BONUS SCENE: TBA #3, Chase’s Perspective

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This scene retells the bar scene of The Billionaire’s Alibi: The Scandal (The Billionaire’s Alibi #3) from Chase’s perspective. Fans of Beauty Awakened may get a little more backstory on Derrick and Lily as well…

Chase didn’t even bother to hide his grin as he watched Alexa tip her head back for another shot. This was the girl he knew—the girl who could drink Drew and Tucker under the table and still ace an exam the next morning, the girl who would throw her hair in a ponytail and join them at Duffy’s no matter what the hour.

The girl who always returned his smile with a wink.

This was the Alexa he missed.

Surrounded by their friends from Northwestern, back in their favorite bar in Lincoln Park, he knew she was still there, hidden underneath the designer clothes and tacky—albeit expensive—jewelry. This thing with Will Harper was a farce. He knew it. He knew her.

Just as he knew that her sliding into the seat next to him wasn’t an accident, nor was the way her hand rested so close to his. He wanted to reach over and lay his hand on hers, to entwine their fingers like they’d done a thousand times before, a thousand light years ago when they were still together and in love.

But she was fragile—no matter how strong she made herself out to be—and she was hiding, and he would be damned if he scared her off before finding out from what.

“Where’s Derrick?” she leaned over to ask him. He could smell her perfume—something expensive, he guessed, and not at all like her. He knew her smell—he knew the faint scent of coconut from her shampoo and the way her skin smelled of flowers from her body wash.

Nothing stirred the memory like scent.

Chase leaned back, willing himself to push the memories aside.

“I expected to see him here,” Alexa continued.

“Mom and I have barely heard from him,” he told her. “He left town when his girlfriend went missing.”

She tilted her head and crinkled her nose, something she always did when she was puzzled—something he always found endearing.

“Which one,the cute brunette with the pixie cut?” she asked.

“No, that was Cassie,” Sara spoke up from across the table. Drew’s arm was wrapped lazily around his girlfriend’s shoulders, and Chase wondered how hard Alexa would smack him if he tried to do the same. “Lily was the one after.”

Lily was the one his brother had planned to propose to, the one who broke Derrick’s heart. He was never the same after that, and he’d stayed in the city for as long as he could, waiting for her to come back. When he finally realized she never would, he up and left with barely a word to his family.

With barely a word to him

His best friend. His brother.

Liz scoffed. “She was a nutcase if you ask me.”

“She wasn’t that bad,” Chase said. She may have broken his brother’s heart, but she’d also helped to heal it, in the beginning.

“She never even showed up to Derrick’s surprise party—the party that he planned for her birthday!” Sara exclaimed.

“No phone calls or texts, either,” Liz pointed out.

He leaned back in the chair and tilted his beer glass in small circles. It was true. Everything they were saying was true, but still there was something about the way she left Derrick that hadn’t sat right with either of them.

When Derrick first brought Lily around their group, Chase thought she was sweet, smart—and okay, he had to agree with Drew and Tucker—she was pretty smoking hot. She was a little… out there, but he shrugged it off, figuring she was a fashion major, and weren’t all creative types a little strange? Besides, she was good for Derrick in a way his past girlfriends hadn’t been—most importantly, she was there. Even when she was dreaming about flying off to Paris or Rome or wherever to do her fashion thing, she always included Derrick, like they were a two-for-one deal, one never without the other. With their dad leaving when they were young, his ex-girlfriend Melissa cheating on him, and Cassie up and transferring schools in the middle of their first semester, Lily was the one stable feature of Derrick’s life.

Besides Chase, of course.

But then Lily disappeared without a word, and Derrick broke in a way Chase had never seen before.

“We still don’t know what happened,” he reminded his friends.

Lily’s disappearance was deemed suspicious, and she was treated as a missing person. Her books had been found in the university library, still open to her sketchbook, and her keys and wallet were intact in her bag. When the police investigated further and found her sketchbook had been filled with drawings of a young man who couldn’t be identified—along with the times of flights heading to New York scribbled on the back of a receipt—they concluded that Lily had taken off willingly. The case wasn’t closed, but they weren’t actively searching for her, either.

