A waitress struggling to take care of her sick brother is made an offer she can’t refuse. If she marries a rich and domineering CEO and gives him an heir within a year, he will pay her one million dollars and help her brother get the surgery he needs. Will life in the castle be pure torture, or can she find happiness? Maybe even love?
Age Rating: 18+
My eyes scanned the contents of the medical report, my heart sinking with each word. I could not make sense of the jargon, but with my brother’s heart condition, I was able to understand the gist of it.
And it did not look good.
“Wh—what does it mean?” I asked, even though I already knew what the doctor was going to say.
He fixed me with a gentle stare, his light blue eyes shining with compassion. “You don’t have to worry, Miss Gardner, yet. However, the sooner you get this surgery done, the better.”
“I understand,” I muttered, willing my heart to slow down. “But there’s still time, right?”
“Of course. But the more you delay, the more difficult it’ll be for him in the long run,” he stated.
I nodded. “I understand. Thank you, doctor. Thank you so much.” I stood up and promptly exited the doctor’s office and into the waiting area, not sure whether to feel relieved or worried.
You need to be worried. Extremely worried. You need to get him surgery which you don’t have the money for. How are you going to do it?
The realization had me stopping and holding on to the wall next to me because my knees were threatening to give out from under me.
Tears stung my eyes, but I did my best to stay strong. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t be weak. I sat down on a nearby chair, waiting until my body returned to normal.
The hospital waiting area wasn’t busy at the time of the day. There were a few people scattered all around, and a couple of ladies sat next to me, busy talking to each other. No one knew me. No one was going to bother me. I would sit here for a few minutes and then go home.
“Are you going to go?” The woman to my immediate right said to her friend. Dark hair flowed down her back like a curtain, and she was wearing an olive green dress.
“I want to, don’t you? I mean, he’s the most eligible bachelor in the country. I would love to be his wife and live a life of luxury,” her friend replied, who, upon a covert glance, turned out to have dark blonde hair and was clad in a floral printed dress with a pair of pink wedges.
“As much as I love a life of luxury, I have no desire to have children. So I think I’ll pass,” green dress said.
“Not even for a million pounds? I would sell my soul for a million pounds, and he is only asking for a child. I think I’ll do it,” pink wedges said.
A million pounds? Who? What? How?
“Um, excuse me?” I said to them. “Forgive me, I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. Is there some sort of a lottery happening?” I could make out the gist of their conversation, but I didn’t want to assume anything, and a million pounds was no less than the lottery for me.
Green dress gave me a friendly smile and rolled her eyes, but it was the lady with the pink wedges who said, “If you call marrying the sexiest man alive and giving him a child in return for a million pounds a lottery, then sure, I guess there is a lottery happening.”
“Pardon me?” Was she serious? Who would do that and why?
“Here, read it for yourself.” Before I could say anything, the lady thrust a newspaper in my hands and pointed at the advertisement, which had been circled in red.
I quickly read through the advertisement, feeling perplexed by the minute. I stared at the strange advertisement again, still wondering how it could be real.
Gideon Maslow, world-renowned billionaire entrepreneur, owned the world’s biggest business empire. A man so rich and powerful, he was practically royalty.
The UK’s sexiest man alive, ten years in a row.
And he wanted a wife, a woman who could provide him with an heir for his vast kingdom in less than a year. And this marriage would only last for one year.
And what would the woman get in exchange for her body and soul, rented out for twelve months?
One million pounds in cold, hard cash.
After the baby is born, you’re expected to give away your baby, shake hands, and walk away flush with cash.
What kind of girl would agree to such an advertisement?
Well, I would.
It was only for a year. I could be a stranger’s wife for a year.
What a disgusting pig!”
I winced and looked up as yet another beautiful woman stalked out of the CEO’s office, her face red with fury. I could tell she’d been crying. Her mascara was running down in thin black streams while her gray eyes were bloodshot.
The woman stormed toward the lone elevator on the floor and stabbed the call button repeatedly until the elevator arrived. She gave the room full of waiting women one last disgusting stare and scoffed. But as the elevator door slid shut, I swear I heard a muffled sob escape her.
Dear lord, could he really be so bad? I fidgeted uncomfortably. Perhaps I should’ve stayed home instead of bothering to come down here for an interview.
That’s how Gideon Maslow was planning on choosing his bride. And I still couldn’t understand why he was doing this.
As far as I knew, the man could have any woman he wanted, so why was he planning to marry a complete stranger?
“Number twenty-seven, Ms. Hannah, Mr. Maslow will see you now,” the bored lady at reception said in a monotone.
A lady with jet-black hair and green cat-like eyes stood up gracefully and smoothed her already smooth pink dress. Pasting on a seductive smile, she confidently sashayed inside the office. My confidence faltered for the twenty-seventh time as she marched across the waiting room and into Gideon Maslow’s office, self-assuredness plastered on her face.
