Billionaire Unbound ~ Chloe (The Billionaire's Obsession #8)

by J.S. Scott

Last New Year’s Eve…

Chloe Colter hated parties.

Granted, she wasn’t in a house full of strangers at this particular New Year’s Eve celebration; it was mostly family and friends from Rocky Springs, the town she’d grown up in. Still, she felt uncomfortable with so many people in the same place, and her confidence had been shattered when her fiancé, James, had told her that the pretty black cocktail dress she’d donned for the event didn’t flatter her curvy figure. Actually, he hadn’t been that nice. He’d blatantly told her it made her look fat, and that she should change.

It wasn’t exactly defiance that had made her ignore his suggestion and continue to wear the outfit. It was honestly the only decent dress she owned that currently fit her abundant curves, and she’d bought it specifically for the holiday party at her mother’s home. Since she didn’t attend many social gatherings, her closet was mostly filled with comfortable jeans, t-shirts, and sweatshirts. As a veterinarian who spent most of her time with animals, casual wear was appropriate apparel.

She’d felt pretty good about attending the New Year’s Eve party at the beginning of the evening, before James’s unflattering comments. Admittedly, most fancy parties either bored or intimidated her, even though she was a billionaire and attending such events came with the territory. But this celebration was different. It wasn’t often that her entire family was in the same place at one time, and she knew most of the people here. But James’s comment had unsettled her and brought back bad memories from her high school years, a time that she’d never quite fitted in.

I probably do look fat. I should have gone for a longer dress to hide my legs, and maybe it’s a little too tight.

She’d escaped to the kitchen once the food and drinks were out, relieved when she’d found it empty. Chloe needed a minute to lick her wounds and recover from James’s blunt assessment of her attire. Taking a deep breath, she tried not to tug on the silky cocktail dress to make it longer, desperately wishing it could cover her knees instead of ending at the bottom of her thighs.

Why did I buy this stupid dress?

When she’d first tried it on, her best friend, Ellie, had squealed with joy, telling Chloe how fantastically sexy the dress looked. She’d relented and bought the garment after Ellie had told her the dress was made for her, her friend spending over a half hour convincing Chloe that it flattered her.

Apparently, Ellie had been wrong.

James hated the dress, and told her that she needed to cover her body as much as possible and not wear anything form-fitted because it made her look fatter. Unfortunately, she’d had nothing else to wear. She had gained some weight since she’d finished vet school, and nothing else fit except the casual clothing she’d bought since returning home from college. In spite of a treadmill and exercise regimen she’d started a few weeks ago, she’d been unsuccessful in taking off the extra pounds she’d put back on after vet school.

I like food too much!

The low-calorie, high-protein drinks that she’d hoped would help her diet made her gag, and the delicious meals her mom made every single day were almost irresistible. Unfortunately, Mom was also an excellent baker, and Chloe had never met a pie, cake, or cookie she didn’t like.

With a long sigh, Chloe stopped jerking on the fragile material of her dress and leaned back against the kitchen counter, wondering if living with her mom before her marriage to James was a good idea. But she’d missed her only parent so much during over a decade of studying to become a vet, and Chloe still didn’t feel like the two of them had completely caught up on everything after being away for so long.

Struggling with her weight wasn’t a new thing for Chloe. She’d been chubby in high school, and it wasn’t until she graduated and met James the summer before she left for college that she actually had a boyfriend.

She hadn’t been invited to the prom, she’d rarely went to school dances, and she’d spent most of her time with Ellie, and her animals, during high school. Honestly, she didn’t think her growing up years had been a bad thing. Being awkward and chubby, she’d just felt more content spending more time with animals than humans.

Chloe had been the girl every guy didn’t mind being friends with, but none of them had ever taken a romantic interest in her. James had, and to a female who was barely out of high school and about to enter medical school, the attention from a man four years older had been flattering. Thinking back, Chloe could remember how sweet James had been during those early years. She wondered if he’d really been all that nice, or she’d just been flattered and crushing on him so hard because he was the first guy to pay her any romantic attention.

She’d lost weight during college and veterinary school, her busy schedule allowing her to shed some pounds and leaving her very little time to eat. Maybe she’d still been curvy even then by today’s standard of the ideal woman, but during that time, she’d never thought about her weight. The only time her insecurities came back was the weekends when she’d seen James.

Chloe straightened, her eyes catching sight of an extra tray of pastries on the kitchen table.

I’m not eating one. I’m not eating one. I’m going to leave the kitchen and go find James.

She hadn’t seen her fiancé since he’d arrived and told her to change. More than likely, he was out mingling, seeing if he could get more patients to switch to his services. Since Rocky Springs had a very established group of physicians who had been practicing in the town for years, James had needed to hustle to get residents of the town to switch doctors. He’d been invited to join the local physician’s group, but had adamantly refused, wanting to start his own practice.

Chloe had supported James’s dream, both emotionally and financially, helping him establish his own office and practice. Still, he didn’t seem happy and often acted like he was stressed out and unhappy. After he’d admitted that he didn’t feel organized, she’d convinced Ellie to give up her current position to join James’s practice as an office manager. Her friend was starting her new job next week.

Maybe it will help James feel less pressure. Maybe then he’ll be a nicer person. Ellie’s brilliant. She’ll help him get organized. I just have to be more patient.

She wondered absently if it was her or James who had changed since she’d come back to Rocky Springs. They’d spent the entire summer together before she’d left for college, and they’d spent stolen time together during their years in school. He’d ask her to marry him after her second year of undergraduate work, and she’d happily accepted, convinced that no other man would ever love her like James did. She’d been over the moon back then, but things had been tense ever since she’d returned home and they’d spent more and more time together.