The Arrangement, one of Galatea’s most explosive stories, tells the story of a “love contract” between two people you’d never put together: a broke 23-year-old virgin, and NYC’s biggest playboy billionaire. Can what started as strictly business turn into pleasure? Keep scrolling to read the first chapters of The Arrangement for free or download the app and lose yourself in the entire series now >>
Chapter 1 – To Sign Away a Soul
The girl next to me squealed as I spun the steering wheel, sending the car into a hairpin turn around the corner. She laughed, high off of speed and copious bottles of champagne.
“Xavier!” She bit her lip, her hands running up along my thigh. Two things were guaranteed to please a woman.
The roar of a fast car and money.
I revved the engine, sending my Lamborghini speeding down the scenic roads of Monaco. The blonde bombshell beside me was a model, here in Monaco for a fashion show.
We’d hooked up a few times already.
I didn’t even know her name.
Now this was the life.
Speeding down the roads of beautiful Monaco behind the wheel of a Lambo, some supermodel fawning over me.
No responsibilities to a multibillion-dollar company.
No annoying dad breathing down my neck.
No cheating women that went behind my back and—
I blazed through a red light, and the blare of a police siren screamed in the night air. I pulled over, watching the flashing lights in my rearview mirror.
“What now,” I muttered.
The blonde began to look up.
“Did I say you could stop?”
The model continued kissing my neck, eager to please.
The cop got out of his car and began making his way over to my door.
Well, I thought.
This’ll make one hell of a story.
Everyone thinks they’re a hero.
We fantasize about moments of glory — the ones we read about in books and see in movies.
Run into a fiery building to rescue a dog? Sure. Donate a kidney to a friend? No problem. Stand in the way of an armed robbery? Easy.
But the ugly truth is, we don’t know how we’ll react when the moment strikes. Until the gunman has the gun pointed at your temple, and you can smell the metal of the barrel.
Will you be strong enough to do it? To face the gun and say, “Choose me. Shoot me. Kill me.”
When the time comes, what will you choose?
Your life, or theirs?
I squeezed my dad’s hand, my heart in my throat. It hurt to see him like this. He lay unconscious on the hospital bed, with tubes attached to his arms and chest. Machines beeped beside him, and an oxygen mask covered his face.
Tears spilled down my cheeks, and I wiped them away for what felt like the thousandth time.
He was a constant in my life. The anchor that kept our family together. A pillar of strength and health.
Lucas, my oldest brother, appeared at the doorway. I walked up and embraced him.
“What did the doctor say?” I asked.
Lucas looked over my shoulder at Dad. “Let’s step out into the hall.”
Nodding, I went to Dad and placed a kiss on his forehead before following Lucas out of the room.
In the fluorescent light of the hospital hallway, I let my gaze run over my brother. Looking at his disheveled hair, unshaven cheeks, and the deep purple circles under his eyes, I knew he’d had a rough day.
“Listen, Angie…” Lucas began. He took my hand in his like he’d done when I was a child and scared of the dark. “I need you to stay calm, okay? Stay strong. The news…it’s pretty rough.”
I nodded and took a deep breath to steady myself.
“Dad…” Lucas started, then stopped, his gaze going to the ceiling. He cleared his throat. “He had a stroke.”
Fresh tears sprung to my eyes.
“We don’t know how intense it’s affected him yet, but they think the ALS had something to do with it,” he continued.
“What can we do?” I asked, desperation creeping into my voice.
“We get some rest,” Danny, my other brother, said from behind me. He walked up and gave me a hug. “The doctors are still doing some tests.”
My two brothers shared a look, and I knew they weren’t telling me something.
“What?” I demanded. “What is it?”
Lucas shook his head.
“You have an interview coming up, don’t you?” he asked. “Go home and get some sleep. We’ll call you once we know more, alright?”
I sighed. I didn’t want to leave, but I knew my brothers were right. It was important that I got this job.
We said our goodbyes and I walked out into the cold night air. I spied the lights of New York City in the distance, a pit of dread in my stomach.
I felt helpless.
Wasn’t there anything I could do?
I called my assistant into my office, sighing loudly in frustration. It was the third time in under a month that Xavier was making headlines, and not because he was kissing babies’ heads or volunteering at hospitals.
My son had been arrested in Monaco for reckless driving and public indecency.
I pinched the bridge of my nose.
