Authors: Sarah P. Lodge
Tags: #Romance, #love triange, #secret babies, #Contemporary, #billionaire love story, #coming of age, #workplace, #wealthy, #International, #billionaire romance, #new adult, #Genre Fiction, #Literature & Fiction
“You don’t have to,” he says. “If you’d rather keep you
“This is my family now. You, me, our baby. This is my new
Chase takes me in his arms, and we kiss once again. “I will
protect you. Always. That I promise.”
I hold him tight. “My father, he promised to protect me.
But that protection turned into overprotection and then isolation. He thought
I was too weak to handle this world.”
Chase pulls me back and looks me up and down. “Then you’ve
come far, my princess. Tell me, will you ever tell him of our marriage?”
“You want to meet him, don’t you?”
“I did marry his daughter.”
“Oh, Chase. It’s so complicated.”
“Shhh,” he whispers. “You do not need to tell me about
abhorrent fathers.” A look of deep forlorn crosses his face. “As long as you
are happy, that is all I care about.”
I suck in a long breath, and blink back tears. “I am.”
He strokes my cheek. “I will protect you.”
I gently kiss his fingers. “We’ll protect each other.”
He grins. “Come, show me more of your life. Who was Melody
Strong before she was Melody Strong?”
I lead him over to the boxes and start rifling through. I
pull out a framed picture of Liz, Richard and myself, at the beach. Another of
us at a cabin in Vermont. And another of the three of us in front of the
Washington Monument. It dawns on me that there are no pictures of my family at
all and that should seem strange, but I don’t care. And Chase doesn’t pick up
“What’s this?” asks Chase, taking out a silver stick fixed
to a small piece of wood.
“It’s a trophy,” I say, taking it from him and admiring it.
“When I was sixteen, I won a singing competition. The judges said I had the
most beautiful voice they’d ever heard. They said they couldn’t wait to see
what would happen to me.”
Chase wraps his arm around my shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” he says.
“Sorry for what?”
“Giving up one’s dream is never easy.”
I pull away from him. “I’m not giving up my dream.”
He stares down at me. “Melody, you have no time for a
career. You’re a wife, soon you’re going to be a mother. That is your place,
by my side raising our child.”
“I never agreed to that!”
“What is there to agree to? It’s how things are,” he says
with a matter of fact tone. “This is how I’ve always felt. You know that.”
“How could I possibly know that? You never said anything.
We’re married, for God’s sake - you didn’t think to tell me
“You hid it from me deliberately, didn’t you?” I say.
“I thought it was obvious.”
“No, I won’t. I refuse to. Singing, it’s everything I’ve
always wanted. Everything I’ve dreamed-“
“Is it really?” he says stiffly. “You never did anything
“What are you talking about? I moved to New York, and
“Gave you plenty of opportunities, but you ran away every
There’s a lump in my throat. “That’s cold.”
“That’s how it is. In your own words.”
Maybe Chase was right. It had been my dream for so long,
maybe it had blinded me to my true priorities. Maybe I never really wanted it
all along, otherwise why would I have ruined so many opportunities being
paralysed by fear?
There’s a deep silence between us.
Chase approaches me and goes to put his arms around me. I
knock them away. “Don’t.”
He ignores me, and pulls me closer, and I resist for a
moment but his touch is so soothing and protective that I melt into his arms.
Before I know it, he’s holding me tight and caressing my hair.
“I promised to give you everything you ever wanted,” he
says. “I thought money would be enough. But I guess some things cannot be
bought.” He kisses the top of my head but I can feel his jaw set still as
stone. “When we’re settled back in New York, and once the baby has come... if
you still want to pursue this singing career of yours, I won’t stop you.”
“How magnanimous of you.”
“All I want is for you to be happy. If there’s anything
within my power, it will be done.”
