The Billionaire's BodyguardBy: Erin M. Leaf
Alex Roman opened his front door, paused, then stepped back resignedly. His best friend Jesse barreled past him and into the house with his military duffel over his shoulder. It bulged at the seams, as if Jesse had stuffed every article of clothing he owned inside and then added an extra pair of pants just for kicks. In his hands, a box overflowed with more belongings.
“I can’t do it anymore, Alex. I just can’t,” Jesse said, awkwardly shrugging the bag onto the marble floor of the foyer while simultaneously trying to juggle the box.
Alex winced as his right shoulder twinged in sympathy. He didn’t know elbows could turn that direction.
“She’s making me crazy,” Jesse continued, the box tilting dangerously. He frowned and set it down next to the duffel. “She told me that I was ‘emotionally unavailable,’ but what does she care? She dumped me six months ago. We’re not even dating anymore.” He grabbed his hair with both hands and made a face that had Alex smiling despite the late hour, the weird luggage, and Jesse’s total lack of consideration for the fact that other people sleep at three a.m.
“And really, who says that?” Jesse continued, oblivious to Alex’s amusement. “She probably lifted that phrase from some chick flick. Or a romance novel, or something. She can’t even argue without quoting from someone else!”
“Why didn’t you just use your key to let yourself into my house?” Alex asked mildly, cutting Jesse off in mid-rant. He closed and locked the front door, then reset the alarm.
“Key?” Jesse blinked at him. “My hands were full. No way I could’ve gotten my keys out. I could barely ring the doorbell.”
“It’s the middle of the night,” Alex pointed out.
Jesse shrugged. “So?”
“So, maybe I was asleep.”
“You never sleep.” Jesse made a face. “Well, not at night anyway. Aren’t the overseas markets trading?”
Alex rolled his eyes and walked away, heading toward his study. Jesse was right. He’d been trading, not that it mattered. He’d just finished up for the night when the doorbell rang.
“I can stay, right?” Jesse called. “You’re not going to kick me out, are you?”
Alex smiled to himself as he walked through the elaborate wooden doors that led into his oversized and rather opulent office. He stared at the marble fireplace and shook his head. He hated it. He’d always hated it. The pink stone made the stained walnut paneling look diseased, but it came with the house, so he had to live with it, along with the pretentious vases and expensive rugs. He far preferred the sleek modernity of his office in Manhattan, but he couldn’t destroy the house he’d inherited just because he didn’t like a few things. His grandfather would roll in his grave if he renovated too much. Hmm, but maybe a few things here and there would be okay. It’s my house now, after all.
“No, I’m not going to kick you out. You don’t even have to ask. You know that,” Alex replied, dismissing memories of his grandfather. He’d loved that old man more than anyone, but maybe it was time to get over his death. It had been six years, after all. He walked across a priceless Persian carpet to his grandfather’s hand-carved desk. His laptop sat on top, sleek and metallic, looking like something from outer space in comparison to the warm, gleaming wood. He leaned on the desk and tapped a few commands into the computer, shutting it down.
“Um, well, I might be here longer than usual,” Jesse said.
Alex looked up from the screen. “Longer than a few days?” That would be nice, but definitely unusual.
Jesse looked embarrassed. “There’s six months left on the lease of my apartment.”
“So, I can’t kick her out. Do you know how hard it is to find housing in Manhattan?” Jesse dropped into the leather sofa in front of Alex’s desk and swung a leg up over the arm insouciantly. He looked like a cat marking his spot: all graceful muscle and lazy attitude.
Alex forced his eyes away from his friend’s toned arms. “Yes, I do know, but it’s your apartment, not hers. You got it before you went into the Air Force.” He didn’t understand Jesse’s dilemma. “You had it long before you met her. Plus, she’s not your girlfriend anymore. Ergo, not your problem. Just tell her she has to go. Give her a week’s notice.”