Taken by a Trillionaire 1-3, Page 2Ruth Cardello
“Political immunity doesn’t mean you have to cause trouble in every country you visit, Xander.”
“I do what needs to be done, Simon,” Xander boomed.
“Forgive my impertinence, Your Highness. Of course, you’ll have the information by tonight. I am merely suggesting that, due to your father’s health issues, you may want to stay out of the news.”
“My father is as healthy as a horse and as sly as a fox. He’ll probably outlive us all. He saw my thirtieth birthday approaching and thought I had forgotten my duty and the importance of it. I have not. I will return home with my future queen, Simon. Just as our laws demand.”
“She can’t know anything until you have her here. And you’ll have to be smart about how you take her. The world has changed since your father kidnapped his choice. There were no cell phones back then. No Internet. Don’t let the side project you mentioned bring suspicion upon you when she disappears. That is, if she is your choice.”
“She is,” Xander said without hesitation. He remembered how her brown eyes had flashed at him with defiance and how sweetly she had submitted to his kiss. If she was indeed a virgin, she was more than he’d hoped for — truly a unicorn in the modern world. His blood began to pound as he remembered how she’d felt pressed against him. Bedding her would not be a chore.
The idea of abducting his future queen and winning her heart was still unavoidable but now had become quite exciting. Previously, his feelings on the subject had been irrelevant.
Reanna Fielding’s time in the United States was about to come to an end.
The alarm near Reanna’s bed went off. She hit the snooze button without opening an eye. She didn’t want to wake up from her dream yet.
She was standing confidently beside Xander. Her hair was loose and in perfect waves cascading over her shoulders. No lab coat today. She was in a simple black dress that fit her like a second skin, and because it was a dream, she didn’t feel self-conscious. She also didn’t teeter on the four-inch heels.
She had tried to wear something similar once to a work-related awards ceremony. She couldn’t remember which award she had won, but with painful clarity she could remember everything about how uncomfortable she had been that night. Her dress had crept up and down like a creature who had taken on a life of its own, requiring constant adjustment. The heels she had chosen that evening were the reason she’d tripped on the rug and gained a round of laughter instead of applause from her peers.
Forget about them, she told herself. This is a dream. And in a dream anything is possible — even Xander.
In her light sleep state, she rolled over and sighed as she imagined Xander’s eyebrows rising with admiration as she made one witty remark after the next. She leaned in, fluttered her eyelashes at him, and her insides soared when he leaned in and said, “You’re beautiful.”
“Thank you,” she said and sneaked another look at him.
“I’ve never felt this way about any woman.” He pulled her into his arms.
“You don’t have to say that,” she said lightly, amused but retaining her sophistication.
He took her face between his two hands and brought his lips so close to hers she could feel the heat of his breath as he spoke. “I mean it. I’ve never wanted any woman the way I want you.”
Reanna licked her bottom lip in anticipation. She put both of her hands behind his neck to pull him closer . . . closer . . .
Her alarm went off again. She made an unhappy, frustrated sound deep in her throat and slammed her hand down on the snooze button. Instead of giving her a reprieve, it changed its tune and mercilessly rang again and again. She hit it then threw it across the floor, still ringing, but now with two distinctly different tones.
Oh, crap. My phone.
She answered her cell phone and scrambled from her bed to silence her alarm. “Hello,” she said and then tripped over the edge of her blanket and hit the floor with a painful slide. “Shit.”
“Reanna? Are you okay? What’s going on over there?” her friend Kendra asked in a concerned rush.
Her alarm continued, taunting her. In final desperation, she opened the back and removed the batteries. “Nothing. I’m fine.”
“I’m coming over. You are not spending your birthday alone.”
“No, please don’t. I have to go to Hartford today to pick up some files. I won’t be home most of the day.”
“I miss you,” Kendra said with the sigh, “and I’m worried about you. I don’t understand why you don’t come back to work and just tell those assholes off. Or go to human resources. I’ll go with you. You don’t have to hide in your house. Don’t let them win.”
Reanna stood up and adjusted her nightgown. “You don’t understand, Kendra. I don’t care about them, any of them. I care about this project. I have been able to get more work done here in my lab at home than I ever could have there with all of the distractions.”
“I want to believe you. I just picture you all alone at your house every day. It’s not good for you, Reanna. You avoid people enough as it is.”
“I’m not alone in my house all day. I work alone here just like I worked at Biostern. Then I go out.”
“Really? Where do you go?”
“I go to the bookstore every day for lunch.”
“Sitting by yourself in the back of the bookstore doesn’t count as getting out. You have to go someplace where you can meet people.”
“Is this where you tell me it’s not healthy for a woman my age not to be dating? Kendra, I don’t have a mother, and I don’t need one.” Reanna regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth. Kendra was the closest thing to family Reanna had ever had.
