How to Bang a Billionaire


By Alexis Hall

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Rules are made to be broken . . .

If England had yearbooks, I’d probably be “Arden St. Ives: Man Least Likely to Set the World on Fire.” So far, I haven’t. I’ve no idea what I’m doing at Oxford, no idea what I’m going to do next and, until a week ago, I had no idea who Caspian Hart was. Turns out, he’s brilliant, beautiful . . . oh yeah, and a billionaire.

It’s impossible not to be captivated by someone like that. But Caspian Hart makes his own rules. And he has a lot of them. About when I can be with him. What I can do with him. And when he’ll be through with me.

I’m good at doing what I’m told in the bedroom. The rest of the time, not so much. And now that Caspian’s shown me glimpses of the man behind the billionaire I know it’s him I want. Not his wealth, not his status. Him. Except that might be the one thing he doesn’t have the power to give me.



Thanks, as ever, to my partner, my agent, and my dear friend Kat: You’re all amazing and I couldn’t do this without any of you. And thanks, as ever, to all the readers who inexplicably stick with me. And finally, a huge, huge thank you to my editor, Madeleine, who I suspect didn’t quite know what she was getting herself into. I’m so grateful for all your help and patience.

Sweet are the uses of adversity.

As You Like It, William Shakespeare


The crop strikes me with a snap like breaking ice. The pain that follows is sharp and cold, but I don’t cry out. I know I will, eventually, that I’ll sob, gasp, scream perhaps, but I make him break me every time. He needs to see what he does to me. He needs to see what it costs to love him.

At last it’s over.

I can feel him behind me, his heat and his hoarse breath. He’ll be tender now as he takes me, though it’s not my pleasure that brings the flush to his skin and the fire to his eyes. It’s my pain.

This is the ugly truth of what he needs: someone to suffer for him.

He rolls me over. The sheets are rough against my burning skin. Another hurt I will bear and forgive.

I hear the soft slap of the crop as it falls. He looks desolate and savage, the sweat on him as bright as tears.

“I can’t,” he whispers. “I can’t do this anymore.”

He’s said this before. But it always brings us back to this room. And to this. Me on my knees. Or in chains. The marks of his shame and torment on my back.

I go to him and draw him into my arms. He resists for only a moment, then surrenders, pressing his damp face against my neck. I hold him as he shudders and weeps and shatters.

“Nathaniel.” He lifts his head. His eyes are as cold as the moon. As empty. “I mean it. I can’t keep hurting you.”

“Then don’t.”

“It’s not that simple. This is what I need.”

“No.” I press my hand over his frantically beating heart. “I believe you’re better than this. Stronger than this. You don’t have to be what he made you.”

“I am what he made me. I don’t deserve you. And I can’t make you happy.”

“But I love you.”

“You shouldn’t.” His voice breaks. “Nobody should.”

He leaves me in that terrible room, the room where I first understood what he would do to me and what had been done to him. Though he turns away now, though he denies me and rejects me and flees from me, I know he’ll come back to me.

I am not the only man who has touched him but I’m the only one who truly knows him. The only one who loves him. The only one who ever could.

He’s mine. My beloved. My monster. My broken prince.

He’ll come back to me. And I will save him from himself.

Chapter 1

Hello! I’m Arden St. Ives, calling from St. Sebastian’s Colle—”


“Hello! I’m Arden St. Ives, calling from St. Sebastian’s Colle—”


“Hello! I’m Arden St. Ives, calling from St. Sebastian’s Colle—”


Oh dear. It was going to be a really, really long night.

I was supposed to be doing this college fund-raiser thing where undergraduates called up wealthy alumni and connected deeply with them in a way that got them all nostalgic and wallet-opening or bank-transferring. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly an ideal candidate for the role. Given that I got all squirmy borrowing 60 pence for a can of Coke Zero from the vending machine, I had no fucking clue how I was going to work “and how would you feel about endowing a Chair of Philosophy in perpetuity” into a casual conversation with a complete stranger.

My best friend Nik was actually the one who’d signed up, but he’d come down with laryngitis. Which meant the telethon team ended up having to use me instead. I knew as soon as they gave me what was supposed to be two days of training in ten minutes that it was going to be awful. And a quick glance around the only slightly dank basement confirmed my worst fears: the rest of the volunteers were all engaged in life-enriching, college-benefiting conversations with opera singers, human rights lawyers, and boutique cheesemakers. Whereas I’d eaten my body weight in free doughnuts and been hung up on more times than an insurance salesman with underdeveloped people skills.

I dialed the next number. They’d told me you could hear the smile in someone’s voice, so I made sure I was grinning as if I’d swallowed a coat hanger.



Then, “How did you get this number?”

“God, I don’t know. It was just on the list. I’m helping with the…” My mind blanked out. Something about that implacable, cut-glass voice. “…telethon thingy.”

