Writing Challenge: Show Me the Money!

By some counts there are roughly two thousand billionaires in the world, and a surprising number end up as the heroes in our books! Long before Nick Young of Crazy Rich Asians fame we’ve been swept off our feet by dashing men with daunting net worths.

Constance Wu GIF

What can we say? It’s easy to get caught up with the glitz and the glamour and, let’s be real, being with someone for whom money is no object sounds good. A weekend in the Caribbean? Pocket change. A brand new sports car? Maybe dig around under the couch cushions. It’s a totally different life than the ones most of us live, but it’s so nice being able to crack open a book and take a little peek.

Your challenge: set a scene where your billionaire hero (or heroine) shows off their wealth to an awestruck heroine (or hero). Think extravagance, opulence, decadence!

Feel free to stretch this premise to your heart’s content! Your entry can range from someone spying a discreet glance at a Patek Philippe watch by its sexy owner taking care not to flash it about, to a private tour of a jaw-dropping penthouse suite. Both fit the prompt but couldn’t be more different from one another!

Please keep your entry to no more than five paragraphs max. We’ll also be awarding bonus points to billionaires who came by their fortunes in a way we’ve never read before.

Your gold-plated paragraphs can be left in the comments below any time between now and Sunday, October 27, 2019. Come back Monday to see who we’re awarding our Top 3 Editors’ Choice Awards!

UPDATE: We were wowed by the sheer number of responses, as well as the creativity you all applied to a prompt that could have resulted in a lot of cookie-cutter submissions! Your writing collectively left us amused, dazzled, and swooning, but a handful rose to the top as our Editors’ Choice Top 3.

In 1st Place is Christine Chhun! We loved the way you were able to bring Javier down to earth by having him choose to make grilled cheeses out of a food truck, a humble task for a well-travelled restaurant magnate.

2nd Place belongs to Kirsten Anderson! Not only was Alex buying the heroine a “castle” such a sweet romantic gesture, but the idea of a millionaire playwright was just too good to resist. 

And in 3rd Place is Tracy Staff! You added a bit of “anti-” to the hero and heroine, and the money-laundering angle grabbed us. Having the couple be both shrewd and sexy was a fresh angle that really stood out.

Unfortunately, we don’t have time to go on about the many other good things we read today, but we hope you all participate again in our next writing challenge!

24 replies on “Writing Challenge: Show Me the Money!”

In the spirit of Halloween:

Nikolai Karloff turned the brass key in the lock of his four-hundred-year-old castle door, shutting out the world for this one night of privacy to entertain Lucia Price, the woman he planned to marry. He glanced up as an eerie draft shifted the crystal shards hanging from the chandelier high above the circular staircase. There were no open windows for the bats might fly indoors and he couldn’t have that. Not tonight. He strolled into the library where he’d left Lucia grazing through his rare book collection. Her back to him, he paused. He took a moment to admire her feminine curves, her lush black hair that tumbled in waves to her waist. How he longed to be tangled in that hair, in the bedsheets while he made love to this beautiful woman who had captured his heart. But what if she didn’t accept his proposal?

Lucia turned and smiled; her ruby-red lips moist and tempting. “I wondered when you’d return. I’ve found some wonderful books here, Nik. May I borrow this one in particular?”

She held up the Karloff genealogy tome, the one that dated back to times before mankind had discovered the rest of the world outside Transylvania. He couldn’t let that volume leave the castle. There was a curse that if ever it were to come missing, his dark world would envelop him and he would be immortal again. That wasn’t how he wanted this romantic evening to end. He’d found the only woman to ever touch his heart and he was about to claim her—heart and soul. “I think not.”

“But you said—”

“Any book but that one. Put it down, Lucia. Let me tell you about my family and how my billions came to be. Maybe then you will understand my hesitance to let that book leave my home.” He motioned to the brocade loveseat warmed by the flames flickering in a stone fireplace. He preferred the cool moonlight to the warm sun but for her sake, he’d lit the fire. “My money, my wealth has accrued over generations to the point my personal value is priceless, much like this ancient castle. I can’t even fathom how much fortune I possess. It’s as endless as say…love.”

A blush pinked her cheeks and she captured his attention with her sapphire eyes. “You say that as though—”

“I mean it? Yes, Lucia. I am deeply in love with you. I can no longer breathe without the desire to consummate this emotion between us. If you will accept my vast riches, if you will accept me for who I am, I will give you everything your heart desires. And, I promise I will be eternally yours.”

Nikolai caught Lucia before she crumpled to the floor in a faint. Looking down at her pale face, the rosebud lips he’d memorized, he held back his rage that his heritage and wealth had worked against him. Had he said too much? Come on too strong? He would have to wait and see. He laid Lucia on the loveseat before whipping his long black cape around him as he disappeared into the night.

