Rise of the Billionaire
Page 33

 Ruth Cardello

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Jeremy said, “It’s a blue-green diamond. Incredibly rare. A nearly impossible set of circumstances needs to occur at just the right time for it to form. When I saw it, I thought of you and the dress you wore the first day we met. We were nearly impossible, you and I, but it looks like nature had other plans for us. I cannot imagine my life without you in it.”
Jeisa took his face in her hands, grateful and humbled by his love, but no longer afraid. “You’ll never have to because I’m not going anywhere.” A sudden thought hit her and she said, “I did tell my father that I was going to Boston and asked him to meet me there.”
Jeremy’s eyebrows shot up. “What did he say?”
Their earlier conversation came back to her, but now in a whole new light. She said, “He told me to stay here another day because he’d sent me a surprise. That little liar. He knew you were coming here, didn’t he?”
Smiling, Jeremy said, “Absolutely.”
She shook her head in amazement. “I can’t believe he didn’t tell me.” She slapped a hand on Jeremy’s chest. “He does like you.”
With an adorable shrug of his shoulders, Jeremy said, “What’s not to like? He knows how much I love his daughter.”
“My father has never approved of any of the men I’ve dated. Honestly, he intimidated most of them. He doesn’t scare you at all, does he?”
With a jokingly pained expression, he admitted, “Sure, he may have threatened to wipe me off the face of the planet if I hurt you, but isn’t that what fathers say to prospective sons-in-law?”
Jeisa didn’t doubt for a second that her father would learn to love Jeremy as much as she did. Well, maybe not quite as much, but Jeremy had a way of winning over even the most reluctant. Her father didn’t stand a chance. “Christmas is next week. Could we invite him to come for a visit? We could ask your mother, too.”
“I’ll make sure his limo is full of white roses,” Jeremy said without missing a beat.
Jeisa laughed. “You’re so bad! Only you would consider teasing my father. Are you afraid of anything?”
He tightened his embrace in response, rubbing his chin on her forehead. “Yes. You terrify me. I had my life meticulously planned before I met you. I thought I knew exactly what I wanted. You changed all that. I’m really good at what I do, but you made me ask myself if it was important. And if it isn’t, what am I supposed to be doing? I’m hoping that taking classes here will help me figure that out.”
Jeisa laid her head on his chest and simply absorbed the magnitude of what he was sharing. She often thought she was the only one who struggled with finding her path. It touched her that Jeremy not only asked himself the same questions, but that he shared that side of himself freely with her. “Will you miss the hacking?”
Jeremy rubbed her back absently. “I’ll still take freelance jobs now and then, but I’ll choose them more carefully. I’ve already made more money than I could even begin to know how to spend. The work I did for Rachid and Zhang was quite lucrative. Nothing attracts new clients like a royal referral.”
Lifting her head, Jeisa spoke the truth that was welling within her heart. “I don’t care about the money, Jeremy.”
He reached up and tucked a stray curl behind her ear. “Because I’m so hot?”
Jeisa pushed his side playfully. “You weren’t supposed to hear that.”
He kissed her nose gently. “You should say it proudly since I’m your creation.”
With a shake of her head, Jeisa said, “All I did was add a little frosting to an already delicious cake.”
He nuzzled his face in her neck and growled, “I like the way you describe me.” He licked her skin, sending waves of hot pleasure through her. “And speaking of delicious . . .” He rolled over so he was on top of her and his hands warmed the places his lips would soon touch.
Chapter Eighteen
In late March, at the top of a long gated driveway, a driver held the door of Jeisa and Jeremy’s limo open. Jeisa didn’t move. Jeremy took her hand in his. “What is it, Jeisa?”
Just outside the tinted back window, the Andrade home loomed before them—both a welcome sight and a reminder of how close she had come to losing him. It wasn’t their first time back there, and Jeisa couldn’t imagine being happier than she was. She and Jeremy had moved into a large apartment closer to the WIT campus, where they had spent the last several months building a life together and sharing it with the new friends they’d made through the water project. She felt guilty to have hesitated at all in the face of memories from a day that no longer mattered. She looked up into the concerned eyes of her fiancé. “Do you ever think about how close we came to losing each other?”
“No,” Jeremy answered easily as he pulled her into his arms and kissed her forehead. “Remember my first boxing lesson?”
Jeisa laughed even though her emotions were high. “How could I forget?”
“I don’t let myself think about what could go wrong. There is too much in life that can. All I thought about that day was what I wanted and what was standing between me and getting it. And then I did the only thing I could do—I stood my ground.” He kissed her lightly and said, “I may have modified my path, but not my methods. There is nothing in the past or in the future that could change how I feel about you.”
