A Billionaire Boss and the BBW he secretly loves…
“When the time comes, Aiva, you’ll make me an offer I can’t refuse.”
It seemed like a good idea at the time. Any publicity is good publicity, right? But when curvy Aiva, owner of Blooms In Yellow, starts a media ruckus outside her flower shop to increase business, the attention brings all the rats out of hiding.
Namely Daniel, her cousin and the loan shark who funded her startup. A loan shark tied to organized crime, who is a bit miffed when Aiva starts attracting attention. Like any good rat, he prefers to stay in the dark. The attention also attracts Leon Sudano, billionaire mogul and reformed crime lord. Of course the Sudanos, under his rule, are completely legitimate. And his interest in Aiviana is perfectly innocent…
…only it isn’t. He’s been watching Aiva for years, waiting patiently to make his first, and last, move. Because when Sudano plays, he plays for keeps. Aiva must balance her pride in being an independent woman business owner with her growing attraction for the sexy, powerful Leon, who showers her with gifts and attention… and steals her heart.
This is a 23K BBW Contemporary Romance Novella. It is a standalone featuring a hot alpha male, curvaceous heroine and a happily ever after ending. For readers for enjoy steamy scenes.
Aiviana strode into her cousin’s garage; more of a strut than a stroll since the retro gingham skirt she wore hugged curves and left nothing to the imagination, despite its below the knee length. If the skirt was modest, she more than compensated for it with bumblebee yellow heels, thus the strut. She would never stoop to actual striding– not if she wanted to admit her power as a woman in her family was flimsy. Nothing offended these men worse than an unfeminine woman mimicking the mannerisms of a man in the presence of her male relatives. Like a silent indictment against their manhood- for what woman would want to act like a man unless one wasn’t present?
Well, she didn’t give a hoot for their dignity, but as the only girl in a clan of overbearing, macho men, she had to use whatever wiles she had.
The men stopped talking when she entered, their faces slowly becoming visible as her eyes adjusted to the dim light.
“Did you think you would melt if you let in a little light, gentlemen?” she asked.
One of them rose, her cousin Daniel. Another cousin and a few of their soldiers sat around the table. One man caught her eye for a brief second- the stark symmetry of his facial bones under unstyled dark hair shone like a beam of crystal among coal. But she didn’t have the time nor inclination to gape any longer than an appreciative few seconds.
“Aiva,” Daniel said, putting down his cards and rounding the table. He took her arm, which she allowed because they were in company. “What’re ya doing here? Who’s minding the shop?”
As if he needed to worry about her shop. Her red-slicked lips pursed as she controlled irritation. A hand rising to her hip, she titled her head, long dark curls spilling over her shoulder, tamed by a bright red headband.
“I want to play,” she said, pitching her voice loud enough the other players could hear. She’d expected the laughter, noticed that the pretty one watched her with thoughtful eyes, rubbing a -stone?- in between deft fingers. Something about the rock triggered memory, but she forced herself to concentrate.
“Come on, Aiva,” Daniel laughed. “You know that ain’t right for a girl to sit down at a card table with men.”
“My cousins are here,” she pointed out. “It’s proper enough. And I want stakes.”
Silence descended. Stakes were important- stakes meant she was here on business and not a whim.
“Stakes?” he repeated.
Aiviana wouldn’t be intimidated. Though Daniel was a broad shouldered, thick-armed male considered handsome despite his lack of height, she didn’t bother with fear of his anger or irritation. Fear wasted time.
“I need an extension on my loan payment. The shop is having trouble.”
He paused a long moment. “Now, Aiva, I warned you when you took the loan from me to open a flower shop that this might happen. You know what happens if you default.”
She knew. And had to suppress a shudder. Daniel’s eyes flickered downward, touching on the creamy brown skin bared by a snug, scoop necked sweater with short cap sleeves. She’d worn the proper foundation garments, an extra curvy gal like her needing some help to smooth and shape all the junk in multiple trucks. But even with the shape wear the smallest twitch gave any red-blooded male plenty of flesh to watch bounce around.
“And since you’re my cousin, and you want to be fair, you’ll let me play a game. It’s just a loan extension. You’d do the same for a soldier you favored.”
“True. But I don’t want to offend the boys.”
She looked at her cousin, lip curled. As if the ‘boys’ would object to a bit of flash and curve sitting at the table to give them something besides each other’s ugly mugs to look at. She stepped around Daniel, approaching the table with her eyes lowered, hand still on her hip. And posed.
“Do you gentlemen mind?” she asked, softening her tone. “One game. If I win I get an extension on my loan. A girl has to go down fighting.”
“Let her play,” the pretty one murmured, eyes on his cards when she raised hers in his direction. Aiva seated herself in the chair Daniel dragged up to the table. She waited until they finished the current round, spending the time watching the players, trying to get a feel for their rhythms.
