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Three Fortunes for the Billionaire, #3

Three Fortunes for the Billionaire, #3

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Shy billionaire Ezreal Wallach, a musical genius for a hit online game, hesitates to mentor in a music program when he learns the coordinator, Sara, is female. Sara Fortune, who's fled a dangerous past, is the force behind the program. Both are drawn to each other: Ezreal finds new inspiration in Sara and her children, while she sees a gentleness in him that challenges her fears. As their worlds intertwine, they face a choice: let love blossom or allow their pasts to dictate their future.

Main Tropes

  • Billionaire Romance
  • Emotional Scars
  • Forced Proximity

Synopsis

Will their love be the melody that heals, or the discord that shatters them both?

Ezreal Wallach, a musical genius behind a blockbuster online game, is socially paralyzed around women he doesn’t know and trust. When the opportunity to mentor underprivileged children in a music program arises, he hesitates upon learning the coordinator is female. Meeting her children ignites new melodies in his mind, but it’s Sara who inspires him to move into the real world. Could he dare to go on his first-ever date?

Sara Fortune has moved mountains and miles to shield her family from a dangerous past. Now the driving force behind a new music program for underprivileged children, she's committed to making it a reality—even if it means collaborating with a man as mysterious as he is gentle. As she finds herself increasingly drawn to Ezreal, old fears claw their way back. She has experienced the monsters that hide inside all men. Can she risk her heart and her children's safety on one she’s just beginning to trust?

As their worlds intertwine, Sara and Ezreal face a crossroads. With new melodies and old fears playing in the background, will they let love blossom or allow their pasts to dictate their future?

Intro Into Chapter One

Ezreal Wallach rubbed his clammy hands together as they approached the bed-and-breakfast. He glanced at his business partner and friend Rafe Davis. How could he always be so calm? It wasn’t fair. Ezreal’s stomach had turned into a roiling mess, and he thought he might throw up.

“Let’s sit down first.” Rafe pointed to the eclectic array of comfortable rocking chairs on the wide front porch. His mother lived on the outskirts of Boone in an historic home surrounded by a thriving garden.

Grateful for any reprieve, Ezreal took a seat. The B&B was usually a safe place where no one judged him. Now, he’d have to meet an unfamiliar woman here—and they expected him to talk to her. He knew it was stupid, but it felt like the old house that had been his refuge since moving to North Carolina had betrayed him.

“I’ve told you before; it’ll be all right.” Rafe rocked in the chair, his head against the tall back, comfortable and relaxed. “It’s a good thing you’ll be doing. You’ll help a lot of kids.”

That’s right. Guilt him out. Ezreal started his own chair rocking with nervous agitation. He hated the way he always froze up around women he didn’t know well and trust. His business partners had been mostly patient with him over the years because they said they understood his social phobia. It hadn’t kept them from forcing him into the role of a department head at REKD Gaming, knowing there’d be unfamiliar women working with him. The guys were always pressing him to go beyond his comfort zone.

Rafe shot him a sidelong glance like he thought Ezreal might bolt. Which he just might. Actually, the more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea of walking away. They wanted him to volunteer for this. He didn’t have to do it. In fact, he couldn’t do it. What were they thinking to ask him to help this woman teach a group piano class?

But Rafe was right. It was for a bunch of poor kids who couldn’t afford lessons otherwise.

Groaning, Ezreal shoved away the guilt again. He had so much. Even after nearly three years, he still couldn’t get his head around the fact that he was rich. There must be some way he could use his money to help the kids and not have to talk to this woman.

His money. Ezreal stopped rocking. He’d been so preoccupied with having to work with an unfamiliar woman that he hadn’t been thinking clearly. Why not just hire a bunch of music students from Appalachian State? They needed part-time jobs anyway, and the class needed musicians to help with the teaching. What good was it to be a billionaire if he couldn’t use the money like he wanted? It’d be a win/win.

“Just meet her before you decide,” Rafe said.

“But I have the perfect solution.” Ezreal explained his idea.

Before Rafe could respond, a child’s gleeful squeal came from behind the house, and both men stood.