Kendra was quiet for a moment, then continued on, sounding more determined. “This isn’t about dating. I am not letting my best friend become a hermit again. Do you remember what happened in postgrad school? You stopped answering everyone’s phone calls, even mine. And then you started having your groceries delivered. I know why you hide, Ree. It’s me, Kendra. We’ve been friends since your first foster placement. I know exactly how many people have disappointed you. You deserve better than you’ve had. I’m not giving up on you — ever. I don’t care how many times you push me away. I just wish I knew how to get you to fight for what you want.”
Reanna shuffled with her phone to her small kitchenette and started brewing coffee. She didn’t want to think about her past or her situation at Biostern. She was also uncomfortable with displays of emotion. But she understood Kendra was sincerely worried about her. “You know I love you, Kendra, but I’m not you. I have to figure this out in my own way. I can’t confront them. It would be my word against theirs. I won’t put myself in that position again.”
“You’re not a child anymore, Reanna. You would win this time.”
“Reanna . . .”
Reanna poured her coffee and decided it was time to change the subject. “Did I tell you I met a man at the bookstore?”
“I would only know about him if you had answered my phone call last night. I’ll let that go for now, though, because I really want to hear this story.”
Reanna sipped her hot, black coffee and took a moment to remember him before answering. “He was genetically intriguing, an unexpected composite of features that complemented each other in an aesthetically pleasing way.”
Kendra chuckled. “In other words, he was hot.”
Closing her eyes for a moment, Reanna let the Xander of her dreams blend with the man she had met at the bookstore, and she let out a long yearning sigh. “Oh, yes.”
“Did you talk to him?”
Reanna opened her eyes and blurted, “I kissed him.”
“Holy shit. You kissed a man yesterday in a public place? Where is my friend, Reanna, and what have you done with her?”
Reanna leaned against the kitchen counter with a huge smile spreading across her
face. “I told you not to worry about me. Just because I’m working from home doesn’t mean I’m going back to how I was in college. I don’t want to be that person again either.”
“Oh, Reanna, I am so freaking happy for you. You have to tell me everything. Do you have time to get together for breakfast this morning?”
“No, I really do have to drive down to Hartford. But maybe tomorrow morning?”
“You are not getting off that easily. I can’t believe you met someone, and you didn’t call me. What’s his name?”
“Xander. Xander Demande.” Reanna repeated his name slowly, enjoying how it felt on her tongue.
“That name sounds familiar.”
Reanna instantly straightened from the counter. “Please don’t. Don’t tell me who he is. I know he’s probably someone awful. I don’t care; I have no intention of seeing him again. But I don’t want to mar what happened yesterday. It’s too good a memory. If he was just released from prison, please don’t tell me.”
“Does he have to be someone awful? He could be someone famous.”
“Fine. I won’t google him. Okay, I will google him, but I’ll only tell you if he is dangerous.”
“I already told you it doesn’t matter who he is or if I just had a near-death experience with a serial killer because I’m not going to see him again.”
“See, this is where you always confuse me. You think he’s gorgeous. You obviously got along well enough to kiss him yesterday. Why do you think you’re never going to see him again?”
“Because I told him I wasn’t interested in going out with him.”
“And what did he say to that?”
“He said he’d pick me up today at noon.”
“That is hot. Why the hell would you say no to a man like that?”
“Didn’t you just tell me he could be dangerous?”
“Could be. Doesn’t mean he is. You don’t walk away from a man like that until his issues are confirmed.”
“No, I’m single and almost thirty. Okay, that may be some people’s definition of crazy. Are you seriously going to Hartford instead of meeting up with Mr. Hunkalicious?”
“And you think I’m crazy?”
Reanna replaced her coffee mug on the counter and stretched. “I wish I could debate this with you more, but I have to shower and get going. I dropped off samples last week. I’ll need the data from them to finish my report.”
“You should have taken them to Boston.”
“I didn’t mind the drive.”
“Today is your birthday. Email them for the results like everyone else does.”
“No, I need the samples back at the same time.”
“Because you’re not coming back to Biostern after you finish this project.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You didn’t have to. Reanna, come back to work. I’ll take on those assholes with you.”
“No. The only thing that would make me feel worse about any of this is if you became involved in it. You’re the one who found this job for me.”
“I am involved. I’m your friend.”
“And I love your for that, Kendra, but these are my decisions to make. I’ve saved enough money to take a break after this project. I may take a vacation. I need to clear my head.”
Kendra made a frustrated sound, then said, “Don’t stand me up for breakfast tomorrow morning. Or I will hunt you down, Reanna. I don’t care where you are.”
“I know, Kendra.”
“Your expectations are too low; you deserve so much more. I hope you see that one day. And I only push you because I love you.”
That was one truth Reanna never doubted. “Okay, okay. I’ll meet you for breakfast. Do you want to meet at your house or at Over Easy?”
“How about your house?”
“Kendra, I’m fine.”
“I know you are. Just humor me.”
