I’m still editing The Bet, which is a spin-off from The Billionaire’s Love Story, and features Xavier, Tobias’s brother.

Here is an unedited version of Chapter 1 to whet your appetite :-)

 

The Bet – Chapter 1

 

“One woman, for life. Hell, that sounds as boring as fuck.”

Xavier had waited until Tobias was well out of earshot to state his observation. They were sitting outside on leather couches, on the rooftop terrace of The Oasis, the bar his friend Luke owned.

Tobias was flying the lucky son-of-a-bitch to his wedding on his private island in Fiji. Luke and his staff were taking care of the drinks for the 4-day wedding extravaganza.

“He’s your brother. Be happy for him,” Luke drawled.

“I am happy for him,” Xavier insisted. Tobias seemed more relaxed these days, and it was all down to Savannah and Jacob. “It was about time he met someone. I could say the same about you.” He glanced at his friend but Luke kept pretty quiet on that front.

“Not me.” Luke shook his head. “I’m too busy to be dealing with women.”

Girlish laughter bubbled around the room making Xavier glance over his shoulder. Even though it was late evening and the night sky had darkened to a rich navy-blue, the soft lights from the lamps made it easy to see everyone. He raised his glass to the group of women who sat around a table scattered with jewel colored cocktails. A couple of them acknowledged him with an interested smile.

“Know them?” he asked his friend. Luke seemed to know everyone who came here.

“Lawyers and legal eagles, celebrating an engagement. That’s all you need to know.”

Xavier eyed them slowly, his eyes lasering in on a woman with long wavy hair and a big pair of breasts. Her hard-to-miss nipples pointed through her silk dress. There was a touch of fall in the air in this last week of September, but with the heaters Luke had placed all around the terrace, it wasn’t cold at all. Or maybe she wasn’t cold and was just excited to see him. He flashed a smile at her, appreciating the view.

“Quit bugging my clientele.”

“I don’t see them complaining.” Xavier lifted his beer bottle to his lips. On second thoughts, it was probably better not to risk anything while Tobias was around. With his wedding to Savannah a week away, his brother could sometimes get easily irritated. In fact his family, especially his parents, seemed to get annoyed when it came to Xavier and his love life. He didn’t understand why. He was young. Okay, not so young. But 27 wasn’t exactly old.

Tobias was going to celebrate his 30th birthday the day before he got married. Talk about hitting two major milestones one after the other.

“That’s because they don’t complain to you.”

“Bullshit.” Xavier looked at his friend dubiously. “Nobody’s ever complained to you about me. You’re just making that shit up.”

Luke’s gaze drifted to the table of women before returning to him again. “Is Xavier-the-stud-Stone in action again? Won’t your girlfriend mind?”

“I’m only looking.” Gisele wouldn’t like him ogling other women, but she wasn’t here, and he wasn’t about to do anything silly. He wasn’t that much of a douchebag.

His fingers curled around the glass bottle. “You all set for the wedding?” he asked. “Think of the shit ton of publicity you’re going to get from it.”

“That’s not why I’m doing it,” said Luke.

Xavier snorted in disbelief. “It’s not as if you could do any better.” It was Tobias Stone’s wedding, for fuck’s sake.

“Tobias doesn’t want any press,”

It was true. Tobias was an intensely private person. “My brother’s anal like that.”

Luke leaned forward. His sleeves had been turned up, revealing hard, tattooed forearms that had Xavier wondering if he should get a couple of tattoos himself. Chicks loved that stuff. And that, along with the four or five bars and clubs Luke had in and around New York, made him a babe magnet. Xavier envied him a little, and for having a business which didn’t seem like such hard work, and which seemed to be thriving.

“I can see why. He wants no paparazzi and nothing leaked. I respect that, and I haven’t told anyone outside of me and my team. My staff is discreet and they won’t leak anything to the press. I’m honored that Tobias asked me.”

“He’s asked you based on my recommendation.”

“He’s been here plenty of times without you.”

Xavier scratched his jaw. “When?” Tobias wasn’t a party-animal. “He’d rather watch the stock market than hang out in a bar.”

“He’s been here a few times with Savannah.” Luke’s eyes twinkled. He seemed to be enjoying the telling of this news. Xavier angled his head. Yeah, well, things were slightly different now that his brother had met Savannah. These days Tobias was a changed man who had gone from spending most of his time in the office, to actually having a life outside it.

Another shriek of laughter bubbled across from the table behind him, forcing him to cast another look over his shoulder. He quickly scanned around the table and zeroed in on the same woman again. His gaze settled on her a moment longer than usual, until she returned the stare, and then he turned his back on her.

Show interest, but not too much. Raise their hopes, get them excited, and then pull back.

“His fiancée seems like a nice girl,” Luke said. “And he looks happy.”

