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⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐(4.7) 3 Reviews

Elodie Pacer would rather work with anyone other than tech billionaire David Brandon on her PhD thesis project. Published on other retailers as The Billionaire and the Grad Student and The Love Project.

Main Tropes

  • Brash billionaire
  • make a deal
  • forbidden romance
  • PhD candidate
  • everyone knows but them


She would work with ANYONE other than David Brandon.

Elodie Pacer needs a project mentor to finish her PhD in Communication at the University of Arizona. David Brandon, the hot yet smug billionaire, who retired at twenty-six to teach Biz Comm, is the only one available in their department. But he mocked her cheating study as "me-search." So what if she got dumped years ago by a cheating skunk? She's totally over it. Right?David Brandon got ousted from his billion-dollar company. He needs Elodie's credentials to reclaim his business. He's about to make her a deal she can't refuse. But after insulting her, will she go for his proposal?Spending hours of time together raises more questions about their pasts. Is Brandon really dating a hot model, or is he cheating on her? What will happen when Elodie uses the tech to discover if he's attracted to her? What will happen when he uses the same tech on her?

Deals with themes of cheating and abuse in relationships with a light touch.

Intro to Chapter 1

Elodie Pacer pressed her hands together, calming her breathing. The last four years of work on her Communication PhD depended on what Dr. Hadley Preston said in this moment. Would she get the grant?

With trembling hands, Elodie knocked on Dr. Preston’s open office door at the Communications Building on the University of Arizona campus. 
Scrolling through her tablet, Dr. Preston, in a neatly pressed, mauve pantsuit, stood behind her desk, her chair empty behind her. The Tucson sunlight from the six-foot windows saturated the twelve-foot walls, spilling a pool of sunlight across the desk and her back. The knock didn’t get her attention.

“Ah-hem.” Elodie coughed in case Dr. Preston didn’t hear her creak across the groaning wood floors of the ancient Comm Building either. She held her breath.
Finally, Dr. Preston glanced up. Her face, though lined with stress, lit up at Elodie’s presence. 
Relief flooded Elodie. A smile from Dr. Preston was a good sign.

“Come in!” 
Dr. Preston waved her in with arms that did Pilates or something to keep them toned. Elodie stepped tentatively into her office, gulping down the rising tide of nerves. “What news?”

“All good.”

Elodie exhaled into her hands. Her fears were over. 
Dr. Preston raised her chin. “You’ve got the grant!”

Elodie jumped and clapped her hands. “That’s wonderful.” Her mind whirled with the implications. What was her next step? She needed to call her mom and tell her.

Dr. Preston furrowed her brows, leaving a crease on the bridge of her nose. “Now you can move forward. You have, however, one slight problem.” She picked up her tablet, cradling it in her arm as she tapped a manicured nail against her desk. “I just got an email from Dr. Smelling.”

Elodie bit her lip, a pit forming in her stomach. “What did her doctor say?”

Dr. Preston straightened her lips. “Bed rest.”

Elodie’s hands flew to her mouth. “Oh no! How’s the baby?”

“The baby’s fine.” She held up a hand. “But mama’s preeclampsia is not good.”

Elodie stared out the sun-drenched window, murmuring, “I’ll take her dinner tonight.” What could she make that wouldn’t make her complications worse? She glanced to her advisor. “What does this mean for my project?”

Dr. Preston leveled her gaze. “You’ll need to find a new collaborator.”

Nibbling on her lip, Elodie nodded. She knew when Mary Ellen told her she was going to the doctor, the news would be bad. Mary Ellen was Elodie’s biggest supporter of this project. Without her, the funding almost didn’t matter. Mary Ellen had held her hand the whole way—from designing the proposal to finding grants. Elodie needed someone as brilliant as Mary Ellen to bounce ideas off of, to codify, and to persuade others in the department to use valuable equipment. How could she do this project without her mentor?

Dr. Preston placed a supportive hand on Elodie’s shoulder. “You are an excellent researcher, Elodie. Your theories are sound. You don’t need a mentor as much as a co-worker—an equal. You are almost a doctor. You can handle this.”

Elodie nodded again. Who in the department could help her? Trina Martinez? Trina’d helped Elodie a great deal in the last three years. But she was working on her own project trying to graduate, being ABD—all but dissertation—too. Emily? No, she’d turn her nose up in disdain for her project. Maybe someone on her committee?

“Mr. Brandon would be a good choice.” Dr. Preston nodded toward the opposite end of the hall.

Elodie wrinkled her nose. She’d heard about Mr. Brandon—the attractive newcomer. In a field largely dominated by women, David Brandon’s hire made quite a stir. Everyone in the department was talking about him—his broad shoulders, his attractive grin, and his extensive CV. Elodie had yet to meet him. “He’s biz-comm. He’s not a researcher.”

Dr. Preston pinched her lips. “He did research for his MBA from Harvard.”

Elodie rolled her eyes. Yes, he went to Harvard—a fact Dr. Preston liked to wave around like a battle flag. Earned a business degree from Harvard, taught at U-Dub until he started his own tech company and then sold it and retired to come teach here. Retired at twenty-eight! 
“He cost me half my budget to bring him here. He might lend a hand.” From the doorway of Dr. Preston’s office, Elodie glanced down the hall to his open door. She could only see his desk from here. She faced her mentor. “I don’t think he’d be interested. My project isn’t up his alley.”

