Rise of the Billionaire
Page 11

 Ruth Cardello

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She was nervous, and he felt ridiculous.
Get a grip.
We’ve ridden in dozens of limos together.
This time was different and they both knew it. As they pulled out into traffic his phone rang. Dammit, I should have turned it off. He decided to ignore it.
Jeisa looked across at him. “Aren’t you going to answer it?”
“No.”
It stopped ringing for a moment, then started up again.
Jeisa said, “Someone really wants to speak to you.”
With a sigh of resignation, Jeremy took out his phone and checked the caller ID. He groaned. “It’s my mother.”
Jeisa relaxed a bit and waved her hand. “She’s only going to worry if you don’t answer.”
“You’re right,” he said and swiped the phone’s screen with his thumb. Way to kill a mood. “Hi, Mom. Can I call you back tomorrow? I’m kind of busy right now.”
“You’re always busy lately,” his mother said with no intention of hanging up. “I miss you.”
Jeremy looked out the window and spoke softly, hoping his words were not audible to Jeisa. “I miss you, too.”
“Well, all I wanted to tell you is I changed my work schedule around so now I will be able to spend Thanksgiving with you and your friends.”
Oh, boy.
“Will Jeisa be there?” his mother asked.
“Yes,” Jeremy said and instantly regretted sharing that information. By the pleased expression on Jeisa’s face, he guessed she’d heard his mother’s question.
“Fantastic! Next time you see her, tell her I asked about her. She is so sweet. That’s the kind of woman I’d like you to marry one day.”
Oh, the universe has a sense of humor.
“Mom, I have to go.”
“I mean it, Jeremy. You’ve wasted enough time on that crazy redhead. You need a nice girl. You two would make the most beautiful children.”
Is it any wonder I’m still a virgin?
“Bye, Mom. I’ll call you when I get back.”
“Back from where? Where are you going?”
“I’ll call you tomorrow,” he repeated and hung up.
A hint of self-doubt began to creep in and sour Jeremy’s mood. It doesn’t matter what suit I wear or how much money I make. Am I fooling myself to think I belong here? To think that someone as cultured and beautiful as Jeisa could really want a man like me?
The warmth of Jeisa’s hand on one of his thighs jolted him. He swung around and found that she had closed the distance between them and was smiling sweetly up at him.
“I think it’s beautiful that you’re close to your mother,” she said and gave his thigh a supportive squeeze.
He laid his hand over hers on his leg and said, “I’m sorry. This isn’t how I imagined the beginning of our first date would go.”
A look came into Jeisa’s eyes that he hadn’t seen before, and the intensity of it shook him to the core. She said, “I don’t want to go on a date with the man you think you need to be to impress me. I love the man you are.”
“Love?” Jeremy gulped hard.
Jeisa nodded.
When he said nothing, a hurt darkened her eyes. She said, “I know you’re not in the same place I am, but I thought you should know.” Her voice was thick with emotion.
Love.
Shit.
The words took root in his heart and a warmth spread through him. Jeisa loves me.
Then panic stole his breath. Jeisa loves me. None of the etiquette lessons she’d given him had prepared him for what to say when he couldn’t sincerely parrot the words back. Do you thank someone for their honesty? Do you pretend you didn’t hear it?
Oh, look at her face.
She really wants me to say it back.
A thousand wild emotions rushed through him.
Last week I still thought I wanted to be with Alethea.
I’m not ready for love.
I care about Jeisa.
I want to be with her tonight.
That’s not love.
I can’t say something I don’t mean just to get in her pants. She deserves better than that.
She deserves honesty.
He cleared his throat awkwardly and said, “I don’t know what I feel, Jeisa, or where this is going. If you want me to drop you off back at your apartment, I can do that.”
Those brown eyes of hers darkened further as she asked, “Is that what you want?”
He squeezed her hand beneath his and said, “No. I want to spend this week you.” As he said the words, his confidence in what he wanted from her grew. Yes, he would love to explore her incredible body and discover what it’s like to sink into the hot, welcoming center of a woman, but he wanted something else even more. “We don’t have to have sex. I want to get to know you. I want to know what you like, and what you hate. The past few months have been about me. I want this week to be about you.”
She met his eyes and seemed to be debating something. “I’ll give you one week. But if you don’t know how you feel by Thanksgiving, I’m leaving and I won’t want to see you again. Promise me that you’ll respect that.”
Jeremy considered her beautiful face, her kind eyes, and pulled her closer. He hugged her into his chest and tucked her head beneath his chin. He tried to lighten the mood with a joke. “It’s going to be embarrassing if I have to return the value pack of condoms to the pharmacy.”
She sat back, some of her sadness dissipating, and swatted at him. “Value pack?”
He pulled her back into his side and said, “One didn’t seem like enough—we do have a whole week.”
