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How He Plays
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About the Author
How He Leaves
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About the Author
How He Forgives
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About the Author
Also by Janica Cade
Next in Series
Copyright © 2016 by Janica Cade
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Created with Vellum
For my Sister
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It’s official: I’m a prostitute… an expensive one, but a repulsive sex-seller nonetheless. I couldn’t bear to look myself in the eye as I got ready to drive to the hospital. Soon I would remove all mirrors and give them away to the Goodwill. Shame stained my reflection. My father would be disgusted if he knew what I’d done. That’s why he’ll never find out.
But true to his words, Jake Sutherland paid my father’s hospital bills until we had a zero balance. Billionaire friends come in handy. Not that I would call him a friend. He was more like a nemesis. He had taken each of my rules and snapped them in half, and then he broke me too. We had a strong chemical attraction, but nothing more, and that’s why he hadn’t bothered pursuing me as a girlfriend. He just purchases whatever he wants and gets away with it. And that is so wrong.
On the other hand, he helped my father and I, so I was appreciative. What would have happened if I hadn’t come with the money? Would they have left poor Dad in the room and turned off the light?
I pulled myself from my thoughts when I reached the front entrance. I headed straight for his room, but was stopped by a young nurse in purple scrubs and white tennis shoes.
She set a tray of prescription bottles on a counter and peered at me. “Are you Mr. Madison’s relative?”
I stopped. Most of the staff didn’t bother questioning me since I looked like I knew my way around. My heartbeat thudded in my ears. Please tell me good news. “Yes. Has something happened?”
“Come, we’ve moved him. I’ll show you the way.”
My shoulders relaxed as the nurse led me to an unfamiliar hall.
My cell rang out a text notification. Butterflies masqueraded through my belly as I check the name of the sender.
> Meet me at my office at 2 pm.
His messages were always curt and he didn’t spend time asking whether I could go. He expected me to drop all plans and tend to his every need and that was so inconsiderate. Why did everything have to be so last minute? I bit my lip as I considered possible responses while trying to keep my eyes focused on the pathway. A collision with a hospital cart would be disastrous.
“No cell phone usage allowed.” The nurse interrupted my scattered thoughts as she paused and looked over her shoulder. “You can go to the common areas, but you must turn it off here.”
Panic rose inside my chest as I chewed the inside of my cheek. “Can I just reply to this? It will only take a minute.”
The nurse looked hesitant, but gave in.
I gripped the phone with two hands. How could I run off to meet him? Dad gets out of a life-threatening surgery and I run out for an exciting rendezvous with the world’s favorite bachelor? No, not happening. My father’s life was hanging on a thread, so he needed me more than Jake did.
I shot out a quick reply.
>Sorry. Busy tonight taking care of Dad.
I turned the cell phone off and slipped it into my purse. The text soon became a distant memory as the stench of hospital cleaner changed into lavender-fragranced air. The white walls weren’t so bare anymore, a custom art piece hanging on each panel. The entire hall was warmer and had an ambiance of luxury. The serving trays were too sparkly and even the water pitchers were different. None of it made any sense. It looked like a five-star resort instead of a hospital. “Why did you move him? Why wasn’t I notified?”
“It’s standard after surgery.” The nurse offered a sympathetic smile, but no apology.
The hallway was so warm that it suffocated me. I tapped my fingernails on a carafe as we strode by to listen for the cling. Was it glass? No, it was heavyweight plastic, but elegant nonetheless. “This? This isn’t standard. What’s happening here?”
They must have moved my father while I was out last night. After sex and lunch, Jake had brought me to the hospital, paid the bills, and took me out to buy supplies. I hadn’t been able to go anywhere until he dismissed me. Even though he didn’t treat me like a sex slave, I still felt like one with me being at his beck and call. To him, I was just an available body he could use from time to time if he pleased. The strangest thing was watching Jake Sutherland in a grocery store, shopping like we commoners do. He looked bewildered and perplexed as he watched me skim through ingredient labels to choose the correct box of granola bars. Luckily, after two hours of errand-running, he was exhausted enough to bring me back to my car so I could go home.
“Everything is fine, Miss Madison. We moved him, courtesy of Mr. Sutherland.” She didn’t even have to read the clipboard. A smile of delight curled her lips as she pronounced the famous billionaire’s name.
My jaw stiffened as I fought the urge to roll my eyes. I wanted to pick up a hospital rag and wipe that smile from her face. They’d moved him in a flash notice without my consent and she had no idea who she was dealing with. The man now controlled every aspect of my life and I despised that. Jake isn’t even related to my father. I am, and it irritated the hell out of me that they didn’t consult me first.
