Falling For My Husband (British Billionaires)
By Pamela Ann
By Pamela Ann
“Son, here’s your present. Enjoy your transition from a boy to a man.” My father patted my back and then pushed the doors open, leaving me in ultimate heaven. “Thirteen women to celebrate your thirteen years of life.”
That was how my father, Charles Kensington, brought me up. My father was a fine connoisseur of women, in all shapes and sizes. He once told me that marriage meant nothing because all it ever did was merge money for both families; it was a tool to build dynasties, nothing more. Marriage was a façade that people crawled behind in order to unite two powerful families and form a stronger bond which would produce heirs.
Legacy was everything; without it, nothing mattered.
We were, after all, The Kensingtons. At a young age, I was groomed and schooled to marry a well-bred woman; someone from my stature who would mingle amongst my social strata easily.
All of these ingrained idiosyncrasies and pompous ceremonials left me when I met a man named Richard von Berg. We went to Cambridge and were on the rowing team together. Richard was in the same class as I was, but he was a free man; a man who was allowed to grow without his parents’ having shackled him to their own beliefs. He didn’t live the way I did. Richard was a unique man; a man I admired and loved like a brother. He taught me to follow whatever and wherever my gut directed me.
With his guidance and support, I was able to find the woman that I could finally say I loved. It was a dire day when that love was not returned. On that day, I found out that my father married the woman I had wanted to spend the rest of my life with. When I confronted him, it left me in shambles.
“I did it for your own good! Love! That word is for cunts. You’re being fanciful. You’re a bloody Kensington and love is not part of our lives. Get that through your skull, you dim-witted fool.” My father’s green eyes struck me with their anger as his words sent me to hell.
I walked out of his home, vowing never to speak to him again.
Vowing to destroy him and his young bride.
No one was going to make me a fool and go unscathed.
As expected, the confrontation left me gutted, but the world had another lesson to teach me. When I got a call from Richard, asking—no begging—me to see him at St. Lucia at once, I couldn’t ignore it.
That call changed my life.
Approximately three years ago
The flight took a little over eight hours. The whole time, I was anxious about what Richard had meant with his “I need your help, brother” statement. Richard von Berg didn’t ask for help. He was very much capable of doing anything and everything; he would rather keel over than ask for help. I knew this man well. For him to ask for help in that desperate tone was more than disconcerting.
Whatever it was, I knew it wasn’t going to be good. I had been there once, a couple of years back, before his parents died. I had spent my Christmas holiday there and it had been the best—the only—Christmas I had ever had. At first, I thought it odd how happy and tight-knit Richard’s family was, but as the days progressed, I saw what a truly loving parent meant; his parents were the storybook kind.
Being envious wasn’t really a normal feeling for me, however right then and there, I’d have wished all of my inheritance away merely to have what Richard had. It was tragic when I found out they had died in a plane crash. The bodies were never found. Even then, though the mourning and pain was evident in Richard’s eyes, he took charge and carried on as he slid into his father’s shoes. I knew how much his parents meant to him, yet he didn’t even crumble then.
Never had this man asked for help. Never.
When I arrived at his home and was let in, I made my way back to his study where I softly knocked on the door before pushing it open and letting myself inside. “Richard?”
The study was dark, so it took a good minute for my eyes to adjust. As my eyes finally became used to the dimness, I could see that there was a small desk lamp alit next to a leather wing chair with Richard sound asleep in it.
The sight of him sleeping in his study was shocking, however what took me by surprise the most was his appearance. He looked simply gaunt, almost yellowish, and the man had truly lost a significant amount of weight. My stomach plummeted further when he softly coughed, giving me a glimpse of his dire condition. This wasn’t a sickness that would go away after a few weeks of Paracetamol. This was more serious.
Richard—my best friend, my mentor—slowly pried his eyes open and then his weary, gray gaze met mine. “You came,” he whispered while slowly trying to shift himself on the seat. “Thank you.”
“Of course, I came. Why even doubt it?” I murmured as I strode towards him, steadying myself before I sat on the couch next to his chair. “You’re unwell. Why haven’t you said anything?”
“I didn’t know I was until six months ago.” Richard looked thoughtful, appearing almost sad. “I’m dying. Unbeknownst to me, I was infected with Hepatitis B. The infection turned into liver cancer. Since I was young and healthy, I never thought any of my pains and symptoms were anything serious. Had I known, I would’ve hired the best to cure me.” Richard held my gaze, pausing for a few seconds before coughing mildly. “I have weeks, a few months max, to live.”
It seemed so surreal. Richard couldn’t be dying; how could he when he was one of the strongest men I knew? To me, he was family. My brother. I respected this man so much. Now, he was terminally ill.
“We’ll get someone to cure you. I’m sure there are doctors who are undergoing some trials that could help—”
Richard held up his hand to stop me from talking. “I just got back from a trial they were doing in South Africa. Why do you think I’ve been gone a while? I was looking for a cure.” He sighed, full of melancholy. “My time is running out. I’ve accepted it. There’s no cure out there for me—, but this is not why I called you, Callum. I have a favor to ask of you. It’s a very important one and I would be forever grateful if you could help me. I don’t want to die with worry. I hope you can help me.”
The feeling of helplessness was so profound that I’d do whatever he asked of me in a heartbeat. I needed something to do—anything—to help him.
“Anything, you don’t even have to ask.”
Richard gave me a small, weak smile that broke through my composure.
My best friend was dying. Yet here he was, trying to give me a smile because I was going to grant his dying wish. Life was perverse and I hated it.
“I know you will, but I want you to hear me out and think it over.” Richard reached out and tapped my hand. “I won’t hold it against you if you decide not to agree with it. I would completely understand, so don’t even go there.” He drew a labored breath, as though he was desperately trying to sort his thoughts out before handing it over into my hands. “I need you to marry Stella. I know you’re in love with Zara, but I can’t leave this earth knowing my baby sister is unprotected from vultures that will take advantage of her. You’re the only man I know that fits the bill. On top of that, I trust you completely. In your hands, my sister is safe. I can die happy knowing that, Cal.”
