The Billionaire's Virgin(11)

By: Jackie Ashenden


“The shelter’s closed,” he said, unnecessarily when it was perfectly fucking obvious the shelter was closed.

Her head turned, her gaze directed at some point on the pavement off to his left. She didn’t say anything.

Jesus, could she even speak? Perhaps she couldn’t. Perhaps she was deaf, or maybe she couldn’t speak English.

“You understand, right?” he persisted. “There’s another shelter that’s open, though. The address is on that notice. I can take you there if you—”

“No.” Her voice was light and husky, as if she didn’t use it very often.

He blinked at the interruption. Okay then. So she could speak. “No, what? No you don’t want to go or no you don’t want me to take you there?”

She gave him the briefest of glances through her lashes. It wasn’t flirtatious in any way and yet somehow he felt the brush of her attention like a flame against his skin.

“Both,” she said.

Right. Well, that was clear. Sadly, though, she wasn’t going to get her way. “The shelter’s not far and I have a car,” he said. “I can give you a ride.”

She shook her head, looking off to the side again. “I need to go.”

“Yeah. You need to go to the shelter with me.”

“No.”

Stubborn little thing, wasn’t she?

Xavier put his hands in the pockets of his black cashmere overcoat. “No is not an option, sweetheart.”

She stiffened, giving him another of those lightning-fast glances. “I’m not your sweetheart. Don’t call me that.”

Mesmerized, he watched as color flood into her small, narrow face, a flare of that bright, intense energy he’d seen in her leaping high. It was fascinating, beautiful. Where had she come from? And why wasn’t she the same as all those other beaten-down people? That fierceness, that determination . . . Where did she get it?

“Okay,” he said after a moment. “You’re not my sweetheart. You’re Mia. And I’m—”

“Mr. de Santis. Yes, I know.”

He stared at her. “How do you know?”

“Tony told me who you were. He told me that you were asking about me.” She kept gazing off to the side, as if she didn’t want to look directly at him.

Ah. Tony must be the volunteer he’d been talking to, the one who’d been suspicious of him. “I was only concerned for you,” he explained, not sure why he was justifying himself when he’d never felt the need to before. “It’s cold. I didn’t want you out there in the snow.”

Again, she said nothing, her hand white-knuckled on her backpack as if she was afraid he might take it off her. Not that he would since it looked filthy and probably had nothing in it at all.

You dick. That’s probably all she’s got in the world.

Xavier frowned, struck once again by the complete vulnerability of this woman. By the fact that if she was homeless, she would have nothing but the clothes she wore and whatever was in that backpack. No house, no car, no things. And it was highly unlikely she had a job either. All she had was that god-awful overcoat, that hideous orange hat and that shabby, ragged backpack.

She should be desperate. She should be despairing. And yet . . . she just fucking wasn’t. She was . . . full of that thing he didn’t have a name for.

She’s a survivor.

Yeah, she was. But he couldn’t let her go off into the night, not without helping, not without doing something for her. He didn’t know why he felt that way. He just . . . did. And quite frankly, if she didn’t want his help, that was too goddamn bad. She was going to get it whether she liked it or not.

“You can call me Xavier,” he said into the silence. “And it’s too cold to be standing around here arguing. How about you get into the car and we can argue in there about which shelter you want to go to.”

She shook her head once, quickly.

Xavier sighed. “Get in the car, Mia. I won’t hurt you, I promise.”

Wind swirled the snow falling around them, sliding under the thick wool of his coat and making him shiver. Christ, it was cold. And he was wearing an ultrawarm coat, so god only knew how cold she must be.

He found himself staring at her hands. She didn’t have any gloves on. No wonder her fingers were white. She must be fucking freezing. Moving forward without thinking, he reached for her hand, only for her to rear back sharply, banging up against the glass of the shelter doors.

Instantly he stopped.

She had her head tipped back, staring at him full in the face and there was a half-scared, half-determined light in her black eyes. “Touch me and I’ll fucking kill you,” she said fiercely. Then she moved, reaching for something at her ankle. When she straightened, steel gleamed in her hand.