“He is. He never used to go out much. I had to drag him out just so he could mingle and get some pussy.”

Luke slanted an eyebrow. “That was considerate of you.”

“I thought so, too.” Xavier leaned in, eager to know, “Are you getting any?” Luke narrowed his eyes, his mouth twisting as if he was trying to formulate an appropriate reply. “For a 27 year old, you still talk like a teen.”

“I’m being serious, dude.”

“I am too. Quit the pussy talk.”

Quit the pussy talk? It made him wonder. “Are you batting for the other side?”

“You idiot.” Luke gave him one of his you’re-a-shithead-looks. “Some of us don’t like to talk about it as much as you do.”

“Where were we?” Tobias rejoined them, slipping his cell away.

“You were about to order a glass of whiskey,” Xavier replied, then raised his hand to summon a server. He should have ordered Tobias a drink while he was taking his call.

Tobias turned to Luke. “Do you have everything under control?”

“It’s all taken care of,” Luke assured him. “I’ve met with your security guys.  We arrive the morning of your birthday and I’ll be there to oversee everything. You don’t have to worry about a thing.”

The server placed the whiskey glass down and Xavier slid it over to Tobias. “Here you go, bro.”

Tobias dismissed it with a wave of his hand. “No thanks. I’m good.”

“Since when did you give up drinking?”

Tobias gave him a hard stare. “I haven’t. I just don’t need one now. Get me a Coke, will you?”

“Coming up.” He caught the server’s attention again and ordered the drink before turning to Tobias. “You need to loosen up.”

“I still have work to do before we fly out. We can’t all work from home in our PJs.”

Luke sniggered. “What is it that you do again? I’ve never been able to figure it out.”

Tobias grinned. “Let me know when you find out because I still can’t work it out myself.”

“He drives a 488 Spider, though,” Luke remarked casually. “He can’t be doing too badly.”

It ground on his nerves, the two of them talking about him like this. “I’m here, guys. I’m right here. And I’m doing just fine.” Xavier raised his bottle and waved it at the two of them for ganging up on him. “Not all of us get Daddy’s trust fund.” This was aimed at Luke.

“I gave my old man the middle finger,” Luke shot back. “And I’m building my empire with my own blood, sweat and tears. I haven’t taken a cent from Daddy.”

Tobias listened and nodded his head. He didn’t need to say anything because he was a self-made billionaire who counted politicians and captains of industry as his friends. Not particularly close friends, Xavier assumed, but close enough that he could call them up if needed.

It wasn’t that Xavier was jealous, but he knew he couldn’t rival that. He had never been as smart, or as astute as his brother, and he was painfully aware of the fact. “Laugh all you want, but I’ve been creating and running businesses ever since I quit high-school,” he said, a little too defensively. “And I can afford the Ferrari just fine.” He lifted his chin in defiance.

“To confirm,” said Tobias, completely ignoring him and turning to Luke again. “Have you got the agenda?”

Luke nodded.

“And you’ve signed the agreement?”

“Yes. No talking to the press, no pictures, no exclusives for any of the papers or magazines. Understood and noted.”

Xavier suppressed a breath. His brother’s paranoia bordered on OCD at times. He took a swig of his drink and listened to Tobias and Luke discussing the wedding details. He felt like a third party in a business meeting for two.

He was happy for Tobias. Of course he was, and it was about time things turned around for him, especially after what had happened with Ivy. But honestly, apart from that huge life-changing event, things had always gone pretty smoothly for his brother.

Unfortunately, for himself, things weren’t so easy. Business had been slow lately. He didn’t have the smarts and the genius to run a hedge fund, but he’d had to find his own way.

He wasn’t living off of Tobias’s generosity, nor did he want to. The problem with starting and running lots of little businesses, trying and failing many times over before finding a few that worked, was that it wasn’t consistent. He was always looking for new business opportunities. But when he made money, and sold a business off, or made good with the stock market, he did pretty well. Well enough to afford a Ferrari and his loft conversion in Tribeca. Well enough to easily afford thousand dollar bottles of champagne when he needed to impress.

But right now was a dry spell and had been ever since he and Petra had broken up. She had been his lucky mascot but ever since the split, at Tobias’s party back in July, he hadn’t seen her. A week later he’d heard that she’d fucked off with a Formula One driver.

Not that he’d been lonely for long. Shacking up with Gisele, a cute B-list actress, had relieved him of too much wrist action.

He looked up as a gorgeous woman swept past their table, then stopped and stepped back, placing her hand on Luke’s shoulder and greeting him. Xavier eyed her butt as she talked to Luke, flirting with him like a nymph. Her hand slid down his arm, fingering his skin and tracing over his tattooes. “Come on over and say ‘hi’, when you’ve finished, stranger.”  Her pomegranate red nails squeezed his friend’s bicep as a parting gesture.

