Atlas (Billionaire Titans)

Atlas
Alison Ryan

C
opyright
© 2016 by Alison Ryan

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T
o Oliver and Granger
. May you grow up to be men who strive to do the right thing always… but especially when it counts the most.

One
ATLAS


S
orry I’m late
,” I said, insincerely. I didn’t give a damn that I’d made my father wait almost an hour for me to show up. He wasn’t used to waiting for anyone. I needed to keep him humble.

“Sure you are, Atlas,” my father, Emerson Titan, responded sarcastically. “You do this every month.”

I shrugged, “Something came up. What’re you gonna do, right?”

He cocked one eyebrow at me. He was very good at that little move and I could tell he wasn’t all that mad anyway. My guess is he’d had at least a few cocktails and at least one platter of raw oysters as he waited for me at Old Ebbitt Grill, his favorite place to have lunch in DC. We met here at least once every couple months to catch up on things.

My old man liked to keep a close eye on my brothers and me.

Which is kind of funny being that I’d dwarfed my father in height since the eighth grade. I had at least fifty pounds of muscle on him. People could have easily mistaken me for one of his myriad bodyguards. So it was funny he still thought of himself as my protector.

“Anyway,” he started. “I haven’t heard from you much lately. How’s New York?”

I smiled, taking a long swig of my bourbon and water, “Dad, I haven’t lived in New York in like three months. I told you that last time. I’m in San Fran mostly these days. Though I might head to London after Christmas.”

Dad chuckled, “You’re too fast for me, son. But that’s the way to do it. Never stay in one place too long. See the world. Have some adventure.” A very cute waitress brought over another stack of raw oysters and Emerson smiled at her as she set them down.

I looked at him, puzzled at his response, “You on something? You’re usually trying to convince me to settle down here in DC. What’s the deal?”

Emerson shook his head, “I’ve given up on trying to convince you to do anything, Atlas. You’re contrarian to a fault. If I tell you I want something for you, you’ll always want the very opposite. So what’s a man to do?” Emerson sucked and then swallowed a large oyster. “I’ve learned to let my sons find out things on their own. With plenty of financial backing, of course.”

“You’ve been good to us, Dad,” I had to admit. Plenty of my wealthy friends had real assholes for fathers. I had done alright with mine.

“I know it’s not always easy being a Titan,” he said. “Especially Atlas. You know, he carried the world on his shoulders.”

I rolled my eyes, “Yes, Dad. I’m well aware.”

I was my father’s oldest son and being that his last name was Titan he thought he was clever naming me Atlas. He also had a fascination with Nordic mythology, so he’d named my younger brother, Odin. We were the only sons of his who shared the same mother. She died of ovarian cancer when I was four and Odin was two. My mother was the one topic my father wouldn’t broach or discuss. With anyone.

He’d been married four times, but his heart would always belong to her.

“Well, I like to remind you,” he said as he sipped his gin martini. “Your name has predestined you, son. And you’ve lived up to it, thus far. I’m proud of you.”

I was uncomfortable with his sudden demonstrative affections. It must’ve been all the martinis.

“Yep,” I replied. I glanced around the restaurant, desperate to start a new topic. “So what’s going on today? You were pretty insistent on the time and place.”

Dad smiled, “Well, I have a favor to ask.”

I sighed. He’d been attempting to butter me up with all this talk of how proud he was of me. Now it made sense. Not that I doubted it was true, but it wasn’t like my father to say these things unless he wanted something.

“What is it?” I asked as the waitress placed another bourbon next to me, quietly swiping the other one away.

“Well, you remember Piper,” Dad said. “Maureen’s daughter.”

“Maureen. Haven’t heard you mention her in a long while,” I said.

Maureen Kipton. My father married her ten years ago when I was a junior at Georgetown. She was a small-time news anchor at the time, a hot little blonde he’d met at a gala hosted by Titan Enterprises. Maureen was a single mother to her daughter, Piper, who was twelve when her mom married my dad. I hadn’t paid much attention to either of them since I was off on my own by then. Their marriage had only lasted a couple of years. Once Maureen was promoted to the bigger leagues of network anchoring, she left my dad in the dust and shipped poor Piper off to boarding school. Now Maureen was one of the big time anchors on NBC, the journalist that always showed up to the latest national disaster or tragic event. I imagined it was hard for my dad to see her face all over the place, not that he would ever admit it.

