Billionaire's Tragedy (Standalone Book) (Billionaire Bad Boy Romance) (3 page)

"Is that so?" I
said, raising an eyebrow as my eyes dropped a little further and took in the
curves that asserted themselves under the coat she was wearing before I quickly
brought them back up to her eyes.

"I saw that,"
she said. "God, you're all scumbags, aren't you?"

"I don't know that
I'd call myself a scumbag," I said as I held her gaze. "Am I a man
who appreciates women? Yes, I am. But a scumbag? I don't think I'd go that
far."

"Oh, you're one of
those." She rolled her eyes before looking down at her phone and then
turning back to the barista. "Regular coffee, regular latte with skim,
decaf Americano."

"One of what, may I
ask?" I said, not sure I wanted to hear what she had to say, but certain
that I wanted to be able to take another look into her fiery eyes.

"One of those guys
who pats himself on the back for being an enlightened man and then thinks it
excuses his scumbag moments," she scoffed. "You guys are all alike
and it's a pain in my ass."

"Do you often make
sweeping assumptions about people you have never met?" I shot back as I
looked over her head at the barista and said, "Coffee, large, black, no
room for anything."

"Nice, manly coffee
for the Neanderthal," she muttered under her breath.

"I've been drinking
my coffee like that since long before I was a manly man," I said.
"And, I'd appreciate it if you'd hold off on your scathing assessments of
perfect strangers since you know nothing about me or who I am."

"Aww, did I hit a
weak spot, sunshine?" she mocked. "Look, I know you're a big-wig in
town and that you've got the world on speed dial or something, but give me a
break and at least act like the arrogant bastard you are, not the
semi-civilized coffee drinker you want to be."

"You're really a
pain in the ass, aren't you?" I asked as I handed over a five-dollar bill
and waved at the barista to keep the change. "I pity your husband."

"I'm single,
jackass," she shot back.

"Hmm, imagine
that," I said as I turned and walked out of the shop. I could have sworn I
heard a pin drop as the door swung shut and I headed to my car.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CHAPTER
FOUR

Olivia

 

I
couldn't get Lincoln
Redding out of my head as I carried the tray of drinks the two blocks back to
the office. He was more handsome in person than he'd been on television. The
combination of his unruly curls, carefully tended five o'clock shadow, and
ice-blue eyes was positively mesmerizing. I shook my head and tried to stop
myself from fantasizing about a man who had been unbelievably rude. His last
remark had hit home and I resented him for landing a blow in one of my few weak
spots.

"I'm single by
choice," I muttered as I yanked open the door to the building and stomped
through the lobby. "Not because I'm difficult."

By the time I reached the
fifth floor, I was fuming again. Who did that big-shot think he was? And, what
right did he have to speak to me like that?

"Well, hello there,
sunshine," Carl called as I crossed the newsroom floor. "Who pissed
in your coffee?"

"You won't believe
who I ran into at Bean Bros," I said as I set his latte down on his desk.
"Latte with skim, pretty boy."

"Santa Claus?"
he guessed. He picked up the cup, sipped, and yelled, "Ouch! Hot!"

"Dumbass, it's
coffee," I said shaking my head as I grabbed the Americano and headed over
to the small office just off the main news floor where Lillian Weller, the
paper's weekend copy editor, sat going over the weekend stories and fixing
mistakes. "Here, Lillian, one decaf Americano!"

"Thank you,
Olivia," she said looking up at me over the top of her reading glasses.
"What do I owe you?"

"Nah, it's on
me," I said, waving her off.

"It's not going to
earn you any special favors," she reminded me as I headed back to my desk.

"Never even crossed
my mind, Lillian," I laughed. I returned to my desk and cursed as I took a
sip from the remaining cup and realized that I'd forgotten to add cream.
"Damn!"

"Forgot cream
again?" Carl asked. I nodded, and he dug into one of the cluttered drawers
in his desk and fished out a packet of non-dairy creamer. He tossed it at me, narrowly
missing my head.

"Hey, watch
it!" I yelled as I retrieved the packet from the floor, ripped it open,
and dumped it into my cup. The liquid turned a dull shade of brown and I
frowned.