All thought moved to Dad. What was he thinking now? He knows we don’t have money for this. I lifted my chin. “That’s very nice of you, but the previous room was fine. This is completely unnecessary.”
She tilted her head to the side, but her face never flickered from her dreamy expression. “Shall we move him back to the east wing?”
The image of the hallway we just emerged from triggered a stench of vomit and alcohol disinfectant through my nostrils. I swallowed an uncomfortable lump in my throat. Why would I want that for my dad? Was I being stupid and prideful? It took every inch of courage to muster a smile with my reluctant lips. My shoulders collapsed. “No, it’s fine,” I muttered. “Just take me to his room.”
Her mouth didn’t move from her statuesque smile. Her face was too bright as she hugged the clipboard to her chest. “Absolutely,” she replied, gesturing me to continue.
I resisted yanking the clipboard from her arms and smacking her over the head with it. I was well aware of Jake’s sex symbol status, because I had glanced at the corner of a weekly tabloid in the store last night. I had pretended not to notice as we set groceries on the conveyer belt. I didn’t need to read articles about the ravishing billion-dollar man; I saw the drama first-hand. Besides, he would never get the satisfaction of seeing me think he’s hot stuff, because he’s not. He’s just a man and I’ll treat him as such. An everyday, run-of-the-mill guy.
The nurse wasn’t off the hook, however. I elongated my neck as the skin around my lips tightened. “I’ll need to check his meal plan.”
After stepping foot into a luxury suite and seeing my father lounging with velvety red blankets, I cleared my throat and snatched the paper from her hands. I scanned the menu of filet mignon, shrimp, and caviar. They had everything but cognac. They could move him to the rooftop sun deck for all I care, but I would at least have control over his meals. I offered her a hard smile and returned the menu. “Thank you. He’s lactose-intolerant and please make sure he’s given no red meat unless it’s grass-fed.” Stew on that.
The nurse shuffled passed me and picked up a bowl of half-eaten blueberries and pomegranate seeds from his bedside. “I’ll write it in his file and notify the kitchen,” she declared before turning to my father. “How are we feeling today, Mr. Madison?”
“Better, now that she’s here,” he answered, offering a smile.
A pang of guilt attacked my stomach. It was two hours past the time I generally showed up on hospital visits. I hadn’t meant to be late, but my mind had been in a whirlwind in the last month and it took every ounce of mental strength to figure out daily chores. Jake had consumed every last drop of energy I had last night. Still, I was happy to see my dad’s upbeat face.
His skin was pale and pasty, but his eyes were brighter and he looked much healthier than before. Why didn’t we do the surgery earlier? It didn’t matter… we did it now, and he looked better. I let out a long exhale and eased my shoulders. I think he’s going to be okay.
He studied my upper body and twisted his mouth to the side while squinting an eye. “You look different. More relaxed.”
I swallowed, pulling my cardigan in closer over my body. Jake was turning me into someone I wasn’t, and I needed to conceal it and change the subject fast. “So do you,” I blurted.
And it was true. His face was smoother than I’d ever seen it. It was good to get professional care, even though I was startled to see the improvement over what I had provided at home.
“I can’t complain. The service is good, and they came in with some kind of weird skin treatment this morning to make me look as though I hadn’t been sleeping in a hospital for days.” His face grew serious. “Who’s paying for this, Chloe?”
I wasn’t sure whether he wanted to thank me or wring my neck, so I kept things on the quiet side. There was no way I’d be prepared to come up with a lie that fast anyway, so I didn’t answer. Instead, I planted a hand over his forehead. “How do you feel? No soreness or any intense discomfort around the chest area?”
He arched an eyebrow and gave me a warning look before collapsing his shoulders and softening his eyes. “No pain or discomfort, at all. Just a stinging sensation when I move too much. The stitches are still fresh.”
An unexpected relief washed over my shoulders--not just because of the surgery success, but from the victory in getting out of the question. Dad was healing and the last thing he needed to hear was that his daughter’s new job was to be a hooker. A smile came to my lips. “Well, don’t move too much.”
For the first time in months, I inhaled a deep breath through my nose and exhaled. Yesterday’s pounding had exhausted me, so when my father fell asleep, I left a note telling him I would return in the evening. The fresh air hit my face as I stepped out.
When I got home, I took a shower and ate before going straight to bed. Jake exhausted me, but my mind was restless as I laid on my back. Staring up at the ceiling, I contemplated whether I had done the right thing by accepting his proposition. The money wouldn’t make me wealthy. Not even close. But if I continued to work for him, my father and I could live comfortably without having to worry about bills. I couldn’t live off of the deal forever though. Jake would grow tired of the same old escort of course, but I would try to prolong the contract as much as possible anyway.
