“Sounds good,” she whispers back. The poor guy in front of her keeps looking back as if trying to catch her eye. No doubt, he’s still riveted by her horny plight and willing to do whatever he can to help her out. Men are drawn to Rose. Her demure outer appearance coupled with the inner wild child just seems to shine through no matter how many cardigan sets she wears.

I’m close to drifting off before the class finally ends. Heck, maybe I did for a moment because the sound of chairs scraping across the floor jerks me to attention. I blink rapidly, looking around as the room empties. Rose’s fingers are a blur as she types on her phone before dropping it into her Michael Kors purse. No Wal-Mart bag for her. Actually, I think the one I’m carrying came from Target. “Are you ready?” I yawn as I get to my feet.

She stabs at her phone screen with enough force to crack it before saying absently, “Yeah, let’s get out of here.” She seems preoccupied and answers all of my questions in monotone until we’re settled at a corner table with our lattes.

“Is anything wrong?” I finally ask when it becomes apparent she’s not going to volunteer any information. Something has obviously happened to alter her mood so drastically.

She looks at me for a moment as if debating how to answer my question before she slumps in her seat, relaxing her normally perfect posture. “It’s just my parents giving me a hard time.”

“How so?” I admit her mother and father rather intrigue me. They seem to have a lot of control over her considering they never visit. She is usually quiet after speaking with them.

“Oh, they have another perfect candidate for my future husband and they want me to come home for the weekend to meet him.”

I start laughing before I realize she hasn’t even cracked a smile. I bite my lip before asking, “You’re really upset over this, aren’t you?”

She begins rubbing circles on the side of her cup as she stares into space. “You’d think I’d be used to it by now. I mean, what makes me think that my life is my own? They’ve always been very clear about the fact that they own me. I’m the perfectly dressed daughter who does what I’m told.”

My chest seizes as I look at her in alarm. “Rose…have they—”

She gives me a blank look before her mouth drops open in understanding. She puts her hand over mine, shaking her head. “No, Lia, they’ve never laid a hand on me in anger and I can’t imagine that happening.” She gives me a shamefaced look before saying, “I’m an idiot. I shouldn’t be sitting here whining about my parents ordering me around. You must think I’m so…weak.”

“What? No!” I gasp. “Regardless of what happened in my past, Rose, I don’t see it as a reason to look down on you or anyone else. You’re upset and suffering. I would never trivialize that. I want to be here for you as you are for me.” Trying to lighten the sudden tension between us, I add playfully, “Now, if you don’t tell me what’s going on, I’m going to throw a hormonal fit the likes of which you’ve never imagined. Start talking.”

A smile pulls at the corners of her mouth. “Don’t think being pregnant gives you carte blanche to go all bitchy on me, chick. You need to save all of those demands for your sex god.”

“He likes to call the shots.” I laugh before sitting back and waiting for her to open up.

Clearing her throat, Rose begins. “My parents…rather my daddy…expect me to be a certain way.” Tugging at the cashmere of her pink sweater she continues, “I’m to look like my mother, a lady at all times.”

“But what about the guns? That seems like a strange combination.”

Rose laughs. “He can’t help himself. I might look like my mother, but my father passed on his love of weapons to me. He said it wouldn’t do to have a defenseless daughter who couldn’t protect herself. I guess even that would be an embarrassment since he’s such a sportsman.”

“You said something about him wanting you to go out with someone?”

“Oh yes,” she spits out. “I’m just a great big stepping stone for him. For years, he’s let me know that when the time and the connections are right, he’ll find me an ‘appropriate’ husband to settle down with. Hell, the only reason I’m even in college is so I’m well spoken around his business associates. He never even entertained the thought that I would get a job after I graduate.”

“And Max?” I ask before I can stop myself. I know she cares about him and I’m pretty sure he feels something for her even though Lucian says it’s probably only fear for his life.

“I want Max to fuck me,” she says flatly. “But he can’t admit that he wants the same thing.”

“Is that all?”

“Does it matter?” She sounds resigned now, which worries me even more. I’m used to spunky Rose. She’s the girl who takes a shovel to her ex-boyfriend’s tires. She isn’t the type to silently acquiescence.

“Of course, it does,” I argue. “You’re an adult who is capable of making her own decisions.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” she says quietly. “I’m someone whose daddy pays for everything. I mean, when I was actually working at this very coffee shop and saving some money of my own, he forced me to quit. Daddy said it was interfering with my schoolwork and that he wouldn’t pay my tuition just to have me fail. I think he just didn’t want to risk me getting out from under his thumb.”

Tags: Sydney Landon Lucian & Lia Billionaire Romance
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