Stella, the young, shy, brunette who couldn’t even look me straight in the eye the last time I met her? Well, it was the only time I had met her, I suppose. Marriage. It was meant for the woman I loved, but now that my father had swept in and taken that away from me, there was no one left that I could imagine spending my life with. Besides, I would shoot myself before I would decline Richard’s request.
It was unfathomable to even consider turning back on him.
“Then, I’ll marry Stella. There’s nothing holding me back from helping you get what you wish, Richard.” I paused, nodding towards his somber form. I truly was devastated. Although I was doing a splendid job of not shedding a tear or going into a raging outburst, inside I was barely holding up. Maybe I was still reeling from the lethal heartbreak Zara had dealt me, or maybe life had fucked me quite well so many times before that I felt the need to be composed. Whatever the reason, I held it together and managed to convey my thoughts to my friend. He needed to know that he could trust me with Stella. “I’ll marry her until she’s of age to marry a decent man. I can promise you that I will make sure she is well provided for; her assets secured and safe from men who are after her money.”
Richard had already outlined everything, right down to having his lawyer draft up the agreements before I had gotten there. I was going to marry and be her conservator at the same time. She couldn’t divorce me until she was at the age of twenty-six. I was also provided with all the to-do lists once Stella had chosen someone to marry. He had everything prepared. Now all he needed to do was tell his sister about this arrangement. Richard promised to tell her during teatime and I would meet her for dinner tonight to discuss what was to happen; amongst other things.
* C *
Dinnertime was set for seven tonight, though by five-thirty, I was restless and needed to clear my head from recent events; so I decided to leave the villa and slowly stroll towards the shore. The more my life went on, more disaster unfolded before my very eyes. It was beginning to look like a Greek Tragedy.
My father. Zara. Their wedding. Richard dying. This impending arrangement with Stella…
Without a doubt, my father’s betrayal was deplorable, yet somehow, deep down, I had sort of expected this due to knowing how controlling he was by nature as well as how emotionless he could be. Richard’s illness and the knowledge of him biding time until death finally made its last call, on the other hand, was killing me. However, Zara’s treachery went far and beyond everything else that had been put before me. Her unfaithfulness eviscerated me completely.
It was a lot to take, but it was what life had handed me.
I was losing people that were important in my life. They weren’t merely fixtures like my father, Zara and Richard were people that I considered my best friends, my family; those who were going to be there beside me through thick and thin.
Losing Zara to my own father had been quite enough; why must I also lose my best friend to cancer? I wanted to scream that he was too young to die, however it didn’t matter if you were young, fit and healthy. Cancer wasn’t picky. Once it staked a claim on you, you’d be fighting for dear life and, most likely, not just once; it would be a battle for the rest of your existence. Some got lucky and survived.
I barely made it back in time for dinner. Since I was too absorbed with my own misery, I hadn’t bothered to change for the occasion. My rugged attire would have to suffice.
Rounding to enter the dining area, I was momentarily struck the second I entered the room where I was met by still, clear, grey eyes with gold flecks; a long, wavy brunette mane; delicate facial features and the longest lashes I had ever seen.
Stella von Berg definitely had grown into a lovely woman. Well, lovely was putting it mildly.
Automatically, I strolled to her side, expecting an even greater attraction from her in close proximity. I was not disappointed, she was even more lovely this close.
“Good evening,” I murmured, slowly inhaling her perfumed scent as I kissed both of her cheeks. The scent was sultry yet not too intoxicating, simply enough subtle, sexiness to evoke the male senses.
“Callum, it’s lovely to see you again.”
Her voice was husky… definitely not the sixteen-year-old I remembered. This Stella was beyond mildly captivating. She paused while I cussed at myself inwardly. What was wrong with me? Richard was dying and here I was thinking about his sister’s scent and how husky her voice was? For fuck’s sake, I needed to get my head checked.
When dinner was served, I contemplated if I should bring up the subject now, or after whilst having a nightcap. I decided that it would benefit us both if we were in the salon. It was a serious matter to discuss and not some inessential subject that could be easily thrown about during lamb chops and veal.
“What are your plans for the future, Stella? Career wise.”
Stella carefully chewed her food before washing it down with a sip of her Sauvignon Blanc then delicately dabbed the sides of her mouth with the silk napkin. “My best friend, Lucia, and I are thinking of setting up our own PR firm. She and I are enrolled for a two-year course in London before we venture out in that area. It’s a competitive field, obviously; so even with the right amount of knowledge and wisdom, we both understand experience is vital in understanding the ins and outs of running a real firm.”
Impressive, she truly was. Most women with the likes of her pedigree were usually twits that cared about social stature and the bank account. Women who were born in wealth were usually groomed to marry a wealthier man and it was a given that one should know how to run a household. For example, which silver and china should be used to a certain party or how to mask things with fake smiles. This woman, who was sharing a meal with me, was the genuine kind. What did I truly expect? She was Richard’s sister, brought up levelheaded by both loving parents; one of the many things I had always envied about Richard.
“If you need help with looking for a PR company that could help you and your friend, do let me know. I’d be happy to help.”
Her smile was genuine as it lit up her sad face. For a few seconds, I let myself appreciate her beauty before I commanded myself to put it aside.
“One of my best friends, Mark, actually has a brother who owns a company and he gladly took us on board until we are ready to go out on our own, but thank you for the offer.”
Male best friends, such things were non-existent no matter how progressive a male proclaimed himself. It was either this Mark fella wanted Stella for himself or he fancied the other friend. Looking at her face now, I was hoping it was the latter.
Whoa! Hold it there, fool.
My sudden trail of thoughts was surprising to me. Was it because Richard told me to marry his sister? Yes, it had to be my protective side, nothing more. Of course.