Guilt lingered in my conscience, making sleep impossible. I rolled to my side and stared into space. Did Dad know who paid his bills? Finally, darkness enveloped me and pulled me into a deep slumber.
The sound of heavy knocking echoed through the house.
I jolted upright, sweating from the layers of linens that covered me. I rubbed my eyes and tried to clear my head. Swinging my legs off the bed, I pushed hair from my forehead and marched downstairs. Who could that be? I glanced at the clock. It was only three pm, but in an hour or two, I’d need to return to the hospital. I rubbed my eyes and grabbed a pair of slippers.
Another knock rattled the door.
“Just a minute!” Whoever it was, they were crazy and they hadn’t even waited for me to take three steps before shaking the door down.
Flinging it open, I found Jake standing on the doormat in a black suit. His dark hair was slicked back and the corners of his lips were turned downward into a frown.
A sudden coldness drained my veins as my belly erupted into a flutter. “What are you doing here?”
His jaw ticked as he glared at me. “Why wouldn’t I be here? We were supposed to see each other at two o'clock, Chloe. It’s now three. Did you forget or did you ignore my message?”
A pounding heartbeat grew in my ears as I recalled turning off my phone and shoving it into my purse. I screwed up. Or did I? My mind scrambled to make sense of the situation. “I thought I texted you.”
“I received a message to which I replied that I would meet you anyway. There’s an event tonight,” he informed.
“That’s not fair. How was I supposed to know there was a gala?”
“There’s always a fucking gala, Chloe,” he replied through clenched teeth.
I crossed my arms over my robe. “You can’t just text me at the last minute and expect me to get dressed for a ball. I have a life, Jake.”
He wasn’t impressed with my answer. “I paid you to be ready.”
I tightened my lips. He was right. The man had shelled out a small fortune over the past couple weeks. The least I could do was answer a text.
“I called you four times,” he added. “You ignoring me?”
The blunt questions caught me off guard. It was futile to expect the billionaire to waste valuable minutes meandering in a game of charades. Jake was straightforward and frank when he spoke so that there was no possible way to weasel out of answering. I swallowed. “Look, Jake. I don’t have time for this. I have to clean --”
“Dammit Chloe, make time.”
“It’s not my fault,” I blurted. “The hospital told me to turn my phone off. I was there all day.”
He arched an eyebrow and stared at me point-blank. “You’re not there now.”
I scrambled for a way to diffuse the situation. “Aren’t you going to ask me how the operation went?”
He planted his feet firmly on the mat. “I don’t have to. I get status updates on my cell.”
My breathing hitched. Was he serious? Was it an app, or did he have infatuated nurses calling him? More importantly, why wasn’t I notified? My blood heated through my chest as I shunned the idea of him being able to extract patient information from a hospital. Didn’t they have the slightest clue about confidentiality? Whose father is he? Mine or Jake’s? I pressed my fingertips into my temples and massaged.
“You’d get updates too, if you had bothered to check your phone. Have a look,” he ordered.
I didn’t appreciate the tone of his voice. He didn’t own me and he had no right to boss me around. But I did as I was told anyway and ran upstairs to my room. The app sounded like a good idea.
When I got there, I grabbed my cell, turned it on and pushed passed dozens of messages and calls from Jake. I swallowed and glanced toward the door. A twinge of guilt hit the sides of my abdomen. He’d been trying to get a hold of me all day.
I studied a note from another sender—a request to reply with the numbers 004911 to receive status updates from Palms Medical Center. I did, and felt an immediate sense of relief when I saw the welcome message. Now I had an added layer of communication with whoever was looking after my dad.
A severe apology was in order. I hadn’t meant to ignore his calls, but I had no idea he’d call the next day when we were both so exhausted. I placed my phone back on my nightstand and turned to head out the door.
Jake was already at the entrance to my bedroom, leaning against the doorway with his hands buried in his pockets. His predatory eyes scanned my open robe. “It’s new software technology.” He raised his eyebrows. “Helpful?”
I nodded. “Jake, I’m sorry.” I wanted to say more, but the sight of his eyes darkening made my body shiver.
He pushed back from the door jamb and strode over. His tall frame towered over mine, intimidating me as his eyes wandered to my mouth.
I wanted him to lean down and kiss me until I was lightheaded, but fought a whimper that threatened to burst free instead. He should never discover how much I longed to feel the roughness of his stubble brushing against my mound until I screamed his name. He drove me wild with embarrassing, uncontrollable hunger. I couldn’t hold back any longer. His name slipped from my ravenous lips. “Jake.”