Breaching the Billionaire: Alethea's Redemption
Page 37

 Ruth Cardello

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Damn. He leaned down and kissed her deeply. “How did you know what I was thinking?”
“It’s what you’re always thinking.” She laughed and kissed him, not seeming the least bit bothered by it.
He smiled against her lips. “A fact that is entirely your fault. Now, go change into something appropriate for a formal business dinner. I spoke to my client and he wants to meet with us first before showing us around. If you showed up looking like you do now, he wouldn’t be able to concentrate long enough to explain what he needs.”
Her disappointment was clear in her expression. “A guided tour? You have to be kidding.” She turned away and began to unzip her jumpsuit. “I wouldn’t have said yes if I’d known.”
He gulped as she eased the jumpsuit down over her bare shoulder, revealing the curve of her back and then her lace thong. When she stepped out of the suit, Marc’s resolve fell to the floor with it.
“I need you,” he said from just behind her, loosening the tie from around his neck.
“Earlier you said we had to be there by a certain time.” She took two dresses out of her closet. Her high, pert breasts bounced slightly as she walked past him and held the dresses out to her sides.
He’d lost the ability to breathe.
“I’m sure I can find something you’ll like.” She returned the dresses to the closet, then bent before him to pick up a pair of simple black flats.
He couldn’t move.
Couldn’t speak.
The smile she flashed over her shoulder revealed she knew exactly what she was doing to him. He closed the distance between them and cupped her ass with both of his hands, loving how the string of her thong concealed nothing from his touch. “This works,” he said huskily.
She straightened and turned, running her hands under the jacket of his tux and up to caress his chest. “We’ll be late.”
“I don’t care,” he growled, and swung her up into his arms and carried her to her bed.
Well over an hour later, Alethea stepped out of Marc’s Lexus and walked with him toward the uptown office building, leaving their vehicle for valet parking. Her body was still humming from Marc’s touch. He knew exactly how to bring her to orgasm again and again while somehow leaving her craving more.
Dressed in a sleek blue dress that Marc had convinced her was necessary, Alethea couldn’t help but wonder about the man they were going to meet. He must be someone important if Marc was this concerned about impressing him. Marc didn’t need the money. He was well paid by Dominic, and his side business of designing bunkers for the wealthy must have brought him a fair amount of additional income. So why the concern over this one side job?
Something didn’t make sense.
Looking up, Alethea noted the entire top floor of the building was lit and that many people were visible in the windows. “You didn’t tell me they had an event scheduled.”
He shrugged. “It’s a private affair. He uses a separate security service for events. Washington-based. Ex–Secret Service. They’ve never had a problem with it, so it’s not part of what I was hired for.”
Ex–Secret Service and he won’t tell me who we’re meeting. Now a party that should be, but probably wasn’t, secured. “We should crash it.”
Marc guided her into the building and hedged, “I don’t know. I really want this job. Is it worth the risk?”
A month ago, Alethea would have said yes without giving it a second thought. She always rolled the dice and took her chances, sometimes winning, sometimes losing. The outcome had never mattered to her until she thought of it in terms of how it would affect someone she cared about. “You’re right. We should ask your client if he wants it tested.”
Marc stopped and looked down at her in surprise. “Won’t that take the thrill out of it for you?”
Strangely, no. She wanted to see Marc get the contract more than she wanted to prove she was better than the Secret Service. The revelation was freeing. I’m good at what I do. Marc knows how good I am. I don’t need to prove myself to either of us anymore. She went up on her tiptoes and kissed him impulsively on the lips. “I want you to get this job. Helping you do that will make me happier than breaking in ever would have.”
A small frown darkened his handsome face. “You don’t have to change for me.”
She put a hand on his now tense jaw. “I am changing, but not for you—because of you. Thank you for asking me to come with you tonight. It means a lot to me that you want to work with me. You were right. It all comes down to trust.”
She hadn’t expected her comment to make him look even less happy. He shifted uncomfortably and said, “Alethea, I have something to tell you . . .”
“Yes?”
He looked torn, then seemed to come to a decision. “Let’s walk straight into that party like we belong there. Let’s just do it and see what happens.”
“Are you sure?” Now I really am confused.
“I’m going to trust my gut on this one. Yes.”
Hand in hand, they took an elevator to the top floor of the building. Way too easy. The security on the main floor had been expecting them, but what would happen when they reached the floor of the event? So far she hadn’t seen anyone who looked liked they were ex–Secret Service.
Just before they reached the top, Marc said, “Whatever happens, remember I love you.”
Alethea didn’t have time to ask him why he was worried before the elevator door opened directly onto the party—a party where she recognized every formally dressed person in attendance.
