The Brilliant Billionaire – Sneak Peek

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The Brilliant Billionaire

She can help him with his secret or destroy his reputation. He’s not the only one seeking anonymity.

A part-time private tutor is hired to teach a financial guru the ins and outs of reading. When their secrets are threatened they have to lean on each other or risk their hearts and their reputations.

Cassidy Storm is a celebrity scandal blogger by day and Cassidy Ann, a private tutor, by night. She’s worked hard to get the momentum going for her career and she risks everything for the juicy tidbits she can find in Getaway Bay.

She still has to pay the bills and tutoring at night is a safe way to do that while she waits for the “big” scandal to bring in the money.

When she’s hired to Sweet Breeze Hotel and Resort and sent to the penthouse suite for six weeks, she’s surprised to find her student isn’t a spoiled child, but rather him – Maddox Neelson III.

Known as the financial Thor of their generation, Maddox rolled into his billions effortlessly. Only his gut instinct kept him safe when he trusted the wrong people to manage his business. With millions lost because of the betrayal of those closest to him, Maddox decides to overcome his dyslexia. The only problem is hiding his weakness from the world until after it has become his strength.

When Cassidy Ann walks in, Maddox doesn’t want her to know his biggest fault. But when she treats him with kindness, his confidence is boosted and he realizes he has to learn to trust someone to be successful in life…and love.

But has he decided to trust the wrong person again and left his heart open to more pain and betrayal?

Chapter 1

Maddox

Even in paradise, Maddox was trapped in hell.

He stretched his long legs out on the settee in the luxury suite at Sweet Breeze Hotel in Getaway Bay. Paradise was putting it mildly. With plush furniture, thick floor-to-ceiling curtains to block out the sun, and bright green and coral accents throughout the predominantly cream decorations, the suite couldn’t be more haven-like than if he’d dreamed it up himself.

But the suite had walls that separated the living spaces into different areas; a bathroom, walk-in closet, living area, open office area, and a kitchenette area that was more of a wine cellar with liquor cabinet. The walls were like prison bars when a man like Maddox was trying to stay off the public’s radar.

The only relief he got from the small prison he’d locked himself in was when he flipped on the laptop and dove into the math forums. Nothing was fun anymore, unless it centered around numbers. Just the challenge of finding a solution before someone else was enough. He’d made more money than he’d ever need using math. The only thing left was to figure out a better way to do what he wanted.

He needed a break from the computer, but he couldn’t go far. Leaning his hand against the doorjamb of the slider which led to the long balcony, Maddox studied the crystalline image before him.

Waves crashed soothingly onto the golden sand beach twelve stories below. A few people wandered into view but from such a distance, he wasn’t able to make out their faces. The sensation was secluding, but securing at the same time.

He was safe in there… as long as he didn’t leave. Sighing, he turned from the depressing view and returned to flop on the couch. Leaning forward, he adjusted his button-down shirt and reached for his state-of-the-art laptop resting on the glass-surfaced coffee table. He pulled the computer onto his thighs and groaned as the screen woke up.

 

Trouble in Neelson Land?

Apparently, Maddox Neelson, III, has more trouble in his world than the little people can comprehend. He’s left his home in Florida and we can only surmise where he might have gone until he surfaces. I’m tempted to offer a reward, at this point.

That’s right, ladies, everything is topsy turvy in Maddox’s world. He left his home on the east coast to travel, but I think he’s hiding something.

Stick with me as I work out the details of this little scandal and I promise to find you some tidbit that isn’t found elsewhere.

I’m the Storm and I’ve got you covered.

 

The Storm was another pain in Maddox’s side and he’d never met the blogger/journalist. He had to read the article a few times along with the handful of comments to make sure he didn’t miss anything. Some of the words didn’t make sense as he was seeing them and more than once he lost his place in the post and he had to start over, slow and careful.

Her tone was derisive, as if she knew so much. She had no idea where Maddox had gone and she didn’t seem to care what he had to escape. She just wanted to get him found and tell the world.

Maddox couldn’t help it. He had to reply.

