Playing the Billionaire (International Temptation)(8)

By: M.K. Meredith


Her cell buzzed with a message from Susan as soon as she’d set her bags down on the bed.

London read through the text, each word increasing the weight pressing in on her chest.

Mateu wasn’t an orchard farmer.

He was Nicolau Mateu Espasa III, the rising star CEO of the Huntington Place Barcelona, as well as being from a family of entrepreneurs who were decidedly gifted at investing. CliffsNotes’ version, he was not a simple laborer negotiating a supply contract; he was high up the food chain of the Huntington, and he was loaded.

Nicolau Espasa. Now the name sounded familiar.

She hated the entitled attitudes of the wealthy. As if they had the right to do what they wanted, when they wanted, just because they had money.

With her heart pounding loudly in her ears, London read the text over two more times. Why had he lied about his name? Unless he always went by Mateu, not Nicolau? It wasn’t news Huntington Place Barcelona was working to earn back its lost number one status; the blow had come as a shock to most in the industry. Some sort of mismanagement from above.

He couldn’t know what she did for a living, could he? Disappointment made her sink down onto the bed. The identities of hotel investigators, especially at her level, were fiercely protected. But money could get a person just about anything he wanted, and Mateu was only proving her point. If he knew who she was and hoped to get a good review out of her, the joke was on him. She wasn’t even in town to review, just to relax. There was no five-star review to nudge out of her.

Imagining his self-satisfied smile made her blood boil. She dug the nails of one hand into her palm and stared at the text. It felt as though a rubber band had been wrapped around her chest, and she tried to breathe against her acute disappointment.

Manipulate a rating out of her, huh? Oh, she’d like to show him exactly where he could shove his grand plan. And it would surely fit with how big of an asshole he appeared to be. Their whole meeting had clearly been a ploy, and she’d bet her next year’s salary that little girl hadn’t even been a real thief. He’d set it up to rescue her.

Dropping her phone to the comforter with shaking fingers, she slowly blew out a breath. She’d meet the ass for a drink, she’d let him buy her one or maybe even two, and then she’d let him know what a sorry excuse for a man he was. And she’d tell him that if he told anyone else her identity, she was going to slap Huntington Place with a lawsuit. Spreading her packages across her bed, she gave a tight nod. He was going to be very sorry.

Her cell rang. She grabbed it as she sunk into the plush gray chair next to the window. Ocean waves with their white-crested peaks crashed to the shore below, and she wished she could hear their rhythmic ebb and flow. It always soothed her. “Hey there, Mama.”

Sniff. “Hey, baby.”

London pushed to the edge of the chair, worry immediately sitting her upright. “Mama, what’s wrong?”

“No, no. I’m fine. I promise. It’s just—”

“Tell me, please. You’re scaring me.”

A heavy sigh came over the line. “I submitted my mail-to-home order for my medication today. The formulary changed. The brand that works for me is no longer covered, only the generic that sent me to the emergency room last winter.”

London’s stomach tightened. “Well, we’ll handle it. How much?”

“I’m sorry, honey.”

“Mom.”

“Around thirty-five hundred.”

Rubbing the stinging sensation between her brows, she fell back against the chair. “Is that for the three-month prescription?”

“Just for a month.”

All her plans: the cooking classes, the museums, a hot-air balloon ride over Catalonia…slowly popped, one by one, like iridescent soap bubbles. Skipping the class and the museum would free up a couple hundred, and the private hot-air balloon ride would get her back around four hundred. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t even cover half of the cost of her mother’s medicine, but it would cover a month’s worth of utilities—maybe it was time to drop the cable TV service.

Either way, she couldn’t go through with her once-in-a-lifetime vacation agenda now. And if she hadn’t already prepaid her trip, she’d hop on the next flight home.

She pulled in a breath and blinked back her disappointment. The cost of her mother’s medicine would barely leave enough room to meet their mortgage. How the hell was she going to cover utilities, food, and transportation, not to mention her mother’s additional medical costs? Cancelling her plans might save next month, but after that?

She scrambled for her bag, then raked through the contents for the receipt with four digits’ worth of shoes she’d just bought. They’d be going back, as well.