We never spoke about Richard’s illness nor did we speak about the impending nuptials, instead Stella found lighter subjects to discuss. She was rather chatty. I doubt I had ever been that engrossed in conversation with an eighteen-year-old before. Eighteen! Christ, Callum!
Once we entered the salon, we waited until the staff served us coffee before I finally took the lead and talked about what was to come. “Have you spoken with your brother?”
Stella graciously stirred her sugar in her cappuccino then calmly placed the teaspoon down and took a careful sip. “Yes.”
She spoke like she had already decided. “And?” I pressed, needing to know her thoughts and opinions immediately.
“I trust his decision. If he thinks this is the wisest thing to do, then I will do it without question. The only thing I’m worried about is you. This will put a halt to your life, Callum. I mean, what happens if you want to marry in a few years?”
“I won’t,” I assured her.
Stella looked thoughtful a moment, measuring. “How can you be so sure?”
Because my father beat me to it, my brain blurted out; making me feel all the concealed hatred once again, afresh and volatile in my mind. Hell on earth had replaced my once fun, carefree, optimistic life.
“Let me tell you something about me, Stella. I don’t lie when it comes to important matters and I’m telling you now, I won’t be marrying anyone in the next few years or decade because I don’t want to. Marriage is a blasted farce, one I certainly don’t fancy. There was a time that I did, but all the inkling to marry has been undeniably lost on me, forever.”
Those sharp, grey eyes looked at me shrewdly and I didn’t back down from the heat of them. Finally, when she thought it was time to concede, she obliged. “This is very generous and truly kind of you to help us. I promise that I will stay out of your way. You won’t even remember I exist.”
I truly doubted that, really, because a man would be blind not to see her gentle beauty. One day, she would find her fire, and when she did, she would be fatal to any man.
Just like that, we made a silent pact; one where we would carry through Richard’s wishes.
Five days after I had arrived in St. Lucia, Stella and I took our vows in a tiny chapel on the estate grounds. I wasn’t even fazed when I was declared married, though Stella repeatedly apologized for being such a nuisance to my life.
She truly didn’t need to because I welcomed her nuisance. She might not have known it then, however I was more than happy to help. Even though I had only met Stella once before this whole thing happened, I had spent a great deal of time with her parents when they visited Richard in Cambridge. After my Christmas visit, her parents treated me like one of theirs and, for that, I would forever be truly grateful. It might sound odd, but I considered Ella and Richie von Berg like parents. Those two truly were the best couple I had ever met and, when they’d died, I mourned for months alongside Richard.
Yes, Stella might not be aware, but in my heart, her family had become my family long ago. This marriage had merely made that feeling more of a reality.
* C *
Life had made me see how helpless a mere mortal was against forces that were far greater than any of us; their strength and capacity were boundless, immeasurable. When those forces finally chose someone’s fate, one would always remember the battle because it was a battle where one’s survival was uncertain. It could leave rancid, ugliness in its wake as it slowly suctioned you down, cruelly breaking piece after piece of your armor until you were fully bare. From there it would lead you to unchartered territory, drawing you to the place where it had all begun. The circle of life would then be complete.
Everything we had was temporary. The joys of love and the gutting pain were a treasured experience that would be all too brief.
Your heartbeat, your thoughts, your love, your strength, your faith and your fight were all quintessential crumbs that merely led you to a path which paved the way to the battleground.
There would be countless times where life would test our limits, strength, power and perseverance. Most of us learned from these small skirmishes, but those were all simply calculated steps to prepare us for the grandest battle of all; that one fight where everything was all on the line. It wouldn’t ask kindly for permission to oppose you in an all or nothing duel; no, it would demand it of you. A duel where we had everything to lose and it had the power to gain an incredible advantage.
It would be an unforgettable battle. The fight of your life. A head-on assault which would riddle you with scars, marring you deeply. Although many had survived it, they would never be the same again.
Sadly, my friend didn’t survive the attack when it came for him.
Richard passed away on a Thursday morning—two weeks after the wedding—at the young age of twenty-five.
A few of his staff commented that Richard probably needed to see his sister secured before finally giving in to the relentless demand of the cancer; a condition that his frail body could barely register before it had eventually taken over, running him into the ground and ultimately claiming his life.
Not only was it heartbreaking to bury my best friend, but it was also wretched to see his sister softly sob as she tried to hold her tears at bay during the burial. Stella von Berg, the last of the direct heirs to the von Berg inheritance. A young, impressionable, eighteen-year-old heiress that held an insurmountable amount of money. Richard’s passing was kept private—for now—however once the news spread that he had died, the vultures would flock in droves.
Glancing at Stella’s pained state, it was obvious that she could easily be drawn in with sweet words, a fake sense of security and the comfort that any stable, functioning man could easily provide. She would be, undoubtedly, one of the top targets to con and extort money from.
Yes, now I truly saw how vulnerable she’d be without me in the background.
Richard had been right in making the decision to wait until she was at the age of twenty-six to release half of her estate and allow her to be a free woman to marry of her choosing. Until then, she’d have me.
I wouldn’t limit her when it came to her dating life because I truly believed a woman should learn how cruel and selfish men could be. So that when she finally married one day, she’d know she found the best man standing beside her. A man who would protect her from harm, at all costs. A man who would love her the way her mother was loved by her father. Most of all, a man who would appreciate her wholeheartedly, no holds barred, because he only had eyes for her and no one else.
Quietly, I moved towards her sullen body, wrapping an arm around her to let her know that I was here for her even though she might consider me a stranger. Her crystal grey eyes were awash with fresh tears when I crooked her neck to face me and then softly kissed her warm forehead.
“Don’t ever think you’re alone,” I murmured tenderly. “I’m family, too.”
Little did she know that she was the only family left for me.
“What’s with the sour puss expression?” Mark eyed me with mock concern.
How many times did I have to go through this humiliating experience in one lifetime? “Not today, I beg of you. I haven’t slept yet.” I slid on the opposite chair, gracelessly as ever, before I took a careful sip of my coffee. Lucia and I shared an apartment where Mark, most of the time, crashed because he loved to mess with our lives.
