Maid for the Billionaire
Page 12

 Ruth Cardello

  • Background:
  • Text Font:
  • Text Size:
  • Line Height:
  • Line Break Height:
  • Frame:

Four large men, two Chinese and two American, came to greet Dominic as he stepped off the plane. Dominic introduced them to Abby. It was a strangely informal introduction to men who neither seemed like business associates nor friends. Each hand that engulfed hers seemed larger than the next. They were all simply dressed in black pants with white, cotton dress shirts, and dark jackets.
Abby heard Dominic instruct, "I've given you a list of places she can go, but she never leaves your sight. If she wants to chat, you chat. If she wants you invisible, disappear, but at no time should you be further than ten feet from her."
"In the suite, sir?"
"When I'm not there, I want at least one man inside and the others prowling. When I'm there, disappear."
"Understood, sir."
Abby felt as awkward as a new tourist asking if she should tip the porter or not. "Dominic? Are you sure this is necessary?"
He looked down at her, as confident here as he'd been in Boston, reminding her once again of how very little she knew about him or his world. "They are as much for your protection as for my sanity. There are those who would use you to try to influence the negotiations."
She clasped her hands together in front of her. "Use me?" she repeated weakly.
Her lover from the night before was indistinguishable in the stone-faced man who explained, "There is no going home now, Abby. You've been seen with me. You and your sister will be under my protection until the dust from this has settled."
With the body guards looking on, Abby knew this was not the time to protest that she didn't even know what his purpose for this trip was. She wanted to say that her personal safety had not been mentioned when he'd asked her to join him and that perhaps constant surveillance and the equivalent to home arrest would have swayed her to reconsider this particular adventure. There was so much that she would have said had they been alone and if his expression had not clearly indicated that the topic was not up for discussion.
For now at least.
"I see," she said and looked the guards over again. They probably liked the idea of babysitting her as little as she liked the idea of four hulking shadows. She decided to make the best of it. "I hope you guys can at least play a decent game of poker."
A general chuckle spread through the men and set the tone for their relationship. She wasn't going to cause them any grief nor act the part of the spoiled brat that she had no doubt they'd encountered in the past.
Dominic lost some of his sternness as his eyes lit with renewed interest. "You play poker?"
She hadn't in years, but she remembered the game well enough. One of her uncles had taught her and for a while there, in her younger years, she'd been known as quite a shark. "Yes," she said, adding impishly, "but only with your money."
He threw back his head and laughed, surprising all who surrounded him. The guards looked from him to Abby and back. Their shock was clear. Hadn't they ever seen him laugh before?
The driver held the door to the limo open and asked, "The International Hotel, sir?"
Dominic put a hand on Abby's lower back and ushered her into the vehicle, "Not this time, Scott. I booked a suite at Aman at the Summer Palace."
The driver gave only the slightest hint of surprise. "That is over thirty minutes from the business center, sir."
Perhaps due to a deeper familiarity with this driver, Dominic showed more patience with him than she'd seen the day before. "I am fully aware of its location."
The driver smiled down at Abby before he closed the door and said, "Ah, I see, sir."
With Dominic flush against one side of her, Abby asked, "What does he see, Dominic?"
He looked more uncomfortable answering her questions than he had during any of his business calls the day before. "The Aman is in a tourist area. Its buildings are older but the architecture is traditional Chinese. The Summer Palace and gardens are within walking distance."
Pleasure spread through Abby. "You chose it for me."
The back of Dominic's neck flushed slightly. Abby loved that such a man was still capable of blushing, at least when it came to her. "It's a good location for you. I will accompany you to see the major sites of interest, but you can explore the gardens through the Aman’s private entrance and even rent a small boat if you'd like."
Abby hugged his arm. "Thank you."
Dominic pulled her closer and gave her a toe-curling kiss. "I won't be going to the hotel with you. You'll have to check in alone. I have people I need to see first, but I will be back this evening." There was a promise in his kiss. "Early," he stressed. The second limo pulled up as if on cue.
Dominic’s eyes darkened possessively. "Stay out of trouble."
Abby smiled up at him. "What kind of trouble could I possibly get into with my four gorillas?"
"I have no doubt you could find something." He turned to the driver. "Scott, call me at slightest issue."
"I will, sir."
With one last kiss, Dominic exited the limo and headed for his own. Abby sat there, still feeling that this was all a bit unreal.
She moved to sit closer to the dividing window between the back seats and the driver. "Have you known him long, Scott?"
Scott pulled out into traffic, but answered her. "He has been one of my clients for several years."
Abby felt like there was something she was missing. Something that just didn't feel right. "You mean your limo service?"
The driver spared her a rueful look in his mirror. "Actually, I'm CEO and founder of Luros Security."