 

Storm, don’t you think it’d be more humane to leave the guy alone? – M-Dog.

 

Maddox took about twenty minutes to type his comment and then painstakingly go over it to make sure there were no misspellings or other signs about his weakness. He couldn’t even ask his personal editor to look it over. He’d left his team in Florida. After the betrayal he’d been subjected to, he couldn’t face any of them. Who knew who were all involved. Maddox couldn’t stand looking any of them in the face when he didn’t know if he could trust them or not.

His cellphone rang and Maddox lunged for it from his seat. He leaned forward, grasping the small device and leaning back in the cushioned backrest.

Swiping the screen on his phone, he lifted the cell to his ear and glared at the blog post on the still open computer. “Hey, Wayne, thanks again for the recommendation. Sweet Breeze is beautiful.” His best friend knew exactly that the Hawaiian town was what Maddox needed to stay out of the limelight for a bit and to cool off.

“No problem. I loved it there, myself.” Wayne chuckled and then cleared his throat. “Hey, buddy, the reason I’m calling is… I think we need to get ahead of this thing.” His voice was drenched in sympathy which Maddox couldn’t help but interpret as pity – no matter how much he tried to keep his insecurities down.

“Get ahead of it? How? Tell everyone I’m stupid before anyone else can?” Maddox frowned, snapping his computer screen shut and placing it on the table. He stood, pacing back and forth from the large bay-style windows to the edge of the sitting room. The seventeen-hundred square foot suite was perfect for pacing. Too bad Maddox about had his pacing path worn into the carpet.

Wayne’s sigh reached across the continent and Pacific Ocean. “Maddox, you’re not stupid. Stop saying that. You made billions on your brilliance alone. Just because you have a little bit of dyslexia, doesn’t make you any less smart than anyone else. It just means you need different tools than some. What’s the big deal?” But Wayne knew it was a big deal.

If people found out about Maddox’s handicap, Maddox would never be able to live it down and people would come out of the wood work to try to scam him. Wasn’t that what had happened with his own business managers?

Maddox pressed his fingers to the bridge of his nose. “Yeah, I know.” He was smart when it came to numbers, but contracts weren’t written in numerical code. They were written with ridiculous letters and that left Maddox vulnerable. “What do I do?” He accepted defeat and the fact that he was in over his head with a problem he wasn’t sure how to fix.

“Well, you don’t necessarily need to do anything. I called the Getaway Bay Tutoring Center – supposed to be one of the best in the western hemisphere – and they already have a confidentiality agreement in place as well as tighter privacy rules than most places. They also have personal tutor options. I’ve signed up for you to have the next six weeks of personal tutoring, every day, to help you learn the tools you need to be able to conquer this. You should have done this sooner.” His disbelief wasn’t strong but had enough presence to make itself known.

Maddox stopped pacing as his friend spoke. Tutoring? He couldn’t be tutored. Whoever it was would think he was stupid. He wasn’t stupid. But hadn’t losing two-hundred million dollars taught him he needed help? If he was too proud to accept help, maybe he was as stupid as he kept saying he was.

Biting his lip, Maddox forced his pride down to a manageable level as he nodded tightly. “Okay, fine. When will they be here and what do I need to do?” He’d never be able to tolerate a tutor. Maybe an older woman with gray hair in a bun and a muumuu would teach him.

“You need to stay in the suite. The contract is very clear. Anything inside the learning area – in your case the suite – is off-limits for them to talk about. It’s like a contingency gag order. If you go outside of the suite with them or they see you outside of the suite, your privacy becomes null and void. This is because you are in a high-profile resort as well as a high-profile client. Who knows what’s going on there.” Wayne chuckled as if he were trying to lighten the tone of the call, but it wasn’t working.

“Got it.” Maddox didn’t want to seem ungrateful. “Thanks, Wayne. I’ll get this under control this time.” Wayne had always had Maddox’s back as they’d grown up together. Maddox had helped him with his investing when they’d both finished school and grown their wealth beyond anything they’d ever hoped. At least he’d been able to carry his own weight in the friendship.