Jeisa threw her arms around his neck and gave him a kiss that showed him exactly how much his words had moved her. She would have never guessed by their awkward first meeting that she would learn so much from him. Problems are best resolved when faced full-on. Run toward what you want, not away from what you’re afraid of. And stand your ground.
When she broke off the kiss, his cheeks were flushed and his eyes burned with desire for her. “You know, we could leave our gift with the doorman and come back later.”
With a chuckle, Jeisa eased off him and said, “No, Abby would never forgive me for missing her baby shower, and she’s gotten more emotional as her due date gets closer.”
Jeremy stepped out of the limo and took her hand to help her out. “Which means that Dominic is going to be a wreck today.”
Jeisa warned, “If you tease him, don’t complain if you come home with a black eye.”
“Don’t worry. I’m younger, faster, and I’ve learned how to bob and weave like a professional.”
Their eyes met and they broke into laughter. They were still laughing when the door opened and Alessandro greeted them both with a bear hug. He stood back and gave them an approving once-over. “Young love is a beautiful thing, no?”
His wife Elise rushed forward and greeted them both with a kiss on each cheek. “Alessandro, can’t you say hello without mauling the guests?”
With a shrug that said his wife’s comment didn’t bother him at all, Alessandro said, “These two aren’t guests anymore, they’re family.”
Elise linked arms with Jeisa and led her into the party. “You’ll have to pardon my husband, he is getting sentimental in his old age. Come on, there is so much to talk about before Abby arrives. Everyone else is in the kitchen already.”
Surrendering to being led away, Jeisa looked over her shoulder to Jeremy, knowing that she likely wouldn’t see him again until the party officially began. He winked at her as if he’d been thinking the same thing.
Nicole greeted her with a warm hug as soon as Jeisa entered the kitchen. “Did you and Jeremy just get in?”
Jeisa eased out of the light sweater she’d worn over her boldly flowered dress. “Yes, we flew in about an hour ago on a commuter flight. With all the work we’re doing to purify water, it’s hard to justify the pollution of flying a plane back and forth just for us.”
“Now you sound like Stephan,” Nicole said with a smile. “We flew in yesterday on an airline for the same reason. Don’t get him started about diminishing fossil fuels.”
Lil bounded forward and hugged Jeisa. “You two are very admirable, but don’t you miss the privacy?” When no one said anything, Lil wiggled her eyebrows and said, “Come on, I can’t be the only member of the mile high club here.”
Nicole and Jeisa blushed. Maddy roared with laughter. Elise motioned to Stephan’s mother across the room and said, “Oh, honey, we founded that club.”
Tears of laughter were smearing the women’s mascara when Princess Zhang from Najriad entered the kitchen. “I see nothing has changed here since I’ve been gone.”
Lil bolted to her side. “Zhang!” and threw her arms around her friend. “You came!”
Returning Lil’s embrace for a moment before easing out of it, Zhang said, “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.”
With an impish smile, Lil asked, “Zhang, tell me something. Did you fly over on a public or private airplane?”
“Private, of course,” Zhang said, and the women burst into laughter again. “I’ve always preferred privacy and now I’m married to a sheikh.” The more she spoke, the more the women laughed. “Is our desire to fly on our own plane really that amusing?”
Wiping her cheeks, Stephan’s mother, Katrine, said, “Only after Lil has been oversharing about why she prefers to fly that way.”
A slight red flush tinted Zhang’s cheeks, but she said proudly, “I’m sure I would have agreed with her reasoning.”
Everyone burst into laughter again.
“Oh no, what did I miss?” a very pregnant Abby asked from the doorway.
Elise rushed forward to greet her. “Alessandro was supposed to tell me when you arrived. I would have met you at the door.”
Abby happily received her double-cheeked kisses. “With all the fun you ladies are having, he may have tried to call down, but don’t worry, I’m fine.”
Lil gave her sister a huge hug. “Did you see who came?”
Abby exchanged a light hug with the princess. “Thank you, Zhang, I appreciate you coming all this way for the party. I know it’s a long flight.”
Zhang smiled and stepped back. “A very long flight. Thank goodness.”
Lil laughed so hard she was gasping for air as she said, “Oh, my God, stop, my face is starting to hurt.”
Abby looked around the room for help. “I don’t get it.”
Nicole greeted Abby with a kiss to the cheek and said, “We’ll explain later, although I suspect that you’re also a member.”
Abby turned to another source for information. “What are they talking about?”
Jeisa wasn’t sure where to begin. Instead she joined in the fun and said, “We borrowed one of Dominic’s planes, so I have to agree with Nicole. He has beds everywhere.”
Abby blushed and chided the women around her even as she began to smile. “I can’t leave you guys unsupervised for two minutes . . .”
Her sister teased her a bit more. “Don’t even pretend you haven’t gone there with Dominic. I’ll be surprised if you don’t name your baby after one of his planes.”