There was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” I called without looking up. In walked Ron, my twenty-six-year-old assistant. “Did you see the news?”
Ron’s mouth opened and closed a few times. He didn’t need to say anything. I doubted there was a soul in all of New York City that hadn’t seen it. The headline was everywhere.
“Call the lawyers and get Frankie from PR in here. Please.”
Ron nodded and scuttled out of my office.
I crossed the room to the glass window that filled the entire north-facing wall of my office, looking down at the streets of New York, far, far below.
I’d have to go into overdrive to make sure my son’s actions had no repercussions on the company, or him. I liked to say that I had two children: Xavier and Knight Enterprises.
Breaking away from my parent’s ventures in oil, I’d built the world’s premier hotel and hospitality conglomerate from the ground up. My two greatest joys in life were my son and my company.
And now they were both in danger.
I sighed, the face of my beautiful wife flashing in my mind.
Oh, Amelia. I wish you were still here. You’d know how to help Xavier.
My gaze over the streets drifted to Central Park. My beloved and I used to walk the park together, sitting and eating on a bench by the trees.
“Ron!” I shouted. I heard the slide of my office door. “Cancel my meetings. I’m going for a walk.”
I walked along the dappled paths of Central Park, trying to clear my mind. I was on my way back from Em’s flower shop after closing up for the day.
Long stems of the willows bent in the cool end-of-summer breeze. Swans floated along the glassy surface of a nearby pond. The chatter of children playing floated through the air, and lovers embraced on the grass.
I cradled a bouquet of lilies in my arms, taking some comfort in their gentle scent. My heart still ached at the thought of my dad in the hospital, but I had to keep it together.
I noticed an older gentleman sitting alone on a bench; his eyes closed in prayer. I don’t know what pulled me towards him, but before I knew it, I was standing next to him. He looked so sad.
“Excuse me?” I asked.
He opened his eyes, blinking in surprise as he looked up at me.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“I just wanted to ask if you were okay,” I said. “You seemed a little… down.”
He shifted forward on the bench and pointed to a plaque engraved along the back. “I’m just remembering someone important to me,” he said, his voice thick.
I read the engraving.
For Amelia. Beloved wife and loving mother. 16/10/1962 – 04/04/2011
My heart broke.
I handed him my bouquet of lilies, smiling.
“For Amelia,” I offered.
“Thank you.” He reached forward to take the bouquet, his hands shaking. “May I ask for your name?”
“Angela Carson,” I replied.
I watched Angela go, a sense of peace chasing away the worry in my heart. I patted the bench, smiling up into the sky.
Thank you, my love. You’ve shown me the answer.
I reached into my jacket pocket, pulling out my phone.
“Ron, get me as much information on an Angela Carson as you can.” I examined the bouquet she had given me, noticing the name of the flower shop printed on the paper wrapping.
I nodded to myself, a plan forming in my mind.
“And get my son back to New York.”
Danny: Angie. Come quick.
Danny: It’s dad.
Angela: what happened?!
Danny: He had a heart attack.
“We managed to resuscitate your father,” the doctor said, his voice grave. “Stroke victims are susceptible to heart attacks in the first twenty-four hours after the stroke. We’re keeping a close eye on him and will continue to run tests to see what we can do.” The way he said it made it sound like he wasn’t confident there’d be much.
“Thank you, doctor,” Lucas said.
The doctor nodded and left us alone.
“How long is dad going to have to be here?” I asked in a small voice. “It doesn’t look like he’s in any shape to go home.”
“We might not have a choice,” Danny said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.
My brothers looked at each other. My heart pounded in my chest. I could sense the bad news coming. Finally, Lucas turned to me.
“We can’t afford him being here, Angie.”
I blinked. “What?”
Danny ran his hands through his hair, his face haggard. “We’re broke.”
“How? The restaurant…” The restaurant had been my dad’s life when we were growing up. Mom had worked there too, until she got sick. My brothers took over as soon as they finished college.
“It’s been struggling for a couple of years. The recession took its toll. Dad put a second mortgage on the house to try and see us through.” Lucas sighed. He looked defeated.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked. “I have my interview soon, so maybe…”
But Danny was shaking his head.
“The hospital bills are coming soon…”
I couldn’t be there anymore—in the hallway, in the hospital. It was too claustrophobic. I pushed away from my brothers. My shaking legs carried me through halls and down stairs until I found myself standing outside, in front of the hospital.
