Man With Money by Debra Falasco

Tyler Murphy is a billionaire, a man with money. He has everything he wants except the woman of his dreams. Vivien Lee is sweet, sexy… and she’s a romance writer. She knows all the tricks. Will Tyler find a way to earn her love or is a man with money destined to be alone?

Excerpt:

He was dark and handsome, and from what I was beginning to understand from his
mannerisms, stereotypically alpha, with jet black hair swept back on the sides,
but a little, just a little, messy on the top. That sexy messy that makes you
want to run your hands through it and mess it up some more. Feel its rich
softness glide through your fingertip. And as much as I tried to ignore him,
every time I glanced his way, those deep blue eyes were looking back at me,
tempting me to hold his gaze.

Shifting uncomfortably in his gaze, yet again, I decided I
was through eating. Who could enjoy their meal when their stomach was crawling
up their throat? Gross, but every butterfly I owned was flipping through my
shrimp scampi, dancing in my Caesar salad, fluttering in my chardonnay and
would very soon be flying freely out of my mouth if I didn’t get away from
those eyes. He was without a doubt the most handsome man I had ever seen, and
most definitely, the most attractive to ever spend so much time staring at me.

Shaking my head, I waited for my bill to arrive. I fiddled
with my napkin, pushed some food aimlessly around the plate and contemplated
how rude it would be if I got up and moved around to the chair on the other
side of the table. At least, then my back would be to him, and the
unexplainable sweat building on my palms would subside. Before I could make a
decision, tall, dark and handsome moved his chair from the table and walked by
me on his way back inside the restaurant from the outdoor patio where we were
dining. He had finished his meal, it seemed. I breathed a sigh of relief. My
god, he was hot. I couldn’t help but wonder – was he staying here, at the
hotel, or just dining? Did he have a wife, girlfriend, significant other?

Maybe I could try to finish my dinner now that he was gone.
I really was hungry, but just as I started to put another forkful of scampi in
my mouth, a shadow passed over my table. He was back, sliding gracefully into
his chair. Dang. Must have just been a potty break. I
put the fork back down, food untouched. Looked like dinner was going to be
vending machine snacks in my room later. I took one last quick look at my
mystery man as I put down the fork and thought I saw a smirk on that too
good-looking-for-words face, just the hint of one, as the waiter brought him
his bill, and he started the payment process.

Where was my check? I was ready to get the heck (sorry, I’m
not the swearing type) out of Dodge. I took several unwanted sips of my water
as I waited. The gorgeous male paid his check and rose to leave. As he passed
my table, I looked down at my plate. Don’t
look up. Don’t look up.

I had my eyes trained so studiously on my plate that I
almost jumped at the deep ‘goodnight’ he murmured as he walked by me without
stopping. I wasn’t even sure he was talking to me. Perhaps he was saying
goodnight to the waiter? But that voice…that was one sexy ‘goodnight.’

Once he passed, I could breathe again. I resisted the urge
to watch him walk out of the restaurant. It was torture, but I managed to keep
my eyes averted. But I have a pretty vivid imagination, and I knew he was
leaving with the grace, confidence, and overwhelming masculinity that he had
already demonstrated. Finally, Ivan returned with my bill. Or so I thought. My
blonde waiter with the big blue eyes sat the folder down, but it was empty.

“The gentleman asked me to let you know that dinner was on
him this evening, ma’am.”

“What gentleman?” I asked, shocked by this ‘gentleman’s’
audacity. Was it tall, dark and handsome? My stomach did a triple flip-flop.
Why did just thinking about this guy, even now that he was gone, make me so
nervous?

“I’m sorry, ma’am. He asked me not to say, but he’s having a
drink at the bar right now.” Ivan said the last part as if it were part of a
conspiracy.

Why wouldn’t he want me to know? I turned my head but
couldn’t see the bar inside from the angle where I was sitting. It could have
been anybody. I wasn’t vain enough to assume that it was my friend with the
pitch-black hair and ocean blue eyes that paid for my dinner, but one could
hope.

It appeared my invisible dinner date wanted to remain
anonymous, but there was no way I could leave without at least thanking him.
Maybe a ‘thank you’ note would flush him out? The romantic in me couldn’t
resist.

“Do you have a notepad or paper?” I asked Ivan.

He smiled and returned promptly with a pad and pen. His grin
let me know he was enjoying this.

