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THE HOPELESS BILLIONAIRE
Series: The Zero Chance Billionaires’ Club, Book 2
Print Length: 260 pages
Publication Date: September 18, 2023
Publisher: Annabeth Avery
Cover Design: Blackraven’s Designs
Connor Cartwright, a billionaire caught in a whirlwind of inheritance troubles, faces an unexpected savior in Allison Aldridge. The anguish is evident in her eyes as she reveals the misappropriation of funds from her grandmother’s charity. A charity he knows she holds close to her heart, providing therapy dogs for children battling cancer. Their shared past – a passionate romance that turned sour over his commitment issues – hangs between them like an unsaid confession.
Seeing an opportunity for mutual gain, Connor makes a proposition: a six-month marriage in exchange for the funds she desperately needs. Secretly, this union is his ticket to saving his empire. As they navigate the glitzy world of high society from his lavish penthouse, old flames rekindle. Starlit memories of their past come alive, and Connor finds himself hoping she sees beyond the pretense and into his true intentions.
When danger from Allison’s past threatens her safety, his protective instincts surge, reaffirming the depth of his feelings. But the path to love isn’t devoid of challenges. Bolstered by Allison’s confession about her past fears and overwhelming love, Connor seizes the moment, turning their faux engagement into a genuine proposal.
Together, amidst a backdrop of love and second chances, Connor and Allison navigate the charity’s financial mysteries, striving for a brighter future for the children in need. As passion and intention intertwine, lingering questions arise: Can they shield their rekindled love and the charity from the shadows of the past? Does the enigma of the misappropriated funds forge a deeper bond between them or place their newfound connection in jeopardy? In a world filled with riches and deception, has love truly become their ultimate treasure?
READ CHAPTER ONE
A Heart in Turmoil
The rain tapped incessantly against the glass, each droplet a relentless reminder of the storm brewing within the high-rise boardroom. Connor’s gaze swept over the uneasy faces before him, their eyes downcast and lips pursed. He could feel the weight of their collective apprehension dangling in the air like an oppressive cloud. A glance through the window revealed the Seattle skyline with the Space Needle standing proud but distant, a sentinel amidst the chaos.
“Mr. Cartwright, we cannot ignore the recent financial challenges and the decline in our company stock,” one board member began, her voice wavering slightly. “We need stability in leadership now more than ever.”
Connor clenched his fists beneath the table, his jaw tightening as he fought to maintain composure. He knew all too well what would come next – the same argument that had been thrown at him countless times before.
“Many of us believe that your unmarried status may be an issue of concern, Mr. Cartwright,” another member chimed in, sending a ripple of murmurs throughout the room.
“Surely my personal life has no bearing on my ability to lead this company,” Connor argued, his voice strained with frustration.
“Perhaps not directly, but it does raise questions about your own stability,” countered the first speaker, her eyes locked onto his. “We’re not suggesting you rush into anything, Connor, but you must understand the board’s concerns.”
Connor’s chest tightened, a knot forming in his gut. He could hardly breathe, the tension suffocating him as the meeting came to a close. His mind raced with thoughts of his ex-lover, Allison, and the painful void she left behind. He couldn’t bear the thought of facing those memories again.
“Connor, may I have a word?” his father, James, asked, guiding him to his office. The rich scent of Seattle’s finest coffee wafted through the room, but it was lost on Connor. Instead, the aroma only served to heighten his unease.
“Son, I understand this is difficult for you,” James began, his brow furrowed with concern. “But the board has a point. You need to at least consider marriage, not just for the company’s sake, but for your own future.”
Connor stared at his father, disbelief mingling with apprehension. He understood the implications and knew that he could not ignore his responsibilities forever. But the thought of betraying his heart – and Allison – sent a shiver down his spine.
“Father, I…” Connor hesitated, swallowing hard. “I’ll think about it.”
“Good,” James nodded, patting him gently on the shoulder. “It’s all we ask.”
The weight of the conversation with his father left Connor feeling strangled, like a vine wrapped tightly around his throat. He retreated to his office, seeking solitude and distance from the suffocating expectations that ensnared him. The view of Puget Sound from his window provided an anchor in the storm of emotions churning within him. Leaning against the glass, he stared at the ferries gliding through the water, their slow progress mirroring the heaviness in his chest.
“Marriage…,” he whispered, the word tasting foreign on his tongue. In the window’s reflection, he saw a man torn between love and duty, yearning for a simpler past. Allison’s face surfaced in his mind, her eyes shimmering like the raindrops streaking down the glass. She had once been his compass, guiding him through turbulent times. But now, she was Jackson’s sister—uncharted territory fraught with uncertainty and potential heartache.