Happy Halloween everyone! ~*~

As the helicopter drifted toward the ground, kicking dust into the dry California air, Nicola was still grinning ear to ear. She’d always thought of LA as crowded and too busy, but it took on an abstract beauty when seen from the air, the sun reflecting off the glass towers reaching like giants toward the sun. She turned in her seat to face Javier. “When you suggested lunch for our fourth date I was expecting some endless breadsticks,” she murmured. Her smile grew as her eyes met his and found him looking at her and not the incredible sights outside. She liked how the skin at his eyes crinkled when he grinned.
“While endless breadsticks is one of my favorite phrases” Javier chuckled, “after you won me a stuffed unicorn at the carnival I thought I needed to up the stakes.”
“Well consider the stakes raised.” She glanced around the interior of the helicopter, her eyes bouncing from the plush leather to his platinum cufflinks. “You said you worked at a restaurant?”
His grin slipped a little as he started to unbuckle and help her out of the helicopter. “I used to work in a restaurant, now I’m more owner management side of things.”
“You own a restaurant,” Nicola asked as she took in the clean, salty scent of the sea air. The sound of the waves was more welcoming than the car horns on the 405. “You’ll need to make me dinner sometime.”
“I own 4 restaurants, well 4 in America, 12 in total around the world, and that’s why we’re here. I want to cook you lunch at the first place I ever owned.”
They make their way toward a retro silver food trucked parked overlooking the crashing waves below, and Javier, in a move that made Nicola want to drool, removed his expensive jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and threw on an apron. “I cut grass and raked leaves for years to be able to afford this when I was 18. Bob and his wife Mary run it now, but they promised to make themselves scarce today.”
Nicola couldn’t take her eyes off of him as he moved with a grace and confidence in the small space and soon the smell of spice and cheese was wafting up. With the food made they moved toward the picnic table set to the side and fell into and easy conversation, one of the things she liked best about Javier. As she took a sip of her iced tea, the condensation on the glass cool against her hot skin, Nicola took a deep breath. The food and the company filling her with contentment.
She failed to fight the grin tugging at her lips. “We’ll, Javier, you’ve officially beaten the carnival and stuffed toy.”
The crinkle she’s coming to like so much appears on his face, “you liked the helicopter, huh?”
“Forget the helicopter, that was the best grilled cheese I’ve ever eaten.”
His laughter is rich and delicious as he picks up her hand and plays with her fingers. “Challenge accepted. How about dinner in Paris?”

Delysia glanced at her love, her lifeline, her livelihood, her phone. Eight-forty five. The slim device was vibrating, and angrily. She picked it up.
“Delysia!” It was her publicist Faye, unceremonious as usual. “Are you there yet?”
“Just got here.”
The woman let out an outraged squawk. “It’s nearly nine!”
“I know, Faye. Car was late. Long story.”
“Are you aware I asked you to be there at eight and Dr. Hill has likely been stuck outside, waiting for you? You’re a member. He’s not!”

Delysia was aware. In fact, it had seemed a little funny, the thought of leaving the geeky, bespectacled professor outside on line waiting for her, shivering indignantly into his tweeds or whatever. She bit back a giggle, hung up and scanned the throng outside the door, but none of the young, swankily dressed folks in line fit the description of him she’d made up in her head. She tripped up to the doorman. “Hey, Will? I’m meeting a guy here tonight. Alexander Hill? Doctor Alexander Hill?”
“He arrived about an hour ago. Nicky took him up to the Sky Lounge.”
“The Sky…” Delysia was truly dumbfounded. The Sky Lounge? After wrangling a membership to the SoHo Club four years ago she still hadn’t gotten the clearance to go up to the Sky Lounge; that room was as VIP as it could get. Rumour had it staff wouldn’t even admit its existence to any non-member worth under a billion dollars. For people like her it remained tantalizingly out of reach. “Is he a member here?”
“He doesn’t need to be a member, miss,” Will said in disbelief. “He’s a Hill.” When Delysia’s face registered no recognition, Will lifted a bushy eyebrow. “One of the Abbott-Hills? That Long Island family? The one that makes our farm-to-table house wine?”
“He teaches history at Southampton U!” Delysia sputtered.
“Whatever. Here–” and Will typed something into his tablet , then nodded. “Had to put you on the list for upstairs. They wouldn’t let you in otherwise. Have a nice night, miss.”

Well, holy hell. Delysia closed her open mouth, straightened her clothes, and legged it for the lift as quickly as her heels would allow.
The Sky Lounge was effectively the jewel in the tower; it boasted 360 degree views of New York City and far beyond, and the floor-to-ceiling windows connected to a glass ceiling that gave one the feeling of being a bird perched atop a skyscraper. A lush indoor garden combined with old-world style seating that could have easily come from an English library completed the eclectic look. The Sky Lounge was made for leisurely meals and quiet reflection, a place where the truly rich and famous could drop their armour, be themselves. Lowly social media personalities like her didn’t have a prayer of getting into a place like that, ever, but because of this Dr. Alexander Hill…..

“Here, Ms. Daniels.” The ride up had been so smooth she’d barely noticed when they stopped. “I’d like to remind you,” the attendant added, with a glance that rendered Delysia’s expensive outfit ready for the bin, “that photographs are not allowed on this floor.”
Fighting back a blush, she nodded.
“You’re at the center table, middle of the palm trees, right over there. Your party has already arrived.”
“Thank you.” All she could see from this distance was a brown blazer hugging reasonably broad shoulders, and a full head of sandy brown hair. Delysia squared her slim shoulders and headed over.

“Dr. Hill?” she asked.
When he saw her he rose to his feet in a single gesture, offering her a welcoming nod. Up close she registered brown hair made not quite ordinary by strands of sand and gold, and calm hazel eyes that also possessed the unpredictable mix. His crisp white shirt, covered by a dilapidated tweed blazer, made him look precisely like the type of professor one dealt with exasperatedly during the semester but had naughty thoughts about in drunken, idle weekend hours.

The wedding was finally over. All the guests had left, including, thank you Jesus, her mother. Christian gave a great sigh, obviously relieved. Anastasia couldn’t blame him. Who invented big weddings, anyway?

“Come with me, he said, pulling her in the direction of her bedroom. Anastasia’s breath caught. Were they finally going to consummate this relationship after fifteen years? She would have preferred the absence of daylight and the presence of sexier lingerie, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Instead of leading her straight to bed, he stopped at her nightstand and picked up an envelope. Where had that come from? Had her mother or his left them money as a wedding gift?
Christian opened the envelope and dropped the key inside into her open palm. “Let’s go.”

Considering she had been expecting a quiet honeymoon at home, a sudden trip was news to her.

Before she knew it, they were in the car traveling east towards the Gold Coast and the beautiful mansions that dotted the shoreline. Before long they were parking in front of an estate called Salutions, according to the sign.

“Wait, isn’t this…?”

