Authors: Lila Monroe
By L I L A M O N R O E
Copyright © 2015 by Lila Monroe
Billionaire With A Twist
Cover Design: British Empire Designs
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic or mechanical, including emailing, photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and
retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or
dead, is entirely coincidental.
For my husband—a teetotaler, but my original hero. As sexy, loyal and hardworking as Hunter
Knox. Minus the hangovers.
To whiskey. It's been an education and fun, but forgive me if I never drink a drop
So a girl walked into a bar.
It wasn’t a joke, it was my life.
Which, actually, now that I think about
it, sometimes feels like the same thing. No comments, please.
Besides, tonight was the beginning of
my new life. It was the first step in a direction I’d wanted to
go for a long damn time. So where was I? Ah, yes. I walked into a
It was a nice bar, at least. In fact,
it was really a lot nicer than any bar at a mid-range hotel—the
only one my supervisors were willing to spring for—in a
mid-range part of Charleston had any right to be.
The lighting was soft, but not so much
so that I couldn’t read the print on the bottles, glowing
yellow and orange lamps bringing out the warmth of the polished
walnut bar and booths, as well as the striking red brick of the walls
and the paintings that adorned them. Some kind of mournful violin
music was piping over the sound system, just loud enough to make
itself felt and give the chatting patrons a bit of privacy.
A profile caught my eye, a man
silhouetted by the soft golden light, facing away from me. I admired
the strong lines of his shoulders and the way that his auburn hair
caught slivers of light even in the semi-darkness, throwing out
glints of gold like sparks in a low-burning fire. Perhaps feeling my
eyes on him, he turned. Before I could look away, our eyes met, and a
shock of electricity pierced through the distance between us.
Those eyes…deep and knowing,
traveling across my face before wandering down my body and back up
again, slow and leisurely as if he could feel every inch of me
through his gaze alone. I felt my body heat up under his stare, my
blood singing in anticipation at the offer his eyes were making. A
smile began to stretch across his face, as if he could read the eager
acceptance in mine.
I looked away quickly.
I reminded myself.
Not banging hot guys.
is why you’re here tonight.
I hurried away to the other side of the
bar before I could give into temptation.
The bartender—a wizened old guy
with kind brown eyes and a face that looked like it had been there to
meet Mark Twain—didn’t bat an eye when I told him what I
was after, and after a brief chat with the waitress he got me a
corner booth, tucked away behind a stuffed cougar that looked like it
had time-traveled directly from the print ads for a 1950s
Camouflage was definitely necessary;
I’d overheard the Douchebros—and I promise I’ll go
into more later as to why I even have a group of people in my life
worthy of that title—bragging about how tanked they were going
to get, and my plans for the night did not include fending off
drunken advances, trying to tune out comments about the size of my
ass respective to my brain, and counting how many times they could
fit the word ‘bro’ into a single sentence.
(So far, the record was seven.)
My plans for the night, however,
include the next thing the waitress brought me: six different shots
of bourbon, and a glass of water.
And no, I’m not an alcoholic.
This was research.
Fun, delicious research, but research.
Maybe I should back up a little bit. My
name? It’s Ally. Allison Bartlett. I’m five foot four,
have grey eyes, tolerate the straight brown hair that slides out of
every ponytail I put it into, and frequently wear an anxious smile
that I’m working hard to make
broadcast my ambition,
desperation, and general worrywart nature. It’s an uphill
Anyway, I’m twenty-four, and I’ve
been working at Geisel & Son Advertising in Washington, D.C. for
two years now. I was an intern my senior year, and I lucked into an
entry-level position opening up a month after I graduated. It’s
full-time, benefits, the whole package. So I should be thanking my
lucky stars, right?
I sure would, if anyone at Geisel &
Son ever managed to remember that I wasn’t the intern anymore.
Time and again over the last two years,
I’d heard my ideas shot down, only to turn around and see them
accepted as brilliant when suggested by whichever man did the least
possible amount of rephrasing. I’d been talked over in
meetings, told to fetch coffee, and confused with the receptionist.
And I think I might have been able to handle all that, if it had been
coming solely from the old guard within the establishment. But no,
more than half of it was coming from people barely older than me, who
seemed to have watched too many episodes of Mad Men and taken all the
worst bits to heart.
So this was it. My possibly last big
job, where I was going to try my hardest, stand up for myself and
fight for my ideas, and give this advertising job one last chance
before it ground me down into dust and I packed my bags and waved the
sad white flag of surrender on my career dreams.
In case you’re wondering how all
of this has anything to do with my solo bourbon sampler party, our
latest client was Knox bourbon.
I decided to start and end with said
bourbon, in order to better compare it to the others. I leaned over
the first glass, parting my lips as I inhaled, both smelling and
tasting the aroma of burnt caramel, old wood, and cinnamon. A
promising start…I took a sip of the amber liquid, letting it
roll slowly across my tongue as I memorized and savored the taste. It
had a bold, spicy flavor thanks to the high rye content, with a hint
of charred oak and honey, and a strong bite.
I breathed out through my nose and
mouth at the same time, and the flavor intensified until I swallowed.
