Bedding the Billionaire
Page 15

 Ruth Cardello

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“How does nine sound?”
She swallowed hard. “That would be fine.”
“I’ll pick you up.”
Well, this couldn’t possibly be more awkward.
“Great. See you tomorrow, Jake.”
He said, “Lil?” with a hint of anticipation that made her clench her phone.
“I’m glad you called.”
Suddenly feeling shaky, she sank into one of thickly cushioned chairs in her living room. You wouldn’t be if you knew why. “Me, too,” she said softly and hung up before she said anything stupid. God, help me. Me, too.
Jake hung up the phone and smiled.
She wants to see me.
Common sense should have told him that his best course would be to return to New York now, but common sense had pretty much deserted him days ago.
He wanted to prove something tomorrow–prove it to Lil as well as to himself. What they had didn’t have to be cheap. He was drawn to her on more than one level. No, he wasn’t looking to marry her, but that didn’t mean that his only interest in her was sexual.
He called Marie.
“Marie, I’m still in Boston.”
“I need your advice on something.”
“With Lil?”
There was no reason to hide anything from Marie. Where he was concerned, she had an uncanny ability to know how he felt about something before he did. She called it a mother’s intuition; something he’d always scoffed at since she didn’t have children and she certainly wasn’t his mother.
He spoke to his actual mother as little as possible. Neither of his parents were particularly affectionate people. Bi-annual phone conversations provided ample contact in his opinion and he was pretty sure they were in complete agreement.
He couldn’t imagine Lil ever having that relationship with Colby. The mere idea of it made him smile. In-law apartments were created for mothers like Lil. She’d want to be right there for all of Colby’s life milestones.
“Marie, I’m taking Lil and Colby out for the day tomorrow.” He hesitated to label it and then found that he wanted to. “It’s our first date.”
He could feel Marie’s approval through the phone. “Oh, Jake, I’m so glad.”
He took women out to dinner and to events, usually to showcase them or because a certain event required a couple. It was enough for most women to simply be seen with him, but this was different. He wanted this to be special, a day she would always remember. “Where do you think they would want to go?”
“Didn’t you go to school in Cambridge?”
“Why don’t you take her somewhere you’ve spent some time? It’s a nice way to let her get to know you better.”
He doubted she wanted to visit the financial district or the bowels of a library. Outside of work, he couldn’t think of any place that had any significance to him.
That realization struck him as a bit sad. A month ago he’d thought he had everything, now he was beginning to wonder if he had anything at all.
“Lil isn’t like the women I’m used to dating.”
“Thank God,” Marie said and chuckled. “Did I say that out loud?”
“You did.”
She was unrepentant as usual. “I don’t know what Lil likes, Jake, so I can’t tell you where to take her. Trust your instincts. You know what she cares about. Start there.”
“What would I do without you, Marie?”
“I ask myself that every day,” she teased gently. “Now, go and plan your date. Show that girl the man I know you are.”
“Marie, I…” he started to say something then stopped.
“I know,” she replied, understanding more than he did what he had difficulty saying. “Don’t forget to tell me how it went.”
“I won’t,” he answered automatically and hung up.
He smiled.
Marie was a genius.
There were two things Jake knew that Lil loved, but the question was if he could combine them. He used the search engine on his phone and reached for a notepad as he began to find exactly what he was looking for.
Who knew that planning a date could actually be fun?
Chapter Ten
The next morning, even as she readied herself and Colby, Lil wavered. She really should call a halt to this whole insanity. Maybe she should just tell Abby everything and let her decide how to move forward with it.
No, putting the weight of this problem on her sister would be the coward’s way out. Why ruin her happiness if there was a chance that this was all a paranoid conspiracy theory hatched up by Alethea?
Alethea. The mere mention of her friend’s name would be enough for Abby to dismiss any allegations unless there was hard proof of wrongdoing.
Abby had never made a secret that she disapproved of her best friend. She didn’t liked that Alethea had been booted out of every private school before her parents had sent her to public school as a punishment–a punishment Alethea had embraced.
Born to an upper class family, Alethea had no fear of authority and she had the resources to defy them. Abby had spent many nights attempting to explain the danger in the differences between their situations to Lil, but Lil had refused to listen to her. Yes, Alethea broke the rules sometimes merely for the rush of doing it and some of her ideas had landed Lil in some sticky situations but a friend isn’t someone who never makes mistakes. A friend is someone who loves you right through the ones you make yourself.
And Alethea always had.
It had been Alethea she’d called the night Dirk had walked away from her, Alethea who had convinced her to eat if only for the sake of the baby growing within her and had bolstered her confidence enough to tell Abby she was pregnant.
