The Billionaire Playboy

By: Christina Tetreault

Chapter 1



I sure picked a hell of a time to come home. Charlotte O'Brien, or Charlie as her friends called her, sat in the darkened living room of her family's bed and breakfast, The Victorian Rose. Outside, Hurricane Andrea raged with gale force winds exceeding 110 miles per hour. As expected the hurricane arrived in the northeastern part of Massachusetts in the early morning hours. While it was not the first hurricane she had experienced in her life, it was the fiercest she could remember.

She could hear the howling winds outside as they caused the branches from nearby trees to slam into the side of the house. A constant deluge of rain pelted the windows, which rattled from time to time under the onslaught. Frequently she'd see debris fly by the window. The most recent object looked like siding from a nearby house. So far her family and their home remained unscathed, but what about the rest of the town? Charlie reached for the battery-powered radio and switched it on. After several tries she got a local AM station to come in. The faceless voice of the radio announcer filled the silent room. “Severe flooding is already being seen on Church Street.”

This announcement came as no big surprise. It had poured almost every day the previous week and the waterlogged ground and swollen rivers couldn't accommodate this new round of rain.

The sound of shattering glass, followed by a crash, filled the room and blocked out anything else the radio announcer may have said. Without a second thought Charlie jumped to her feet and yanked her mother off the couch in front of the windows and pushed her toward a chair in the corner. At the same instant her brother Sean burst into the room.

“A tree just went through the dining room window. Take Ma into the basement.” After giving his order Sean disappeared upstairs, his huge Irish Wolfhound, Max, following at his heels. She hated to admit it, but she should have thought of that sooner. The basement was the safest place during a hurricane.

“Come on Ma, let's go.” Charlie grabbed the battery-powered radio and flashlight next to her and stood.

“What about Sean?” Maureen O'Brien sat perched on the edge of a chair, her face pale and her hands gripping the arms of the chair.

For half a heartbeat anger and resentment surged through Charlie. Why couldn't the woman ever do anything she asked? It was always about Sean. Almost as soon as the emotions came on they disappeared. Circumstances outside everyone's control had created a much tighter relationship between her mother and older brother. It wasn't fair to either of them to resent it—it wasn't as if her mother didn't love her. Sean was her mother's rock and had been since that day seventeen years earlier when her dad walked out on them. That day Sean became the man of the house. “Sean wants us downstairs now. He'll be down soon.”

With some reluctance Maureen came to her feet and, as usual, Charlie felt like a giant standing next to her mother. At five feet eight inches she towered over her mother who barely reached five feet. Despite the height difference there was no mistaking them for mother and daughter. Both had thick red hair, and hazel eyes that seemed to change colors depending on their mood.

Using her flashlight, Charlie led her mom through the dark house toward the basement door, a door she could have found even without the bright beam of light. Having grown up in the old Victorian she knew every nook and cranny of the house. Without even thinking she instinctively flipped the light switch then felt like an idiot when nothing happened.

“Be careful,” Charlie said over her shoulder as she started down the steep wooden stairs.

The beam from her flashlight bounced off the rock walls as the familiar scent of the basement enveloped her. She hadn't stepped foot in the basement in years, yet she would have recognized the smell anywhere. Since the basement remained remarkably dry her mom hung fresh herbs down there making it constantly smell like basil and rosemary. Some things just never changed.

Behind her she heard the bottom step creak, as it had for years, letting her know that her mother had safely made it down the stairs.

“I hope everything is all right out there.”

Was her mom serious? A hurricane raged outside. Though a smart reply was on the tip of her tongue, Charlie held it back. When her mom was upset she had a tendency to ignore the obvious. So instead of saying anything she headed over to a partitioned-off section of the basement where her brother kept his pool table and several folding chairs.

After taking down the battery-powered lantern on the shelf and turning it on, Charlie sat in one of the stiff plastic folding chairs and listened to the news reports coming over the radio.

“Reports are coming in that the Stonefield Dam shows signs of giving out. Anyone living near the dam or along the river should leave the area immediately.” The faceless voice came through the radio, causing a ball of dread to form in the pit of Charlie's stomach. The area around the river and dam was heavily populated. If the dam let go a lot of people could be hurt. Unfortunately, there wasn't a thing she could do about it. Instead of focusing on what she couldn't control, Charlie thought about the things she could. Right now that meant keeping her mom safe and calm until the storm passed.

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