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Contractual MARRIAGE : The Billionaire And The Waitress

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Summary

PROLOGUE : ️️ Adrien Vitale is one of the most powerful people in the world. Daughter of a business man, she will stop at nothing to inherit her father’s corporation. To every woman she has ever slept with, she is ruthless, ambitious and cutthroat, with no intention of ever settling down. Except when her father gives her an ultimatum, she needs to either present herself as a family woman, or risk losing her inheritance. Ever since Muse Gardner’s grandmother died, she has been scraping together a living in New York City, only one step away from the streets. For the past six months, she has been a waitress at one of the most high-end restaurants in New York City. But after the accident of the century―involving a bottle of wine, a hot-shot CEO and a ruined tuxedo―she’s left with a bad reputation and no job prospects. Until Adrien Vitale, a filthy-rich CEO, makes her a deal : Pretend to be the billionaire’s wife, for more money than Muse has ever imagined. There’s just one problem. With a fake proposal, a fake wedding and a fake wife, it might just be impossible to tell what’s true anymore. Can a relationship built on lies ever be real ?

EmotioncontemporaryMarriageNew AdultCheatcontract marriageBillionaire

01

THE SECOND LAW of thermodynamics, in its simplest terms, states that during any process the universe tends toward disorder.

Adrien Vitale’s apartment was proof of that.

Sarah―or it might’ve been Christina―had signed an NDA immediately upon entering Adrien’s apartment last night. That was the last of Adrien’s recollection. This mess was a gaping black hole in her memory. And, God, Adrien knew she could be controlling at times . . . but this really was a mess. Clothes streamed from the ceiling fan, a purse had been tossed into the massive aquarium, and on her countertops whipped cream had melted into sticky, glistening puddles.

Adrien needed to raise her housekeeper’s salary. Again.

She was already rolling out of bed, sending a message to Margo, when the figure beside her stretched out a hand.

« Babe, why are you in a rush ? »

Adrien’s first warning was the pet name.

« I told you yesterday, » she said coolly. « I don’t do the morning after. It’s a one-night stand, that’s all. Just sex. »

Sarah’s voice thinned into a whine. « But you don’t really mean that. »

Once again, her hand stretched out for Adrien. She rolled onto her side, blinking demurely, and said, « Come on, baby. Bend your rules a little. »

Adrien slipped out of bed. At least she had clothing on : an oversized shirt and panties. But a single glance at the clock told her what she’d been dreading. If she didn’t hurry now, she’d be late to meet her father for lunch. Adrien prided herself on never being late. Punctuality, she’d been told, was a key trait in business leaders.

And Adrien was doing everything in her power to convince her father she could be his CEO.

« Please leave, » said Adrien. « Shower if you need to. Grab a change of clothes. But . . . I need you to go. »

Sarah’s expression soured. She ran a hand through her disheveled hair and pulled the sheets up to her chin. « Fine. I should’ve listened. »

Adrien laid out an all-black tuxedo for herself, along with several silver rings―one for each finger―on her dresser. She needed to shower, but . . . « Listened to what ? »

Sarah’s voice took on a remarkably calm edge. « The woman in the bathroom who told me you’d sleep with me and break my heart. »

« How could I have possibly broken your heart ? I met you last night. »

Silence. Adrien grabbed a towel for herself and closed the bathroom door, praying that when she stepped out, Sarah would be gone. The shower felt good on her skin, so good that she almost didn’t want to leave. But she pictured her father’s face, the salt-and-pepper hair and eyes that matched hers. She saw the way he’d sternly frown at her : « Disappointed, » he would say. « But not surprised. »

He’d never believed she could run a business. Let alone his.

So Adrien had started her own company and made her own deals, using connections she’d fought for. It was a billion-dollar enterprise now, and it was hers. It still wasn’t good enough for her father. He’d grown up wiping his ass in hundred-thousand dollar cheques. A billion dollars meant nothing to him.

Maybe Adrien should have let it go, or set her sights lower. The Vitale Enterprise, after all, had a council of shareholders. One of which included Grey Hansen, a thirty-year old man who liked to say he was Julien Vitale’s adopted son. He was the asshole that got the company if she didn’t. He’d probably run it well. But Adrien refused to allow it. She’d run the company better.

Adrien had always been told she had a lot of ambition―maybe even too much. But there was a line she’d read once, and it stuck with her : I feel like I could eat the world raw. She felt like that, too, sometimes. Like she could eat the whole fucking world raw. She felt like that now.

When she got out of the shower, Sarah was gone.

