First Chapter of The Billionaire’s Fake Fiancée

Chapter One


Rex’s angry baritone voice rumbles through the polished wood door that separates his majestic office from the lowly world of normal people. 

I wince inwardly. You can only make out random words, but it’s clear that he’s both stunned and enraged at the incompetence of the mere mortals who surround him.

Amanda’s eyes widen. “Maybe today’s a bad day to bring me in there?” she squeaks. 

I try for a breezy smile. “It’ll be fine,” I say. “Everybody annoys and upsets Rex. Once you get to know him, you’ll see it’s just how he is.”

More yelling. 

Amanda looks like she wants to melt into the wall. She tightens her grip on the handle of my rolling salon case, sparkly pink with polished silver hinges and hardware. I’ve been letting her wheel it into my clients’ offices as a visual aid to help prepare them for my absence, a way of passing my mobile stylist torch. Just for a few weeks, anyway. 

Hopefully just a few weeks.

More angry rumbles. 

I smile like it’s so amusing. “Oh, Rex!” I whisper. 

She searches my face. Am I joking?

I was hoping she could have an okay interaction with him before being exposed to his terrifying, god-throwing-thunderbolts management style. 

Too late now. 

I pull her farther to the side just in time for a trio of men in suits to burst out and head down the lavishly carpeted hallway, down past the rows of offices—little glass boxes where Rex keeps his assistants. Most of the offices are darkened now, being that it’s eight on a Friday night.

We watch them head down the hall toward the empty area where more of Rex’s assistants toil each day. 

They keep going, picking up speed as they enter the area where the assistants to Rex’s assistants toil. There’s probably a dungeon somewhere beyond that where those assistants’ assistants’ assistants work, and below that, a torture chamber would not be a shocker. 

More grumbling from inside. 

“He’s not a bad person,” I whisper. “It’s just his style.” Rex O’Rourke is an achingly gorgeous man with a large frame and sooty eyelashes, but he’s definitely scary—in a sort of gothic way, I like to think. He’s some kind of financial powerbroker, the head of Rex O’Rourke Capital.

“Erp,” she says, unconvinced. 

My smile does not waver. No way will I let her wiggle out of this. 

I employ two stylists, and Amanda’s my best. I need my best for Rex because there are very specific ways to shape his short beard and cut his hair, and I don’t like to think of somebody getting it wrong. You have to appreciate the handsome shape of his face; you also have to account for his habit of shoving his hands through his hair when he’s irritated, which is always, and which results in a dramatically swept-back style. 

I kind of love when he does the irritated hands-through-his-hair thing. And his beautiful lips go frowny, and his hard energy fills the room, and people literally scurry for the hills like ocelots sensing a coming tidal wave. 

And I’ll be busily setting up my mobile salon, and I know I shouldn’t find that amusing, and I definitely shouldn’t imagine pressing my hands against the velvet-smooth scruff on Rex’s cheeks and kissing his big frown. 


I guess I’ve always had a bit of a crush on him. More than a crush. Rex loves to act like I’m the most annoying person in the universe, but the heart wants what it wants. 

In spite of Rex’s seeming annoyance with me, I do feel we have a certain connection—that we’re simpatico—not that he’d ever acknowledge it any more than a roaring, angry lion would acknowledge that a little breeze feels nice. 

No, Rex exists in a rarified realm of celebrities and billionaires, a sparkling stratosphere where you never have to wait in post office lines or claw price tags off of things and your quest for world domination might actually work. 

I’ve been cutting his hair every Friday night at ten minutes after eight, which is when aftermarket trading closes, whatever that is. He can’t be bothered prior to that. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about him, it’s that world domination is the only thing he cares about.

More yelling. Another suit, a woman this time, bursts out of the office. A man follows her, then another, moving quickly. Something must’ve happened because usually it’s quieter at this time of night. I like to think of it as our time, stupid as that may sound. 

My gaze drops to Amanda’s white-knuckled grip. If her hands are shaking, she’ll screw up Rex’s haircut for sure. 

I’d be the one to cut his hair this evening, but my wrist is immobilized in a brace thanks to a repetitive stress injury that’s on track to destroy my life. I’m supposed to take six weeks off. If it’s not better by then, another six. I don’t know how I’ll pay rent. I barely have rent for this month. 

I can’t think about that. 

Amanda stiffens as Rex’s growl sounds through the now-partially-open door. Growling his words. Another unfortunate underling is still in there. 

“The trick with Rex is to relate to him with a sense of fun,” I whisper. “Fun is your suit of armor. And never let him see you sweat. Never let him smell blood in the water.” 

