Hope you enjoy the following short story…
The Billionaire’s Secret by Sheritha Singh
“Are you all right?”
Krista was frightfully aware of six foot five inches of a combination of sheer, masculine sensuality and solid muscle awaiting her response. Deep chocolate eyes appraised her. Krista realized too late, her denim shorts jump suit clung to her breasts and hips and revealed more creamy legs than she’d intended exposing.
“I’m okay,” she lied. “I’ve never ventured into the heart of a forest before.” She’d sucked the colour off her rosebud lips in nervousness. Dev Singh was as dangerous and mysterious as the white lions he was accused of keeping as pets on his sprawling estate on KZN’s rocky North Coast. He’d recently moved to Blythedale Beach. Krista had been fortunate to secure a top position in Dev’s booming empire. It was a step closer to writing and publishing her tell all story on the controversial billionaire – a story that would make or break her career. She’d invested her life savings in this risky venture.
She followed Dev down a narrow path thick with bush and undergrowth. Above them, ancient trees rose in a green canopy shielding sunlight altogether. Krista’s heart thundered. Her mouth dried up. What if Dev saw through her disguise? His repulsion towards reporters was legendary. But, she reminded herself, she’d seen a softer side to him in the two weeks she’d worked with him. Like his kindness to those less fortunate than him. And his empathy to injured animals. That last quality both terrified and softened her own feelings towards Dev. And intensified the whirlpool of confusion tumbling out off her heart and into the soft centre of her stomach.
Something had clicked inside her. She couldn’t put on a finger on that something but it had made her reconsider writing her article.
“Krista?”. Dev paused and gestured with both hands. “What do you think?”
They’d entered a clearing. A spring gurgled in the background. Sunlight streamed in tiny, little beams catching minute, airborne droplets from the spring here and there. “It’s magical…so perfect.”
Dev grinned. “Fantastic. Your suggestion to create a retreat for newly weds in a secluded spot, surrounded by natural beauty got me thinking. I’ve always wanted to share this place with somebody.”
Krista froze. He’d taken her new ventures suggestion seriously! Oh my God.
He wanted to share his secret space with the world. Because of her. Guilt ate her.
“Isn’t it perfect?”
“Yes,” she breathed. “It is.”
“Should I build a cabin here? Or a little cottage?”
“Cabin,” she nearly choked. “Log cabins sound more romantic than cottages.”
Dev smiled in approval. “You’re right. I should take pictures of this place before we return.”. He searched for his digital camera in his bag. “Damn! I left it in the car.”. His eyes met hers. “I know a short cut. Wait here for me. I’ll be back before you even miss me.”
Krista’s mind spun. Dev was out of sight before she contemplated protesting. She was suddenly aware of the darkness and growing silence around her. Krista paced the uneven ground. It seemed like Dev had gone forever. The thundering crescendo of her heart’s rhythm did little to drown out the sounds of the forest. Neither did it mask the quiet footsteps of something or someone approaching her. Instinct told her it wasn’t Dev. The sound came from the opening of the picturesque clearing.
“Oh my God!” She breathed. “Why’s Dev taking so long?” Fear chilled her blood. Krista spun around before backing toward the entrance and slammed…into someone.
“Hey sexy,” a man breathed. “Fancy finding a beautiful woman all by her lonesome here? Waiting for me?” His breath reeked of alcohol.
Fear burned in her blood. The cold, hard barrel of a gun slid against her throat. Krista accepted her fate. Best she didn’t fight death. She shut her eyes and focused on her favourite hymn when the low, guttural growl of a feline beast tore through the silence. The lion paced the intruder with a grace and confidence that was familiar to Krista. It paused to gaze into her aqua eyes. She stilled. The lion’s eyes were achingly familiar. It roared an incoherent answer to her thoughts before lunging for Krista’s attacker.
Her would be killer froze. His gun crashed onto the ground firing blindly.
