Rise of the Billionaire
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Marie continued, “I thought for sure the two of you would come back from your trip as a couple. You can tell me that it’s none of my business, but was it awful?”
Jeisa laid her hands over both of her flushed cheeks and said, “It was wonderful. He was wonderful.” She closed her eyes for a moment, gathering her strength. When she opened them, Marie was looking at her with so much sympathy that Jeisa nearly broke down into tears.
“Then why do you look so miserable, dear?”
One tear escaped down Jeisa’s cheek and she hastily wiped it away. “It’s over.”
“Because it’s easier to end it now than risk losing him to Alethea?”
She hated that Marie knew exactly what she’d spent the last two days trying to deny to herself. Jeisa nodded and another tear spilled forth. “Does that make me weak?”
“No, sweetie, it makes you human. Love is terrifying sometimes. To experience it fully, you have to give yourself to it and trust that it won’t trample your offering. Did you take my advice and give him a little encouragement?”
Jeisa blushed. More than a little. “Yes.”
Hugging the pillow to her again, Jeisa confessed, “He said he loves me.”
“But you don’t believe him.”
“You’ve put him in an interesting position—one in which a man either decides to prove himself or walk away.”
With her throat thick with emotion, Jeisa asked, “Did he talk to you about the trip?”
“He wouldn’t say a word about it so I knew something went wrong. What did he do?”
“It wasn’t him, it was me,” Jeisa admitted. “I panicked. I told him that I don’t want to see him again and that I won’t go to Thanksgiving.”
“And what did he have to say about that?”
Jeisa smiled at the memory. “He said he’d drag me there if necessary.”
Marie looked pleased with Jeremy’s threat. “Good for him. It’s nice to see him going after what he wants.”
Jeisa blushed a deeper red. Her mouth opened to say something and then snapped shut when nothing came to mind. Finally she said, “It’s not that simple, Marie.” Taking a shaky breath, Jeisa asked, “How do I compete with someone he has spent his whole life wanting?”
“You don’t. You trust him to make the right decision, and you go with him to Thanksgiving. What’s the alternative? Sitting here and finishing that carton alone?”
Jeisa imagined the weekend gathering: the Andrades, the Corisis, possibly even Jeremy’s mother. “I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t have a great track record with men. I tend to believe them even when evidence for why I shouldn’t piles up, and then I end up in a worse situation. How many times do I have to be wrong before I learn to trust my head instead of my heart?”
Marie stood. “I hope you never learn that. I certainly haven’t.”
“Marie—” Jeisa stood and started to say something but Marie interrupted her.
“No, I’m sorry. I came here to apologize for interfering and there I go, butting into your business again. Lil says I’m as bad as Abby, and I’m not entirely sure that’s a compliment.”
Jeisa took one of Marie’s hands in hers and said, “I don’t know how I got lucky enough to get on the list of people you care about, Marie, but I am grateful that I did. Even when I don’t agree with what you’re saying.”
Marie squeezed Jeisa’s hand lightly, then picked up her purse from the couch. “Would you do me a favor?”
Jeisa doubted there was a person on the planet who could refuse Mrs. Duhamel when she put on her sweet old-lady expression and used that unassuming tone. “I’ll try.”
“Go outside for a walk today. The answers you’re looking for won’t be found on your couch.”
“They’re on the trail behind my house?” Jeisa joked.
Marie went to the door, then stopped. “No, but sunshine is. All that fresh air will hopefully remind you that you’re young and healthy with a world of opportunities before you. Whether it works out with Jeremy or not, life is too short and too precious to waste. It’s just a shame that we often don’t realize that until it’s too late.”
Jeisa rushed forward. “Marie, are you okay?”
Marie adjusted the purse on her shoulder. “I’m fine, dear. Sometimes I just miss what I used to have. I try not to think about it, but even I get lonely.” When Jeisa would have said more, Marie said, “It’s not a topic I want to discuss further. Just remember that nothing is forever. Not the confusion you feel today, not your time on this planet. Don’t make excuses for not living the life you want. If you want to make a difference by getting involved in a movement, don’t wait for a perfect time or the perfect situation, just do it. Love like you’re on borrowed time. If you wait for the perfect family, friend, or relationship—you’ll spend your life waiting instead of living. I spoke to the president of WIT and he said he’d find a spot for you on the water project whenever you’re ready. But, before you do that, call your father. Oh, and when Jeremy comes to pick you up—get in that limo.”
Jeisa threw her arms around Marie and let the hug say what she couldn’t express. Mrs. Duhamel returned the hug and then said, “Okay, enough of that. I need to get back to the office. Dominic and Jake left for New York last night. I like to peek in now and then to make sure everything is going smoothly in their absence.”
