Rise of the Billionaire
Page 5

 Ruth Cardello

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Abby chuckled, which only irritated Dominic more.
“It’s not funny. He’s unpredictable, and that’s dangerous. He’s charging full speed into international alliances, many of which he won’t disclose, with no regard for the danger it could bring him and anyone associated with him.”
“He reminds me,” said Abby, as she stopped laughing to lay a hand on her husband’s shoulder, “of someone else I know.”
“He’s nothing like me. He thinks just because he has never lost in the virtual world that he’s invincible in real life. That kind of arrogance can get a man killed.”
Abby countered gently, “Then it sounds like he could use a mentor.”
“No.”
Abby simply gazed patiently up at him.
Dominic admitted another uncomfortable truth. “He mocks me to my face. If it wasn’t for Marie, I’d give him the smackdown he’s begging for.”
Abby waited a moment, then said, “Marie took his mother out a few times. I know why Marie wants to see Jeremy succeed.”
Dominic scowled down at his wife. “There is nothing you could say that would make me like that kid.”
She gave him that stubborn look he’d fallen in love with their first week together. “I think you’re wrong, Dom. He grew up in a two-parent home, but his father was bedridden for most of his life. Jeremy took care of him from a young age—too young, so his mother could work. They had nurses, but nothing full-time. Jeremy was homeschooled so his father would never be alone. His mother said Jeremy was her rock. As the medical bills piled up, Jeremy used that online world to help pay for his father’s medical bills. His father passed away at the beginning of what would have been his final year of high school. Can you imagine what his life was like? If he’s angry with the world, doesn’t he have the right to be? You know what anger can do to a young man.”
“Stop. I hate it when you do this.” He felt an unwelcome twinge of compassion for Jeremy and his stolen childhood.
His wife sensed the crack in his armor and went in for the kill. “I’m serious, Dom. From everything I’ve heard about him, he’s a good man. With your help, he could become a great one. Marie looked past your reputation and saw who you really were. Maybe you should trust her instincts with Jeremy.”
He was beginning to agree with his wife, but he wasn’t yet ready to admit it.
Abby said, “There must be something you like about him.”
Dominic conceded, “Sometimes he makes me laugh. He’s such a shit, it’s funny.”
Abby smiled and nodded with approval. “See. You have something in common.”
Returning his wife’s smile, Dominic admitted, “He’s taking boxing lessons with someone whom he’s paying to beat him senseless. It’s pretty amusing.”
Quickly concerned, Abby said, “Is he okay? Why would he do that?”
Dominic shrugged. “I guess he wants to toughen up.”
Abby kissed her husband lightly on the lips and said, “You think he has no respect for you, but I’ll bet he admires you.”
Dominic gave his wife a cocky smile. “What’s not to admire? I’m handsome, rich, and married to the most incredible woman on the planet.”
That earned him a second chance at the warm welcome she’d offered him earlier. She pulled his head down to meet her lips again. “And humble . . .” she laughed between kisses.
He raised his head, looking serious for a moment, and corrected her. “Grateful.”
Their eyes met and held. Abby said, “We both have so much to be thankful for. Would it hurt you to help Jeremy find his way?”
He ran a thoughtful thumb lightly over his wife’s pink lips, which at that moment were turned up into a knowing smile. “Will I ever be able to say no to you?”
“Not when you know I’m right.” She sat up and slid her satin nightgown over her head, revealing her amazing breasts, which were growing even larger as her body changed with pregnancy. “Like right now, I think you’re wearing too much clothing.”
Dominic quickly discarded his boxers and rolled onto his back, pulling his naked wife with him so that she straddled him. He ran an appreciative thumb in a slow circle around one of her erect nipples. “Tell me what you want, wife.”
She smiled down at him, her eyes brimming with love, and said, “You, Dom. Tonight. Tomorrow. Forever.”
His erection swelled against her moist center. “Let’s work on tonight first. I didn’t think you could get more beautiful or sexier, but knowing that all of this also has given us,” he laid his hand gently on her stomach again, “a family. I don’t have the words to tell you what it means to me.”
Abby leaned down, kissed her husband, and said against his lips, “Then show me.”
And he did.
Tenderly.
Joyfully.
Reverently.
All night.
And then again the next morning as they showered together.
Chapter Four
Two weeks later, Jeisa’s phone rang in the middle of the night. She rolled over and hid her head under her pillow, but the phone kept ringing. Eventually, she gave in and answered it, her voice thick with sleep. “Alô?”
“English, Jeisa,” Jeremy said cheerfully. Way too cheerfully for—she opened her heavy eyes and groaned when she saw the time—three o’clock. “Sorry to wake you, but I have to ask you something.”