Derrick was going to propose to her the night of the planned surprise party. Chase had even gone with him to pick out a ring—he’d planned on being his big brother’s best man, taking him to Vegas for his bachelor party, and roasting the hell out of him for his wedding toast. So when she didn’t show up, Chase was just as confused.

Sure, Lily could be weird sometimes—maybe even a bit flighty. But he’d never pegged her as the type of girl to run off with a stranger—and certainly not the girl who would knowingly break his brother’s heart. Derrick didn’t believe it, either, and if Chase was a betting man—which he was—he’d bet that although Derrick had left town to get away from the memories and forget Lily, he wasn’t going to let this go.

Chase didn’t blame him. He wasn’t willing to let Alexa go, either.

“How about you, Lex?” he heard Liz ask. “I heard you got rid of this guy over here and started dating some young hot billionaire.”

“Hey, now,” Chase said defensively. Just the mention of What’s-His-Name Harper made his blood rise, but he tried to ignore it and play it cool. No use in creating a larger rift between himself and Alexa—not when she was here, sitting next to him, smiling and laughing like old times. “It was a mutual breakup,” he added. “I dated someone, too.”

“Dated?” Alexa looked at him, curiosity filling her eyes. “As in, you’re not dating anymore?”

Before Chase could answer, Sara and Liz were updating with a barrage of questions.

“What was with that war on Zoey Fromme?” Liz asked.

“I couldn’t believe you were actually on speaking terms,” Sara said.

Chase glanced at Alexa. He’d done enough explaining—and lying—to his friends about Alexa’s new relationship. He certainly couldn’t express his suspicions to them—not after her interview with Morgan Cummings—but he didn’t have to sit here and make up excuses for her, either.

“Today’s about Vivian, not about us,” she said diplomatically. “We’re just trying to get along for her.”

“I heard on the news that you and your new boyfriend got tangled up with her murder,” Drew said quietly.

Silence filled the space between them. Around them, the sports commentators on TV and conversations at nearby tables grew louder and more distinct. Chase looked to Alexa. Would she do it? Would she confess her fears to her friends like she’d confessed to him earlier at Vivian’s funeral? Would she let them tell her she was playing with fire, that she didn’t belong in that world, that it was too dangerous and she was too smart, too special to be caught up in all of it?

“We think Will was set up,” she said.

Chase cleared his throat. So there it was. She’d keep defending him and their relationship, no matter what it meant to her friendships. No matter what it meant to her life.

“Vivian’s death is still an open investigation,” he said. “I don’t think we should be talking about it, especially not today.”

Vivian’s death had changed so much already—their group had grown smaller, their friendships a little more distant. He’d be damned if he let Alexa slip back into whoever the hell she was pretending to be with the Harpers. Not now, not when they were having fun and reminiscing and everything felt so familiar and right between them.

“Tell us about your love life, then, Chase,” Liz said with a wink.

Beside him, Chase heard Alexa mutter into her glass. “Yes, do tell them.”

“You’ve never been single for long,” Liz said, trying to goad him.

“He’s never been single.” Tucker laughed and toasted him with his beer.

Chase grinned and shrugged. “There’s nothing to tell. We went on a few dates, and I realized I wasn’t that into her.”

“Oh,” Alexa began, “you seemed pretty into her—”

He leapt to his feet. “Who wants another round? Anyone? Everyone? Alexa, will you come with me?”

She shook her head. “Nooo, I think I’ll—”

Chase grabbed her elbow as their friends tried not to smirk. He led her to a quiet corner near the front of the bar. That kind of reminiscing was not what he had in mind.

“Well done.” She tugged away from him, and he let go of her. “You really gave them the ol’ slip there.”

Chase ignored her and crossed his arms. “I’d rather not have our friends know that you walked in on me and my date having sex in our apartment, thanks. I thought after five years of being together, you’d at least respect our relationship enough to keep the details private.”

He thought after five years together, she’d at least trust him.