Dad had always held a soft spot for Piper. He’d paid her tuition in school, bought her a car when she got into American University, and been the father she’d never had in many ways. Dad never had a daughter and I think he liked to think of Piper as the closest thing he’d probably ever get to one.

“Well, I don’t speak to Maureen much, but I keep an eye on Piper. Just like I do all my children,” he said, his voice getting serious. “And I’m worried about her. She’s just getting out of a very toxic relationship, trying to move out of her apartment, and start a new life here in DC. Her mother is of no help being that she’s so absorbed with her own career trajectory and Piper has been left to emotionally fend for herself in many ways.”

Dad looked up at me, “Her boyfriend was abusive. She hasn’t come out and said it, but I’ve had my people on him and on her for a while now. Piper has finally had enough but her ex doesn’t want to let her go easily.”

“Look, I’m sorry about that, but what the hell does that have to do with me?” I asked. “I don’t even know Piper. I haven’t seen her since she was in high school.”

Dad shook his head, “You’re an intimidating presence. With a certain set of skills that even all my money could never buy. You’re a man who could protect her, better than I can, better than any of my best men can. She just needs a safe place to stay for a while. With someone I trust, implicitly.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, “This is way too much to ask of me. I’m not a fucking babysitter. Why don’t you just fly her off to some new city and help her start again a couple thousand miles from this douchebag?”

Dad sighed, “He’s not your typical asshole, Atlas. Her ex-boyfriend is a US congressman. And he has means of finding her. It’s been a very ugly break up, Atlas. I wouldn’t ask this of you if it wasn’t serious.”

This was ridiculous. I didn’t want to get involved in anything dramatic. I’d had enough crazy shit happen in my past, I didn’t need to add to the resume of fucked up things I’d dealt with in the last few years. Besides, it just seemed like an overreaction to a simple situation. Break ups happen. They’re usually terrible, that’s the name of the break up game. This congressman with the busted ego would get over this in a month or so. He’d find some other version of Piper and be on his merry way. I didn’t understand why I needed to get involved.

But my father also rarely asked anything of me. He was one of the richest men in the United States yet he’d never been that guy who set expectations on my brothers and me. Despite the kind of corruption and cold familial relationships that run rampant among the one percent, our family had always been different. I was lucky to be his son and if he was really insistent on me doing this for him, well, fuck it. I would do it.

“Fine,” I said. “What does this entail? And how long will it be? Believe it or not, I do have my own life happening outside of this city.”

Two
PIPER

A
ll I wanted
to do was sleep.

It was almost impossible to get any in my current situation. But that’s what happens when your ex-boyfriend is an egomaniacal psychopath. When you dare to break up with him, he makes your life hell.

I looked through the clothes spilling out of my suitcase. I was supposed to meet my ex-stepdad for lunch so he could help me figure out what the hell I should do about the pickle I was in.

I winced as I bent down to pick up a pair of shorts. I had fresh bruises on my back from the last, and final, beating. I’d known then that if I didn’t leave, I would probably end up dead, eventually. And with my ex being who he was, he could make it look like it was an accident. Or just another random DC murder.

To say I was terrified was putting it mildly.

I’d graduated from American University four months prior. At a party that night I’d met him. I had no idea his political ties, he was just a big smile and a suit, but he was relentless in his pursuit of me. Now, I know this probably should have been a red flag. The first month was okay, but it soon turned ugly and I saw no way out.

I still wasn’t sure how this could end well for me. He’d made it clear what he was capable of.

I hadn’t known who else to go to for help that would actually have the means to protect me. My mother and I were basically estranged at the moment. I had no siblings or family other than her. My next best bet was Emerson Titan. He was my stepfather for two years when I was barely a teenager but even after my mother had moved on from him, he’d stuck around and stayed in my life.

And he just so happened to be one of the ten richest men in America.

Before my mother had charmed him, we’d been barely making it. She was just a local news anchor in Manassas, Virginia at the time. My father had long been out of the picture and my life had been a revolving door of father figures who couldn’t measure up to my mother’s impossible expectations.

Suddenly Emerson Titan came into our lives and everything changed. Mostly for the better.

And now here I was, waiting for him to text me. He’d put me up at the Four Seasons with two of his guards at my door with instructions not to allow anyone into the room other than himself. It did help me feel safer but I couldn’t shake my anxiety. My ex had his ways and I found myself trusting no one.

You have no idea who is on my team
he’d whispered in my ear.

I shuddered at the thought.