At precisely noon, Xander stepped out of the back of his Bentley and waited while his driver, Albert, walked to the front door of Reanna’s brownstone. Albert rang the doorbell once, then again. The older man became agitated and began to knock loudly on the door.
Xander frowned. He didn’t like to be kept waiting. Reanna would need to learn the importance of punctuality, but that was a lesson he could teach her once he had her back in his country. He intended to enjoy every part of convincing her to go with him. Even though he doubted it would be that difficult, the idea that she might say no excited him. In his country, women vied for his attention because they knew he was next in line to the throne. Women outside his country saw his wealth and appearance and tried to catch his eye. It was partly why he had put off choosing his new bride for as long as he had. He wasn’t short of sexual partners when he wanted one. Marriage to him was nothing more than the duty he would perform to ensure his enthronement. According to the laws of his country, he must produce a potential queen who was willing to announce her loyalty to him and his country before his thirtieth birthday. With four months left to go, and a track record of having to pry women off him when he tired of them, he wasn’t concerned. Especially now that he’d met Reanna.
He would take her to lunch. After the way she had looked at him the day before, and the sweet kiss she had given him, he didn’t think it would take much to get her to go with him. Ideally he would wait until their wedding night before allowing himself to have her, but there was no law requiring that. He smiled at the thought of how they could spend the very long flight to his country.
Perhaps it would be even better if he took her somewhere in the States before taking her back to his country. The more he thought about Reanna, the more he liked the idea of having some time alone with her before introducing her to his family. Simon could easily secure a private home for what he wanted.
Pleased with that thought, Xander looked up again, expecting to see Reanna beside Albert. Instead, a somewhat flushed Albert rushed to Xander’s side. “Your Highness, it appears she is not in.”
Albert winced at his tone. “Are you sure you told her noon? Perhaps she thought you said afternoon?”
“I know what I said.” And what she’d said. She’d told him she would be working. He had assumed she was joking. Apparently, she hadn’t been. Reanna Fielding had chosen to go to work rather than meet him for lunch.
Xander could tell by the expression on Albert’s face his driver expected him to be angry. Xander couldn’t have been further from it. A smile spread across his face as he looked at the darkened windows of her brownstone. “She stood me up, Albert.”
Albert looked uncertain about how to interpret Xander’s reaction. “It does appear that way. Does that mean we will be returning to the hotel now? Will we be off to meet the woman in Canada?”
Xander nodded toward the car, and Albert stepped quickly to open the door for him. “We’re not leaving Boston. Not yet.”
Once they were back in the car, Albert waited for instructions. Xander gave him an address of a house just outside of the city. On the way, Xander called Simon. “Simon, I am on my way to Rick Klevin’s home.”
“The owner of Biostern? Are you sure that’s wise? If this is about the two men I told you about last night, wouldn’t it be easier if I hired someone to deliver a message to them for you?”
Xander looked down at the bruised knuckles on his right hand. “I’ve already spoken to them. I located them last night after we spoke. No, this is about Reanna. I want her to be happy in our country. I looked over every bit of information we have about her, and her work is important to her. I see no reason why she couldn’t continue to tinker in a lab on our island after she’s married to me. I’m considering buying Biostern as a wedding present to her.”
“It might be more expensive than you think, Your Highness.”
“Have I lost money on the compan
ies I’ve acquired in the past? Or has each one built or increased our wealth and gained us more respect from our neighboring countries? Christopher did quite well with finding a use for Clearcore. It was genius the way he used it to increase cell phone clarity. Who knows? Perhaps owning Biostern will give our family the chance to cure a disease.”
A bit tongue-in-cheek, Simon asked, “Any disease in particular, Your Highness?”
“Don’t mock me, Simon.”
“Never, Your Highness. My apologies if I sounded less than sincere.”
“Simon, you’re not sorry at all, and we both know it. You’re getting bolder as you age.”
“As are you. In fact, you’re beginning to remind me of your father. I was forty years younger when he came into his own. Be patient with me as I gather my wits for round two.”
“No patience necessary, Simon. You’ve earned your place beside the royal family, no matter how senile you get.”
Simon made a sound of displeasure, and Xander let out a hearty laugh. Simon had been part of Xander’s life from birth, and because of that, he was allowed more liberties than any non-family member.
“You sound happy. Did things go well with the Boston woman?”
“She stood me up, Simon. I went to her house, and she was not there.”
“If I remember correctly you told me she said she would be working.”
“I did. Simon, do you see what this means? Given the choice between going to lunch with me or going to work, Reanna Fielding chose work.”
“I didn’t know such a woman existed.”
“Nor did I.” When he heard Simon chuckle, Xander frowned. “You’re mocking me again, Simon.”
“Forgive me, Your Highness. You have lived a very privileged life. And a somewhat sheltered one, at least when it comes to Americans. They are headstrong. Opinionated. I’ve always thought of them as a bunch of headstrong children who collectively ran away from home. I find the idea of you attempting to rein in one of them and bring her home very amusing. I wonder if you will indeed be able to tame her.”