“The house from the Harrison Ford version of Sabrina? Yep.”

“I’ve always wanted to see it. I had no idea it was open for tours.”

“It’s not. I bought it.”

“What?! What are you talking about? When did you have time to rob a bank?”

Christian chuckled. “Let’s go inside and take a tour. I’ve made some improvements.”

Anastasia was flabbergasted. Seriously, how had a college professor paid for this big house? She became more and more concerned with each room revealed on the tour. This was her dream come to life. It was like the Metropolitan Museum of Art exploded. There was the Greek room, with Greek coins displayed on the wall and a statue of Hercules as the centerpiece of the room. The Egyptian room had a chaise lounge that she should imagine Cleopatra resting on while being fanned by palm fronds. Her favorite room, the Regency room, looked like it came from the set of Pride and Prejudice.

Christian finally decided to stop keeping her in suspense. “Remember the trip I took to Europe last year?” Yes, she remembered. She was still bitter that she was unable to go. Flying while paralyzed was a pain. “Well, while I was there I found the lost vessel at the Church of S. Julian in Aubergne. It was said to have miraculously filled with wine overnight. Who knows if that’s true, but the Met seemed to think so. They paid me two million for it.”

“You’ve got two million in the bank and you never told me?”

“Well, not so much anymore. I used some of it to buy this monstrosity and make it handicap-accessible. And I’m taking you on a two-month cruise to Europe. You can close the daycare for that long.”

Anastasia sighed. “Any more surprises?” “I bought our house and the daycare because they are the only buildings that make your life easier, not harder.”

Put like that, she found it hard to be angry. “Can we have sex now, preferably on that featherbed?”

Christian chuckled, picked her up, and threw her on the bed.

[[I know this is more than 5 paragraphs, but most of it’s dialogue!]]
“There it is. The castle.”
Okay, it wasn’t a castle like a Disney castle, or Queen of England castle, but still for Manhattan, it wasn’t too shabby. In a city filled with glistening glass towers, charming brownstones, and anonymous blocks of concrete, you don’t get a lot of buildings with turrets, and this one had two. TWO. The three-story red brick building extended almost a whole block, with each end flanked by giant round rooms topped by that classic pointy party hat that made you reflexively sigh, “Castle…” whenever you looked at it. The bottom part of the building also looked pretty good, with windows that extended from almost the floor to almost the ceiling. One time I was walking by during Christmas and got a peek inside at a party, where people in fancy dress milled around with glasses of champagne, probably indulging in the kind of witty conversation you always hope happens at parties like that, but probably doesn’t. Meanwhile, the tree was tall enough to look like it had been a runner-up for Rockefeller Center. Really, the whole thing seemed like it was the opening scene of The Nutcracker or something like that.
Alex nodded and smiled. “I like it.”
There are things I like about Alex. I like the way he’s always on time. And I like the way he uses semicolons and hyphens correctly, even in texts. I like that he never wears cargo shorts. I like that he always has his phone on mute. I like the way he has three rescue dogs, including twelve-year-old Geneva a tiny blind poodle who had no other adoption applications except for Alex, who thought she deserved more than a shelter for her final home. I liked the way he stood, like he was totally confident about where he was and what he was doing. Same for the way he walked. I liked the shape of his back and his neck, and his almost black eyes that were easily read, flickering joy, sadness, compassion, and laughter at any given time. I liked how he breathed. I liked being with him.
“I’d dump you if you didn’t.” I elbowed him playfully. “It’s my favorite place on earth.”
“I know, you say that all the time. See that turret? The one on the left?”
I nodded. “Yeah, what?”
“I bought it for you.”
I turned around. “You what?”
“I bought it for you. You kept talking about it. It was the only one for sale. I hope you didn’t like the other one better. It’s #LM4.”
I stared at him. “Are you kidding me?”
“Are you sure?”
“I think I’d know it if I bought a condo.”
“But these cost millions of dollars.”
He shrugged, and kept looking at the building, not at me.
“I have some money.”
“Where did you get it?” I felt my knees shaking. Either sweet, handsome charming Alex was a psychopathic delusional liar or he was even more perfect than I’d already suspected he was. Unfortunately, odds favored the mad liar option.
“I won the lottery.”
“Stop it, that’s not funny.”
“Okay, I won $274,000 on a game show.”
I sighed. “Right, that’s more money than I’ve ever made in my entire life, but not enough for—”
“You didn’t let me finish.”
“Go on.”
“I used that money to start a business with some friends. We designed some things that are now used in many common medical procedures—”
I pushed him and this time I meant it. “You told me you were a PLAYWRIGHT.”
“Yes, but I studied biomechanical engineering in college. Anyway, we sold that company for $400 million dollars and I used some of that to invest in a few other businesses, some of which we sold, some of which we retain stock in. Mostly tech, medical tech things, some information technology. And now I’m writing plays.”
I stared at him. “What are you going to tell me next, you’re frickin’ Bruce Wayne?”
He smiled and put his finger to his lips, as if to tell me to keep a secret.
Can you feel your mind melting? Because if you can, that’s how I felt.
I shook my head. “I don’t know whether to push you into the street or kiss you.”
“I’ll take the latter.”
He put his arms around me and the rest of me melted too.

“There it is.” (i would cut the next line where you mention the “castle” ’cause you discuss the castle in the next paragraph. Create a bit of mystery and a reason to read on. “There it is” creates mystery.

It’s always the boy next door, the girl falls for. The sappiest love stories always start that way, right? Or, for the guy its, ‘the girl next door’.

Nova met the boy next door when she was in seventh grade, and he had been a junior in high school. They met, became best friends for years, and then he went into the Navy. Serve and protect, those back home and everyone else in between.

Nova had talked to Jason for months after he was shipped off, thanks to letters. But then the letters stopped, was it her stopping to write or him getting to busy, you would get told different I’m sure.

