Home > How to Bang a Billionaire (Arden St. Ives #1)

How to Bang a Billionaire (Arden St. Ives #1)
Author: Alexis Hall


Acknowledgments

 


Thanks, as ever, to my partner, my agent, and my dear friend Kat: You’re all amazing and I couldn’t do this without any of you. And thanks, as ever, to all the readers who inexplicably stick with me. And finally, a huge, huge thank you to my editor, Madeleine, who I suspect didn’t quite know what she was getting herself into. I’m so grateful for all your help and patience.

 

 

Sweet are the uses of adversity.

—As You Like It, William Shakespeare

 

 

Prologue

 

The crop strikes me with a snap like breaking ice. The pain that follows is sharp and cold, but I don’t cry out. I know I will, eventually, that I’ll sob, gasp, scream perhaps, but I make him break me every time. He needs to see what he does to me. He needs to see what it costs to love him.

At last it’s over.

I can feel him behind me, his heat and his hoarse breath. He’ll be tender now as he takes me, though it’s not my pleasure that brings the flush to his skin and the fire to his eyes. It’s my pain.

This is the ugly truth of what he needs: someone to suffer for him.

He rolls me over. The sheets are rough against my burning skin. Another hurt I will bear and forgive.

I hear the soft slap of the crop as it falls. He looks desolate and savage, the sweat on him as bright as tears.

“I can’t,” he whispers. “I can’t do this anymore.”

He’s said this before. But it always brings us back to this room. And to this. Me on my knees. Or in chains. The marks of his shame and torment on my back.

I go to him and draw him into my arms. He resists for only a moment, then surrenders, pressing his damp face against my neck. I hold him as he shudders and weeps and shatters.

“Nathaniel.” He lifts his head. His eyes are as cold as the moon. As empty. “I mean it. I can’t keep hurting you.”

“Then don’t.”

“It’s not that simple. This is what I need.”

“No.” I press my hand over his frantically beating heart. “I believe you’re better than this. Stronger than this. You don’t have to be what he made you.”

“I am what he made me. I don’t deserve you. And I can’t make you happy.”

“But I love you.”

“You shouldn’t.” His voice breaks. “Nobody should.”

He leaves me in that terrible room, the room where I first understood what he would do to me and what had been done to him. Though he turns away now, though he denies me and rejects me and flees from me, I know he’ll come back to me.

I am not the only man who has touched him but I’m the only one who truly knows him. The only one who loves him. The only one who ever could.

He’s mine. My beloved. My monster. My broken prince.

He’ll come back to me. And I will save him from himself.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Hello! I’m Arden St. Ives, calling from St. Sebastian’s Colle—”

Click.

“Hello! I’m Arden St. Ives, calling from St. Sebastian’s Colle—”

Click.

“Hello! I’m Arden St. Ives, calling from St. Sebastian’s Colle—”

Click.

Oh dear. It was going to be a really, really long night.

I was supposed to be doing this college fund-raiser thing where undergraduates called up wealthy alumni and connected deeply with them in a way that got them all nostalgic and wallet-opening or bank-transferring. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly an ideal candidate for the role. Given that I got all squirmy borrowing 60 pence for a can of Coke Zero from the vending machine, I had no fucking clue how I was going to work “and how would you feel about endowing a Chair of Philosophy in perpetuity” into a casual conversation with a complete stranger.

My best friend Nik was actually the one who’d signed up, but he’d come down with laryngitis. Which meant the telethon team ended up having to use me instead. I knew as soon as they gave me what was supposed to be two days of training in ten minutes that it was going to be awful. And a quick glance around the only slightly dank basement confirmed my worst fears: the rest of the volunteers were all engaged in life-enriching, college-benefiting conversations with opera singers, human rights lawyers, and boutique cheesemakers. Whereas I’d eaten my body weight in free doughnuts and been hung up on more times than an insurance salesman with underdeveloped people skills.

I dialed the next number. They’d told me you could hear the smile in someone’s voice, so I made sure I was grinning as if I’d swallowed a coat hanger.

“HelloImArdenSt.IvescallingfromSt.Sebastian’sCollegepleasedonthanguponme.”

Silence.

Then, “How did you get this number?”

“God, I don’t know. It was just on the list. I’m helping with the…” My mind blanked out. Something about that implacable, cut-glass voice. “…telethon thingy.”

“The telethon…thingy?”

“The St. Sebastian’s College annual telethon. Um, you went here, right?”

“Isn’t that why I’m on your list?”

“Oh yeah.” I decided to pretend my utter incompetence was funny. “Good point. But there was a letter. You should have got a letter.”

“I don’t have time to read letters.”

“Well, no wonder you miss stuff.”

A laugh, quiet and almost shy, ghosted down the phone to me, and I felt it like fingers against my spine. “I assume that if the message is important, the sender will find a more efficient way to deliver it.”

“Efficiency isn’t always better, though.”

“Under what circumstances is being effective at achieving what you set out to achieve less good than the alternative?”

I’d had tutorials like this. Blurting out some half-baked idea, which was swiftly revealed to be the most abject nonsense. So I did what I always do—the general refuge of the comfortable upper second—and promptly reframed. “Only if what you want to achieve is communicating something as simply, directly, and immediately as possible. Like, if you were on fire, a letter would be a really bad way of telling you.”

“Also a flammable one.” God, his voice. From the moment I’d heard it, I’d thought it was pretty sexy, in a chilly, upper-class way, but amusement-softened, it was as rich as honey. Irresistible.

Hot Books
» A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorn
» Anti-Stepbrother
» Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)
» Sugar Daddies
» Egomaniac
» Royally Screwed (Royally #1)
» The Hating Game
» Salvatore: a Dark Mafia Romance (Standalone
» Ruthless People (Ruthless People #1)
» To Hate Adam Connor
» Wait for It
» How to Date a Douchebag: The Studying Hours
» Managed (VIP #2)
» The Protector
» The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)