Marc urged her to step out of the elevator, something she would have done naturally if her feet had not been frozen in shock. Lil, Jake, Abby, Dominic, Nicole, Stephan—they were all standing there in a semicircle with huge smiles on their faces. Marie stood off to one side with Jeremy and Jeisa. A young child ran around the room with his mother in quick pursuit behind him, which could only mean that, yes, Stephan had brought his whole clan with him.
Speechless, Alethea scanned the crowd. The faces were all familiar to her. She’d worked with each of them in the recent past.
Lil rushed forward and gave her a bone-crushing hug. “We were starting to worry that you weren’t going to show up to your own—”
Marc intervened quickly. “She doesn’t know yet.”
Instantly on alert, Alethea pulled back from her friend and asked, “My own what?”
With a painful shrug, Lil said, “Surprise party?” She waved her hands in the air comically. “Surprise!”
Looking up at Marc, Alethea asked, “Tonight was about a party? So, there’s no job here? You weren’t asking me to work with you?”
Marc reached for her, but she backed away. “Not exactly . . .”
“You lied to me . . .”
“Technically, yes . . .”
Alethea wasn’t sure what to think. All eyes were on her, and she knew they were expecting her to smile, but the mix of emotions rushing through her was overwhelming. What is this? Why did you gather all these people together?
Lil grabbed one of Alethea’s arms. “Don’t be upset. He wanted you to have everyone who loves you around when he—”
Marc took Lil’s hand off Alethea’s arm, gave her a gentle push in Jake’s direction, and said, “I’ll handle it from here.”
The lights around them dimmed, leaving the two of them lit by a spotlight. Marc reached into his jacket pocket and took out a box. He dropped to one knee before her and said, “Alethea Niarchos, you have driven me crazy since the first time I laid eyes on you. Every day with you since then has been an adventure, and one I don’t want to end.” He opened the velvet box and revealed a simple, deeply set, one-carat diamond solitaire. “I asked the jeweler what kind of ring could be worn while scaling down the side of a building and this is what he suggested.” He held her left hand in one of his and the ring in his other. “You once told me to go big or go home. I plan to go home, Alethea, but home for me is wherever you are. Will you marry me?”
Looking down into his loving eyes, Alethea felt the last of her fear drop away. Tears began to run down her face and she said, “Hell, yes.”
He slid the ring on, stood, and kissed her soundly. The sound of applause was deafening. Alethea pulled back, wiped the tears off her cheeks, and said, “You’re crazy.”
He bent and growled into her ear, “Only for you.”
From a short distance away, Lil said, “Now can we hug her?”
Marc laughed into Alethea’s ear and said, “You know she loves you.”
Alethea glanced over her shoulder, then looked up at Marc again. “Do you mind?”
He shook his head and released her.
Alethea and Lil met each other halfway, laughing and crying. They started to apologize at the same time, neither of them caring they had become the focal point of the party.
Lil gushed, “I shouldn’t have doubted you. And I shouldn’t have asked you to change. I love you the way you are.”
Alethea hugged Lil, not caring that her tears were likely smearing her makeup. “And I shouldn’t have asked you to keep any secrets from your family.”
Dominic’s voice boomed above the music. “All right, everyone back to their tables so we can celebrate with a toast.” The authoritative tone he used didn’t leave room for question, and almost everyone returned to their tables, where flutes of champagne were being served.
Abby touched Alethea’s arm gently. “I don’t even know how to begin to thank you for what you did for us.”
Nicole stepped forward also. “Alethea, we owe you more than we could ever repay. Stephan told me how you didn’t leave him even when it could have cost you your life.” She wiped a tear away. “Thank you for believing in him.”
From just behind her, Marie said, “It’s not easy for me to see that, even at my age, I still have a lot to learn. I’m sorry I misjudged you.”
Alethea nodded, still feeling overwhelmed by the turn of events. Marc took her hand in his. She smiled up at him through her tears. She thought about the conversation they’d had on the way over and how it applied to those around her. She conceded, “I’m not the easiest person to get to know. Sometimes I charge forward without thinking of the affect my decisions will have on others.” When no one said anything, Alethea shrugged and smiled. “I’ll work on it.”
Her humor spread through the group of women and Marc hugged her, smiling down with approval.
Lil laughed and hugged Abby. “See? She’ll work on it. Problem solved. Now I can have my wedding.”
Looking serious for a moment, Abby said, “I won’t be offended if you choose her to be your maid of honor. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s really good to see the two of you together again.”
It was the first time that Alethea had ever felt truly accepted by Abby. It brought another layer of joy to the day. “Abby, I hear that married women are matrons of honor and that some brides have both.”