My Fair BillionaireBy: Elizabeth Bevarly
Henry Higgins she’s not!
Back in school, stuck-up Ava Brenner may have been Peyton Moss’s personal mean girl by day, but different kinds of sparks flew at night. Now the tables have turned, and Peyton’s about to make his first billion while Ava’s living a bit more humbly—to put it mildly. He needs her to teach him how to pass in high society, if they can manage to put old rivalries to bed. Soon, that’s exactly where they end up! But will Peyton still want her when he learns about the scandal that sent Ava from riches to rags?
“Look, Ava, I Know We Were Never The Best Of Friends…”
Even if we were—for one night, anyway—lovers, Peyton couldn’t help thinking. Hoping she wasn’t thinking that, too. Figuring she probably was. “But I obviously need help with this new and improved me, and I’m not going to get it from some total stranger. I don’t know anyone here who could help me except you. Because you’re the only one here who knows me.”
“I did know you,” she corrected him. “When we were in high school. Neither of us is the person we were then.”
There was something in her voice when she said that that made Peyton hesitate. It was true he wasn’t the person he’d been in high school; Ava obviously still was. Maybe the adult wasn’t quite as snotty, vain or superficial, but she could still put a guy in his place. She was still classy.
She was still beautiful.
She was still out of his league.
T. S. Eliot was right, Ava Brenner thought as she quickened her stride down Michigan Avenue and ducked beneath the awning of a storefront. April really was the cruelest month. Yesterday, the skies above Chicago had been blue and clear, and temperatures hovered in the high fifties. Today, gray clouds pelted the city with freezing rain. She tugged her scarf from the collar of her trench coat and over her head, knotting it beneath her chin. The weather would probably ruin the emerald silk, but she was on her way to meet a prospective vendor and would rather replace an injured scarf than have the perfect auburn chignon at her nape get wet and ragged.
Image was everything. Bottom line. That was a lesson life hammered home when Ava was still in high school. April wasn’t the only thing that was cruel—teenage girls could be downright brutal. Especially the rich, vain, snotty ones at posh private schools who wore the latest designer fashions and belittled the need-based-scholarship students who made do with discount-store markdowns.
Ava pushed the thought away. A decade and a half lay between her and graduation. She was the owner of her own business now, a boutique called Talk of the Town that rented haute couture fashions to women who wanted only the best for those special occasions in life. Even if the shop was operating on a shoestring and wishful thinking, it was starting to show a profit. At least she looked the part of successful businesswoman. No one had to know she was her own best customer.
She whipped the scarf from her head and tucked it into the pocket of her trench coat as she entered an elegant eatery. Beneath, she wore a charcoal-gray Armani jacket and trousers, paired with a sage-colored shell she knew enhanced her green eyes. The outfit had arrived at Talk of the Town just this week, and she’d wanted to test-drive it for comfort and wearability.
As she approached the host stand, her cell phone twittered. It was the vendor she was supposed to be meeting, asking to postpone their appointment for an evening later in the week. So Ava would be on her own for dinner tonight. As usual. Still, she hadn’t taken herself out in a long time, and she had been working extra hard this month. She’d earned a bit of a treat.
Basilio, the restaurant’s owner, greeted her by name with a warm smile. Every time she saw him, Ava was reminded of her father. Basilio had the same dark eyes, close-cropped salt-and-pepper hair and neatly trimmed mustache. But she was reasonably certain that, unlike her father, Basilio had never done time in a federal prison.
Without even checking the seating chart, he led Ava to her favorite table by the window, where she could watch the passersby as she ate. As she lifted her menu, however, her attention was yanked away by a ruckus in the bar. When she glanced up, she saw Dennis, her favorite bartender, being berated by a customer, a tall man with broad shoulders and coal-black hair. He was evidently offended by Dennis’s suggestion that he’d had too much to drink, a condition that was frankly obvious.
“I’m fine,” the man insisted. Although his words weren’t slurred, his voice was much louder than necessary. “And I want another Macallan. Neat.”
Dennis remained calm as he replied, “I don’t think—”