Playing the Billionaire (International Temptation)(9)

By: M.K. Meredith


London pulled in a breath and pasted on a smile. Her mother would know if she didn’t find the strength to let this latest news roll off her shoulders.

All was not lost. Her mother would not suffer, no matter what it cost, and in the meantime, London was still in Barcelona.

It was still paradise.

“It’s going to be fine, Mom. I don’t want you worrying about this. Do you understand me? The last thing you need is to come down with a cold or something by stressing out.”

Her mother had been doing pretty well. Holding on to remission longer this time than the last, but it was always a tightwire performance. One too many bad days could set her back months. And it didn’t help that she’d had to quit working. She was a scientist at heart, but research lab work couldn’t take the inconsistency of her health problems. Now she struggled with both the MS and feeling like she had no purpose.

Not to mention the harsh winters of Chicago. Someday, she’d get her mother to a warm climate, one much more friendly to the awful disease, but first, she had to figure out how to keep her mother on the medicine that got her out of bed each morning.

Her mother’s voice held a tremor. “You’re the one I’m worried about when it comes to stress. This is the last thing you needed, but I had to call. I’ve already looked into my retirement. I think it’s time.”

“No. No way. That is for later in life. Not now. Not when you have me. Just to be clear, what I need is you healthy. The rest is simply detail. Understand?”

The silence on the phone broke her heart more than anything else. Her mother’s guilt was unnecessary and misplaced, and it made London want to pull her close and promise everything would be okay. “Mom?”

“I’m here. I just hate that this is falling on you. I’m your mother. I need to be taking care of you, not the other way around. I wish you would at least let me help.”

Tears burned London’s eyes, and she wiped at them with jerky movements. How could the universe be so unjust?

“You do, and you have. Always. I never went without, even though you were a single parent. You gave me choices and experiences…all on your own. And you’re wrong. I’m an adult now. It isn’t about you taking care of me, but us taking care of each other. That is never going to change.” She cleared her throat. “Listen. Complete the order. We still have a couple months before it will go through. That gives me some time, and I have an idea. Okay?”

“I love you, my sweet girl.”

“I love you, too, Mama. Tell Auntie Margo I send my love. And next time I come to Barcelona, you’re coming with me.” She could imagine her mom curled up in her favorite spot in the corner of the couch wrapped in a blanket with a cup of tea—she was always cold—and London’s heart squeezed with a touch of homesickness and worry. She’d make it all okay.

Checking her watch, she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Forty-five minutes before she could tell Mateu where to shove his five stars. “Look, I have to go. I’ll call tomorrow and tell you all about my trip so far, but I have someplace to be.”

Her mother’s tone turned lighter. “A sexy Spanish millionaire?”

London pulled the sex-on-heels out of their velvet bag, then set them next to the dress. Oh yeahhhh. She had to return them, but she was going to get her money’s worth first.

The irony of it all almost choked London. “As a matter of fact, yes.”

“London.” Her mother laughed.

“I’ll call you tomorrow. Love you.” She disconnected the call, then dropped the phone to the chair.

Her mother had just given her an idea.

It might be the most extreme thing she’d ever done, but what else had she come to Barcelona for if it wasn’t living big and living loud—and maybe just a little risky?

She put in a quick call to her boss. The job offer was still on the table, but she wanted to be paid double—this was, after all, the first real vacation she’d ever had on the books. The relief in his voice was the one light point of her day. The only difference between this assignment and all the others was the use of her own name and bank account instead of her alias, L.M. Cipriano, and her corporate card. Oh, and the fact they already knew who she was—or at least the CEO did.

Well, now it was her job to partake in all the luxuries the hotel had to offer. That was a plus…if only she could do so while relaxing with a good book instead of carefully studying every move they made during the service provided.

And as for her once-in-a-lifetime agenda for Barcelona?