It’s not every day young women are caught up in a love triangle with two billionaires, but this is no everyday story. NEW YORK TIMES best selling author Skye Warren comes a smoking hot billionaire duet. Caught Between Two Billionaires is the unbeilable romantic entanglement of 2021 and has now been made available to read on the addictive romance reading app, Galatea.
Galatea has received recognition from BBC, Forbes and The Guardian for being the go-to place for explosive new romance novels. With over 400 books in its ever growing library, Galatea focusses on romance, fantasy and erotic novels and Caught Between Two Billionaires is set to be another Galatea smash hit.
Billionaire Christopher Bardot may lust after his step-sister, but he will never, ever act on it. He’s too busy keeping her out of trouble. Until his business partner Sutton Mayfair meets her. He determines to charm that pretty dress off her, and Christopher sees red.
This isn’t a love triangle. Only two people are in love. This isn’t a menage. Until the boundaries are pushed beyond bearing.
This isn’t a happy ending… Because someone will be left behind.
Chapter One: TRUST FUND
I learned early not to trust men or money. Both of them have a way of disappearing when you need them most.
There must have been some hope left, though. Because it’s my stepbrother who breaks me completely.
Salt hits my tongue before the driver opens the door, splashing the sleek leather interior of the limo with watercolor light. This dock homes the most expensive boats in Boston, outfitting them with caviar and champagne before they set sail.
The driver’s face is in shadow, sunshine forming a halo around him, but I already know he’s expressionless. Like that time I sweet-talked my way into the flight attendant’s lounge? He showed up in his black suit and bland smile, having searched the whole airport with security.
Like every part of my father’s life, he’s cold and predictable and expensive.
Gravel shifts beneath my sandals. I have to squint my eyes against the brightness. Seagulls swoop above me as I step onto the long deck, searching for their breakfast, completely oblivious to the thud of my heart against my ribs.
I would know which yacht belongs to Daddy even if I hadn’t seen it before. It’s the biggest one, the best one. The one that gleams the brightest, with Liquid Asset in bold letters.
The silhouettes of three people split the sunlight.
Three people, not one. Disappointment hitches my breath. What did I expect?
Last year Daddy’s new wife got so drunk she threw her champagne flute in the air. It came down in a splash of pale liquid and bubbling despair. After the steward mopped up the broken crystal, once the wife had gone belowdecks to sleep it off, Daddy sat looking out at the dark sea. I sat beside him. “Why?” I asked, unable to keep the question in. After so many years it came out. “Why do you keep getting married to these people?”
He had been a little drunk himself. Not enough to play volleyball with the drinkware, but enough that his eyes had gleamed with a distant sadness. He pulled me close, and I nestled against him the way I had as a little girl, breathing in the cedar-salt scent of him.
“I love your mother,” he said then, present tense. He loves her.
There shouldn’t have been enough of the wide-eyed little girl inside me to believe it meant my parents would get back together, not after ten years and even more spouses between them. They couldn’t even arrange my visits on spring break without an intermediary—me, of course. But maybe some part of me thought there wouldn’t be a new wife this year, after that confession.
Well, now I know for sure. There’s no chance of them being together, not even in the same room. But it would be nice if Daddy had stopped marrying his way through every divorcée in Boston’s upper crust. Like the limo that picks me up from the airport, there’s a new model every year.
Daddy smiles at me from the deck, and I can’t help the smile that meets his. Can’t help the little run I make down the rest of the deck before launching myself into his bear hug. We’re far from a happy family, but I always love seeing him. I may be fifteen years old, but the little girl inside me wears pigtails and wants to run to her daddy.
Even if it means putting up with the strangers he marries.
“How’s my girl?” he asks, tucking me into his side.
“Sleepy.” A guy in a rumpled suit had snored beside me the whole flight, which would have been more annoying if I hadn’t swiped his phone and read his e-mail using the plane’s Wi-Fi.
Someone had a secret girlfriend in New York City. At least she used to be secret. A few clicks had changed that as we were flying over the Atlantic.
Guilt still knots my stomach, but then I imagine my mother as that man’s wife. More likely she would be the secret girlfriend. Men shouldn’t be allowed to hurt her so much.
“You can take a nap after brunch,” says the woman I was hoping wouldn’t speak to me.
