The Billionaire's Virgin(9)

By: Jackie Ashenden

She didn’t let it get to her. Days were like that sometimes, and there was nothing to do but keep moving on, keep the thing that kept her going clear in her head.

An apartment of her own. It didn’t have to be big, hell, even one room was more than she had now after all. But something that was hers, that had a door she could close and a lock. A place that was warm and dry and safe, where she didn’t have to worry about being moved on or attacked or waking up soaking wet, all of which had happened to her at one time or another.

Sometimes, like now when it was cold and she was hungry, she wished she hadn’t left her grandmother’s, but not very often. The streets were safer in many ways and they sure gave her hell of a lot less cigarette burns.

That afternoon she stopped by the shelter, wanting to see if Tony had received any mail for her. They were trying to get her a birth certificate, but weren’t having much luck since she didn’t know any of her mother’s details. She’d left Mia with her grandmother when she’d only been seven and her grandmother hadn’t exactly been forthcoming. In fact, the only details Mia had were that her mother’s name was Rose and she’d been born somewhere up north. She didn’t even know her surname since her grandmother never spoke about her daughter.

But there was no mail, Tony giving her the worried, sympathetic look that always made her feel unsettled. “I’m doing a search on birth records for your mom, Mia, but without a surname or a date, or even a state, it’s going to be real tough going.”

There was one alternative of course. That was to try and track her grandmother down, see if she was still alive, and then get the details off her. But Mia would rather have died than go back to that old bitch, so she only stared back at Tony and nodded. “I know,” she said. “I’ll see if I can remember anything.”

She hadn’t yet though, and she knew she probably wouldn’t. But that didn’t keep her from trying anyway, because once she stopped trying she may as well be dead. And there was no way she was dying on the streets, no fucking way.

“Hey,” Tony said as she was on her way out. “Mr. de Santis was asking after you. Do you know why?”

“Mr. de Santis?” she asked automatically. “Who’s that?”

“You don’t know him? The guy who’s been volunteering at the shelter. The rich one.”

There could only be one man Tony meant. Blue eyes, black hair, clean suit . . .

Mia blinked, shook her head, and walked out, her heart beating faster.

He knew her name and now, she knew his. Of course she had his beanie, which meant he still had more of a hold on her than she on him, but still. It was something more than what she had before, a little piece of power.

That night she peered through the windows of the shelter and sure enough, there he was. Mr. de Santis. It was chowder night and he was ladling out chowder, smiling at the people in front of him. But that intense, demanding blue gaze of his kept searching the crowd, looking for something . . .

You. He’s looking for you.

She felt breathless. Afraid. But not the kind of fear that came with creepy dudes following her and shouting disgusting things, or the couple of times drugged-up assholes had pulled a knife on her and taken her things. No, this was different and she couldn’t put her finger on why.

It made her even more afraid, so she didn’t go in. Going hungry for a night wouldn’t kill her, though if it got any colder, she was going to have to rethink things.

Sure enough, the next day it did get colder and she was forced to sidle in the doors of the shelter, needing food to keep her warm for the night. She was almost afraid to look at the volunteers manning the food stations, but she forced herself. And blinked.

Because he wasn’t there.

That’s good, isn’t it?

Yeah, it was good. It was very good. Now she didn’t have to deal with that weird feeling inside her, now she could feel safe in her anonymity. Yet when she went up to get her food, she felt . . . strange. Angry almost. Angry that he wasn’t there.

Irritated with herself, she ate her food and got out of there ASAP. He’d be back the next night probably. Or if he wasn’t, it meant he’d disappeared back into his stupid penthouse or wherever the hell people like him went back to. Which was a good thing, a really, really good thing.

He wasn’t there the next night or the next, and she knew she’d been right. He’d finished his volunteer work and had gone back to the towers people like him lived in. She’d never see him again, which was perfect. She didn’t need people like him noticing her. She didn’t need people noticing her period.