Search This Blog

Friday, May 18, 2018

Just Like Grey

Title: Just Like Grey: TWO
Author: Jessie Cooke
Genre: Steamy Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: April 1, 2018

Recently single, billionaire corporate raider Alex Romaletti, can have anything he needs…anything he wants, but all that really matters is love. 

He can’t buy it, and he can’t steal it. He has to earn it, and to do that, he must do whatever it takes, no matter what…to prove he is more than just another sexy man of money.

As a tough and ruthless businessman, used to getting what he wants, it shouldn’t be a problem - but it is.

Isabelle Brazil, the beautiful girl with the faraway eyes, sitting lonely in their sad cafe, doesn’t want another shallow romance that will evaporate in the sunlight of a new day. She wants a Job! A What? A JOB!
Like the one that she has just lost. The job she loved, until someone bought the business and she was made redundant.
No one… NO ONE likes to be redundant. That’s unforgivable.
     “Mr. Romaletti, are you okay?” The sweet little waitress that served Alex his coffee every morning for the past two years looked genuinely worried as she set the cup down in front of him. He didn't even have to order it any longer. As soon as the girls saw him walk in, they fired up the espresso machine. They were good people…and of course the fact that he often left them tips in the hundred-dollar range probably helped.
“I'm okay Gigi, thanks. Just have a lot on my mind.”
“Well good,” she said, not looking convinced. “Can I get you any breakfast this morning?”
“Nah, I'll have something at my meeting later, thanks.” She smiled and left him alone. That was really what he'd been looking for. When you're the most successful “activist shareholder” in the US and parts of Europe, people have a tendency to not leave you alone. That's why Alex was usually surrounded by bodyguards and house staff, or office staff, or someone else that generally only serves to annoy him. Today he'd sneaked out of the penthouse while his bodyguard was having breakfast and flirting with his new cook. It wouldn't take long for the man to realize Alex was gone, and he figured by the time he finished his coffee, the big ape would be waiting for him outside the cafe. But at least he'd gotten his morning walk in without having to engage in mindless chatter.
The bells on the door rang and he looked up. A woman walked in with a look on her face that rivaled his for misery. He was miserable because he'd just broken up with his long-term girlfriend, Kelly. It was an amicable breakup, no screaming or shouting or dramatics. They both just knew the relationship had run its course and for that he was grateful. But…and he hated to admit this even to himself…he hated having not having sex on speed-dial. Not that the sex with Kelly was even that great. It was average at best and lately had even crossed the line into boring. But it was there, readily available. He didn't have to pay for it…well, not outright anyways, and he didn't have to drag his bodyguard around a club while he picked one out for the night. Who he was made pussy easy…but unlike a lot of men, easy was never what turned Alex on.
He watched the woman walk up to the counter. Something about her drew him in. She wasn't his usual type. She was wearing an over-sized gray sweater and jeans, and a pair of soft suede boots with fur around the top where she'd tucked the jeans in. Her hair was pulled up underneath a knit band made to keep her ears warm and long, dark strands hung messily down her neck and some spilled out around her face. Her cheeks were flush and she didn't look like she was wearing any makeup, even on the long, dark eyelashes that surrounded her dark blue eyes. Maybe that was because she didn't need it. Despite her messy appearance, she might well be one of the most breathtaking women Alex had ever seen…and in his business, he'd seen a lot.
“A small coffee.” He heard her say. “With room for cream.”
“Sure hon,” the girl behind the counter said as she rang it up. “Any breakfast today? We have some amazing, fresh pastries…oh and our new breakfast sandwiches are…”
“No!” The woman snapped it out and then almost instantly seemed to regret her tone “I'm sorry,” she said, sounding sincere. “The coffee is fine.”
While the girl got her coffee, Alex watched the woman's pretty eyes in the reflection of the pastry shelf glass. She was looking at the pastries like they were bars of gold. When the girl came back with her coffee, it took her a few seconds to refocus her attention. When she did, she handed the girl a fistful of change. Alex watched the girl count it out…there were even pennies in the mix. This woman wasn't miserable because she was wondering where her next piece of ass was coming from. She was miserable because she was hungry. Alex instantly felt like an ungrateful ass. Here he was with everything that anyone could ever want. He was always warm, always had plenty of food in his belly…fine food too, that new chef of his was a five star…and, if there was anything else he ever wanted, all he had to do was pull out his wallet…anything. Yet here he was, feeling sorry for himself while people around him were starving. Yeah, he felt like a really big ass.
