Breaching the Billionaire: Alethea's Redemption
Page 32

 Ruth Cardello

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She placed her hand in his and wordlessly accepted the meaning behind his offer.
“I have what I need right here,” Marc said, as he raised her hand to his mouth and kissed the back of it. “And we’re going to kick some ass today.”
After they outlined a plan to Jeremy, there was no time to second-guess it. Marc radioed his men and put everyone in position to move in once the electricity was cut. Alethea would use that brief chaos to free Stephan. Jeremy sent over the specs for both buildings.
Marc gave Alethea one final, deep kiss. When they separated, she said softly, “Don’t you get killed, Marc. Don’t you dare get killed. I didn’t mean it when I said I don’t need anyone.”
He checked his watch, had Jeremy start the countdown to blackout, and said, “I’m not going anywhere. I have a proposal to plan.”
She gave him a cheeky smile. “Go big or go home.”
Jeremy interrupted their banter. “Blackout in ten minutes. Good luck guys.”
Marc hung up the phone and walked out of the alley side by side with Alethea. After she crossed the street, he signaled his men to close in and then sprinted into the other building and up the stairway to the fourth floor where, if they were correct, he’d find the only man he’d ever looked forward to killing.
Chapter Nineteen
Stephan flipped his wallet open and took out a small photo of Nicole. He remembered exactly when it had been taken. Last Christmas, at his uncle’s home. They’d been opening Christmas presents in a large group and one of his young cousins had tackled Nicole to thank her. She’d rolled back onto the couch with him, laughing. Her eyes had sparkled with so much love and laughter when she’d righted herself, that he hadn’t been able to resist snapping a photo. She’d never been more beautiful to him or more a part of his family.
He gave the photo one last look, then placed it in the pocket near his heart. I’m sorry, Nicole. You deserve a better man than I am. I brought this on us and I wish there were a way I could spare you from what I have to do.
Forgive me.
He cleared his throat and said, “Sliver, I’ve decided to take you up on your deal.”
Sounding gleeful, Sliver answered, “Excellent. I knew you would. You win this way.”
“Yes. I do. But I have one condition.”
“You don’t get to make conditions,” Sliver protested angrily. “I’m in control here.”
“Kurtis, we’ve worked together for a long time. You know how much I hate Dominic. But you also know that I need a guarantee that this will be clean. I won’t make a phone call unless you clear this building of people. Tell them it’s a gas leak.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because, just like me, you don’t want witnesses. The more people involved, the more risk there is that the truth will come out. You kill them, you bring unwanted attention to both of us. Get rid of them and I’ll make sure Dominic comes alone. You won’t have to blow up the building. You can bide your time and pick him off with a sniper shot if you want. Clean. Or drug him and take him somewhere else to dispose of him. I don’t care. But if you think I’m going to let this become an FBI investigation that lands me in prison, you’re insane.”
There was a long pause, then Sliver asked, “How do I know I can trust you to follow through if I clear the building?”
Stephan chose his words carefully. “You were right. I never stopped hating Dominic. My life will be better without him. My only regret is that you’ll be the one who gets to kill him.”
After another long pause, Sliver said, “I’ve just sent a message via the gas company’s computer to the woman downstairs. Gas leak, just as you said. Immediate evacuation necessary.”
Stephan heard the phone ring downstairs. Followed by a rustling, then a door slamming. Stephan watched from the window to ensure that she did indeed leave the building with her child. He let out a sigh of relief when he saw both enter a taxi moments later.
His relief was short-lived. “Now, make the call,” Sliver demanded.
Stephan put a hand over the photo in his pocket and said, “Go to hell.”
“But you said . . .”
Stephan laughed in triumph. “How can someone be so smart and remain so gullible? Dominic is my family and, to an Andrade, family is everything. I would never give him to you.”
With a voice that held a hint of desperation, Sliver threatened, “You think I won’t press the button? You think I won’t blow you up? You’re wrong. If you won’t make the call, you’re worthless to me. At least I can enjoy watching you die.”
“Do it, you coward. If killing me gives Dominic a heads-up on where you are, then I die happy. Your plan for revenge has gotten sloppy, my friend. How does it feel to know that you won’t live much longer than I will?”
Chapter Twenty
Jeremy’s phone call drained all color from Dominic’s face. He looked across the room at his sister, who was sitting stiffly on the edge of a chair, watching him. Her expression turned hopeful when their eyes met.
I can’t tell her what’s really happening. I swore I would never be the reason she cried again.
Abby was at his side in a flash. “Who was that?”
Even though he wanted to, he couldn’t lie to her. “Jeremy.”
“What did he say?” She grabbed his arm desperately.