“Harper,” Daddy says, giving my arm a secret squeeze. He’s never forgotten the time I yelled, You aren’t my mommy. Never mind that I was seven years old. “This is Louise Bardot. Louise, this is Harper. Isn’t she beautiful?”
I’m surprised I don’t get frostbite, that’s how chilly this woman’s smile is. “Everything you said about her is true, Graham. She’s an absolute doll.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” I say just to see her dark eyes flash with rage.
Daddy’s smart enough to run a Fortune 500 company, but he can’t figure out when a woman is taking him for a run. Or maybe he knows, because he steers me away from her. “There’s someone else I want you to meet. This is Christopher.”
There have been other boys. Other girls. Most of the time we ignore each other, having bigger problems in our broken rich-kid lives than the stepsibling of the month. Sometimes one of them will take a swipe at me, with sharp words or a surprise shove as we pass in the hallway. A preemptive strike, so I know better than to mess with them.
I don’t want to mess with them. They’ll be gone by next year.
There’s no reason Christopher should be different.
Even in a burst of sunlight he manages to look like a shadow, with raven hair and onyx eyes. He’s taller than me, taller than Daddy. His arms solid and muscled beneath the thin cotton of his black T-shirt. He’s wearing jeans, technically, but nothing about him is casual. Not the way he holds himself, as if he needs to guard something—maybe himself. And definitely not the way he’s looking at me, intensity a physical brush against my skin, like he’s made of ocean and I’m sand, washed away, washed away, becoming smooth and pliable beneath him.
He inclines his head. “Your dad talks a lot about you.”
“He never mentioned you,” I say before I can stop myself. I would have remembered. He looks like some kind of conquering warrior, like a knight from the old medieval days. The kind who would have defended the peasants, but who would also have demanded his due.
Daddy makes a disapproving sound. “Harper.”
The corner of Christopher’s mouth turns up. “There’s not much to say.”
“Liar,” I say before I can stop myself. “I bet you’re top ten percent of your class.”
“Graduated valedictorian,” Daddy says, pride rich in his voice. “Now he’s in his first year at Emerson studying business with a 4.0 GPA. You could learn a thing or two from him.”
It’s really not surprising Daddy has a new wife every year. The only thing he knows how to do with the female of the species is make us mad. “He can get good grades, but can he paint a three-story Medusa on the wall of the gymnasium?”
A rueful laugh. “That little stunt cost me a brand-new science lab.”
Even two coats of thick white primer hadn’t completely covered the shape of her thick lips and wild snake hair, painted dark and angry in the small hours of the morning, using the folded-up accordion stands for scaffolding.
The new wife makes some kind of cooing sound, like a bird on the street, and Daddy goes to make her a drink. That leaves me and Christopher standing on the deck, the echo of his perfect GPA and my costly little stunt hanging in the air between us.
“Daddy seems to love you,” I say, unable to keep the venom from my voice.
He laughs softly, which infuriates me. “You’re one to talk.”
“He’s my dad. Of course he loves me.”
“Of course. That’s why you need to paint the gym to get him to notice you.”
“You don’t know anything about me.”
“So you aren’t a poor little rich girl?”
There’s a twinge in my chest. “We both know you’ll be gone next year. I’ll never see you again, and you’ll never see me, so let’s just stay out of each other’s way for the next week, okay?”
“Sure you wouldn’t rather learn a thing or two from me?” he asks, mocking.
“If I want to know how to make enemies and alienate people, I’ll call you.”
He blinks, and I think for a minute that I may have actually struck a nerve. Then his eyes harden. “I’ll stay out of your way,” he says, his voice so cold it makes me shiver even as the sun beats its heavy blanket on my bare shoulders.
It’s not the worst encounter I’ve ever had with a stepsibling, but it’s the first time I think I started it. Apparently I’m not above lashing out first, if the boy in question is smart and handsome enough.
Though he isn’t really a boy, this one. His first year at Emerson College. Business school. No wonder Daddy loves him. He probably thinks he’s found his true heir, because his wild daughter isn’t going to take over the family empire. That will never be me, but I was right about one thing.
Christopher will be gone next year.
They always are.
Chapter Two: FAMILY MONEY
I manage to avoid him the rest of the day, napping after brunch and ignoring him at dinner.
Our cabins are on the same floor, below the galley and above the master bedroom where our parents sleep. Thankfully he keeps his word and leaves me alone, even stepping aside to let me pass when I head back to the observation deck at midnight. I suck in a breath to make extra sure no part of my body touches his.
