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Lorana Hoopes

The Billionaire's Christmas Miracle

The Billionaire's Christmas Miracle

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A Christmas Cinderella?

Drew Devonshire is tired of attending wealthy functions with women who only want his money. He's pleasantly surprised, however, when he meets a woman at a masquerade ball who seems genuine and down to earth. The only problem is, she runs off before he finds out who she is. She leaves behind a bracelet and a first name. Will it be enough for him to find her?

Gwen Rodgers isn't wealthy and she doesn't like strangers, but when her friend Carrie asks her to attend a masquerade ball in her place, she reluctantly agrees. There she meets a handsome man who piques her interest, but when she finds out that man is billionaire Drew Devonshire, she knows a relationship could never work. However, when Drew comes looking for her, she is forced to decide whether she should tell him the truth and risk losing him or continue the charade.

Will these two find love and their Christmas miracle? Or will it end in a New Year's disaster?

An inspirational Christian romance by Award Winning and USA Today best selling author Lorana Hoopes, this story focuses on second chances and trusting God to bring the right people into your life at the right time. Follow the journey by clicking the button above.

First Chapter

Gwen’s jaw dropped as she regarded her friend. Surely, she had misheard Carrie’s request. There was no way she could be serious. “You want me to do what?” Didn’t Carrie understand what she was asking was one of Gwen’s worst nightmares? 

“Pretend to be me.” Carrie flicked her fiery red hair off her shoulder and picked up the eyeshadow brush. She swiped it across her lid, nonchalantly, as if she had just been asking Gwen to hand her a shirt and not walk into a room full of strangers. Strangers! 

“Just for the night. I’m so tired of these parties, and I promised Lorenzo I’d go riding with him.” Lorenzo was Carrie’s latest fling - a tall, dark, Italian bad boy who wore leather and drove a Harley. At least Gwen was fairly certain his name was Lorenzo. Carrie Bliss changed men like most people changed socks, and she had a hard time keeping up. 

While Gwen adored Carrie, she often wondered how they were still friends. In college, it had made sense. Gwen was the studious library aide and Carrie was the sorority girl who needed help on her papers. But now? Carrie owned her own business and was steadily climbing the “Who’s who in society” ladder while Gwen was an ordinary English teacher. A teacher who had nightmares every year about meeting the upcoming class of students, but they were just kids. Kids like she had been once who needed help, so she could swallow her fear of strangers and stand up in front of them, but she could not walk into a party with a bunch of wealthy adults. Carrie knew this.

 “But we don’t look alike,” Gwen protested with a shake of her head. That wasn’t exactly true. They had been mistaken for sisters more than once, but she needed an excuse. Any excuse. 

Carrie set the make-up down and turned to Gwen. Her right eyebrow inched up her forehead in a stop-being-a-baby expression. “We look close enough. We both have red hair, we’re about the same height-” 

“You’re two sizes smaller than me,” Gwen finished. She wasn’t overweight, but her size eight to ten frame was bigger than Carrie’s perfect size six one. 

Carrie flashed her manicured hand in a dismissive wave. French tips. They were so pretty. Gwen’s own nails were all different lengths and not painted. She’d only had one manicure in her life. High school prom. Her foster mother had taken her to get a manicure even though she didn’t have a date. “Everyone should feel pretty at least one day,” she’d said. Carrie, on the other hand, had a weekly standing appointment with her nail lady, and while she’d offered to take Gwen along and pay for hers more than once, Gwen just couldn’t do it. It seemed like a frivolous waste of money even if it wasn’t her money. 

“Just don’t get too close to anyone, and no one will know. Besides, most of these people barely know me. They just know the name of Carrie Bliss Designs. The only one you’d have to watch out for is Grant.” Her nose wrinkled the tiniest bit as she said his name.

 Grant was Carrie’s ex - a snobby stock broker who managed the portfolios of many of the wealthiest in the city. Gwen had never liked Grant nor understood why Carrie dated him, but then again, she didn’t understand why Carrie dated half the men she did. “I don’t know, Carrie, it’s not really my thing.” 

“Which is exactly why you should go.” Carrie turned back to the mirror and puckered her lips. “You never do anything fun. You go to work and then you come home and hang out there.”

 That part was true; Gwen’s life was boring, but she liked it that way. At least most days. “I’m a homebody. I like staying home.” Plus, it was safer there. No one would beat her or die on her if she stayed in her house. Yes, it was lonely on occasion, but still safer.

 Carrie’s eyes flicked up to catch Gwen’s in the mirror. “But you’ll never meet anyone stuck inside this house.”

 Which was the whole point. Gwen didn’t want to meet someone. It hurt too much to love people.

 “Besides, this is the perfect opportunity,” Carrie continued, “you’ll be wearing a mask, so you can hide behind it.”

