Maid for the Billionaire
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Abby wedged herself under Dominic's arm and lightly touched his tense jaw with her hand. "I would give anything, Dominic, for one more day with my mother. You're being given a second chance to have a family. Please take it."
Dominic looked down with all of his love for her evident in his expression. "I already found my family." He hugged her into his chest.
Mrs. Duhamel blew her nose into a tissue and scolded, "Dominic, you tell your mother right now that you have forgiven her. There will be plenty of time to hug Abby after you marry her."
Everyone looked at Mrs. Duhamel in surprise as she continued to address Dominic in a stern tone that was almost comical. “You know I’m right. You’re usually a good boy, but you tend to lose your head around Abby and there is no need to let your mother continue to suffer while you moon over her.”
Dominic smiled ruefully down at Abby. "I do, you know. Completely lose my head around you.”
Abby tearfully, joyfully smiled back up at him. "That's ok, because I'm very comfortable telling you what to do."
His smile became a bemused grin. "And what is that, Abby?"
Never one to be at a loss with advice, Abby squared her shoulders and stated, "Well, in order of execution, I believe you should go hug your mother and tell her that you love her. You should give Marie a hug, too, because as a stand in mom I think she has done a fabulous job. And then I think we should invite everyone inside before we all melt in the sun.”
Dominic's eyes widened with wonder. "Is that it?"
"For today," Abby joked and stepped back from him. "Tomorrow I start a whole new list."
There wasn't a dry eye in the group when Dominic opened his arms to his mother and she flew into them, sobbing. Dominic hugged her, closing his eyes to hide what Abby suspected was a flow of his own emotion.
Eventually, he released her to hug Mrs. Duhamel. Before long the two older women were hugging each other, each grateful for the role the other had played in caring for the son they both loved.
Lil burst out, "Ok, I can't take this anymore. It’s like a soap opera. I'm bawling my eyes out over here. Can we go in the house yet? Colby must be starving."
Jake looked down at the baby he'd forgotten he had in his arms. "Is that why she's eating my tie?" It was partially soaked with drool. For a man who had a baby phobia, Jake was taking his role as a glorified chew toy in stride.
Mrs. Duhamel moved forward to take the little girl. "If you have a bottle, I'll feed her." Then she looked at Dominic's mother and said, "Why don't you help me, Rosella. You might as well get back into the habit, because the way those two are all over each other -- you'll probably be Nonna Rosa before you know it. They’d better pick a wedding date soon.”
Dominic’s mother flushed with real pleasure. “This is so much more than I dreamt possible when I called Thomas.” Happy tears began to pour down her face. “Dominic, you have so many cousins in Montalcino. Your children could summer with me there and get to know my side of the family.”
Dominic made a pained sound deep in his chest.
In response to what was to her a horrific thought, his mother asked, “You do want children, don’t you, Dominic?”
Mrs. Duhamel answered for him. She said, “Of course, he does, Rosella. He’s just still in shock. Come inside, we’ll feed Colby and plan their wedding.”
Dominic sputtered something incomprehensible then looked down at Abby for support. She laughed and fell even more in love with the gloriously flustered man who had maintained his composure while being grilled by the international press, but lost his ability for speech in the face of family.
Jake was equally amused by his friend’s predicament. His smile didn’t dim, not even when Dominic glared at him. “I’m laughing with you,” he stressed.
Dominic growled, “I’m not laughing.”
Jake continued to chuckle and winked at Abby. “Minor technicality.”
Shaking his head with self-deprecating humor, Dominic joked, “Do they know that I am now one of the ten richest men in the world? I should command some respect.”
Abby patted his arm in mock sympathy. “I know, honey.” She took him by the hand and led him toward the house. “Let’s go inside and cool off. Your secret is safe with me.”
Once within the much cooler walls of the mansion, Abby settled everyone in one of the living rooms and asked the staff to bring refreshments. Emotions were running high, but there was a general comfortable banter within the group.
Abby and Dominic sat on one couch, Jake and Lil on another with Thomas and Dominic’s mother on still another. Mrs. Duhamel circled the room, feeding Colby and gazing down at her warmly as if she’d known the baby from birth.
Thomas patted Rosella’s leg, but looked across at Dominic. “While we are all clearing the air, I also owe you an apology, Dominic. I’ve always known where your mother was. I helped her escape and fake her death, but I thought keeping the truth from you would keep you all safer. I thought you’d stay with your father and eventually take over his company. I was wrong and by the time I knew how wrong, too much time had gone by; I didn’t see a way to unravel the mess I’d help create.”
Dominic studied the older man sitting next to his mother and said slowly, “You love her.”