Wind whips at my hair, salty and cool, as I step out of the hold.
I grasp the cold metal railing and let it ground me. Why does Christopher bother me so much? In my pocket there are a couple of joints and a lighter. I light myself something to calm down, because I would rather not know the answer to that question.
In a practiced move I swing my leg over the railing and pull myself up. This is my favorite place to sit, from the time I was six years old and my nanny would fall asleep in the room next door. I can pretend the yacht isn’t here, pretend it’s just me and the ocean, rocking and rocking. The movement bounces me softly, my ass against the metal bar.
Weed makes it better, more like a meditation. The more drags I take, the more it feels like the whole world is rocking, and maybe I’m the only one sitting still.
The question comes out of the darkness behind me, and I jump, almost slipping off the rail. I manage to catch myself, clutching the metal bar with one hand and the joint with another. Survival and sanity, the two most important things in life. “Do you always hide in the shadows?”
I snort, which is a friendlier sound than I want to make with him. “That doesn’t surprise me.”
He takes a step forward and holds out his hand. “You’re making me nervous.”
“That’s kind of my standard operating procedure,” I say, ignoring his hand and taking another drag. “You get good grades. I get into trouble.”
“So the death wish thing…”
“Pretty accurate,” I say, wishing he would go belowdecks. And wishing he wouldn’t. There’s something complicated about him, the way he makes me want opposite things at the same time. “I don’t want to die, but I want to live. People call that having a death wish.”
With clear reluctance he pulls his hand back and settles his arms on the railing a few feet away from me. His eyes are trained on the dark horizon, but I can tell he’s still watching me. “This is what living means? Falling into the ocean with no one around to rescue you?”
I point at the choppy water. “The captain dropped anchor before dinner. We aren’t even moving. What do you think is going to happen?”
“For your information I’ve been coming up here by myself for a decade. No one ever comes with me. Haven’t fallen overboard once.”
“Then statistically speaking, you’re overdue.”
“Wow, you really are my dad’s heir.” Part of me is glad to have company on one of my nightly reveries. The other part of me feels the distinct intrusion of having a stranger in my space.
“Go back down and play with your calculator.”
There’s a pained pause. “I can’t. Not when I know you’re up here, getting high and hanging off a two-hundred-foot yacht. If something happened to you—”
“Nothing’s going to happen to me.” The sea takes that moment to bump bump bump me, my butt a full two inches off the rail with every pull of the yacht. I’m holding on tight so I don’t go flying, not forward or backward, my perch secure.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather paint a mythical creature on the observation deck?”
“I know you’re making fun of me right now, but no. I don’t have enough paint for that.”
“Can you just sit on a deck chair like a normal person?”
“Do I look normal to you? Don’t answer that.”
There’s a flash of white teeth. That’s how I know he’s smiling even though the rest of his face is in shadow. The smile is there one second and gone the next, as temporary as his presence in my life but strangely momentous. “I’m sorry I called you a poor little rich girl.”
“Are you just saying that so I’ll get off the railing?”
“Is it working?”
“No, but I appreciate the effort.”
And strangely that was true. Not many people have ever cared enough to follow me up to the deck at midnight, to make sure I didn’t fall into the ocean. Definitely not one of the stepsiblings, who would probably have given me a little push to get rid of the competition for the inheritance.
It makes me want to prove myself to him, to convince him that I’m worth saving even if he apparently already thinks so. “Medusa wasn’t for attention. I mean, she was, but not because I wanted Daddy to pay for a new science lab.”
“Then why’d you do it?”
“This girl got roofied at a party.”
He sucks in a breath. “Harper.”
“It wasn’t me.” I glance sideways to see his black eyes staring at me, so hard and fierce it almost seems possible that he can go back in time and rip the balls off a frat boy. What would he say if he knew my past? “It wasn’t me, I swear. I wasn’t even friends with her.”
After a searching look, he turns back to the ocean. “A girl got roofied.”
“Everyone knew about it, like the next day. One of the football players slipped it in her drink, and then the football team, I mean the entire football team, took advantage of her.”
“They suspended the guy who brought the roofie to the party, one of the players, but not the one who gave it to her—the quarterback. And not the rest of the team. A big game was coming up. You can’t play a game without all your players.”
He’s quiet a moment. “I’m sorry.”