Unfortunately, her purse had been left in the aquarium. Adrien rapped her knuckles on the glass, and two goldfish blurred past. Great, she thought. Now Sarah either had an excuse to return, or to accuse her of stealing.

Nothing she could do about it now.

Adrien slipped into her tuxedo and brushed out her silk-black hair. While tightening her cufflinks, she flashed herself a cold smile in the mirror. Practicing. She knew what she looked like at almost every angle : the angles of her face, the dimensions of her facial expressions. She’d learned how to manipulate her smile, the narrowing of her eyes. It was a trick she needed, as a woman in business. She needed the suggestion of seduction, not anything that could be perceived as actual seduction. Oscar Wilde had once said everything in the world revolved around sex. He was right.

But none of those tricks would work on her father. He needed to respect her, more than he did now―he needed to respected her like one of his male colleagues, like one of his business partners. Otherwise, this would never work.

Julian Vitale had terminal cancer. Five months to live.

It was now or never. Adrien needed to convince him, somehow, that she could take over the Vitale Enterprise when he was gone. She’d spent almost her whole life clawing her way towards that―towards the CEO position.

And it was all Adrien could think of as she swiped an overcoat, her keys and a wallet, heading into the elevator. Her apartment, the penthouse, costed her a hundred thousand dollars a month. It wasn’t even her main apartment―just where she brought women for one-night stands. An expensive habit, but she’d heard of worse from her father’s friends. Adrien didn’t care about the cost or the money, not for anything―property, her housekeepers’ wages, her transportation. That kind of financial security had been born from years of living in one of the wealthiest families in the world.

« Where to, Miss ? » asked the cab driver, once Adrien had ducked away from the noisy traffic of New York City and closed the car door.

« The Cayenne Steakhouse. As fast as you can, please. »

Adrien couldn’t have known that in less than twenty-four hours, she’d be planning a fake wedding.

MUSE MUST HAVE killed a black cat.

Or stepped under a ladder. Maybe she’d accidentally broken a mirror, or opened her umbrella indoors. No―it had to be two weeks ago, when a spam number had sent her chain mail, and it went something like : Forward this to 10 people in the next 24 hours or a little girl with a chainsaw will murder you in your sleep …

Muse had to have done something to merit all this bad luck.

This morning, it had started small : her alarm hadn’t gone off. She’d woken up, an hour later than she should have, swearing. Her job started at nine, and she had fifteen minutes to put on her makeup, her waitressing uniform, ride the subway, take two buses and clock in. Naturally, she’d been late. On any other day, nobody would have normally noticed. But today, Richard Vergara―the owner of the restaurant―was doing a check-in.

So then, Julie―Muse’s manager―assigned her to cleaning duty. No tips, which meant Muse would have to sacrifice either her hydro bill or her electricity bill for the week. And she was up to her elbows in murky water, cleaning the residue off rich people’s plates. She’d had worse jobs, but it had only gone downhill from here. Because then Fernando, who hated Muse, had tapped her shoulder.

« You’re not pregnant, » he’d said. Under his breath : « Bitch. »

Which had completely bewildered her, until she’d realized : she’d just gotten her period.

And her waitressing uniform was white.

Now, Muse abandoned the sink full of dirty dishes, knowing she’d pay the price later. She was twenty-six, she’d worked a million minimum-wage jobs, but if she left this piece of her dignity go, she’d have none left for later. So, after apologizing furiously as she brushed past Julie on her way to the employee bathroom, she stole a pair of unwashed white pants from the storage room and took off at a run.

It had to be a black cat, or a broken mirror, or that stupid chain mail message.

Because when Muse got to the employee bathroom, it was out of order.

Good thing there were two.

Muse made it to the second one, only for Ashleigh―one of her coworkers―to pout with a saccharine smile.

« Sorry, Muse. » No matter how many times Muse corrected her, she always pronounced it as Muse-y. « They told us at the beginning of the shift we’d have to use the customer ones. There’ll be a plumber by noon, if you can hold it that long. » She barely concealed her judgment while saying at the beginning of the shift, as if Muse had been late to personally spite her.

« Oh, » said Muse. « Thanks, Ashleigh. »

« No problem. Um. » That was when she must have noticed the red on Muse’s pants. « Need a tampon ? »

« No, thanks. »

Knowing Ashleigh, it would probably be poisoned, or have spikes, or sterilize her somehow. Ashleigh seemed nice, but Muse had learned her lesson on her second day at the Cayenne steakhouse, when Muse had been given her first high-priority table, serving two low-key celebrities. Ashleigh had immediately complained to Julie, saying it was her right to have that table (she was experienced ; she deserved the big tip), and Julie had just shrugged in response.