BILLIONAIRE

FOR KEEPS

Book 3

The Point St. Claire

Romance Series

where true love finds a way

Some things are worth fighting for.

Vanessa Toomey does not believe in love. A year ago, she’d given herself, heart and soul, to her Mr. Absolute Right. Then she’d discovered who Griffin Hayes really was. A man who didn’t want family or commitment. Money, power and submission are the only words that billionaire understands. 
Griffith Hayes is living in hell. He’s on top of Nessa's 'hope you die' list. She thinks he betrayed her, and perhaps he did. But there are two sides to every story. Will she feel the same about hating him, loving him, when the real truth comes out in Point St. Claire?

Chapter 1

ON HIS WAY to the mansion’s forecourt steps, Griffin Hayes stopped, swung around, and then whipped the shades from his eyes. A motorcycle was screaming in through the mansion’s crested gates, louder and meaner than a demon from hell.

Griffin was known for his cool. He didn’t flinch―not when it came to winning multi-billion dollar deals. Not even when his mom, visiting from small town Maine, called him ‘Giffy’ in the company of Boston’s elite. But as that motorcycle’s rear tire slid out now, and burning rubber squealed closer to his polished shoes, Griffin behaved like any other man who planned to light a few candles when his next birthday came around.

He threw up a prayer and dived out the way.

The motorcycle’s engine cut off. A stand snapped down. When the full helmet was removed, a fall of red hair tumbled down to memorable leather-clad hips.

Running a hand through his own hair, Griffin groaned. He would make a pact with the devil to avoid speaking with Vanessa today―of all days. She made it hard to think. Hard to focus.

She made him hard, end of story.

Griffin was here to do important business with Ronan Toomey, who openly referred to this woman, his only child, as ‘Nessa, the wild one’, a twenty-six-year-old who, to quote Ronan, needed a strong man to help guide her. In other words, tame her. Given Griffin’s hand-on experience with the lady in question, which had ended abruptly one month ago―good luck with that.

Pulling up tall, he nodded a stiff greeting. Vanessa and her sheer, white, billowing blouse stalked straight past. Knee-high multi-buckled boots jangled as she mounted the steps two at a time. The way her behind rocked those black leather pants as she climbed had every one of his muscles flexing with want.

By the time she’d reached the soaring double front doors, however, a chill had scuttled up Griffin’s spine. Hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.

Ronan Toomey had assured him, hand on heart. His fiercely independent daughter was a successful business person in her own right. Griffin knew himself; Vanessa had no interest in running her father’s Forbes 500 company, Toomey Constructions.

Still, Ronan had agreed. Vanessa should be informed only after the deal was done.  If she found out beforehand, she’d move mountains to end it, for more reasons than one.

Of course, Vanessa’s visit today might be totally innocent. Everyday family matters of no concern to him. Some trifling that wouldn’t destroy the thousand and one intricate moves he and Ronan had made to arrive at this crucial point in negotiations.

Knowing Vanessa, not likely.JHe

Griffin reached the foot of the steps at the same time Vanessa bolted inside. The housekeeper stood clutching her throat as she watched the younger woman disappear, a rabbit sprinting through an opulent maze. Striding into the massive gold-brushed foyer, Griffin pocketed his shades, set his jaw.

“Where’s Mr. Toomey?”

The woman’s face was as pale as the Italian marble floor. “Mr. Hayes.” She took a jittery breath, wobbled it out. “Mr. Toomey’s in his office. He said to bring you through as soon as you arrived. But his daughter—Vanessa…well, something’s happened—”

Griffin didn’t wait to hear more. But with a head start, Vanessa got there first.

Rather than sitting behind his oak desk, Ronan was slouched in a recliner by French doors overlooking a garden facing east. His daughter stood by the doors, hugging herself even as she held her head high. A defiant princess, proud and, right now, potentially dangerous.

Her voice was choked, thick with emotion. “You should have told me, Dad. I had a right to know.”

Ronan’s tie hung loose around the collar of his business shirt. Glancing across, he saw Griffin and summoned a weary smile that said, Well, we tried. “Morning, son. Come in. Nessa’s here.”

Griffin tacked up a grin. “We, uh, almost ran into each other a moment ago.” 

With long legs braced, Vanessa continued to face the view while Griffin’s mind raced on. Somehow she’d found out about the deal. For personal and professional reasons, she’d want it stopped dead in its tracks. Aside from Griffin apparently making it to the top of her hope you die list, Toomey Constructions would be worth double ten years from now. Even triple.

But this wasn’t her decision. Her father needed out, and he needed out now.

There really was no other way. 

Vanessa turned around him. Glistening green eyes flashed as they zeroed in on his. He’d expected a show of blazing defiance. Instead, standing in a stream of morning light, dainty hands fisted by her sides, she looked somehow lost. Almost frightened.

“Get out of here, Griffin.” She exhaled. “For god’s sake, leave us alone.”

Her father spoke up. “Nessa, Griffin’s here to―”

“I don’t care about Griffin.” She dropped down beside her father, held his hand between both of hers. “I care about you.”

Toomey stroked his daughter’s crown. “I know, sweetheart. I know. But Griffin and I…we need to talk.”

“Talk later.” When Ronan tried to stand, she shook her head, kissed his hand. “Don’t get worked up. Help’s on its way.”

Griffin paused.

Did she say help? As in legal help? Her lawyer?  But the way she was biting her lip, her eyes rimmed with tears… This was not the Vanessa he had come to know. The fireball who drove him nuts. The woman he still ached for in the middle of every night.

But then the pieces of this puzzle fell into place and a flood of ice-cold dread washed through his veins. The anguish in her eyes...Ronan slumped up in that chair… 

Vanessa wasn’t here to kill the deal.

