Maid for the Billionaire
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"No time. If you call him out of that meeting, Andrade will have his contract signed before we can even get there."
"Why can't you do this?" Abby asked in desperation.
"They'll never let me into the conference area. They, will, however let you see Dominic...especially if you say that you have an addendum to the contract that was left at your hotel and that Dominic needs."
"The additional provision asking for a government scholarship for women to be created and funded by the five percent profit from Corisi Enterprises."
"But I haven't had a chance to talk to Dominic about any of that yet. He won't understand why I'm doing it."
"You'll have plenty of time to explain your actions later, once you've saved his company."
"What if he won't agree to it?"
"He will." Zhang said as she quickly typed instructions into her cell phone. "He won't have a choice."
Something was not right. The Minister was reintroducing issues which had been resolved months ago. He was bringing in additional consultants to the meeting who where adding roadblocks at each step.
In the US, Dominic would have called him out for it, but the rules of exchange were different here. He wasn't about to lose everything because he couldn't hold his temper.
The general tension in the room told Dominic that more was going on in this meeting than was being discussed.
When the door opened and Abby walked in holding a small stack of papers, Dominic was sure that his body had succumbed to the stress of his job and he'd fallen into some daytime hallucination. She walked straight up to the Minister, bowed her head slightly in deference and put the stack of papers on the table before him.
"What is this?" the Minister boomed.
Abby answered in softly spoken Mandarin. The Minister began flipping through the papers even before she finished speaking. The Minister called over an advisor to read over the paper. He spoke briefly to two men on his right and seemed to come to a mutual agreement with them.
"Mr. Corisi, you would have been wiser to lead today's talk with this. Your offer is generous and your request would benefit many across China. I don't see a problem with the government agreeing." And with that the Minister signed the paper and began to sign all of the areas of the contract that required his signature.
Dominic was fuming.
Abby went to stand beside Dominic, despite the glare he gave her. He leaned down with the pretense of thanking her, but the words he whispered in her ear were harsh. "What exactly does that paper say?"
Abby kept her face calm even though the fury in his voice sent tremors down her back, "You offered five percent of your company's profit annually to fund a national scholarship for rural women."
His hand bit into her arm. "Why the hell would I do that?"
Her eyes filled with tears. "To save your company. You were going to lose everything today."
"Don't lie to me. The final outcome was never in question. What did you get out of this?” His voice was thick with accusation.
The lawyer brought the packet before Dominic. "All that is needed is your signature and a press conference afterwards to announce the agreement. This last amendment will take the world by surprise and make you somewhat of a hero, I'd think."
Dominic released Abby to read over the packet which was both in English and Mandarin. It did indeed promise exactly what Abby had said. What he didn't yet understand was how she benefited from the deal.
She slipped out of the room while he finished signing the papers.
Zhang met her in the foyer just outside the meeting room. "You did it!"
"What exactly did you do?" Jake Walton's voice echoed from behind them.
Abby met his cold stare over Zhang’s shoulder.
A nervous acid churned in her empty stomach. Yes, the Minister had signed the contract. Yes, the provisions would benefit women around China, but what if Dominic had been correct and none of it had been necessary? Zhang might have orchestrated the entire thing to promote the Women's Foundation agenda.
Was Abby a hero or a pawn?
Zhang turned, blocking Jake’s advance with her own formidable presence. Despite the sophistication of her pants suit, her stance held all the aggression of one who was not afraid of a good battle. "She did what we asked you to do months ago. Corisi Enterprises is now a generous Chinese supporter."
Jake’s look held revulsion for both of them, but settled on Abby. "What is your connection with Zhang? Who are you?"
His condemnation was absolute and tore at Abby’s confidence. "Don't look at me like that! I did this for Dominic."
"I highly doubt that," Jake retorted with abundant skepticism.
"You question my loyalty?” Abby spat. “I'm not the one paying Dominic's own bodyguards to spy on him."
Jake looked past her and stumbled like a man who’d just received a kidney punch. "Dominic..."
Time seemed to stall for the excruciating seconds it took Abby to realize that Dominic was in the doorway behind her and had heard her. She clasped her hands together and closed her eyes briefly, afraid to see how he had taken the news.
There was nowhere to hide. Abby pivoted slowly on her heel, looking first at the well polished leather of his shoes and then forcing herself to meet his eyes. The only visible sign of his fury was the telltale clench of his jaw.
His voice held a deceptively calm tone that sent uncomfortable shivers down Abby’s spine. "Luckily, I have very little faith in humanity or this would be a sad day for me all around."
With guilt laden steps, Abby approached Dominic. She mentally kicked herself for not telling him everything the night before. She couldn’t imagine a worse way for him to find out any of it. Would he listen to her now? "Dominic, it's not like it looks."