“Of course. Hey, I’ve been getting notifications on you but I haven’t seen anything mention issues, just articles covering the latest boon to the stock market because of your investment.” Wayne’s smirk was strong, even over the phone line.

A side smile was all Maddox would allow. His most recent takeover had originally been referred to as the business coup of a madman and one that would surely decimate Maddox’s business. Two weeks later and everyone was calling it the coup of the nation’s history. Everyone except The Storm. Just thinking about the site brought another scowl to his face. “Yeah, everyone but The Storm blog. Did you see her latest piece?”

Wayne growled. “No. Is she at it again?” The Storm was a pain in the rear end of most of the men and women in the upper economical percentage. She’d reported on Wayne more than once. Her sting was a lot more impactful than either man would let on.

“Yeah, this time it’s mostly conjecture, but it’s still there. She also made a promise to her readers.” Maddox stared grimly toward the beach, the happy setting at distinct odds with the emotions swirling around in the overlooking suite.

“I found out last night that Storm is on the islands. Everyone is saying Kauai, but you never know. So be careful.” Wayne ended the call and Maddox slowly lowered the phone to his side, leaning his empty hand against the warm glass.

The Storm was there on the islands? Kauai or not, she was entirely too close to Maddox. She promised to cause problems and find out more information for her readership which might be small numbers now, but didn’t promise to stay small. Especially with her style of reporting and conjecture. She had insightful comments. If Maddox ever had a chance to meet her, he’d probably be both mad and admiring. Not a dichotomy he wanted the chance to explore.

Maddox had stumbled across The Storm site during one of his obsessive searches to make sure no one knew about his problem with reading.

An article on his friend, Fisher Dupont and his romance with Stacey Stapleton had made Maddox laugh enough to wish the couple congratulations on the site itself in the comment section. He’d never been able to own that he’d commented, but he’d been a regular on the platform ever since.

Except, now she was getting too close with posts about him and his struggles. Finding out she was in Hawaii brought a scowl to his features which wasn’t lessened at the memory of having to welcome a tutor into his suite.

There were too many changes he had to face and all because he hadn’t listened to his gut and looked deeper into his managers’ dealings.

He had to nip the dyslexia in the bud before The Storm had a chance to expose him to the world.

Chapter 2

Cassidy

Cassidy rolled her head from side to side, shrugging her shoulders. Her small cottage on the edge of Getaway Bay was simple but more like heaven than she could even imagine. Inherited from her father’s side, Cassidy struggled to keep the small chunk of beach front in her hands. She owed a chunk on taxes for the property. She could pay everything off, but only if her blog went viral.

Why couldn’t anything fun happen in Getaway Bay? She needed a scandal, some kind of a secret about the Getaway Bay royalty and not just a romance story like Fisher’s and Stacey’s. She didn’t care about the love. She wanted something juicy that would expose these billionaires as real people with real problems. Love was always a seller, but she didn’t feel like reporting on something that was so decidedly lacking in her own life.

She wouldn’t mind feeling like money wouldn’t solve all her problems, too. Even though she had a feeling it would.

Her computer dinged and she shook her head. Another comment on her blog was great and exactly what she needed to be ‘search engine optimal’, but lately the comments were from an M-Dog who argued with some of her posts or agreed with her wholeheartedly. She had stopped herself from posting flirtatious replies back. There was something in the formal way he wrote without any typos or texting shortcuts like LOL or SMH that appealed to her. Men like that were few and far between.

She wouldn’t lie, she was getting lonely and the commenter left her feeling like she had a friend out there who was honest enough to argue back and not just be nice in the comments section. Cassidy could do with honest. She was mostly alone in the small town on a big island and no matter what she did, she still felt like she was a pariah.

Her phone buzzed beside her on the couch and Cassidy reached over and swiped the screen before pulling it to her ear. “Hello?”

“Cassidy, this is Tiffany at Getaway Bay Tutoring Center. Paul from your branch said you were available for a bit. Would you be interested in a special case?” Tiffany was to the point and businesslike – another trait Cassidy found endearing every time she spoke with the staff of Getaway Bay Tutoring.

