Home > The Heir: An Alpha Billionaire Romance

The Heir: An Alpha Billionaire Romance
Author: Ellie Danes


Chapter One

Riley

I leaned on the kitchen doorframe of the farmhouse and only heard echoes of both my past and of him, stirring in the other room.

This farmhouse was over one hundred years old. It felt strangely empty without my grandfather in it. Empty even though my ex-boyfriend was still living in one of the guest rooms.

This place just hadn’t felt the same since Grandpa died.

The kitchen was empty except for the pile of moving boxes next to me. The long farmhouse table with benches was gone. The sunny window that had warmed dozens of bright green plants was bare. I conjured the memory of copper pots hanging from the rack, the glass-fronted cupboards full of colorful plates, and the Sunday newspaper spread out between steaming cups of coffee, but it faded too fast.

I’d forgotten to drink coffee this morning.

"Wow, you're up early." Owen sidled past me and headed for the empty refrigerator. He pulled open the door and then scrubbed the back of his neck. "What's going on?"

"The same thing that's been happening for the past six months," I snapped.

"Oh, come on, Riley. We both know you want to stay here. Why are you torturing yourself like this?" Owen reached out to pull me into a hug.

I spun away. "No. You want to stay here. I need to move on. I need to make something out of my life. I promised I would."

With my back turned on the sunny kitchen, I could imagine my grandfather at the sink, and what he would look like if he were alive and watching this exchange. He would be trying not to eavesdrop, but he’d still be nodding vigorously in agreement with me.

“Never settle, Riley,” Grandfather said as he sat next to me on the swing. “You have too much to offer, just like your mother. She had such a kind heart, but she settled in life, settled for a man who did nothing but take.” He put his arm around me and pulled me closer. “Promise me, someday you’ll get away from here and make something of yourself. Enjoy life. Live your dreams.”

“I promise,” I said.

Owen’s voice pulled me out of my brief daydream. "Calm down, sweetheart. We've still got time." Owen snatched my purse off the moving boxes and fished out my wallet. "How about you run down to the corner store and grab some coffee and donuts?"

"And what are you going to do?" I asked, turning to him again. "Take these boxes out to the moving pods? Get your shit together? Have you even started packing?"

Owen shrugged and handed me a wad of my own cash. "Relax. You'll feel better after a little coffee."

I covered my face with both hands and then swept back my hair. "It's over, Owen. We broke up. The new owner moves into this house in two days. I'm leaving today, and you better move out, too, before you cause problems with the new owner."

The worn out words brushed past him like the light breeze from the farmhouse's open front door. He dropped the cash back in my purse and shook his head. "Riley, people do crazy things when they're grieving. I get that."

I marched down the hall away from him. The first-floor guest room was to the right of the entryway. I shoved the bedroom door hard against a pile of Owen's dirty clothes. I grabbed a flat moving box and popped it into shape. "I'll help you pack."

He took the box from me and tossed it on the unmade bed. "I know he called me lazy and I know he didn’t really like me, but your grandfather never really saw us together."

"He helped you move into this room. It was a favor to me. I should have known better." My throat was tight and the words were sharp.

"I know. He was wonderful to me —to us." Owen pulled me into a hug despite my stiffness. "Do you really think he would have let me move in if he didn't think we loved each other?"

A small voice inside reminded me my grandfather would have done anything for me, but Owen was right, too. I laid my head against his chest and squeezed my eyes shut. We had been in love, once. Now everything seemed to be ending.

I wrapped my arms around his narrow waist and hung on.

Owen brushed one big hand over my hair. "I love you, Riley. What would I do without you?"

His words made me feel like I was falling, but it wasn’t the kind of joyful falling. It was more of a panicked free fall over a cliff and into lava. I stepped back before he could pull me into another hug.

"What are you going to do?" I asked. "How did this suddenly become all about you?"

"Because I'm with you, Riley. We're in this together."

I shook my head hard and backed out of the room. "We're done, Owen. I can't keep doing this."

"Doing what?" He tripped over the dirty laundry, yelping, as he followed me into the foyer.

"Nothing! You're doing nothing, and I've been stuck doing nothing for the past year." My raised voice reverberated through the empty halls. He’d been my boyfriend for a year, yes, but before that he’d been one of my best friends. Now he was just a pain in my ass, and I couldn’t seem to get rid of him.

I had to get away from Owen, but my heart felt like it was tearing in half as I slammed through the screen door. How could I say a proper goodbye to the house with Owen there in the doorway, tugging at his ripped t-shirt, and trying to convince me to stay?

A line of moving boxes stretched down the front steps and onto the gravel driveway. I yanked open the door of the moving pod and started shoving the boxes inside. My back hurt, but I was glad because it dulled the sharp, empty feeling in my chest. I had kept so little of a full life. Now it would be put in storage until I found a new home. If I ever did.

I’d worry about that later. First, I’d go to see Anna’s graduation. Then, I’d figure out my life.

Owen didn’t stop me from packing the boxes into the pod. Hell, he didn’t even try to help. He shuffled onto the front porch and sat on the top step, watching. I padlocked the moving pod and headed to my grandfather's car without looking back. The door of the old station wagon creaked and the engine sputtered, but it started, and I made it to the end of the long, gravel driveway.

I tipped the rear view mirror up, away from the front steps, and studied the white farmhouse. Every pitch and eave of the roof, every corner and window, was familiar. I rubbed my aching chest. Spring was just coming to upstate New York, and there were patches of snow in the shadow of the chimney. The trees were bare and reflected sharply off the curtainless windows. This old house was waiting for new life, and so was I.

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