Bedding the Billionaire
Page 4

 Ruth Cardello

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“Why did you give the interview, Lil?”
“I didn’t–” Once again, she stopped herself. She didn’t owe him an explanation. “You can tell Dominic that I have the situation under control. The interview won’t be airing.”
“Did you have a change of heart?”
“Think what you want, Jake, but think it in New York. I’m having a bad enough day.”
Jake hung up.
Lil watched him exit his silver BMW, every bit as immaculately groomed as the last time she’d seen him. He towered a good foot above the reporters, but Lil was sure that wasn’t what made them take a step back as he approached them. Jake wore wealth and influence like some people wore an old coat, with comfortable indifference. He didn’t doubt for a moment that people should respect him and wasn’t surprised when they did.
Whatever he said to the reporters was tempered with a smooth smile. The combination worked, they responded by reorganizing their cameras on the opposite side of the road with seemingly no complaint.
No one should be that good looking and that powerful.
Life should bestow one.
Getting both was just plain unfair.
She fought the impulse to drive off while he was otherwise occupied.
He strode toward her car and she caught her breath. No wonder I threw myself at him. I mean, look at him.
She’d almost convinced herself that she’d exaggerated his attractiveness in her memories. No, it was all there–the classically square jaw, perfectly styled dark brown hair, expertly tailored clothing that accentuated his muscular frame and golden brown eyes that sent shivers of excitement down her spine as they seared through the distance between them.
Could any woman be blamed for wanting to believe that lightening could strike twice in one family? Her sister had gotten her own fairy-tale ending, why couldn’t the universe have sent Lil one?
In retrospect, the possibility lacked precedent.
Even the Grimms knew– one Prince Charming per village.
That made Jake the wolf?
More like a crappy narrator who breaks in to remind you that none of it is real.
He yanked the door open and slid into the passenger seat. The subtle scent of his cologne teased and tempted.
Okay, an incredibly sexy, crappy narrator.
She gripped the steering wheel and focused on the dashboard.
Gorgeous men who don’t want to be with you shouldn’t be so difficult to avoid.
To fill the silence she said, “Thank you for whatever you just said to the press. Now I really have to go. I’m already late.”
“For?” The click of his seatbelt being secured echoed in the small car.
“If you must know, I’m seeing my lawyer this morning. He’s writing up a gag order for the interview which I will then deliver to the station manager and this whole thing will hopefully just go away.”
“So, you didn’t sell the story.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“I’ll come with you.”
Of course you will, Lil thought, but said, “I don’t suppose you’ll believe me if I tell you that I can handle it myself?”
Those beautiful eyes stared blandly back at her.
Lil turned away from him again.
“Lil,” he commanded softly with just the use of her name. Lil reluctantly met his eyes again. “You have no reason to be embarrassed around me. I wanted to take you up on your offer that night, but it would have complicated an already difficult situation.”
What the hell did that even mean?
“I didn’t offer you anything,” she denied hotly.
“Then you have even less of a reason to feel awkward around me.”
“I don’t–” Heat rushed up her neck. What was the use of denying what was blatantly true? “Can we leave that night in the past? This is about today. I don’t need your help. And I’d like you to get out of my car.”
“You know I’m not leaving until this situation is resolved.”
Her heart flipped in her chest. There was nothing about the situation that needed to be resolved. She’d let the emotions of the weekend overtake her common sense. A man like Jake could have his pick of women; he didn’t need the complication of a young mother. And he’d said as much, rather clearly, when he’d explained that he didn’t see how there could ever be anything between them.
As her embarrassment ran its course, a more painful realization came to her.
He wasn’t referring to that situation.
This was about the interview– nothing more.
She lashed out at him. “Because you do everything Dominic tells you to do?”
The bastard didn’t even flinch, just inclined his head slightly and said, “When it suits me. And right now I need to know exactly what you said in that interview.”
No, you don’t.
Lil ground the engine when she started the car for the second time. “It doesn’t matter what I said because the interview is never going to air.”
“Finally, something we agree on.”
His unflappable calm sent a wave of angry adrenaline coursing through Lil. She backed out of her driveway with too much force and heard the crunch of her garbage can beneath her rear tires. She had to pull forward, back up, and pull forward again to dislodge it from beneath the vehicle.
She looked at him quickly, daring him to say a word.
Quite wisely, he didn’t.
Another man would have needed to drive, but that wasn’t how Jake operated. Very rarely was the figurehead of any situation the one who was actually in control. By charging forward, most people limited their potential. Few took time to analyze and take advantage of the spectrum of possible outcomes to any given decision.
