Maid for the Billionaire
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Abby pulled the blanket tighter around herself and rolled her eyes at the guard who seemed pleased that she was settling down. She said, "Before you pat yourself on the back, let me just say that the real challenge would have been keeping me off the plane."
Not so much as a twitch in response. Damn, these guys were good.
Abby closed her eyes and let herself drift off into a restless sleep.
Abby woke to Dominic lifting her off the couch like a small child. The plane was moving on the runway and Dominic was carrying her toward the bedroom.
He threw her on the bed.
She opened her mouth to say something, but he stood over her like some conquering pirate looking down at his share of the spoils and coherent thought flew right out of her head. His eyes were still dark with fury. His muscles were bulging with barely contained anger and Abby thought he'd never looked sexier.
Surprise filled her as she realized that being kidnapped by the man she loved was more than a little sexually exciting. However inappropriate, she wanted to give in to this fantasy and be taken with all the emotion throbbing through him. The cold mask was gone. In its place was a deep hunger that mirrored her own. He just didn’t look as happy about it.
"Sleep in here," he growled. "I've got some calls to make."
Abby rubbed the back of her hand over one of her eyes and rolled over onto her side as she asked huskily, "Where are we going?"
"Not back to the United States, if that is what you're hoping," he ground out.
Remorse trumped fantasy. Abby sat up. "Dominic, if you'd just listen to me, I could explain about today."
His breath came out as harshly as an expletive. "I don't have the energy for your lies, right now, Abby -- if that's even your real name."
"I never lied to you, Dominic,” she defended.
His eyes narrowed. “You’re good, but you can stop the pretense. You won’t be getting whatever incentive they offered you. I’ll make sure of that.”
Abby smacked the bed on both sides of her in frustration. Why was he was determined to continue to believe the worst of her? "How can you think I was part of some scheme against you? If I remember correctly, when we first met I told you I didn't want to see you again. You're the one who insisted I get in your limo back in Massachusetts. I didn't ask to come to China with you. How could I have planned any of this?"
Dominic turned away from her. "No wonder Zhang chose you. The lies fall from your lips with ease. I should have left you in China."
If that was what he really thought, then this was not the sexual fantasy she’d been building it into nor was it their chance to repair the damage their relationship had sustained that day.
Abby sat up on her knees and fired back at him. "Then why didn't you?"
He looked back at her over his shoulder, his expression twisted with torment. "God help me, I couldn't. You're like a sickness under my skin."
He closed the bedroom door behind him with a hand she thought she saw tremble.
A sickness? Abby rolled over and groaned into one of the pillows in frustration.
For the first time, doubt began to settle in. What the hell was she doing? He didn’t love her. If his expression was anything to go by, he didn’t even like her. Lust was a poor substitute for love.
Her earlier belief that a simple explanation could return what they’d shared the night before now seemed naïve. What she’d thought of as emotional intimacy had clearly been his idea of extended foreplay.
No, she thought. That kind of openness could not be faked. They had connected. She wasn’t wrong about that. She couldn’t have misread that situation so dramatically. Beneath his harsh words, he was still hurting.
And it was her fault.
She could have spared him the public humiliation if she had told him everything last night. That was the only part of being with him that she regretted. Maybe that was what she had to say, what he needed to hear, before they could move forward.
She was off the bed and down the halfway to the main room in an instant, determined to not give herself time to second guess her decision. Upon her entrance, he looked up from the papers he’d been scanning. His expression was cold again, giving her fair warning that he did not welcome her intrusion.
She stopped in the middle of the room and forced her arms to stay at her sides rather than wrap protectively around her waist like they wanted to. This was about reaching out to him, righting a wrong. There was no place for defensiveness in a sincere apology. “I’m sorry,” she blurted out and waited.
He pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. “I’m sure you are. At least, sorry that you were caught,” he said tiredly.
She took an awkward step toward him. “I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you right away when I learned that Scott was reporting back to Jake. I overheard a discussion between the men yesterday at the hotel. I should have told you last night.”
Dominic’s gray eyes were almost black with emotion when they reopened, dark and unreadable. Abby forced herself to continue. “I’m also sorry that I didn’t tell you that Zhang had arranged to meet with me today. She warned me that your deal was in jeopardy and told me that I could help you.”
His voice held a harshness Abby was unaccustomed to. “Even if that is true, I warned you that someone might try to use you to influence the negotiations. You played right into her hands.”
Abby gulped down her guilt. “I know.”
“You had plenty of time to tell me.”
Abby studied her bare feet and admitted her weakness. “I was going to, but last night was so beautiful. I was selfish. I knew things would change once you knew. I told myself that there would be time in the morning to admit everything.”
If she’d thought that her explanation would sway him, she was quickly disappointed when she raised her eyes hopefully. There wasn’t a trace of forgiveness surfacing. “So, manipulating the final deal in a way that forced me to agree to your terms or lose the contract was your solution?”