For that I pass him the joint and watch while he takes a drag, his lips touching where mine have been. “The honor society set up a protest and everyone who went got suspended. And after all that there wasn’t a single word about the party in the local papers. The morning before the game there was going to be a big pep rally with the cheerleaders and the school’s donors. The press was going to be there. They had the janitors stay late shining the floor. Real press, from a newspaper that wouldn’t take money not to print the story.”
He passes the joint back to me. “So you painted Medusa.”
I have to blink away stupid tears. I don’t know why it would make me cry now, when it didn’t before. Not when I had to walk down the hallway next to boys who would hurt me if they had the chance. When I had to wear my skirt a certain length and my hair a certain way, as if I was the reason they were cruel.
“Did everyone turn to stone?”
I look down at the water, where I can see more white crests against the ink. It looks rough for a calm night. “The reporter took pictures and started asking questions, but he didn’t get the whole story that day. A week later the story was printed. The entire team was suspended. The headmaster was ready to suspend me too, but Daddy flew down and smoothed it over.”
“The science lab.”
“Which means I’m no better than those players, using my family money.”
His voice is soft enough I have to strain to hear it over the murmur of the waves. “You’re plenty better, Harper. Don’t you ever doubt that. You’re golden.”
My heart skips a beat. I should know better than to fall for a line, but this boy has me messed up. I’m caught by his eyes, which are somehow darker than the sea beneath us and infinitely more deep. I’m drowning there; that must be the reason I don’t feel it coming.
My hand finds cold metal, and I have a moment of sweet relief—until the slickness of sea spray coats my palm and I lose my grip. For a moment I’m suspended in air, my gaze still locked on his, my shock reflected in that black mirror.
And then I’m falling.
Chapter Three: DEADWEIGHT
My parents both tell the story of when I was two years old. One minute I was standing on the deck. The next I had fallen into the Massachusetts Bay. They both had a heart attack, or so the story goes, until they ran to the edge and saw me swimming around like a fish, more comfortable in water than on land.
I’m not sure whether I really learned to swim quite that naturally or why I was left to toddle around the docks without someone holding my hand, but I do love to swim. I’ve even jumped off the deck of the yacht into the water, too impatient to climb down the long swim steps.
I’m falling backward and twisted, unable to see how far I’m falling. Unable to see anything—but I can feel it, the slam of the surface at my back, the shock of freezing cold. And then it surrounds me, heavy weight dragging me down. The air leaves me in a rush; by the time I can take another breath, I’m fully submerged.
It’s pitch-black, impossible to know which way is up. Any direction I go could be taking me deeper. My throat burns with salt. Panic threatens to overwhelm me. My whole body clenches, fighting the instinct to breathe in deep and fill my lungs with water.
Something touches my side, and I squirm away in terror. Even stoned and in shock I remember there might be sharks. What if they heard me splashing? What if they sense my fear?
Except there’s a grip on my arm—a hand, not teeth. It drags me up in a whoosh of water, and we break the surface together.
The cold night air has never felt so good in my lungs. I gasp and gasp, unwilling to stop breathing after even a few seconds without it, unable to calm down.
Something is shoved under my arms. The white and red of a life preserver. Christopher must have thrown one down before he jumped in after me. In a kaleidoscope of stars the world comes into focus. The water, lapping at me like a living thing. Christopher, his dark hair wet, his grip on my wrist firm as he tows us toward the yacht. And the boat itself, waves drawing intermittent shadows across the white bow.
It might have been ten years before we reach the bottom of the swim steps. Or maybe only ten minutes. I’m deadweight on the life preserver, unable to kick even once to help make progress.
“Can you climb?” Christopher shouts.
I stare at him, unable to process the words. The cold has done something to my body, made me sluggish and stiff. It’s done the same thing to my brain.
“Let’s get you through the middle,” he says, reaching for the life ring. “I’ll make sure you’re secure and then go for help.”
Sudden panic is enough to jolt me out of my shock. “No.”
“It will only take a minute.”
He thinks I’m worried about being left alone in the water. More than that I’m worried about the disappointment on Daddy’s face. “I can climb,” I say, my voice shaky and thin.
Christopher stares at me for a moment, and when he speaks, his voice is softer. “He won’t be mad at you. You should hear the way he talks about you when you’re not there.”
That’s exactly why I can’t let him know I was smoking a joint and falling overboard. He wants me to be like Christopher—to be the valedictorian and go to business school. That’s something I’ll never be able to do for him, but at least I can spare him this. “Please.”
