The Billionaire's Christmas (A Sinclair Novella) (5 page)

BOOK: The Billionaire's Christmas (A Sinclair Novella)
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“Hello,” Emily answered, sounding breathless.

Grady’s worry turned to relief. “You didn’t call me,” he grumbled irritably. “You were supposed to let me know you were home safe.”

“I just got home. I had to run errands,” Emily told him matter-of-factly. “I’m sorry. Were you worried?”

He should say no. He could tell her that he just got a free minute, so that’s why he was calling now. He should be nonchalant, not let her know he was actually having visions of her bloodied and stranded somewhere. There were many excuses he could have given for jumping the gun on the phone call, but he simply answered, “Yeah. A little. It’s been a while since you left.” For some reason, he didn’t want to lie to Emily.

“I’m home now.” The sound of a slamming door confirmed her statement. “Thank you for caring that I got home safe. It’s very thoughtful.”

He should tell her that he wasn’t thoughtful at all. He was a self-centered bastard who couldn’t stand the thought of her hurting or stranded somewhere because he selfishly wanted her. But he didn’t tell her that. He liked that aching sweetness of her comment too much. Simon was right. Grady did want Emily to like him. “What did you get?” he asked curiously, hearing the sound of rustling bags in the background while she was silent.

“Household stuff. Nothing exciting,” she answered with a laugh. “Boring stuff that you wouldn’t find very interesting.”

He found
everything
about her interesting. Grady plopped his ass into a recliner, thinking that every little thing about Emily fascinated him. He wanted to know what she’d bought, where she’d stopped, what kind of things she liked. And he wanted to keep hearing that husky, sexy laugh of hers all damn night. “I’m interested. Tell me.” Right at the moment, he just wanted to hear her voice. It might make him harder than a rock, but it also soothed him.

He wasn’t disappointed. Emily started talking. He eventually got the account information for the Center, but they just kept talking after that. Grady’s restlessness slowly faded away as he got lost in the conversation.

CHAPTER 3

The million-dollar deposit was in the YCOA account the very next morning. In fact, it was deposited shortly after Emily arrived at work. She’d stared at the balance for the Center, stunned, for almost fifteen minutes before she logged out of the bank account. Grady had actually done it. He’d made a million-dollar donation.

The package came in the afternoon, delivered by a teenager who actually worked at the local florist but had agreed to do an extra delivery for one of the town’s optometrists, Dr. Pope. The sandy-haired boy had winked at her when he delivered it, telling her cheekily that it was a delivery that had paid very well when she had started digging for money to tip him, which he’d refused.

Turning the package over and over, Emily couldn’t figure out
why
she was getting a delivery, but her name was on it, and the delivery boy had been told specifically to deliver it to her personally.

She tore open the large manila envelope and groped inside, pulling out the contents carefully and letting the items fall onto the surface of her desk. There were two cases, and she popped open the first one and froze for a moment, staring at a dainty pair of glasses in an adorably feminine frame. She’d actually tried them on in Dr. Pope’s office and rejected the choice, reasoning that they were too impractical, but the real reason she’d decided against them had been the cost. They were much fancier and definitely more expensive than something she would have chosen.
What the hell?
Yanking off her regular glasses, she slid the new pair onto her face, the world around her coming into much better focus. Her glasses were old, and they had surface scratches, but she’d lost one of her contact lenses a few months ago and was waiting until she could afford to get more. Snapping open the other case, she wasn’t particularly surprised to see that several pair of contacts were in the case, and she was positive they were exactly the right prescription. Dr. Pope knew exactly what she needed. She’d just had her eye exam a few months ago, and was waiting until she could afford what she required to correct her vision properly.

Emily squealed loud enough to bring Randi running into her office, the brunette’s face panicked. “What happened?” she asked breathlessly.

“I got new glasses. And contacts. I can’t believe my mom and dad did this for me. They live on a fixed income. They really can’t afford it.” Emily’s eyes started to tear at the thought of her parents sacrificing for her. She didn’t even remember telling them she had lost her old contacts. Usually she avoided bad news. Her parents were getting on in years, and she tried to keep to the happier stuff when she spoke with them because they worried.

Randi came to the desk and sifted through the contents. “Um . . . Em . . . I don’t think it was from your parents.” Randi dangled a card from her fingertips before handing it to Emily.

It was Dr. Pope’s card, but on the back, written in script, was Grady Sinclair’s name and the word
Paid
.

“Grady? Why?” she whispered to herself, running her index finger over the card.

Randi raised a brow, asking curiously, “Is there something you haven’t told me about your little visit with Grady Sinclair?”

Emily had asked Randi earlier not to ever refer to Grady by anything other than his name. He’d saved her ass, asking for very little in return except her company for Christmas. And why he wanted
that
she still hadn’t figured out. “No. We talked. He made me drive his truck because he was worried about my bad tires. And I left.” Okay, she was omitting the tiny little detail that Grady had mistaken her for a woman who traded sex for money. And she wasn’t about to mention the fact that he’d kissed her. Knowing Randi, she’d blow the whole thing out of proportion. It was just . . . a kiss. It wasn’t like Grady Sinclair actually had any real interest in
her
.

“Obviously you made quite an impression,” Randi answered in a teasing voice.

“I can’t keep these. Why did he do this?” Emily pulled off the new glasses.

“You need them. Keep them.” Reaching out stealthily, Randi snatched Emily’s old glasses away from her and put them in her pocket. “Just so you know, these are going to go missing unless you absolutely need them for some kind of emergency. And now . . . you don’t need them.” Chuckling softly, Randi scampered out of Emily’s office.

