Bedding the Billionaire
Page 2

 Ruth Cardello

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Ideally, that would have been the last he’d seen of Lil.
Then her call had come, begging him to help her find her sister. He’d flown her to Isola Santos. The sexual tension had been fast and furious between them, especially when they’d met up in the kitchen that first night, but he had wisely turned down her flirtatious offer to explore what was between them. With his business partner and his finances potentially out of control, his personal life needed to remain in order.
Sex could wait until after the present crisis had been resolved.
Not that his love-sick business partner would agree.
Dominic’s obsession with Abby Dartley could not have come at a worse time; he was going to lose everything if he didn’t wake up soon. Jake had invested too much time into their company to idly sit back and watch Dominic piss it away.
Jake’s cell phone rang. Speak of the devil.
“Jake, I need you up in Boston,” Dominic said with an abruptness that was somewhat comforting.
“Dominic, I was just thinking about you.” And Boston.
“Did you see the video I sent you?” Dominic asked with complete disregard to niceties and continued on without waiting for Jake’s response. “Abby called her sister, but she’s not picking up her phone. Fly up there and see what’s going on.”
“No,” Jake said and surprised himself with his conviction on the matter. “This is an easy fix. I’ll have Duhamel make a few calls.”
Slowly, with comical emphasis, Dominic said, “You just said no. You never say no.”
“That’s because you don’t normally ask me to do something that is a complete waste of my time. I’ve got a couple leads on programmers. I intend to meet with one this afternoon.” Programmers who could hopefully do what none of the ones he’d spoken to thus far had proven successful at – remove the virus Stephan Andrade’s hacker had uploaded to their server.
“I need you up in Boston more.”
Jake took a deep breath. “Dominic, do you understand that you could lose everything if we don’t do something fast?”
Dominic countered, “I am working on it.”
Balancing his phone on one shoulder, he tied one of his dress shoes impatiently and scoffed, “I’d like nothing more than to believe that.”
“When have I ever lost a deal?”
“Burundi, Guinea, Andorra, Chile…” The list was endless.
“We closed on every one of those.”
“By the skin of our teeth.” And because I have become adept at justifying your outrageous antics.
“Suddenly you’re afraid of a challenge?”
“This is different, Dom. You’ve got too much riding on this one deal. Don’t tie me up with nonsense when the clock is ticking against us.”
For just a moment, Jake thought Dominic was about to concede that Jake was right.
Dominic said, “I’ve opened a dialogue with two people who have the skills we need and they will be at my house this weekend. If it makes you feel better, I’ll let you finalize the details.”
Jake stopped, suddenly alert. “Who? Who did you find?”
Dominic hedged. “We shouldn’t talk about this on the phone.”
Finally, something that made sense. “Right. Where do you want to meet?”
“I need you in Boston for this Lil thing first.”
An uncomfortable vision of Lil’s taunting smile surfaced, distracting Jake for a moment before he forced himself to refocus on the issue at hand. His irritation with himself was evident in his tone when he said, “Why don’t you go?”
“Abby made me promise not to get involved. She wants Lil to work this out on her own.”
“And sending me doesn’t count?”
A serious tone filled Dominic’s voice. “She’s not safe, Jake. Lil is not prepared for all the media attention she is getting or how that has made her a potential target. She thinks she can handle it, but you know that she and her baby are vulnerable to everything from manipulation to outright kidnapping. I can’t believe you’re not already on this. This interview is just the tip of an iceberg of potential problems.”
It was never a good sign when Jake had to concede that Dominic had a point.
Jake didn’t want to think about Lil being vulnerable. He didn’t want to think about her at all, but now that Dominic had brought up the possibility of Lil being in danger he had to acknowledge the reality of the threat.
“Have you explained this to Abby?”
Dominic groaned. “I tried. Dartley women are stubborn. I sent a nanny, Lil sent her back. I had security watching her house 24/7, Lil threatened to call the police if they stayed. I even bought that girl a damned penthouse in downtown Boston, in a very secure building, but she won’t budge. She said she doesn’t want or need my money. She won’t even use the driver I sent.”
Oh, Dominic.
“That’s a lot of involvement for a man who promised to stay out of it.”
“That’s what Abby said.”
“The only thing you didn’t do was drag her down to New York against her will.” Jake pocketed his wallet. How a man like Dominic stayed out of jail was often a mystery to Jake, but it was that unpredictable element about him that made him so successful in business.
