Cinderella and the Outback Billionaire
Book two in the Outback Billionaires series
She saved his life, then disappeared… So, now, he’ll track down his Cinderella savior in this captivating romance from USA TODAY bestselling author Kelly Hunter!
A connection so strong…
it’s impossible to hide from!
When his helicopter crashes in the Outback, a captivating stranger keeps Reid Blake alive. Under the cover of darkness, a desperate intimacy is kindled…so when Reid is rescued and she disappears, he won’t rest until he finds her!
Ari Cohen hasn’t forgotten Reid, but she’s learned the hard way that happy endings don’t exist. Helping at his family’s annual ball, she doesn’t expect the shocking thrill of his recognition…or the sensational kiss they share. But can this guarded Cinderella have faith he’ll still want her once the clock strikes midnight?
‘You need to leave.’
Reid Blake looked up from the computer that had only just started receiving emails and frowned at his older brother. Impressive as Judah was—with a murderous reputation to match the fierceness of his scowl—Reid wasn’t the slightest bit intimidated by the bite in his brother’s words. ‘Why do I have to leave? I only just got here. And I’ll have you know your darling daughter invited me to stay for an afternoon tea party in a cupboard beneath the stairs. She’s making cupcakes for us and everything.’
Judah’s face softened at mention of his daughter and so it should. Young Piper Blake was a whip-smart laugh and a half, with the face of an angel. It was a miracle daddy Judah could ever say no to her but say no he occasionally did, and nine-year-old Pip was better for it.
She certainly didn’t get sensible guidance from her indulgent uncle Reid.
Judah sighed and leaned his impressive form against the ornate wooden doorframe. Many parts of the Jeddah Creek homestead were ornate—a testament to the peerage Judah held as an English lord of the realm, even if he had grown up in Outback Australia. ‘If you’re not leaving now, you’d best stay the night and sling a tarp over that mosquito you call a helicopter. There’s a dust storm coming in from the west.
‘Aaargh.’ Reid blew out a breath and ground the heels of his hands into his eyes as he pushed his computer chair away from the desk. Internet connections out here were sketchy at best and this was his last chance to download work emails before he went altogether off grid. ‘Why is it that every time I clear a few days to head up to Cooper’s Crossing the weather slams down? Do the gods not think I deserve a break from the insanity? Because, believe me, I’m looking forward to the solitude.’
‘Then get off the Internet and go find it,’ Judah countered.
‘Can’t. I’m waiting on feedback on a new engine prototype I sent in at the start of the week. It’s not easy being a genius with engines, a workaholic and a playboy billionaire bachelor. A princely catch. A stud. It’s a pain in the heart, let me tell you.’
‘Are you done?’
‘Never knowing what a person wants from you. Your money or your love. Possibly the new solar engine prototype that’s going to revolutionise commercial flight as we know it. It’s an existential crisis, I’m telling you.’
His brother eyed him impassively. ‘You’re no playboy.’
True, but irrelevant as far as world media was concerned. ‘You know this, I know this, I like to think the few women I’ve seriously dated over the years know this, and yet the rest of humanity has other ideas.’
‘Speaking of the women you’ve dated—’
‘Believe me, I’d rather not. But your friend Carrick Masterton phoned here the other day, trying to track you down. Something about you being best man at his wedding.’
‘And I’ve already told him no.’ Never date your best mate’s sister. Reid had broken that rule half a dozen years ago in the hope that Jenna might be the one. Instead, after six months’ worth of intimate conversations, travel and attention, Jenna had sold the information she’d collected on him to the press and declared herself an environmental activist. She’d declared him an intellectually stunted free market capitalist who didn’t give a damn about the environment, never mind his posturing. As a footnote, she’d disparaged his sexual prowess and labelled him the most emotionally unavailable person she’d ever met. The fallout had cost him several promising business associations and one of his oldest friends. ‘Jenna’s in the wedding party as a bridesmaid. Apparently she’s willing to let bygones be bygones.’
Judah raised a sceptical eyebrow. ‘Big of her.’
‘Indeed. Anything else you want to know about my personal life?’
Judah held up his hands in a sign of appeasement. ‘Butting out.’
‘If Carrick rings here again, tell him you’re not my social secretary.’
‘Already done. I was more interested in where you were at with it.’
‘Obviously still petty and wounded—at least, that’s how they’ll spin it.’ Reid let his flippant façade drop momentarily. ‘There was no good hand for me to play when it came to that invitation. Carrick and his bride are getting a two-week, all-expenses-paid holiday on a barrier reef island as my wedding gift to them. My secretary sent it through a couple of days ago. I suspect that’s why he called here.’ It would be interesting to see if Carrick ever took that trip, cashed it in, or ignored the gift altogether because he thought Reid was insulting him.
‘You’re sending him to our island?’
‘Of course not. There’d be pictures of the beach house splashed across the Internet within moments of their arrival. Carrick’s fiancée is a social media influencer.’
‘Joy,’ Judah murmured dryly.
‘I booked them some kind of high-end honeymoon island we have nothing to do with. They’ll love it—should they choose to go.’
‘Keep an eye out for a headline exposing my unconscionable largess, my callous insensitivity, or both.’
Judah nodded. ‘I’ll have it framed and sent straight to the pool room.’
This raised a smile, as it was likely meant to do. ‘Thing is, I do wish my old school mate a strong, nurturing, happy marriage. I want that for him. Hell, I want that for me.’
It was the closest he’d come in years to admitting his loneliness.
Judah sighed and wrapped a big hand around the back of his neck, a sure tell that he was uncomfortable with the turn the conversation had taken. ‘You staying or going?’
‘Going.’ Right after he looked at the weather radar. Or maybe not, given how long it would take for that information to download. ‘Going right now. Just as soon as I collect my cupcakes and say goodbye to your women. You realise they like me better than they like you?’
‘If I truly believed that I’d have to shoot you.’
‘You say that…but would you do it? Would you really?’
Judah smirked, cutting creases in his weatherworn face. ‘They do say practice makes perfect.’
It was a testament to how solid their relationship was these days that they could talk freely about the incident that had put Judah in prison for most of his twenties. On the other hand, Reid had his own suspicions about what had gone down on the night of that shooting and, no matter how many times he’d tried to get Judah to reveal all, his older brother had never confided in him. When he was younger, that lack of trust had worn Reid down like sandpaper on sapwood. These days, Reid had a far more flexible understanding of what people ‘needed to know’.
‘Dust storm incoming,’ Judah said again. ‘Didn’t you say you were leaving?’
He was. He couldn’t wait around for a weather map that might never download. Besides, wasn’t as if he wouldn’t be able to see a dust storm coming. ‘See you in a week.’
‘The homestead’s all stocked up and ready for you.’
‘Aw, you shouldn’t have.’
‘I didn’t. Gert swung past last week.’
Gert had been Jeddah Creek station’s part-time housekeeper ever since Reid could remember. She served two other remote Outback stations as well, driving a circuit around the three properties every two weeks. When Reid and Judah had bought the Cooper place to the north it had seemed only smart to keep that rotation in place for as long as Gert wanted the work.
Reid nodded as he shoved his laptop and cord connections into his carryall and zipped it closed. He’d been flying helicopters since his teens and designing and building them since his early twenties. That ‘mosquito’ outside had a revolutionary engine design and a flight range more than double its closest competitor. ‘I always do.’