I’m sure you do. Jeisa smiled at the thought.
While Jeisa showered and changed into a jogging outfit, she thought about what Marie had said. Jeisa didn’t often think about her own mortality or that of others, but Marie was right. Life was fragile. Her own mother had passed away unexpectedly, suffering from a fatal illness that claimed her life within days.
No wonder Dad worries so much.
He has loved and lost.
Just like Marie said, some men never come back from that.
I have to call him.
No more putting it off. He deserves to know the truth.
When he didn’t answer her first ring, Jeisa called his house and spoke to the maid. Sonia had been with her family for as long as she could remember and was a very good judge of her father’s moods. If anyone knew where her father was and if this was the best time to talk to him, it would be her.
Sonia answered, “Jeisa, where have you been? Your father has been trying to call you for days. He flew out last night to go find you in Boston.”
Oh, my God. “Dad’s coming here?”
In rapid Portuguese, Sonia said, “If ‘here’ is the home of Reese David, then yes. He should already be there.”
Please. Please. Please. Do not let him find Reese before I do. “I have to go, Sonia. I’ll call him right now.”
Barely breathing, she dialed her father’s phone and paced while it rang. Pick up. Pick up.
“Jeisa?” her father’s voice boomed through the phone.
“Dad! Where are you?” Jeisa asked in Portuguese.
Romario’s answer boomed through the phone in their native language. “Where am I? Where are you? I’m at some imbecile’s house and he’s trying to tell me that he doesn’t know you. He says he doesn’t have a wife or children and that I must be confused about where you work.”
Jeisa sat down on a chair as her legs gave way beneath her. It didn’t matter that her father dressed in the finest clothing and spoke multiple languages, he’d fought his way to the top of the Brazilian government and would fight just as ruthlessly for his daughter’s honor. “Can you put him on the phone for a minute?”
Of course he wouldn’t. He’d never done a single thing she’d asked him to. You’d have to value your daughter’s opinion for that.
“Where are you?” her father demanded.
“I’m safe, Dad. I don’t work for Reese and I never have. I don’t live there. I have a great apartment in uptown Boston. Just let me talk to him for two seconds to remind him how he knows me. I can clear this misunderstanding up.”
With a bit of a growl, her father handed the phone over to Reese. Jeisa didn’t waste time with a greeting. In English she said hastily, “You need to tell my father that it was a big misunderstanding and that you are sorry. I would start groveling now. You might even want to cry. Trust me.”
“I am not going to apologize to a man who just broke my door down. I’m calling the police.”
They’d never get there in time. “I have two words for you to consider before you do that—political immunity. He’s going to get off, even if he kills you. And if you live, do you want the news to find out why he came after you? Because I’ll gladly tell them.” She let her threat sink in.
After a moment, Reese swore under his breath and started to apologize to Romario. Her father took the phone back. “Tell me you didn’t date this man. He’s a sniveling idiot.”
Although Reese deserved the punishment her father likely wanted to give him, Jeisa couldn’t let that happen. She knew what bad press could cost her father’s career. Having a reputation for being tough on issues is not the same thing as being arrested for breaking into a man’s home and beating him to death. The American newspapers would have a field day with the story if she didn’t do something fast. “Dad, I never even went to his house. I’ve been working in an office building as an image consultant since my second week here. Honestly, I talked to that guy once on the phone when I first arrived and decided not to work for him. I wouldn’t even recognize him in a lineup.”
Her father was quiet for several long moments. From what Jeisa heard in the background, it sounded like he’d left Reese’s house and had gotten back into a car. “So you’ve been lying to me for months?” The calm in his voice revealed the depth of his anger.
“Yes,” Jeisa said lamely, knowing that she’d waited too long to tell the truth. “I didn’t want to disappoint you.”
“And this isn’t disappointing? Pack your bags, you’re coming home.”
Jeisa took a deep breath. Not this time. “No, Dad. I’m not.”
“You don’t have a choice,” he grated.
For the first time Jeisa saw that she did. She really did. Marie was right—how was her father ever going to see her as an adult if she continued to act like a child? It was time to take a stand, not against her father, but for herself. “Dad, I’m sorry I worried you. I’m sorry that I lied to you, but I’m not going home.” She gave him her address. “I have a life here now and if you’ll listen to me, I’ll tell you about it.”
For the next thirty minutes, over the sound of the GPS directing her father closer and closer to her home, Jeisa told her father about the job she had taken at Corisi Enterprises and how that had led to working with Jeremy as his image consultant. She left off the part where she was quitting and they had dated. There would be time to explain that part once he’d calmed down.