Bedding the Billionaire
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She secured the new diaper, arranged her daughter’s clothing and hugged her daughter to her as she walked back to the living room.
“I have to go see Jeremy and warn him,” Alethea said.
“See if he can cover his tracks better?” Lil asked, settling Colby on the floor with some toys.
“That, and to warn him that they know someone was there. He planned to go back in one more time.”
“Back in? Why?”
“He said he found something he hadn’t expected to and it made him curious.”
“Oh, no. Alethea, he’ll get caught for sure if he tries to access their system again.”
“That’s why I’ve got to go to his house. He doesn’t answer his phone most of the time–not even texts.”
Lying on one side on the floor, Lil forced a smile for her daughter’s sake. Colby wasn’t fooled, she let out a loud wail. I totally know how you feel, Colby. In a shaky voice, Lil asked, “Al, this is going to work out, isn’t it?”
Alethea answered with more bravado than she likely felt. “It all depends how smart your boyfriend is.”
Lil remembered reading a magazine that estimated Jake’s IQ to be around the 190 range. He might be irritatingly sexy, frustratingly stubborn, and emotionally thrifty, but there was no doubt that Jake was brilliant.
Oh, this is going to go really badly.
Maybe it was time to start being extra nice to her future brother-in-law. He might be the only one able to keep her and her friends out of jail.
Although, Lil had arrived mid-day, she and Abby hadn’t said more than a few sentences to each other. Lil had claimed fatigue from the short flight and had retreated with Colby to the suite Dominic’s staff had prepared for them.
A set of five rooms, two bedrooms, dressing room, lounging room and bathroom were all perfectly stocked with everything Lil could imagine she or her baby could possibly need. Abby showed her an intercom on the wall and instructed her to use it if she needed anything. A cleaning woman, a nanny, and a stylist were all on location and on call for Lil if she wanted to use any of them that weekend.
“I’ll be fine,” Lil had said.
Abby had searched her face, noted the strain around her eyes and asked, “Are you sure everything is ok, Lil? You know you can tell me anything.”
“I’m just tired.”
Abby had hesitated. “If you’re still worried about the interview, don’t be. No one blamed you for that and you handled it perfectly. Dominic said he was impressed.”
The interview? Wow, that felt like a lifetime ago. If only that were still my greatest concern.
“I said I was tired.” She hadn’t meant to sound as harsh as she had.
Abby looked a bit sad suddenly, which did nothing to improve Lil’s mood. “Of course. Get some rest. Dinner is at six. The Andrades are joining us. I hope you’re feeling better by then.”
Lil turned away from her sister and said angrily, “I won’t embarrass you, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
Abby sighed, a clear sign that she wanted to say more but wouldn’t. “I’m glad you’re here, Lil.” She closed the door softly behind her as she left.
I don’t know how you could be.
I’m ruining everything–just like I always do.
Colby looked sadly up at her mother.
“Don’t say it, Colby,” Lil said.
With her daughter down for a perfectly timed nap, Lil was able to shower and slip into an oversized white terrycloth robe. She’d scheduled the nanny for six o’clock, but for now Lil felt better having Colby with her.
A clothing rack had arrived after Abby had left; each hanger on it held a more beautiful dress than the last. Gift boxes full of designer shoes, hair accessories and jewelry had accompanied the delivery. Under different circumstances, Lil might have actually enjoyed trying the dresses on, but guilt hung heavy on her mind. There had to be a way she could fix this.
A loud knock on the suite’s outer door made her jump.
Was it Jake?
I’m not ready to see him yet.
She braced herself and opened the door.
Impressively dressed in what Lil guessed was an Armani suit–Abby said it was his favorite designer, Dominic Corisi filled her doorway. He was Jake’s height, and perfectly groomed, but reminded Lil a bit of a restless tiger at a zoo. If it weren’t for his blatant devotion to her sister, Lil would have closed the door instead of pretending to be happy to see him. He had a reputation for being ruthless and the entire world had recently witnessed how he considered himself a bit above the law’s reproach when it came to what he wanted.
He was definitely a man that even Lil wanted to stay on the good side of. This was no high school bully; this man wielded more power than many dynasties could boast.
Why did I think we could ever get away with hacking into the emails of men like this?
“May I come in?” Dominic asked.
Lil looked down at her robe. It covered more than any dress on that rack would, so she nodded and stepped back from the door.
He studied her face for a moment and said, “Abby said you weren’t feeling well.”
Understatement of the year.
Is this where he threatens me because my poor attitude is a dark cloud on a supposedly otherwise happy weekend? Lil moved to stand behind a chair, using it to support her suddenly unsteady legs. “It’s nothing serious.”
Dominic crossed the room to look out the window and spoke while taking in the view. “I love your sister, Lil. I’m going to marry her.”
