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The Billionaire Beast

By:Jackie Ashenden

ped. Occasionally her head would turn as she looked around her, but that was the only movement she made. She sat there, very, very still.

He frowned at the screen, caught despite himself.

There was something about her, maybe that stillness or the way she had her hands clasped together, or maybe it was simply the aura of reserve and containment she projected. Whatever it was, it intrigued him.

Pressing a couple of buttons on his keyboard, he zoomed the camera in on her so he could get a better look. Her attention had dropped to her hands, and she was now staring at them as if fascinated. Now that he looked closer, he could see the faint impression of freckles across her nose, hidden by her makeup, and that her lashes were long and thick. Her pretty mouth was moving ever so slightly, as if she was saying a prayer under her breath.

Nero leaned back in his chair and glanced at her resume once again.

On paper, she looked good, and certainly his first impression of her was that she seemed acceptable at least. A bit young maybe. Certainly, he’d had better luck with older assistants who didn’t melt into a puddle of tears at the first hint of criticism or get incensed by his apparently “outrageous” needs. He’d had one woman—she’d been in her late fifties—who’d managed to stay with him a whole three months without complaint, eventually leaving because he’d asked her to order him a selection of women for the night and she’d refused, saying she hadn’t been hired to be the “madam of a brothel.”

Nero had fired her on the spot.

He wanted what he wanted when he wanted it, and if his assistants either couldn’t or wouldn’t do their jobs and assist him, then he got rid of them. No second chances.

Be interesting to see what Miss Phoebe Taylor would do with a request like that. Or, in fact, any of the other requests he made of his assistants, some of which had caused a number of them to leave within hours of being hired. Many only lasted a week; rarely did they last a month.

Hiring new people was starting to get old.

Of course, there was the option of being a nicer employer, as one of his earlier assistants had tried to tell him, but he really didn’t understand what she meant by that. He suspected it had something to do with changing his behavior. Fuck, like that was ever going to happen. He was the way he was, and he wasn’t about to change.

Getting rid of Phoebe’s resume from the screen, Nero brought up another document—the list of other candidates for the position.

It was short.

He scowled at it, irritated. His options were getting narrower and narrower and he didn’t like it one bit. Even the temping agencies wouldn’t take him on as a client these days, not since he’d blown through five temps in one month, reducing every single one to tears within hours of being hired.

Christ. People were so weak and fragile these days, it was a constant annoyance to him. Still, if the worst came to the worst and this girl ended up only lasting hours or—if he was lucky—a week, he could up the salary again. Money tended to solve most problems in his experience, and it wasn’t as if he didn’t have plenty of it. Being the illegitimate son of Cesare de Santis, the owner of DS Corp, one of America’s biggest and richest defense and protection companies, wasn’t without its perks. Even if his father was one of the biggest pricks on the planet.

Up on the screen, Phoebe Taylor raised her head from her hands and took another look around the room. A small crease had appeared between her brows.

She was probably wondering how long he was going to keep her waiting.

The answer was as long as he fucking well felt like it.

Then again, maybe he should get this interview over and done with as soon as possible. Might as well see if she was as good in person as she looked on paper.

Nero pushed the button on the intercom again. “Take her into my office, James.”

“Very good, Mr. de Santis.”

Nero lounged back in his chair, watching as James entered the sitting room, going over to where Phoebe Taylor sat. She gave him a pleasant smile, betraying no sign of impatience, all calm self-possession, as if she could have quite happily sat there for another couple of hours.

Fuck. Maybe he should let her. Maybe he should have tested her further, the way he did sometimes with people who intrigued him.

Ah, but there was plenty of time for that.

In the privacy of his control room, Nero bared his teeth as Phoebe disappeared through the sitting-room doorway, on her way to his office.

Looked like his day was just about to get interesting.

* * *

There were two chairs in Nero de Santis’s office. A huge black-leather executive chair that sat behind the dark oak monolith of his desk, and a much smaller, much more uncomfortable-looking one that sat in front of it.

Phoebe didn’t need to guess which one was meant for her. She walked straight toward the uncomfortable-looking one as soon as de Santis’s butler showed her into his office.

And, indeed, as she sat down, it was as uncomfortable as it looked.

Then again, she’d spent much of the last two years sitting around in many different sorts of uncomfortable chairs, so it wasn’t anything she wasn’t used to.

She was used to waiting, too.

The office was deathly silent, not even the noise from the city penetrating from outside.

Phoebe folded her hands in her lap, resolutely ignoring the flutter of nervousness in her stomach. Just like she resolutely ignored the doubt that was also sitting there.

Before she’d gotten the interview for the job, she’d asked around the few job contacts she had left, trying to get what information she could about New York’s most reclusive billionaire and the position she’d seen advertised on an online job site. A position with a salary that seemed almost . . . obscene.

And then her friends had told her why the money was obscene. Because Nero de Santis was the biggest bastard to walk the earth and