"So, who did you run
into?" Carl inquired, ignoring my displeasure.

"Lincoln Redding. He's
a real jerk," I said as I sipped my coffee and grimaced. I knew it was
ridiculous to get worked up about creamer given the fact that I'd lived without
it for long stretches while out on assignment, but there was something about
being back in the city that made me feel resentful about going without the
little things. "Rude as hell."

"Why? What did you
do to him?" Carl smirked.

"Me? What did I
do?" I said incredulously. "Why is it always my fault?"

"Because you, my
friend, are a very difficult person," he replied as he scanned and sorted
a stack of papers he'd grabbed off the corner of his desk.

"I am not!" I
protested. "And anyway, I was trying to get your coffee order right when
he just shoved me out of the way to get to the front of the line."

"Oh, really?"
Carl asked as he raised an eyebrow and stared at me.

"Yes, really!"
I said sticking out my tongue and making a face at him. "Mr. Redding is a
very rude man."

"Hmm, he strikes me
as kind of a hottie," Carl replied as he tossed three sheets into the
recycle bin. "Are you sure that you're not crushing out on him and mad
that he didn't like you back?"

"Carl! You're
impossible!" I shouted as I turned back to my desk and began angrily
pounding on the keyboard, searching for information on Lincoln Redding.

"Impossible,
perhaps, but right? Definitely," he grinned. "Face it, Liv; you have
a thing for bad boys who piss you off. It's just who you are, so you might as
well accept it. Look at me. I accepted that I have a thing for nice girls who
want to fix me, and I'm happy as hell. Just give in – it'll make things much
easier and you'll be glad you did."

"Carl, you're beyond
delusional," I said. "I'm not attracted to the arrogant Mr. Redding.
I'm just pissed that he ruined a perfectly good coffee run and that we are now
wasting time discussing his rude behavior, rather than discussing the ways in
which we could improve the world by eliminating his ilk."

"Oh, man," Carl
laughed. "You've got it bad, Liv."

"Shut up," I
muttered as I pounded a little harder on the keyboard and came up with a
Wikipedia page that gave me the run down on Lincoln Redding. I read the brief
bio and learned that his parents had been gunned down outside of a Baltimore
restaurant fifteen years before. There wasn't much about his personal life on
the page, and since he didn't seem to run in the Washington social circles, I
hadn't heard much about him from the ladies who lunch. All in all, Lincoln
Redding was a bit of a mystery, and as much as I hated to admit it, that
intrigued me.

#

Carl
and I had been working in companionable silence for most of the afternoon when
the paper's editor Frank Beatty walked through the newsroom and sat down on an
empty desk. He looked at both of us before asking, "What have you got for
me, kids?"

"Well hello, Frank.
I'm well, thank you for asking. How are you?" I replied as I turned back
to my computer and began typing. Frank was an old-school newspaper man, and
he'd hired me because he knew that despite the fact I'd protested being sunk
into the features section, I'd figure out a way to do serious reporting.

"Don't be a smart
ass, Liv," he said, shaking his head. "I dispense with the niceties
because I know you have better things to do with your time than exchange
cocktail party chatter with your boss."

"Don't be too hard on
her, Frank," Carl interjected. "She had a rough morning. Lincoln
Redding insulted her at Bean Bros and she's still smarting from the
truth."

"You're such an ass,
Jackson," I said as I shot him a dark look.

"Children, children,
children," Frank chuckled. "I'm not here to conduct a psych
evaluation on your activities or hear about your deep, dark pain. I'm in need
of stories. Good, solid, attention-getting stories that will encourage readers
to read our paper."

I turned and took a
closer look at Frank. His face was gaunt and deflated, like a birthday balloon
that had lost its helium. In the three months I'd been working for him, Frank
had been tough, but fair. He'd reined in my tendency to fly solo, but he'd
never vetoed a feature if I could explain why it was relevant and how it would
drive readership. In short, I trusted him and as a result, I was willing to do
things for him that I'd have flat out refused to do for other editors.