“That wasn’t about our relationship. That was about you fucking some other girl while I was still living with you.”

Chase sighed. She was never going to let that go. Was that the real reason she was with Mr. Rich? To get back at him? Was putting her life in danger really worth the payback? They’d already broken up when that happened, and it hadn’t meant anything. He didn’t even believe that Alexa cared until she walked through the door and started screaming at him.

“For the last time, I’m not proud of what I did. It wasn’t fair to you, and I should have been more discreet.” He paused. “But, you know, I think a part of me wanted you to catch me, to see that I could survive without you.”

To see that he could let her go, just as she had let him go.

“What are you talking about?”

“Come on, Lex,” he said. Did he really have to explain it to her? After all this time, were they just now going to have this conversation? “You were always so caught up in your own life and career. How else was I supposed to get your attention?”

She took a step closer to him. Through the beer and the bar food, he could swear he could smell that faint scent of flowers that always lingered on her skin. The anger in her eyes told him to stop thinking about her skin and start thinking of ways to fix this. She was talking to him, reminding him of why she hated him, and all he could think was that he wanted her.

He wanted her back.

“Did you even want a future with me?” he asked softly. “I loved you—I tried to give you everything. You never seemed to care.”

Something in her eyes changed. She drew back and paused.

“You’re right,” she said. “I’m sorry—I was depressed and struggling, and I took it all out on you instead of leaning on you for help.”

Chase reached for her hand, entwining his fingers with hers like he’d been wanting to do all night. Just touching her again like this made him feel whole, complete—like nothing had ever changed.

But everything had changed.

“Seeing you today, Lex—so strong, so pulled together, so confident… I haven’t seen you like this in a while.” He took a deep breath, his eyes never leaving hers. “And it kills me that he was the one to bring it out in you.”

“Chase…” she tried to protest, but he continued before she could say more.

“I know you don’t love him. You can’t love him. He’s exactly the kind of guy you would hate.”

Didn’t she remember that he was exactly the guy she loved?

He stepped closer to her, their faces mere inches apart. He swallowed nervously and reached up to stroke a loose strand of hair from her face. His finger traced her cheek until it reached her chin, and he tilted her head up, forcing her to meet his eyes. They were drawn to each other—drawn together like magnets, and he didn’t think he could pull away.

“When I said I couldn’t lose you, I didn’t just mean because of the danger you’re in. I meant that I couldn’t lose us. We had a good thing—you know we did. I should’ve tried harder, I could have done better, but, Lex…” His heart raced, and his voice fell to a whisper. “I can’t imagine my life without you.”

His eyes lowered to her lips, and her head tilted upwards. He leaned down and brushed his lips against hers—so familiar and comfortable and natural.

So like his Alexa.

He jumped as she pulled back.

“What are you doing?” she asked quietly.

Chase knew he hadn’t imagined it, though she was trying her best to deny it. There was something there, something so much better and less dangerous than the life she was leading now. She didn’t have to live this lie he knew she was keeping with the Harpers; she didn’t have to pretend to care about this guy she barely even knew when they had a history—when they could have a second chance.

“We could try again,” he said. He leaned down to kiss her again, but she turned away, freezing in mid-speech.

Chase pulled back, confused.

“I need to go,” she said, her voice filled with authority. “Now.

“Now?” He asked, perplexed.

Now, after he’d just bared his soul to her? Now, after he’d finally seen a glimpse of the old Alexa, the one she was always hiding now for God knew what reason?

She put a hand on his chest. “You have to tell everyone that they didn’t see me, okay? Tell them it’s important they don’t mention my name or give any indication I was here tonight.”

Chase stepped back and raised his head, not believing what he was hearing.

“Is this about Will?”

“I have to go,” she pleaded. “Please, just do this for me?”

“I meant everything I said, Lex,” he said. “I love you, and I’ll get you back.”

But Alexa was already pushing her way through the crowd.

“Tell them I’m sorry!” she called over her shoulder.

Before he could utter a word in response, the front doors burst open with a flood of photographers.