Dominic pulled her to him and just held her for a moment. Not since the birth of Judy had he felt so unsure of what to do. Stephan was wrong; Kurtis was not his fault. I did this to my family. I let my anger divide us and gave Sliver the advantage. “Jeremy is working with Alethea and Marc as we speak. They found Stephan. Sliver has him.”
Nicole stood up and swayed. “What do you mean, Sliver has Stephan? Has him how? Has him where? Is he hurt?”
They were past sugarcoating the events. “Somehow Sliver locked Stephan in his loft apartment. Stephan ordered his men to fall back. Alethea and Marc think that means Sliver rigged the building to explode.”
Abby wrapped her arms around Dominic’s waist and hugged him tightly. The shiver he felt pass through her tore at him.
It should be me in that loft.
With tears in her eyes, Abby asked, “What does this guy want?”
Dominic looked down and tucked a stray hair tenderly behind one of her ears. God, I love this woman. I know she won’t want to hear what I have to say, and I hope she forgives me. “Me. He wasn’t expecting Stephan to show up.”
Nicole rushed to her brother’s side. “If he doesn’t want him, he’ll let him go, right?”
Dominic shook his head slowly.
Abby sensed a change in Dominic. She searched his face for confirmation of what she knew was coming. “Don’t go, Dominic. Marc is already there. He won’t let anything happen to Stephan.”
Dominic slowly released Abby. “You know I have to do this,” he said softly. “Jake, I need your helicopter.”
Abby covered her face with both hands and started to cry.
Jake shook his head. “This is what he wants you to do, Dom. He wants to lure you out. This is a game to him.”
Very gently, Dominic took Abby’s hands in his and leaned down to kiss her wet cheek. “Abby, you came into my life and made me a better man. I know what’s important now. I can’t sit here while a member of my family is in danger.” He turned and touched his sister’s shoulder softly. “You will have your wedding day, Nicole. I’ll make sure of it. And your husband will be my brother.”
Nicole threw herself in her brother’s arms and sobbed.
Fresh tears streamed down Abby’s cheeks, but she met Dominic’s eyes and nodded. She gripped her hands in front of her. “You get this guy, Dom, and you make sure he can never hurt us again.”
Lil didn’t try to stop Jake when he went to stand beside his business partner. Instead, she took her sister’s hand in one of her own and Nicole’s hand in her other. She said, “They aren’t going in alone. Alethea is there and I’ve never seen her fail.”
Abby hugged Lil and looked up at the ceiling. “I swear if no one dies today I am going to hug that woman until it gets embarrassingly awkward.”
Dominic was suddenly all business. “Marc said they have the ground covered. I want to be in the air in case Sliver has an upward escape planned. We’ll land on the roof.”
Jake instructed one of the security men to relay a radio message to his pilot. “Are we taking anyone with us?”
Dominic named his elite team. They’d traveled with him around the globe and could be trusted with any situation that developed.
“Should we call the police for backup?” Jake asked.
Adrenaline rushed in and Dominic smiled. “No. When we catch this guy—and we will—he’s not going to prison. Not an American one, anyway.”
Poised just outside of street camera range, Alethea waited. Hopefully their plan would completely blind Sliver, but she couldn’t count on that. In the event that it didn’t, she would still have a limited window in which to move in while he was distracted by the surprise.
She’d joked with Marc that she was smarter than Sliver, but the last four minutes of waiting had been long enough for her to run a hundred worst-case scenarios through her head. What if he had a generator? What if he wasn’t in the building she’d sent Marc to? What if basing her decisions on her instincts was foolhardy? They had no hard evidence of his exact location. She’d risked Marc’s life as well as her own on a hunch.
She let out a long, calming breath.
Focus.
Focus on what you can control.
She checked her watch.
Two minutes until blackout.
A woman and a child came out of the building and hailed a taxi. The woman looked worriedly back at the building.
Is her exit a coincidence?
Had Sliver sent her out? Had Stephan? Why would they clear the building?
This is bad.
A quick flash of her life before her eyes brought her some pleasure and some shame. She glanced up at the clear sky above.
I haven’t lived a perfect life.
I’m not always kind.
I tend to think my way is the only way.
If my life ends today, let it be for something. Help me beat this bastard.
She grimaced.
Sorry about the profanity.
Although, I’m sure your shockability has been tested by worse.
Anyway, if you can hear me, take care of Marc. He’s a good man. Ideally, the one I’ll marry and have kids with. I know, me with kids. Shocking, right? Well, it’s your fault for giving women damn internal biological clocks.
She almost swore again, but caught herself.
No offense meant regarding the clock thing.
Listen, I’m not good at this, but I’d like to think you wouldn’t show me all I could have just to take it away.
I’ll make you a deal.
I’ll stop reading erotica on the Internet if you let us all live through this.
Shit, I probably shouldn’t have admitted I do that.
And what happens if I break that promise? I’m right in the middle of a series.
Stop. This isn’t helping.