Maid for the Billionaire
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Stephan turned his amused attention to Abby and said, as if speaking in confidence, “That’s Zhang’s way of saying – Go to Hell.”
He walked closer until he was practically standing over Abby and smiled down at her with practiced charm. “Is this the little teacher who brought the great Dominic to his knees?”
Abby ignored his extended hand. “I don’t know what game you’re playing, but count me out of it.”
He didn’t seem the least bit offended by the ice in her tone. He appraised her with a blatant slowness that achieved his goal of fanning Dominic’s fury. “Are the tears for Dominic or because of him?” The growl behind him should have warned him, but he was intent on goading further. “He’s never been one to treat a lady well. Although, I must say that, until you, I’ve never thought twice about his discards. You, however, have the world talking. I’d love to find out if you live up to what they’re saying about you.”
A large hand closed on one of Stephan’s shoulders and spun him just in time to meet the connecting force of Dominic’s fist. He stumbled backwards, but did not fall. If possible, his smile only grew wider even as he rubbed his bright red jaw.
Dominic glared down at Abby. “You can stop making eyes at him now, he’s leaving.”
Abby sputtered in defense. “I was not…”
Stephan’s derision filled laughter froze their exchange. “You’re getting soft, Dominic, and that’s what is going to make it easier to bring you down.”
Dominic’s hands clenched at his sides. “Laugh all you want, but after today, Corisi Enterprises will be bit more difficult to screw with. We’re out of your league, Stephan. You can’t touch us now.”
Stephan looked disturbingly like a cat who knew the canary cage had a back door. “Don’t be too sure about that, Dominic.”
His smile faltered a bit when Dominic gripped him by the lapels of his jacket and hauled him forward until they were nose to nose. Dominic’s voice held a deadly calm. “Any hurt you might have incurred from me in the past was an unfortunate consequence of your poor business skills. In the future, it will be a bit more personal.” He let the threat sink in before releasing Stephan with a powerful shove that sent him back several feet. “Get out of here, Stephan, before I stop caring about how killing you would affect this deal.”
Stephan’s veneer of civility cracked, revealing a deep animosity toward Dominic. He said, “No one is untouchable, Dominic. I doubt you’ll be as smug the next time we meet.”
Dominic’s only response was a small nod to his security who were instantly on alert. Wise enough to retreat, Stephan bowed sarcastically, rejoined his group and left the foyer.
Dominic’s put a possessive arm around Abby’s waist. “Don’t even think about going with him.”
Abby gasped in surprise and leaned away from him so she could see his face. He was serious. “Are you crazy?”
Zhang piped up from behind them, “And they say women are dramatic.”
Abby tried to step out of Dominic’s grasp, but her struggles only tightened his determined hold. Dominic addressed Zhang without turning around to face her. “Zhang, pray I don’t discover that you had something to do with Stephan being here.”
Not one to accept a threat lightly, Zhang made one of her own. “You’re in tailspin right now, Dominic, but choose your adversaries with care. You wouldn’t make it out of the building alive if you laid a hand on me.” She stepped forward until she was face to face with Abby. “You’re not alone, Abby. Say the word and I can have you on a plane to anywhere in the world in minutes.”
Dominic looked down at Abby as if realizing for the first time that he’d held her in his crushing grip. His touch turned gentle, almost apologetic for a moment and his stormy gray eyes searched hers. Whatever inner decision he came to didn’t seem to please him. He released her, but motioned for his security to approach. “She’s not going anywhere.”
A young Chinese man approached and excused the intrusion. “Mr. Corisi, the press waits for you in the main conference room.”
“Let them wait,” Dominic ground out.
The young man wrung one of his hands with the other. “The Minister will enter the room in the next few minutes. He should not enter before you. It is impolite to make him wait. Please, sir, you must come now.”
Zhang agreed with the nervous messenger. “It would not be good to start our new alliance by offending the Minister again.”
Jake spoke up. His rational voice sounded out of place in a room that was vibrating with emotion. "Why don’t I take Abby back to the hotel for now?”
Dominic’s displeasure with the suggestion was clear, but Jake wasn’t backing down. Abby realized that despite the angry exchange she’d witnessed earlier, their bond was still solid. Jake was willing to shoulder another lashing from Dominic’s temper if it meant protecting his friend from a scandal born in the heat of his anger. Was that also why he’d paid Scott to watch Dominic? It made sense now.
"No," Dominic barked. "She’s not going anywhere. At least not until I figure out what her role in all of this was…and yours.”
Jake blanched slightly, accepting the flogging. “I deserve that. In light of today’s events, I can see that my actions look pretty damning, but I was trying to anticipate damage control. I never met Abby before you introduced us. You have to believe that.”
