses. Her face was a mask of disapproval. Even though Tiffany couldn’t see her eyes, she could feel Beth scanning her wrinkled clothes with a sniff of disapproval.
“Beth, hi,” Tiffany stuttered, surprised, “Can I help you?”
“I came by to tell you that your little scam didn’t work.”
“Faking that mugging so Liam would save you. If you think that would be a good idea to lure him into wanting you, you’re sadly mistaken. It didn’t work.”
Tiffany’s mouth went slack. What in the world was she talking about?
“Save it,” Beth snapped, holding up her hand as if Tiffany had uttered a word, “I’ve seen it all before. Girls throwing themselves at him because they know he has a lot of money. You might think because you were an old friend with him that you have some sort of lead in with him, but you don’t. Save yourself the trouble and let it go.”
Tiffany finally found her voice, “I’m not going after Liam. He just happened to be on the beach.”
“You expect me to believe that he just happened to stumble across you getting mugged? Really? Do you think I’m an idiot?” Beth leaned forward and Tiffany could smell her perfume. She bet it cost a ton.
“No, I don’t think you’re an idiot, but I think you got it all wrong.” Tiffany protested.
“Please,” Beth spat, “I’m doing you a favor. Stop chasing after him. You look pathetic. He has a business to attend to. My father was friends with his father. Any day now, we’ll be engaged. He doesn’t need to be distracted by someone who is a waitress.” She said the last word as if it was a curse word.
Tiffany opened her mouth to reply, but Beth had already turned around and headed back to her car. She could see the driver in the front seat. Beth didn’t look back at her. How had she found her in the first place?
The car took off, turning out of the run-down parking lot, and it was soon gone from Tiffany’s view. Tiffany leaned back against the doorway. The parking lot was filled with cars that looked as if they needed tune-ups badly. She looked down at herself. She looked like a wreck, and had slept in her make-up, as well.
Yet, in spite of the fact that she lived in a crap-hole and looked like hell, Beth had still taken time out of her day to come down here and tell Tiffany off. Why was that? Had Liam mentioned her? He must have, for Tiffany to make a point of coming down here and telling her the two of them would be engaged soon.
Even though Tiffany didn’t understand Beth, she understood one thing out of all of this. Maybe it wasn’t just her own heart that was fluttering when they were together after all.
About the Author
J.M. Cagle began writing stories while in high school. She went on to attend California State University, Dominguez Hills and continued her pursuing her writing interests by interning at KTLA, a Los Angeles television station. She also became a sports writer for two community newspapers. She would attend sporting events and write articles on the games. Ms. Cagle also worked part-time at internationally acclaimed The Studios at Paramount where she garnered first-hand knowledge of the intricacies of television and film production. She has since gone on to write a multitude of screenplays and theatrical productions.
Ms. Cagle’s focus is now centered on the writing genres of romance, paranormal and suspense novels. She also enjoys writing in the spiritual genre as well. When she isn’t engaged in her favorite pastime of writing she takes pleasure in singing, visiting the beach, bicycling, reading, walking and spending time with her loved ones. Ms. Cagle currently resides in Michigan where she continues to speak her heart through her writing.
Other Books by This Author
Please check your favorite eBook retailers for the other books of J.M. Cagle
Other Books in the In Love with the Billionaire Series
Book Two: Taking a Risk
Book Three: Making It Work
Books in The Billionaire of Nottinghamshire Series
Book One: Escape From L.A.
Book Two: Past Regards
Book Three: The Final Choice
Books in the Falling for the Billionaire Series
Book One: Sweet Desire
Book Two: Almost a Happy Ending
Book Three: Against All Odds
Books in A Billionaire’s Love Story Trilogy
Book One: Falling in a Moment
Book Two: Chasing Love
Book Three: The Billionaire’s Assistant
The Doctor and The Billionaire Series
Book One: Misled
Book Two: Misunderstood
Book Three: Miscomputed
Bewitched with Love Trilogy
Bewitched with Love, Book One: A Carpenter’s Witch
Bewitched with Love, Book Two: A Rogue’s Match
Bewitched with Love, Book Three: Romancing a Witch
Enchanted Love Series
Book One: A Search for Love
Book Two: A Wicked Vision
Book Three: Winter Witch
Haunting Love Trilogy
Haunting Love, Book One: House of Darkness
Haunting Love, Book Two: Passionate Delirium
Haunting Love, Book Three: Chaotic Lust
Connect with J.M. Cagle
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Book 1: Falling for the Billionaire Tiffany has left home with her best friend, Jackie, to pursue their dreams of becoming a model. The only thing they want in life is to make it in the competitive world of fashion. Yet Tiffany holds a secret close to her sleeve that may ruin her chances at ever making it. At a fashion party, her secret is put to the test when she meets Liam Cunningham. Having attended high school with him, heâ€™s the only one who could tell everyone her secret and ruin her shot at modeling. Things get complicated when Tiffany, instead of running from Liam, ends up getting closer to him. It grows even more complicated when she discovers that Liam is a billionaire businessman with an international company. As Tiffany attempts to navigate the modeling world, her new waitressing job and her feelings for Liam, she discovers that not everything is as it seems. When Liamâ€™s jealous girlfriend sets her sights on Tiffany, she finds she must hold in for the ride of her life. Will Tiffany be able to work through the perils of loving a billionaire and sort out her feelings? Or will Liamâ€™s girlfriend bring it all crashing to the ground?