Home > Billionaire Unmasked ~ Jason (Billionaire's Obsession #6)(11)

Billionaire Unmasked ~ Jason (Billionaire's Obsession #6)(11)
Author: J.S. Scott

“What were you doing in Vegas? It’s apparent to me now that you weren’t there for a bachelorette party like you told me you were when we ran into each other. You would have been worried about contacting whoever you were with. There was nothing and nobody else in your room except your stuff.” Jason looked at her, as though he mentally willed her to tell him the truth.

“I was there for a conference. I was asked to give a lecture on extreme photography. That’s why I had my portfolio with me.” Hope’s stomach sunk as she revealed some more of her lies. “The party seemed like a good excuse when I slipped up and told Grady I was going to Vegas. I was tired that day. I’d just gotten back from Oklahoma. I was exhausted and I wasn’t thinking clearly.”

Jason raised his brows. “Ah, yes. The guy in some of your pictures. Where does he fit in?”

“David,” she said in a choked voice. “He was an extreme meteorologist. We went to college together. He lived in Oklahoma, and we teamed up for tornado chasing. I learned a lot from him.” Hope was breathless with disbelief that she was actually spilling all of this to Jason. But she could tell by the stubborn look on his face that he wouldn’t stop until he got the truth.

“How good of a friend is he?” Jason asked hoarsely.

“He was probably my best friend.” Hope watched Jason’s face.

“Friends with benefits?” he asked gruffly.

Hope let out a startled gasp. Was he actually…jealous? “No. David wasn’t into women that way.”

“He’s g*y?” Jason looked relieved.

Hope nodded and teared up as she replied. “He was g*y. He…died.” She hated saying those words, hated to refer to David in the past tense. She still hadn’t come to terms with the fact that her best friend, her only friend, was gone.

“When? How?” Jason asked in a gentle tone.

“Almost two weeks ago now. I was just coming back from his funeral and visiting with his family when Grady called me. I was close to his parents. I was physically and emotionally exhausted, Jason. I had no idea what I was saying to Grady. I was babbling.”

“I’m sorry you lost your friend, Peaches,” he utterly sincerely, tenderly. “What happened?”

Hope’s heart still ached over losing David, but she answered shakily, “We don’t know all the details. He was chasing a large tornado fairly close to his hometown. Witnesses say it suddenly changed direction, and it put David right in its path. I was here in Colorado because I was trying to get my lecture together for Vegas, so he was alone. He had nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. His truck was literally picked up and tossed down somewhere else. There wasn’t much left of it.” Tears streamed down her face. “I still can’t believe he’s gone.”

“Jesus, Hope. You could have been in that truck.” Jason’s voice vibrated with fear. “I actually heard about the incident. I had no idea then that it was somebody you knew. It’s one of the reasons I’m so freaked out about you chasing after tornados. People with decades of experience and a ton of knowledge can still die.”

Hope nodded. She couldn’t argue with him. Tornados were the most unpredictable of storms. Even with precautions, nothing was guaranteed because you could never completely predict its path. “I know. David was good, very cautious, and he still died. He was passionate about tornado research. He didn’t do it for the adrenaline rush; he was trying to save lives, give people in the path of the tornado a longer warning.” David had been one of the most compassionate men she’d ever known.

Jason moved over and pulled her onto his lap. His hands stroked over her back and her hair as she cried. “I know, sweetheart. I’m sorry. Please promise me you’re done chasing tornados,” he said gruffly as he buried his face in her hair. “Please.”

The pleading note in his voice unraveled her. She sobbed and clung to Jason with her arms around his neck. “I can’t do it anymore. Not without David. We were a team, and he was the one with all the knowledge. If I got any pictures I thought could be studied, I copied them and donated the photos for research.”

“You’re not doing it with anybody ever again. Promise me, Hope, before I lose my mind,” he rasped against her neck. His body shuddered fiercely. “You could have been with him.”

“I wasn’t,” she answered with a shaky voice. “And I promise.” She couldn’t bear to hear the fear in Jason’s voice, and she never planned to chase another tornado. Losing David had torn her apart, and it was something she’d never do again without her friend.

“Thank Christ,” Jason answered gutturally as he squeezed her body tightly.

“I miss him,” she confided. “He knew me. He was the only one who really did.” Her friend had known all of her secrets, but he was gone, and the emptiness in her soul was so profound that she had barely been able to function since his death.

“Let me know you again, Hope. Let me in. Please,” Jason begged. His voice quavered with emotion.

“What if you don’t like who I am now?” she asked hesitantly, so tempted to lean on Jason, let him take away some of her pain.

“I will. And I swear I’ll never tell any of your secrets. Talk to me.” He kissed her reverently on top of her head.

“We have to fix this marriage situation, Jason, before we can ever be real friends again,” she told him softly.

“It will get fixed,” he replied vaguely. “And I’m not sure we can ever be just friends again. I know I can’t. I want to be your lover, too, Hope. I want you, and I know you want me, too.”

“It’s not that I don’t want you physically,” Hope said with a sigh. Why deny it? Why oppose him when he could feel her response every time he touched her? Her traitor of a body was a dead giveaway. “I just can’t do it physically or emotionally.”

“Your supposed fiancé? Bullshit. You don’t love him and you know it. If you did, your body would never respond to me. I know you well enough to know that, Hope.”

“It’s not James. It’s me. You understand now why I was out of my mind when I talked to Grady, and I wanted to get him to quit harping about me going to some billionaire fundraiser that you were attending in Colorado. He wanted me to go meet some decent guys. Like every billionaire is awesome?” She rolled her eyes. “Out of sheer frustration, I told him I was marrying James, and I’d be busy at the bachelorette party in Vegas. I shouldn’t have said it, but I was willing to say just about anything to get him to leave me alone. I just wanted him to stop lecturing me and let me get off the phone.”

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