I took a moment to think over the right words then folded
and handed Ivan the note. “If he’s still at the bar, could you give him this?”

I’m not sure what I was waiting for, but I stayed at my
table anyway, sipping my wine and willing the nausea in my stomach to go away.
But I was right to linger. My mysterious benefactor responded.

Below where I had written “Thank you for dinner. It was a
lovely gesture,” he replied, “My pleasure. It was a lovely view.”

Lovely view? My heart jumped. It was him! Please, let it be
him. I couldn’t be sure, but I had to know. Something about this man…I had to
know!

Next time, don’t be so mysterious.
Join me.”

The answer came back just as quickly. Poor Ivan was getting
his steps in. “I’m in the bar. Join me.” He underlined the “me.” Twice.

Oh, sweet Barbara Cartland. I wanted to throw up, but I
started this, and I was curious to find out if I was right. As out of character
as this was for me, I felt compelled to give in to the urge. A drink, in a
public place. It would be okay as long as I didn’t get tongue tied and
embarrass myself. This behavior was outside of my norm but this man, I felt an
attraction to him, unlike anything I’d ever experienced. What could it hurt? I
didn’t agree to marry him. Just a meeting in the bar. No. Big. Deal.

I said goodnight to Ivan, and on legs that wanted to give
away at any moment, I slowly, steadily walked to the bar. Thankfully, I was
wearing comfortable shoes and not those stilts that Tamra
wanted me to wear. The idea of falling on my face in front of him almost had me
turning around and heading for the lobby elevators.

I stopped when I walked in, carefully perusing the patrons.
The dimly lit bar had a few candles glowing on the tables. The colors from the
backlighting reflected off the mirrors behind the bar sending shards of red,
blue and amber across the room. It was a pretty effect. Someone had put a lot
of thought into the lighting design, and it showed.

Due to the late hour, most of the restaurant’s inhabitants
were dining, but there were still a few people at the bar. On one end, a man
and a woman sat, talking face to face. Married? Dating? Possible one-night
stand in the making? A few stools down from them, sat one woman – an older
woman, working furiously on a pile of scratch tickets next to her wine glass.
She was scratching desperately like she had
t
o win tonight.

My eyes then went to the far end of the bar where the last
person sat, tall but comfortable with an almost lazy sort of elegance. And
jet-black hair.

As if on cue, my mystery man turned around, and our eyes
met. He smiled – a slow, sensual, smile that should have sent me running to my
room. But this man, that smile, and those eyes knocked the sense right out of
me. My breath caught in my throat.

Like the gentleman I hoped he was, he rose to meet me. Tall,
lean and muscular, and moving with confidence. Then that deep voice wrapped
around me.

“I was hoping you’d come.” Without further words, he put his
hand on the small of my back and guided me to the barstool next to where he had
been sitting.

I was flustered that it was him and that within seconds, he was already touching me. But let’s
face it, I’m a romantic, and I am a sucker for the “hand on the small of the
back” gesture, even if it was premature. Between the voice, the smile and that
move, I felt what little bit of sense I clung to fade away.

“I was hoping it was you,” I answered him, smiling when I
said the words but then realizing how completely lame
I sounded. Heat flooded my face as I sat down and trained my eyes on his shirt.

He definitely appeared more casual than I was feeling.

“You didn’t think I was the one who bought your dinner?”

Blue eyes. I couldn’t see them from my downcast look, but I
felt them, felt every second that they moved over me.

When I didn’t answer, he tipped his head into my line of
vision, forcing me to look right into his eyes.

 “I’ve been staring at
you all night. Are you not confident enough to think that I find you
unbelievably beautiful?”

Who says that to someone they just met? And technically, we
haven’t even met. I don’t even know his name. But I would play his game if he
wanted. For now. I felt like I had to.

I shrugged, fiddling with the edges of my clutch. “I’m not
vain enough to assume that you were staring at me, or that it was you who then
paid for my dinner. After all, you did it anonymously, didn’t you? Maybe you
didn’t want the credit?”

Something I said made him angry. Quickly, he ordered two
chardonnays from the bartender. It was arrogant of him. He didn’t even bother
asking me what I wanted. Perhaps he assumed that was what I would prefer since
I had chardonnay with my dinner. He saw the bill. He paid for it.

Narrowed eyes turned back to me. “You know damn well I was
looking at you.”