Nova talked to Jason parents most of the time. If they knew what happened to him, they didn’t say and that’s how it went. After Nova grandma pasted away, she moved into her old ranch style house, fixing it up as best as she could.

On a warm day, dressed in shorts and a tank top, hammer in hand, she hit the nail in place, like it did something to her. “What the hell the nail ever do to you Nova?” a male voice calls out.

The man voice nearly scaring the crap out of her, she spins around, hammer at the ready to clobber the man. “And who the hell are you?!” she shouts.

The man takes long strides up to her, takes off his serves hat, and smiles down at her. “Now, I know it’s been awhile, but you got to at least notice me a little bit.” He says jokingly.

She looks at him closely, her eyes growing bigger by the second. She drops the hammer, and lunges at him like a rocket, just going off for takeoff. “Where the hell have you been?” She whispers, fighting back the tears that in the end become free and she crying into Jason fresh pressed Navy Seal garb.

He chuckles lightly, pulling away from her, smiling down at her. “Here, there, getting our home ready.” He tells her smoothly, like his heart isn’t pounding a mile a minute, just seeing her for the first time in years.

She turns her head sideways, like if she did that, would make sense. “What in the world are you talking about, sea lover?”

He pulls her in tight, looking hungry down in her eyes. “Oh, you heard me, land lover.” He then crashes his lips against her.

The drive only ten minutes away and the sight before her, is jaw dropping. The five-story house is as long as it is tall, shutter windows, wrap around porch, big front doors; everything looking freshly painted. Not even a speck of bird poop on the steps. “I want this to be our home,” he tells her, standing on the other side of the car, as she looks aw struck at it.

“And where the hell did you get this money all the sudden?” she asks, can’t helping to think of how long the mansion had been for sell.

He walks around the car, wrapping his arm around her waist. “Babe, I’m a self-made millionaire now. So, get ready to get spoiled beyond belief.”

She wraps her arms around his neck, smiling up at him. “If your going to be that way, then I want something right now.” He raises his eyebrow, egger to hear what she has for her first demand. “I want you to show me, your favorite room in the house.”

Wicked thoughts form in his mind then and the seductive smile forms on his lips, that scream to be kissed. “Oh, you are going to like the room that’s my favorite.” He says with a growl in the back of his throat.

He takes her hand, and walks quickly, with her having to jog behind him. “How did you get so rich anyways?” she asks again, but in a different way this time, as they go up the front steps; Jason pulls out a key from his pocket, unlocks the door and swings open the door.

He looks down at her, before they go in. “Hidden treasures are easy to find, if you take the time to look for them. Just like, I found you back then,” he sweeps her off her feet, like a bride about to go threw the front door, as a freshly pressed bride that just said yes to her future, in front of the preacher and a bunch of people. “And you’re a treasure, I’m never letting go.”

She was cute.
She’d been sitting at the bar for more than an hour, nursing her drink, talking to him and watching him work. He picked up a glass, polishing it with his bar cloth. “I’m off in half an hour. Want to do something?”
He saw the heat in her eyes. Yes!
Then she bit her lip. “My place?”
Her eyes darted to the door. “Um, they have to come with us.”
He followed her glance to the two large men at a table near the door. Bodyguards. They weren’t uncommon, here in St Barts. He’d assumed they were with the Hollywood actors at the centre table. His libido took a quick drop.
“Sorry doll, I don’t do wives-” A glance at her left hand. “Or ex-wives of oil tycoons, or mafia princesses.”
Her cheeks heated. “I’m not, I don’t-“
“Then who are you and why do you need bodyguards?” Not just one, a pair of them.
She sighed. “I have a You Tube channel. About dyslexia. How to recognize it, live with it, tricks to help. It’s popular.”
Popular enough for bodyguards? He didn’t think so.
She glared at the bodyguards. “And apparently, if you were a rich Russian oil tycoon who struggled with dyslexia all his life and had no friends or family and wanted to piss everyone off, you made me your heir.”
He blinked.
She huffed. “And it’s ruined my life.”

‘So I talked to my brother today,’ Zara began, hoping to catch Ashok off-guard by giving him a contract to check over at the same time. To distract his busy brain. She tried to read his thoughts but his expression was as shuttered as his French chateau where they’d spent an amazing working week together, at the end of which she realised she was head-over-heels in love with him. Ever since then, she’d been trying to find out what he felt for her, in her own, protective, sideways fashion. ’You know he was on the brink of bankruptcy? Well, it seems someone bought into his company, paid off his debts and left him in charge.’

‘From what you told me about him it sounds like a sound business investment. Wish I’d got there first,’ He stood up and handed her the contract. ‘It’s perfect. As usual. You never let me down,’ Zara dropped her eyes and felt a warmth creep from her cheeks to envelop her whole body like a huge hug. Compliments had been so rare in her youth that she still struggled to respond to them and always had to silence the internal voice that said nothing about her was perfect and never would be. And then she realised that he was doing his usual thing: deflecting. Trying to stop her asking questions. Hope gave her a sudden dose of butterflies in her stomach that made her catch her breath. Much as she wanted to hide in her shell, as usual, she needed to know what he felt for her.

‘The weird thing is: my sister’s suddenly thinking about sending her kids to Uni and going on that cruise she always wanted. She says she came up on the lottery,’

‘Someone has to win it,’ Shrugging, he capped his solid gold antique fountain pen and put it safely in the pen pocket of his bespoke Saville Row silk suit. ‘Is there something else I can help you with?’ She could shake her head and turn away, but that wouldn’t put an end to the agony of loving him so much that she hardly dared touch him in case she gave herself away. But if he had done all this to help her family, as she suspected, she wanted to know why. Philanthropy? Or did she dare to hope that there might be something more behind his kindness? The butterflies whirled and whirled inside her. She knew she said his name, part-question, part-prayer.

