Breaching the Billionaire: Alethea's Redemption
Page 35

 Ruth Cardello

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“I have a better idea where to take you.” When she pulled back a bit cautiously, he laughed. “If you keep looking at me like that, we won’t make it out of the back of this car, and I want to show you my place up on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. It’s not fancy—no underwater bedroom—but it has a private beach, and we could make love to the sound of the waves crashing in the background.”
“That sounds perfect,” Alethea said, then murmured against his lips, “Although that dividing window is tinted, and it’s a thirty-minute drive back to my place.”
Hauling her onto his lap, Marc growled, “I love the way you think.”
A plan was forming in his head for a surprise for her when they returned from Massachusetts, but for now, all he could think about was how she felt against him. He wasn’t one who usually employed a private driver, but he could now see the perks of having one.
Abby met Dominic halfway down the stairs of their house and flew into his arms. “You’re back!”
He hugged her to him and buried his face in her hair. “It’s over.” The deep kiss they shared melted away her fear. For a moment she forgot everything beyond the feel of his lips on hers and the strength in the arms that held her to him. Relief came with a release of emotion, and she started crying even as their kiss continued.
With a hand on either side of her face, he broke off the kiss and wiped away her tears gently with his thumbs. “Don’t, Abby. It’s done. He’ll never bother us again.”
She searched his face desperately. “Are you sure?”
He nodded.
Dominic looked over his shoulder and Abby stood on her tiptoes to do the same. She laughed when she saw Jake and Lil in a similar embrace a few steps below them. Jake was reassuring her sister between kisses.
Abby looked up into Dominic’s loving eyes again. “Alethea? Marc? Are they both okay? Stephan is inside with Nicole. He said he left as soon as he knew you had Sliver. He said no one was hurt. Was he right?”
Lil overheard her question and added one of her own. “Why didn’t Alethea come back with you?”
From the open door behind them, Marie called out, “Come on in, ladies—let your men catch their breath so they can fill us all in.”
Lil’s voice went up a few octaves when she asked, “She’s okay, right? If something happened to her, just say it.”
Jake kissed her on the forehead. “She’s fine,” he said, and smiled down at his worried fiancée. “She and Marc wanted some time alone.”
Abby cocked her head to the side at the revelation. “Alethea and Marc? Really?”
Dominic frowned. “I thought you ladies told each other everything.”
“We used to,” Lil said, so sadly, that Abby elbowed Dominic to stop him from inquiring further.
“Marie’s right. Let’s talk about this inside,” Abby said and wasn’t surprised when Dominic appeared to have no idea what he’d said wrong. As they walked in, she whispered to him, “Things have been rocky between Lil and Alethea lately.” As they crossed the foyer, Abby stopped suddenly. I’m blaming someone else for something that’s at least partly my fault. She took Dominic’s hand in hers and looked up into the eyes of the man she knew would love her no matter what she confessed to him. “And I haven’t helped the situation. I couldn’t let go of old insecurities. I wanted Lil to choose me over Alethea. She risked her life today for us, all of us. How petty am I that it took all that for me to forgive her for doing nothing more than loving Lil?”
Dominic raised her hand to his lips and kissed the inside of her wrist. “Before you bestow sainthood on her, wasn’t Alethea the one who told Lil that curfews were made to be challenged?”
“Did you, or did you not, tell me that she was the one who encouraged Lil to take your car out the night she totaled it—a car you’d just paid off?”
Some of Abby’s tension dissolved and she started to laugh. Memories that used to be painful were now humorous when relived in the arms of her loving husband. “Oh yeah, that was her. Lil wanted to get her license, but I didn’t have the money to add her to my insurance so I asked her to wait one more year. Alethea thought taking the car would change my mind.” And in that humor she found the strength to face the heart of her problem with Alethea. “The more I tried to protect Lil, the more Alethea encouraged her to challenge me.”
“So you were both wrong,” Dominic proclaimed and smiled with encouragement. “You can fix this. Someone once told me that all you have to do to stop being an asshole is to remember that every word you say, every action you take, defines you. Was that you who said it, or Jake?”
Turning slowly, Abby put both hands on her hips and said quietly, “Did you just call me an asshole?”
Jake’s deep laugh boomed through the room. “Back away, Dominic. Don’t say another word. Run for flowers.”
Lil stepped in with advice where few would dare to tread. “Abby, I’m sure what Dominic was trying to say was . . .”
Marie followed suit, hoping to smooth the situation over, “It’s been an emotional day for everyone . . .”
Abby put up a hand to silence them. She stood before her husband, glaring up at him, and demanded, “No, I want to know what he meant. He’s a big boy. He can speak for himself.”
