The Billionaire's Masquerade

Elizabeth Lennox - Friendship #1 - The Billionaire's Masquerade

The Billionaire's Masquerade (Friendship #1)
Elizabeth Lennox


Chapter 1

Undertaking a life-altering challenge in the middle of the summer heat? Was she crazy?!

Rachel looked out the tiny window of her rental car, thinking she should have done this in the fall. The temperatures were cooler and she had more energy, more spunk. Rachel Carson took a deep, fortifying breath. She was here now, staring out the windshield and giving herself yet another pep talk.

But as Rachel stepped out of her vehicle here in what looked to be the wilds of Maine, she was surprised that there wasn’t any oppressive heat, no sticky wall of humidity. In fact, the only stimulus she encountered was a bird’s sing-song mating call in the distance and a light breeze that gently lifted the wispy hair off of her neck.

Where was the oppressive heat? Where was the painful smack of humidity that caused a body to long for a cold, refreshing drink? Looking around, she took a deep breath and smelled nothing but….was that nature? She almost laughed, thinking of her childhood memories. As an adult, the only scents she smelled in the morning was coffee, suffocating car exhaust and, depending on the day, the irritating scent of the photocopier ink when someone was running a large print job. It had been a long, long time since she’d smelled anything so…organic.

And the sounds! She stood absolutely still for a long moment. There was nothing but the various birds in the distance and a few rustling sounds as the wind played tag with the leaves on the trees.

If it weren’t for her urgent, career-changing purpose here today, she might actually relax.

Rachel suddenly realized what she was doing and shook her head, trying to clear her mind of both the sad memories as well as the idea that dirt could be a good smell. She hated dirt. She hated the heat of the summer sun pressing down on the top of her head until she felt like sinking to her knees in defeat. She hated the way the humidity made every piece of fabric stick to her skin and wilt no matter how much starch was applied. And she hated the mosquitoes that swarmed around her whenever she stepped outdoors no matter what time of the day.

Not that it was painfully hot right now. In fact, the temperature was warm but still comfortable. Rachel had little faith that the weather during the summer months in Maine could be this idyllic all the time. Nor was she going to stick around to find out. No, she preferred a nice, air conditioned room where the temperature was controlled, the humidity was low and any bug that showed up was crushed under the relentless onslaught of hard soled shoes running through the elegantly carpeted hallways.

Rachel tugged her black blazer down over her hips, smoothing out the expensive fabric in the hope that she didn’t look as terrified as she felt.

“This is it,” she whispered as she stood outside her little rental car, staring at the rough, gravel road ahead of her. “Why the man had to live out here in the middle of nowhere…” She left the end of the disparaging sentence dangling. Her prey was a recluse; no photos of Emerson Watson could be found and he was notoriously grouchy and mean. An ogre, according to some. So it was probably a good thing that the man lived out here all alone. There was no one to irritate him, he couldn’t hurt other’s feelings, and he probably was able to concentrate better. Yes, grouchasaurs should definitely be kept apart from the rest of humanity.

She thought of the animated movie with the huge green man-beast and his funny donkey friend. Keeping that silly image in her mind helped abate some of the anxiety over her unannounced interference in the man’s obvious preference for isolation and solitude.

“But that’s not going to stop me!” She started forward, almost tiptoeing down the dirt and gravel road so that her three inch heels, her favorite red ones that made her feel strong and confident, wouldn’t get dirty. “First impressions,” she gritted out, wanting to make a good one with the ogre in question.

As she walked down the driveway, she ignored the low-level buzzing that was coming from the bushes, pretending to not be nervous about the possible bee hives that were probably hidden in the tall, flowered shrubberies. Instead, she stared straight ahead, refusing to be intimidated by either the