Krista jumped. The gun twirled, like an invisible hand controlled it, seeking her out. The glorious white lion leapt across the space separating them and absorbed the bullet meant for Krista. The lion roared in agony before grabbing the gunman by his shirt and dragging him away.
Krista shuddered before her legs weakened. She sank to the ground. She’d come face to face with Dev’s pet. She should have been exhilarated. Triumphant. Instead an empty hollowness filled the pit of her stomach.
Krista leaned against an ancient tree and passed out.
“What happened to your hand?” A sterile, white bandage covered most of Dev’s right arm. She noticed this first because he was sitting beside her, on his bed, presumably waiting for her to wake up. His bed! Krista stifled a gasp. Few people had been inside Dev’s palatial home. Fewer people had spent the better part of the afternoon sleeping in his bed.
“I had a small accident.” He shrugged. “It’s nothing.”
Her eyes sought his. Their watery depths reminded her of her feline savior. The bullet had struck it on its right, front leg. Coincidence? She wondered before shivering. She reached out instinctively and cradled his injured hand. It made sense to her now. Dev was the mysterious lion. His intentions were not evil. He used his beautiful gift to protect. Shame filled her. Did she really want to expose such a unique, magical truth? No. The public would devour Dev’s unusual abilities and turn him into an overnight sensation. They’d torment him with questions, subject him to abuse in the name of science…she’d seen it happen to a young witch a few years ago. Shame filled Krista’s heart and soul.
Her eyes filled with tears at the tenderness in his voice. The softness in his face where the angular, feral beauty of a white predator had emerged amazed her. She wished she’d realized his truth sooner. I will never reveal your secret, Dev, never. I’d rather work a meager job than ruin you.
“Does it hurt?”. She caressed the bandage.
“I’ll live.” Dev grinned.
Krista smiled at him even though her heart shattered. Somewhere between spying on Dev and this afternoon’s incident she’ fallen in love with him. Would he ever forgive her for lying?
Krista nodded. Her appetite had vanished.
“I need to freshen up.”
“Sure.” He hesitated. “I bought you clothes. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Thank you,” she whispered. She felt like the biggest loser in the universe for her prior intentions of spying on him.
“Don’t keep me waiting too long,” Dev said before leaving.
Dinner was an extravagant affair, complete with champagne, soft music and a celebratory feel in the atmosphere. Dev gestured for Krista to be seated before popping open the champagne.
“What are we celebrating?”
“Our fabulous new venture.”. Dev smiled. “I’ve always wanted to share that clearing with people who appreciate its beauty. I just never knew who would appreciate something so simple.”
Krista managed a nervous smile in response.
“That’s not all though.”
Her heart raced. Was this Dev’s way of gently her he no longer needed her?
“Your position just became permanent.”
“Permanent?” Her eyes widened.
“Yes, Krista. All your suggestions have been brilliant. Apart from the profits we’ve saved thousands of hectares of precious nature.” He reached across and took her hand. “You’ve saved lives of beings who will never be able to thank you in words.”
“There’s no need for that.”
“Oh yes, there is. With you at my side I can save hundreds of thousands of lives. Krista, I need you by my side. Will you marry me?”
Tears rolled down her face. “Dev…” She had to tell him the truth about herself. “I…I’m a journalist. And I know that you’re a shape shifting lion.”
“I know.” Dev held out an over sized diamond ring.
“You don’t understand. I was spying on you.”
Dev’s smile broadened. “I know that too. You did change your mind about the spying two minutes after I hired you.”
“How did you know?”
Dev grinned. He slipped the ring on her finger. “My love, we’ve met and married in seven different lifetimes. Each time we’re tested. Nothing can keep us apart. And, there’s very little you can hide from me.
Krista’s heart over flowed with memories from her previous births. She held Dev’s hand so tight she trembled. “I love you.”. She understood her confusion, the mixed emotion and her unspoken love for her soul mate.
“I have always loved you.”. His mouth covered hers in a kiss, sealing their fates.