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Law student Beth Dreymon is out of money and struggling hard. If she wants to finish her degree, she’s going to have to earn some money and fast. When she learns of an exciting opportunity—playing chess with New York’s most elusive billionaire—the offer sounds too good to be true. Reassured the offer is legit, Beth gets her game face on and prepares to geek out…
Only, when she steps foot into Raphael North’s luxurious penthouse, the rulebook goes flying out of the floor-to-ceiling windows. North is beautiful and damaged—a terrible temptation—and he has his sights set on winning Beth over. He’s just a job, though. A job Beth needs in order to make ends meet. If she plans on making her life in New York work, she needs to keep her eye on the prize. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, however, and it isn’t long before Beth finds herself entangled in Raphael’s world of dark desire.
Beth should run from the devastatingly attractive blue-eyed devil, but Mr North has other ideas…and he’s about to make his next move.
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I f you could go back and change a single moment in your past, what would it be? The most embarrassing moment of your childhood? The second you said fine, I don’t love you anymore, let’s call it quits? Perhaps a missed opportunity. That guy you passed on the street, the one who caught your eye. Maybe he smiled. Would you use your chance to go back and talk to him? Introduce yourself? Perhaps offer to buy him a drink in a bar? Maybe you’d take back a cruel string of words. Maybe you’d say something you left unspoken.
Personally, I’d go back to the day shortly after my twenty-seventh birthday, when my best friend, Thalia Prestwick, shoved a brown manila folder into my hand, telling me she knew how I could make some easy money. I would slide that damn thing back at her across the café table as quick as you like, and I would get the hell out of there. I’d never step foot into the towering pillar of glass on Park Avenue. I’d never have the attention of an entire city focused solely on me. Things would turn out very differently for me if I could go back and change that moment in time.
Instead, when Thalia hands me the manila folder in the Williamsburg café on a balmy, almost-springlike Thursday afternoon in April, I merely arch an eyebrow at the thing, and say, “What do you mean, extra money ? I don’t need another job, Thalia. I barely have enough time to study as it is.”
“This isn’t a job. Well, it is ,” she follows up. “But not a real one. You play chess, right?”
I frown at my friend. “Not since high school.”
“I’m sure they haven’t changed the rules in the past seven years, Bee. And anyway, you don’t need to be good . You just have to be able to make conversation.” Thalia’s brunette hair is neatly brushed and immaculately braided, unlike my own crazy auburn mane. She reaches across the table, taking a strand of my hair in between her fingers, studying it closely. “And you’re not a blonde. That’s a huge help.”
“I know plenty of excellent chess players who are blonde,” I say, swatting her hand away. “That’s a terrible stereotype.”
“No . I mean, the guy who’s looking for someone to play with has something against blondes. I’m not saying blonde women are too stupid to pl—” She rolls her eyes. “Never mind. Just listen.” She taps the folder with an expertly manicured index finger. “I’ve been running a little side line recently. I’ve been expanding on the whole Blizzard Buddy thing.” I’m about to ask her what the hell a Blizzard Buddy is, but she must see the question forming on my lips. She holds up a hand, cutting me off. “Blizzard Buddies are people who hang out with other people during storms. They come over to your place and eat pizza and drink beer while a snowstorm rolls across the city, and then they go home afterwards. No harm. No foul. And no funny business ,” she stresses.
“People pay other people to hang out with them in New York? That sounds dangerous, Thalia. Tell me you haven’t been doing that?”
“Of course I have.” She shrugs a shoulder, taking a drink from her coffee cup. “The money’s good. And besides, I like meeting new people.”
“Who needs to pay someone to come hang out with them? Jesus. Do I need to remind you how crazy people are in this town?”
My friend tuts disapprovingly, tapping her finger against the folder again. “All of these men and women are thoroughly investigated before anyone goes over to their places. They have to provide a million forms of ID, have psychometric tests, and also undergo a criminal record check, girl. It’s safe as houses.”
Houses fall down all the time. They get broken into. People are killed in their own damn beds on the regular. People are raped. Thalia steamrolls ahead, though, not giving me the opportunity to voice my concerns.
“It’s a couple of hours in the afternoon, three times a week, Bee. And for six grand, I think you can clear your schedule.”
I nearly spit my coffee across the table. “Six grand?” Like hell there’s no funny business if a guy’s willing to pay six grand for a girl to go over to his place. I have to suppress my desire to reach over and slap Thalia upside the head. She can’t be this stupid. She just can’t . “You have plenty of money. Why the hell are you getting caught up in this kind of shit?”
Thalia doesn’t bat an eyelid. “Look, just because I have money doesn’t mean I can’t have a job. You’re beginning to sound like my mother. I provide a legitimate service to lonely investment bankers who work too much to have a social life. I get to hang out in nice apartments, drink fine wine and eat gourmet meals, and I get paid to do it. There’s nothing wrong with that.”