Maid for the Billionaire
Page 22

 Ruth Cardello

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

“Fine,” she said, and tossed the tissue box in his direction for good measure.
He slammed the door behind him as he left.
Abby blew her nose again. Arrogant jerk. Even if he did love her, it wasn’t a healthy love. Sure, giving in now would win her another night of passion, but what about after that? She couldn’t handle a lifetime of accepting the emotional scraps he was likely to toss her way between his business deals. Better to end it now, before she fell even deeper in love with him.
She rolled miserably onto her stomach and hid her face in the cool material of the pillow. Life in the aftermath of Dominic was not going to be easy. Maybe she could take a teaching job abroad for a year. She couldn’t go back to her quiet life in the suburbs.
No, she didn’t want to do that either. She was done running. Yes, life was unfair. Yes, loving hurt, but she was not going to let the ugly way she and Dominic ended negate the good that had come out of the week.
She wouldn’t leave Lil now, not when she had just discovered how to repair their relationship. Lil deserved the kind of sister Zhang would be, the supportive, non-judgmental kind who offered to kill first and asked questions later. Well, maybe not kill, Abby qualified with a tearful laugh, but her lecturing days were over. Zhang had shown her the power of unconditional support and it had changed the way she would love in the future.
When the pain of losing Dominic eventually subsided, Abby knew that she’d be better for having known him. She couldn’t hate him for not really loving her. He’d warned her time and time again not to read into their time together. He couldn’t have been clearer. Not once had he tried to wrap up their affair as anything but two mutually consenting adults giving into their strong sexual attraction to each other.
No woman in her right mind would allow herself to fall in love with a man like Dominic, especially since they had known each other for less than a week. My God, Abby thought, had it really been that short of a time? Einstein was right, time was relative. She’d packed a lifetime of transformation in those few short days.
His spontaneous declaration of love had been painful to hear, but might one day give her some comfort when she looked back at this time together. Even though she couldn’t be the undemanding, willing to be kept separate from his life, woman he wanted – he probably did love her in his own way. It was simply that their definitions of love were irreconcilable.
Wrapped up in her own thoughts, she didn’t hear the door reopen. She was unaware of his presence until she felt the mattress shift beneath his weight as he sat down beside her.
“Did anyone ever tell you that you’re infuriatingly stubborn?” he asked in a voice she was sure had cowered many before her.
As usual, it did little to impress her. Just more hot air coming out of his big, fat head.
The material of the pillow muffled her rebuttal. “Anyone ever tell you that you are a jackass?”
“Turn around, Abby and listen to me,” he ordered and put a hand on one of her shoulders.
“No,” she said and shook his hand off. Looking would be bad. Looking would lead to wanting. Wanting would lead to forgetting why it was important to end it now. No looking.
“I am not going to talk to the back of your head,” he said with some irritation.
“No one is asking you to.” She refused to budge. Leave, she begged silently. Just leave while I’m still strong enough to let you go.
“Dammit, woman, I’m trying to apologize to you,” he practically growled in a frustrated tone.
An apology? Abby sniffed. Now, that she had to hear. She turned onto her side and wiped a stray tear from her cheek. “Really? Well, go ahead,” she dared.
His expression was tight with emotion. Eyes dark as coal seared through her bravado and, had she been standing, would have weakened her knees with their intensity. She shouldn’t have looked. His need for her wrung a much unwelcome answering need from her. She was still angry with him. This was not the time to be imagining how quickly her nipples would pucker beneath his hot tongue.
Fighting his own internal battle, he said, almost defiantly, “I’m sorry.”
She was still angry, but now more at herself than him. She was never going to convince either one of them to turn the plane around if she didn’t fight her reaction to him. And, no matter how good another session of lovemaking would be, it wouldn’t change how miserable they would eventually make each other. She had to remember that. She’d have to be strong for both of them. Anger was a good shield. “You don’t sound sorry.”
His shoulders slumped ever so slightly. When he spoke again, his voice was husky with emotion. “I am not good at this, but I am sorry.”
“For what?” Abby asked and fought to contain the tsunami of questions surging within her. She needed to know exactly what he regretted. Bringing her with him in the first place? His earlier harsh words? Or, the worst possibility of all, was he apologizing for falsely claiming to love her?
“For everything you accused me of doing, of being. You were right about it all.” Her heart broke at his declaration until he clarified. “Except, that last part about not really loving you. I may not be good husband material. Hell, I’m not even that nice of person, but I do love you.”