The problem was far worse than that.

 

Vanessa hated that Griffin Hayes had shown up here today, of all days. But she wasn’t exactly surprised. Her father and Griffin were as much friends as business associates. That’s how she’d met Griffin―the second time, at least.

Since finishing college, Vanessa had accompanied her dad to some social events, including a charity affair Griffin had hosted a few months ago. When Griffin had introduced himself―when he had gifted her that sexy smile―Vanessa had felt the sparks to her toes. Aside from the chiselled features and obviously ripped body, his eyes were such a piercing mirror gray, their hooded intensity took her breath away. His hair was dark and thick, the gleaming pelt of an alpha wolf.

Seriously. Everything about the guy was bone-meltingly masculine.

That night he’d worn an impeccable tuxedo. Today those powerful shoulders and broad chest were cloaked in a custom-made jacket. As a fashion designer with her own label, Vanessa guessed five figures for the suit, easy. The barely perceivable pull of fabric over his thighs suggested long, athletic limbs…unapologetically powerful, like the rest of him.

Griffin was from humble beginnings, an unfortunate childhood that might hold another person back. But he’d gotten an education, whipped his life into shape. Now Griffin lived by his own rules. No exceptions.

Just ask her.

But his agenda today would have to wait.

When the housekeeper, Wendy, had phoned to say she’d contacted the doctor―that she’d found Ronan collapsed over his desk―Vanessa had been at a weekend shoot for her Rebel Without a Cause Collection. Without thinking, she’d grabbed one of the full-throttle props and sped straight over.

Her father explained for Griffin’s benefit. “I had pain in my jaw…in my back.” Growling, annoyed with himself, Ronan stared at the jasmine-laced hedges beyond the arched window. “I chewed on some aspirin.”

“Because that had helped the first time.” Vanessa had been stunned when he’d told her a moment ago. This was incident number two.

Like he was finally catching up, Griffin murmured, “Heart attack…”

“Yes, Griffin.” Heart attack. “Now, would you please―”

Another person rushed into the room.

Nevil Tremont was her father’s long time doctor. Tremont had also cared for Vanessa’s grandfather, the Toomey patriarch who had gone to his maker after coronary episode number three. Now Tremont placed his medical bag on the floor next to her father’s chair. Lean and tall in his Hawaiian print weekend shirt, the doctor looked down his bifocals at his old friend.

“What have you been up to this time, Ronan?”

Her father found a frustrated grin. “Minding my own business last time I looked.”

“He needs rest,” Vanessa said. “He needs to understand how serious this is.”

“We all need to stay calm,” the doctor pointed out before he smiled, reassuring them both. “Wait outside,” he suggested. “I’ll check his vitals. An ambulance is on its way.”

Vanessa gave her father’s clean shaven cheek a heartfelt kiss before heading out. She passed Griffin at the door. His shoulders were still squared, but for once, he looked blindsided. Downright shaken. 

Out in the adjoining room, Vanessa wandered over to an unlit fireplace. A moment later, Griffin was there, resting a supposedly comforting hand on her shoulder. His deep rich voice was too close to her ear.

“I’m sorry. Nessa, I didn’t know.”

Staring blindly ahead, she lifted her chin. “Well, now you do.”

 “I’m sure Ronan will be fine.”

Edging away, she moved to a window and a view of the grounds where she had played as a girl, back when there were three of them. When everything was a game and death was an abstract reserved for gnarly queens in fairytales.

Griffin tried again. “If there’s anything I can do―”

“There’s not.”

She heard him groan. “Nessa, we need to move past this―”

“Don’t tell me how to feel, Griffin.”

“I’m sorry we argued.”

She turned to face him. He looked so darkly handsome. So vulnerable and human.

She’d fallen for that one before.

“What are you still doing here?”

A muscle in his jaw flexed. “Ronan and I have a collaborative deal to close.”

“On a Sunday?”

So typical of her dad. Sure, she’d been on the clock today too, but she was also forty years younger, and minus a heart condition.

The second her father’s office door opened, Vanessa shot forward.

Tremont spoke to Griffin. “Mr. Hayes, Ronan wants to see you.” Vanessa started for the door too, but Tremont held up a hand. “Ronan asked to see Mr. Hayes alone.”

Vanessa watched, speechless, as Griffin strode back into the room. As the door closed again, she crossed her arms, shook her head.

Unbelievable. In the wake of a heart attack, and all Ronan could think about was closing some deal. It was different when she was little, when her mom was alive. Her dad had still worked hard, but he was always home for dinner. Always had time to listen to her stories. On weekends, she’d help him assemble his model boats, handing bits over as he asked. If ever she wanted his opinion on a doll dress design that she’d drawn, he had always offered a thoughtful response.

Then there were those summers spent in a quiet seaside town north of here.

Griffin’s hometown. 

Vanessa was ready to rap on that door―the waiting was driving her insane―when the sound of an ambulance siren echoed up from the driveway. A moment later, Wendy brought the team through at the same time Tremont threw open that office door.

As she edged forward, Vanessa’s head began to prickle. The tips of her fingers went numb. The doctor had wanted calm. But suddenly now everything was rushed and noisy and turned upside down. People calling instructions. Wendy gasping then breaking down. And Griffin was there in her face, telling her everything would be all right. Ronan would be fine.

But her father was splayed out on the floor, shirt torn open. When resuscitation paddles were placed on his bare chest―skin that looked so pale―Ronan’s body convulsed. Then the paddles were applied a second and a third time, and all sound faded away, except for a distant, muffled thumping.

Vanessa’s own heartbeat pounding in her ears.

copyright robyn grady 2020