Jeisa fell back into her pillows and resigned herself to the conversation. It wasn’t the first time he’d called her from another time zone. For a man with such a high IQ, he had a hard time understanding that just because he was awake, it didn’t mean the rest of the world shared that state. “What?”
“I need your opinion. Should I lease a plane or a jet?”
“Are you kidding me?”
“No, I’m serious. The planes are huge. You should see some of the ones they are showing me over here. Some of them have two floors and a theater. A fucking movie theater on a plane. Can you believe that?”
“Jeremy, I’m going back to sleep now.”
“Wait, I have to make the decision this morning. The jets are equally amazing. You can get anywhere in about half the time. Which one do you think makes me look more . . . dangerous?”
“Have you considered a fighter plane?” she joked.
Too seriously, Jeremy answered, “They don’t let civilians have those.”
Jeisa groaned. “I know. Can we look at your options when you get back?”
“No, I need it for this trip. Plane or jet. Which one would you rather fly in?”
Resigning herself to the conversation, Jeisa said, “Tell me about the plane again.”
“They have one that used to be owned by some old guy before the economy took a dive. It has three bedrooms and an office. They suggest you hire a cleaning and wait staff for it if you buy it.”
“Sounds amazing.”
“But the jet is exactly like what you see in the movies. It’s a small six-seater—sleek, powerful, fast. It might be more impressive.”
“To whom?” When Jeremy didn’t answer, Jeisa sat straight up in bed. “Are you going to see Alethea on this trip?”
“I invited her to join me in the Tenin Republic. With their government fending off highly sophisticated rebel attacks, they want their network to be as secure as possible.”
Sounds dangerous, Jeisa thought, but she knew that was the point. From everything she’d heard about Alethea, she’d be drawn to the area like a moth to a flame. Jeisa tried to remain neutral. This is what he’s worked so hard for. “So they want their own hacker.”
“Exactly. There have been breaches at one of their military bases that may have been a hack-guided air strike. I can make sure that doesn’t happen again. It may have been an inside job, though, so it actually makes sense to bring Alethea in on this one.”
She wanted to yell, “No! It’s too dangerous. Too soon. I’m not ready to lose you yet.” But she stopped herself. Lose him? He’s already gone. She forced herself to sound supportive. “Sounds like the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.”
“It is,” he said, but he didn’t sound as excited as he should have.
She took a guess at why and asked, “But you’re not sure you’re ready?” When he said nothing, she pushed past her own feelings on the matter and told him what he needed to hear. “You are. I have no doubt that you’ll win her heart. Do you know why? Because I’ve watched you reach every goal you gave yourself over the last few months. You set your mind to something, and you made it happen. There aren’t many men who can say that. She’ll be impressed—no matter which aircraft you arrive in.”
“Thanks, Jeisa. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Now there’s a real kick in the pants. A man finally says what I’ve always longed to hear, and it’s only because I’m helping him win the heart of another woman.
“Good night, Jeremy.”
“Oh, before I forget. Marie invited us to Thanksgiving at the Andrades’ house. The Waltons will probably be there. I’d like to go.”
“So, go.”
“I want you there with me.”
No, no, no. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” It’s time to put some distance between us before I make a fool of myself.
“You know how I am in social situations like that. I need you there.”
“Thanksgiving is two weeks away. You could be with Alethea by then. Trust me, you won’t need me.”
“Rushing is not part of my plan with this trip. This week will be all about business—and letting her see the new me.”
“There was nothing wrong with the old you, Jeremy.”
“You know what I mean. She hasn’t seen me since Dominic’s engagement party. Things are different now.”
They sure are.
She heard the smile in his voice as he joked, “It will take her time to soak in my new awesomeness.”
Despite the heaviness of her heart, Jeisa couldn’t help but chuckle with him. “She may not recognize you now that your head has gotten so big.”
“Lucky for me, I have you around to keep my ego in check.”
Not for long.
Not once Alethea realizes how wonderful you are.
“Come with me to the Andrades’ for Thanksgiving, Jeisa. I need you.”
His words brought unexpected tears to her eyes. She brushed them away impatiently and said, “I’m tired, Jeremy. Let’s talk about it when you get home.”
“I should be back Friday morning. I’ll bring you those chocolate truffle things you love.”
“Brigadeiros?” she asked, her mouth watering. “You are now forgiven for waking me up.”
His deep laugh sent a shiver of pleasure down her back. “I’ll come straight to your place when I fly back in a couple days and tell you how the trip went.”
Like a bucket of water to the face, his words shifted her focus back to the reality of what his trip would mean to them. “Sure,” she said with much less enthusiasm. Why not? Nothing a woman loves more than hearing a man talk about another woman. “See you Friday morning. And get the jet, Jeremy. Alethea will love it,” she said and hung up.