Joy surged and ebbed just as quickly. The apology, however touching, hadn’t changed anything. It was as she’d suspected. In his own way, on his own terms, he did love her. But what would that love look like once the heat of the moment had passed? Even he knew he wasn’t cut out for marriage. “What are you saying, Domnic?” she asked wearily.
He turned and placed a hand on either side of her, leaning closer until she could see the black flecks in his tormented gray eyes. “I didn’t mean all those things I said earlier. I was angry. That doesn’t justify what I said, but I do want you to know that I believe you. I know you were only trying to help me. I didn’t want to admit you most likely single handedly saved my company. I should have been thanking you instead of lashing out. You deserve a man who can treat you as his equal partner.”
Abby’s stomach churned with emotion. A memory of his apology would one day bring her comfort, but it was not enough to lessen her resolve. “Yes, I do.”
He ran a hand gently through her curls, ending by cupping the back of her head. “I know I haven’t done much to prove it to you, but I can be that man, Abby.”
Abby raised a hand to caress his cheek. “Thank you for apologizing, Dominic. It would have eaten at me if we had left things on bad terms, but you know as well as I do that this can’t work. We’re too different.”
His features tightened painfully and urgency filled his voice. “I’m not taking you back to Boston.”
Abby placed a sad finger across his lips. “I can’t do this, Dominic. I thought just being with you would be enough, but it isn’t. Let’s not make this harder than it needs to be. Losing you is already going to hurt enough.”
Dominic took her hand in his. “It doesn’t have to. I want to marry you.”
With a sad final squeeze, Abby pulled her hand away from his. “And then what, Dominic? Will you keep me in a big house in the Hamptons and visit me between business deals? I need more than that. I want the whole package: the house, the kids, a few dogs and a husband who shares that dream. I want the kind of partnership my parents had. Don’t ask me to settle for less than that, Dominic. It would crush me.”
Dominic bent to look eye to eye with her. “I want the same things, Abby. Give me a chance and I’ll spend the rest of my life proving that to you.”
“Don’t,” Abby said with a sob. Understanding that in the heat of the moment he might say anything, but that in the end it would prove nothing. “Don’t talk like that. It’s hard enough for me to leave you as it is. Don’t give me more to regret.”
Dominic pulled her closer and said, “How can I convince you? What can I do to make you believe me?”
Abby turned away, partially burying her face back in the pillow. She said miserably, “Turn the plane around, bring me back to Boston and walk away. Show me that what I want is more important to you than winning.”
He was silent for a moment before asking, “That’s what you really want? Boston?”
“Yes,” she mumbled.
“And I walk away? Just like that?” She heard the pain in his voice, but refused to let it move her. What would happen if she weakened? Would she be just another trophy to be on display in one of his many homes? That wasn’t the life she wanted.
“Yes,” she whispered. “you walk away.”
He sat motionless beside her for what seemed like an eternity. “Ok,” he said simply and stood.
Abby’s head spun in surprise. “Ok?”
The hand he held the doorknob with was white knuckled, but his response was oddly devoid of emotion. “Ok, I’ll bring you back to Boston. I’ll make arrangements for a limousine to pick you up from the airport.”
When Dominic opened the door to leave, Abby bit her lip to stop from crying out for him not to go. His turbulent gray eyes settled on her as he said, “But I do love you and I have changed because of you. You’d see that if you gave me a chance. Say the word, and I’ll leave my company behind and we can start fresh. We’ll build a new life. Together. Partners in whatever we decide to take on. I don’t care about the money. You are what matters to me now. ”
His words knocked the air clean out of Abby’s chest. He closed the door softly before she had recovered.
He hadn’t meant it. He couldn’t have meant it.
Within moments Abby felt the plane bank to the right to adjust its flight route. She’d be back in her own home in less than a day. This was for the best. A confusing mixture of relief and misery settled over Abby.
Abby moved to sit by a window. She watched the clouds rush by beneath and began to worry that she might have misjudged Dominic. If he really was a self-absorbed, domineering ass, why was the plane headed back to Boston? A man like his father would not have offered to change so much as his shirt to please his wife, but Dominic had offered to change his entire lifestyle for her.
What if he did mean it?
Hadn’t she decided back in Beijing that she was willing to fight to get him back? And yet, there he was, offering to throw everything he’d worked for aside if she stayed with him, and she was cowering in the bedroom instead of throwing herself triumphantly into his arms.
How long was she willing to let fear rule her life? He’d said that he loved her and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life proving it to her. What more did she want? No relationship came with a guarantee.
He loved her enough to let her go. Now the pressure was on her. Did she love him enough to stay?
Yes rang through her heart, through her mind, and straight out her mouth.
She hopped off the bench and flew across the room. With all of the enthusiasm of a woman who’d just realized that her man not only loved her back but was dumb enough to listen to her when she told him to leave her, she swung the door open.