I frowned, his words making me uncomfortable. I like to look
good, but I don’t enjoy being the object of attention. I don’t know what
sparked his irritation. Did he think I was trying to bait him or something?

“Don’t be coy,” he went on, blue eyes flashing. “Every male
in this restaurant with eyesight has been looking at you since you arrived. In
that dress.” He looked down at my vintage inspired cocktail dress, my absolute favorite
– silver with a tight-fitting bodice and a flared A-line skirt. Once again, his
eyes roved over me.

“A man would have to be dead not to take notice.” He still
sounded angry, and his bluntness caught me off guard. The whole conversation
did.

I blushed. I felt the scarlet rise from my neck and spread
across my face. It was hot, stuffy. I was one comment away from completely
overheating, and then he did it.

As if I couldn’t breathe enough, he reached out and tipped
my chin up. I tried to pull away, but he held firm. His expression and tone
completely changed to one of…awe?

“My god,” he muttered, his eyes moving over my face. He
lifted one finger up and gently traced my cheek which I knew was stained red.
“I didn’t think there were any women left who could do that.”

I know my blush deepened. The firm, but gentle touch of his
finger against my cheek was not helping matters. “What? Make a fool of
themselves?” I tried to make light of it, but this man was intense. His mere
presence was overwhelming. His touch was insane.

He stared intently at me, but his attitude seemed to change.

“No.” He shook his head. “I’ve met some very good actresses.
You can’t fake a blush like that.” He continued to run his finger over my
cheek, but I reached up to bat it away. Tall, dark and handsome was turning
into touchy, feely and creepy.

His eyes widened for a moment, then he dropped his hand. I
straightened up and put my big girl panties on. Yes, I wanted to meet this man
after he ruined my dinner and had my stomach in knots from his staring, but
this was quickly becoming too much.

I started to stand up. “This was a mistake. I’m sorry for
taking up your time.” As I stood, he grabbed my hand, gently but firmly.

“No, it’s not a mistake.” His voice was warm, his eyes
sincere. I didn’t pull away, but I should have. What was it about this man that
had me questioning everything I believed in? Like not letting strangers touch
me in barely lit bars?

“Stay.”

A request? No, it was a demand, and I wanted to. I wanted to
stay, but things had to change.

I was cautious, but I sat back down. “I’ll stay, but under
two conditions.”

He smiled again. “And those are?”

He thought this was funny, but I was serious. “One, I would
like a proper introduction.” I tightened my glare at his upraised eyebrows.
“Two, you need to keep your hands to yourself.”

His broadened smile was amazing, sexy and confident,
completely disarming what little control I thought I had just got back.

He put his hand out. “One – my name is Tyler, Tyler Murphy.
And I can’t commit to condition number two.”

“Why not?”

“Because I can’t shake your hand if I can’t touch you.”

He said it with such charming contriteness that I smiled. “I
concede condition number two.” He smirked. “But only so you can shake my hand.”

I put my hand out, but he didn’t shake it as he said. He
raised it to his lips and slowly kissed the flesh above my knuckles.

I sucked in a breath at the unexpected warmth that tingled
through me. “You lied,” I accused breathily. “Tyler Murphy, you are a liar.”

He let my hand go and pinned me with those blue eyes. “Just
another point in the long list of uncharacteristic things I’ve done since
seeing you tonight.”

“Okay, I’ll bite. What were the other things?”

He took a sip of his wine. “I need to know your name before
I bare my soul.”

“There’s going to be soul-baring? Vivien. Vivien Lee.” His
response would tell me a lot.

“With those eyes and that hair, you bare
a striking resemblance.”

“Thank you for the compliment, but I’m nowhere close.” She
was a tiny thing. I was at least fifty pounds heavier and nowhere near as
glamorous.

He frowned but took another sip of his wine.

“I’m impressed. Most people I meet have no idea who she
was.” A nice, neutral topic would help keep my butterflies still, or so I
hoped.

“I’m a closet classic film buff,” he answered. “Though I
take nothing away from Gone with the Wind, I preferred her in Anna
Karenina.”

“Not Streetcar?” Well, here was something we would have in
common.

“Through no fault of hers. She was amazing. Not a huge
Tennessee Williams fan. You?” He wanted to know my favorite.

