Bedding the Billionaire
Page 1

 Ruth Cardello

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Chapter One
“Looking for more about the Corisi/Dartley whirlwind romance? We have an exclusive interview with the bride-to-be's sister.” The promo from a Boston news station played on the phone Jake Walton had propped on a table in his room-sized closet as he was getting dressed one morning.
Jake paused briefly from looping his carefully chosen, blue, silk tie in a full Windsor. Most men were aware of one or two ways to knot a tie, but Jake knew over eighty methods to perform that simple function and how each conveyed a subtle, yet different message. Information was power, even when applied to the details.
The video clip his business partner, Dominic Corisi, had sent his phone a few moments earlier was not welcome information, but since the actual interview had yet to air there was time to squash it. Having a network of security in a variety of cities had paid off again.
This was an unfortunate distraction for Dominic at the very time when he most needed to regain his focus. Luckily the situation could easily be rectified with a few phone calls and would hopefully be quickly forgotten by the public.
No doubt, Dominic’s next step would be to call him, perpetuating the cycle they had fallen into years ago–Dominic made a mess and always expected Jake to clean it up. Jake didn’t deny that there was a certain pleasure to be found in bringing order to the chaos his business partner often left in his wake. Normally something like this interview would be categorized as a minor nuisance. Dominic was famous for being volatile, impulsive, and often the subject of legal inquires, certainly not a man who feared bad press, but with Corisi Enterprises having invested so much into one contract with China, the stakes were insanely high.
Jake resumed knotting his tie as he watched the rest of the video clip.
“Listen as Lil Dartley spills her true feelings about having billionaire and computer tycoon Dominic Corisi kidnap her sister. Hear her confess something that is sure to rock the Corisi camp. Think you know the whole story? You don’t know this. Don’t miss our exclusive phone interview–tonight at seven.”
Surely Dominic hadn’t been careless enough to share the one piece of information that could topple Corisi Enterprises? If so, no amount of money could stifle her interview.
Was Lil making a grab for her five minutes of fame, or something more insidious? She was a young, single mother of twenty-five. It wasn’t unimaginable that she’d think the world owed her something since her sister had hit the proverbial jackpot by snagging a billionaire.
Normally the exposure of human flaw did not elicit more than annoyance from Jake, but it was oddly disappointing to find it so soon in Dominic’s new family–Lil in particular. Not that her character, or lack of, should matter one way or another to Jake. She was, and always should have been, off limits.
A memory from the first time he’d met her came back to him with disconcerting clarity. His body tightened and warmed as if she were once again standing before him, defiantly flipping her cascade of dark brown curls over one shoulder and waving her other hand back and forth as if underlying her words.
“You lied to me,” she’d accused. And waited, practically tapping a foot in displeasure. The details of the bowling alley she’d dragged him to that night had faded away, but the fullness of her pouting mouth remained painfully easy to recall.
“You asked me if I liked to bowl, not if I knew how.” A hint of self-satisfaction had spilled into his tone and it’d bothered him. Knocking over a set of pins with a spinning projectile was a simple process of aiming for a “pocket,” the space between the front pin and the one angled behind it to the right. Not a difficult feat if you understood angles and velocity. So why had he puffed up with pride over this achievement?
Lil.
His realization that he wanted to impress her had been the most unsettling part of the evening. There had been far too much going on with Corisi Enterprises to waste time on what the little sister of Dominic’s latest fling thought of him. He’d scowled down at her, more in response to his own thoughts than to her words.
Money shaped how most people interacted with him, but it wasn’t something that he’d given much reflection to until he’d met Lil. Her displeasure with the reason for his visit had initially outweighed whatever most women found attractive about him. She hadn’t asked him to join her that night because she wanted to spend more time with him.
No, she’d taken him outside of what she’d considered his comfort zone with a less than noble goal, but she’d failed. “Disappointed that I don’t look ridiculous?” he’d asked.
She’d rested a hand on one jean clad hip, looking him up and down, smirking as she’d noted the clash between his Dayang suit and his colorful, rented bowling shoes; a perusal that had sent his blood rushing to places he thought he’d gained control of by his late teens. “Oh, you still do, don’t worry.”
More than the way her yellow t-shirt had clung to her small but tempting endowments, or how her jeans had been tight in all the right places–what had driven his blood pressure higher had been the bold challenge in her eyes. He’d never been the type of man who reached out, grabbed with passion, and took. But that night, he’d wanted to be.
Instead, he’d adjusted his tie and cleared his throat. “Then I suggest you beat my score or risk the same fate.”
She’d continued to assess him, shaking her head slightly. “I don’t get you. I mean, aren’t you Dominic’s second in command?”