“Sorry.” Luke apologized, and Tobias continued as if the intrusion hadn’t even occurred. Xavier watched her until she was out of sight, then turned his attention back to the conversation just as the two men were shaking hands.

“Thanks,” said Tobias.

“Thank you, for the opportunity.” Luke looked chuffed as he slid off his stool then excused himself.

“Lucky son-of-a-bitch,” Xavier sniped, watching Luke and the woman talking. “He probably has everyone’s number.” It seemed like a waste because for all the phone numbers Luke might have had, Xavier hadn’t seen him with anyone for a long time.

Tobias gave him another one of his steely looks. “You’re like a walking hard-on.”

“This place is full of beautiful women, what do you expect?” The brunette on that table was giving him the come on. His mind was already in the gutter, and he could see by the way she licked her lips that hers wasn’t far behind.

“You haven’t confirmed if your girlfriend is coming.”

“Would you mind if she did?”

“I don’t care if she does or not, but if her coming stops you from hitting on all my guests, then go for it.”

“You have the wrong impression of me, bro.”

“Do I?” Tobias sounded testy. “If she comes, she’d better stick to my privacy policy.”

That’s what he was worried about. He wasn’t sure Gisele could keep her mouth shut. She was easily impressed, and a little too text-happy. Each time they went out she’d take pictures and post them to her social media accounts before they’d even had dessert.

“If she’s not on Vivian’s list, she’s not getting in.”

Tobias and his goddamn lists. This ‘small’ wedding was turning out to be a security nightmare, and he didn’t envy Vivian, Tobias’s new PA, the task of organizing the list of attendees.

Xavier was still none the wiser as to what had happened to Candace, Tobias’s previous PA. He’d had her in a small room in The Vault once; Luke’s club in the basement. He’d had her up against the door with her legs wrapped around his waist. Maybe he shouldn’t have, what with her being Tobias’s PA, but the girl was a flirt, and she’d wanted it. And he was single at the time.

It had been a simple case of supply and demand.

Maybe it was just as well that she had left, or had been fired, or whatever. Even Matthias, who had been a close friend of his brother’s for as long as he could remember, had gone at the same time, and Xavier was still none the wiser as to what had happened to either of them. Tobias refused to discuss it. He ventured another try, at the risk of getting shot down, as he had on the other occasions. “Are Candace and Matthias coming?”

“No.” The tone of Tobias’s voice warned him against probing further.

He could take the hint. He knew that if someone pissed Tobias off, his brother would cut them off and be done with them.

“You’re flying with mom and dad, right?” Tobias asked, indicating the topic was done with.

“Yup.”

Fuck, yes. Xavier’s insides tanked a little at the thought. Gisele had to come, if only to be a distraction. The 17-hour flight from New York to Fiji, with a stop in LA, was tough enough, and if his parents were going to be on the same flight, it was going to be hell on earth. On landing, they had to take a small plane or a boat from the main airport to Kawaya, Tobias’s 300-acre private island. Just thinking about being stuck on the flight made his stomach churn. “Shame you decided to go a few days beforehand.” Otherwise they could all have traveled on Tobias’s private jet, and it would have made the journey bearable.

“It’s my wedding and I’ll do whatever the hell I want.” Tobias was traveling a few days earlier with Savannah and Jacob. Everyone else was coming a few days later on commercial flights, all paid for by Tobias.

With almost an entire day to get there, then four days on the island and a day to get back, it was going to be almost a whole goddamn week. He had to make sure Gisele came along because, in that heat, with his parents and god knows who else, on an island that was remote, he’d go crazy unless he had something to do. And doing Gisele would be the best way of passing the time.

Tobias gulped down his drink and announced that he was leaving.

“Savannah’s ordered you to be home for dinner?” The idea of domestic bliss bored the hell out of him.

“I promised Jacob I’d be home early.”

Xavier’s eyebrows shot north. Pretty soon Tobias Stone’s household would be just like The Waltons. Saccharine sweetness. Enough to make him want to puke. What the hell had happened to the man dubbed New York’s most eligible bachelor? Not that Tobias had ever really been a player but, as Gisele had shown him on one of those stupid online celebrity websites, his brother still held strong on the list. It didn’t seem to matter that Tobias Stone was getting married. But what irritated him was seeing that he was number 7. And what pissed him off even more was finding out that Luke was number 4.

Number fucking 4.

And the man didn’t even seem to be interested in chicks.

As for himself, he knew why he was so far down the list. He was nowhere near as wealthy as Tobias.

He wasn’t a billionaire.

Yet.

And if truth be told, he wasn’t so sure he wanted to work that hard to become one. He was doing pretty well as he was.

 The Bet releases in April 2018.

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