I want to snap back with another snarky comment, but it
occurs to me that this is completely new for Chase as well. He’s never had a
wife before - he’s never had someone carrying his child. He comes across as
brash and offensive, but he means well. He just wants to protect me, and that
tenderness and care is more important than any silly dream. Maybe I’m being
purely selfish here - I have a rich handsome powerful husband, a baby on the
way, and a life others would kill for, yet I long for the same idealised vision
of my future I’ve wanted since I was a child. To give that up feels so
impossible. I don’t want to let go of those hopes and dreams, and I hate
myself for it. I want more.
My life is seemingly perfect. But that’s not perfect
What’s wrong with me?
And so much of this life is hanging by a thread. If I were
to lose Chase, I’d lose everything.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I shouldn’t have lied to you.”
“It’s not. I abhor liars. They’re nothing worse than
backstabbers and betrayers. Yet here I am, nothing more than a Judas when I
kept my thoughts to myself before we married.”
“Really, Chase, it’s okay.”
“You deserve better than that. It won’t happen again. I
promise, from now on, there will be no secrets between us.”
“Of course,” I say with a deep pang of guilt. “No more
he sunlight beams against my skin and I stretch out
instinctively against the hot rays. My eyes are closed, but I can hear the
distant sounds of ships passing in the sea beyond the villa.
I’ve never felt like this before: no care and no trouble in
the world. It’s as if life has paused and all the pieces fit into a perfect
jigsaw. A perfect calm of everything in its right place.
This is my life now. More than that: this is who I am.
This is who I am meant to be. Not the silly little girl from Iowa, too scared
to put a foot wrong in case someone - anyone - thought to question it and make
me look stupid. No - now I’m Mrs. Melody Strong, wife to a handsome
billionaire, carrying his child, and lying back and enjoying the sun in my
husband’s Tuscan villa.
It doesn’t matter how many times I repeat it to myself, I
still find it so hard to believe, expecting a splash of cold water to the face
to wake me up and back to my real life. But it never happens. Instead, I
remember again and again that
is reality, and my heart skips a
Even after seven bliss filled days in Chase’s villa, deep in
the heart of Italy, the word
I love to think it, to roll it around over my tongue, in my
mouth and in my mind. I love to hold it close to me, to wrap my arms around it
like my child and never let it go. It’s a truth that’s there and will always
be there and I feel like I’ll forget it and take it for granted but that moment
I open my eyes and take a sip from the fresh orange juice
resting on the table next to me.
The soft light of the sun bounces off the pool and a sudden
sense of loneliness takes me.
It’s been no one but me and Chase for the last week,
isolated together in this villa, with nothing but each other and our bodies for
Chase wanted to bring in staff to help tend to us in the
daylight hours, before leaving us to ravish each other in the night. But I
told him no - all I needed was him. In truth, I was a little scared of being
waited on hand and foot - even back in Iowa, my father employed a monstrous amount
of people to tend to his every need, but I always stepped back and took no
help. I’ve always wanted to do everything myself as long as I can remember.
Chase was not sure at first, but after I told him how no
staff would allow us to make love whenever we wanted without worry of who would
walk in, he was convinced. But from the hunger in his eyes from the past week
every time he’s locked eyes on me, I imagine he wouldn’t care about fucking me
with a hundred people watching.
The thought stirs a hunger within me, and I leap off my
towel and rush inside, towards the master bedroom as fast as I can. Priceless
works of art hang from every wall, sculptures of abstract objects stand on
plinths in the corner of every room, between the minimalist furniture. It all
feels so wasted on me - hard expensive chairs that sear into the back; artwork
that looks like it was done by a dog with a brush and very well could have been
and that’s the point of it. But Chase loves them, so I must learn to. This is
my world now.
I reach the stairs and catch my reflection in the wall-mounted
mirror. A tiny bikini hangs around my body, one of the countless amount Chase
bought for me in Florence. The strings tie tightly around my frame and for a
moment I feel ghastly looking at my plump figure, my mind invaded by the
paranoid thoughts of how anyone could possibly want this. But then I remember
they do. I’ve always worn such baggy and ill-fitting clothes to hide my shame,
but Chase loves my body so much, maybe I’m the neurotic one here. There must
be nothing wrong with my body if he can want it. My breasts are so large, my
wide hips bearing underneath the curve of my belly that nurtures the child
growing inside of me.