“Hey, Connor.” Roger’s familiar voice pulled him back to the present. Connor turned to see his friend standing in the doorway, clutching a bouquet of fresh flowers from Pike Place Market. His messy bun bobbed as he looked around the room, taking in the chaos of papers strewn across Connor’s desk.
“Are you alright?” Roger asked, concern etched across his face as he noted Connor’s pallor. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Something like that,” Connor replied, managing a weak smile. He hesitated, weighing the burden of sharing his newfound dilemma against the comfort of a friend’s counsel.
“Let’s talk over lunch,” he finally said, his voice barely above a whisper. “I could use a change of scenery.”
“Sounds good,” Roger agreed, relief spreading across his face. “How about Dahlia Lounge? It’s been ages since we last went there.”
Connor nodded, the thought of the Seattle staple offering a semblance of comfort. “Perfect.”
The muted hum of conversation and clinking glassware greeted Connor and Roger as they entered Dahlia Lounge. They were led to a quiet corner, where an elegant arrangement of local Pacific Northwest fare awaited them. The sight of fresh Dungeness crab and wild mushrooms should have made Connor’s mouth water, but instead, his stomach churned with unease.
“Alright,” Roger said, setting down his napkin after taking a tentative bite. “Spill it.”
Connor hesitated, staring into the depths of his water glass as if seeking solace in its clarity. His fingers tightened around the cool surface while his voice trembled. “My father…he wants me to get married.”
Roger’s fork clinked against his plate, his face paling at the revelation. Their appetites waned, leaving their meals largely untouched—a reflection of the serious turn their conversation had taken.
“Married?” Roger echoed, brows knitting together in concern. “Why?”
“Apparently, there are…inheritance issues,” Connor explained, recalling the whirlwind of information his father had shared earlier. “And my unmarried status is causing some instability within the company.” He sighed, the weight of responsibility settling heavily on his shoulders. “I never thought I’d be faced with such a decision.”
“Connor, that’s…a lot,” Roger admitted, his eyes filled with sympathy. “Do you have any idea who you’d want to marry?”
At the mention of marriage, Connor couldn’t help but think of Allison—her laughter, her warmth, her love that had once been his anchor amidst life’s storms. The corners of his mouth lifted slightly as memories of Seattle Waterfront and Gas Works Park danced in his mind. Each recollection painted a vivid picture of their romance—a story of love that had not yet reached its conclusion.
“Actually, there is someone…” Connor whispered, unable to meet his friend’s gaze. His voice softened, tinged with a hint of sorrow for the love that had slipped through his fingers. “Allison.”
“Your ex?” Roger’s eyes widened in surprise, realizing the depth of Connor’s lingering feelings for her. “Connor, are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“Of course not,” he replied, the words tasting bitter on his tongue. “But she’s the only one I’ve ever truly loved. And if I have to marry someone, it might as well be her.”
“Marriage is a big step, my friend,” Roger murmured, concern etching lines across his forehead. “You should think long and hard about this before making any decisions.”
Connor nodded, acutely aware of the gravity of his predicament. A chill pierced the air between them, as if the rain outside had invaded the once cozy atmosphere of Dahlia Lounge. The tapping of raindrops against the window echoed Roger’s growing unease. His voice cracked as he finally spoke.
“Connor, have you considered how Jackson might react to all this?”
The mention of Allison’s brother—his business partner and friend—sent a shiver down Connor’s spine. He couldn’t ignore the potential consequences that could arise if Jackson discovered his intentions towards his sister. Still, desperation laced his words.
“Of course I have, but what choice do I have? If I don’t marry, my future at Cartwright Industries is at stake.” Connor’s hands gripped the edge of the table, knuckles whitening with the pressure.
“Still…” Roger hesitated, his eyes flickering with alarm. “Dragging Allison into this mess… It’s not fair to her.”
Connor swallowed hard, a knot forming in his throat. He knew Roger was right, but admitting it felt like conceding defeat. With a clenched jaw, he stared at his friend, defiant.
“Maybe not,” he conceded. “But I can’t think of anyone else I’d want by my side through this.”
The rain intensified outside, mirroring the storm brewing within Connor’s heart. The once gentle Seattle drizzle transformed into a torrential downpour, obfuscating the city’s skyline in a veil of gray.
“Let’s continue this conversation somewhere else,” suggested Roger, attempting to offer a modicum of solace to his friend.
