Christmas Eve, Twelve Years Ago
What in the hell was I doing?
Basically, I was freezing my ass off looking for a runaway girl in the middle of a snowstorm on Christmas Eve. What really pissed me off was the fact that she was a spoiled eighteen-year-old female who I’d never liked in the first place.
My nickname for her when were kids had been Cruella de Vil for as long as I could remember, and I referred to her by that name so often that I almost failed to remember that her real name was Harper Lawson. She was the second youngest member of the Lawson family, friends of the Colter family for as long as I could remember.
That’s why I’m out here freezing my balls off on Christmas Eve.
There was very little I wouldn’t do for my mother. But right at the moment, I wished I didn’t love her quite so much. I never had been able to tolerate seeing my mother upset. And, since the spoiled brat’s mother was best friends with mine, of course Mom was worried.
Call me an idiot, but I volunteered for this torture just so I didn’t have to see the stress on my mom’s face.
I hadn’t seen Harper Lawson in years, even though she lived in another small town fairly close to where we did in Rocky Springs, Colorado. I was on college break, and Harper had just graduated from high school. Thankfully, Mom had stopped trying to push a friendship between me and the younger Lawson girls when I was still in grade school, when I finally told her how much I disliked Harper because she was downright mean. Her younger sister, Danica, was a heck of a lot nicer, but I hadn’t seen much of her, either. I had run into the Lawson brothers occasionally, but because we went to different schools, we barely knew any of them.
Only Harper had ever irritated the hell out of me. She’d always gone out of her way to be a child dictator, and she flaunted her parents’ wealth like it made her better than anyone else. It hadn’t mattered that the Colters were wealthy, too. She’d been equal opportunity nasty to every person she came into contact with when she was a kid.
Judging by my current frigid trek through the snow, she hadn’t changed one damn bit.
I smirked as my rubber boots plowed through the deep snowdrifts on the sidewalk, finding it hard to believe that Harper might actually be in the Denver homeless shelter I was looking for during one of the nastiest blizzards we’d seen in a long time.
Apparently, she’d run away after her parents had finally set their foot down on her endless spending of money she hadn’t earned. They’d taken away her credit cards, her brand-new car she’d gotten for graduation, and most of her extravagant purchases because she had no desire to go to college. Obviously, she figured that since her parents were rich, she didn’t need an education. Her plans were probably focused on becoming a rich socialite for life.
Fuck! I hated rich kids with that attitude. I busted my ass in college, and not a single Colter child had ever felt entitled. We were all either working on our careers, or planning our own futures. We had a lot of money, but not a single one of us ever considered just being idle.
I’d heard the Lawson brothers were all going to college. But Harper apparently didn’t want to work that hard.
Really, I was kind of surprised that her parents had never recognized how self-centered their daughter was before now.
Once the Lawsons had realized how incredibly spoiled Harper was, and that she’d never planned to get any higher education, they’d finally decided to cut her off. Harper had immediately balked and run away from home. Well, technically, she wasn’t a runaway. She was eighteen, so she wasn’t a juvenile. But she sure as hell acted like one.
Who in the hell ran away just because mommy and daddy took away her car and her credit cards?
“She’s still a spoiled brat,” I muttered irritably as I kept walking through the drifting snow, the cold starting to whip right through my winter jacket and jeans. “If Mom hadn’t been so freaked out, I would have stayed warm and comfortable at home, celebrating Christmas with my own family instead of worrying about somebody else’s problems.”
Unfortunately, Aileen Colter worried about everybody. My mother was one of the most caring people I knew, and the glue that held our family together after my father had died years ago. She was such good friends with Harper’s mother that she was horrified at the thought of a young woman lost somewhere in a blizzard by herself.
I was a sucker. The sad look on my mother’s face had prompted me to jump into a helicopter from Rocky Springs to Denver with a storm coming in, just to find some obnoxious chick who couldn’t function without her luxury vehicle and credit cards.
I finally located the makeshift shelter, grateful for the warmth once I stepped inside.