She grips the case harder. “Oh-kay.”

“Seriously, no matter what, always show that you’re having fun,” I say. 

“But I’m not naturally fun like you are,” she says. 

I want to tell her that I’m not naturally fun, either, but she wouldn’t believe it. I’ve learned to be fun. Being the funnest person ever and never letting people see me sweat is my life strategy, and it’s served me well. Especially with Rex.

Rex is an investment guy. Maybe hedge funds—I’m never really clear. He’s some kind of celebrity in the business world. They put his picture on the front of magazines a lot. Not any kind of magazine I’d ever buy, but the Patek Philippe watch bros seem to grab up anything with his picture on it like the last Doritos at a party full of stoners.

And sometimes when you go to news websites to get the latest on the royal babies, there’ll be a sidebar with other news stories to click on and you’ll see his name alongside blurbs about what stocks he’s buying and selling, what he thinks about this or that market. People always seem to be reacting to what he says, whether it’s to agree or disagree. Basically, any statement that comes out of Rex O’Rourke’s mouth is a thing.

When you’re walking around in his posh, eco-friendly headquarters—a converted warehouse complex—you see his signature on signage everywhere. His signature is the literal logo of Rex O’Rourke Capital, as though it’s his promise. Rex O’Rourke is a monster, but if you sign on the dotted line, he’ll be your monster. 

“Just walk in there with your head held high and find the fun,” I say. “You’re having fun, and he’s all hatey, and that’s on him. It’s the only way to deal with somebody like Rex.”

“Okay.” She nervously bites her lip. 

“It’s true. Surly men like Rex always have a dark and painful secret and zero fun in their lives.”

“How do you know?” Amanda narrows her eyes. “Did you get that from your soap opera?”

“Well…yeah,” I admit. “But that doesn’t make it less true.” 

I have a soap-opera themed Instagram account. I find soap operas incredibly soothing. Sometimes when I can’t go to sleep at night, I think about my favorite characters. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, needless to say. A wrist injury is a scary thing when you’re a hairdresser.

“The only way to deal with a man like Rex is to put on a smile, lace up your sparkly boots, and ignore his growls. Think of him as a lion with a thorn in his paw. It’s not about you. He just has a big ol’ thorn in his paw,” I say. 

The way Amanda stares at me, you’d think I’d grown my own lion’s paws, and maybe even a big, fluffy mane.

I do feel that Rex carries a kind of dark weight—it’s something that I keep in mind when he acts like he hates my jokes or makes frustrated sounds when I stroll in wearing my awesome outfits. Personally, I think it’s good for him to be exposed to somebody who is an imaginative dresser. The man seriously lives the life of a gothic villain in a lonely castle, though his gruff style of human interaction doesn’t seem to hurt him in the womanizing department at all, if gossip sites are anything to go by. 

I sometimes examine the pictures of him that appear online, partly to see how the style holds up in the wild, though I can’t help but notice that the rail-thin models and socialites he appears with dress in a completely boring way. A lot of earth tones—mostly black. Totally funereal. Like they think fun colors might hurt his eyes or something. 

According to reports, Rex O’Rourke never sleeps with the same woman twice. Even so, women line up around the block for a crack at him. A recent Sunday feature paints him as quite the Casanova. Is he amazing and dramatic in bed with all of these women? Is that what’s going on? 

More grumbled words. 

“I don’t think I can do it,” Amanda whispers.

“I wouldn’t have brought you to take my place with him if I didn’t think you could do it,” I say, taking a firmer tone now. “You got this.” 

“It’s kind of amazing that he likes you,” she whispers. “It seems like he wouldn’t like somebody with a fun attitude.”

“Likes me? Are you kidding? He hates me, too. It’s possible he hates me even more than he hates everyone else.”

“What?” Amanda is freaking now. It’s eight after. Two minutes to haircut time. “He hates you?”

“I completely annoy him. He’s an utter asshole to me. I don’t let him get to me, but yeah, he is not a fan.”

She gapes at me. “Why do you put up with him? Tabitha, you have a massive waiting list. Guys dying for you specifically to be their stylist.”

I shrug. 

“Is it possible you’re a masochist?” she asks. “I think you are.”

Rex’s red-headed right-hand man, Clark, slips out the door just then. “Hey, Tabitha!”

“Hiya, Clark!” I say. 