Thomas and his mother exchanged a meaningful look. “Yes, but I kept myself away from her for the same reason I kept you away. Your father would never have allowed her to be happy away from him. He had a cruel streak that I couldn’t risk unleashing on Rosella.”
Dominic’s mother laid her hand over Thomas’ in silent understanding.
Dominic’s expression twisted painfully as he reflected on Thomas’ apology. He looked down at Abby and said urgently, “I’ve made so many mistakes with you, Abby. To the outside world, I probably do look like I am following in my father’s footsteps, but I need you to know that if you ever decided to leave me, I would never think of harming you. Hurting you would be like killing a piece of myself. I need you to know that.”
Abby squeezed his hand. “As much as you are not your father, Dominic, I am not your mother. I’m not afraid of you.” She smiled because she knew she meant those words and marveled at what a difference a week could make in the way she saw the world. “Hell, I apparently even have military support at my beck and call. Maybe you should worry about what would happen if you ever tried to leave me.”
Lil warned from across the room, “Don’t even think she’s kidding, Dominic. You are marrying one tough lady.”
“Hey,” Abby said in amused protest.
Lil’s eyes were full of love for her sister, even as her words teased. She told her small audience, “I’m not sure if all of you know, but Abby raised me after our parents died several years back. She kept me out of trouble and in school while putting herself through college. She’s the strongest person I know. I’m proud of her, but I hate to say it because she gets really bossy when she thinks she’s right.”
Jake interjected, “She probably had to be. I’m sure you were not an easy child to raise.”
Lil flounced on the chair beside him, “Unlike you, I suppose? Dominic, was Jake born with a tie on? He never takes it off. Never. I took him bowling and he showed up exactly like this. People thought I was dating the mafia.”
Abby couldn’t help but pounce on that juicy tidbit. “You two went bowling?”
Dominic sat back and laughed, “I would have loved to have seen that.”
Jake looked adorably defensive. “It was her idea.”
Mrs. Duhamel paused behind Dominic’s seat and gently scolded, “Don’t tease Jake, Dominic. Can’t you tell he really likes her?”
A slow and deep red flush swept up Jakes neck and face, drawing a mixture of amused and sympathetic laughter from everyone in the group. Lil was the only one who didn’t find it funny. She said, “What he likes is telling people how they should live their lives. He’s as bad as Abby.”
“It’s like trying to advise a wall,” Jake grumbled and the group broke into laughter again.
In that moment of shared camaraderie, Dominic’s mother gushed, “I wish Nicole were here with us.”
The room stilled and all eyes turned to Dominic. For once, the mention of his sister didn’t make him defensive. He said, “She will be, Mother. We’ll work it out.”
Abby hugged her future husband. “We. I like the sound of that.”
He looked rather pleased with himself. “Me, too.”
Thomas cleared his throat and awkwardly added, “I know the past few days have been insane for you, Dominic, but there has been a development regarding Nicole that I think you should know about.”
Dominic leaned forward in his chair; instantly concerned. “What is it?”
“She thinks she has found a way to break the will, but I fear she’s selling her soul to do it,” Thomas said with some hesitation.
Dominic stood and walked toward the older man. “Just say it, Thomas. Don’t dance around the subject.”
Pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, Thomas announced, “She is working some deal with Stephan Andrade. She didn’t give me all the details. Something about prior contracts having to be fulfilled before the terms of the will can be executed.”
Dominic straightened in fury, appearing to double in size. All traces of the affable man from a few minutes ago disappeared, like a tamed jungle cat reverting back to its instinctive aggressive behavior in response to a threat. The room pulsed with the intensity of his anger. Here was the man dignitaries made way for. Abby didn’t doubt for a second that this Dominic could have walked away from Corisi Enterprises and clawed his way back to the financial top within years.
He punched his thigh in frustration. “Of all the asinine things to do. Doesn’t she know that he’d love nothing more than to find a way get to me?”
Thomas shook his head sadly. “I tried to tell her, but she wouldn’t listen to me. She said they were old friends.”
Dominic ran an angry hand through his hair. “What the hell does that mean?”
Thomas responded blandly, “Your guess is as good as mine, but rumor has it that she has been spending a lot of time at his house outside of New York City.”
“I’ll kill him,” Dominic growled.
Jake was at his side in an instant. “Not if I get my hands on him first,” he said, looking every bit as furious as his friend.
That gained an appreciative grunt from Dominic and then a sarcastic question, “I thought you didn’t do things that could have you hiding in a third world country to escape extradition?”
Jake loosened his tie defiantly, “This would be worth it.”
Abby looked to Thomas for help. “Can’t you talk some sense into them before they do something stupid?”
Thomas shrugged, “Dominic, just consider today a professional consultation so I won’t be able to testify against you in court.”
She looked around helplessly, “Marie, can’t you calm them down?”