“What gives?” Mark pressed on, knowing my embarrassment had doubled by my reddening cheeks.
“Derek dumped me. He said waiting on me was taking forever. A year with fringe, semi-benefits isn’t all that bad, is it?”
“No, but we’re men and we love to own everything we touch in its entirety.” Mark winked at me before he bit into his buttered toast, washing it down with his cappuccino before adding to my misery. “Why don’t you take care of the problem with a dildo? Or better yet, you’re already married; why not make the very man himself do the bloody deed?”
Good question, but the thought of asking the infamous playboy, who I barely knew, was stupefying. “It’s not real, Mark! Besides, I don’t think Callum goes for the virginal type. I mean, I’m experienced, but not as a whole, you know?” In Callum’s eyes, I was probably laughable. He didn’t do women like me—ever. The whole of England knew that.
Mark smirked, brown eyes dancing with amusement. “Callum likes his ladies a tad blatant. Say, on the experimental side? I do admire the man. One of these days, you should introduce us. I want the inside digs as to where he gets those captivating felines he usually toys about with.”
Rolling my eyes, I stole the tiny bit of toast he had left before slipping it inside my mouth. “Shut up. You have the hots for Lucia, you just have to admit to it,” I muttered, shaking my head at the stubborn fool I’d known since I moved to England three years ago.
I had been born in England, however my family moved to St. Lucia when I was two when my father purchased a sprawling estate for his surprise present to my mother on their wedding anniversary. It was my favorite place on earth. I had been saddened when I had to leave my home, but once a year I went back to remember what life used to be like. What life had resembled before my family was taken away from me. As much as I loved living in London, St. Lucia would always be my home.
Being British, I had always had an accent that spoke of that heritage, however my accent had a slightly different tone to it. Some couldn’t really pinpoint what the difference was and I always ended up saying it was Australian. I did sound similar to one and I loved that so much, but now I was starting to sound like a proper Brit. Each time I caught myself, I was reminded of my family.
I was alone. If not for my friends, I really would have no one.
My reverie was broken, when I heard Lucia muttering about some project that was due today before she entered the kitchen. “Mark, get me coffee.”
Mark glared at her, yet did it anyways. Lucia was Her Highness when Mark was around. Their dynamics were odd, but it worked perfectly well for them.
“I think you two should have sex and get it over and done with,” I murmured, smiling.
“Oh, shut it! Mark is gay. Did you not know?” Lucia raised her brow.
“Coffee.” Mark slid the mug toward Lucia. “How many times do I have to emphasize the fact that I am not gay? In fact, I had the most gorgeous Italian in my arms last night and mind you, she loved every second of it.” The man had a thing for Italian women, hence his major crush on Lucia.
“I would love to meet her.” I grinned towards a still Lucia. “What do you think, Lu?”
Her gorgeous, tan face and green eyes masked the fakest of happy smiles. “Sure. Bring her over. I would love to meet one of Mark’s shag buddies.”
I hid back a smile because she was stung and failing at hiding the fact.
Mark eventually left when I announced that I was going to get ready for work. I went in early and left a little early. Lucia, however, went to work late and didn’t leave the office until dark.
We worked great and we balanced each other quite well. If a friend could be a soul mate, Lucia would be it for me. Actually, I suppose I would call her my soul-sister at this point.
The Italian knockout kept me sane.
After an hour, I was striding towards our office building that was located in St. James Square.
Alec, Mark’s older brother, called in to see if I wanted to join him for lunch, so I agreed to meet him at our usual favorite. It was a cozy, French gem of a patisserie that served breakfast all day long. Not to mention, the treasures the place produced were my idea of Heaven on earth.
After working as his intern for over three years, Alec and I had gotten close. At first, he was a total ass because, let’s face it, he was doing his baby brother a favor by hiring us, however that didn’t mean he wanted or needed Lucia’s or my help.
Alec’s brashness ebbed away as we worked closely together almost on a daily basis and proved myself on every task I was given. Where my friendship with Mark was all jokes with easy laughs, parties and the mandatory BFF heart-to-heart once every six months, my friendship with Alec, on the other hand, was on a much more mature level. I appreciated his honest opinions if I needed consulting with any of the projects I worked on.
Where Mark had the boyish good looks, Alec was charming, polished and looked like he had stepped out of a designer suit advertisement. Okay, so I wasn’t immune to his looks. It was a harmless crush, one I kept to myself.
We were in the middle of our lunch when my phone vibrated on the table.
Callum: Are you busy this afternoon?
Callum, texting me during lunch, let alone texting me at all, was odd.
My interest piqued, I quickly typed away on my screen.
Me: It’s manageable. What’s up?
I was about to place it down when it beeped again.
Callum: I have something important to discuss with you. What time are you free?
Okay, now I was beyond curious and slightly alarmed.
Me: I’m actually having lunch somewhere close to your office. Will you be available to talk, say in an hour? I can drop by.
As expected, my phone received his reply in a flash.
Callum: I’ll make time. See you then.
What was so important that he needed to contact me? If there were any financial troubles when it came to my money, he usually took care of it immediately. Was it about a new business venture to invest in? Quite possibly. The last time he contacted me was to talk about putting twenty-five percent of my inheritance in the technology sector. Or maybe it was more serious? I sure hoped not.
Even though I barely saw Callum, he was the only person that was a connection to my past. With him, I got to be reminded of good memories with my brother. Even if we weren’t close, I cared for him.
So whatever was plaguing him to prompt a visit to his office, I prayed to God that it wasn’t anything serious because the last time someone told me that they had something important to discuss with me, my brother told me he was dying.
My stomach churned as the seconds ticked away. I had better get to Callum’s office around St. Paul’s without puking my way into his polished, swanky building.
“Mr. Kensington is expecting me. My name’s Stella von Berg,” I gave my name to the receptionist. She then gave me directions as to where to find the private lift.