My iPhone buzzed on the nightstand. I picked it up, my hands trembling from nerves. I had changed my cell number but it was habit for me to jump when it rang.

But in this case it was just Emerson:

T
ake
the car to Old Ebbitt. I’ll be waiting for you. Hungry? I’ll order something so it’s ready when you get here.

I
texted back
:

I
wouldn’t mind
the salmon salad. Thanks, be there soon.

* * *

E
merson sent
a black Tesla to pick me up. As I settled into the back seat I looked around at the people walking on the sidewalk past the hotel, uneasily waiting for some kind of goon to appear to take me away to my doom. My heart raced.

Once we were on the road I calmed down a bit. I knew that Emerson had eyes on me, something I was grateful for, but sometimes I wondered if even he was capable of going against the kind of power my ex held.

It was a ten minute drive to Old Ebbitt, one of my favorite places to have lunch. Emerson had taken me there at least once a month while I was an undergrad at American. We’d catch up for a couple hours’ worth of Diet Cokes and sliders for me, and stacks of oysters and martinis for Emerson. He’d ask plenty of questions about my studies, about how Mom was doing, that sort of thing. I’d never told him how much those lunches meant to me back then.

Back then? It wasn’t all that long ago,
I thought. My life before my ex-boyfriend seemed a really long time ago when in reality it had only been a few months.

At Old Ebbitt I stepped out and ducked into the restaurant quickly. The familiar mahogany bar was a welcome sight and I immediately saw Emerson across the way in our usual booth.

But he wasn’t alone.

Atlas
.

I hadn’t seen him in years but I immediately recognized his chiseled features and his discomfort at folding his tall body into a restaurant booth. He had one muscled leg extended out past the table. His shoulders were broad under his tailored, collared shirt. His tie was loosened and his face was relaxed. He was still incredibly sexy, just like always. As a matter of fact, looking at him now, I knew he was the most gorgeous creature in all of DC. For a brief moment I forgot about my problems.

Atlas Titan had that way about him.

“Piper!” Emerson smiled, standing. He wrapped his arms around me, squeezing me so much that I winced involuntarily. Atlas looked at me funny then, and I tried to play it off like I was joking but the embrace really had hurt due to the bruises.

But they didn’t know that. My ex always left them in places no one would see.

“Hi, Emerson. Hello, Atlas,” I said. I scooted into the booth next to Emerson. I was across from Atlas now and it was hard not to stare.

“Piper,” was all Atlas said. He was still looking at me, his gaze intense. He’d never shown much interest in me when I was younger and I wanted to squirm having his eyes on me like this. Did every woman feel like this around him? Hard to believe they didn’t.

“I was just talking to Atlas about what’s been happening,” Emerson said. “And he’s agreed to stay with you for the time being. Until things cool down a bit.”

I looked down at the salmon salad on the table, my cheeks flushed. It was embarrassing to know that Atlas knew about my break up. He must’ve thought I was a complete idiot for getting involved with someone who beat the shit out of me and threatened me almost daily. Atlas was so strong. He’d never been one to tolerate much weakness, according to his dad. Hell, the guy was an ex-Navy SEAL for god sakes. He’d seen things most people never see, had taken his body and mind to the edge of what most men are capable of and easily surpassed those limits. Did Atlas Titan even have limits?

And even so, all I could think about was how that translated to the bedroom.

Good Lord, what was wrong with me?

“Oh,” I managed. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to impose on you, Atlas. I know you have so much going on in your own life, you don’t need to be my babysitter.” I looked up at him, meeting his eyes. “Not that I don’t appreciate it.”

Atlas shook his head, “It’s no imposition, Piper. I’m glad to do it.”

Emerson was staring at Atlas now, looking a little surprised at this response.

“Well, good,” Emerson smiled. “I have you set up at the Four Seasons in the Royal Suite for the next few weeks. Plenty of room for both of you. There’s two bedrooms, a gym, an office, and if you need anything, concierge is available and my men will be at the ready.” Emerson took my hand. “You’re safe, my dear. I promise you that.”

Tears stung my eyes and I pulled him into a hug, “Thank you, Emerson. I don’t know how I can ever thank you enough.”

Emerson patted my cheek, “You thank me by being happy and building something new. You’re too young, beautiful, and smart to have this kind of trauma in your life.”

I nodded. He was right. If only he knew what he’d now gotten Atlas into. As much as I wanted to tell them to run from me, I couldn’t. I needed them.

I needed Atlas Titan.

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