“Oh, I’m Gone with the Wind, all the way. No one
could have played Scarlett the way she did. It was the most perfect casting in
cinematic history, I think.”

“A toast to David O’Selznick.” He
raised his glass, and I joined him.

He knew who the producer of Gone with the Wind was.
This man impressed me more and more by the minute. But I was still curious
about his soul-baring.

“Would you like to move someplace more comfortable?”

One step forward. Two steps back. But Tyler was good at
reading nonverbal cues.

He jerked his head. “Just to the booth in the corner.”

“Okay, but you start soul-baring when we sit down.”

Tyler started to put his hand on the small of my back to
guide me to the booth, but when I raised an eyebrow at him, he smiled and held
both palms up. We situated ourselves in the corner booth, which wasn’t much
better than our barstools, as far as I was concerned. It was worse. The
cushions were softer than the bar stools. It was comfortable, relaxing. The
corner was darker, even farther removed from the other bar patrons and far away
from the safety of the bartender. But for some reason, I didn’t feel
threatened. Tyler didn’t me feel unsafe. Actually, it was the opposite. If I
had been receiving unwanted advances from someone else in the bar, Tyler gave
the impression that he was the man who would rescue me. Maybe sit down and
pretend to be your brother, or your boyfriend, then, if need be, punch someone
in the gut.

Despite Tyler’s overwhelming presence and my insane,
unwanted attraction to him, I knew he wasn’t an ax murderer or some other low
life prowling for a victim. He was too sophisticated for that. Then Ted Bundy
came to mind.

“What are you thinking?”

He must have picked up on something in my body language.

“Nothing.” I tried to remain cool.

“Now who’s the liar?”

My heart lurched. This sucked. How could he read me so well
already? I’m not good at this kind of thing. I don’t like it. I was done.

“Listen, Tyler,” I blurted.

He crossed his ankle and leaned back against the cushions.
Very casual. Very…appealing. I had his undivided attention, and the way he
looked at me made me think he wanted me to know that.

“I’m listening,” he prodded gently when I stalled.

I took a fortifying sip of chardonnay. “I don’t…I don’t do
this kind of thing.”

His eyebrows raised, and he leaned forward a bit. “This kind
of thing?”

“If there’s going to be soul-baring, which you still have
not done, by the way, then I need to tell you, I don’t do this. I don’t let
anonymous people pay for my meals. I don’t meet strange men in bars. I don’t. I
don’t …”

“Relax and have a nice time.”

I thought he was trying to finish my sentence for me. “No,
no, I mean I don’t…”

He moved to put a hand on my knee but dropped it on the seat
beside me. “No,” he said firmly. “I want you
to relax and have a nice time. That’s all I want. And since I have stalled
on the soul-baring, I’ll tell you my
don’ts.” The warm, velvet tone in his voice returned. I swallowed hard, waiting
for what he had to say. Part of me wanted him to put that hand on my knee as he
so clearly wanted to do.

“I don’t stare at beautiful women so long that it takes away
their appetite.”

 So, he had noticed
that I hadn’t eaten.

“Yes, I noticed.” The man could read my mind.

“I also don’t shy away from them. Normally, I would have
approached you right away and taken what I wanted.”

I blushed again.

He leaned closer, but still, Tyler didn’t touch me. “I don’t
anonymously buy her dinner then hang out in the bar hoping that she comes to
me. I go get her. I don’t feel nervous when she turns her green eyes to me or
smiles the sexiest, sweetest smile I’ve ever seen. I don’t ignore every urge I
have to kiss her and make love to her until she can’t think of anything but
me.”

A little gasp, or was it a sigh, escaped me. I wanted to
crawl away and hide from those blue eyes as Tyler “bared his soul” to me.

“I damn sure don’t agree not to touch her. Because I want to
touch you, Vivien. You have no idea how much. But I know this isn’t how you do
things, hanging out in bars, talking to strange men. And it’s not the way I
normally do things either. But you’re here for the same reason I am.”

“And that is?”

            Because
you can’t help yourself. Because you feel like you have to be here. This isn’t
what I normally do either, but if this was what I had to do to get to know you,
I was going to do it. Anything else would have sent you running. Am I right?”

How did this man know me so well after only twenty minutes
of conversation? He was good, too good. “I may still run.”

“No, you’re going to stay.”

He was that sure of himself. Or was he that sure of me? He
was right about one thing. I did want to be there. I just couldn’t believe he
wanted to be there with me. This man could have anyone he wanted.

