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- ⭐ 7.5
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Bella Williams, who is denigrated by the Thorn family as nothing more than a cook, is desperate to flee their grasp in this riveting story of ambition and bravery. She has had enough of their harassment, so when the charismatic billionaire heir Austen Trevor offers her a seductive proposition, she seizes the chance. Bella decides to protect her feelings from the infamous bad lads of Kansas by jumping into an exhilarating adventure headfirst with her heart on the line. Bella must negotiate a perilous path as the stakes rise: WILL SHE STAY UNSCATHED? OR IS HER NEW STATUS AS A BILLIONAIRE'S PARTNER JUST A GAME OR A JOURNEY THAT WILL LEAVE HER HEART STRONGER?
"It's almost your birthday, dear." His mother sang immediately when she entered the room. Like always, Austen sighed and shook his head. She had been doing this since the beginning of June, and it was becoming annoying. Not to mention the fact that he knew why she was actually reminding him.
Still, he faked a smile and watched as she moved to stand beside him. "You'll soon be three decades old. Oh, I can't believe it."
"Of course you can, mom." Her ability to make the tiniest things so special never ceased to amaze him. It was exciting during his younger years, to have her make so much fuss about incoming celebrations. Now it was annoying and just served the purpose of refreshing a discussion he thought was over.
"And he still isn't married," another voice chided, and Austen rolled his eyes. The real star of the show was Mr. Trevor, CEO of Trevor Corp.
"Darling, don't be like that," his mother answered cheerily, a bright smile on her face. "This year is the year. I'm sure of it."
"You've been saying that for the past three years," his father growled. "You need to man up, Austen."
"I'm trying my best, Dad. It's not like I can just step out of the house and see a suitable woman."
"You can. I know a lot of families with eligible daughters. Take Mr. Thorn, for example. His two children are girls, and I'm sure you can charm one of them into marriage."
Something about his father's tone seems mocking, and it annoyed Austen. He made it seem like getting married was an extreme sport.
"I know them very well," his mother piped up as she made her way to the kitchen. She always liked to be active in these conversations, and as she poured wine into three glasses, Austen knew his parents wouldn't rest until he promised them a bride.
"Gina and Bridget. Lovely young ladies with an air of grace and intellect," his mother praised.
"Yes, my dear. Their father is also very good at his work. It would be nice to have him as an in-law. Right, dear?"
"Of course. I like their mother too, she seems very…"
Austen turned away from his parents, blocking out their conversation. Every time they brought up the issue of marriage, it upset him greatly. There were still so many things he hadn't achieved yet, and getting married was not part of them.
His personal business was just getting off the ground, so a lot of his capital was still invested there. His main focus was on acquiring more wealth and steadying the company's business. Not marriage.
Having a lifelong partner was not a matter to be rushed into, but his parents wanted nothing more than to see him walk down the aisle with someone.
He stood up and picked up his car keys from the tabletop. "I'm going out for a ride."
"Where are you going?" His father's thunderous voice called out after him, but he continued walking away.
"To clear my head, Dad."
Driving was his own way of figuring out the best thing to do. However, he couldn't concentrate. It didn't help matters that his parents constantly made him feel like a failure. He didn't know which was worse.
His mother's mocking tone or his father's constant bickering. "Or are they tired of me?" He thought.
He shook his head, and adjusted the brake. He highly doubted that. As the only son, he was spoiled and never wanted for anything. Growing up, he had the best schools, toys, playmates, and plenty of money to go around.
Not once did he feel the absence of a sibling—until now. Maybe if there was someone else, his parents would have less time to disturb him. Austen sighed and used his free hand to rub the spot between his brows. Where did it all go wrong?
Deep in his thoughts, he didn't notice the young girl crossing the road until it was nearly too late. Their eyes met and she suddenly stopped in the middle of the road, transfixed in shock as he tried to think.
"What the...?" he mumbled while attempting a sharp swerve to the right. The tires screeched for a few seconds before halting just a few meters away from the girl.
Austen sighed and closed his eyes for a moment, trying to take in deep breaths. By the time he looked at the road again, the girl was nowhere in sight, and his heart skipped a beat. Did he...had she...?
In a daze, he climbed out of the car and began to look for her. He had not gotten more than three steps forward when he saw her, hunched over a pile of groceries. Her eyes were closed, and she seemed to be shaking.
"I'm sorry," he began, confused on whether to touch her or not. "I wasn't being focused. Are you alright?"
He watched as the girl nodded her head slowly and then began to stand up. "It's...it's okay. I'm fine."
Still, Austen felt guilty. Usually, he wasn't so reckless with driving, but his parents had pushed him to the edge. However, it wasn't enough reason to hit an innocent person.
He bent down and began to arrange the items that had fallen down with her. Luckily, none of them were damaged, and soon enough, everything was packed neatly.
"Are you sure? I can take you to the hospital if..."
The remaining words died on his lips as the girl finally met his eyes and shook her head. She was easily the most beautiful person he had seen in a long time. He couldn't get over how her eyes seemed to take him in.
He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't notice her begin to walk away until she was at the other side of the road.
"Sorry, I didn't get your name," he yelled slightly.
"Bella," she responded absently as she tried to gather the groceries. Before he could say anything else, she entered into a black car and zoomed off.
She didn't want to wake up. The last thing she wanted was to open her eyes and see the dullness in her life yet again. As the bright light bathed her face, she wanted nothing more than to drift into unconsciousness yet again.
Yet, the pounding in her small door served as a constant reminder that her life wasn't hers. Not really.
"Can't you hear me knocking, Bella? Open up!"
Slowly squeezing her eyes open, she waited for a whole minute with bated breath. Maybe if there was no response, she would go away.
However, fate didn't see her worthy enough for that miracle. Instead, Bella watched in horror as the mechanical lock opened from outside. As soon as the door opened, she closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep.
"You foolish…," a shrill scream drowned out the intruder's remaining words. The girl watched with satisfaction as Bella jumped out of bed in fright, water drip
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