Looking back now, Abby hadn’t said anything wrong when she finally had told her; she just hadn’t said what Lil had yearned to hear–that she loved her and that they would get through it together. No, instead, she had talked about getting health insurance, finding a good doctor, and starting prenatal care immediately.
All very good advice.
And maybe the only way Abby knew how to deal with the unexpected. She’d had to be strong for so long, maybe she’d forgotten how to share a moment of weakness.
It hadn’t been with malice that Lil had chosen Alethea to bring to her first ultrasound and to invite to be her Lamaze partner. As much as she’d known that Abby had been hurt by the decision, it had also been Alethea she’d chosen to be with her in the delivery room. Things had become so bad between her and Abby by then that they’d barely been speaking; neither knowing quite how to remedy the situation or if it was even worth trying to.
Lil had considered explaining her choices to Abby, but none of her explanations would have improved the situation. The simple fact was that birthing someone had been full-on scary to Lil and she’d wanted someone at her side who could overlook any weakness she might reveal in the process.
So, Colby had been held first by a friend and then by her aunt; something Abby hadn’t yet forgiven Alethea for, not even as her happiness with Dominic had spilled outward and given them a second chance at sisterhood.
With motherhood had come the humility to recognize that Abby was not the only flawed member of their tiny family. Abby had always been there for her even if it hadn’t been the way Lil would have liked, but Lil hadn’t returned the favor. Beneath her tough exterior, Lil acknowledged that insecurities had driven some of her–oh, hell, many of her actions.
But wasn’t that what a new day provided?
A chance to begin again?
She was going to become the sister she should have always been. This time she was going to rescue Abby.
Chapter Eleven
Jake Walton in a suit was sexy enough, but the man who had shown up in khaki shorts and a blue polo shirt took Lil’s breath away. His shorts stopped mid-thigh, long enough to be fashionable, but short enough to remind Lil of what he had looked like with much less on.
Lil looked away.
Better decisions could only come from gaining some control over her libido. Seriously, Jake was just another man. An incredibly gorgeous, sexually talented, inspiration-for-dreams-you-don’t-want-to-wake-up-from man, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t keep a clear head today.
Lil snuck another quick perusal
Dressed in a simple brown cotton skirt, light green blouse and sandals, Lil was determined that their day together would stay as tame as the clothing she’d chosen. She bent to place her daughter in the car seat. “Come on in,” she said as she collected the necessary supplies for the day. “We’re ready.”
Colby babbled happily as she was secured into her seat. Lil swung her diaper bag up onto her shoulder, reaching down to pick up the car seat.
Jake’s hand beat her to it. “I’ll carry her; I bet she’s getting heavy.”
He smiled down at Colby who smiled back at him and Lil fought the desire to rip her child out of his hands and run. Neither of them had any business getting attached to Jake. Today was not about that. Tomorrow, things would go right back to being over.
Lil took a deep breath and reminded herself that this was for Abby.
“Thank you,” she said and hoped she didn’t sound as stressed as she felt. He was going to get suspicious if she looked like a trapped animal the whole day. Be cool. Be casual. “I couldn’t find my stroller, so hopefully there is one wherever we’re going.”
“I had yours stored in your trunk.”
“Of course.” Lil smoothed her nervous hands on her skirt and picked up her purse. “Then let’s go.”
At least having Colby with them insured that nothing would happen between them.
Bringing her had been a good idea.
Unless Jake really is dangerous and now I put my daughter in jeopardy, too. Oh, shit.
You’re losing it, Lil.
Jake had never given her a reason to think that he would ever hurt her or her child. She was letting Alethea’s paranoia make her nuts.
The trip down the elevator was painfully silent as was the wait for the car to be brought out of the parking lot. Jake opened the door for Lil and handed her the car seat, watching as she secured it.
Not the mannerisms of a madman.
Lil jumped when Jake asked, “Do you want me to drive?”
Since her legs were ready to betray her by shaking, Lil nodded. Driving while deceiving was never a safe option. Officer, I’m sorry I didn’t see that red light I was too busy thinking about what Jake was going to say if he ever discovered why I asked him to come out with me today.
She gladly handed Jake her keys.
Buckled into the passenger seat, Lil faced forward, but watched Jake out of the corner of her eye. He’d secured his own seat belt, but hadn’t started the car.
“We can’t be friends, Lil,” he announced to the steering wheel.
“Excuse me?” Lil swallowed nervously. In the movies, this is where he would tell me that I should have minded my own business–that he had hoped things would go differently, but I knew too much to be allowed to live.
Jake looked across at her, the intensity in his eyes trapping her like a deer in headlights.