“I can’t do it.” Ezreal’s breathing had turned ragged. “I have to go.”

Before he could move, a little girl ran around the corner of the house, her pale hair streaming behind her as she ran from Rafe’s younger sister Lessa. The new child’s laughter rang through the yard like a flute solo. The soft breeze rustling through the trees and the monster-like growling noises that came from Lessa, adding to the orchestral depth. Ezreal wished he were sitting at his computer to capture the music they were making.

When the blonde girl became aware of the two men, she stopped abruptly. Lessa nearly plowed into her. Then she saw her big brother.

“Rafe!” She flew up the stairs and threw herself into his arms for a hug and then did the same to Ezreal.

“Who’s this?” Rafe nodded toward her friend.

“Janna. Don’t you like her name? I do. When I’m a mama and have a little girl, I’m going to name her Janna.” Lessa put a hand on each man’s arm and said to her friend, “This is my big brother. Remember me telling you about him? And this here’s Ezreal, but we call him Ez. He’s like an uncle because he’s like Rafe’s brother even if Rafe’s my brother and not my uncle.” Lessa frowned, as though her train of thought had confused her.

“Nice to meet you, Janna,” Rafe said. “Are you in Lessa’s class at school?”

The little girl nodded but stayed where she was. Ezreal sensed the child’s wariness. He knew that feeling all too well himself. She’d either experienced something bad in her life or someone close to her had warned her about being cautious. For her to be so leery, she’d have had to hear it often.

The music of her laughter lingered in his mind, and it saddened him that it had shut down as soon as she’d come upon the men. Was it because they were strangers or because they were men?

The hair on the back of Ezreal’s neck stood up, and he clenched his fists. If someone had hurt this child . . . He took a slow breath and calmed himself. No need to jump to conclusions just because he’d been bullied as a kid.

To avoid towering over her, he eased back into the rocking chair and signaled for Rafe to do the same. He did and pulled Lessa to his side.

“Hello,” Ezreal said, his voice soft. “Are you in kindergarten too?”

Janna nodded.

“Do you like it?”

She nodded again but said nothing.

“It’s been a long time since I was in kindergarten. I remember that my favorite thing was the chocolate milk.” Ezreal grinned happily and rubbed his stomach. “I think it’s probably still my favorite drink.”

“It is,” Lessa cried. “Ma makes sure to have chocolate milk with Sunday dinner every week just for you.”

“Does she really?” He glanced at her in surprise.

“You know Ma.” Rafe shot him a knowing grin. “She aims to please.”

“I like chocolate milk too,” came a soft voice from the bottom of the porch steps.

“I see you have good taste.” Ezreal slowly started rocking his chair. “What else do you like about kindergarten?”

“I like coloring,” Lessa piped up.

“I like recess.” Janna moved to the first step.

“Because you get to go outside?” Ezreal asked.

“Yes. I like it better than being inside. It’s stuffy there.”

“But you like to color too,” Lessa added.

Ezreal glanced at Rafe’s little sister, appreciative that she seemed to understand how skittish her friend was. Did Lessa know why the girl was so nervous?

“I like music time better. Mama does too.” Janna watched Ezreal.

The color of her eyes tugged at a memory. The pale gray irises were surrounded by a dark blue. Where had he seen eyes like that before?

“Are you going to help with Mama’s class?” Janna asked.

Ezreal stopped rocking for a second, confused. Then it hit him—this child was the piano teacher’s daughter. His stomach knotted, and his heart started to pound again. He took a deep breath, preparing to tell her that he couldn’t help.

“Does she still need helpers?” That hadn’t come out right. Ezreal’s hand shook as it gripped the arms of the rocker.

Janna nodded. She looked like she wanted to say something else but glanced first at Rafe and Lessa and then around the yard as though there might be someone there spying on them.

Ezreal couldn’t help scanning the area too. What was the child afraid of? Who was she afraid of? When the little girl took the final step, he looked at her. She now stood a few inches from his knees, gazing at him with those intense gray eyes. He didn’t move.

“Mama says not just anyone can come to our house,” Janna finally said, her voice so soft it came out as a whisper. “We have to be careful.”

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