Ashok’s rare smile started in the wrinkles around chocolate-dark eyes and he stepped around the huge mahogany desk that separated them. ‘For the last year, I’ve taken you with me wherever I went, making up reasons why you should come, much to the amusement of my senior team, simply because I can’t stand to be without you. You know I could give you the moon if that was what you wanted, but you would say the moon belongs in the sky. I thought my luckiest break was when I found that Spanish galleon at the bottom of the ocean. But all those jewels, all that gold mean nothing without the hope of your love. I love your family because they are part of you and I want to help them because it will put your mind at rest and take some of the burden off your shoulders. Please take the burden off mine by telling me that you return my love,’

“This is where you work?” Kate shimmied closer into Nick’s side. Graffitied brick walls lined the cobblestone alley illuminated by the town car’s headlights as it drove slowly away. “When you said you designed shoes, I didn’t know it was for a sweatshop.” Her nose wrinkled at sour industrial smells leaking from the crumbling factory wall in front of them. Why had she let him spring for that town car, and talk her into Jean-Georges for dinner? If he worked in a place this raunchy, he didn’t need to waste his money to impress her. “We could have taken a cab Nick, and you know how much I adore a good slice of pizza. I’m happy just being with you.”

“How did I ever get so lucky?” His long poet fingers gently cupped her face. She’d always had a weakness for a man’s fingers and hands. Her artist eye had been drawn to the long veins that roped around Nick’s muscled forearms when she’d first seen him sitting in her cafe. The quick sketch she’d roughed out that day still hung above her battered desk. She shivered as Nick’s steeled arm pulled her closer into his, and his eyes swept over her face. “Do you trust me?”

“In theory?” She squeaked the response to their favorite movie lines, and his husky, delighted laugh reverberated between them. He smelled delicious, like old leather and whiskey warmed by his body heat. He drew her face closer and his lips melted into hers.

The brick wall behind her began to shake. It took Kate a moment to realize that it was not his toe-curling kiss that had the world moving, it was the wall actually sliding. “What the —?” She leapt back with a quick indrawn breath, and scowled at Nick’s twinkling expression. A thick, steel door that glowed from the amber lights inset into the door jam had appeared. A digital display slid open, and Nick placed his thumb on the reader.

“Benvenuto Mio Signore.” The lush Italian accent almost disguised the mechanical female voice.

Kate leaned in closer to the keypad, and read the understated gold plaque above it, Tesoro. Her eyes flew to his, and watched them crinkle in amusement. “You work for Tesoro?” Tesoro shoes had graced the world’s most famous feet and museum walls. When she’d been an even poorer art student couch surfing in Paris, she’d saved up to see the Tesoro exhibit at the Musee d’Orsay. Generations of shoes had been displayed with the same subtle elegance as the priceless Monet’s and Degas’s.

The steel door slid open. Nick’s strong hand descended on the small of her back and propelled her into a small garden reception space. A bubbling fountain stood in front of an Italian villa facade that soared nearly to the warehouse roof — a building within a building. The room was lit like a Tuscan sunset, and Kate realized where she was. She’d recently seen a Beyoncé spread in Vogue shot inside the secret Tesoro shoe library that housed generations of the d’Fabbri family shoes dating back to the Medici’s. Did her Nick Faber Help design the world’s most expensive shoes?

“Kate. Bella. Please don’t be angry with me. I’ve wanted to tell you from the beginning.” His sienna brown eyes begged her to understand. “But I was afraid you wouldn’t see me just as I am —”

“Awe, you have brought your Kate to me, Nicolas.” An exotic voice broke the contact between them. The ageless woman who stood just inside the villa doorway spread open her arms to them. “She is as beautiful as you say… angelo motto bello.”

“Ciao, Madre.” He turned into her hug, kissing both cheeks. “Do you have them?” She nodded and handed him a carved cedar box.

“Nicolas d’Fabbri.” Kate’s breath froze. “Marchese d’Fabbri. I should say. Right?” The mysterious heir apparent to Tesoro was her Nick? The reality drained through her body.

“We don’t use the title anymore, Kate.” He chuckled at what must have been the confusion she felt written all over her face. “Please, my love. I have so much to show you.” He dropped to his knees. “But first, would you do me the honor of wearing something I have designed for you alone.” He slid open the gleaming box to reveal the most stunning pair of shoes she’d ever seen.

Her gown must have cost more than Aiden had seen in his entire life, spilling over her curves like shimmering burgundy. If the back had been cut any lower it would have broken a few laws. As she handed a sable stole to the coat check, Aiden felt desire stirring in his tuxedo trousers at the way the lush material skimmed her shapely backside on its way to her slender ankles. He couldn’t resist the urge to see how the front view compared. With the tray of champagne flutes balanced on his right hand, he moved toward her and cleared his throat to be heard above the ballroom’s clamor. “Champagne, ma’am?”

“Absolutely!” She turned toward Aiden with a gracious smile that froze when their eyes met. Hers were a deep green, set above aristocratic cheekbones and a generous mouth. Her black hair gleamed under the chandeliers.

The stir of lust escalated into intense throbbing as Aiden proffered the tray, which she ignored. Certain she could read the desire written all over his face, Aiden dropped his focus to the blinding array of jewels encircling her graceful neck, then to the low-cut, clinging bodice which barely held her breasts in check. Alarmed by his groin’s uncontrolled, intensifying reaction, Aiden raised his head, cleared his throat again and nodded at the tray he was holding. “Here… uh, here you are, ma’am.”

“And here you are,” she murmured. “Are you an actor, by any chance?” When he nodded, she went on, “I imagine most of the waitstaff are, but you really stand out from the crowd. You may be exactly what I’m looking for.” Without looking away, she unclasped her jeweled clutch, pulled out a rectangle of ivory vellum and set it on his tray. “Emmaline Bertram. I’m producing a film about a gorgeous young gigolo. Casting is already underway, so please call my assistant first thing Monday to set up a time.”