For the first time, I actually feel comfortable in my own
skin. I’m actually worthy of being wanted.
The golden necklace around my neck glistens in the setting
evening sun, and I’m filled with a sense of foreboding ambivalence.
Chase bought this necklace for me. Hell, Chase has bought
everything for me: the clothes, the jewellery, my hair and nails. But I didn’t
ask him - I didn’t even get to admire these gifts before he sprang them on me.
I smile and I’m grateful every time, but I can’t escape the
feeling that he’s dressing me like a doll; like he’s trying to turn me into the
perfect wife - the type of woman who should be seen to be on his arm. The type
of woman no one would judge him for marrying.
Maybe it’s not such a surprise - he always said I would
never be able to cope in his world. Maybe a disguise is the best I can hope
But then who am I really? Am I Melody Strong: wife of a
handsome CEO billionaire playboy? Or am I still that mousey little girl,
playing dress up with the adults?
The five-carat diamond ring on my finger shines and, for a
moment, extinguishes my reflection.
No. Chase wants me. I know he does. The way his eyes
devour me every time he sets them on me, and the way we set the night alive in
an impossible display of heat and passion...
I must find him.
I race up to the master bedroom, but it’s empty. As is the
upstairs dining room, the library and the kitchen.
It takes me a few minutes to wander around the luxurious
villa, but when I pass by the study, I hear Chase’s voice shouting into the
phone. He’d been using the room as a makeshift office, frequently having
meetings with high-level board members well into the evening, whenever I was
not by his side.
I open the door and peek inside.
“How the fuck did that happen?” he says, completely
oblivious to my presence. “No, I want answers, not god damn excuses. And I
want them when I return. Goodbye.”
He slams the phone down and leans back in his leather chair.
“Is everything alright?” I ask.
He doesn’t look at me, instead just waving his hand
dismissively. “Everything’s fine.”
It bothers me how impossible he finds it to let go of work.
He takes everything so seriously, but we’re married now - he needs to learn to
But it must be hard wired, like how he refuses to get into a
situation where he may look vulnerable or foolish, even if only for a second.
Only yesterday, he took me on a night on the town, lavishing me with expensive
meals for luxurious restaurants, buying me more clothes and more jewellery than
I can count, before we took a romantic walk through the winding stone cobbled streets.
I was so giddy with happiness, that my mind got away from
me. The evening was so perfect and we were so happy, that when we wandered
past a karaoke bar near the centre of town, I eagerly tried to pull him inside.
“Come on, Chase. Please.”
“No, I told you. I don’t sing,” he said, shaking his head.
“What’s the worst that could happen?”
His look became suddenly hard. “Damn it, Melody. I said
And that was the end of that.
No ifs, no buts, just
But this needs to change. He has to learn to let himself
go. He’s given me so much and tried to change me and make me into the woman I
always wanted to be - now it’s my turn to return the favour.
I wander over to his desk and seductively trace my fingers
up my stomach to my buxom breasts, almost spilling out of my bikini top.
“Chase...” I say sensually.
“What is it?” he says, but his look of distraction suddenly
changes to one of hunger, as he glances up and his eyes find my body.
His gaze lingers on my breasts and I take a long deep
breath, pushing my bosoms out.
“Sorry to interrupt,” I say. “If there’s anything I can
He smirks and I feel his burning gaze as I tilt my head back
and let my hair topple down my back.
I give him a soft sensual sigh and he looks like he’s
finding it impossible to draw breath.
“Come here,” he says, and I wander over.
I lean down to meet his face and kiss him passionately. His
sun warmed lips burn against my own and I melt inside. My eyes close and his
musky scent billows into my nostrils.