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Ever After with the Billionaire

Ashley’s Billionaire Book Four

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After many ups and downs, Ashley has achieved her greatest wish—she’s engaged to Colton Drake. Excited about her future, she begins moving ahead with their wedding plans. But when an unexpected event throws everything into disarray and she realizes her fairytale ending has gone off the rails, she has to decide what she is willing to sacrifice to make her dreams come true.

Drake loves Ashley more than he ever thought possible, and now that they’re engaged to be married, his life has finally fallen into place. But when he has to confront the mistakes of his past, he realizes he may lose Ashley for good.

After working so hard to reach this point in their relationship, will they be able to get past the challenges they now face, or will the sacrifices they both need to make be too much for them to overcome?

Scroll down to read the first chapter.

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Chapter 1

As Drake drove Ashley back to her parents’ house, the sparkle of her stunning engagement ring caught her eye. With a sideways glance at her fiancé—her fiancé!—she let her inner joy burst forth in a brilliant smile. After spending the night at his hotel, then eating a lovely breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, they were ready to share their news.

It had been less than a day since they’d become engaged and they hadn’t told anyone. This secret belonged to them alone, but it was a secret Ashley wanted to shout from the rooftops.

“What do you think your parents are going to say?” Drake asked as he watched the road. Then he took one of Ashley’s hands in his and turned to her. When his gaze went to her smiling face, a matching smile curved his lips. “By the look on your face, I wonder if you’ll care what your parents say.”

As ecstatic as Ashley was about being engaged to the man she was crazy in love with, she definitely cared what her parents would think. Still, she couldn’t hold back the absolute euphoria that had taken hold of her—she was madly in love with this man and he was in love with her. It was a dream she had never thought would come true.

“Yes,” she said. “As a matter of fact I do care what they say.” As she imagined telling them that she was engaged to be married, her smile grew. “What about your father?” she asked. “He’s never met me. What do you think he’ll say?” Suddenly the idea of meeting Drake’s father made her heart pound with worry. What if he thought she wasn’t good enough for his son? Then what? Would Drake dump her? The thought filled her with horror and her smile faded.

Drake gently squeezed her hand. “He’ll love you, Ashley.”

She didn’t want to argue with him, but she didn’t know how he could possibly predict what his father was going to think. “Has he met Rachel?” She was instantly irritated with herself for bringing up Drake’s ex at a time that should have been filled with happiness, yet she couldn’t seem to keep from comparing herself to the woman she’d nicknamed The Ice Queen. 

With a frown, Drake gave Ashley a sideways glance. “Yes. He has.”

That information brought her zero comfort. So why had she wanted to know? Continuing her torture, she asked, “Does he like her?”

“Ashley.” Drake’s tone sounded a warning.

“I’m sorry. Never mind.” Of course he likes her. Drake’s known her for well over a year, and they dated for nearly a year. Feeling inadequate compared to the sophisticated and beautiful—though haughty and rude—Rachel, Ashley reminded herself that Drake was engaged to her. That he’d chosen her over Rachel.

“You don’t have to worry.” He glanced at her with a smile. “I don’t care what anyone says. I’m marrying you.”

The confidence in his voice helped to silence her doubts and pure happiness cascaded over her. She would let the matter rest.

* * *

Drake was still a little bit in shock that he’d actually proposed to Ashley—bought a ring and everything. And now he was engaged to be married. Sneaking a glance at Ashley as she sat in the passenger seat of his rental Jeep, love for her swept over him. He’d made the right decision. 

Though he was confident that his father would accept her—and his decision—one hundred percent, he was a little nervous to share their happy news with Ashley’s parents. 

How would they feel about their daughter becoming engaged to him after knowing him for only a couple of months?

“What are you thinking?” Ashley asked.

Pushing aside his concerns, he forced a confident smile as he looked in her direction before turning his attention back to the road. “How much I enjoyed our hike yesterday.”

She laughed and squeezed his hand. “Playing Truth or Dare was…interesting.”

He mentally replayed their game and recalled how he’d almost messed everything up with his answers about his assistant Jasmine. He knew Ashley had only been trying to gauge his level of romantic interest in Jasmine—which was zero—but he was beyond relieved that they’d gotten past that hurdle. “My favorite part,” he said with a smirk, “was when you got stuck in the mud.”

She chuckled. “Now that I’m no longer stuck, yeah, I guess that was kind of funny.”

He looked her way. “What was your favorite part?”

A rosy blush brightened her cheeks as she looked away from him. He knew what she was remembering. 