As she looked him over appreciatively, her emerald eyes paused just below his cummerbund. Her eyebrows arched and she smiled up at Aiden’s reddening face. “Or maybe we could meet upstairs in my penthouse suite after the ball?”

Phyllis walked up the steps into the marble hallway of the large yet nondescript mansion. What she was doing following a man home she had been on exactly two dates with, she wasn’t sure. Or was she?
Nate Gilbert was a man she needed to know better both personally and professionally. His online profile was as intriguing as the real thing. He certainly came by his nickname ‘Dodge’ honestly.
Her eyes traveled along the walls lined with offbeat and contemporary art pieces. The kind people with large bank accounts paid obscene amounts of money for.
Nate followed her gaze. “Gifts from my clients mostly. They do quite well on the secondary market when I get bored of them.”
Phyllis spied a side room with a comfortable sofa placed directly in front of a state of the art entertainment center. Gaming controllers rested on the side glass table. She smiled and crossed her arms. “I see you know exactly where to invest your money. Large sums of it.”
“Well, the car wash business is more lucrative than most people think. But, as you can see, I only indulge in the basics.”
“Yes, always a plus to not draw attention when you like your money washed clean.” Nate stared as Phyllis licked her lips and drew close. “I am a bit of a laundry maven myself.” She glanced back at his art. “Laundering dirty money through the art world, converting online cash rewards to the real thing, and, of course, the requisite cash business. You’ve managed the trifecta. Your percentage of the take must be quite large and you must be very good at what you do.”
“As are other things and yes, I am.” He studied her a moment before his lips dipped to hers.
She held him back with a hand to his chest. “I want 5% to introduce you to my family. Argue and it goes up to ten.”
“You want to use me?”
“We’ll be using each other.”
His eyes swept down her body before their lips finally met. “Deal,” he whispered.

“Oh my God. Is that your house? What are you, a millionaire? Rescuing hikers who’ve missed the last bus is just a hobby?”
Celeste gazed at the chalet at the top of the alpine pasture. It was an extensive three-storey structure, made of warm, solid wood with glinting glass and local stone. The last rays of the summer evening sunlight reflected off a huge glass atrium that would invite the incredible view into the room. Wide wooden decking surrounded the chalet and extended up to the rocky crag which rose behind it. The deck was inspiration for instant fantasies of sipping champagne while reclining in the decadent warmth of a jacuzzi.
“A billionaire, actually,” her companion said in his quiet voice. “Before you ask, the answer is supercapacitors and experimental materials. Sounds interesting, but it’s just a way to make manufacturing sound sexy. And rescuing you is more of a calling than a hobby.” Did his straight face wobble for the barest moment? Man, she hoped so. “I’ll get you that water and then I can take you where you need to go.”
He strode quickly up the path. Celeste’s boots slid on the stones as she scrambled to follow closely enough to ignore his toned muscles. A billionaire? On a remote mountain slope?
The carved oak door opened with a fingerprint instead of something as common as a key. Celeste’s old hiking boots from an outlet store in Sedona weren’t worthy of his immaculate, wood-and-stone entrance hall, complete with glinting modern chandelier. She gaped at the combination of the latest technology and natural materials from the surrounding mountains—shaping the environment to his whim.

Mari simply nodded as the doors to the lift closed like an ominous sign, reminding her she had well and truely left her former life and this was another step toward freedom. A step into another world. Stylianos leaned against the wall, his shoulders set high and his arms folded over his chest. His legs were crossed at the ankle with all the nonchalance of a man who was fully confident in his very being. Those olive green eyes were fixed on her in a way that made her skin tingle. The air was tainted with his scent, all citrus tang and the spice of anise and she could barely breathe with the clogging tension of it.
The music piped through was enough of a distraction for her to attempt to relax in Stylianos’s all consuming presence. By the time the door pinged, she was hyper-aware of her own breathing and astonishingly conscious of not wanting to be in such close quarters with him, ever again.
It was confusing. She didn’t particularly like the man. He was arrogant and demanding and she wondered if she was cut out for this job. Children she could deal with. But this man? He was tilting her world on it’s axis and she had no idea which way was up.
‘After you,’ he said, gesturing with his arm to the open door.
Stepping out of the lift, Mari’s feet sank into the plush woven rug that led to the main entryway and already she knew she was in another world. This world was marbled and mirrored and intimately lit. Chandeliers sparkled from the ceiling and the walls were lined with artwork she had never seen before. Abstract and bold, they were bright against the stark white of the walls. A side table was laden with what looked like wooden statues—artefacts of some kind—she imagined. She walked slowly, her mind spinning with everything she was seeing as her brain attempted to process the sheer wealth on display.
The scent of Stylianos lingered behind her and she turned and locked eyes with him. ‘I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,’ she whispered, her unbridled shock exposing her instantly.
He was silent for a beat, his assessing gaze fixed on hers, and then he spoke. ‘Come, I will show you to your room.’

A few of the red and white balloons were drifting to the floor as Renee bent to grab a discarded paper cup. Coming to her high school reunion was a mistake. She hadn’t belonged ten years ago; why had she thought tonight would be different? The few people who bothered to speak to her only asked if Clint Matthews was coming and hadn’t bothered to act surprised when she mentioned they’d lost touch. Clint had always been destined for more than this town; it still stung that he hadn’t wanted to take Renee with him.
The door of the gymnasium swung open, and her eyes wandered to the latecomer. It wasn’t him; Clint wasn’t coming. The self-made tech billionaire had better things to do than hang out with a group of people who spent four years trying to make him miserable. Crunching the paper cup, she tossed it in the trash as she headed for the door. The one person she missed in this town never missed her.
“Leaving so soon?”
The masculine voice struck her as she hit the top step. Renee wished she knew how to play it cool; wished she could pretend that her heart was racing because of the gym’s heat and the night’s drama. Clint’s dark chocolate gaze tore through her as she gripped the rail. The dimple just above his chiseled jaw made her knees shake.
Clint leaned against the silver Porsche 911 and smiled at her. “I was beginning to worry I was going to have to enter that hyena’s den to find you. Want to go for a spin?”
Renee should make him apologize for leaving her, for never calling, but her feet refused to stand still. “One ride.” She pursed her lips as Clint opened the door. “Then, I want to know why you forgot I existed.”
His finger trailed along the side of her chin for a brief second before he pulled away. “I never forgot you; why do you think I’m here?”