Dominic’s expression remained closed. “I don’t know what I believe right now, but I suggest you make yourself scarce until I have time to get the facts.”
Jake nodded in concession. “That sounds fair. I still think you should let me take Abby out of here until you have time to cool off.”
“No.” Dominic’s steely response echoed through the quiet foyer.
“Dom-” Jake started to speak in his cool, professional tone.
In response to a subtle cue from Dominic, two guards flanked Abby with the obvious intention of escorting her out of the room. “Take her to my plane,” he said harshly. “Fuel up. We’ll leave as soon as I’m finished here.”
Both of Zhang’s eyebrows rose at Dominic’s display of force. She stepped closer to Abby, ignoring the men beside her. “If this gets old and you need me, call me,” Zhang said and pressed a card with her private number into one of Abby’s cold hands.
Abby leaned forward and impulsively hugged the woman. Taken by surprise, Zhang stood stiff as a board for a few seconds before awkwardly returning the embrace. Abby whispered in her ear, “He’s angry right now, but he would never hurt me.”
Zhang stepped out of Abby’s embrace and said, “I hope for your sake that you are correct.”
Abby bit her lip and looked back at Dominic’s tight expression. Beneath his angry exterior was the loyal heart of man who had given up everything to search for a mother who hadn’t bothered to write him a farewell note. He was still the man who had taken in Mrs. Duhamel and given her financial security when many would have let her suffer the consequences of her husband’s decisions. He was a good man who was reeling in the face of what he saw as a public betrayal by those closest to him.
Abby suspected that if she voiced a desire to leave him now, he would let her go, but was that what she really wanted? Yesterday she’d convinced herself that she could settle for this one adventure and be content to live with just the memories of their shared passion. After all, walking away and playing it safe was something she excelled in.
But that was before she realized how much she loved him.
His determination to keep her with him sparked some hope in her heart. He also didn’t want their time together to end. He wasn’t a smooth man who spoke in flowery words. He was a man of action and all of his dominant posturing suggested that no matter what he thought had happened, he still wanted her.
For now, that was enough. When the dust from the events of the day settled, they would be alone and she could explain her actions to him. He’d see that she’d acted with the best of intentions and he’d forgive her.
Being with Dominic had changed her. She was no longer willing to play it safe and lay her life at the feet of fate like a sacrifice, hoping that if she did, she could somehow minimize future losses. No, she wanted it all – the man, the passion, the till death do us part promise.
Chin high, she allowed herself to be escorted by Dominic’s security out a side exit to where a limo was waiting to whisk her back to Dominic’s plane.
Let the kidnapping begin.
Sitting beneath the same blanket she'd cuddled under during the flight, Abby watched people come and go through a small plane window. There were guards stationed both inside and outside of the hanger. They were dressed in the familiar black and white uniform.
Apparently, Dominic had not given his private security guards instructions to humor her. They were stubbornly silent, regardless of how she tried to pull them into discourse. Upon arriving at the plane, Abby had paused before reentering the open hatch. One large hand nudged her forward, prompting her to turn and snap, "Stop acting like you're forcing me. I wanted to come."
Her announcement was met with silence.
Not too long after that, one guard had followed her down the short hallway to the bathroom. She'd wagged a warning finger in his face, "Don't even think you're coming in with me. What are you afraid of? That I’ll escape from the bathroom? It doesn’t even have a window."
The guard had simply turned his back to her, filling the space just outside the door with his massive frame. She held back an urge to bean something off the back of his head. The longer she waited for Dominic to return, the more her agitation grew, but she wasn’t stupid enough to act on it.
Almost two hours had passed without a word from Dominic. She’d watched most of the press conference on the plane’s television. On the outside, Dominic had looked calm. He fielded questions about how long he had been planning this act of philanthropy. He accepted thanks from the leaders of countless organizations. Every news station was calling Dominic a role model for businessmen around the world. People speculated that his actions would forge a new and strong relationship between the US and China. Dominic accepted their praise with a calm they assumed was humility, but Abby understood was cold control.
During one part of the press release, a reporter made a statement rather than asking a question. He said, "No one saw this one coming, Mr. Corisi. You've taken the world by surprise."
Domini had looked directly into the camera, directly into her soul and said with an icy tone that rang oddly against the warmth in the reporter's praise, "It's often difficult to predict what anyone is capable of."
Abby had clicked the television off.
He was still angry. She had hoped that his temper would have cooled with time or that after speaking with Scott he would have realized that she had met Zhang for the first time during this trip. No plotting. No subterfuge. Just misguided good intentions.