Home > Crave (Billionaire Bachelors Club #1)

Crave (Billionaire Bachelors Club #1)
Author: Monica Murphy

Chapter One


THERE ARE FEW things I can resist in life. This is probably why I got into so much trouble during my younger years. Control is everything—and that is the one thing I’ve learned from my bastard of a father. You gain nothing by letting yourself go, by revealing your emotions, by becoming vulnerable.

If you’re unable to resist the things that draw you in, it’s a surefire way to ask for unwanted chaos. I’ve had enough of that in my personal life growing up. Hell, in my professional life too, though I’ve finally turned that corner these last few years.

But the few things I can’t resist? A challenge. A bet.

“He’s an absolute sucker to get married,” Gage says, his disgust-filled voice pulling me from my thoughts. Gage Emerson is my best friend. Matt DeLuca is too. I’ve known them both since high school. We’re standing together at our college buddy Jeff Lewiston’s wedding reception, lurking in a dark corner of the crowded ballroom and muttering over the so-called sanctity of marriage.

Marriage represents a noose around my neck that tightens with every miserable day. My parents are a shining example of the worst marriage in the history of marriages. They hate each other. They cheat on each other. They fight. Yet they’re still together.

Makes no damn sense.

“He seems happy,” Matt, the more optimistic of us three, starts, and both Gage and I shoot him a look that shuts him up.

“His wife is attractive, I’ll give her that,” Gage concedes, sipping from his glass of champagne. “But the moment they come back from the Tahitian honeymoon, she’ll turn into the biggest bitch on the planet, I guarantee it.”

“You don’t even know her,” Matt mutters, shaking his head.

“Don’t have to. They all do it. Sexy and beautiful and sweet when you first meet them, you don’t know what to think. The sex is amazing and you’re having it constantly. They’ll drop to their knees whenever you ask and give you a grade-A blowjob. Next thing you know, you’re buying them a ring.” Gage pauses, takes another swig of his champagne, draining the glass.

We’ve talked about this before. We’ve watched our friends go down one by one like fallen soldiers to marriage, especially this last year.

“You get that ring on their finger, go through this whole marriage ceremony bullshit and then you’re left with nothing but a nagging wife and a limp dick in the aftermath. Always giving you shit because you’re never home and you work too much.” I grimace because holy hell, that sounds like my worst nightmare.

“They sure as hell never complain when they’re spending your money, though.” Gage gestures with his empty glass.

“Hear, motherf**king-hear,” I say, returning the gesture with my glass before I finish it off.

“You guys are such cynics. Both of you act like you’ve done this sort of thing before.” Matt crosses his arms in front of his chest. “When was the last time either of you had a girlfriend.” He doesn’t phrase it as a question because he already knows the answer.

“Never,” I sneer. Serious girlfriends aren’t a consideration. None of them interested me enough to want to keep them around.

With the exception of one woman and I absolutely cannot touch her. She’s too young, too sweet, too good, too everything I’m not. She’s so f**king tempting and so completely off limits, I’d be a damn fool to attempt anything with her.

But I want to. Desperately.

“All this talk about how a woman is nothing but shackles and chains like some sort of lifetime prison sentence. I can’t wait to see you both fall and fall f**king hard.” Matt laughed.

Gage and I both glare. “I have no plans of falling any time soon,” Gage mutters.

“More like never in this lifetime,” I add.

“Please.” Matt snorts. “You’ll both eventually realize you don’t want to do this thing called ‘life’ without a woman by your side. Then you’ll be scrambling at some ungodly age, like forty-five, the eternal bachelors looking for some hot piece to be your bride. None of those young babes in their twenties will look at you unless you flash some cash their way.”

“Now who’s the cynic,” I retort, earning a glare from Matt.

“I speak the truth,” he says with a shrug. “And you know it.”

“You bag on us for being single, yet you’re single too,” Gage points out. “Why haven’t you settled down yet?”

Gage’s question earns another shrug from Matt. “Haven’t found the right woman yet.”

His answer is so simple and sounds so damn logical I want to smack him.

“There is no right woman,” I say, wanting to burst Matt’s happily-ever-after bubble. “You’ll eventually settle. Trust me.”

“And you won’t,” Gage says, though I know he’s not disagreeing with me. “I know I don’t plan on settling. I don’t plan on tying myself down whatsoever.”

“Neither do I,” I agree. “Settling is for pussies.”

“Absolutely,” Gage says grimly.

Matt focuses his attention solely on me. “I’ll bet big money you’ll be the first to go down.”

“Go down how? On a woman?” This earns a laugh from Gage. “Go down in flames? What the hell are you talking about?”

“You’ll be the first to fall in love with a woman and beg her to marry you,” Matt says.

My mouth goes dry. It feels like an invisible noose just tightened around my neck, making it hard to breathe. “Yeah, right,” I finally manage to choke out.