“Miranda Tyler, bring those back here.” Emily put the new glasses back on and followed Randi, only to find that Randi had grabbed her stuff and left like her ass was on fire.

“Damn.” Emily plopped back into her chair in the office. Would they even let her return the glasses now that they had been made for her? Probably not. And she’d be hard-pressed to come up with the money to pay them off.

Grady paid. I have to pay him. Why did he do it?

Emily dug through her purse and pulled out Grady’s card. He’d called her last night, sounding almost upset that she hadn’t already called him to let him know she’d made it home. Stopping at the grocery store first, she had just been coming through the door when her cell phone rang. He’d gotten the number for the Center’s bank account, and then they had talked about everything and nothing for two hours. He was a good listener, and he prompted her to talk about her parents and what it was like growing up in Amesport, and he asked a lot of questions about the programs at the Center. Surprisingly, he’d seemed to genuinely care about the impact of the programs on the community. Grady Sinclair was blunt, gruff, and, okay, maybe he could be a bit abrupt and intimidating, but the problem was . . . she actually liked him. His public image was all wrong, and Grady was a complete fraud. Underneath his rough exterior was a man with a good heart. Emily was almost certain of that. There was no artificial charm or smoothness to Grady, and that made him that much hotter. He was all male, all the time, and everything feminine inside her reacted to that, reacted to him.

Shaking her head at her own foolishness, she laid his card on the desk and brought up her e-mail.

Dear Mr. Sinclair,
Thank you for your generous donation to the Youth Center of Amesport.
I am in receipt of the package you sent today. I hope you will be able to accept payment arrangements for the contents. Although I was planning to purchase some products I needed from Dr. Pope, I hadn’t planned to buy all this right now. It’s an unexpected expense that I haven’t budgeted to purchase. Can I make monthly payments to you?
Regards,
Emily Ashworth

His reply came through within a few minutes.

Emily,
Your glasses are scratched and you need them. I used to wear glasses when I was younger, and trying to see around scratches is annoying. If you try to pay me, I’ll find a way to get my donation back. And there is no Mr. Sinclair at this e-mail address.
G.

Emily knew she should be angry, but she actually burst out laughing at his reply. There was no professional politeness with Grady. He got right to the point. She sent a lightning-fast reply.

Mr. Sinclair,
We’ve already discussed the terms of our agreement, and this was not part of that verbal contract. Are you going to take the installment payments or not?
Regards,
Emily Ashworth

His reply arrived within seconds.

Emily,
No. I’m not. The agreement was never solid and is still negotiable. I specifically remember you saying you would do whatever you could to get me what I wanted. That’s a pretty broad statement. I wanted to give you the glasses and contacts as a gift. End of discussion. I also want you to call me Grady, or you’ll pay later for ignoring my request.
G.

It took Emily several minutes to compose herself, shocked and amused by his candid response. She couldn’t help herself . . . she answered.

Grady,
How do you plan to make me pay if I call you Mr. Sinclair?
Emily

His response was immediate this time.

Emily,
Try it and you’ll find out.
G.

Oh, Emily was so tempted. Grady was pushing and she wanted to push back. But sparring with him was dangerous to both her physical and mental well-being. He fascinated and unsettled her at the same time.

Her fingers itched to type a reply, but she deleted the e-mails and closed the page, determined to ignore her attraction to him. She wasn’t used to a man doing anything for her, and she wasn’t quite comfortable with Grady’s gift. It was too thoughtful, too insightful. Just the fact that he’d noticed such a small thing about her glasses was perplexing. At the age of twenty-eight, she wasn’t a virgin. There had been one boyfriend in college and one after she graduated, but neither of them was anything like Grady Sinclair.

Emily sighed, drew the glasses off her face, and inserted the contact lenses. It was a relief to have clear vision again, and the prescription was perfect. Not that she expected anything less from Grady.

Placing the glasses carefully in her purse, she tried to get back to paperwork, but her mind wandered the rest of the afternoon, daydreaming about what Grady might do to punish her. Chances were, she’d probably love it.

“I want my truck back,” Emily told Grady irritably, stomping her foot in what looked to Grady like a female temper tantrum, but he wasn’t entirely sure. Most women he knew just took, and they didn’t argue.

Emily had just arrived, toting her suitcase and boxes of red-and-green decorations along with her. She was wearing a Christmas sweatshirt that shouldn’t turn him on, but it did. Decked out in Christmas cheer from her tinkling bell earrings to the Christmas socks he could see quite clearly now that she had taken her sneakers off at the door, Grady decided there was one thing he liked about Christmas now—Emily. Even though she was glaring at him, she looked beautiful decked out for the holidays.

In the last two weeks, Grady had felt like he was losing his mind, his only contact with Emily a brief phone discussion about when she’d arrive at his home, communication that had hardly satisfied his need to be close to her. He’d waited for this day for what seemed like forever, and now she was pissed. But he refused to back down, and honestly, he was finding her temper pretty damn adorable and sexy. “No. I already signed the truck over to you.” He was handing her the pink slip to his truck, but she was staring at it like it was a snake that was ready to bite her. “Your truck wasn’t safe. You’ve been driving this one for two weeks. If it isn’t what you like, I’ll get you something else.”

“Of course I like it. It’s big; it’s completely loaded. God, it even has heated leather seats to keep my ass warm. But that isn’t the point. It doesn’t belong to me. The only reason I’ve been driving it is because I don’t have my truck. You told me we would trade when I got here for Christmas.”

BOOK: The Billionaire's Christmas (A Sinclair Novella)
9.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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