Clark’s eyes fall to the brace on my wrist. Quickly I cross my arms, hoping he didn’t really notice. I don’t want Rex to know why I’m taking time off. I introduce Clark to Amanda and explain she’s taking my clients temporarily. Clark winces at the closed door. “Possibly not the best day for a change.”

“Gulp,” I say brightly. “It can’t be helped. If he’s upset, I’ll amaze him with my favorite Stefano-faking-his-own-death storyline from Days of Our Lives,” I joke.

Clark snorts. “Somebody has a death wish.” With that he heads off. 

“Rex O’Rourke likes to hear about soap operas?” Amanda asks. 

“Oh my god, no, he hates to hear about soap operas,” I say, rolling my sleeve over my injured wrist. “Few things agitate him more. Rex hates anything that is pleasurable or relaxing. When you give him a scalp massage, you have to pretend that it’s the only way his hair follicles will lie naturally. That’s what I told him—if he doesn’t let me do it, the haircut won’t lie right.”

“Why not just skip the head massage?” she asks. “I mean, if he hates it…”

“Just because,” I say. 

Because of all the people in the world, he needs it the most. The man literally has no pleasure in his life. 

As if on cue, Rex yells at somebody—every other word is a number; that’s Rex’s thing when he’s yelling. My phone pings that it’s ten after. 

“Go time,” I say. 

Amanda swallows with seeming difficulty. I knock on Rex’s door. 

A grumble from inside. “What?” 


A grunt. 

“That means ‘come on in.’” I grab my Hello Kitty shoulder bag and lead Amanda into his grand office where every surface is cold and flat and the view of the harbor is breathtaking.

And at the center of it is Rex in all his glowering glory. 

His beauty stops my heart for a second, like it always does. His gray eyes glitter, and his skin glows with annoyance, and even the shiny parts of his hair seem to brighten with aggravation. 

“What is this?” he grunts, meaning, why is a strange woman with you?

“This is Amanda Barnes. She’s taking over my clients for the next six weeks.”

Amanda smiles uncertainly. “Nice to meet you, Mr. O’Rourke.”

“Six weeks? Where the hell are you going?” 

“Vacation.” I motion for Amanda to start setting up the mobile station. She opens the case, pulls out the tarp, and unfolds the collapsible stool. 

I can feel Rex’s gaze on me. 

“Amanda’s amazing,” I say. “And don’t worry, your front office did the whole background check on her, and everything’s okay. No trails of dead bodies or lamps made of human skin.” You have to have a background check before you get within a hundred feet of Rex’s office. 

“Is okay with my front office the same as okay with me?” he says. 

“Amanda is amazing,” I repeat brightly. “Ready?”

He stalks over, managing to express annoyance in every fiber of his muscular frame, and sits himself down on the stool. 

I nod to Amanda, who puts the cape around his shoulders, willing her not to shake too hard. I give her a reassuring smile upon her successful completion of the cape-snapping process. So far so good. Amanda begins to comb his hair. I stand where Rex can’t see me, smiling and nodding encouragement, breathing in Rex’s hard, spicy scent. She puts down the comb and places her hands on his scalp for the massage.

“No, no, no.” Rex shakes her off. “Fuck off with that. Cut it and be done.” 

Amanda looks at me for help. 

“Very well, she’ll skip that part,” I say brightly. I turn to Amanda. “Right here.” I smooth up the back of his neck with my good hand. “Just a very clean fade up the back and sides.” 

“Why can’t you do it this one last time and she can watch?” Rex asks.

“Because this is better,” I say. 

Amanda pulls out the electric razor and the mobile power station. 

“So what the hell?” Rex rumbles. “Did you wake up one day and decide it was a good time to take a six-week vacation?”

I go around to face Rex, arms crossed. Our eyes meet, and my belly flip-flops. It’s so rare that I speak to him face to face. Usually I’m behind him or at his side, focused on his hair. His beautiful eyes glitter. It’s unnerving. 

I keep my bad wrist hidden under my left arm, even though I have my sleeve all the way down. I don’t want him to even notice the outline of the brace. I told all my other clients about my repetitive stress injury, but Rex is different. Rex is different in every way. 

“People do take vacations,” I say.

“A six-week vacation? Did you wake up one day and say to yourself, ‘I’ve built this business and now I’m going to abandon it for six weeks because, why not’?” 

I smile. “So weird. That is exactly what I woke up one day and said to myself!”

“A six-week vacation,” he growls. 

The buzz of the razor starts up. “Okay, you have to stay still,” I say. 

“You know who takes six-week vacations? Losers.”

