Maid for the Billionaire
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He wished he could see her expression. By her labored breathing, he could tell his comment had hit the mark. She was furious with him. Unrepentant, her anger just made him want her more. He could barely focus on the conversation as he imagined how he would redirect all that emotion if he were there.
Before she began to question his own heavy breathing, he said, “A limo will pick you up at your house tomorrow at 11 in the morning. Wear something nice.”
She gurgled with anger. “Are you insane? I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“You know you want to see me again,” he challenged.
In a wasted, desperate attempt to evade him, she said, “What if I have a boyfriend?”
“You broke up with your last one months ago,” he said smugly.
Another indignant gasp. She sounded gloriously flustered. “You think you have all the answers, don’t you?”
However amusing this was, he was beginning to lose patience with her continued resistance. “The limo will come for you at 11-”
“I don’t care if you send a fleet of limos. I’m not going anywhere with you tomorrow. Have your investigator bring a camera so you’ll have a nice photo of my door not opening.”
Enough. “You will get in the limo I send.”
Something in him snapped. The possibility of her refusal hadn’t occurred to him, nor was it now an option. “You will come -- or is your sister’s job now unimportant to you?”
“You’re not seriously suggesting that you would blackmail me into going somewhere with you, are you? Is that how rich men get dates? Isn’t that a bit over the top?”
Unlike almost everyone else he knew, she wasn’t intimidated by him or his threats and that just added to his attraction to her.
She paused and seemed to consider something. “Or is this about your car?”
What the hell? He stood to look out the window at his vehicle. “What about my car?”
“Oh, nothing. Nothing. Forget I said that,” she said with her first hint of nervousness.
Strike two for Luros. Their report had missed an apparent bout of vandalism. Even in the dim illumination of the street lights he could see the damage to his bumper. He shook his head in amazement.
None of this conversation had gone the way he’d planned it in his head. He’d meant to cordially request her company and he’d expected her to readily accept.
She was delightfully, unexpectedly difficult to predict or control. Her resistance would make the win that much sweeter, but her guilt was just the edge he was looking for.
“Do you realize how expensive that car is?” he asked, using her discomfort to his advantage.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she hedged.
His Abby was a poor liar. Confident that they’d reached a resolution he ordered, “Be ready for 11.”
“Go to hell,” she said and hung up.
Which was an apt description of what the following day promised to be, but he had no intention of going there alone. If she thought she’d won, she’d grossly underestimated the lengths he’d go for something he wanted.
One call would get her in that limo. He said, “Duhamel.” into his phone. It rang exactly twice before his personal assistant picked up. Without waiting for a response, he said, “I need you to do something for me. Consider it a personal favor.”
Abby turned from hanging up the phone to see Lil, baby on one hip, shaking her head in amusement.
Lil said, “I don’t believe it! Abby Dartley is engaging in reckless behavior.”
I deserve this, Abby thought. She’d lectured her sister about the right and wrong type of man countless times over the years. Before tonight, it had been easy to dismiss Lil’s protests that a person couldn’t choose who to be attracted to.
But that was before Dominic.
Rude, bossy, blackmailing Dominic. Just the thought of him sent a shiver of sexual anticipation down her spine. Whatever illicit outing he had planned for her tomorrow, she had no intention of going – but that didn’t mean that she couldn’t indulge in a momentary fantasy.
Lil shifted Colby onto her other hip. “Was that really Dominic Corisi?”
Abby walked past her sister and started to remove some of the clutter from the room. Lil’s fever had finally broken. Now perhaps the living room would stop looking like an infirmary. “Yes, it was. I told you that I had met him.”
Lil followed her to the kitchen. “You did, but I think you forgot to mention a few other things.”
Her sister leapt on the involuntary response. “Well you obviously made a good impression on him if he wants to send a limo for you and you can’t tell me you don’t want to go…you look positively smitten.”
Abby rinsed several glasses in the sink before putting them in the dishwasher. She hoped her silence would discourage Lil, but her sister just waited patiently, not even attempting to hide her amusement. “Go ahead. Laugh it up. I deserve it. The guy is a complete ass, but…”
“But you like him,” her sister interjected.
Lil’s smile turned sympathetic. “No, surprisingly human of you.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means that ever since mom and dad died you’ve been so perfect.” Lil moved closer and cradled Colby against her neck. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for how you’ve always taken care of me, but it’s been hard living up to your expectations. It’s just refreshing to see you like this.”
“I’m not going anywhere with him.” Abby turned, folding her arms across her chest while resting back against the counter.