The memory of that comment elicited the same tight smile it had the first time he’d heard it. “Something like that.”
“Don’t you mind babysitting me?”
Her question had highlighted the heart of the problem.
He should.
His business partner was having a very public breakdown in the middle of one of the most important business deals in the history of their company. He should have accompanied Dominic to China and ensured that his current altered state of mind didn’t leave him open to manipulation.
Instead he’d allowed Dominic to sidetrack him with a trip to Boston.
A trip that should have ended after he’d ascertained Lil’s safety from the security detail that Dominic had sent to watch her. However, something had happened when she’d opened the door of her house, baby on one hip, long rebellious tendrils framing her naturally beautiful face. He’d felt the floor sway beneath his usually steady feet.
Her growing irritation with him as he’d explained who he was had taken him by surprise; as had her blatant desire for him to leave. He wasn’t accustomed to women dismissing him quite so easily. Feeling a bit like he was peddling something door to door, he’d almost failed to gain entry to her house.
And he’d enjoyed every moment of it.
Her irritation had returned with force at the bowling alley, but had softened to include a semi-apology. “Sorry, I shouldn’t take my bad mood out on you, but I am perfectly capable of surviving a few days without my sister. Wasn’t the nanny enough? How much supervision does she think I need?” When he’d opened his mouth to say something, she’d said, “Don’t answer that. It was a rhetorical question.”
He must not have hidden his amusement well because her eyes had narrowed in the most adorable, piqued expression. “Laugh away but I just lost all sympathy for you. You’re going down.”
Her comment had found its target. His breath had quickened in response as he’d met her audaciously bold, amber glare. “I never lose.”
She’d leaned closer as if testing something.
He’d sucked his breath in surprise.
Placing a hand on one of his shoulders, she’d stretched up on her tiptoes and whispered in his ear, “Neither do I.” Her hand trailed halfway down his buttoned shirt as she turned away.
He’d stood immobile, watching the seductive sway of her hips as she sauntered over to retrieve her ball. Just before she’d released it, she’d looked over her shoulder at him, catching the guilty shift of his attention from her amazing ass to the sass in those brown eyes. Her wink had almost been his undoing.
His body had surged and craved.
Strike.
Triumphantly, she’d brushed by him, touching him only with her fresh scent. Normally he would have said that he had little preference regarding female perfumes, but that evening he’d discovered the lack of one to be strikingly attractive, sending his thoughts in wild directions–some that had included how the waxed lane would feel beneath their bare skin.
With what could only have been described as a saucy smile, she’d said, “Your turn.”
He’d chosen his next ball at random.
Thrown it without thought.
Barely registered that it had left most of the pins standing.
Just as his second had.
Her chuckle had removed his last shred of restraint.
Closing the distance between them, he’d placed a hand on either side of her face and tasted her smiling lips. Just a brief touch, a flick of a tongue, nothing that should have overshadowed his usual distaste for public displays of affection. Such banal behavior was never necessary, but to his surprise he’d found it, oh, so pleasurable.
Her humor had melted beneath the heat of their connection and her tongue had begun a teasing dance of its own. He’d stopped hearing the blaring background music, stopped listening to the inner voice that warned him that he was losing control. He’d kissed her until her arms had curled around his neck, until her back had arched to press her closer to him, and until her breathing had become as hot and ragged as his.
Eventually the hoots of encouragement and echoing catcalls from players in other lanes had registered and Jake had ended the kiss. Heart pounding in his chest, he’d mentally scrambled to regain his decorum, but his body had continued to betray him by not releasing her.
Achieving his level of power and success so quickly meant that he spent most of his time in boardrooms with people almost twice his age. Around Lil, he’d felt impulsive and younger. Leaning in for one final taste of her lips, he’d whispered against them, “Your turn,” and had chuckled at how quickly her bemusement had been replaced by ire.
She’d spun away, picked up her ball, and presented him with her tempting ass and an over-the-shoulder smirk before strutting to the lane.
Game on.
Back in his New York townhouse, Jake adjusted his already straight tie, and donned a charcoal, Brioni pin-striped jacket. Not many would get his subtle clothing humor, but recently he’d purchased a few of the suits that were famous for their James Bond affiliation. As he smoothed the perfectly tailored shoulders, he dismissed Lil as the reason he’d decided to walk on the wilder side of business attire.
After all, nothing had actually happened that night.
A call from the security detail he’d sent to China with Dominic had swiftly ended whatever had been building between Lil and him. Someone had been meeting with the Chinese Minister of Commerce while Dominic had returned to the states for the reading of his father’s will, news that threatened a contract they’d considered a done deal. Jake had flown to Beijing immediately after unceremoniously depositing Lil on her doorstep.