It was the middle of the night, so there was no one to see me fall to my knees in the middle of the sidewalk. Or so I thought…
“Excuse me?” a deep voice said from behind me.
Sniffling, I glanced up to see a man nearing me. “Yes, can I help you?” I murmured, wiping my eyes.
The man knelt before me, and I gasped as I recognized him.
It was the man I had met earlier in Central Park. The one I had given my bouquet of lilies to.
“Forgive my intrusion. My name is Brad Knight.”
I gasped. Brad Knight?
The Brad Knight?
The billionaire behind Knight Enterprises?
“Um,” I stuttered.
“I know about your situation, Angela, and I can help. I can help with your father’s medical bills.”
My head spun. Alarm bells rang in my mind.
How does he know so much? What does he want from me?
“I’ll pay for everything. I’ll make sure your father is taken care of. You just have to do one thing for me.” He sounded so genuine, but a hint of desperation crept into his voice. He gathered himself, staring right into my eyes.
“I need you to marry my son.”
Chapter 2 – Dark Desperation
Emily frowned as she watched me dig into a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in my pajamas, my hair tied up in a messy bun.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Super,” I said through a mouthful of chocolate.
She sighed, grabbing her own tub of ice cream from the freezer. She sat next to me, stuffing a spoonful of vanilla into her mouth.
“Spill,” she demanded.
“I’m just really stressed out,” I admitted. “My dad’s in the hospital, and we’re going to have trouble paying the bills. I just had my interview with Curixon, and I’m afraid that I messed it up, and…” my voice faltered.
And a certain billionaire made a ridiculous request the other night.
But I didn’t want to tell Emily.
How could I?
“You didn’t mess it up,” Em assured me. “You killed it, right? You told me yourself.”
“I thought I did,” I said. “Now I’m not so sure.”
It was true; I’d really hit it off with the interviewer. Curixon was a great company, and I was hoping I could finally put my engineering degree from Harvard to good use. I’d spent the last few months working part-time at Em’s flower shop.
She even let me live with her in her apartment.
I’d be totally screwed if it wasn’t for her.
“You’re a lifesaver Em,” I began. “If it weren’t for you letting me stay here—”
“Kill the dramatics,” she said before I could thank her again. “You know you’re allowed to stay as long as you want. I just don’t want to see you waste your life sweeping the floor of my flower shop when you could be working somewhere like Curixon. Even if you do have random adoring fans coming into the shop. You’re too smart for that, Angie.”
My heart skipped a beat.
Em didn’t recognize Brad, then. Thank God.
“Anyway, I’m off.” Em got up, throwing her spoon into the sink and the empty tub of ice cream in the trash. “Don’t mope around too much.” She slipped on her shoes, and before I knew it, she was gone.
I was alone.
My mind drifted back to the other night. Honestly, I thought it was all some kind of crazy dream. But when I scrolled through the contacts of my phone, his name was still there.
I crawled out of the living room and into my bed, curling up into a ball. I closed my eyes and let my mind drift back to that night…
“What?!” I scrambled away from Brad, putting some space between us. “Is this some sort of joke?”
He watched me, shaking his head to himself.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I got ahead of myself. Please let me explain.”
I looked behind me. The doors to the hospital weren’t very far away. I could make a run for it if I had to.
Besides, there was something about him that made me want to trust him. He just seemed so genuine and kind. Maybe it was because of his age?
I nodded cautiously, gesturing for him to continue.
“After you were so good to me this afternoon, I knew I had to pay your act of kindness forward. I visited Em’s Flowers. That was where the bouquet you were holding was from.”
“I saw it on the paper. And I spoke to Em, a lovely girl. And asked after you, Ms. Angela Carson. She said she knew you well. That you were in a small hospital in New Jersey because your father had just become ill.”
I nodded, still in disbelief at this whole conversation.
“And please, forgive the question, but your family doesn’t have the funding necessary to make his care…his treatment, his hospital stay, as comfortable as possible, do you?”
I shook my head.
“That’s where I can help you, Angela. We can help each other.” He smiled, his eyes disappearing in a crinkle of crow’s feet.
“So, you want me to marry your son,” I repeated his words from earlier. They felt alien coming out of my mouth.