“The telethon…thingy?”

“The St. Sebastian’s College annual telethon. Um, you went here, right?”

“Isn’t that why I’m on your list?”

“Oh yeah.” I decided to pretend my utter incompetence was funny. “Good point. But there was a letter. You should have got a letter.”

“I don’t have time to read letters.”

“Well, no wonder you miss stuff.”

A laugh, quiet and almost shy, ghosted down the phone to me, and I felt it like fingers against my spine. “I assume that if the message is important, the sender will find a more efficient way to deliver it.”

“Efficiency isn’t always better, though.”

“Under what circumstances is being effective at achieving what you set out to achieve less good than the alternative?”

I’d had tutorials like this. Blurting out some half-baked idea, which was swiftly revealed to be the most abject nonsense. So I did what I always do—the general refuge of the comfortable upper second—and promptly reframed. “Only if what you want to achieve is communicating something as simply, directly, and immediately as possible. Like, if you were on fire, a letter would be a really bad way of telling you.”

“Also a flammable one.” God, his voice. From the moment I’d heard it, I’d thought it was pretty sexy, in a chilly, upper-class way, but amusement-softened, it was as rich as honey. Irresistible.

I grinned foolishly at the receiver. “But if I wanted to say something with more nuance, something personal like I’m sorry or, thank you, or…or y’know…I love you, then maybe a letter would mean more than a text message or a Post-it note.”

“I had no idea the Master of St. Sebastian’s felt quite this strongly about me.” A neat little pause. You had to appreciate a man with timing. “Do you think it’s too late?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe if you chased after her in the pouring rain.”

“She’s not entirely my type.”

“It’s that purple houndstooth jacket, right?”

“I’m afraid it’s a deal breaker.”

I snuck another peek at the room, in case I was doing it wrong and everybody could tell, but nobody was paying any attention to me. I huddled a little closer to the phone and confessed, “I’ve actually only met her once. In my first year. She asked me what I was going to do when I grew up.”

“And what are you going to do when you grow up?”

“Gosh, I don’t know. Grow up, I guess?”

He was silent a moment. “I think that would be a shame.”

“If I grew up?”

“If you changed.”

I made a sort of hiccoughing noise. Surprise and bubbly pleasure. “You don’t know me.”

“No,” he agreed. “But I’ve enjoyed talking to you and I’m sure others will too.”

That sounded perilously close to goodbye and I panicked. Maybe it was just because I would have to start the cycle of doom all over again but I genuinely didn’t want him to go. “To be honest, you’re the only person who hasn’t hung up on me halfway through my opening line.”

There was another moment of silence. I might have been imagining it but it felt a little charged. “You asked me not to.”

“I was honestly pretty desperate.”

“Well, it seemed to work.”

“I guess you took pity on me.”

“I wouldn’t call it pity.”

I nearly asked him what he would call it, but I didn’t quite have the balls. I’d been told to telebond, after all, not teleflirt. I wondered what he looked like. What he was doing right now as he was talking to me. Probably he was sixty-five and tending a bonsai tree, but his voice made me imagine wingback chairs and whisky. A riding crop with a silver tip laid idly across a knee…Okay, maybe that was too far. Or just far enough.

I shivered and suddenly realized how, well, silent silence was when the only thing connecting you was an electrical signal. I didn’t know this man, and he didn’t know me, and if I didn’t say something soon, it was going to get super fucking uncomfortable. “So…um…” I fumbled with the cheat sheet of helpful icebreakers. “When was the last time you were here?”

“Ah.” A chill syllable, as devastating as a dial tone. “I was wondering when we’d get to this part.”

“Um, what part?”

“The part where we exchange charming stories about life at St. Sebastian’s and then you ask me for money.”

I actually yelped. I’d been sufficiently distracted by the awkward (and occasionally not awkward) conversation part of the arrangement that I’d managed to totally forget about the whole fund-raising thing.

He laughed and it wasn’t like the other time. It was cold and harsh, and very, very resistible. “What else does it say on your list?”


“Your list. What else does it say about me?”

I hadn’t expected the call to last more than five seconds, so I hadn’t bothered to read anything beyond the number I was dialing. I looked now. “It says you’re Caspian Leander Hart and you graduated in 2010 with a first in politics, philosophy, and economics. Oh my God, you were a PPEist.”

“Someone has to be.”

“And apparently you’re the CEO of a multinational banking and financial services holding company. I don’t know what much of that means.”

“You can look it up on the Internet. Anything more?”

I stared at the next line. “It says you’re a lovely person, and very kind to animals.”


It showed how screwed up my priorities were right then that, for a moment, all I could think was, He remembered my name. I imagined his lips shaping it: Arden, Arden, Arden. “Uh, what?”

“What does it really say?”