If she was hearing from Tiffany, then it was a higher than normal profile student. “Of course, what are the parameters that define the case as special?” Cassidy stretched from her spot on the couch and pulled an extra pad of paper and a pen closer to her to take notes.

“The student is dyslexic but not dysfunctional. Actually, he is documented as being able to read but takes a long time to do it and wants to know how to do it better.” Tiffany typed on a keyboard in the background and then came back on the phone. “This case looks like there is a hefty bonus for successful completion in six weeks. You’ll also need to be exclusive to this case for the interim as well as sign an extra confidentiality agreement. I’ll email it to you, just e-sign it and you can start today, if that works for you?”

Thrilled at the chance for a bonus, Cassidy nodded. “Sounds good. Where and what time?” She pulled up her email on the laptop and clicked on the confidentiality agreement that was already sitting in her inbox from Tiffany.

“Ask for Wayne at the front desk of Sweet Breeze and they’ll tell you where to go. Tonight, you’ll go at five, but after this, any schedule you set up will be with the client. Thanks again!” Tiffany and Cassidy ended the call and Cassidy leaned back on the blue micro-suede couch.

Some people thought tutoring would be boring, but Cassidy considered it a challenge and anything challenging ranked high on her priority list.

Juggling two different personas was as challenging as it got. She was Cassidy Storm – scandal blogger by day and Cassidy Ann – boring tutor by night. Her goals in life weren’t to tutor forever.

However, tutoring paid the bills – for now. Her dream was to get the blog performing enough to cover all of her bills and more.

In-person tutoring wasn’t cheap, if they wanted to hire Cassidy. She was one of the highest in-demand specialists to tutor on any of the islands. She’d been flown to Oahu, Kauai, and Maui to help clients. Getting a call like this one wasn’t rare. In fact, none of it was out of the ordinary.

The only thing that was frustrating was that she had to sign papers saying she’d keep her mouth shut when all she wanted to do was publish everything she saw or heard. The original contract with Getaway Bay Tutoring Center covered most of the places she taught in.

Her clients were big names with big wallets. They’d bring a huge audience to her blog and she needed the boon. She had to try to find a loophole in the contract. But as it was, she took her job seriously and part of her clientele had expressed repeatedly how much they appreciated her discretion.

Choosing between her future and making someone else happy might have to be the simple decision on this go-round. Maybe this current client was exactly what she needed to give her page views a boost. She could get into the posh resort and listen for anything she might need for posts.

Kids didn’t really care what they said or what was talked about. If she could get the client to the pool or down to the beach, maybe she could pick up some details that no one else had access to. Wouldn’t that be delicious?

Working with kids was a favorite of hers. An exclusive client was even better. She couldn’t wait to get started.

