Home > One Night with the Billionaire (Men of the Zodiac #9)

One Night with the Billionaire (Men of the Zodiac #9)
Author: Sarah Ballance


Chapter One

One man’s paradise…was so not her reality.

But it came close.

Zoe Davenport stepped off the gleaming Dassault Falcon and inhaled deeply. The tarmac warmed her feet through her shoes, the sudden heat in the absence of the plane’s air conditioning immediately prickling her skin. A hot tropical sea breeze whisked away the lingering scent of the buttery-soft leather upholstery, a luscious preview to the crystal clear waters glimmering silently beyond a wide strip of blinding white sand. Palm trees curved, their fronds lazing against a brilliant sky. Just off the runway, a sleek white limo waited. It did not bear Latitude 13’s corporate logo, as did the aircraft, but there was no mistaking its purpose.

It was there for her.

She dropped her sunglasses to her nose and shook her head. The postcard-cliché beauty of the newly constructed resort couldn’t be any more distant from the real life she’d left behind. After her so-called fiancé had been caught sexting the interns who worked under him—literally, as it turned out—in his congressional office, she’d landed on the front page alongside him, in no small part due to her high-profile position in her father’s top DC law firm. The scandal had left her more politically driven clients skittish and worried for their own reputations, and between that and the swarm of reporters that followed her everywhere, her ability to perform her job had been torpedoed. Though she’d taken the hit both professionally and socially, she had no inclination to play up her role as the jilted bride-to-be. If anything, she was glad to be rid of the jerk, and she had no desire to pretend otherwise.

Here, at a near-empty and not-yet-open resort and traveling under an assumed name, she wouldn’t have to. An old friend of hers, Moose Callahan, whose work in law enforcement left him with associates in interesting places, had called up after hearing on the news that she’d refused to “stand by her man” at his apology press conference. She’d helped Moose polish his application to the police academy during their senior year of high school, and he’d never forgotten the favor and wanted to repay her in her hour of national humiliation. So he’d promised to draw on his connections to get her an exclusive getaway where the sleaziest of reporters wouldn’t have a chance of finding her.

Her appearance at Latitude 13, two weeks before the resort’s official opening, was as a representative of the resort’s interior designer, there to ensure the decorative pieces were in place. It was an easy cover, and only the resort’s owner would know otherwise. Intriguingly, the man had supposedly attended Fairfax High School with her and Moose, though she couldn’t imagine who she knew who owned a private island. That sort of news tended to get around, but she hadn’t a clue who the proprietor might be. Then again, Fairfax High had been so enormous she hadn’t known all of her classmates when they’d graduated. What Moose had told her was that the owner was a retired bodyguard who’d hit it big in real estate, which only stirred up more questions than answers. Moose had gotten called out to a scene before he’d given her the owner’s name, but he’d promised she’d receive an email with all the particulars. Said email had her travel info and the resort’s name, but not the owner’s.

A uniformed attendant approached with her luggage. Rather than handing it over, as she expected, he offered a friendly smile and gestured toward the limo. “Right this way.”

She followed him to the car and slid into yet another display of luxury. More leather, more champagne, and endlessly stunning views enhanced the scenery on either side as the car slipped silently toward a palatial resort in the distance. When the ride drew to a stop, she exited to discover the huge building sprawled in every direction at once, its stark white façade so at one with the landscape that it appeared part of the beach itself, like a giant sand castle surround by lush tropical fauna.

And men. Hot, shirtless men. She studied the small group that stood with their backs to her, noting that the arrival of the limo hadn’t yet drawn their attention. One man was clearly the ringleader of the group, not just because he radiated power, but because he held the full attention of the others. And the magnetism went well beyond his captive audience, because even from a distance he snagged her attention. Or maybe it was the fit of his jeans. She had always preferred a power suit, but she had never seen anything sexier than the way that particular ass molded denim. The man attached to the ass in question stood shirtless, droplets of moisture skating in rivulets down his back. Sweat-darkened hair hung two weeks past time for a trim, but the rear view was all the more enticing for it.

Get a grip. It was the heat. Had to be the heat, because she was so not standing there trying to surreptitiously take back the breath he’d stolen. She was a grown woman.

One who hadn’t seen anything so sexy in ages.

A full moment passed before she realized the view had changed. She blinked into focus a set of eight-pack abs. A line of hair traveled south into a waistband that had settled tantalizingly low on lean hips. She’d have been content to let her gaze languish there, if not for the fact that the construction noise had ceased. Her attention shifted upward, hitching to a pair of blue-green eyes that put the Caribbean to shame. Gorgeous eyes.

Eyes that raked over her like she was on the dessert menu.

He straightened, his cerulean gaze taking a lazy tour of her body, leaving a trail of fire in its wake. Corded arms shifted easily, the muscles there as defined as those of his back. She caught a glimpse of a single tattoo marking one bicep. Strands of dark hair fell across his forehead, and below it, a five o’clock shadow framed sensual lips.

Lips that eased into a smile.

“Miss Elliot, I presume?”

A beat passed before she realized he spoke to her. The fake name sounded unnatural in his deep, husky drawl—about as unnatural as she felt standing in paradise wearing sensible heels and tailored pants. She itched to get her hands on the sundresses she’d packed. She itched to get her hands on that man. Though her heart beat unevenly and she had broken a sweat that had nothing to do with the equatorial sun, she pasted on a bright smile. “You presume well.”

He set down his hammer and wiped his hands on a nearby towel. A backward glance at the other men sent them back to work, setting off a cacophony of noise as he walked the short distance to join her on the path. He paused in front of her, his gaze touring her unapologetically. And she gave as good as she got. She may have been back on the market less than a week, but her fiancé had insisted on marriage before sex, a fact made all the more interesting after his recent exposure. Zoe hadn’t exactly been broken up over the idea of waiting, and now that the sordid pictures were circulating the Internet, she realized she hadn’t missed much. In retrospect, her affection for her ex had been constructed more from a need to please her father than of her own interest. She and her ex-fiancé shared similar, if disconnected, goals that made them oddly compatible. Both were driven to grow their careers—she was to inherit her father’s law firm, while he wanted to climb the political ladder—which they were content to pursue separately. Now she realized their primary connection had been that neither of them needed to connect deeply at all, but between her father pushing hard for her to secure his interpretation of the ideal son-in-law and her ingrained desire to prove herself to her dad, she’d been blind to that.

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