There were bodies everywhere, most of them on sleeping mats with a blanket on the floor. Because of the weather, I knew most of the shelters were overloaded.
I scanned the people on the floor, some of them sleeping, but many sitting up with a blanket around their body.
My heart sank as I saw the people in tattered clothing, and inhaled the stench of unwashed bodies.
Was this the best they could expect on Christmas Eve? Just stepping into the place reminded me of how damn lucky I’d been. The Colters were ungodly wealthy, and because my father had already passed away, that wealth had been distributed to all of his kids and my mother.
At the ripe old age of twenty-two, I was already rich, but I’d never for a moment not considered working, or getting a college degree. My dad had been an educated man, and I knew he’d wanted the same for all his children. My identical twin brother, Marcus, had taken over my father’s legacy, while the rest of us were busy planning our destinies by continuing on to college. Marcus had it the worst, trying to go to school and keep up with what was happening with our dad’s international business interests. I knew as soon as my twin graduated, he’d be traveling the world.
And damn…I was going to miss him.
“Can I help you? I’m afraid we don’t have any space left.” The female voice was low and compassionate.
The middle-aged woman smiled at me, a sympathetic smile that I didn’t deserve.
“No, ma’am,” I answered reassuringly, wanting her to know she didn’t have to put me up for the night. “I’m looking for someone. I don’t need to take up one of your beds.”
Fumbling in my coat pocket, I drew out the latest picture of Harper, her graduation photo. “Have you seen her?”
The lady took the picture and examined it closely. “Looks a little familiar. But I can’t quite place her. We’ve taken in a lot of young people.”
I took the photo and put it back in my pocket. “Mind if I look around a little?” Jesus! I hoped the tip that had come in about Harper being in this place hadn’t been wrong.
The overworked woman shrugged. “Feel free to search for your friend. I’d like to see one less person be alone on Christmas.”
I nodded, and then made my way around the large room, my eyes scanning all of the desperate faces occupying the space. Finally, I did a double-take on one solitary female, almost discarding the notion that I might be looking at Harper.
The young woman had the same blonde hair, and was probably about the same age. But everything else about her was…wrong. I edged closer to her and her position sitting across the room against the concrete wall, her arms wrapped around her body like she was cold.
As I approached, I could tell she’d been crying. “Harper?” I said her name in a loud voice from several feet away, and she immediately turned her head to look up at me.
She frowned and swiped away the remnants of her tears as she answered, “Colter?”
I nodded, unable to look away from the tortured look in her dark-green eyes and the despair I saw there.
Christ! It was really Harper, but she looked nothing like her sophisticated picture. She was in a pair of ratty jeans and a sweater rather than designer clothing. She was wearing no jewelry, not even the diamond pendant or the rings I knew her parents hadn’t taken away. And her angelic face was completely devoid of makeup. Her blonde hair hung down to her shoulders with a natural curl that was far more attractive than the upswept, sophisticated style in her picture.
I crouched next to her. “I’m here to take you home. Your family has been worried sick.”
She shook her head. “I can’t go back there.”
“You can,” I said firmly. “Problem is, we may have to stay in Denver tonight. I’m not sure we can get back to Rocky Springs in this weather. But at least we can vacate this bed so somebody else can use it.”
She slowly nodded, and then rose to her feet. “That would be good. So many people are in need of a warm place to be right now. I’ll go with you.”
I took her hand simply because she looked so damn lost, and led her toward the door of the shelter, giving the woman running it a large donation before I hauled Harper out the door after she retrieved a jacket that wasn’t going to be nearly warm enough for the current weather.
Guiding her a few blocks away to the hotel room my brother Marcus had been able to procure before I’d started searching for Harper, I suddenly remembered it had been the only available room in Denver. Because of the snowstorm and the holidays, everything had been booked solid.
Once we entered the room of the somewhat rundown hotel, I informed her, “We’ll have to share. This was the only available room we could find.”
Excerpted from "The Billionaire's Christmas Virgin" by J.S. Scott. Copyright © 2016 by J.S. Scott. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.