"What do you need,
Frank?" I asked as I grabbed a pad of paper and prepared to take notes,
knowing that our brainstorming sessions usually generated six or eight ideas
that I'd then follow up on and turn into stories.

"I need a big story,
kids," he said as he took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "The
owners are getting on me about the fact that we're losing shares to the
click-bait papers and that the
Times
and the
Post
are doing things bigger
and better than we are. We need publicity. We need bigger stories. We need to
draw attention to something that we have the inside line on. We need to be
first, because right now we're running third and we're bleeding cash."

Carl shot me a quick look
before turning back to Frank and asking, "What can I do,
boss
? How can I help?"

"Do you have any
inside tracks on anything interesting?" Frank asked. "A story that
seems insignificant, but that you might be able to turn into something
big?"

"I might," Carl
nodded. "Give me a few hours to dig through my files and see what I can come
up with."

"How you can find
anything on that desk is beyond me," Frank said, shaking his head before
looking at me. "What about you, Liv? Got any good Washington gossip or
scandal?"

"Give me a break,
Frank," I said rolling my eyes. "I am not a high society type, but I
do-"

"What the
hell?" Carl interrupted as he grabbed the remote and turned up the volume
on the wall-mounted television.

On the screen, a reporter
holding a microphone was standing just outside the Mall with the Washington
Monument over her left shoulder, asking, "Can you hear me, James? I'm
outside the Mall where police have been called after receiving reports of a man
with a gun stalking people on the Mall. We're not sure what's happening, but
security forces are not letting us into the Mall right now."

"Can you tell us
anything about what you're seeing, Mandy?" the anchor in the studio asked.
"Have there been shots fired? Are there any injuries?"

"I don't know,
James," she replied looking nervously over her shoulder before motioning
to the cameraman to scan the scene. "Police are being tight-lipped about
what's-"

Suddenly, in the
background there was the sound of gunshots and police rushed in and began
pushing everyone back away from the scene as the reporter continued narrating,
"There have been shots fired, James. I repeat, there have been shots
fired. Police are moving us all away from the area, but I'll stay out here and
continue to report on the situation as new information becomes available. This
is Mandy Banks reporting live for Action News."

"Jesus, this is insane,"
Carl swore.

"Can one of you get
down there and see what's going on?" Frank asked as his phone began
buzzing. "We need to get on this story fast! It's in our own damn
backyard!"

"Fine, fine," I
said rolling my eyes. I wasn't complacent about the violence, not in the least.
It's just that I'd spent years trekking through countries where political and
military instability was the norm and I'd seen more bloodshed and brutality
than most. I had also developed a healthy distrust of American media and their
penchant for drama as a coping mechanism, I'd learned to quell my fears by
waiting to learn what had actually happened. Oftentimes, the hysteria was
simply a ratings grab before the facts were released. Just last week, we'd gone
through this same kind of situation where a local high school and the
surrounding area had gone into lockdown only to find out that it was some kids
who'd set off legal fireworks in the football stadium while practicing for a
halftime show. "I'll head out there and see what's going on, boss."

"Report back to me
as soon as you have anything," Frank barked as he answered another call.
"I want to hear everything!"

"Yeah, yeah,
yeah," I muttered as I gathered my things. I tossed a notebook into my
messenger bag along with my phone, a granola bar, and a bottle of water. I then
pulled on my coat and grabbed my gloves and a hat. I looked at Carl and said,
"You know this is going to be one of those demonstrations that uses stink
bombs to call attention to animal cruelty or something, don't you?"

"I don't know,
Liv," Carl disagreed, nodding toward the television where another reporter
was broadcasting from a spot near the Hill. "It looks like there might be
something to this."

"Great, just what we
need," I sighed. "More violence in this country. Whatever happened to
people talking out their differences and coming to some kind of mutual
compromise?"

"I'm not sure what
world you've been living in, Liv," he said with a wry grin. "But
that's never really been anyone's style of conflict resolution."

"Touché," I
called as I waved at him over my shoulder. "I'll call you when I know
what's going on."

"Be safe, Liv,"
Carl called as I walked out the door.

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