“Peter will be there to greet you,” she added before bidding me a good day.
Murmuring my thanks, I proceeded to follow her directions without a problem. Peter was a bulky Irish man who had big, mean, green eyes. I suppose it was because of the scowl he was wearing, which seemed as though it was there on a permanent basis. Whatever the case, Peter didn’t waste time with chitchats. He simply kept to himself while I nervously dwelled on my thoughts about what the meeting with Callum might pertain to.
Once the lift halted to a stop, the metallic doors quietly opened to the top floor where Peter gave me a quick nod and then pressed the button to return to the lobby.
The floor was bright from the light brought in by the sun. It seemed that the theme on this floor was white and bright because it sure as hell was blinding for the few seconds it took my eyes to adjust.
Moving forward, I noticed there was an older woman coming out of one of the smoked glass doors. She immediately greeted me with a smile. “Miss von Berg, I’m Eleanor. Mr. Kensington is on a call, but he insists that you go ahead and join him in his office whilst on it. I did try to warn him that it’s rather disrespectful, but who am I to say, really? I’m just his assistant.”
I liked this Eleanor. She had spunk. “Thank you, Eleanor. I don’t mind, really. Callum’s an old, family friend, so you shouldn’t worry.”
“Yes, dear. I did meet your brother Richard once. It’s unfortunate that the Lord took him away from us at a very young age.”
She had? I thought Callum took over his maternal grandfather’s business after he died, which was about eight months after Richard’s passing. I didn’t have to wonder at that for long, though, because Eleanor easily supplied me with answers.
“Callum brought his friend here once to meet his grandfather. I’ve been working here since I was eighteen and now I’m in my fifties, therefore I know quite a bit about our little Callum here.” Eleanor proceeded to walk towards Callum’s office as she explained herself. Once we reached it, she reached for my hand and patted it. “I’m sure your brother is glad that you and Callum found each other. Give him time, he’ll eventually grow up. He’ll grow out of his playthings soon, just you wait.” Eleanor didn’t give me chance to correct her. She simply winked and left me to my own devices.
I didn’t know what was more surprising, the thought of her insinuating that something was going on between Callum and I or that she treated the man like a little child. One thing was for sure, though, it was funny to have a serious businessman like Callum paired with his grandfather’s assistant who did not take him seriously.
However, I didn’t have to see the two interact to know that they had a good relationship. Somehow, it warmed me to know that he had someone like Eleanor to brighten up his day.
Since everyone was being all undaunted by normal civilities here, I proceeded to open his door without bothering to knock. His office was the total opposite of the floor that contained it; it was dark and the only light in the room surrounded the boss, who was pretty engrossed in a heated conversation, complete with a deep scowl on his face, too.
I wasn’t sure what to do, or maybe I simply needed a valid excuse to ogle at his dark, sexiness, so I paused and stared at him awhile, hoping that he’d notice I had entered his office.
His roguish handsomeness was one of the main things that attracted people to him. Callum commanded attention whether he was in a suit or in his ripped jeans and leather jacket; a naughty playboy that didn’t do the whole pompous spiel, instead he did his own thing. Scandal rags adored his antics because he didn’t care if the media portrayed him to be a less than angelic man.
Callum Kensington was pure sin. When you were around him, you were bound to be a sinner… his sinner. The rumors of his stud abilities and capabilities were monumental and quite documented. Some of the women would make ghastly confessions of what a night with Callum entailed for a fee. Did he care? No, he simply went on as if nothing had happened. Did that stop him from engaging with models, actresses, hangers-on and climbers? No. In fact, he showed it off more.
For three years, I followed his life through those headlines. For the first year, I had cringed a lot after reading the stories being printed about him. Now, I didn’t even bat an eyelash because, once you read one scandal, you had read them all. Married women? Check. Bar fights? Check, check. Having three girlfriends at a time? Triple check.
None of those things mattered, though, because I knew—deep down—Callum was a good man. Sure, maybe he was going through some rough times, didn’t we all?
In some ways, I did admire his audacious personality. He was the true sinner; unapologetic, charismatic, sharp-minded and he had the deadliest smirk a man could ever sport.
My heart jumped in my throat when his eyes lifted and connected to mine. For a second there, I thought I had been caught gawking at him because his eyes seemed to know too much when they met mine. My lungs finally started functioning again when he gave me a welcoming smile.
Mother hell, this man should be arrested for making me feel guilty… of what exactly? Who the heck knew? All of my hard work in learning how to compose myself whilst he was around, somehow slid off and I was having a tough time garnering it back.
How long had it been since I had seen him last? I thought back and realized that it had been a little over a month ago, when I had been having dinner with Lucia and Mark. He was there, along with two women, enjoying a meal. He didn’t see me, but I found myself glancing his way for most of the evening. I had seen the playboy in action and I wouldn’t admit this to anyone, but I somehow continued to find him mesmerizing. Magnetic.
“Give me a minute. I will be with you shortly,” Callum rushed out, covering the mouthpiece. “My assistant will get you anything you like.”
“I’m fine. Take your time. I’ll just reply to some emails while I wait.” I gave him a reassuring smile before I situated myself on the sofa and pulled out my phone.
Callum groaned, so I looked up and found him with an intense frown as he toyed with his pen, shifting it from finger to finger.
How could such a man look so arrestingly beautiful and still look completely dangerous and provokingly sexy? My mind wandered to the day my brother had brought this British man home and my sixteen-year-old heart had thumped like never before in my life. I had been in awe of that man, to the point where I would literally shake each time our eyes met. Callum was, of course, distant and annoyingly polite, which did little to assuage my fascination no matter how much it should have. Years later, the man was not any different towards me. He continued to not find me engaging enough.
My thoughts wandered around Callum and I was too deep in my daydreaming to notice that the man himself wasn’t on the phone anymore. In fact, he was sitting across from me, possibly wondering if I had early dementia since I was spacing out in the middle of a working day; hell, I couldn’t help myself from zoning off whenever he was concerned.