My name, and the touch of sternness, raised all the hairs on my arms. “It says you’re the third richest man in the UK with a net worth in the region of twelve billion quid.”

I waited. No idea what for. I’d done as he’d commanded, but he wasn’t exactly going to shower me in praise and cookies for it. I expected he would hang up but he didn’t and so we were stuck here, fresh silence deepening between us into this well of infinite nothingness.

“Um…” I skimmed desperately over the cheat sheet. “It says here that I should ask you if you’re enjoying it. But I don’t know what the it is. Oh, right. The answer to the previous question. How are you enjoying being the third richest man in the UK?”

“I’m finding it quite enjoyable.”

“You recommend insane wealth as a potential future for other St. Seb’s graduates?”

And then…then he laughed again, the laugh I liked. And I could breathe. “I do. What’s your next question?”

I checked. “Do you get the Arrow?”

“Since I don’t know what that is, it seems safe to assume I don’t.”

“It’s the Book of Making You Feel Bad About Yourself. You know, the St. Seb’s magazine? It’s full of stories about people who are living amazing lives and achieving amazing things while you’re sitting around in your pants playing Tsum Tsum.” I paused. “I guess you don’t do that, what with being a billionaire and everything.”

“I don’t, no.”

“And you don’t have time for the post, so the whole thing’s a bust really.”

I must have sounded a bit woebegone because he said, “There isn’t an e-copy you could sign me up for?” with the same kind of embarrassed gentleness you might show a three-legged kitten if you weren’t all that keen on cats.

“I don’t know. It just turns up in my pidgeon hole. It’s this glossy thing and the cover story is always St. Sebastian’s Graduate Now King of Everything Ever.”

Another soft laugh. “In which case, I shall strongly resist being put on the mailing list.”

“Oh my God,” I wailed. “I’m epically bad at this. I’ve stirred you from apathy to active antipathy. Do you not like St. Sebastian’s?”

“I haven’t thought about it since I left.”

“You don’t have any good memories?”

“It’s not that. It’s simply that I prefer to focus my energy on the present.”

“And you never look back?” I tried again. “Never miss anybody or feel thankful?”

“The past is merely a string of things that have already happened.”.”

I knew I was a dweller by nature, reliving every moment of embarrassment, every harsh word, every little loss, but I wasn’t sure his way was the answer either. “That sounds alienating. Living out of time.”

“I would rather control my future than concern myself something I can’t change.”

Something in the way he said it made the back of my neck prickle. “You can’t control everything.”

“On the contrary, with enough wealth, power, and conviction, one can control anything. Anyone.”

Aaaand that really wasn’t helping with my inappropriate telefeelz. I tried to laugh it off, but it came out way too shaky to be convincing. “You sound like…There’s this line in Ulysses where someone describes history as a nightmare from which he’s trying to awake.”

“I’m already awake. And I haven’t read Ulysses.”

“You want to know a secret? Me neither.”

“But you can quote from it.” He seemed to have warmed up again. Maybe he was even smiling. And I thought, What would a man like this look like when he smiled?

“That’s what an English degree from Oxford teaches you. How to be convincing about a bunch of shit you actually know nothing about.” And there I went. Fucking up again. “But I bet PPE was useful to you, right, and has shaped your career and helped you become the incredibly successful person you are today?”

“Oxford—as a brand—still carries a certain value when effectively leveraged.”

I sat back in my chair, tucking a knee beneath me. I felt oddly sad suddenly. Not exactly for us but because of us. I’d basically squandered the last three years being disorganized and lazy and preoccupied with getting laid, and he’d just used the words brand and leveraged in cold blood. “But a world-class education…that’s a gift, isn’t it? It could make a real difference to someone. I mean, someone who was, y’know, better than we are.”

He was quiet for what felt like far too long. “I think,” he said at last, “when you claimed to be bad at this, you were either lying or sorely underestimating yourself.”

“I wouldn’t lie to you, Mr. Hart.” It was hard to tell because we were on the phone but I thought I heard him draw in a sharp breath. Something I said? Or his name, which felt intimate somehow, in my mouth? Even though the formal address should have maintained a sense of distance, rather than the reverse. “It was just a thing I thought.”

“That I should make a donation to my old college? Rather a convenient notion to cross your mind at a fund-raising telethon, don’t you think?”

“Well, yes…I mean no…I mean. Fuck. All I meant was…I couldn’t think of anything more powerful, or more important, than being able change the course of a life. To be able to give someone who truly deserved it an opportunity that money or circumstance or social inequality would otherwise deny them.” That was when the magnitude of what I was suggesting finally sank in. I squeaked. “Or…or you could just buy a plant for the JCR. That would be cool too.”

I was relieved to hear him laugh again. “You are a very dangerous young man.”

“I’m really not.” And I wasn’t sure whether it had been intended as a compliment anyway.

