Bedding the Billionaire
Page 10

 Ruth Cardello

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Colby grabbed his nose and pulled. He smiled and said, “You’re a hard bargainer, but you won’t get a penny more.” He settled her into the crook of one arm and held up a hand to receive the bottle from Lil.
Lil knew her mouth was open in the most unflattering way, but she couldn’t help it. She handed him both the bottle and the towel. He placed the towel over one shoulder like he’d done it a hundred times before.
“Do you have children?” she asked.
He shook his head and looked down at Colby who was now happily guzzling her formula. “No, but I have friends who do.”
“And you babysat for them?”
He shuddered. “God no, I don’t like children.”
Colby twisted his bottom lip between her little fingers. He pulled back to escape the pinch, but didn’t look bothered. When Lil continued to stand over him–staring, he said, “Go study.”
As she headed across the room, she heard Jake say to Colby, “I don’t do Peek-a-boo even if it’s developmentally appropriate for you. However, when you finish your bottle, we can look at your toy portfolio and determine if it is adequately diverse.”
Impossible as the task appeared at first, Lil lost herself in her class notes and test prep questions, allowing herself no more than quick glances to ensure that Colby and Jake were still fine. After the first run through, she made the mistake of allowing her attention to linger on them.
Colby was on her stomach on her throw blanket and Jake was seated next to it, talking in that even tone. Lil only caught a word here and there–all of which sounded like he was explaining investment strategies, but since her daughter appeared to be enjoying the undivided attention of an adult, Lil didn’t comment on his choice of discourse.
“I don’t like kids,” he’d said.
Oh, how much easier all of this would be if that were true.
Jake didn’t know it yet, but one day he was going to be a wonderful father to some lucky woman’s child.
Just not mine.
Lil stood and closed her book. She was as ready as she’d ever be. Time to release Jake from his obligation. Walking over, Lil picked her daughter up and cuddled her against her chest. “Thank you,” she said.
Jake slowly unfolded himself from the floor and stood, stretching when he reached his full height. “Did you get everything done that you wanted to?”
“Yes.”
Jake stretched again and reached for his jacket. With quick precision, he adjusted his clothing, tightened his tie, and ran a smoothing hand through his slightly disheveled hair. In a matter of moments, he was back–the perfectly groomed, perfectly in control man whose mere existence made her a bit defensive.
He handed her a card. “If you need help for tomorrow morning, call this number.”
It was the nanny service.
“I should be fine. I lined up a sitter a while ago.”
“Yes, of course. Then I should be going.” He looked around as if assuring himself that there was nothing left undone. Their eyes met and for just a split second Lil thought she saw a spark of desire in their dark depths, but it passed and might easily have only been in her imagination. “A limo will come for you on Friday. A jet will take you and Colby to a private airport in New York.”
Her heart missed a beat.
Was it possible that he was inviting her to join him in New York?
She couldn’t do that.
She shouldn’t do that.
But for just a moment, she wanted to agree to go wherever he wanted to take her.
What am I saying? She gave herself a mental shake.
Jake said, “Dominic and your sister are having a large party this weekend. They said it was important for you to attend.”
Lil’s stomach lurched painfully and she bit her lip to hold in her thoughts.
Dominic and Abby.
Of course.
“I’ll think about it.” She walked with him to the door. Please just leave.
“I believe it’s related to their engagement. This is one you shouldn’t miss.”
A part of her wanted to believe that he was saying that because he wanted to see her again. Don’t be a fool. She asked sarcastically, “So, Dominic told you to make sure I went?”
The slight incline of his head was all the acknowledgement she required.
I might be sick now.
“Goodbye, Jake.” Baby in one arm, she held the door open with her other.
He stepped through the doorway and paused. “You were right, Lil. This afternoon doesn’t have to change anything. We’re going to see each other at events. It doesn’t have to be awkward.”
Sure, only listen when I’m talking out my ass.
She closed the door in his face and leaned her back against it. Looking down at her daughter, she said, “Don’t look at me like that. I know he’s not coming back. I’m just being stupid now so that I’ll be more sympathetic when you’re older and dating.”
Colby smiled.
“I know. I like him, too.” Lil pushed away from the door and carried her daughter back into the living room, their new living room.
Another day, another story I can’t share with Abby.
Later that night, back in his home, Jake sent Dominic a quick text. “It’s done. She’s in her new place. Meet tomorrow morning?”
Dominic replied, “Can’t. Sent a packet to your office regarding the party though.”
“And the two people you’d like me to meet?”
“They will be there Saturday.”
“Did you send me their names?”
Dominic typed, “Sorry. Bad connection. Talk later.”