I stifle a grin. It’s such a Rex thing to say. “Maybe I’m finally taking that romantic vacation to the Hello Kitty amusement park in Tokyo that I’ve been dreaming about.” Rex hates my Hello Kitty thing. I have a tattoo of Hello Kitty on my ankle that I once took perverse glee in showing him. 

Rex narrows his eyes, face lit with ire. It does something very wrong to my belly. “Romantic vacation? Is your boyfriend an axe murderer? Is that it?” 

“How do you know I’m not going on my own steam? Maybe it’s romantic because of my love for Hello Kitty.” 

“No way would you be able to go to Tokyo on your own steam,” he says. “You’re a wage slave in Manhattan. I don’t know or care what you charge, but you work by the hour, which means you’re doomed always to have roommates, never to have a retirement savings, and to eventually be a sixty-year-old ward of the welfare state being supported by people like me. Best case.”

“Rex O’Rourke.” I smile at him sweetly. “Do I need to put a relaxing jasmine-scented towel over your face?”

He glares. 

Amanda looks like she’s going to have a coronary event.

“Maybe my axe-murdering boyfriend will be enjoying my jasmine-scented towel in Tokyo,” I tease. 

Rex’s expression changes right then, and I don’t know what to make of it. There’s this beat where everything’s weirder than usual. Did I just cross a line? Everything is awkward. I go over to where Amanda is nervously perfecting his fade. 

“Nice,” I say. “This is an amazing job she’s doing.”

I can feel the darkness rolling off Rex. 

She puts aside the razor and takes up the shears, fluffing his hair with her left hand. 

“Here’s where I kind of start…” I indicate the shape that works best with Rex. “See how…” I show her where I let the length come in. 

“Right,” she says. “Got it.” 

A top stylist like Amanda can tell a lot from the week-old haircut—enough that most mobile stylists might just send a substitute in their place without training them on the specific cuts, but I’ve been personally introducing her and giving her the lowdown on each person. I act like I’m all fun and games but I’m dead serious about quality. I don’t think my clients are even aware of it, but I am, and that’s what counts. So even though Amanda could probably get the cuts ninety percent right, I want my people to have a hundred percent with zero trial and error. I want my clients to experience seamless top quality. Especially Rex. 

Half the battle of cutting hair is assessing somebody’s personality and what they want to project to the world and then making them look even more like that. Rex was easy. His message to the world is, I have this under control, so screw off! Brutal perfection wrapped in barbed wire. Keep out! 

Not that he needs a haircut for that. I could do a clown bowl cut on him, and he’d still manage to project brutal perfection wrapped in barbed wire. 

But I’d never give him a bowl cut. Rex gets this awesome long-on-top 1920s cut that looks as amazing when it’s perfectly combed back as when he’s all worked up and doing his hands-in-hair thing.

“I don’t have all day,” Rex barks. 

Amanda stiffens. I don’t like him focusing so much on her. 

Silently I indicate the other angle I want her to see. “So, in other news, remember how Stefano helped EJ kidnap Sami’s husband and put a lookalike in his place?” 

“Did I just see that rewatch recap on your Instagram?” Amanda says. 

“Wait, what?” Rex bellows. “Jesus Christ, it’s not enough of a waste of time to watch soap operas in the first place? You’re recapping old episodes on social media?”

“I certainly am!” I say brightly. 

That’s one of the things I do with him—when he says something mean, I act like I think it’s a compliment. You can’t let a man like Rex see weakness. 

“Soap operas provide amazing life lessons,” I add with a wink at Amanda. The menacing sound from Rex is beyond priceless. I can’t see his face, but I can practically feel his glower radiate through me.

Eventually it’s time for the beard trimmer. When I first came to Rex, whoever was cutting his hair was doing his beard in a full shape—so wrong! Shaping the beard is really shaping the face. Rex’s face is roughly sculptural, and the close way I do his beard enhances his looks. 

“Amanda,” I say, “if you go slightly concave here, do you see the line that you create?” I indicate the sweep of the beard edge down from his cheekbones, hoping she sees it, how extra gorgeous he looks with the tight beard shape. 

Amanda nods, but I think she really doesn’t see. People don’t really see him.

Doing facial hair is a very personal thing. Rex might not realize the magic that I work on him, but that’s okay.

Rex is an asshole who won’t miss me at all, but I’ll miss him. 

“The line is here.” I slide my left hand down the side of his face, smoothing a swath from just below his cheekbone straight down to his jawline. That’s my absolute favorite part of his beard. 

If my wrist doesn’t heal, I might never see him—let alone touch him—ever again.