 

~~~

 

The front desk told Cassidy one of the top floor rooms, something about the twelfth floor, which pushed her new student even further into the small percentage of rich people. She’d most likely be dealing with a spoiled brat. Just what she felt like doing for the next six weeks, working exclusively with a rich kid who was never told no. She’d have to convince him that he was smart and capable – even if he was as dumb as they came. The latter was more of a possibility than most parents wanted to admit. Unfortunately, money didn’t always guarantee the best genes.

Stepping out of the glass-encased elevator, Cassidy tugged her bag higher on her shoulder and took a left, following a sign that indicated the room number, 1256, was in that direction.

Thick corral carpet ate up her footsteps and she wondered distractedly how housekeeping got the sand out of the thick pile. Wainscoting stretched up the sides of the walls to hip level and then merged with a shimmery cream wallpaper with an underlying golden tone. The whole building screamed money and Cassidy just needed a glimpse of someone famous. Unfortunately, the halls were empty.

1256 was suddenly in front of her. She knocked, folding her arms at her waist and pasting a pleasant smile on her lips. The first meeting was always awkward as they worked to eradicate their previous expectations about each other. Most likely the child wasn’t a spoiled brat, Cassidy just expected him to be. Okay, that wasn’t true. They usually always fit that stereotype when she met them. She wasn’t sure what their expectations were of her, but she had no doubt she didn’t fit the mold by the end of their sessions.

Taking a deep breath, she reached out and knocked again, this time harder.

The door opened and Cassidy blinked, frozen in confusion and surprise. She glanced down the hallway as if she might be at the wrong door and then flicked her gaze back to study Maddox Neelson, III.

Swallowing, Cassidy smiled nervously. “Um, hi. I’m Cassidy Ann. I’m the tutor.” At least she could speak. Her stomach did a weird fluttering thing at the sight of the man in a sharply cut blue button-up shirt and black pressed slacks. His golden hair added to the golden brown of his skin and set off the sea green of his gaze.

Cassidy reached out a hand to shake. As his fingers closed around hers, her heart did an odd little quiver.

No. Just no. That would never do to have a thing for the student’s parent or guardian. His position in the child’s life was one of great curiosity for her. In all of her research on the Neelson family, Cassidy had never found evidence that Maddox had a child or anything close to a serious relationship in his past that would suggest a long-lost child.

Out of all the billionaires, movie stars, and politicians she’d been following, Maddox was her favorite with his secretive eyes and full lips. She didn’t want to get into the breadth of his shoulders or the strength in his thighs. And now, there he was standing in front of her. Nothing in the photographs she’d seen of him online had prepared her for his simple masculine beauty.

He didn’t say anything, just stared at her until she worried she’d said something wrong. “Am I at the wrong place?” Cassidy glanced at the sheet of paper the front desk receptionist had given her.

The room number matched the number on the open door – 1256. Maybe they’d gotten the room wrong. “I was told to ask for Wayne? Is Wayne here?” The last person she wanted to be stupid in front of was Maddox.

“No, excuse me. Please, come in.” Maddox pulled the door open more, motioning inside. “Wayne called. He’s not actually here.” He pointed at the floor of the suite like that would help clarify what he was talking about.

Cassidy smiled shyly then internally chastised herself. He was the parent of the student. So, that made him off-limits. Also, anything she learned about him would be off-limits for the blog. Dang. If he was a parent, then was most likely involved with someone which would be double dang.

Moving to stand in the center of the sitting room area of the suite, Cassidy turned back to Maddox as he closed the door, a thoughtful expression on his masculine features.

“Where is the student I’m tutoring?” They were decidedly the only ones in the suite. That fact did funny things to her insides. She was alone in a hotel room with Maddox Neelson, III. And she couldn’t tell anyone.

Maddox licked his lips and scanned the suite like maybe he’d misplaced a child or something. “Um.” He ran his hands through his blond hair, leaving it unkempt when he dropped his arms back to his sides. Maddox shook his head and pointed at his chest, taking a deep breath. “That would be me.”

Cassidy stared at one of the richest men she’d ever read about and blinked. Twice. The biggest bit of gossip she’d ever come across had just landed in her lap but since she was Cassidy Ann and not The Storm, she couldn’t use it.

Not only that, but he wasn’t the parent of the student, he was the student and that made him even more off-limits. Life sucked.

Triple dang.

Chapter 3

Maddox

With a streak of purple in her dark brown hair, Cassidy captured Maddox attention and he couldn’t look away.