Bad connection? More like bad joke. Why wouldn’t Dominic want him to know who he’d found to work on their server? They didn’t have time for surprises.
Pacing his living room, Jake ran through a mental list of all of the potential mistakes Dominic could be making. If he’d reached into the criminal world for assistance, they might end up with an altogether different problem. He hoped that this time Dominic was going to choose a solution that was less dangerous than the problem at hand.
Coming slowly to a halt, Jake took in his surroundings. Nothing had changed since he left that morning. His tablet was still positioned near the chair he reclined in each evening to read the news. Everything was still perfectly in place. His home was immaculate, contemporary, and quiet.
Empty.
Private, he corrected.
Orderly.
He thought about the chaotic evening he’d spent with the Andrades at Dominic’s request. Children everywhere. Competing conversations so loud they made intelligent conversation difficult. It had been a relief to return home afterward.
He should feel the same way tonight after the rollercoaster of a day with Lil and an evening of watching her child. It bothered him that he didn’t.
Instead, the day had left him feeling…
He dismissed the first word that came to mind since it likely had more to do with fatigue than anything else.
He was not and had never been–lonely.
Chapter Eight
The next day, Lil deposited her purse, diaper bag and notebook on the dining room table with relief and stepped out of her uncomfortable pumps. She put Colby’s car seat on the floor beside the table and bent to release her, noting how her child filled it. “You are almost too big for this, Colby. Don’t grow up too fast, baby.”
Colby reached for her mother’s hair and gave a yank, making no such promises.
Lil hugged her little one to her then held her back so she could see her beautiful face. She touched one of the blond curls. Colby smiled and the weight of everything dissolved. All of this was worth it as long as her daughter was happy and healthy. The rest would work itself out.
“Well, hopefully Mommy passed her exam this morning and can get a real job now. When I do, you’re going to have to go to day care, Colby. It’s not going to be easy on either one of us, but I’ll find a good one and you’ll get to meet other children. You might even like it.”
Colby didn’t understand what she was saying, and Lil was happy about that. Thus far, she’d only chosen jobs that had allowed her to work only a couple of hours a day so she could spend more time with Colby; Abby or a friend had watched her when Lil had attended night classes. She’d doubled up on her course load at times so she could get her degree earlier, but now she wished she hadn’t. Things were about to change, and she wasn’t sure she was ready. Most likely, she’d work an eight to ten hour day depending on where she found employment. An administrative assistant had to be flexible and available to work the hours her boss required. It wasn’t going to be easy and it certainly wasn’t her dream job, but if she wanted to build a secure future for herself and her daughter–it would require some sacrifice.
None of her sketches had made it over in the move, and that was probably for the best. It was time to let go of her childhood fantasies and put all of her energy into more practical endeavors. Maybe if she had made better choices, worked harder to get scholarships or minded her own business more–maybe she would have gone to that art school and taken her modest raw talent and done something amazing with it. Looking back and wondering what might have been was a waste of time. Growing up was about realizing that what you want to do and what you have to do are often two very different things.
Like living in an apartment paid for by your sister’s lover.
A knock on the door interrupted her self-lecture.
Don’t let it be Jake.
Okay, please let it be Jake.
No, I’m not ready to see him again.
Lil opened the door and told herself that she wasn’t disappointed to see her friend, Alethea. As usual, Alethea was dressed in what she liked to call “casual chic.” Her clothes were trendy, but low-key, the kind most people wouldn’t remember later–tan cotton pants, a peach silk blouse. The only hint of the wild personality that lay beneath her deliberately bland attire stuck out from beneath her long pants; Alethea had a weakness for outrageously priced high heels.
Looking at her perfectly polished friend now, it was hard to believe they had ever stayed up all night eating pizza and watching horror movies together. Alethea’s long red hair was held back in a stylish pony tail that emphasized her delicate facial features and green eyes that Lil had spent half of her life envying.
She swept into Lil’s penthouse, scanning the place quickly before turning back to Lil and saying, “How is my favorite baby?”
Lil held Colby out for Alethea to take and cringed when her friend tossed her up into the air, sending the baby into a fit of giggles. When Colby’s amusement subsided, Alethea tossed her again and joined the laughter.
“Please don’t drop her,” Lil warned.
Her friend rolled her eyes dramatically and said to Colby, “Your mother is a worry wart now. You did that to her.” She wagged a finger in front of the laughing baby, tickling her with the finger and saying, “Who did it? You did it, little blondie.”
Lil led the way back to the seating area. As expected, Alethea went on a quick self-guided tour, returning to join Lil in the living room. She sat on one of the overstuffed chairs and bounced Colby on her knees. “Whew! It was actually difficult to get in here.”