Dr. Preston tipped her head; her shellacked blonde hair stood stiffly in place. “You might value a male perspective.”

Elodie nodded. She wasn’t sure she wanted his male perspective. What did he know about relationships? 
“He’s your only choice.” Dr. Preston glanced at the clock on her desk. “Everyone has projects of their own. Now you’ll have to excuse me, I have a meeting at four.” She flashed a tight smile. “Good luck. See you at the luncheon tomorrow.”

Dr. Preston walked briskly from the room, heels clacking on the hardwood. 
Elodie, too excited to be dampened by drawbacks, danced back to her little office. 
Elodie shared the second story office with three other PhD candidates, Trina, Emily, and Dawn. Each had a desk leaning against the wall with high ceilings. Lucky Elodie cozied into her small table near the one and only window. Though the sunlight poured in, bringing the Arizona heat with it, Elodie was grateful to look out across campus, to the bearded palm trees and yellowed zoysia—a way to observe people clandestinely.

Trina Martinez grabbed the thick, wooden molding around the doorway. “I heard the news!” she proclaimed in her slight Spanish accent. “Congratulations!”

Elodie, still reveling in her excitement, gasped. She placed a hand over her heart. “Thank you!”
 With a stack of papers, Trina walked in and hugged Elodie. “Dr. Dread told me.”

With a slight smile, Elodie shook her head. “Don’t call her Dr. Dread.”

“She is always shooting down my ideas.” Trina slapped her papers down on her small desk.

“That’s her job as department chair.” Elodie twisted in her chair. “So, I have one little snag.”
Trina leaned against her desk. “And that is?”

“I need a collaborator.” Elodie ran a finger over the edge of her desk. “Mary Ellen is on bed rest.”

Gasping, Trina placed her hands over her mouth. “Oh, no! Will she be okay?”

“I’ll ask her when I take her dinner tonight.”

“You are so sweet.” Trina threw out her hand. “What are you going to do?”

Elodie gazed up at the high ceiling. “Maybe one of those rotisserie chickens…”

Trina slapped her on her shoulder. “Not for dinner, silly, about your collaborator.”

“I don’t know.” Elodie picked up her tablet, ready to brainstorm ideas.
“I know who I’d ask.” Trina nodded her head toward the other end of the building.
Elodie lowered her tablet. “Why does everyone suggest him?”

Trina waggled her eyebrows. “Because he’s hot…and he’s hot.”

Rolling her eyes, Elodie snorted. “Mr. MBA from Harvard.” He was such a distraction to the whole department.

“‘David Brandon cost me half my budget to bring in.’” Standing erect, Trina sounded exactly like Dr. Preston. She relaxed her body and became Trina again. “He’s in his office, right now.” Trina crossed to peek out the door and down the hall to the right.

Elodie rolled her chair across the room and stood in the doorway. She could see his blue chambray shirt, just his left arm exposed, writing with a pen. She filed all these observations away.

“I passed by before coming in here. He’s on the phone. You should go and ask him.” Trina edged Elodie into the hall.

“Will you stop?” Elodie resisted with a hand on the doorway.
“Aren’t you just a little bit interested in him?” Trina waggled her head.

Elodie couldn’t help but peer again down the hall. 
Trina also continued sneaking peeks at him, but keeping herself mostly hidden.
Elodie leaned entirely hidden against the thick door frame. “I heard he has a girlfriend.”

Trina snorted. “I heard she still lives in Washington.”
“So.” Elodie shook her head.
Trina crossed her arms. “Washington is far away. He’s fair game. If they really loved each other, they would be closer.”

“Ah, that’s a theory worth exploring.” Elodie typed, Does proximity matter in relationships? on her tablet. She always kept it near her to take notes on her thoughts and to record things to study later. “Who’s he talking to on the phone?”

Trina peered down the hall. “Heck if I know.”

“Maybe it’s her.” In her studies, men didn’t like talking on the phone in their relationships unless they were really committed.
 Trina sighed, leaning against the door jamb. “I wish I knew more about him. I’ll have to wait for the luncheon. You can’t tell much from just seeing the left half of his arm.”

“On the contrary.” Elodie nodded. “I observe lots of things. He’s left-handed. So possibly a creative thinker. The markings on his shirt means he buys name-brand—so he probably cares about what other people think—not an attractive quality, I might add. And he keeps his desk neat.”

Trina eyed Elodie suspiciously. “You are interested in him! You’ve been observing him. Admit it!”
Elevating her chin, Elodie shook her head. “Just the social scientist in me.” 
Trina arched her brow. “Yeah right.”

“What?” Elodie asked her, moving back into the office, hitting Trina as she went. “I’m a people-watcher. That doesn’t mean I’m interested in him.”

“Prove it by asking him to work with you on this project.”
Elodie shuffled back to her chair and rolled it to her desk. “He’s probably got other things to do.”

“You’re making excuses for him.” Trina picked up her papers. “Ask him at the faculty luncheon tomorrow.”

Elodie didn’t want to crawl to him like every other woman in the department. “I don’t have to prove anything to you.”

Trina raised her eyebrows. “What other choice do you have?”

Elodie bit her lip. Trina was right. Who else could help her?

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