I knew I was nothing compared to these women.
Even though I wore my best dress and coat for this, I wondered if I even stood a chance…
I had absolutely zero interest in the man himself, I was interested in what he was offering. Money.
Seeing the hefty amount the man was paying was the only reason I was sitting outside his office, waiting for my turn, ignoring the pangs of anxiety attacking my stomach.
When I saw the amount, I knew the money would be enough for my brother’s surgery, and I needed to do everything I could to make sure Mr. Maslow picked me to be his wife.
All I had to do was give him an heir, and then I would be able to save my little brother’s life from his horrible disease.
The door opened once again, and the lady, Hannah, stormed out looking livid. Her lips were pulled back in a snarl. Grunting angrily, she stormed toward the elevator.
“That tosser rejected me because I’m not a virgin! What planet is he from?!” she shouted, earning gasps from a few women.
The elevator doors opened, and Hannah wasted little time in getting in. Once the elevator doors closed, the chatter of women erupted all of a sudden around me.
Women were talking amongst themselves, and I heard a couple of them say how they weren’t virgins and didn’t expect Gideon Maslow to be so incredibly backward.
However, I could feel my chest relaxing, and it was only because I had a secret that I’d kept with me since high school.
For a long time, I’d been ashamed of it, but now it just might be my saving grace.
I was still a virgin.
But still, there must be at least one other virgin here with me. This couldn’t really improve my chances that much.
“Number twenty-eight, Ms. Alice. Mr. Maslow will see you now,” the lady at the reception said in the same flat voice.
My heart started thumping and I was sure I couldn’t stand up, let alone go present myself to the most powerful man in the United Kingdom.
What if this was all some sick joke? A twisted game played by the wealthy to torment us?
I couldn’t believe I had resorted to marrying a complete stranger to get the money. But I wasn’t doing it for me, I was doing it for my brother.
Forcing myself to take deep breaths, I slowly stood up, trying my best to look graceful, doing it just like the other women, but I knew I wasn’t exactly successful. Tightening the belt of my coat around my waist, I clutched my file to my chest and slowly walked toward the wooden door that might or might not help save my brother’s life, my heart hammering against my ribcage. Taking a deep breath, I gently turned the knob and entered Gideon Maslow’s office.
The moment I stepped inside, my jaw dropped to the floor.
The office was beautiful to say the least.
Huge floor-to-ceiling windows looked out over London, towering over everybody else in the city. The only piece of furniture in the room was a long mahogany table that must have cost about a billion pounds.
And at the other end of the table sat the most intimidating men I’d ever seen.
All of them were wearing expensive designer suits, and they stared at me like I was nothing more than dirt coating the bottom of their million-pound loafers.
My eyes scanned all of them in the deathly silence that filled the room.
The oldest man had dark brown hair, which was graying slightly at the edges, and piercing brown eyes. His face was hard, with only a few wrinkles that hinted at his older age. Next to the oldest man sat a young man who looked no older than twenty.
His face was smooth, and he had a lean body. Across from him was a man with curly brown hair and soft brown eyes. His handsome face was sporting a soft smile, which strangely put me at ease. He looked a little bulky, as if he worked out a lot. Then my eyes found the man at the head of the table and my mouth went dry.
It was him.
The pictures and tabloids did not do him justice. He had a sharp jawline, thick brown hair, and piercing sea-green eyes. Just looking at him had a shiver running down my spine.
The man looked deadly, ready to strike.
I knew he was the kind of man who wouldn’t hesitate to take down his opponent, no matter who it was. I stared into his eyes and he stared back, his gaze full of nothing but ice and venom. I might as well have been making eye contact with a tiger. A sexy tiger.
“Well? We don’t have all day,” he finally said. His voice was rich and smooth, like melted chocolate, but he spoke with a dangerous tint in his tone. It was a voice that sent shivers down my spine for some reason.
I scurried to take a seat in the empty chair at the opposite end of the table, my heart threatening to burst out of my chest.
Gideon picked up my CV and scanned it, his eyes narrowing. I looked at the other four men, but they remained silent, staring coolly at me.
“What’s your name?” Gideon finally asked.
“Alice Gardner, sir,” I answered politely, digging my nails into my palms to stop my heart from pounding.
“Where are you from?” he questioned.
“East End London, sir,” I replied.
His eyebrows raised, disdain evident across his features.
“You’re poor,” he stated. His eyes were hard as he scrutinized me, making me feel like a rat under observation.
“I-I—” I was at a loss for words. I couldn’t deny the fact that I was indeed very poor. But hearing it said in such a derogatory manner made me feel stupid for ever thinking about coming here.
“Your hair color, is it natural?” he asked suddenly.