Dominic hauled her to him, and right in front of everyone said, “You were wrong about Alethea, Abby. You held a grudge too long. You’re flawed just like the rest of us, and I love you more every day because of it. I wouldn’t change a thing about you, Abby. No, you’re not perfect, and you don’t have to be, because you’re perfect for me.”
With a sniff, she threw her arms around Dominic’s neck and kissed him.
Standing beside Lil, Jake said sarcastically, “She let him off too easy.”
Lil laughed at him, and with a hug said, “I think it was sweet.”
He raised one eyebrow doubtfully. “And if I told you that you had flaws?”
“You’d sleep on the couch for a week,” Lil said, but hopped onto her tiptoes to kiss him impishly.
He deepened the kiss, reminding her of all the reasons why that would be a difficult stand for either of them to take.
Clearing her throat loudly behind them, Marie said, “Nicole and Stephan are waiting for all of you in the atrium.”
Reluctantly, the two couples separated and followed her down the hall. Rosella met them with little Judy in her arms as Colby toddled along next to her, holding onto her leg. Nicole was seated on the couch beside Stephan.
They both stood as the others entered the room. Dominic approached his sister and her fiancé. “Stephan . . .”
Abby put a hand on her husband’s arm in caution. “Dominic, are you sure now is the time?”
Nicole took a defensive stance between them, but Stephan gently pulled her back beside him. “You don’t need to protect me, Nicole. I know that I’m ultimately responsible for what happened today. Without me, Sliver would have never gotten as close as he did.”
Shaking, Nicole glared at her brother. “That’s not true. He used you, but if it hadn’t been you he would have used someone else. I won’t let Dominic pin all the blame on you—”
“Enough, Nicole.” Dominic’s voice boomed through the otherwise silent room.
Stephan straightened to his full height. In a soft but deadly tone, he said, “I don’t care if she is your sister. The next words you say to her in that tone will be your last.”
Dominic’s eyes flew to Nicole, and when he saw how he had indeed upset her, he reached out to her. She took a step back, shaking her head. He threw his hands up in the air. “Why does everyone assume I’m going to say something awful?”
Abby slid beneath her husband’s arm and hugged him. “Because you’re yelling? And people do that when they’re angry.”
Dominic swore. Continuing on in an aggressive tone, he said, “I am angry—with myself. Sliver thought he could divide and demolish us, and he almost won because I let my temper get the better of me and cloud my judgment.” He held out his hand to Stephan. “I appreciate what you did today.”
No one moved.
The air crackled with tension.
Stephan smiled tenderly down at Nicole, then shook his future brother-in-law’s hand. “I didn’t do it for you, Dominic.”
Jake lightened the mood with a bit of humor. “That’s as close to an apology and an acceptance of one as we’re going to get. Am I the only one who needs a stiff drink?”
“Here, this is better for you.” Marie handed him a squirming Colby, who grabbed his face between her hands and said, “Daddy. Daddy.”
Jake laughed, and without looking away from his giggling daughter, asked, “Does anyone know why her hands are sticky?” Amusement bubbled within those around him and spread until everyone was laughing.
The home phone rang and everyone froze, still off balance from the earlier events. Marie answered it, then said, “It’s Marc.” When Dominic made a move to the phone, she shook her head and said, “He wants to talk to Lil.”
Lil took the cordless phone from Marie and asked, “Is Alethea with you?”
She nodded once. Nodded twice. Then she said, “If you’re sure that’s for the best.” She seemed to agree with whatever Marc was saying and then her face lit up in a huge smile. “Really? Oh, my God, I would love to do that. I’m sure everyone else would, too. No, leave it all to me. I’ll organize it. Great. See you Thursday night. I’ll text you the location.”
After Lil hung up, Abby asked, “What would we all love to do?”
Suddenly unsure, Lil looked around the room hopefully. “Throw a surprise engagement party for Alethea and Marc when they return on Thursday. He wants to ask her to marry him in front of all of us.”
Abby put an arm around her sister’s waist and said, “Let’s do it.”
Tears filled Lil’s eyes. “You mean it?”
Biting her lip, Lil said, “Marc said she can’t face us yet. He said we need to show her that we care.”
That glimpse of vulnerability in Alethea fanned Abby’s determination to make things right between them. “Then let’s make this the best damn party New York has ever seen.”
Nicole stepped closer, her voice growing stronger as she spoke. “I want to help you plan it. She believed in Stephan all along, and she’s the reason he came home to me. I don’t know how to begin to thank her for that.”
Marie joined them, smoothing her hair with determination. “I am meticulous with details. I would love to help, also.”
Rosella handed baby Judy to Dominic and joined the conversation. “A celebration will be good for all of us. How many people do you think we’ll invite?”
Abby pondered it for a moment, then said, “At least fifty.”