Banking the Billionaire (Bad Boy Billionaires #2)(11)


by Max Monroe

“Tenacious?” I questioned, oddly amused.

She nodded and raised her eyebrows. “Especially when there’s a hot chick with a fantastic rack involved.”

That made me laugh. “Thanks.”

“Thanks for helping me clean up. Everyone else is all about the eating, but when the dish soap comes out, they scatter like rats.”

“No problem.” What I didn’t tell her was that I probably would have been with the other rats had I not been trying to make some sort of quasi-positive first impression. “Thanks for letting me crash Mila’s party.”

“You brought a present,” she pointed out through a laugh. “I’d say you pretty much won my daughter over the second she saw the cat on your shirt and watched you pull a brand-new Barbie out of your purse…” She paused for a second, and then added, “Before I head back into the backyard, I have to know one thing.”

I tilted my head to the side. “What’s that?”

She nodded toward my chest. “They’re real, right?”

Fuck, I loved Claire already. She was sweet and honest yet had no qualms about saying whatever was on her mind. I was hoping this wouldn’t be the first and last time we hung out. This was a chick I could definitely get along with.

“Definitely real.”

“I knew it!” she exclaimed as she walked toward the back door, opening it and shouting toward her husband, “You owe me twenty bucks, Frankie!”

He just laughed, and Thatch shot him a questioning glance. Frankie held out both hands in front of his chest, and Thatch immediately knew, chuckling in response. “I told you, dude.”

“I want twenty bucks!” Mila yelled as she came barreling across the yard and through the door. She stopped once she reached the kitchen, hands on her little knees and lungs taking deep breaths. “Why does Daddy owe you monies?”

“Because he keeps forgetting that Mommy is always right,” Claire answered and smiled in my direction.

“Girls are always right, Mila,” I agreed. “Never forget that.”

She put her hand on her hip and eyed me with a serious face. “But that’s not what Patrick says.”

“Who’s Patrick, baby?” Claire asked, cupping a loving hand around Mila’s sweet cheek.

“He’s just some stupid boy in my class. He says boys are smarter than girls, and I’m the biggest dumb fathead of them all.”

Oh, poor little asshole Patrick. He’d be in for a rude awakening when he got older. I had the urge to give him a come-to-Jesus moment now, but for some reason, society frowned on that kind of interaction with children.

“Sometimes boys say mean things when they like a girl.” Claire sighed, visibly just as annoyed with a six-year-old boy as I was but trying to be diplomatic about it.

She shook her head. “Patrick doesn’t like me. He pulls on my pigtails and chases me on the playground.”

Claire and I exchanged a knowing look.

“You want to know a secret about boys, Mila?” I asked.

She nodded with enthusiasm.

“Come here, I have to whisper so your mommy doesn’t hear.”

Mila skipped over to me and put her hand on my shoulder, tugging me down to her level. “Tell me! Tell me! I love secrets!”

Claire just watched on with amusement as I whispered some very valuable advice into Mila’s ear. When I was done, she covered her lips and giggled.

“Don’t ever forget that, okay?”

She held out her pinkie finger and wrapped it around mine. “I pinkie promise, Aunt Cassie.”

My heart squeezed.

“Oh, baby, she’s not your aunt. She’s just Uncle Thatch’s friend,” Claire interjected, flashing me an apologetic look.

“Yeah, but her and Uncle Thatch are gonna get married and have a baby and they’s gonna take me and my new baby cousin to Disney World! We’re gonna have so much fun!”

I wasn’t sure how in the hell to respond to that, which was a first for me. I generally had a retort to every-fucking-thing.

“Mila!” Claire laughed in horror.

“What?” she asked, not the least bit concerned she’d just planned out my future. “Uncle Thatch said it was a really good idea!”

“Of course, he did,” I muttered and met Claire’s tickled gaze.

“Tenacious,” she mouthed with a wink.

“Mila! It’s time for presents, baby girl,” Frankie called loudly enough that we heard him. Mila ran out the door at a dead sprint, straight for the picnic table covered in pink wrapping paper and sparkly ribbons.

As Claire and I followed her outside, she whispered in my direction, “What’d you tell Mila?”

I grinned. “Everything you probably wanted to say but didn’t because you’re a good mother.”

“I hope you told her to kick that little asshole in the nuts.”

I winked. “Oh, don’t worry, it was definitely something along those lines.”

She laughed, wrapping her arm around my shoulder. “Remind me to tell Thatch he’s not allowed to come to our house unless you’re with him.”

“No doubt, I’ll tell him while I’m buying our future child’s and your daughter’s plane tickets to Orlando.”

For now, I’ll give him a taste of his own medicine.

I watched as Cassie took off down the street, knowing her foot must have been nearly to the floor. She’d excused herself while I was saying my good-byes, her plan only evident when I heard the little hamster engine of the Fiat roar to life.

I shot out the front door at a jog, but she was already pulling away from the curb, my bag still inside.

“Looks like you’re going to need a ride,” Frankie said as he slowly came up beside me.

I forced a shrug as her fading taillights burned in my chest. “I probably should have warned her about coming here when I begged her to come bail me out this morning.”

A woman like her only puts up with so much.

“Yeah, what’s that about?” he asked.

“It’s not important.”

“Ah, okay. I’ll take that to mean the opposite. Our friendly hometown is still giving you hell about my sister.”

I nodded even though it wasn’t a question, but I said nothing else. He didn’t need to know it wasn’t a remark about Margo that had upset me the most. It had been the comment about him that crawled under my skin. I turned to head into the house just as Mila came running out the front door. The sound of tires screeching to a stop filled the void behind me. Craning to look over my shoulder, I found Leadfoot Leann right back where she’d started.