She wasn’t overtly colorful or even pretentious in the way she conducted herself. In fact, the purple streak was almost like an afterthought as her makeup was subtle and bordered more on natural than creative. Her white polo shirt had been tucked neatly into khaki capri pants and she slipped her shoes off before going fully inside like she wasn’t aware she was doing it. A habit that he fully respected and recognized as a Hawaiian tradition.

Telling her he was the student took every ounce of courage he had. He didn’t want to tell her. What would she think? Maddox swallowed his pride though and accepted the fact that she was his tutor and not there to date him – no matter how attractive the slope in her jawline was or how large her mahogany eyes were.

He had a goal to accomplish and he was going to have to shove his physical awareness of her to the side. Once she registered that he was the student, she wouldn’t think twice about him anyway. No one wanted a dummy for a love interest – no matter how rich they were.

Maddox cleared his throat at the silence in the room after his announcement. “Does that change your mind on the arrangement?” He had to give her a chance to leave. Everyone deserved the chance to change their minds once they had full disclosure. That was a fundamental basis of his business model. Nothing was permanent and he had to stand by that – even now.

A soft smile curved her lips and she tilted her head to the side. “No, actually. I don’t care who I’m teaching as long as they accept my rules.” Her voice hadn’t altered from the welcoming respectful tone she’d held before she knew who the student was.

Maddox’s shoulders relaxed a degree and he moved into the office area set up on the side of the kitchenette and beside the slider doors leading out to the long deck overlooking the west bay. He wiped his hands on his slacks, never willing to admit his nerves had come to a head.

“I set up an area for us over here. Did Tiffany tell you it’s for five days a week? I don’t want a break, but I figure you do or might?” He studied her earnestly as he held out a straight-backed chair on one side of a long table. On the surface, he’d set out pencils and some legal tablets in various colors like pastel greens, blues, and yellows.

After she claimed her seat, she waited for him to sit across from her. He scooted the chair in and picked up a pencil to calm his fidgety hands. Hopefully she didn’t notice he was nervous about everything since she’d arrived. An outsider was privy to his deepest shame. He wasn’t sure he would get used to that.

“Have you been here long?” Cassidy kept her tone professional as she pulled items from the turquoise canvas tote she’d carried slung over one shoulder.

“A few days. I’m… Dealing with things on the mainland and I’m not sure I want to go back.” He grinned at her, trying to convince her he wasn’t stupid. He’d never openly divulged his reading handicap before and there he was about to spill everything to a woman he wanted to reach out and touch her hand. What was wrong with him?

He needed to focus on his goal. The primary objective was to get his dyslexia in hand. That’s what he had to do. He wasn’t there to date anyone, especially his tutor. She was going to see him at his most frustrated. That wasn’t the best way to leave a good impression.

Cassidy straightened the folders and paper in front of her and furrowed her brow. “That sounds like a headache. I hope your stay here gives you a break from whatever you’re dealing with.”

“Working with you will do that.” Maddox’s eyes widened. That hadn’t sounded appropriate. “I mean, sitting with you… working with this… paper.” He cleared his throat and messed with the cuff on his left wrist. “I’m sorry. What I mean is once I have this problem taken care of, I’ll be fine.” He smiled tightly, hoping the heat in his face wasn’t translating to a bright flushing of his skin.

Cassidy leaned forward, folding her arms and resting her forearms on the table. “What is the problem you have?” Her genuine concern soothed him and for the longest moment, Maddox felt like he’d come home.

Snapping out of the trance she was wrapping him in, Maddox shook his head. “Well, it’s… honestly, I have a problem reading.” There he said it. Maddox exhaled on a whoosh.

Cassidy pressed her lips together and pulled a notepad from her stack of supplies. She scratched a black pen across the white paper, taking notes. “Okay, so you can’t read? Or you can read just a little bit?”

He wasn’t doing a very good job at communicating. He should have asked for an ugly tutor. This was pushing a college girl fantasy he hadn’t realized he had. Clearing his throat, Maddox shook his head. “What? No. I can read. The letters just turn themselves around and it makes it hard to know if I’m reading the right thing or not. Writing is even worse.” Maddox pointed to his head and then the paper in front of him.

“I think the order is right here, but then I write it wrong on the paper or type it wrong on the computer. It takes a long time and a lot of struggling to get anything right, if it’s even right.” His frustration came out and he avoided her gaze as long as he could. He didn’t want to see the judgment or the pity in her eyes. He didn’t want to know that her initial attraction to him would be gone now that she knew he wasn’t smart.