Dominic focused his ferocity on his second in command. "Weren't you supposed to be protecting Abby's sister? Wait, does she even have a sister? How deep do the lies go?" He motioned for a member of his personal security detail to approach and issued instructions for him alone to hear. The man nodded, moved several feet away and began organizing his team via a communication device on his ear.
Jake looked visibly shaken. His said urgently, "Dominic, you've got this all wrong. Yes, I asked Scott to keep me apprised of your actions, but it was because you weren't acting like yourself..."
Dominic wasn't listening to Jake's excuses. His face tightened as he finally addressed Abby, his words barely audible through his clenched teeth. "What I can't understand is what you got out of this. Was it money?" He looked across to Zhang, the only unrepentant participant to the event. He half bowed his head in a mockery of deference. "I underestimated your creative problem solving, Zhang. Bravo. I certainly didn't see this one coming. Whatever you paid Abby, if that's even her name...she earned every penny of it."
Abby's eyes filled with tears, but she didn’t look away. He was hurting and it was her fault. None of this would have happened if she had been less selfish the night before. If she had been willing to deny herself that last fantasy interlude, she could have spared him this humiliation. She deserved his condemnation, even if not for the reason he thought. "Dominic, I wanted to tell you this morning, but you had gone. I should have told you last night…”
Dominic took Abby's chin in his grip and for once his touch was not gentle. "How much did she pay you, Abby? Whatever it was you were a fool to take it. I was so taken in by you back in the states...you could have told me of your deception then and I probably would have forgiven you. The irony is that if you had chosen me over whatever they paid you, you could have become one of the richest women in the world."
Jake said, "Dominic..."
Dominic released Abby's chin with disgust and said, "Get out, Jake. I’ll deal with you after I wring the truth out of Scott. Don’t bother to try to warn him. By now, my men have him detained."
Jake paled, but did not miss a beat. "Don’t do anything rash, Dom.”
"Oh, that’s right, I’m not above anything, am I? I had almost forgotten what a low opinion you have of me. I guess that made it easier for you to justify your own actions.” Dominic’s voice grew calmer and cooler with each word.
A side door opened and a throng of American male voices burst into the foyer, interrupting whatever Jake would have responded. A blond man in a dark suit, tall and sharing the same formidable muscular build as Dominic, separated himself from the group and headed toward them. His blue eyes shone with fascination at the scene he had stumbled upon. The deep timbre of his voice held irony laced with malice. “I don’t know how you always seem to squeak a win out in the end, Corisi. I thought I had you this time.”
Dominic’s muscles bunched and twitched beneath the tailored suit. “Are you behind this, Stephan?”
Dominic’s rival quickly assessed the tension of everyone in the room. He studied Jake’s defensive stance, Zhang’s defiant tilt of the head, and the tears running down Abby’s cheeks. A slow, wickedly satisfied smile spread across his face and amusement lit his striking blue eyes. “I wish I could take credit for whatever is going on here, but unfortunately, this mess is entirely of your own making. For a man who just won, you look pretty miserable. That alone makes my trip here worth it.”
Another man would have turned tail and run from the expression on Dominic’s face. The primal sound Dominic made deep in his throat sounded suspiciously like what a warrior would make before he swung his sword.
He took a threatening step toward Stephan, but Jake interceded smoothly, “We wondered who was knocking on the back door. I should have known it was you.”
Abby impatiently wiped away the tears beneath her eyes. Who was this man that everyone seemed to know and who found so much enjoyment in Dominic’s suffering? “It wasn’t easy staying off your radar, Walton,” Stephan said. His casual, blatant humor didn’t quite disguise the intent in his eyes. Like a predator in the wild, he’d sensed a weakness in the group before him and was thoroughly enjoying toying with them. “You know if you ever decide to leave Corisi Enterprises, I could use a man like you on my team.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Jake said and moved to stand shoulder to shoulder beside Dominic. Jake and Dominic shared the kind of quick, silent exchange that spoke of a brotherly bond that would survive this calamity. They might fight with each other, but an enemy to either was an enemy to both.
Dominic nodded in grudging agreement.
“How touching,” Stephan mocked.
As if losing interest in the two men who now stood unified against him, Stephan turned his attention to the women in the room. “I can’t believe you pulled it off, Zhang. This is the kind of coup they write about in the history books. Consider yourself welcome for dinner anytime. I’d love to hear the details behind today.”
Zhang responded harshly, leaving little doubt in the room as to her opinion of the man addressing her. "Careful, Stephan. Water has been known to flood even the dragon-king's temple." Abby recognized the reference to one of four mystical underwater creatures she had seen in a temple for at the Summer Palace. These divine creatures used the sea and the weather to wreck destruction on anyone who dared stand against them.