“Because rich men come knocking on our door every day?”
“I don’t care about his money.”
Lil nodded, “Ok, but look me in the eye and tell me that you don’t want to go.”
Abby hopped up on the counter, something she’d hadn’t done since childhood, leaned her head back against the wooden cabinet and closed her eyes. She knew the stupid smile was back on her face. “You should have seen him. He came in looking so rough on the outside, but there was a real sadness in his eyes. I just wanted to comfort him. Then he looked at me and – I was on fire. I’ve never felt that way before. It doesn’t matter that I don’t even know him.” She bit her lip and opened her eyes. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Who said relationships are supposed to? I mean, besides you. No matter how well you plan, you can’t dictate who you are going to be attracted to. Why don’t you give this guy a chance?” Lil wagged a finger as her sister was about to voice her first reason. “Don’t even pretend this is about my job.”
Abby had the grace to look ashamed. “Sorry about that, Lil. I’ll help you find a new job.”
Lil didn’t look as upset about the prospect as she had earlier. “Don’t change the subject. What do you have against this guy?”
“Outside of the background check he did on me?”
Lil shrugged. “Rich people are weird. I was reading one of those financial magazines and they listed him as one of the top fifty most powerful men in the world. Cut the man some slack. He’s probably just being careful.” Lil’s smile turned knowing as their roles reversed.
One of the most powerful men? Abby gulped nervously. “I’m scared, ok?” If you can’t be honest with yourself, at least be honest with your sister.
“No, really?” Lil rolled her eyes.
“Shut up.” Abby teased, amazed that the tension that was often part of their discussions was not present. Abby remembered a time, years ago, when they had bantered like this about boys.
“So, one of the richest men on the planet is sending a limo for you tomorrow morning and you’re not going to get in it?” Lil challenged.
Abby hopped off the counter and resumed filling the dishwasher. “Exactly. I’m going to…”
“Hide,” Lil finished her sentence for her. She lifted Colby up in front of her and spoke to her daughter, “Colby, Auntie Abby has been taking care of me for so long that she is afraid to do something for herself. We’re going to have to stop relying on her so much or she’s never going to get laid.”
Abby gasped, “You can’t say that to Colby!”
Lil laughed, “She’s five months old. She doesn’t understand what I’m saying, but I hope you do.” Lil moved to lean on the counter next to Abby. “Seriously, I’m not worried about the job. I know I can find another like it easily enough and before long I’ll have my degree. You’ve done more than anyone could have asked you to, but it is time for you to start living a little. This guy sounds like your way to jumpstart the next phase of your life.”
Running shaky hands under the water, Abby asked, “Which phase is that?”
Lil put an arm around her shoulder. “The one where you stop parenting me and simply become my sister again.”
Abby’s eyes filled with tears. “Was I so awful?”
Lil hugged her closer. “No, but it’s nice to have you back.”
Twenty minutes later Abby was flipping blindly through an educational newsletter when Lil entered the room with the cordless phone in her hand. Lost in her thoughts, Abby hadn’t heard it ring.
“It’s for you, Abby.” Lil said with a wicked grin and held out the phone. “It’s Mr. Corisi’s personal assistant. Hmmmm, wonder what she wants.”
“Tell her I’m busy,” Abby said even as excitement swirled through her. He hadn’t given up.
Never one to do as she was told, Lil handed her sister the phone. “Tell her yourself.”
Abby glared at her sister in annoyance. “You’re enjoying this way too much.”
“Payback is so sweet.” Lil chuckled as she sat down on the couch next to Abby, a rapt and unavoidable audience.
“Doesn’t Colby need a bath or something?”
“Already had one before you came home. She’s asleep now.” Lil said shamelessly not taking the hint.
“Hello.” Abby said with less warmth than her usual greetings.
“Hello. Thank you for taking my call, Miss Dartley. I’m Marie Duhamel, Mr. Corisi’s personal assistant.”
“Yes, I know.” Abby sighed. “I don’t mean to be rude, but if I wasn’t going to say yes to him, why does he think that having his secretary call me is going to change my mind?”
“Personal Assistant,” the woman correctly gently, but continued on in a sweet, woman next door tone. “I apologize for interrupting your evening, but after everything Dominic has been through this week, I had to try to help him.”
“Everything he has been through?” That caught Abby’s attention. She leaned forward, not caring that Lil practically pressed her own ear to the other side of the phone. In resignation, Abby turned her hand so Lil could hear better.
“He didn’t tell you? I should have known he wouldn’t. He’s not very good at asking for help.”