“Stella?” Callum frowned at me, eyes questioning.
Oh, drat. If he only knew my thoughts, I wondered as I hid a smile. “Excuse me? My mind was elsewhere.”
“You did look it. Can I get you something to drink? Pastry?” Callum leaned against the singular sofa chair with his elbow planted on the armrest, his fingers cradling his shin and his eyes glued to mine.
Yeah, a tranquilizer would help.
Instead, I pushed my mischievous thoughts aside and focused on what I came here for. “I’m good for now. I’m on pins and needles, so please tell me what this is about? Is it bad news? If it is, how bad is it?”
“Well, this matter actually concerns me and, by association, it affects you.” His legs shifted before he continued on. “My family wants me to marry a family friend.”
And? I thought impatiently. Fucking hell.
“As I have stated to you years back, I don’t intend to marry anyone. Besides, I’m already married to you, therefore it’s not really an option either way,” Callum calmly stated, clearing his throat and, I knew, watching my every move. “I’m calling in a favor, if you will. I need you to be my pretend fiancée for the time being. I need to reassure you that this engagement will be under wraps, so you need not worry about the media finding out.”
Like I’d decline it. I was more than willing to be his pretend whatever. “Of course I’d help you, Cal. Come on, you’ve done so much for me. This is the least I could do.” On top of other things… here’s a window for you, Stella, grab onto it.
I was half a second away from blurting out a question when he interrupted me. Drat.
“I was recently informed that you’re dating a man named Derek? Is he treating you well?” Callum looked at me directly, those razor-sharp, dark eyes pinned me on the spot.
Derek. Huh. Where did I even begin with Derek? I could lie, I thought wretchedly. “Well, no. Derek actually broke up with me because—” Dot. Dot… Dot… And dot.
Hell! Shitty, mother hell.
This was humiliating. I bit my lip before looking away, contemplating. Oh, for fuck’s sakes, this is Callum Kensington! I was sure nothing was bound to shock this man.
“I’m a virgin and he couldn’t wait any longer. So, uh-huh, I’m better off. Who needs a man like him, really?” I bit my lip, trying to stop my rambling. God knew what else could come out of this loosened mouth of mine.
“A virgin, you say?” Callum asked, flabbergasted. “Huh.” He blinked at me a few times before shaking his head. “I didn’t know such things still existed.”
Yeah, in your world perhaps they didn’t, but they sure did in mine, mister.
Blushing, I tried to ignore the heated look he was giving me. It was as if I was a space alien that had landed on earth; unusual, extrinsic and strange. “Well, you’re looking at one. So I would appreciate it if you don’t ever repeat it again.” I was highly embarrassed, knowing how inexperienced I must look to him. Even though I wanted to be rid of it, I couldn’t—for the life of me—break the promise I had made to my mother.
“Apologies. I wasn’t trying to mock your vaginal purity.”
Seriously, shut up, Callum! Vaginal purity? Fuckity-fuck. “Please, just drop the subject.” Before I die of blushing and embarrassment, I silently added.
“Don’t let men like Derek hide you from yourself. You know better than that.”
Oh bugger! I bet now he was probably feeling sorry for me. Well, I was done with that complication. “Since we are on the subject of favors, I was hoping you could do me one as well.” I peered at his stoic form. “I’d like for you to take it… erm, pop my cherry.” Blasted fuck. How in the world did I just utter those words? Pop my cherry? How embarrassing.
Callum’s frown deepened as he shifted in his seat again before he cleared his throat and gave me a sexy smirk whilst shaking his head. “How much alcohol have you had for lunch?”
“None.” He leaned forward, scrutinizing me further. “I’m sober, Cal. Not to mention, one hundred percent serious about this.”
“Hold on a second. Walk me through this. I mean—” He scratched his barely-there stubble, looking confused as ever. “You know my reputation, don’t you? I date women for six weeks only, Stella. From that fact alone, I sure as hell am out of the running for taking someone’s innocence. Besides, you should wait for a worthy man, like your husband-to-be. I’m sure he’d appreciate that… that is, if he was into innocent women.”
Goodness, I was practically offering him sex, but he was putting me down mildly. WTF! I was not a little girl anymore. I craved to be in a committed relationship more than anything, however how the heck did I go about it when I couldn’t go all the way through? I mean, there’s only so much hand and blowjobs one could do before it became a dull, tedious chore.
“Let me clear something up for you, okay? I would’ve let any of my boyfriends take it. Heck, I’ve been in so many close calls and there is nothing more that I want right now than to be rid of it. As much as I want to get it over and done with, I can’t for the life of me break a promise.” I licked my lips, looking at him to see if he was getting my drift. Sure enough, he was waiting for me to go on. “Mom gave me the whole safe sex spiel when I started asking questions about when I could start dating. I wasn’t sure what prompted her, but she made me promise that it’ll be my husband who I gave it to.” I sighed, remembering that memory. “She died two months after, so I hope you understand. If this were the last thing I could do to keep that promise, I’d stick to it. So, now I hope you understand my position. I’m sure it’s easy, Cal. I mean, if it’s me in particular, then I wouldn’t mind doing it in the dark.”
“I’ll think about it,” he finally rasped at me, eyes intense.
Sex with Callum…
“I’ll think about it,” I heard myself say. Was I truly losing my mind here? Richard would torch me alive if he saw where my mind was taking me right now.
But Christ! Could anyone blame me? Stella came in here, looking like an uptight executive with the tight matching skirt suit outlining everything. She stood there, whilst I stared, half hoping she’d rip her clothes off and seduce me with some thigh-high stockings and bustier.
My reaction to her was normal, but still, it wasn’t a good thing. I wasn’t going to take her as I’d usually done with the women I dated and ravished on sight. I could go with the detached, somewhat clinical route; awkward and uninteresting. Or maybe I could even go in, break it open and then that would be it.