His eyes narrowed as he watched me. “I make you nervous. You
can’t believe that I’m here, doing things I don’t normally do, because I want you.”

The disbelief must have been on my face when I looked back
at him.

“Screw condition number two,” he growled. He closed the gap
between us and cupped my chin with his palm.

“Believe it.” The words were forced out of his mouth.

“Why?” I breathed the word as much as I said it.

“Goddammit,” he growled again, and I flinched. “Don’t do
that. Don’t pull away from me.”

“You’re not exactly making me feel like I want to get
closer.” My heart was pounding, but it wasn’t from fear.

He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry.” And then the intensity
was back in his voice. “But you’re frustrating the hell out of me.”

 “Why? Because I haven’t
fallen into bed with you?”

“No,” he bit back. “I don’t mean physically. Well, that
part’s true, too, but that wasn’t what I was talking about.”

“Then what?” I demanded back. “What are you talking about?
And you know what? Stop swearing at me. I don’t like it.”

Tyler blinked. “You don’t like it?” He repeated my words
slowly. Tyler Murphy clearly wasn’t used to being told what to do.

“No. I. Don’t. Like.
It
.” My bravado increased a little bit. “I don’t swear, and I don’t like it
when people swear at me.”

He looked at me oddly for a minute. Unlike him with me, I
couldn’t read his mind.

Still holding my chin, he tipped my head up so he could see
my face. “You don’t swear. You don’t flirt or approach strange men. You don’t
sleep around, and you don’t kiss on the first date.”

How he knew all that I would never guess.

“You wear vintage clothing, and you blush like an angel.” He
stopped abruptly. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-six,” I answered him as if I had no choice, but I
did, didn’t I?

He kept staring, but this time Tyler’s eyes moved from mine
down to my mouth. The tip of his tongue ran along his bottom lip.

“You’re not a virgin?” His eyes popped back up to mine. He
asked the question in a tone mixed with strength, determination, and doubt.

My dander was up again. “That’s a rather personal….and
rude…question.”

“Answer it.” He tugged my chin gently despite the force
behind his words.

I can’t believe I was going to answer that question, but as
I did, I pulled my chin from his grip.

“No, I’m not…but…” I stopped. This was none of his
business.

“But what?” His tone softened.

I shook my head, embarrassed by my confession.

“How many men have you been with, Vivien?” Something about
the deep, soothing tone in his voice made me continue.

I shrugged. “Maybe….one.”

“Maybe?”

He was determined to peel back my layers. “Definitely one, but, we didn’t last long.”

“How long?”

That voice…why did it make me want to tell him things? And
the look in his eyes… I knew I was safe with him. Now would be a good time for
him to read my mind.

“I don’t really want to answer that.” I twirled my
wineglass, watching the liquid coat the glass. Anything to not look at him.

His hand landed on my knee and began to rub gently. “Please
answer it. I need to know.”

I swallowed, no gulped, some of my wine. “Three months,
after…”

“After what?” he coaxed. “How long were you together?”

“A year and a half.” Another large gulp. “We broke up.”

His eyes widened. “Eighteen months and he broke up with you
three months after you made love for the first time.”

He did a good job of connecting my random dots and knew that
it was my ex who broke up with me, not the other way around. I just nodded, my
embarrassment once again causing the blush to rise to my cheeks.

Tyler stopped talking then, looking down at his hand as he
continued to massage my knee. He didn’t look at me as he asked, “How old were
you then?”

Well, why not? I had answered his other questions, for
whatever reason. “Twenty-one.”

He closed his eyes and groaned.

“What? What’s wrong?”

Those blue eyes burned into me. “Not a fu
….da……” He shook his head. “Nothing, nothing’s wrong.”

About the Author:

My name is Debra J. Falasco and I have been a writer for as long as I can remember, from short stories and poetry to college papers and expository writings. But my heart has always belonged to romance. After moving to Colorado from Texas, I met the man I was meant to be with. After marriage and one child, I left a long-term career to become a stay at home Mom. That was a dream come true but after two years, it was time to make another dream come true. I began working on a book and redeveloping characters I created over twenty years ago. Adrian and Machelle’s love had never been forgotten and with the telling of their story, I created a world of romance I can’t wait to share with readers!

Twitter: @debrafalasco