Abby's eyes widened. She'd heard of that company, it was no start up. The man driving her vehicle was at least a multi-millionaire. "And you drive limos?" she couldn't help but ask.
"Not usually," he said. "However, Dominic called it a personal favor."
"So, you're here to organize the security for his negotiations?"
"No," Scott replied, looking less certain that he should be sharing all of this information with Abby and even a bit irritated as he added, "We were given an alternate assignment."
Abby cocked her head to the side in question.
Scott answered simply, "You."
Chapter Twelve
"I knew this wasn't a good idea," Scott said as the man to his left folded in defeat.
Abby was not going to back down now; she had them on the run. Thank you, Uncle Phil. She'd not only been tutored in the art of maintaining a straight face, but she'd also always been flat out lucky when it came to cards.
One down, two to go, face to face across the hotel room’s delicate dining room table that the four of them had gathered around for an afternoon of Poker, Abby let a grin slip out. "Never let them see your fear, Scott." She turned to the silent man beside her and said, "I'll see your Choice of Restaurant and I'll raise you a Choice of Activity."
"Too rich for me," he said and laid his cards down.
Scott was no pushover, but he'd seriously underestimated her skill with the game. When she'd suggested they actually play poker, his first response was that he didn't feel comfortable taking money from her. Easy enough to fix, she'd assured him, they would play for something else. Confident that one of the three men would trump her, he'd agreed and allowed her to write up notes instead of using chips.
None of them had expected that she would be sitting pretty on top of a mountain of most of the cards. They'd groaned in mutual pain when she'd won the card that read "Choice of movie."
Now it was her and Scott, one on one, winner takes it all. She schooled her face to reveal as little as possible.
Scott said, "I'll see your Choice of Activity and raise you One hour of Silence."
Don't you wish, she thought, although she knew that card had been jokingly been written in direct response to her "One childhood story" card she'd written. "I'll see your Choice of Activity and raise you One Unauthorized Excursion."
"You're not going anywhere that isn't on the list, Abby," Scott said in a tone that probably dissuaded most from further argument.
"I thought you had a good hand, Scott. Now you sound almost afraid that I'm going to win." She cocked one eyebrow at him.
"The list was made for a reason, Abby. Write another card and toss it on there, but that one is a no go."
Abby fingered the rough edge of the card lightly. She didn’t have a forbidden destination in mind, but last few days had revived a side of her she’d assumed she’d lost along with her parents. She wasn’t going to hide from life anymore. She had no idea what that meant as far as Dominic or her life back in Boston, but right here, right now it meant winning when the odds were against her. "Ok, if you really think that a public school teacher can best three former special forces men at a game they claimed they ruled in -- well, fold now and I will tear up this card."
"Don't do it, Scott," one of the other men said.
"She's bluffing," the other one said.
"Dominic would be furious," Scott added in an attempt to back her down.
Abby upped the ante. "I'm not afraid of Dominic." She placed her chin on one of her hands and smiled sweetly across the table and said, "Are you?"
Scott's expression turned serious for a moment, before he responded with grudging admiration. "Abby, word on the street is that Dominic has come completely unglued. I was in agreement even as I flew over here, but I may have just changed my mind. I only wish I had met you first."
Abby blushed, but she knew a side maneuver when she saw one. "Flattery, however sweet, will not get me to tear this card up. And that one wrinkle on your forehead? A clear giveaway that I've got you beat. Just admit it."
Collectively all in the room held their breath while Scott weighed pride against common sense. He revealed his cards with premature confidence and announced, “Full House.”
Abby let her glee show in her eyes as she laid hers down beside his. “A good hand, but not quite good enough.” She laid down her winning hand with flair. “Looks like three special ops men have been bested by four little ladies.”
She reached forward with both hands and scooped the remaining cards into her large pile.
Carefully she picked the Choice of Excursion card out of the pile and held it up for all three men to see. She showed it happily to each, not minding that they sat back in their chairs as if she'd mortally wounded each of them. "You know what this means?" she knew her voice held a bit of smugness.
"Paddleboats," the three men said in disgusted union.
She held up another card, unable to stop herself from enjoying some of her winnings. "And this one?"
"Do you even have any movies with you?" one of the body guards asked.
"Mrs. Duhamel set me up," Abby replied. "I'll just have to decide between Meg Ryan and Sandra Bullock. You guys aren't closet criers, are you? Should I call down for a box of tissues?"
She knew she should stop, but it was really too much fun. The men looked positively miserable.
Scott pulled out the one card he'd balked against. "And what about this one?" he asked.
The mood turned serious for a moment. She knew that Dominic had written up instructions with her safety in mind and, as much fun as it had been to win the outing, she wasn't going to do anything deliberately foolhardy. She shook her head. "There is nowhere I need to go. It was just fun to win it."