Surely this problem wouldn’t be such a big deal, right? Then why was I sweating profusely when I thought of her underneath me, writhing… legs hooked on my hips…
Really, I needed to think this through before I let my dick decide for me. I mean, it had done a lot of the deciding in the past, yet in this instance, I needed my top brain functioning properly. This was Stella and I’d cut my finger off first before I hurt her.
If this was what she wished in order to have a better chance at healthy intimacy with her boyfriend, then surely I was doing it for a good cause?
“I’ll let you know my decision this weekend. I also forgot to mention that we’re to leave this Friday afternoon and won’t be back until a week after.”
“A week?” Stella squeaked.
“Tell your friend that I’d be more than happy to find a replacement in your absence. This was, after all, unplanned and I don’t want to jeopardize anything for you. You worked hard to get where you are.” I genuinely smiled at her, eyes roaming appreciatively. “I’m proud of you, Stella.”
“That’s very sweet of you, Cal. Thank you. That really means a lot to me.” She slowly stood up, purse in hand. “I’ll let Luciana know about your offer as well as looking into whether I can take some of my work with me. What time will you be picking me up?”
“I’ll be there around four,” I responded before getting up from my chair and moving towards her. “And Stella, I need you to pretend that we’re madly in love. So, expect that I will be practically glued to your side.”
Stella nervously smiled. “Yeah, I sort of knew that. You know, newly engaged and all; so it’ll going to be a lark,” she rambled, blushing more with every word that came out of her lips “Shit, Cal. I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m nervous. Blaming coffee here; I had over three already.”
I arched my brow at her, amused at her reaction. “You sure it’s not because you’d be spending a week with me?”
“Love the sense of humor, Cal.”
Stella, you are far too lovely for your own good. “See you in two days.” I softly brushed my lips against her cheek and then delicately whispered into her ear, “We’ll be sharing a room together. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of things to discuss.”
Stella didn’t even say a thing, but instead, she bit into her lip and tried as calmly as possible to leave my office.
“Stella is off-limits, you worthless swine!” I muttered, half hoping that I’d get this under control in two days time.
Clinical route it was. It was the only way possible.
Sexual thoughts in regards to her should be vanished. I wasn’t going to succumb to my body’s reaction. Heck, I might need to have a healthy dose of a warm woman’s body before I leave in two days. This had to stop and I was damn well going to do it.
Richard and the von Berg’s didn’t deserve such disrespect.
“My mother and grandmother will be interrogating you, so I apologize in advance,” Callum said as he slowly pulled to the curb. “It just occurred to me that we’re almost there and you haven’t said much since we left London. Are you feeling unwell?”
“What if they don’t like me?” This was one of the things that was eating inside me, but most of all, I didn’t want to disappoint Callum. This was his family and I knew it might sound idiotic to some, yet I wanted him to be proud that I could pull it off without a hitch.
Callum’s eyes danced before he opened his car door and spun around the vehicle towards mine. He pulled my door open and carefully guided me out of the car. I didn’t know what was going on, but we were in a quiet street, with barely any cars passing by.
My thoughts turned into nothing as Callum pressed me against the side of the car.
“You will be fine. We’ll be fine. Take my lead and have fun. There’s nothing to be nervous of. I won’t pull any tricks, Stella. You can trust me that I will always try to be honest with you.”
I knew that and I appreciated that he was trying to soothe my nerves. “You’re a good man, I know. No need to show me twice.”
Callum smirked, making me ogle his darkly angelic beauty. “I’m not all good. I’m sure you know the usual bits I get myself into, but with you, I’ll give it a shot.”
Was I really swooning? Bugger.
“Oh, by the way, I thought we might need this.” Callum pulled something out of his pocket. A ring. “I wasn’t sure what you liked, but I had noticed that you weren’t a fan of diamonds, so I got you an emerald instead. I noticed that your mother had a sapphire one, so I thought this was the closest thing I could get you.”
My head simply nodded, speechless at his thoughtfulness.
The drive to his family home was a mere five-minute drive from where he had pulled over. If I thought I was nervous before, I had been wrong. Because the moment his mother appeared in the foyer to greet us, I was thoroughly inspected before she gave me air kisses.
How the hell am I to survive a week here if I was being scrutinized like a specimen already?
* S *
Okay, maybe I overreacted a bit. His mother, Bernice, wasn’t as terrifying as I thought at first. She actually had an odd sense of humor; it was off beat to say the least. I found it endearing that she would even try. Doris, his grandmother, was simply over the moon that Callum had actually found a woman to settle down with. Callum was minimal on the touchy feely side, however he was attentive and didn’t leave my side once.
Our first night together… let’s just say that he and I both got drunk and immediately passed out the moment we saw the bed. I wasn’t sure if it was intentional or not, although at this point, I didn’t want to sit and ponder on the subject.
My nerves were already strung out as it was.
Now, it was our second night together and I was working when I heard him enter. I didn’t even look up as we both said hi to each other. I suppose we had gotten comfortable rather quickly.
“Are you up for a dip in the Jacuzzi?” Callum yelled out somewhere in the room.
Was I? I was working to put together a Fashion Show for Lucia’s mother’s annual charity event. It was in three months time and there was still a lot of work to be done.
Though it was our second night, he hadn’t said anything about my ‘problem’ and I suppose a quick dip in the hot tub would help. I really needed to convince him; not in a sexual way, but more on the argument side of things. After all, how hard was it for a man to just shove his darn thing in and get it over with really? I wanted my damn chastity gone. It seemed like it was the culprit for my unlucky strike in the boyfriend department.
Sliding off the chaise lounge, I strolled towards the closet. “I could possibly join you for a bit.” My upbeat confidence took a nosedive when I saw him walk out of the bathroom donning navy Armani swimwear. Bugger.
“Lovely. Do you prefer indoors or outdoors?” Callum asked, confusing me even more.
I bit my lip, trying not to blush from his question. He probably was thinking about the tub, but I sure as hell wasn’t. “Outdoors.”
