The Billionaire Game 1

By: Lila Monroe

ONE




Is it possible to murder somebody over a phone line?

‘Cause if so, I definitely needed to start working on my alibi.

“Kaaaaaaaate,” my ex-boyfriend Stevie whined through my cell phone speakers, sounding like a puppy who’d been told Mr. Bone was going away forever and never coming back, “you’re making a big deal out of nothing! I bought it, it’s mine, so just give it to me, okay?”

“Wow, Stevie, that’s real mature,” I shot back, trying to hold my phone to my shoulder with my ear while I balanced three different boxes of lace. I had a business appointment for Trifles by Kate—the name of my lingerie business—in less than an hour. “I thought you were going to grad school, not kindergarten. Did you walk into the wrong school? Quick, look around and count the number of pictures drawn in crayon to make sure.”

“Kaaaaaate—”

Unbe-fucking-lievable.

The worst part was, I should have seen this coming. The clues had all been there. But no—when we first started dating, I was actually charmed by Stevie’s persistence! I’d been like, wow, this guy is willing to keep asking me out after I’d shot him down five times? Well, I’d better give him a chance! Wow, this guy Facebook-stalked me and called all my friends when he didn’t know where I was for three hours? What compassion and concern! Wow, this guy read through my diary until he found all the red flags I’d written down about our relationship, and then confronted me with them and accused me of emotional dishonesty? Well, I guess he really cares about our love!!!

What a fucking joke.

And that had been the theme of our relationship, my rose-colored glasses making every fault into a virtue.

I’d thought his interest in my designs and my business meant that he recognized my artistic talent and supported my dreams—until I realized that he would have told me the sky was a brilliant russet red if he thought it’d make me go to bed with him.

I’d thought his love of Shakespeare meant he was intelligent and sensitive—until I realized that his true love was making other people feel less intelligent by quoting the Bard at them until they shut up.

I’d thought his possessive jealousy of other guys was cute and meant he really loved me—until he stormed into my job at Devlin Media Corp. accusing me of flirting with guys at the receptionist desk, and caused a huge scene that probably would have gotten me fired if my best friend Lacey weren’t helping run the company these days.

Of course, no matter what Jekyll and Whiny Baby Hyde act Stevie was pulling these days, I could be counted on to behave myself like a mature and responsible adult.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I snapped, barely managing to unload the boxes of lace onto the table before they tumbled out of my arms. Damn, where the hell was my Thai silk? My client was begging for satin, but if I could show her how much better the texture was—dammit all to hell, how could so much stuff be hiding in such a tiny apartment? “Stevie, it was a gift! You do understand the concept of a gift, right? When two people love each other very much, or when one person loves the other and the other one is under the influence of a haze of possessive anger that he thinks vaguely resembles love—”

“God, Kate, if you could stop being condescending for two whole seconds—”

“You don’t even like detective stories!” I exploded.

And there was the heart of the matter. This was the thing that was really getting to me, at the heart of the whole petty ordeal: the knowledge that Stevie was trying to take away something he knew I loved, out of spite, just to hurt me.

“Whereas detective stories are completely my jam! They are jam that is in my locked cupboard, with duct tape on the lid, with a big fat sign pasted over the label saying PROPERTY OF KATE! That is the extent to which the property rights to that jam reside with my person!”

Stevie sighed as though I had dumped the weight of a couple of the bigger planets onto his shoulders. “Kate, you know I can’t understand you when you go into this crazy talk.”

“Crazy talk?!” I stabbed a sewing needle into my dress form’s bust with vengeful satisfaction. Is this a knife I see before me? Fuck, but I was going to be mentally quoting Macbeth for awhile. If that didn’t mean Stevie owed me, I didn’t know what did. “Crazy talk is claiming ownership of that original edition of Graham’s Magazine with The Murders in Rue Morgue when you don’t read anything published after men stopped wearing ruffs!”

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