“I’m going to say goodbye now and think about what you’ve said.”

This was all moving a little fast for me. I wasn’t even entirely sure what had happened. “God. Are you sure? You don’t have to.”

“No, I do. Charming though this conversation has been, I’m a very busy man and I never make financial decisions without considering them thoroughly first.”

“I meant…you don’t have to…give any money. Or anything.”

“Courage, Arden. Never flinch before you seal the deal.”

“But I wasn’t trying to…to deal with you.”

“Perhaps that’s why you succeeded. I had forgotten how potent sincerity can be.”

Maybe I should have been celebrating but I felt terrible. As if I’d accidentally perpetrated an epic deception on a billionaire alumnus. And then I suddenly remembered there was a formal dinner and I was supposed to invite anybody who seemed donatey. “You should come visit,” I blurted out.


“Before you decide anything. You could come to the dinner at the end of the week. I mean, it’s free food.” Oh, what was I saying? “Though I guess that probably isn’t much of a motivation for you. But can…do you think…would you…”

He cut over my flailing. “Put me down as a maybe.”

A click. And the line went dead.

Chapter 2

My shift ended at nine, the next group of eager volunteers filing in to reach out to alumni in different time zones. While I hadn’t spoken to any more billionaires, I’d actually done okay. Somehow, my conversation with Caspian Hart had given me more confidence in what I was doing and my ability to do it. He’d said I was doing a good job, after all. And, coming from him, that had to mean something. Unless he was being sarcastic.

Oh shit. What if he was?

In any case, I’d even started to enjoy myself once I got into the swing of things. Nearly everyone had memories to share or stories to tell, and as I made my way back to my room across the moonlit quad, I found myself wondering what my story was.

I’d done so well at school that I’d come to university expecting a cross between Brideshead Revisited and an English version of The Secret History, and fully prepared to be a genius. Except Oxford wasn’t like that at all. And neither was I.

And here I was, two and a half years later, finals looming and…


I climbed the stairs and pushed open the door to my room. Well, rooms technically—set of rooms—the ultimate Oxford status symbol. I’d come bottom of the ballot, which meant I should have been living in a dustbin round the back of college, but Nik had come near the top, and since he needed someone to share with, that had hiked me up.

He was huddled on the sofa under a duvet, looking tragic.

“Feeling better?” I asked.


“I’m sorry.” It was hard to know how to sympathize with someone who sounded like Emperor Palpatine. “But, hey, you can do an awesome impression of Emperor Palpatine.”

That seemed to perk him up.

“Go on. Say Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station.”

Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station,” he rasped.

I gave him a thumbs-up and went into my bedroom to slip into something less socially acceptable, emerging a few seconds later in my boxers and an I’M FABULOUS AND I KNOW IT My Little Pony T-shirt.

We’d been roommates long enough to have established our chairs—though, unfortunately, mine was currently a make-do revision station, consisting of my laptop, a pile of books, and a half-drunk bottle of £1.99 Tesco’s own brand booze. Which you could tell was the good stuff because it was just called wine and had a screw cap.

Mooching over, I grabbed the nearest book and curled up, waiting for knowledge to miraculously osmote from page to brain. Because that was totally how it worked.

Nik stirred in his duvet cocoon. “How’s it going?”


“What have you got to worry about? It’s English lit.”

He wasn’t actually being mean. My course had a reputation for being easy—probably deservedly, since the earliest lectures started at eleven and, while they weren’t presented as optional, hardly anyone went to them anyway.

“Yes, but how am I supposed to revise every book written in English from 650 to the present day. That’s”—my voice went a bit shrill—“not reasonable.”

“Can’t you prioritize the important ones or something?”

“Do I look like Harold Bloom?”

“I’d be able to tell you if I knew who that was.”

I could have explained The Western Canon, but nobody deserved that. And Nik, whose full name was Niklaus Johannsson-Carrington, was my best and oldest friend. We’d been on the same staircase in my first year and stuck together ever since, despite having nothing in common (except maybe the time he’d been drunk enough to let me wank him off).

He was reading Materials, whatever that meant, and constantly getting internships at MIT. He was also captain of the first VIII (which I thought was a rowing thing), played football for the men’s seconds, and had recently returned from Uganda, where he’d been part of a team that was repairing a health center. All of which made him the perfect person to do fund-raising telethons…except for the temporarily-sounding-like-Emperor-Palpatine thing. That would have probably been pretty off-putting.

“In Stephen Fry’s autobiography—” I began.

“Which one? The man’s written more autobiographies than you’ve written essays.”


On Sale
Apr 18, 2017
Page Count
384 pages
Forever Yours

Alexis Hall

About the Author

Alexis Hall lives in a little house in the south east of England where he writes books about people who bake far better than he does. He can, however, whip up a passable brownie if pressed.

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