To Roxy’s horror, the idea that Leo was dating sent a shot of jealousy-dosed pain straight through her. Worse, Leo was studying her expression with way too much understanding in his grey eyes.
‘Actually, I’m not. I have been so caught up with the business that dating fell by the wayside.’
‘Then what was all that about?’
Leo sighed. ‘You don’t want to know.’
‘Actually, I do.’ Perhaps she should leave the subject, but it still rankled. ‘When we were together, you never talked about your family, didn’t let me meet them. I’ve always wondered why.’ She jutted her chin out; Diana Harding had made clear that Roxy wasn’t worthy of her attention. ‘Now I think I know what I always suspected. I’m not good enough for your family.’
‘What? No!’ The words jerked out of him and she could see what looked like genuine horror on his face as he stepped towards her, put a hand on her arm, the touch electric. ‘It wasn’t like that. I promise.’
‘Then what was it like?’
He hesitated, ran a hand through his hair. ‘Why don’t we sit down and talk,’ he said, gesturing to a wooden bench.
Once seated, Leo tried to order his thoughts, appalled by Roxy’s comments even as he understood them. Even more appalled by his own crass insensitivity. ‘I’ll try to explain,’ he said. ‘I’ll start with some background. Starkes was founded by my great-grandfather and has remained in the family ever since. Nearly every direct descendant of Joseph Harding has worked for the company in some capacity and the chairman’s baton has always been passed from eldest child to eldest child. So my older brother, James, was always destined to be chairman. My older sister, Saskia, will work by his side in her role of financial director. My parents wanted me to take a directorship as head of marketing. But that’s not what I wanted. I never did.’
As if she heard the sadness in his voice, she moved closer to him. ‘It must have been hard to go against generations of tradition.’
‘It was. Especially when I saw how devastated they were. I tried to make them understand. I asked them to be part of the Hardingo, to make this a Harding family enterprise. I compared it to when Great-Grandpa Joe invented the first Harding shoe. I asked them to invest in the business.’
‘They refused. Said I was a spoilt rich kid and it was time I knuckled down. Said they wouldn’t waste hard-earned money on a fool’s scheme, a castle in the air.’
‘I’m sorry, Leo.’
‘Don’t be. I’m telling you because that’s why I never took you to see them. I wasn’t ashamed of you. I was ashamed of me, that my parents didn’t believe in me. I didn’t want you to know that. I promise. It wasn’t you. And I am truly sorry you thought it was.’ He needed her to believe him. I’ll prove it. Come as my date tonight.’
Log in or create an account to read the next chapter of "Accepting Her Billionaire’s Ring"
Every month we select a new title from one of our authors so that you can discover new stories, locations and genres for free.