 Gwen’s teeth bit into her bottom lip. Wearing the mask might make it better. It wouldn’t curb her anxiety about being in a room full of strangers, but it would help that they couldn’t really see her. And it would be something different. “What will I wear?” Gwen couldn’t believe she was even considering this. “Is it formal? Because I have nothing formal.” 

“Relax, I’m sure I have something in my closet that will fit you. Come on, let’s go look.” 

She followed Carrie to her immense closet. Though they had shared an apartment for a time in college, eventually Carrie’s more expensive taste and wallet had led her to purchase a penthouse in the city. Gwen, however, rented a studio in a much poorer section of town. 

“Let’s see.” Carrie walked along the dresses hanging down, her hand touching each garment as she passed. Gwen would never get used to the size of this closet. It was nearly the size of her whole apartment. Carrie stopped and pulled out an emerald green gown. “Try this one. I remember it being slightly big on me, so it’s probably just your size.” 

Gwen’s fingers touched the satiny gown. It was more expensive than anything she would ever own. Off the shoulder and floor length, the satin rippled like waves as it fell to the floor. “What if I ruin it?” Gwen wasn’t exactly a klutz, but she could just picture herself spilling a fancy drink on the beautiful gown.

 Carrie smiled. “You won’t, and even if you do, it’s not like I’m hurting for it.” She gestured to the myriad of dresses still hanging on the rods.

 She was running out of excuses, and it was just one night. Perhaps it would even be fun, and she could reminisce on the evening later when the silence pressed in on her at her apartment. It wasn’t like she would have another chance at something like this. “Okay, I’ll see if it fits.”

 Carrie stepped out of the closet to give Gwen some privacy. She laid the gown across the padded bench and shook her head. Who had a bench in their closet? She didn’t think she would ever get used to some of the things wealthy people seemed to waste their money on. 

Her fingers trembled slightly as she removed her clothes and stepped into the dress. This is wrong paraded again and again in her head like a scratched record, but her hands still pulled the dress up. Her fingers still found the zipper and tugged. It was a little snug, but it fit. If she didn’t eat too much.

 Lifting the dress so as not to step on the hem, Gwen stepped out of the closet. Carrie clapped her hands and sighed. “Yes, you look perfect. Well, almost perfect. Hang on.” She hurried back into the closet and the sound of drawers opening and closing carried out. “Ah, here we go.” She re-emerged holding a feathered mask and held it out. “Now, you’ll look perfect.” 

Gwen’s fingers grasped the mask, a beautiful atrocity of purples, greens, and golds. She pulled the string and fastened it over her face before turning to the mirror. Whoa! Her lips parted at the vision in front of her, and a small gasp escaped. She looked... beautiful, and Carrie was right - no one would know it wasn’t Carrie from far away. With her face covered, she appeared even more like her friend. 

“See? I told you. Now let’s get you some shoes, a little jewelry, and pin your hair up.” 

Gwen glanced down at her wrist. “Can I keep the bracelet on at least?” It was the last thing her parents had given her - a diamond tennis bracelet. And it never came off, not even to shower. 

Carrie’s eyes softened. She had never met Gwen’s parents - they had been dead for years before Carrie entered the picture, but Gwen had told her about them one late night over popcorn and The Breakfast Club. “I’d never ask you to take your bracelet off. I was just thinking some diamond earrings would be a great match with it.” 

Tears filled Gwen’s eyes. This was why she and Carrie were still friends. Though worlds apart, she was so thoughtful sometimes. 

With the earrings picked and the shoes found, Gwen checked the mirror one last time. She still couldn’t believe she was doing this, but she might as well make the most of it. For one night, she could pretend to be Carrie, pretend to be wanted, pretend to be wealthy and not have a care in the world. It was just one night. 

* * *

 Drew Devonshire adjusted his mask. He looked a little like the Phantom with his white shirt, dark pants, and cape, but the look suited him. If only he were more excited about this event, but they were all the same. He’d been attending them for years, and the results never changed. By the end of the night, he would be dying of boredom, dazed from the alcohol he’d consumed to battle said boredom, and have at least a dozen numbers in his pocket from women after his money whom he had no interest in. 

It was always the same people there - the affluent and elite of society. They would gather at some elaborate venue with tiny portions of intricate food that would cost whoever was hosting the event a fortune. In this case, that was Drew, or his family rather, as his mother was hosting this masquerade ball at one of their hotels.

Occasionally, a millionaire from another town would be in attendance or sometimes a relative of one of the families would be, but even those instances were rare. His mother invited old friends and only new people she thought would attend her next benefit. Since those were priced at a thousand dollars a plate that list was small.  Plus, while the food was delectable, it never filled him up, and he invariably had to have his chef make him a second meal when he returned home. 

If only he could get out of this, but his mother would be there. If he didn’t attend, she would be livid. As heir to the billion-dollar hotel chain, it was his duty to attend events like this. Maybe he could leave early, but what would he do even if he could? Return home to his mansion and watch television alone again? He already did that nightly.

