The Billionaire's Secret Obsession

By: J. M. Madden

Chapter One


Clayton Gallagher stared down at perhaps the most hauntingly beautiful woman he had ever seen. Not the most beautiful, certainly, but something about her drew his gaze, drew him, irresistibly.

Standing at the window of his fourth floor office, he watched her stride up the long set of shallow marble steps leading to the front door of his house. Sarah Tyler was a woman who made people stop and stare. Many times over the last year and a half he had found himself lost in his own world as he gazed at her unique coloring. She probably had a small smile on her full lips and an eager expression on her mobile face. Her incredible, shamrock green eyes—the color so brilliant—would be dancing with humor and her up-tilted nose would be leading her into whatever the world handed her next. From this distance, he could only see that her long dark hair had been pulled back in some kind of loose, chic ponytail. It shone brilliantly in the early morning sunshine. Even as he watched, she tucked some hair behind her ear, then disappeared from view. She would make small talk with William, the butler, and gently work her way into his good graces. All of the executives he had spoken with concerning Ms. Tyler had sung her praises. If she actually worked for the company and not just as a private contractor, he would make sure she steadily moved up the corporate ladder, if for no other reason than her go-getter attitude and people skills.

Clayton turned back to the desk and the file he left resting there. On top of the stack was an 8x10 glossy of Sarah Tyler laughing and playing in a park with a very large, tan colored dog. The dog was almost as large as she was.

Leafing through the stack, he found his favorite, the one that kept him up nights. Again, it was in the park, but Sarah held a small baby with a black cap of fuzzy hair in her arms. At the time the photo was snapped, she was again tucking a long wing of her own dark hair behind her right ear. She looked down at the baby with such a look of longing on her face that it stunned him. He couldn’t remember his own mother looking at him with anything other than contempt or greed in her eyes, or more commonly, disinterest.

The investigative company he used for his corporate hires had no problem finding out everything there was about Sarah Elizabeth Tyler from Freeport, Ohio. For three years prior to the Clarion contract, she had waited tables at a popular uptown eatery, apparently doing a good job and making decent tips. Every couple of weeks she had visited art galleries with her portfolio, trying to land a showing. Madison Elaine Gallery in lower Manhattan had finally given her a showing two years ago. She dated regularly, although not the same man more than twice since breaking off a six month relationship nearly two years ago.

Rather than satisfying his curiosity, the information only fed his fascination with her. Hence, the call he’d had Meredith place requesting Sarah’s presence here today, in his house.

The intercom system on his desk chimed. “Sir, Ms. Tyler is in the drawing room.”

“Thank you, William.”

Clayton closed the file on his desk, taking a deep breath. Straightening his silk tie, he chastised himself. He ran a multi-billion dollar company every day, but suddenly his heart was pounding as if he had just run a two-minute mile. Settle down, she’s just a woman like any other. But Clayton knew those words were a lie as soon as he thought them. He admitted to himself that he was, in fact, going to face the object of his obsession.


Sarah desperately tried to keep her mouth shut and her hands clasped as she went through the doorway and into the foyer, smiling at the stereotypical staid, English butler. The outside of Hillcroft House had been absolutely breathtaking, built of native gray granite with flecks of black and white that glowed subtly in the morning sun, ornate iron scrollwork and reaching for three stories. There was an actual tower at the northeast corner of the house that climbed to four stories. Even by Greenwich standards, the mansion boggled the mind.

The house sprawled enough that a person could not stand in front of it and see both ends without a turn of the head, if not taking a few steps back to get perspective. The grounds were perfectly sculpted and blended in with the rest of the exclusive Connecticut neighborhood, but the house itself held a touch of whimsy, being fashioned after a castle. A nymph stood in the center of a huge marble fountain in the loop of the paved driveway, peeking shyly at visitors. A gardener was stooped over a flowerbed at the front of the house, replacing shrubs.

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