“You two are so damn resistant to being a relationship, I figure you’ll both be slapped upside the head and fall hard. And it’s going to happen sooner rather than later,” Matt says, his voice full of confidence.

That smug tone irritates the hell out of me.

“There is no way I’ll fall in love anytime soon,” I say.

“Me either,” Gage agrees.

“If you guys want to believe that, then cool. Live in your world of denial, I don’t care.” Our friend is trying to piss us off. And it’s working.

“You wanna make that bet you just mentioned? Because I’m in. I’ll prove it to you. I don’t need a woman or a relationship.” I cross my arms in front of my chest. Matt’s done this before. He enjoys getting a rise out of the both of us. Drives me crazy.

So let’s see if he goes for it. Always running that mouth of his. Time to put up or shut up.

Gage snorts. “Don’t just bet him. Let’s all three get in on this one.”

“How much we talking?” Matt scrubs his hand along his jaw. The guy is loaded. We’re all loaded; we come from wealthy families and we lived in the same neighborhood during high school. When we all turned twenty-one within a few months of each other, we started going to Vegas and dropping big money like a regular person plays the quarter slots. Once we graduated college and got real lives, we had to stop that shit. I still miss it. Sort of.

“A million bucks to the last single man standing,” Gage throws out, a triumphant gleam in his eye. He acts like he’s already won the prize.

“A million dollars?” Matt’s eyes practically bug out of his head. Asshole acts like he’s not good for it despite having to recently bow out of a lucrative pro baseball contract due to a career-ending injury—and he didn’t lose a dollar of that contract either. The guy has buckets full of money. He recently invested some of it in a winery not far from where I live just so he could claim a loss for his taxes.

He’s definitely not hurting financially. Neither is Gage. He’s one of the top real estate investors in all the Bay Area, right behind his father. They both have the magic touch, finding properties and businesses for a song and turning them around for a tremendous profit.

The hotel industry claims I have the magic touch as well, despite my father’s irritation at that particular assertion. I can’t help that I saw a need and filled it with the loser hotel he gave me. He firmly believed I’d fail.

I proved him wrong. Hell, I’m getting ready to expand. And he hates that.

It’s almost as if my own father would relish seeing me fail.

“What, you scared?” I say this because I know there is no way in hell I will lose this bet. No woman can sink her claws into me so deep I can’t escape.

No way, no how.

Gage laughs and shakes his head. “Don’t be such a p**sy, DeLuca. A million bucks is chump change in your bank account.”

“Not really,” Matt mutters. “Not that I’m worried. I’ll win.”

Ha. Matt making that confident of a statement pushes me to prove him wrong. “You really think so?”

“I know so.” Matt smiles. “I’d even bet an extra fifty grand the next woman you talk to, you’ll end up marrying.”

“Sucker bet, bro. Take him up on it,” Gage chimes in, nudging my shoulder hard. “Give us a break, Matt. I can’t think of one woman in this entire room Archer would want to talk to, let alone marry.”

I remain quiet. There is one woman I wouldn’t mind talking to. Spend time with. Not in the serious sense or the potential marriage sense, because hell no, that’s not in my future. I’d make some poor woman a terrible husband and I know it. Which is why I leave her alone.

She wants that sort of thing. A husband and kids and a white picket fence around the pretty little house she decorated. I know she does. She’s a dreamer, a romantic, a woman who deserves to be treated like a queen. I’d only end up hurting her and I couldn’t live with myself if I did. Gage wouldn’t let me live either.

He knows her well, considering I’m referring to his baby sister.

Once upon a time, when she was younger, I thought of her like a baby sister too. But then she blossomed into this hot teenager that had me thinking all the wrong thoughts every time I got near her. Seventeen-year-old Ivy made me feel like a pervert. Didn’t help that every time I tried to avoid her, she wanted to talk to me. As if she knew she drove me crazy and was determined to get under my skin with her sweet, thoughtful ways, how she laughed at my jokes and looked at me as if she could see right through me.

And when she grew into this beautiful, sexy, confident woman, I knew without a doubt I had to avoid her at all costs. I wanted to be with her in the worst damn way. She’s the first woman I ever truly cared for. I don’t want to hurt her, because I would. I hurt all the women in my life. Ask my mother. Ask any female who thought she had a fleeting chance at being with me.

“Maybe you could go babysit Ivy for a little while,” Gage suggests.

I turn to him, incredulous. Can he reach inside my brain and read my thoughts? Fucking scary how he just did that.

“What do you mean?” I ask warily.

“You want to win an easy fifty grand? Go be with Ivy. Like she’d marry your sorry ass.” Gage laughs, though I don’t. Why am I a sorry ass? Yeah, I know I’m not worthy of Ivy, but damn, his words still hurt.

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