All I wanted was to give my father credit for his greatest invention. The polymer fiber he created turned the athleisure industry on its head. He’d died penniless, robbed of the chance to show the world what he’d done. I had no idea that following up with a patent attorney would turn me into an instant billionaire. My net worth is more than some countries, so it’s hard for a girl to find friends, let alone a boyfriend. But there is still someone I trust. My BFF Sam. He sternly refuses my help or charity, which only makes me love him more. Did I say love? I meant love as a friend, nothing more. I’m not lusting after him on a daily basis or anything…yeah right.
“Ginny, you can’t keep buying me things.” Sam scoffed as he settled on the couch next to me. “I know it was you who paid off my mortgage. That’s insane!”
“Oh that?” I raised a shoulder, striving to look nonchalant. I owned six houses around the world, all paid for in cash. Buying the man of my dreams a house was no big deal.
“Yeah, that.” He leaned in and sighed, the sweet scent of his favorite bubble gum tickling my nose. God, he smelled good, like sunny summer afternoons. “And don’t think I didn’t notice that you paid off my student loans. It’s too much!”
“It wasn’t even a quarter million, leave it be. What’s the point of this money if I can’t help those I l…” The ‘L’ word was on the tip of my tongue, but I swallowed it back with a sip of champagne. All the money in the world wasn’t buying me Sam’s heart. So I did when any modern billionaire in love would do, I ignored his protests and kept showering him with gifts. I just wouldn’t tell him how I sent his parents to Fiji for a month’s vacation, or bought his little sister that convertible she was eyeing. Yep, mum’s the word.

She carried the tray of biscuits at eye level, never glancing down at him. Miguel willed her to break concentration once, to pin her sky-blue gaze on his, but she never wavered. She was moving art, a painting come to life. Oh, but if he could collect her, put her on his wall, his hands the appraisers. Despite the Monets, the Degas, the crystal, the islands, she would be the most exquisite thing he owned. He sighed, shoved his inappropriate thoughts of his business partner’s assistant to the recesses of his mind. Still, to watch her move. Her grace stood out in the austere room, her hips sashaying around the table, around men’s feet propped up on the backs of chairs, arms stretched behind their heads. None of them saw her, noticed her, not one of them moved to help her. When an errant elbow caught her in the stomach, the tray tipped, sending the biscuits scattering across the floor.

The room went silent, except for the exasperated sigh from Miguel’s partner, Killian. “Imbecile,” Killian muttered. Miguel’s hands trembled with rage. Surely he’d seen the man–the man who sat there, arms crossed over his chest like he hadn’t caused the spill–hit Sabrina? Even if he hadn’t, that was no way to speak to someone who served his business, served him. And it was the last straw with Miguel, who bent to help Sabrina clean up the mess from beneath the conference table.

“Oh, sure, it’s my fault. Just like it’s yours that the numbers you’re about to present to your board are off by half a million,” Miguel heard her mutter. He swallowed a chuckle.

“Is that right?” he asked her. He was on his knees under the table, his Burberry suit pants making contact with the ground for the first time since he’d bought them. No matter. When Sabrina’s eyes met his, they shone like the sapphire cuff links adorning his jacket. Her gaze fell to them, then traveled down to his wrist, to the Vacheron Constantin that was back lit in the dull shadow cast by the oak table. He was ostentatious with his wealth, had earned the right to be, but damn if he didn’t feel more out of place than Sabrina looked in that moment. He’d give all of it up–the houses, the cars, the fashion–if it would erase the scowl she shot him. She considered him the same as Killian, and nothing could be further from the truth. Well, it was now or never to prove it to her.

“Come with me,” he whispered. “Quit now. I’m willing to pay handsomely for the real numbers Killian came up with, and besides, I have a feeling you’re underappreciated here.” She laughed, then, a magical sound that echoed off the sturdy oak above them. She nodded. “Good. We can talk on my plane. Just get up and walk out and leave the rest to me. Oh, and don’t pack a thing. It’ll be much more fun to take you shopping in Milan.” And there it was, the smile he’d been hoping for. She scooted back from under the table, giving him a front row seat to her perfect, heart-shaped backside in a pencil skirt that clung tight to her hips. Surrounded by biscuits in various states of crumble, Miguel was otherwise alone, left to wonder what the hell he’d just done and how the hell he thought he’d get away with it.

“The formula for the lining of the tires is a bit complicated,” he continued his explanation of chemicals and concentrations, his Brioni suit showing off the fine figure of a man that he was.

Hard as she tried, Judith couldn’t keep her mind on the scientific explanation that she was sent here to understand. Every movement of Dwight had her undivided attention, which kept her mind too busy to comprehend the formula enough to duplicate it. She told herself to just keep smiling and nodding her appreciation at all the right times. If she kept it up, Judith might get the dinner invitation she was hoping for. A dinner invitation that could lead to a much brighter future than what her current contractor had offered her for helping them copycat this radical invention. A much brighter future indeed.

“Amazing! No more worries about flat tires. Did you say your father stumbled on it ten years ago?” she asked coyly, holding his gaze, all while thinking of the delight of going for a spin in his custom Lamborghini parked outside.