“What do you fancy? Champagne? Wine? Or are we hitting hard liquor tonight?”
“Hard liquor and champagne, please.” Moving to the dark side, my mind butted in.
If he was surprised at my choice of alcohol, the man didn’t even blink twice. Instead, he smiled at me wickedly. “Sounds like my kind of night.”
Something better happen tonight or I was going to die of wonderment and frustration.
It didn’t take me long to change into my black two-piece swimsuit. Walking outside, I grinned at him while he was lounging in the jacuzzi, both hands stretched out while his head tilted back, stargazing.
“It’s a beautiful, warm night,” I commented as I dipped my toe in the pool of water.
When I cocked my head to the side, Callum had his tongue curled on his bottom lip, slightly biting it as his eyes lingered over my body.
Yeah, think of sex, why don’t you? I needed this over and done with, I wickedly mused.
My eyes caught the bottle of champagne and vodka, amongst the others. I went to get both before I finally let myself sink into the water.
“Feel like sharing a shot with me?” I was smiling when I offered the shot to him, however when I saw his face, my confidence immediately declined.
He looked menacing.
“What should we toast?” he asked, sounding like a man out for seduction. “Here’s to us, Stella.” Callum lifted his glass, toasting mine. “May the next coming days fill you with an extraordinary experience.” He took care to make emphasis on that word.
Oh yeah, this man was onto something. Hopefully, he was onto me; on top, preferably.
After two more chilled shots, I was on fire. Well, technically my body was wired… the need to be touched was getting acute as the seconds ticked by.
“Cal…” I licked my lips, thirsty for him. “I’m waiting,” I whispered, heady and intoxicated as much from the alcohol as from the images of our naked bodies touching.
Callum looked like he was debating, but finally managed to give me an answer after a full minute of silence. “We ought to take this slowly.”
That was a good start. “How slow is slow, Callum?”
He shrugged, brushing his hair to the side. He was the epitome of sexy, disheveled hotness. “Couple more days?”
That was going to take forever! “You’re not serious? What’s the delay? I could pretty well do it myself! Just pull your boxers down and I’ll do the bloody deed.”
I wasn’t bluffing, either, because I was at the tipping point.
Callum gave me a scathing glare. “All right. I’m a tad reluctant; petrified even. I’ve never had a virgin before. As I stated to you last, these things are alien to me.”
He was… scared? Hell. “Well, fuck.”
“Oh, don’t be daft! I will do it,” Callum grunted, sipping his drink awhile. “I just need to get used to the idea. We might need to practice or something.”
Any ideas, I was open to try. “Okay… like how?” I wondered out loud, dragging the damn question out until the rogue playboy got his wits about himself.
His dark eyes twinkled. “I have to see what I have to tackle here.”
I could do this. This was a piece of cake.
“Sure.” I stood up out of the water and ambled towards him. I took a deep breath then pulled my bottom swimwear down without looking at him. I then sat, splayed my legs wide open to his prying eyes. “Do take your time to investigate, Callum.” When I finally managed to look at him, he was simply drinking more of his brandy, not even glancing towards me.
“Richard will haunt me for this,” Callum muttered before gulping the last of his drink, slamming the glass back down on the side.
Before I knew it, he was in between my legs, staring straight through me, serious as hell. “I have to make sure this is what you want, Stella… your brother—”
I had to cut him off because the last thing I needed was for this night to be plagued with guilt or to be centered around thoughts of my brother. He needed to know that it was more than okay. “I want this, more than anything. I want it done, Cal. Please.”
Callum gave me a determined nod and then his thumb touched my parted lips, initiating a slow caress. “Tell me when I’m being too invasive or when it’s painful.”
“Yes.” My breathing caught, willing my body not to succumb to the fluttering in my stomach.
When his thumb finally circled my entrance, Callum suddenly took his thumb out. “Christ, Stella, this hole is tiny.” I felt his thumb apply a light pressure to the outer wall of the entrance, seeking passage. “Am I hurting you?”
Biting my lip, I gave a quick shake of my head. I was nervous, yet out of my mind aroused from the look of wonderment I saw on Callum’s face. Though we were being all technical, I didn’t feel strange at all. Callum touching me intimately felt… right.
“Stella…” he whispered against my ear. “Stop me when it gets to be too much, I mean it.” His finger deepened; exploring, stroking.
Like hell I would. Not in this lifetime. I loved it far too much to even think of the possibility.
“Don’t stop. You feel good.” My hands clutched against him while my legs were on his sides, drawing him into me. “Callum,” I choked out, needing more. When he bit into my ear lobe, I cried out his name as my hands effortlessly pulled his trunks down, freeing his cock. When I was about to reach out and grab it, Callum moved my hand away.
“Do you want to take this to the bedroom?” Callum murmured, now scrutinizing me.
“Yes, I’d like that.” I was breathless.
I needed more of him. It was insane, but when he untangled himself from me, I felt somehow distraught, saddened.
Shaking myself of the confusing emotions, I took his outstretched hand. In a comfortable silence, we immediately left the jacuzzi and went indoors. The journey seemed to take forever as we ascended the stairs and sought our bedroom. Before, I was brazen, however as the seconds passed, I was becoming nervous. I knew he wasn’t planning on doing it yet, but the thought of him touching me intimately again, merely having him close to me, sent delicious shivers all over my body.
Fuck, I was going to be in big trouble. Please, please, don’t let me completely fall for him, I silently begged. Knowing Callum’s record, I didn’t have a chance in hell of surviving if I did. So I had to look at this from a non-romantic vantage point because, if I didn’t, I was on my own. I knew how Callum worked, therefore I had better get it together and enjoy what he was willing to gift me.
As chaotic and riotous as my thoughts were, they immediately drifted off the moment we entered the bedroom chambers.
My body was strung out, alert and ready to be raided.
I was far too ready for this.
To be continued....
~ Coming out on August 29th ~