She played with a single mindedness and casual charm that disarmed her opponents. And when she won the round, she took care to thank her cousin and the men properly, as if they had let her win as a favor. Mother told her to let a man take credit- that way the next time a gal came knocking for a favor, he was eager to oblige rather than sour from the last time.
But when she glimpsed Daniel’s expression as she took her leave, she knew he would be sour.
* * *
Leon watched her for two weeks. Little Aiviana, all grown up. He almost hadn’t recognized her when she swayed her round ass into the card game, intruding in the men’s domain with demure doe eyes- and a smirk on full, glossy lips. The last time he’d seen her…hadn’t it been at a debutante ball for the daughters of all the higher ranked soldiers? Chest overspilling what should have been an innocent white ball gown, hair in ringlets and crystal pins on her head, shoulders bare. He’d remembered thinking she reminded him of the women in the old country before American fashions intruded and told them to stop eating. The kind of women found nursing babies through long, harsh winters and job strikes because they had plenty of meat on their bones to make milk. Women whose breasts a man could rest his war weary head on. Women who demanded a man slay dragons- and guarded his back from foes during the battle.
So he watched her, knowing only his most trusted soldiers were aware of his interest, and learned more about her than she might have wished. Learned that she owed a contract with her cousin Daniel that she couldn’t default on unless she wanted to become his personal property like in the old days. They were cousins, and though more intimate services were frowned on in modern America, in the old country the blood between cousins was considered thin enough that a man could take his aunt or uncle’s daughter as a concubine, or a wife.
The light on the speakerphone flashed. Leon leaned forward and pushed the intercom button.
“Sir, Daniel is here.”
“Send him up.”
Leon remained seated, knowing the first thing the middle level associate would see when he entered the office was a backdrop of clear glass displaying a view of the city for miles. And Leon, a cold figure in front of an ancient desk of dark wood, hand carved by his ancestors, still and waiting.
Daniel came in moments later. Leon had to give the man credit- he didn’t let his awe show in anything but the slightest twitch of his suit-clad shoulders. If Leon wasn’t about to pull the rug out from under the man, he might have offered him a job higher in the organization. But as it was, Leon’s business interests were mostly legitimate these days- and he knew Daniel didn’t see quite eye to eye about that.
“Have a seat,” Leon indicated a chair in front of his desk. Reached for a crystal decanter on the edge of the desk and poured them both a shot of amber colored liquid.
Daniel nodded thanks, and they drank in silence, neither flinching from the fiery burn.
“I was a little surprised to get a summons,” Daniel said after they’d set their glasses down. “And I’m flattered that I may be of some use to you. I didn’t think our interests quite… aligned.”
“They don’t,” Leon replied pleasantly. “But in this case, the favor I’m about to ask is more of a personal nature.” He smiled, steepling his fingers on the desk. “I’d like to buy your contract with Aiviana.”
Daniel’s eyes widened, brow lifting. Poker face, it was not. “My cousin Aiviana? What did you want to do that for?” Daniel paused as if remembering whom he addressed.
Leon waved a hand, smiling to show he didn’t mind the plain speaking. “She intrigues me. And I’ve a mind to add some… softer businesses to my portfolio. Thought I could start with something somewhat closer to home.” Leon pulled a piece of paper out of his desk, slid it across the table. “I’m prepared to offer a very generous buyout, to compensate you for potential loss of interest over the years.”
Daniel skimmed the contract, not touching it. Leon’s estimation of his intelligence went up several notches. He would bet his rocks that the man had just read- and understood- the entire thing.
“This is, indeed, a generous offer.” Daniel paused. “But Aiviana is my cousin and I wouldn’t feel right selling her interests to a man not of our family, like she is a stranger.”
Leon leaned back in his chair, expression sliding into a kind of pleasant neutrality.
“I’m not exactly a stranger,” he reminded the man, gently. Let it sink in as he watched Daniel’s expression set. Skin pale, just a little. “Think about it? I don’t need an answer right away.”
Daniel rose, nodding his head. “I appreciate it.”
* * *
“This is cosmic,” Mandira said as they stood in front of the main shop window.
“It’s something,” Aiva replied.
When she’d invited the EarthDay Group to use her flower shop as a platform to raise awareness of the environmental crisis with the extinction of bees, she hadn’t quite envisioned…this. The chapter head, a small woman who smelled like sugar cookies and rose reminded Aiva of her own Grandmother. Seeing the woman now, chained to a half dozen chapter members and laying in the street to stop traffic… Aiva admitted to a fleeting sense of panic before she steeled her nerves.
She’d wanted more business. This was going to get her more business.
The bell on the shop door rang.