“I kind of liked that kiss.” Her voice was soft as she looked at him from under her lashes.

He remembered the way he’d pressed her against the canyon wall and the eager way she’d returned his kiss. He looked in her direction and grinned. “Me too.”

“But my favorite part of the day,” she said as a dazzling smile curved her lips, “was when you asked me to marry you.”

Joy shone from her eyes, and though his decision to propose had been kind of an impulse, he had no doubt that it was exactly what he wanted. “You weren’t expecting that, were you?”

She laughed. “No.”

A few minutes later they pulled up to her parents’ house, and after helping Ashley from the Jeep, Drake took her hand and led her toward the front door.

“Mom?” Ashley called out after they walked inside. “Dad?”

No one answered.

“Huh,” she said as she turned to him. “I guess they’re not here.” With a shrug, she added, “I thought they were taking more time off after Dad’s heart attack, but maybe they went back to work.”

Her mention of work made him think of all the work he wasn’t doing. Sudden stress tensed his upper back.

“Let me grab my phone so I can text my mom,” she said, then she smiled. “Make yourself at home.”

* * *

When Ashley reached her room, she picked up her phone from the bedside table. She had nearly a dozen text messages, all from Emily. Ashley sat on the bed, then began scrolling through them. She could see Emily becoming anxious at her silence, although Emily had known that Ashley and Drake weren’t going to take their phones on their date the day before. Ashley dashed off a quick reply.

Ashley: I’m alive and well. Just getting back to my parents’ place and my cell phone.

Emily answered almost immediately.

Emily: I can hardly wait to hear all the details!

She laughed.

Ashley: I’ll fill you in when I see you tonight.

Emily: Yay!

Then she texted her mom and asked her where she was.

“So this is your room, huh?” Drake said from the doorway as his gaze swept the space.

Glad she’d kept things tidy, Ashley smiled at him and nodded. “Yep.” Then she patted the bed beside her.

He sat next to her, and when she set her phone on the bedside table with her left hand, her engagement ring caught her eye. Still in a minor state of shock that she and Drake were engaged to be married, she stared at it.

“I’m glad you like it,” he said, obviously noticing her admiring the ring.

She turned to him and asked, “Is this real?”

His eyebrows rose. “It had better be. I paid enough for it.”

Smiling at his misunderstanding of her question, she placed her hand on the side of his face. “Not the ring. Us.”

His forehead creased, then he placed his hand over hers and took it from his face before kissing her palm. 

The touch of his lips on Ashley’s skin sent energy sizzling through her and she nearly lost her train of thought.

Enfolding her hand in his, he asked, “Are you having doubts, Ashley?”

She shook her head.

“Then what?” he asked. “What are you asking?”

With a small shrug, she said, “I guess I’m kind of overwhelmed by all that’s happened, and I…it just hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

A smile lit his face. “What? That I’m in love with you and want to marry you?”

Hearing him say those words sent a thrill of euphoria right through her, and she laughed. “Yes. That.”

Cupping her face in his hands, he said, “Honestly, I love you so much that I kind of surprise myself.”

Not sure what to make of that, Ashley hardly had time to analyze his words before his lips were pressing against hers. She kissed him back eagerly and slid her arms around his neck.

A moment later her phone chimed a message.

She drew away. “That might be my mom.”

Drake nodded with a smile and Ashley grabbed her phone and glanced at the screen. “It’s her.” She swiped the screen and read the message, then turned to Drake. “They were running errands but they’re on their way back.”

He laughed and kissed her on the nose. “Then I guess we won’t be making out.”

Ashley laughed along with him. “I should probably pack my stuff anyway so I’ll be ready to catch our flight.”

“Good idea.”

She grimaced. “I also need to call my boss and let him know I’m not working today.”

A look of concern came over Drake. “I hope he’s understanding.”

“Me too.” Then she called her office and spoke to Bryant, her boss, apologizing for not calling him sooner and letting him know she would be in the office the next day. He didn’t sound happy, but he said he would see her the next day. Ashley disconnected and turned to Drake with a frown. “I hope he doesn’t fire me.”

“He would be an idiot if he did.”

She smirked. “I think you’re biased.”

“That’s true, but I know you’re a hard worker, so I’m not just saying that because I love you.”

His words warmed her, but she was worried about facing her boss the next day.

A moment later she heard the front door opening, then, “Ashley?”

“They’re back,” she said as she grabbed Drake by the hand and pulled him to his feet.

* * *

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