She chuckled into his chest. “You’re an ass.”
He hugged her tighter.
I am, but hopefully it’s a temporary condition.
Chapter Seven
When the limousine pulled onto a private airfield just outside Boston and stopped alongside a 757 jumbo jet, the light conversation Jeisa and Jeremy had maintained for the last twenty minutes came to an abrupt end as her jaw dropped. She looked from the jet across to Jeremy, and then back to the supersized aircraft. “Oh, my God!”
Jeremy guided her out of the limo and up the stairs to the jet. The attendants stood back, present and welcoming but unobtrusive. The room just inside the aircraft was furnished with cream-colored leather chairs and couches which surrounded a dark wooden table. The walls were covered with silk and accented with gold.
“Would you like a tour?” a woman in a formal tan suit asked. She then led them through the plane, describing the contents of each opulent room as they passed through it.
Jeremy took Jeisa’s hand in his and flushed a bit. “Is this where I confess that Marie helped me plan out the details of the trip? The jet I rented was about a quarter of this size.”
A wave of relief flooded Jeisa. This isn’t the one he rented for Alethea.
Jeisa had grown up in the comfort of an upper-middle-class Brazilian family, but this kind of wealth was beyond anything she was used to. The jet made a statement, and it was a bold one.
She and Jeremy followed the attendant through a dining area, past the guest bedroom, and into a master suite that was another exercise in luxurious excess. Gold-plated fixtures in the master bath. Mohair furniture embroidered with emblems that were repeated on the accent pillows throughout the room. A king-sized bed was the focal point of the suite.
Hand in hand, Jeisa and Jeremy stood at the foot of it. The attendant said, “We leave in about ten minutes. Make yourselves comfortable. You’ll have absolute privacy unless you’d like something, in which case just press the button on this screen. We have a fully stocked kitchen and bar.”
Jeremy was the first to speak after the attendant left. He said, “I bet this is one of Dominic’s.”
Jeisa nodded. It made sense.
“That makes this his bed,” he said with a light laugh in his voice. He ran a hand over his face. “Even if you throw yourself at me, we can’t use this room.”
Jeisa looked up at Jeremy from beneath long lashes. “What makes you think I’m going to throw myself at you?”
Jeremy turned her toward him and put his hands on her hips. “A man can hope, can’t he?” And he lowered his mouth to hers. Between kisses he said, “We don’t have to take it further, but I can’t help myself. I’ve thought about kissing you all day.”
Reason retreated as passion flared between them. His tongue hungrily sought hers, and she was helpless in the face of her body’s response. When he touched her, nothing else mattered. She wrapped her arms around his neck, holding him to her, rubbing herself wantonly against him in a way she’d never offered herself to another man.
He was right to be optimistic.
There was no denying that she wanted him.
The pilot’s voice came over the intercom. “You may want to secure yourselves. We are about to take off.”
Jeremy reluctantly ended the kiss, but he didn’t set her back from him. He smiled down at her. “Do you think Marie put us on this jet because she thought it would deter us?”
Jeisa took a shaky breath and smiled up at the man who fluctuated between friend and potential lover with ease. The dry humor he used when he shared his thoughts with her was one of the many qualities that had made her fall in love with him. Most men hid themselves behind some macho persona—the same persona Jeremy was trying to present to the rest of the world. But when he was with her, he was simply Jeremy. He didn’t protect himself or mislead her.
Sometimes she wished he would.
If he breaks my heart, I’ll have no one to blame but myself.
She knew that all she had to do was tell Jeremy that she was uncomfortable and he would stop. Stop the date. Stop their week together. Stop those fabulous kisses that rocked her to the core.
And what?
I let this become another dream I wasn’t brave enough to try for?
No, I’m not going to live half of a life anymore.
My change starts here.
Jeremy pulled her closer and whispered in her ear, “The more you look at me like that, the less I care who owns this jet.”
The floor shifted beneath them as the jet started down the runway. Jeremy braced himself against the edge of the bed and eventually sat, pulling Jeisa down to sit sideways across his lap.
For a long moment, the only sound in the room was the soft hum of the jet’s engine as the plane accelerated down the runway. When it left the ground, Jeisa and Jeremy were pushed back to recline on the bed side by side. Every place their bodies touched pulsed with hot need.
She looked up at him and said the first words that came to her mind. “There’s always the guest room.”
He shuddered against her. One hand came up to cup her chin, lifting it until she was forced to look directly into his eyes. “Are you sure?” he asked huskily.
Maybe he didn’t love her.
Maybe he never would.
But the man who looked down at her with such tenderness and concern for her feelings was one that she wanted to share herself with.
She nodded and whispered, “Yes.”
The plane leveled off. Jeisa could have eased herself off Jeremy, but she didn’t. She’d made her decision and now waited for his.