Running a shaking hand through my wavy, strawberry-blonde hair, I nodded. “Yes, it’s natural. My mum had strawberry-blonde hair as well,” I answered with what I hoped was a smile.
“Why did you come here?” Gideon barked, his voice icy.
My hand instantly flew to a necklace my brother gave me as I felt overwhelmed sitting in front of these rich men. “I need the money,” I answered honestly.
“Wow, honest much? And here we thought you would profess your undying love for my brother,” one of the other men asked with an amused smile.
Gideon shot him a murderous look and the man went silent instantly.
Even his family bends to his will. Perhaps it’s better if I don’t marry him.
Lowering my gaze as a blush colored my cheeks, I continued fiddling with my necklace.
“With all due respect, sir, how can I profess my love for a man I had no clue even existed until two days ago?” I blurted out then cursed myself for babbling.
“Why do you want the money?” Gideon questioned, his voice slightly softer. I even dared look up at him. Those eyes seemed to hold me like a tractor beam.
“My little brother has a hole in his heart, and I need money for his surgery,” I responded, my fingers not leaving my necklace.
“So you’re willing to marry me and provide me with an heir in order to get money for your little brother’s surgery, is that right?” he asked, as if confirming what I’d just said.
I nodded, hoping he would agree to the marriage. “Yes, sir.”
“What makes you think I would marry you?” he inquired arrogantly.
“After going through your information, I’m not really convinced that I want you as my wife. Both of your parents died due to heart disease, and your brother is also suffering from a heart disease, which means, in the future, there is a strong possibility that you, too, will suffer from heart disease, and I don’t want my child to have a defective heart,” he stated.
“It’s not necessarily true that I’ll suffer from heart disease,” I argued.
“Yes, you might not, but there are also other things. You are only a high school graduate, which means you’re not highly educated either.
“You work at a trashy bar and at a gas station, meaning an unhygienic environment, meaning your body is flowing with all sorts of toxic chemicals that you’ve inhaled, not to mention the fact that you live in East End London, a place for the poor,” he countered, making me feel smaller with every word.
I felt the color rising in my cheeks, but I did my best to respond evenly.
“The only reason I didn’t go to college was because both my parents passed away and I had to take care of my younger brother, and-”
“-Don’t interrupt me,” said Gideon, his voice rising. Anger coursed through me. Just because he had money didn’t mean he could tell me what to do.
“Tell me, have you ever eaten at an expensive restaurant? Have you ever been to a charity event?” he questioned.
“I don’t have that kind of money, sir, and if I did, the first thing I would do is get my brother the surgery he needs.”
Gideon scoffed and stood up. His face was like stone. “There is nothing about you, other than the fact that you’re a virgin, appealing to me. Not your genetics, not your financial status, nothing. I’m looking for a woman with class and status, all traits which you utterly lack.
“I’m not looking for a one-night stand; I’m looking for a wife, and I just don’t see a wife in you.”
I stood up too, my whole body shaking with rage now. I needed this man’s money, but I was too angry to think straight, to make any sort of coherent argument to him.
“If you become my wife, I am going to be your priority, not your brother, not anyone else, me, do you realize that?” Gideon questioned.
“You will never be my priority. How can you be when I don’t know you, let alone love you?” I snarled back, anger getting the better of me.
For a moment, we stared at each other, both breathing hard. There was pure fire coursing between us. I had half a mind to apologize and convince him to rethink but the anger blazing inside me prevented me from doing so.
Then Gideon shook his head, and I knew that there was no convincing him. My heart sank. I had to find some other way to get the money.
I couldn’t let Nico, my little brother, my only family, suffer for much longer. I was just going to have to find a decent-paying job.
“I’m sorry for wasting your time,” I said and turned to leave the room, head held high.
I was nearly at the door when I felt a strong hand clamp onto my shoulder. Gideon turned me around to face him.
“I have... another proposition for you, Ms. Gardner,” he offered, his voice silky, like a predator about to strike.
I gulped. What could that mean?
“W-what?” I asked, unsure I heard him correctly.
“You short-circuited her brain, Gideon,” one of the other men laughed.
Gideon ignored him. His eyes locked only on me.
“You’ll get the money you need.” The steely look in his eyes made me nervous.
I stared at him suspiciously. There had to be a catch.
“What do I have to do?” I asked.
He smiled, but it wasn’t a kind smile. It looked almost vicious. His eyes were calculating, measuring my reaction. “Stand in front of me.”
I did as he asked, my heart hammering inside of my chest. He towered over me, and I had to crane my neck to look up at him.
I was so close I could smell his cologne. I could see the muscles underneath his finely tailored suit. His sea-green eyes glared down at me, his gaze so domineering it made me feel small and vulnerable.
I suppressed a shiver. He was the UK’s sexiest man alive for a good reason.
And then he said something that made me gasp.
“On your knees,” he ordered.
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