And you’re here to make sure I don’t mess it up?
Lil swallowed nervously. “I know.”
He turned from the window and frowned. “That makes you a sort of little sister to me. I want you to feel comfortable here.”
His words floored Lil. When she didn’t view him through the lens of her guilt, he looked more uncomfortable than he did threatening. “I do,” she lied softly.
He buried both hands in the pants pockets of his suit; certainly not the mannerism of a man with ill intentions. He continued gruffly, “If anything was ever bothering you, you could tell me and I would move Heaven and Earth to fix it for you. You know that, right? I protect what is mine.”
He’d come to offer her his support? Lil’s eyes filled with tears that she angrily blinked away. This was the Dominic her sister had described to her, the one who was fiercely loyal to those he cared about. Was it possible that he not only loved her sister, but would really consider Lil part of his family? If so, maybe confessing was actually the best course she could take. A man like Dominic would understand breaking the rules to keep someone you care about safe. Lil asked, “Have you ever done anything that felt like the right thing to do at the time, but as soon as it was done, you regretted it and would do anything to undo it?”
Dominic conceded ruefully, “I’m unfortunately familiar with that feeling.”
Lil came out from behind the chair and approached him. “If making things right meant putting someone you cared deeply about at risk, would you? What do you do when none of the options are good ones?”
Dominic straightened, unpocketing his hands and clenching them at his sides. “Is this about Jake?”
Jake was definitely one of the reasons she wanted to turn back the clock and not involve Alethea and Jeremy. Slow tears began to pour down Lil’s cheeks and she sank into one of the chairs. She couldn’t put a voice to the fears that roared within her.
I can handle a broken heart, please, just let the consequences be mine alone.
Don’t let me ruin the happiness my sister has finally found.
Don’t let me have put my friends in danger.
Please, she begged the universe, I’ll mind my business from now on.
I don’t want Abby to raise Colby.
Dominic came to stand beside her chair and patted the back of her bowed head awkwardly. Lil continued to sob softly, trying but not succeeding to muster the strength to tell him everything.
Dominic asked, “Did he sleep with you?”
His question took her off guard and she answered too honestly, “It’s not about that.”
Dominic withdrew his hand and his roar boomed through the room. “I’m going to kill him.”
The door slammed behind him as he stormed out of the suite.
Lil raised her head, sniffed, and gripped the arm of her chair with one hand while wiping the tears off one of her cheeks with her other.
Well, that went well.
Jake had just arrived at the Corisi home for dinner when he saw his friend charging down the hallway toward him, looking like he wanted to hurt someone. Had he heard about the most recent breach to their security?
Dominic grabbed Jake by one suit lapel and hauled him toward him. “I’m going to kill you.”
Normally, Dominic appropriately reserved his fury for those who had perpetrated the offense. Jake knocked his friend’s hand off of him. “Calm down, Dom. They didn’t get anything. I’m careful with what I put in my emails. And I’ve had my team working on it since yesterday. No one is getting back in.”
Dominic looked like he was about to reach for Jake again, but stopped suddenly. “What are you talking about?”
Jake adjusted his rumpled jacket and stalled, “What are you talking about?”
Dominic paced in front of Jake, his hands flexing in a threatening manner at his sides. He growled, “You slept with Lil.”
“Oh, Lil.” Maybe Dominic didn’t know about the breach yet. Normally he would have informed him immediately, but the hacker had targeted Jake’s emails and that made it personal. Jake wanted to catch this rat himself.
“Don’t play dumb. Yes, Lil. I sent you down there to make sure she was safe.”
“I told you not to send me. I said–”
Dominic stopped, stood nose-to-nose with Jake and accused, “Whatever you said, you left out the part where you were going to break one of the fundamental rules of friendship.”
Don’t let your crazy friend lose his company because you’re too busy chasing a skirt?
Jake became impatient with his friend’s melodramatic fixation on something that was none of his business. He spoke calmly, rationally, hoping some of it would rub off on his friend. “I did exactly what you asked me to. I moved her into her new place. Don’t be a hypocrite.”
Dominic ran a hand through his hair with frustration. He leaned in and said, “I still think I have to kill you.”
Jake held his ground, mocking Dominic instead of cowering to him as he supposed some would. They had spent too many years together for Jake to ever fear him. Brute strength rarely won over intelligence. “What did you think would happen when you sent me up there? You knew I liked her.”
Fire flew from his friend’s eyes, but he kept his hands to himself, perhaps sensing that Jake was more than ready to retaliate. He frowned. “I don’t know, I thought you’d take her out a few times. A nice date. Movies maybe. What happened to treating a woman with respect?”
Jake couldn’t contain the laugh Dominic’s comment inspired. “You kidnapped Abby.”