While the woman with the dark hair was putting cream and sugar in her coffee, Alex got Gigi's attention and waved her over. “You change your mind about breakfast?” she asked.
“Not for me, Gigi.” He took two hundred’s out of his wallet and said, “Will you fix a couple of your breakfast sandwiches and maybe two or three turkey sandwiches…some pastries, whatever. Put it in a bag and make sure that woman there gets them on her way out. You can keep the change or put it in the bag with her food.”
Gigi looked over her shoulder. “She does look hungry, doesn't she?”
“I'll make sure she gets the change Mr. R. You're a good man.”
He laughed. “That's debatable, but thanks. Make sure she doesn't know where it came from, okay?”
Gigi nodded and smiled before taking the money and going back behind the counter. Alex watched the woman, trying not to stare and attract attention to himself as he did. He was worried she'd leave before Gigi got the bag ready for her. When she started for the door without it, he almost called out to her himself. But Gigi was earning all of those big tips he'd left her over the years.
“Miss! I'm sorry, could you come back for a second please?” The woman looked worried and glanced nervously around the crowded cafe as she headed back to the counter. Alex averted his eyes when she looked at him, but as soon as he back was turned, he found her pretty face in the bakery counter once more.
“Is something wrong?” she asked Gigi, almost meekly.
“No. But this is for you,” Gigi said, handing her a bag that looked like it might bust wide open.
“Oh no, I think you made a mistake. I just had coffee…”
“No, one of my customers asked me to make sure you got this.” The woman looked at the bag and then glanced around the cafe again. This time Alex let their eyes meet. He smiled slightly, she gave him a nervous look in return before scanning the rest of the restaurant.
“I don't know what to say,” the woman said.
Gigi smiled and said, “Sometimes our customers do this and all they expect in return is for someone to pay it forward someday when they can.” Alex smiled again. Gigi was good.
“Oh, well…please thank them for me if you can.”
Gigi gave her a sweet smile and said, “I'm sure they know how much you appreciate it. You have a wonderful day.”
“I will…you too…and thank you, again.” The woman tucked the bag under her arm, glanced around the room again, this time letting her eyes linger on Alex's face for a few moments. Did she guess it was him? She smiled nervously this time and then quickly headed out the door, bag in tow. Alex waited a few seconds so that she didn’t see him watching and then glanced over his shoulder. She was waiting to cross at the corner and looking down into the bag with a look of wonder on her pretty face. It gave him a warm feeling and for the first time in years he began to wonder if maybe it was time to get out of the corporate raiding business and do something more philanthropic. He laughed, almost out loud. Wouldn't that turn the corporate world on its ear? Alex Romaletti…corporate raider extraordinaire…heartless, cold, callous…richer than God, turns philanthropist. He was suddenly feeling better than he had in weeks. Just the thought of how the rich snobs he ran with would take it, tickled him to his core. Maybe his funk wasn't so much about Kelly as it was about boredom. Maybe he just needed a change.
* * *
Alex still had an hour before his meeting after he finished his coffee, and surprisingly, his bodyguard hadn't shown up yet. He thought about firing him for being so inept and laughed out loud again as he wondered if he was losing it. He stepped outside into the cool, New York morning. It was early September and the leaves were all just beginning to turn. This morning was cooler than usual, but he liked it. He pulled his coat around his shoulders and headed off in the direction of Central Park. His stuffy bodyguards never let him stroll through the park, so he was going to do it today just to spite them.