“Trust me, I thought about it.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to do anything rash. That’s why I’m sending you. Consider this a…”
“Don’t say it, Dom. Don’t even go there. I’ve spent the last week flying all over the country trying to save your ass. Your favor account has been depleted.”
“I’m not sure I like the new you, Jake.” Dominic growled.
Jake headed down the stairs to get his morning cup of black coffee. “I’m not the one who changed, Dom. You need to get your head back in the game before you lose everything.”
And I need to stay focused.
Which meant going to see Lil was out of the question.
Not a man who could be accused of playing fair, Dominic added, “Don’t force me to bring out the big guns over this.”
“You wouldn’t,” Jake said with annoyance, and put his coffee mug down, untouched.
“I will if you leave me no other choice.”
That was also how Dominic won–with a long history of following through with his threats. It was never a case of if he would do it, but rather a question of whether or not you could handle a particular consequence of denying him.
Often, it was simply easier to work around him instead of against him.
Once Lil was safely deposited in her new, highly secure abode and the interview was a non-issue, Jake would try to reason with Dominic again. “Fine, and I’ll handle the interview while I’m there. Duhamel can arrange the details of the move. I’ll get Lil in the penthouse by tonight but after that, I’m not promising anything. I can’t make her stay there.”
“You can talk anyone into anything.”
Not true. I’ve been trying to talk you back from crazy for over a month.
Dominic added, “Oh, one more thing. See that she comes down to New York on Friday. This is an important weekend for us.”
Jake leaned against the kitchen counter. “Dom, are they worth this? This family that you’re so attached to? Do you really think they’re going to stick around if you’re a mail clerk next year?”
“Yes,” he said in a tone that took Jake aback. “Yes, I do.”
“I sure hope you’re right, Dom, because I don’t know if we’re going to make our deadline.”
“I’ve got a plan, Jake. Don’t worry.”
It wasn’t the first time he’d heard that claim.
He hoped it was true this time. “I’ll be back by Wednesday and then we’ll talk about who you’ve lined up. I should prep before I meet with them,” Jake said.
Dominic said, “Don’t worry, you know them.”
“I do?” Jake didn’t think he’d left one computer-savvy acquaintance off his list.
Dominic said, “I’m counting on it. Call me if you hit a snag in Boston.”
And you’ll do what? “I won’t.”
“Oh, and try to make it sound like it was your idea to go.”
That request did not even warrant a reply.
Jake shook his head at the phone and hung up.
How the mighty Dominic had fallen.
Jake packed an overnight bag and made arrangements for his luxury helicopter. He’d chosen this particular New York building as his home because the generous roof had allowed him to install a private landing pad. Sure, a jet would have gotten him to Boston faster, but he liked the increased landing opportunities that helicopters offered. His could fly six people with the same quiet comfort of a limo directly to one of his buildings without the hassle of dealing with traffic. A helicopter with that level of sound insulation and refinement cost more than many private jets, but it was one of the few luxuries Jake found pleasure in owning.
Once in the city, he usually rented a private car and drove himself. He preferred less pomp and circumstance and found the constant presence of someone, especially those attempting to anticipate his every need, extremely tiring.
For that reason, his house staff came on Mondays and Thursdays while he was at work. They cleaned his home, stocked his shelves, and left a few premade meals that he could microwave if he didn’t wish to order out. The only evidence of the staff’s existence was the constant availability of everything he required.
Nice and neat.
Just the way he liked his life.
Lil peered out the window by pulling down one blind just enough to see through it and groaned. A flock of press had descended on her small house in the suburbs of Boston almost immediately after the promo of her tell-all interview had televised. They had been there all day.
She glanced down at the baby who was still happily playing on her back in the middle of a small blanket, kicking at the toys that hung from an arch above her. “Colby, what am I going to do?”
The only way the news station could have an interview from her was if the woman who had called yesterday claiming to be her sister’s new personal assistant had lied. That possibility was unacceptable because it would mean that her entire practice session on how to field questions from the press had been recorded. It would also mean that a host of things she would never have shared, if not for the jovial tone of the fake interview, were about to be made public.
She didn’t need this today.
Having already completed the final assignments for two of her three remaining college courses, this week was supposed to revolve around studying for tomorrow’s final exam in integrated office systems. One more class and she’d have an Administrative Assistant degree. Not her ideal job, but one that would bring in a stable income.
If I don’t fail my final course. Or, make myself unemployable with stunts like this. She’d gotten several calls regarding her resume since she’d blanketed the local area with it. Would this TV fiasco ruin her chances? It certainly wasn’t going to improve them.