Wasn’t that attraction he’d seen in her body language when she’d arrived? He could read women’s bodies even if he couldn’t read War and Peace.

Finally, though, he couldn’t avoid her gaze any longer as the silence stretched between them. When he raised his gaze to hers, his hands relaxed in his lap.

She wasn’t watching him with judgment or pity. Instead, a smile on her face combined with a patient look in her eyes gave him more confidence that he was doing the right thing than anything else could have done right then. “Okay, so you can read and write. That makes it a lot easier for you. Dyslexia is something you can learn to cope with. Don’t let it get you down.” She bent her head and took more notes and then tapped the pen on the tablet in front of him. “Also, the fact that you’ve worked with it for so long proves you have the determination to grow out of this. That’s going to help you even more.”

Maddox watched her take more notes and then spoke softly. “I can see why you came so highly recommended.” She’d already made him feel like he could do anything. That was worth its weight in gold. He leaned forward, staring intently at the wave in her hair as she continued writing. “I’m paying hourly, Cassidy.”

Glancing up, she nodded with a simple smile on her bow shaped lips. “Yes, I know. Did you want to get started so we don’t waste any time?”

He leaned back and closed his eyes while waving his hand. Then he opened them again. “No. I don’t care about wasting money. I have a goal of finishing this within six weeks. I’m offering you a productivity bonus to show up every day. I need you to both teach me as well as hold me accountable. If you do this, I’ll pay you fifty-thousand on top of the hourly wage.”

Cassidy froze, dropping her pen as she blinked. “Wait. What?” She twisted her head to the side but not so she couldn’t see him.

“That’s right. A bonus. Also, you need to sign a confidentiality agreement.” He wanted her help. Needed her help. He had to ignore the fact that he’d told her more than she should know before having her sign something. He tapped the stack of papers in front of him.

“I already signed one with the company.” Her professionalism hadn’t slipped, but she’d batted an eye at the mention of the bonus.

“I know, but my confidentiality agreement is a little extra.” He thought so anyway. He couldn’t trust the people he’d hired before to make sure his best interests were at the forefront of their priorities. Who knew what they’d messed up.

“Okay. I can do that.” She flinched as he pulled out a piece of paper from under the stack of tablets in front of him. Sliding it across to her, Maddox pointed at the lines for her signature.

Cassidy took a moment to read the document and then signed it with a slanted scrawl Maddox couldn’t help admiring. Was he going to be interested in everything she did? Hopefully, her looks and his attraction to her only helped hold his attention instead of being a distraction. Eventually, it would fade. Again, hopefully.

She slid the paper back to him and arched an eyebrow. “Anything else before we get started?”

Maddox softly shook his head. “No. Um, you said you had some rules?” He was an adult. Did she really have rules that would apply to him?

“Yes, I do. Thank you.” It was her turn to pass him a piece of paper. “You get to keep this one.” Maddox blinked at the words that made no sense to him off the bat. Cassidy stretched across the table and pointed at the numbers. “Okay, so focus on the first letter and work your way across. Don’t look at the whole page. I’ll read them to you so you can see how they look as I read.”

Cassidy leaned closer, looking at the paper with him. The coconut pineapple scent of her hair threw him off, but he got back on track.

“Rule one is – don’t give up. I just want you to try. Number two is to be honest. If something is frustrating you or discouraging you, I need to know or I can’t help you get through it. And number three is my favorite. Have fun. That’s all I want you to do. Learning is fun. Reading is fun. You and I are going to make sure it’s easier for you. Your attitude will decide if it’s fun or not.” She slid back to her seat. “Does that make sense?”

As she’d pointed to each word and spoke, Maddox could see the letters work themselves around. He smiled at her, setting the sheet of rules on the notepad in front of him. “Thank you. This sounds like it will be a lot more than I was hoping for.”

At his words, Cassidy’s lips spread into a wide grin. “I’m glad. Well, let’s get some testing done and then I’ll come back tomorrow with a learning plan laid out.”

Maddox was already excited for the next day and the longer three-hour session they were scheduled for. He’d have to convince himself that he was excited to learn and not to see her. Somehow, he had to stay on track.

Unfortunately, he had a feeling convincing himself of anything like that would be a talent he’d never be able to claim as his own.

Kindle

Author: Chelsea Paulson

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