Mandira darted off to greet the couple entering the shop. As an employee, she wore Blooms in Yellows’ signature color in the form of a crinkle peasant blouse and multicolored long skirt, light brown hair braided and beaded in a fashion that said more vintage hippy than flower girl. But whatever. The pinup canary yellow dress Aiva wore was belted in black to add contrast at the waist before her hips and ass took over. She’d pinned her hair up today with a white bloom to accent and changed her lipstick from glossy to matte.
“We couldn’t believe the news,” the couple was saying.
Aiva frowned, drifting closer.
“We pass this shop every morning on our walk- we had no idea it was mob owned!”
Aiva halted, eyes widening.
“It was all over the news! Who knew the mob was interested in environmental conservation?”
Aiva turned, made her way to the stockroom where she kept a laptop and turned on her internet television, switching to a local news channel. Several minutes later- the bird’s eye view of the protesters was unique as well as Daniel’s picture flashing on the monitor as co-owner of Blooms in Yellow- Aiva emerged from the back. Well, she’d wanted publicity. Wanted to generate an influx of income to help pay off her loan to Daniel. She was getting what she’d wanted. As usual, life threw in an extra helping of unwanted consequences as well.
Aiva spent the next thirty minutes selling small plants and bouquets, fielding questions about the protesters and her connection to the mob.
“Do I look like a mob doll?” she asked one teenager, laughing. The girl just looked her up and down, saying nothing.
Aiva sighed, then made the mistake of stepping outside her shop for fresh air.
* * *
She had to hand it to the media; they were quick. Aiva supposed if their small city were bigger on the radar of things then Blooms in Yellow wouldn’t merit all this attention. But evidently, it tickled someone’s fancy that the ‘mob’ was somehow involved in trying to save bees. When Aiva saw her picture on television, a shot they’d taken of her when she’d stepped outside for some air, she realized she’d made it worse. It had been funny when the kid called her a mob doll. It wasn’t funny when it was now on the news.
Evidently, Daniel didn’t think it was funny either.
“We don’t close for thirty minutes,” she said, voice even, as soon as she saw it was him walking through the front door.
“Then let’s go to the back and talk,” he replied, teeth gritted.
“That’s not a good idea. I don’t want Mandira to get overrun by these customers.” Aiva smiled at her cousin. “Business is… blooming. Looks like I’ll be able to make the next three loan payments on time. Good news, right?” Especially since the contract was coming up for renewal soon.
He waited until the last customer left, then flipped the closed sign before rounding on her.
“You are embarrassing me.”
Aiva’s hand crept to her hip. She glared. “I’m running a legal, almost profitable business and contributing to environmental awareness. How am I embarrassing you?”
He strode close enough that their noses were almost touching. She remembered a time on the playground as children when she’d had to enforce her ideas of personal space with a fist. He probably wouldn’t let her get away with that now. Aiva held her ground.
“The news is talking about how this is a mob run joint, yadda yadda and shit, and how we’re growing soft. You get those hippies away from here or I will.”
She laughed. “What will you do in front of cameras? Threaten them? Come on, Danny. We just have to ignore the press until it blows over. Earth Day is doing a good thing. Do you have any idea how it will destroy the food chain if the bees become extinct? We’ll starve.”
“You’re out of your mind. Yous got one day to-”
“Hey, aren’t you Danny Losito?”
Neither of them had processed the little bell ringing to announce a visitor. Daniel turned around, a genial smile plastered on his face.
“Hey, we’re closed right now, but if you come back in the morning we can takes care of ya real good.”
Aiva rolled her eyes, stepping in front of her cousin. “Can I help you? We are closed but-” she stopped, eyeing a camera at the young man’s side. “I’m sorry, did you ask if this is Danny Losito? I’m afraid you are mistaken. We’re closed.”
The reporter eyed them both, eyes narrowed. “You sure look like the middle level mob associate suspected of numerous counts of-”
“Closed.” Aiva repeated, refusing to roll her eyes.
“Yeah, I was just here to pick up a bouquet. Why don’t you get that rung up for me, miss?”
Aiva turned, heading toward her register. “Of course.” Behind the counter, she pulled out an extravagant bouquet of yellow and white exotic blooms interspersed with wildflowers, all set in a crystal vase. A canceled order. Setting it on the counter, she rang it up and aimed a bright smile at Daniel.
“That’s $194.38,” she said with a wide smile. “Will that be cash or plastic?”
Daniel froze one split second, then prodded by the suspicious reporter at his back, pulled out a wallet.
A few minutes later, when the reporter lost interest and left, Aiva reached in the till and counted out two hundred dollars in cash.
“Here you go, Daniel. Half of my payment that’s past due. I’ll have the other half tomorrow.” She smiled at him. “Guess our loan will stay current after all.”
He stared at her for one long minute, then turned on his heels and stalked out.