“I was getting ready to start at a community college when it took off. Within the next year, I had my pick of where I wanted to attend,” he flashed pearly whites at her, disarming her and causing her to question who was really in control here.

Judith contemplated her next move, one that could cost her the payout from the competition that had contracted her. No personal attachments, they had spelled it out in the contract. Just get the formula from him, get back, and copy it with enough variation to legally market it. It would allow them to cash in on millions. Before she could speak, he asked her, “What about dinner? I know an excellent restaurant that is only about an hour away, via my private plane, that is.”

“Good afternoon, John. Would you like a tour of my flying office?” Elizbeth Long asked the reporter from Business Secrets magazine. “Yes, thank you,” John Hall replied. “My editor told me to give you this,” John said giving Elizabeth a bottle of chardonnay. “He said it was customary to give a give when someone is giving you a ride on a corporate jet.” “Thank you,” Elizabeth replied. “I’ll put it on ice for us when we get to Ibiza,” she continued handing bottle to her assistant. “So that’s where we’re going,” Joh said. “My editor told me that you were going on vacation, and he wanted me to shadow you for the week. It’s for a feature article on CEOs on vacation.”
John couldn’t believe the opulence when he entered the airplane. There were a set of leather chairs facing a wood table inlaid with gold trim around the edges. Then, there was a leather couch facing a flat screen TV that was along the side of the plane. After that, there was another table that had a linen tablecloth. After this, there was a bedroom with a full-sized bed and what appeared to be satin sheets. A small office on the other side of the aircraft. Finally, there was a full bathroom with gold fixtures and even a full shower. The place was bigger than his apartment, he thought. “It’s based on the same model as our airline’s regular aircraft,” Elizabeth added. It makes maintenance and pilot training a breeze.”
“It’s the only way to fly,” Elizabeth said a minute later as she took off her blazer and let down her red hair. “It must be,” John replied noting her sleeveless magenta silk top as her hair cascaded to her shoulders. “Mind if I get changed? I’ll join you in the front cabin shortly. After we take off, we’ll have dinner.” “I hope you don’t mind grilled chicken with mushrooms and Swiss cheese, rice and steamed broccoli,” Elizabeth said. “Sounds yummy,” John said as he headed for the front of the plane. He wondered what happened at that bed. “uh-uh,” he said to himself. “She’s so far out of your league, she might as well be on Planet Xenon,” he continued as he assumed his seat at the conference table. She was attractive, he had to admit, though. He wondered what it would feel light to run his fingers through her red hair and kiss those full lips. Those thoughts had to be relegated to the realm of fantasy, he surmised as he settled into the chair and experimented with the controls. Five minutes later, Elizabeth joined him in the seat across from where he was sitting. She changed into a white button-down short sleeved shirt and a blue skort which flattered her figure
He could barely concentrate enough for him to hear her say, “I’m sure you want to hear about the legend?” “I` think we all know about the legend,” John said. “You took the money in your college investment club’s portfolio, bought all the assets of a European airline that went bankrupt, sold off some of the intangibles, and used the proceeds to start a trans-Atlantic budget airline. Am I right?” “That’s more or less it,” Elizabeth replied. “You’d be surprised how valuable landing slots ar major airports are. I buy assets cheap whenever I can. Even this plane,” she said waiving her hand in the air, “belonged to some middle-Eastern oil tycoon who ran afoul of some petty despot and needed cash in a hurry.” “I have lots of secrets,” she added. “I will tell them to you over the next week. I’m sure your readers will love to hear them.” “I’m sure, too,” John said as he felt the pull of inertia as the plane took off.

I’ve never written about a billionaire before. This turned out to be a really fun challenge for me. I added my Cairn pup, Smudge Alpin MacRuff to the story.
Thank you to the editors for taking the time to offer these writing prompts. The feedback is wonderful. My brain refused to come up with a good title.
A Billion Reasons
By Tambra Nicole Kendall

Who would have thought her passion for creating junk journals and art journals out of used books would bring her opportunities and comfortable living? Having a stable income had loosened up her muse. Last year she signed with a literary agent, DeeDee Montgomery. Yesterday, DeeDee called and said she’d sold her middle-grade mystery book series to one of the top movie producers, Greyson Films.
Her mystery client would be here any minute. She walked around the table to the shelving unit that held various types of fabric. Sliding the glass door open she pulled out a piece of soft, cinnamon-colored leather. This would eventually acquire a beautiful patina just as the man requested. He should arrive at any moment. From the time he’d called and asked to stop by a nagging feeling stayed with her.
A car door slammed. Aubree peeked through the curtains. Holy frosted cake balls. A silver metallic Mercedes Benz E-class was in her driveway. Luxury and high performance. With a car like that money wasn’t a problem for this man. He stepped out of the vehicle and her breath hitched. Ryder Parker-Phipps. What did he want with her? Ten years ago, they were forced apart. She’d watched him fight his way to the top just like his hero, Walt Disney. He was the industry’s shining star, the JK Rowling of film producers.
The bell over the door chimed. On cue, happy barking and the tapping of doggie claws and sliding on the tile headed straight for her. Aubree knelt and caught the energetic Cairn terrier puppy. “Smudge!” Thank God she had the canine to hold onto. His cologne whirled around her, fresh and outdoorsy. His distinct voice, his Scottish Borders accent slid over her like an invisible sensual touch. Her legs refused to work and her heartbeat as if a dozen bees were trapped inside.
Ryder held out his hand to the dog, but his gaze held her in place. “Miss Kensington, I wanted to speak to you personally about my order. I would like my full name on the portfolio set. It should read Ryder Greyson Parker-Phipps.” All confidence and arrogance he turned and walked to her conversation area. “Come. We have much to discuss, Aubree.”

Thank you so much for participating! Just between you and me, there may be another opportunity to do so coming soon…

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