He walked up to Fifth Avenue and crossed the street into the park. Alex grew up in New York, so Central Park had been a part of his life for as long as he remembered. He loved the way it was a mixture of all the different classes and cultures in the city, and for the most part, everyone mixed peacefully. It had its bad sections of course where tourists could be easily pick pocketed, or purse thieves practiced their art, and the sections thick with the homeless and downtrodden, with their cups held out, begging for a morsel of hope. But the beauty of the now fiery trees, thick grass, rolling hill, statues, fountains and ponds, far outweighed the inconveniences in Alex's opinion. He walked up the hill toward the Conservatory waters, and then past the Boathouse and in the direction of the Bethesda fountain and lake. He stood looking out at the water for too long and when he finally headed toward 72nd Street and past the Strawberry Fields, he knew he would be late for his meeting. But…it was “his” meeting, so he also knew that everyone would wait. Strawberry Fields had been his favorite spot since he was in college. He used to bring his textbooks and sit on one of the benches under the shade trees and study in the tranquil silence as John Lennon watched on from his place in Beatles Heaven.
He was happy to see that today it wasn't crowded, just a few homeless people here and there and an older woman with a book, sitting on one of the benches. He was about to stroll on through and get to his meeting when something caught his attention. A homeless man sat with his back against one of the trees. He had on a long-sleeved shirt, but no coat and shoes with holes in the toes. His face looked as if it hadn't been shaved in a year or more and the crumbs of whatever he'd scavenged to eat still appeared to be embedded here and there. But the man wasn't really what had caught his attention. It was the woman who had stopped next to him. She was holding a half-unwrapped sandwich in her hand and looked like she'd stopped in her tracks just as she was about to take a bite. She'd noticed the homeless man as well and instead of biting into the sandwich, she held it out to him.
“Thank you, miss! God Bless you. I haven't had a bite in days.” The woman smiled at him. That smile warmed Alex's heart…and those blue eyes, he'd seen them before, just this morning. She was the woman from the coffee shop, and she was giving the man the sandwich that she'd looked so hungry for.   
“You're welcome…here,” she said. “Maybe you could share this with some of the others.” She handed him the bag of goodies Gigi had packed for her and looked across at the small camp of homeless people not far behind him.
He smiled a toothless smile and said, “You're an angel, and I will. Thank you.” She smiled again and with her back to Alex walked over to one of the benches and sat down. He wondered if she'd kept the money that was in the bag, or if she'd given it to the homeless as well. Either way, it was the nicest gesture of human kindness he'd personally witnessed in a very long time. It was one thing to be a billionaire and buy a few sandwiches. It was entirely another to be hungry and give away your food. With a resolve to meet this woman, Alex headed in her direction. As he walked up behind her, he watched as she pulled a book out of her bag. It was a hardcover book and the title read: “Shades of Grey.” Alex smiled. She might be hungry, but she was a sexual being as well…he'd hit the jackpot.
“Hi there,” he said, walking around where she could see him.
She looked up at him and the smile she'd been wearing fell from her face. She drew her brows together. “You…you're the man from the cafe this morning.”
“Yes. Alex…” She cut him off as he held out his hand,
“Are you following me?”
“No. I was just walking through the park and I saw you give that man your food. That was really nice of you.”
She looked down at the ground and when she looked back up, he cheeks were colored with a scarlet blush. “He was hungry. It was no big deal.” She set the book aside and placed her bag on top of it. Alex suppressed a smile. She pulled a newspaper out of her bag then and ignoring him completely now, she opened it to the classifieds.
Alex wasn't going to be put off so easily. He took a seat next to her and almost smiled again when she scooted the opposite direction to put more space between them. “Sorry, I don't mean to impose on your quiet time, but, are you looking for a job?”
She sighed. “Can I ask why you're so concerned about my business?”
With a smile he said, “You didn't let me finish introducing myself. I'm Alex…” Damn it if she didn't cut him off again.
“I'm sorry, no offense, but I don't really care who you are.” She put her paper back in the bag, picked up her book and stood up. Alex let her march a few feet away before pulling out the big guns.

“Well, that's too bad. I was going to offer to buy you lunch and discuss a business proposition.”

Jessie Cooke writes hot romance novels about tough guys, bad boys, bikers, fighters and lovers and the women of strong character who tame them.

No comments:

Post a Comment