Put that way, it did sound damning.
She had to make him understand. “Zhang said it was the only way. She said the deal was falling through and if you stepped out for even a moment you’d lose the contract to a competitor. That’s what Stephan was there for, wasn’t it? He was trying to undercut your deal. Zhang was right.”
“What makes you think you were anything more than a pawn to Zhang? Do you really think that someone like you, a teacher for God’s sake, can understand the politics of international commerce?” His cutting words hung heavily between them.
Shame descended on Abby like a cold cloak, but her pride kicked in. She met his eyes and parried, “Why don’t you tell me how you really feel, Dominic?”
He stood, scattering some papers fall on the floor around him as he did. His face was pinched with anger. “You were supposed to be a distraction. I brought you with me to keep my mind off how shitty this past week has been. But you couldn’t stay out of my business. No, you had to get involved.”
He’d used her and the confirmation hurt Abby deeply. She had known from the beginning that a woman like her had no place in his life, but she had let herself begin to believe that she was more than a convenient sex partner for him. How could she have been so stupid? Abby put a cold hand to her mouth. “I thought I was helping. I thought you needed me.”
His sarcastic tone was a dagger to her heart. “And that was your real mistake.”
Abby lashed out, “I understand now why your mother left your father. If he was anything like you, she was right to leave. He probably looked down at her and kept her separate from his business. Not to protect her, but because he thought he was better than her.” Abby straightened her shoulders and fought back the tears that were welling in her eyes. “You both treated Nicole the same way, so why should I be surprised that I’m no different? Oh, my God, I thought all your tough talk was sexy, but I see it for what it is now. You’re afraid of letting anyone close so you treat everyone equally badly.”
She turned away in disgust, but one more thought sprung and had to be expressed. She half turned back and said, “I thought I loved you, but I didn’t know you. You might have all the money and power in the world, but you’re not good enough for me. The man I give my heart to will see me as his partner; he will let me in. He won’t try to keep me in some home he visits between business trips. He’ll share his life with me and our children will grow up into healthy adults, not twisted and emotionally barren monsters like you.”
In a voice which had become monotone, Dominic said, “Get some sleep. We’ll be landing on my private island off the coast of Italy in a few hours.”
Abby let the slam of the bedroom door be her answer. She went to the plane’s phone and dialed the number on the crushed card in her pocket. “Zhang? If you meant what you said about helping me, we’re on our way to Dominic’s private island near Italy. I want off that island as soon as you can send a plane.”
Abby held her breath. If Dominic was correct, Zhang would have no reason to help her now. If she was indeed no more than a pawn to her, she would soon know.
“Don’t bother to unpack,” Zhang answered. “You’ll be on a flight home minutes after you land.”
Relief flooded Abby. She might have been wrong about Dominic, but at least Zhang’s support had been sincere. The tears that Abby had held in poured forth. Her throat tightened with spasms, making the words almost impossible to get out. “He doesn’t love me, Zhang. He doesn’t even respect me.”
“Do I have to kill him?” Zhang asked in all seriousness. Oddly, Abby found comfort in Zhang’s extreme question. It had been a long time since anyone had leapt to defend her. She had carried the burdens of others for so long that she had forgotten what it felt like to turn to others for help.
“No,” Abby said grudgingly. “But I do want to leave.”
Sounding relieved, Zhang said, “Consider it done,” and hung up.
Abby banged the receiver a few times as she tried to hang it up on the wall. Her hands were shaking with emotion as she collapsed onto the bed and gave into the tears that she no longer had a reason to hold in. Loud sobs wracked her body and she hoped Dominic heard them and felt even the smallest bit sorry for being the complete jackass he was.
Dominic swept the remaining papers off his desk, watching them float aimlessly toward the carpeted floor of the plane. He flipped on the radio to block out the sound of Abby’s crying and paced the room.
How had he become his father? After a lifetime of despising the man for his maltreatment of his mother, Dominic had just treated Abby the same way. Even the dismissive, superior tone of his voice reminded him of the bastard he’d sworn to be nothing like. My God, Abby was right, there was very little mystery as to why his mother had left and hadn’t wavered once in her decision to cut them from her life.
Blinded by his earlier anger, he had refused to listen to further excuses from Jake or even entertain Zhang’s attempt to convince him that time would reveal Abby’s innocence. However, none of his varied contacts had been able to link Zhang to Abby or Abby with Jake. His personal security team had not dug up anything more damning on Jake than a text requesting that Scott follow him from bar to bar and arrange transportation if Scott had deemed Dominic too impaired to drive. Another text instructed Scott to keep the press as far away from Dominic as he could and to inform him if Dominic made any moves that could be publicly damaging to his image or himself.