Like choosing to drive.
Had he demanded the wheel, he wouldn’t have been able to study Lil’s profile.
He would have missed the curve of her breast that the seatbelt revealed as it pulled back one side of her jacket and pushed the material of her blouse aside in the most tantalizing way. She really was stunning.
Too bad she was completely unsuitable for him. He preferred a woman with a certain level of sophistication; one who understood that relationships worked best if emotional extremes were avoided. Pleasant, predictable conversation with someone who seamlessly blended with diplomats and was also good in bed was enough to keep him satisfied.
So why was he ogling her chest while imagining what it would be like to slip a hand beneath the hem of her skirt and beg her to pull the car over on a side road so he could touch her, taste her, fill her?
Because his mind and his body were definitely at odds regarding Lil.
Colby made a sound in the backseat, reminding him of the reality of the situation. Leering felt wrong with a child present and represented another reason his attraction to Lil made no sense.
He didn’t get involved with women who had children.
Not that he and Lil were involved.
I should have followed my instincts and stayed the hell in New York.
He shifted uncomfortably and turned to look out the passenger window.
Get a grip, Jake.
If all went according to his plan, and things usually did, tonight would see Lil tucked away in her new penthouse in Boston, the interview nothing more than a quickly forgotten blip, and him back in New York.
There was no way he was going to stick around to bring Lil to New York for the weekend. Dominic could come and get her himself if he wanted her there so badly.
“Your shirt is open,” he said gruffly without looking away from the lane of traffic outside the window.
“Oh, my God, it is,” Lil said, swerving the car a bit as she adjusted it.
He caught himself smiling in the reflection of the window, and then frowned. Just because she amused him, didn’t change the facts.
He was not there to indulge himself. This was business.
Well, business related.
“Sorry–” she started to say and then stopped abruptly. When she continued, her tone implied that she’d had a thought that quite amused her. “Was it bothering you?”
He whipped around to look at her. “No,” he said. “No,” he said again. And then because he had a mastery of the spoken language that had impressed many a politician, he added, “No,” one last time.
She tried, but failed to contain her amusement.
“It’s okay if it was,” she said impishly and patted his leg in a pretense of support, outright mocking him, right down to the tone he’d used earlier. “You have no reason to be embarrassed around me.”
His body leapt in response to her challenge even as his mind fought for control. He growled, “You simply shouldn’t walk around with your shirt hanging open.”
“So it was a public service announcement?”
“Yes, unless that’s how you planned to compensate your lawyer.”
Her hand flew off his lap and she muttered something that sounded suspiciously like “Jackass” under her breath.
Jake turned to look out the window again, hopefully before his face had revealed how much he wanted to kiss that profanity off her sweet lips.
Chapter Three
“I thought we were going to see your lawyer.” Jake said as Lil parked her car in front of the Lawson’s home in a typical, working class neighborhood with manicured lawns and children riding their bikes on the sidewalks.
“We are,” she answered simply, opening the car door instead of providing further explanation. Her friend might not have a fancy city office, but he was brilliant and Lil trusted him.
“He lives here?” Jake asked, perhaps noting the swing that hung from the porch and the flower pots that lined the stairs.
“Yes,” Lil said in a clipped tone, slamming the car door behind her after freeing Colby from her car seat and collecting her diaper bag. She turned and faced him. “If you have any smart remarks to share, say them here. These people are like family to me.”
He looked instantly taken aback. “I would never.”
He probably wouldn’t.
A man like him would have impeccable manners.
He didn’t have to try to make most people feel inferior; it was a natural byproduct of being near someone who had been born with too much of…well, everything.
“Just try to look a little less– pompous.”
One eyebrow rose.
Before moving forward, Lil added, “Aaron isn’t like you. He’s…” she hesitated.
“Don’t stop there; I’m dying to know what he is that I’m not.”
“Sensitive.” Aaron would cringe if he heard her describe him that way, and perhaps the years had toughened his exterior, but to her he would always be the sixth grade boy whose pride had often been crushed when he’d been the last child chosen for a recess kickball team.
Just as he’d never let her live down how she’d once socked a boy in the nose for teasing him about not being athletic. Or how, despite Aaron trying to soften her position, she’d remained unrepentant even when brought before the Principal. Lil had always believed that bullies should get what they deserved– thus perpetuating what Abby called her inability to respect authority figures.
She did respect them; she just didn’t feel that they were infallible.