I thought about what I knew about Brad’s son.
I knew of him, of course. How could I not? He was a celebrity. Filthy rich and drop dead gorgeous.
Any girl would pounce at the chance to be his wife.
But he seemed to have a rebellious streak. I’d seen the headlines and articles about him, on and off for the past few months.
He was wild.
A shiver ran down my spine, but I couldn’t tell if it was from fear or excitement.
“But why me?” I asked. “I’m sure you could find a million girls that are more beautiful and more successful than I am. A better fit for your son.”
“You’re a pure soul, my dear. You may not know it, but you’re rare. I want the best for my son, as any father would. I think you can help him. I trust my instinct, and my instinct now says this will work.”
A pure soul? What does that even mean?
“But marriage isn’t just a piece of paper,” I argued. “You can’t just sign a contract and fall in love.”
“That may be true, but love is patient.”
“How do you know I won’t marry your son and then divorce him the next day?” I was playing devil’s advocate, but I needed answers to this confusing hypothetical.
Instead of getting his back up, he stepped closer to me and took my hand. His touch was warm and strangely comforting. “I don’t believe you’d do that, Angela. Like I said, your soul is pure. But if you need some sort of insurance plan, look behind you.”
I turned and saw the hospital, lit up by the street lamps outside. “Medical bills are no joke. Treatments, rehab, around-the-clock care. It all costs money, darling. If you hold up your end of the deal, I promise you, on my life, that I’ll hold up my end, too.”
My mind was racing. There had to be a different way.
“I have a second interview for this job tomorrow. I might be able to—”
“Angela,” he said, stopping me. “Do you know how much an overnight stay in the hospital costs? Seven-hundred dollars each night. A routine blood test is two-hundred-fifty dollars. If they, God forbid, have to use the defibrillator, that’s another fifteen-hundred dollars.”
I closed my eyes.
“Please. Please, stop. Just give me a minute to think.” I tried to organize my scrambled thoughts.
Years of debt.
A new job.
Curixon paid well. If I got the position, I could slowly pay things back.
Emily would let me live with her for a while longer if it meant saving my dad’s life.
How could I marry a man I didn’t love, much less even meet?
“Why are you even helping me?” I asked.
“When you came to me this afternoon,” he began, “you answered a prayer I’d sent up to the sky. You gave me strength when I needed it. So, now I’m here to answer your prayers. I’m here to give you strength, and this is how I can do it.”
I thought about it, my breath coming in shallow gasps.
Was I seriously considering this?
“Angela?” Brad asked softly.
“Can I at least have some time to think about it?” I asked. “This is a lot to take in.”
“Of course,” he said.
Brad handed me a business card, made of a thin, lightweight metal.
I guess paper is too plebian for a billionaire, I thought somewhat deliriously.
“Give me a call when you decide.” He smiled at me before turning away. “I truly believe that this will work, Angela. I truly, truly do.”
My phone rang, shaking me out of my daydream. I rolled over on my bed, checking the caller ID.
I bolted upright in bed, my heart hammering in my chest.
Okay, okay, okay, okay.
I took a deep breath.
“Hello?” I said, willing my voice not to shake.
“Hi, is this Angela Carson?” a female voice said on the other end of the line.
“Hi, Angela. I’m just calling to inform you that unfortunately we’ve decided to move on with other applicants for this job.”
“Oh.” My heart sank.
“We’ll be sure to keep your application on file should another position become available.”
“Uh, okay. Thanks.”
What else could I say?
After another few seconds of painful exchanges, I collapsed into my pillow, face first.
So much for killing the interview.
I felt tears of frustration spring to my eyes, and I let them soak into my pillow. There was so much more on the line then just paying the bills and having some spending cash.
My dad’s life was at stake.
I took out my phone, scrolling through my contacts.
I stared at Brad Knight’s number, my thumb hovering over the call button.
It’s not like I have much of a choice.
I hit the dial button, sealing my fate.
“Hello?” Brad picked up.
“Hi Mr. Knight, it’s Angela.”
“Angela!” He greeted me warmly. “It’s so nice to hear from you. So can I assume that…?” He left the question hanging.
I took a deep breath. I felt like I would be crushed underneath the weight of the words forming in my mouth.
“Yes,” I said. “I’ll do it.”
I felt something inside of my heart curl up and die.
“I’ll marry your son.”
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