I smacked my lips in satisfaction as I set the glass back down. I
generally drank a wheated bourbon rather than a rye, and I did miss
that slight hint of sweet vanilla, but this wasn’t bad at all.
Glass number two was a rye after my own
heart, vanilla like the first lick of ice cream on a hot summer day,
cool and refreshing, with a bit of biting heat like a miniature sun
right after it washed down my throat. I took another sip of that one,
in the interest of more fully appreciating that fine flavor. Maybe I
was playing favorites a little, but who was going to tell?
And here came number three. That
distinctive flavor that said Kentucky, Bourbon County, that long
tradition of Scots-Irish immigration. All the old ways carefully
preserved and kept going: a hint of cedar, a touch of honey. A little
rough around the edges, but in a way that soothed with its
familiarity. I sighed, letting my eyes fall shut, the taste of the
bourbon becoming my entire universe.
“Ah, a lady who knows how to
savor the good things in life.”
I started, blushing, my eyes popping
open and my hand nearly dropping the glass in dismay. Dammit, I’d
wanted to be discreet! I hadn’t wanted anyone seeing me geek
out like this, and now—
I looked up, and my annoyance at being
interrupted died on my lips as I let my bourbon take a rest, and
drank in the sight of the interloper instead. It was the same man
who’d caught my eye just minutes earlier. Of course. And here I
was sighing and drooling shamelessly over an entire smorgasbord of
booze. Damn but he was even tastier up close.
Had he said something about the good
things in life? Well, he would know, since he was definitely one of
them. Golden-brown eyes like the sun shining through a tumbler of
bourbon, freckles sun-kissing the bridge of his nose, and a chiseled
jaw you could cut diamonds on. His auburn-gold hair was swept back
from his forehead and his navy polo shirt clung to all the right
places of his shoulders and chest. I bit my lip and resisted asking
him to do a spin so I could check and see if those khaki pants clung
in all the right places, too.
And that accent he spoke in, oh, it
made me regret all the work I’d done to lose my own. A warm
honey-slow drawl that drew attention to his lips and the way they
quirked up at the corner.
“I didn’t think it was good
enough to stun you into silence,” he teased.
I blushed and shot back, “I’m
just trying to figure out what criteria led you to hone in on the
girl with the highest alcohol content in the room. Your self-esteem
I regretted the sarcastic remark the
second it left my mouth. In high-stress situations, I tended to blurt
out exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time; it was an
adrenaline-fueled, involuntary, and very unfortunate defense
mechanism of mine. One that got me into trouble more often than not.
He only grinned, and sauntered closer.
“As a matter of fact, I have extremely robust…self-esteem.
Show you mine if you’ll show me yours?”
“The hell kind of pick-up line is
that?” I said, flummoxed by both his nonchalant demeanor and
the sweet scent of masculinity radiating off his delicious body.
, I mentally scolded myself.
You’re indignant. Be
“I’ve got all kinds,”
he promised. “Want something more traditional? I’ll give
it a go: let me buy you a drink?”
I gestured at the drinks already in
front of me.
“I think I’m covered,”
I said wryly.
“Then do you mind if I buy myself
one and drink it here with you?” he asked.
I considered. I was doing research
here. Important research. Research that could change the very
trajectory of my career and make all those dreams come true. I didn’t
need any distractions.
On the other hand, those shoulders. And
those lips, mm-hmm. And truth be told, for all my defensive
posturing, there wasn’t a damn thing about him that didn’t
scream ‘charming’ and ‘good company’ and,
most importantly, ‘eye candy.’
My old science teacher did always say
that it was important to have a research partner.
“Well, it certainly would improve
the view,” I said, relieved to have finally given myself
permission to cozy up to this intriguing stranger.
He grinned wider then, sliding into the
booth opposite me, our legs bumping together slightly. Butterflies
danced in my stomach. Damn, what was this, sixty seconds and I
already had it this bad? Guys this hot should come with a warning
label. Not that I’d stop to read it.
Hottie McHotterson—also, damn,
how had I not asked his name yet, was I really that far gone into the
Lust Canyon?—flagged down the waitress, and ordered a Knox
I made a face.
“Not a fan?” he asked,
raising an eyebrow.
“Of the whiskey? Sure,” I
said. “It tastes great and gets the job done.”
“What is it, then?” he
asked. He seemed genuinely curious, and that made me open up. “What’s
“Well, it’s just—”
I gestured at the label. “Look at this packaging. Just the name
stamped on there in an old-timey font, and the same barrel logo
they’ve been using since B.F. Skinner first strolled up to an
ad agency with some rats in a box and a lot of fancy promises. It
does nothing to catch the eye.”
“The label?” He raised an
eyebrow. “That’s it?”
“That’s hardly it!” I
shot back. “Their whole branding approach is the same, stuck in
the past! Print ads whose copy never changes, radio jingles with
slang from the second World War, TV spots with the same Bob Hope
lookalike every year—it doesn’t matter how good it
old-fashioned. Like something my grandpa
My mysterious visitor’s drink
arrived, and he quirked a brow in amusement and raised his glass in a
salute. “To your grandfather—a man of excellent taste.”