In that moment I realize he already knows this will be a secret. Our secret. Because he didn’t follow procedure. He should have shouted for help and hit the emergency button first. And he definitely shouldn’t have jumped in after me, not without someone else on deck to pull us both back up. An unbroken sky rises from the metal railing above us. The night is quiet except for our fast breathing and the lap of the water. “Thank you,” I whisper.
“I swear to God,” he says darkly, “if you fall and die, I’ll kill you myself.”
That would make me laugh if I were capable of doing anything other than pant. He makes me go first, though I’m not sure how he would manage to catch me if I fell. If there’s one thing I know by now, it’s that he would try. So I focus on each rung with every ounce of determination in me, grip the textured metal and pray there’s enough muscle left inside me to hold on. There are a thousand steps up the side of the yacht. A million of them. It’s my own personal journey to the promised land, and it tests my determination with every aching pull.
When I reach the top, I push myself through the railing and collapse onto the deck.
A warm body tumbles beside me, but I can’t look sideways. There’s only the stars, unblinking. Then a face appears above me. Christopher, looking wet and strong and grim. “We should go back to shore. The fall. The cold. You should have a doctor look at you.”
“Harper. You’re freezing.”
There’s no way to argue that point, not when I’m shaking so hard my teeth are chattering. I think that’s a good sign. I read that somewhere. It means the body is warm enough to shiver, but I can’t get the words out through the violent movement.
He curses again and disappears from my view. I close my eyes in quiet despair. He’s gone to get Daddy, and there’s nothing I can do to stop him. The week we would have spent at sea, now we’ll spend it in some fancy emergency room even though I’m fine.
Not enough time has passed when hands force their way under me. Then I’m lifted, tucked close to a body as wet as mine but so much warmer. Christopher carries me belowdecks, turning carefully to the side so I don’t bump against the narrow walls.
He lays me down on my bed, and my arms are made of lead. My legs might as well be anvils, that’s how useful they would be if I were in the water right now. I’m helpless in front of this person who should be my enemy. Poor little rich girl, he called me, and I want to cry and rage because he’s right about me.
His hands move to the button of my jeans, and I suck in a breath. My mind was on sharks and freezing water, but now I’m thinking about roofies. I’m thinking about a girl who can’t protect herself. About Medusa.
“Christopher,” I whisper, though I’m not sure what I’m asking.
He glares at me, his eyes black with a strange heat. “You have two options. Either I call your dad here or I make sure you’re warm. You pick.”
You pick. In those two words he restores my faith in him—strange, because I wouldn’t have said I had faith at all. I know I need to get out of my wet clothes, and my body is too hurt by the freezing cold to be useful. “Don’t look.”
After a beat he nods, facing away from me. Then he turns off the dim bedside lamp, bathing us only in moonlight from the port window. He undresses me with clumsy efficiency, his fingers clearly numb and struggling against the waterlogged fabric. I feel somehow colder by the time he’s done, the damp clothes in a heap on the floor, my naked skin exposed to the room.
And then I watch while he undresses himself, faster and rougher with his body than he was with mine. His clothes land on top of mine, and then he pulls us both under the covers.
He’s naked. The thought is enough to make me blush, even when there shouldn’t be any energy in my body for such an act. But he holds me close, there are two bodies here, clinging together for warmth, creating a little cocoon. Exhaustion makes my eyelids heavy.
“One of my mom’s husbands got into bed with me once.”
Every part of his body becomes stiff. “What the fuck?”
“It was bad. Not like this. This is nice.”
“I swear to God, Harper.”
“It’s okay,” I say, the words slurred together. “I told Mom the next day and we moved out of his mansion, even though it was really nice. He owned this big job website. Don’t tell Daddy. He would freak out even though it was a long time ago.”
He holds me tighter, his face pressed to my hair. “I’m not going to touch you. I’m only staying here until you don’t feel like an ice cube, and then I’m moving to the chair.”
“Thanks,” I say, the word coming out long and slow.
He sighs. “Go to sleep, Harper. And for the love of God, don’t die.”
A death wish, he’d called it. “Want to live,” I mumble before the dreams take me down. It’s only later that I think that everything changed that night. Not because I fell into the bay or because he pulled me out. Because I confessed that in my sleepy-shocked state. It set us on the course to ruin, what made him the white knight to my damsel in distress.
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