“Alright,” Connor agreed, his voice wavering as he tried to maintain his composure. “We’ll head to the original Starbucks.”
As they exited the restaurant, Connor’s face displayed an amalgamation of determination and fear. The bustling city of Seattle moved around him, its citizens hurrying along under a canopy of umbrellas. The persistent rain soaked through his clothes, chilling him to the bone, yet he couldn’t help but feel that it was a fitting reflection of his current state—drenched in uncertainty and apprehension.
The scent of freshly brewed coffee greeted Connor and Roger as they entered the historic first Starbucks. The cozy ambiance enveloped them, offering some respite from the relentless rain outside. Connor’s hands trembled slightly as he cradled his warm cup, his thoughts a tumultuous storm that mirrored the weather.
“Alright,” Roger began, his voice low but firm. “We need to make a pact, here and now. No matter what happens, we won’t let this situation affect our friendship or the business.”
Connor’s eyes flickered with a mixture of hope and doubt. He understood the gravity of his decision, but there was no turning back now. “Agreed,” he whispered, raising his cup in affirmation.
Roger’s hand, too, trembled as he reciprocated the gesture, their cups clinking softly amidst the hum of quiet conversation and the grinding of coffee beans. They exchanged a solemn glance, sealing their pact of secrecy.
“Thank you,” Connor murmured, his voice cracking with gratitude. The weight of his predicament felt slightly lighter with Roger by his side, but uncertainty still hung in the air like the misty Seattle fog.
“Remember, I’m always here for you,” Roger reassured him, giving Connor’s shoulder a supportive squeeze. “Now, let’s get out of here before we start growing roots.”
As they left Pike Place, the iconic silhouette of the Space Needle loomed in the distance, its presence both inspiring and daunting. Connor couldn’t help but pause at a nearby bench, contemplating his choices against the backdrop of the city’s most famous landmark. He pondered over the paradox that it represented: the soaring heights of success and the crushing depths of failure.
Would he be able to navigate through these treacherous waters without drowning? Or would he find himself submerged beneath waves of regret and sorrow?
Despite the lingering doubts, Connor knew he had to press on. The stakes were too high for him to falter now. The city’s heartbeat pulsed around him, its rhythm urging him onward.
“Hey,” Roger called out gently, breaking Connor from his reverie. “You ready?”
Connor nodded, straightening his spine, and steeling himself for the journey ahead. “Let’s do this.”
Together, they strode away from the bench, leaving behind the Space Needle’s watchful gaze. The mighty structure seemed to whisper a farewell, urging them to reach for the stars and never look back.
Connor’s footsteps led him towards Elliott Bay, where the gentle mist caressed his face like a lover’s whisper, awakening memories of Allison. The vast expanse of water seemed to reflect his inner turmoil—an abyss of yearning, doubt, and resolve. He paused, taking in the sight before him, the city skyline looming beyond the shimmering bay.
“Give me a moment, Roger,” Connor murmured, his voice barely audible above the lapping waves.
“Take your time,” Roger replied, his gaze drifting over the waters, understanding the need for solitude.
Withdrawing his phone from his pocket, Connor’s fingers hesitated above the screen, contemplating the words he longed to share with Allison. Inhaling deeply, he began to draft a message, each word a testament to the love that refused to fade.
Words cannot express the depth of my feelings for you. Though our paths diverged, my heart remains tethered to yours. I find myself at a crossroads, facing unforeseen challenges, and the specter of our past continues to haunt me. Your presence would be a comfort amidst the storm.
His thumb hovered over the send button, uncertainty gnawing at his core. Would she welcome his honesty, or would it only serve to drive her further away?
“Connor,” Roger called softly, intruding upon his private musings. “We should head back.”
“Of course,” Connor agreed, though his gaze remained fixed on the unsent message. The weight of the decision bore down on him like the clouds that hung over the city.
The Seattle skyline stood like a silent witness to his indecision, its glittering lights reflecting off the dark waters of the bay. Its heartbeat echoed his own, their rhythms entwined in a symphony of expectancy and tension. The city, once a source of solace, now seemed to mirror his inner chaos.
“Connor,” Roger repeated, concern etched on his face. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Connor lied, slipping his phone back into his pocket, the unsent message still lingering like a specter between them. “Let’s go.”
The mist clung to their skin, a tangible reminder of the unspoken words that hung in the air, as they walked away from Elliott Bay. The city continued to pulse around them, its steady heartbeat urging them forward, while the unanswered question remained suspended within the shadows of the Emerald City: would Connor find the courage to reach out to Allison, or would he allow fear to dictate his fate?
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