Ava Fairchild was sure that she’d never find love. Seemingly lost in a sea of self-pity, she was delighted when her appraisal company was given a job in the Caribbean. A once-in-a-lifetime trip to appraise Sebastian Belrose’s billion-dollar estate seemed to be exactly what she needed to relax and enjoy herself. A walk to the beach at dawn gave her a first impression of the billionaire himself, paddle boarding on the gentle waves. He was reserved and mysterious, and Ava wanted to know all of his secrets. His evasiveness and the fact that he forbade her from traveling to his Study just added to his allure, while simultaneously reminding her about the secrets that destroyed her last relationship. Still, every sunrise that they shared together made her fall more desperately in love with him. But Bastian had a reason for keeping to himself. And as Ava saw the <b>scars that criss-crossed his body, she knew that what she had found was a soul not unlike herself. A man who had been damaged. A man who deserved to trust. A man that deserved to love, and to be loved. Would this beauty be able to tame the beast, or would they be left with just memories of sunrise kisses?View More
It's dark outside. The stars twinkle and the gray promise of dawn has started. The sun will rise in exactly 9 minutes. I know this because I have had the hour and minute circled on my calendar for the past six months.“Your mother would be so proud of you,” Dad whispers. He's said it at least fifty times already today, and a thousand more yesterday, but I still smile. I wish she could have been here for this. There is an ache in my heart for her, but I know that she's here in spirit. She wouldn't have missed today for the world.“Five minute warning,” Charlotte announces, stepping into the small room where I've been getting ready. “Sunrise in seven, but we have to get you down there.”Butterflies alight in my stomach. I press my palms against the smooth satin of my dress, trying to tell the butterflies to settle once again.Dad clears his throat. He stands in front of me and takes my hands in his. Tears make his eyes glisten and I can tell that he's holding his emotion back. I hug him
Flying coach sucked.Flying coach with three layovers sucked even more.I arrived on the island bleary-eyed and exhausted the next morning after scrambling to get a last minute ticket. I had paid through the nose, but as I took a deep breath of tropical air, I knew it was worth it. I had to see Bastian. I had to tell him how I felt or I would never be able to forgive myself.I stopped in the tiny airport's bathroom and did my best to straighten my dress and fix the disaster that was my makeup. Sleeping with a stranger's head on my shoulder while my legs cramped under me was not a beauty regime I could get behind. I sighed at the mirror and put on a brave smile. I was here to see Bastian, not to look pretty. It shouldn't matter how I looked. He would still be excited to see me, not my makeup.I hoped.I took a deep breath and went to find a cab. The ride back to the mansion was longer than I remembered it.What if he doesn't want to see me? What if he's found someone else? What if he h
I plopped the groceries onto the counter and stared at them for a moment, trying to summon the energy to put them away. Usually, I loved putting groceries away. The act of organizing and filling my fridge and pantry always seemed to make me feel ready to tackle anything that might come my way. But not today.I stared at the sliced cheese and thought of Bastian's grilled cheese. The tomatoes made me think of him. So did the bacon. Everything in my bags reminded me of him somehow and how far away he was. Four days away from him and he was still all I could think about. I wished I could hear his voice.But he was respecting my wishes and leaving me alone. Just as I had asked. I hated it.“You okay, Ava?” Jackie asked, coming into the kitchen. She frowned slightly and pushed her short gray hair out of her bright blue eyes. “Want some help?”I smiled. “That would be great.”She came over and began efficiently taking all the food out and putting it right where it belonged. Even though Dad w
Someone touched me and I nearly jumped out of my seat to punch them.“We've landed, miss.”It was just the flight attendant. I was glad I hadn't started swinging.“Thank you,” I mumbled, wiping drool off my chin. I hated the time change already, more just because it was a change.With bleary eyes, I collected my things and hurried off the plane. A cold wind ripped at my light jacket as I stepped onto the dark tarmac and hurried away from the last bits of life with Bastian. It smelled like snow here. Snow and airplane fuel. I felt sick to my stomach. And cold. So very, very cold and alone.Someone was waving to me at the end of the tarmac. They were big and hidden within a winter coat, but I knew that coat. I knew the worn elbows and faded blue denim of that coat like it was home. I dropped my bags and took off running. It was exactly who I needed to see. My Dad.“Hey there, kiddo,” he greeted me, wrapping his big arms around me as I nearly knocked him over with my hug. I held on to hi
The flight to Florida was short. The private jet was just as huge as the one we had arrived on, but it felt too small now. I was confined by the plane. Confined to going back to my life. Alone.I stayed awake, keeping myself busy with paperwork, but I kept having to redo it. I couldn't concentrate. Every time I had to write Sebastian Belrose's name as the owner of an item, my brain would freeze and I would picture his face. The way he smelled. The touch of his skin.“Miss?” the flight attendant caught my attention, smiling politely. “We need to refuel. You're welcome to go into the airport and walk around for a few minutes.”I looked down at the blank form in my hands. All I had accomplished in the past thirty minutes was filling out Sebastian's name. Twice. In the wrong locations.I sighed, folding the paper into fourths to throw in the trash. “Thank you, I think I will,” I said, standing. “The fresh air might clear my head.”I carefully navigated the stairs out of the plane and onto
One week. One glorious week.I put my swimsuit carefully away in my suitcase. I couldn't believe how fast the week had gone. I needed to find my sandals and put them in next, but I was taking my time and moving as slowly as possible. I didn't want the week to end yet. I wasn't ready for it to end yet. I didn't want this dream to end.The week had been a glorious blur of Bastian, paddle-boarding, art, and the most mind-blowing sex I had ever had. Up until this morning, it had been heaven.I was going to miss Bastian, but I knew it was better for him for me to end it. It wasn't just the sex that made him so amazing, though it certainly didn't hurt. If I ever told him that he was sweet, he would most certainly deny it, but it was true. He was incredibly intelligent with a sharp sense of humor that had me laughing and smiling without realizing it. He deserved someone worthy of him. Someone better than me.He was perfect. And wonderful. And everything I ever wanted.And I had to leave him.
I'm sorry, baby. I was an idiot. I love you. Don't be like this. Please call me.Delete email.I stared at my laptop screen. Whatever Chad and I had once had, it wasn't love. I could see that now. I had been in love, but looking back I didn't think he had been. He had wanted something from me, and I hadn't been able to give it to him.I sighed and changed tabs to check my myFace.Chad Malin lists you as in a relationship. Do you accept?No. Delete. Again.I scrolled through my news feed, seeing pictures of friend's babies and puppies and the occasional funny cartoon. Dad had posted that I was coming home today with a smiley face. Jackie had liked it.A news article on Kindling Romance scrolled up. The picture showed all three of the handsome owners smiling for the camera in front of their New York office. I smiled back at Bastian and clicked on the article.It was just an update on the launch of their new dating app. The news article claimed that it would change the dating game yet ag
I entered the details for the last painting in the room into my tablet. I needed to turn on a light, but the light from the hallway was just enough for me to finish. The appraisal was going faster than I had anticipated, which was wonderful. It meant I could justify spending time with Bastian without feeling guilty about not working.This was supposed to be a job. Except it was so much more than that now. This was a vacation, a job, and something else. A romance? A fling? I didn't know what to call what was going on between Bastian and me. I just knew that I was enjoying it.I still felt a little guilty about my father, but being ahead on my work even helped with that as well. I had continued to receive updates from him, the nurses, and even Jackie. Everyone promised he was doing just fine and that I had nothing to worry about, but I still felt like I had abandoned my father to hook up in the Caribbean. I knew that wasn't true, but it still nagged at me. Working helped that feel bette
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