For a time, he had filled his nights with women. One after the other, he had wined them and dined them, but none had held his interest. Soon, the very thought of dating and pretending to like them had grown old. They were all alike - cookie cutters of their mothers and their mothers before them. Tailored clothing, designer shoes, and an appetite for spending money without abandonment appeared to be all that drove these women. Drew wanted something different. He had no idea what, but something different. No, that wasn’t true. He wanted someone like Marjorie had been or who he thought Marjorie had been. 

A knock sounded on his door. “Come in.” It had to be Pierre, his butler. Though officially the help, Pierre felt more like family. He had been Drew’s butler for over a decade now and his confidante almost as long. 

“Are you ready, sir? Manuel has the limo waiting.” Pierre was older than Drew, gray at the temples and with more lines on his face, but still handsome. He had never wanted to marry, and as Drew paid him well, he seemed content to remain Drew’s main butler, but he had a few men beneath him, so he could take time off when he needed. 

Drew sighed. It wasn’t as if he had much choice. “I suppose I am.” He shoved his wallet in his pocket. “Pierre, is there anything else going on tonight? If I finish early?” 

Pierre’s brows knitted together. “Early, sir? Don’t these events run on the lengthy side?” 

“Yes, they do, but I was thinking about retiring early.” He hoped Pierre was catching his innuendo. “If something else were going on that sounded interesting, I mean.” 

Pierre nodded. “Ah, I see. I’m afraid I am not well informed on the night life around town, but Manuel usually has knowledge of such events. Although I must say, the Devonshire events are always the talk of the town, so I’m not sure what else you might be looking for.” 

That elicited a small smile from Drew. He clapped Pierre on the shoulder. “Me either, but thank you, my friend. I will ask Manuel.” 

“Very good, sir.” Pierre nodded and stepped out of the way, so Drew could exit the room. 

Though he lived alone, except for the help he employed, his mansion was palatial. Five bedrooms each with their own bathroom took up the second floor. A large grandiose stairway connected the two floors, and his loafers clicked against the white marble as he made his way down them. 

The stairs ended in the grand foyer, a room as large as most people’s living rooms with the sole purpose of connecting the front door to the living room. A single closet to hang coats in and a hat rack which held his hat and scarf were the only things in the room besides a mirror that hung on one wall. 

After donning his hat and wrapping his scarf around his neck, Drew checked his reflection in this mirror. The image reflecting back was dapper if he did say so himself. He flung open the front door to find Manuel waiting on the porch. 

“Are you ready, sir?” Manuel was much younger than Pierre. Younger than Drew even, but he’d come highly recommended after Drew’s last driver had run off with Marjorie. And so far, Drew had no complaints. Manuel always dressed immaculately, he drove the speed limit, and he kept the limo stocked with Drew’s favorite snacks - beef jerky and Doritos. 

Not the typical fare for a billionaire, but then Drew wasn’t the typical billionaire. He didn’t like the taste of Dom Perignon, and caviar held no appeal for him either. While the help and the limo were nice, sometimes he wished he could just go camping in the woods with some burger patties, hot dogs, and chips. 

His mother hated that side of him. “We should never have allowed you to go off to a regular college,” she reminded him often, but Drew was glad he’d gotten the chance to see how the other half lived. In fact, he’d wanted to do something other than inherit a billion-dollar hotel industry, but when his father died, he’d been forced to step into his shoes. 

“As ready as I’ll ever be, I suppose,” Drew said as he followed Manuel to the long black car. 

Manuel nodded as if he understood what Drew meant though Drew knew he did not understand. People thought they wanted to be wealthy, but they had no idea the taxing monotony it carried with it. He always had to be dressed when he went outside. One poorly chosen outfit and his face would end up splashed across the tabloids within hours. Dates needed to be well planned out, and he could never say what he was thinking. Having to always be diplomatic required constant attention and control. And Drew was tired of it. 

Plus, there was the prying into his private life. After Marjorie had run away with the chauffeur, he had been the talk of every tabloid. It was only after a fellow heiress had gotten herself arrested for driving intoxicated that he had faded from the public scrutiny and pity. 

“Manuel, if I wanted to leave the ball early, would you know of any place that might have something of interest going on tonight?” 

Manuel pursed his lips. “Do you mean of the local nightlife variety?” 

Drew slid into the leather seat and nodded. “That is precisely what I mean.” 

“I have heard nothing other than the talk of this masquerade ball.” 

Drew sighed. Of course, he hadn’t. Drew’s mother did her best to make sure her parties conflicted with nothing and garnered all the attention. “I was afraid of that, but do me a favor, will you, Manuel? Keep your ears open in case something comes up.” 

Manuel nodded. “I will do my best, sir.” Then he shut the door and Drew was left alone in the dimly lit interior of the limo.

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Lorana Hoopes

Lorana Hoopes is a USA Today Best Selling Author and now an Award Winning Author as well. She's had two books earn a Page Turner Award Finalist badge and she recently won the Reader's Favorite Book Award for Romantic Suspense.