Taken by a trillionaire.., p.24
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       Taken by a Trillionaire 1-3, p.24

         Part #1 of Taken by a Trillionaire series by Ruth Cardello
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  Chris was done with these birthday wishes. Merda. Turning twenty-nine wasn’t nearly as great as turning twenty-eight had been. The entire island had celebrated last year. Now, he’d just been given an ultimatum. Nothing to celebrate about in the least. Marriage?

  “To hell with you all.”

  He walked from his father’s chambers and out of the palace. He didn’t need any of them.

  Chapter One

  Six Months Later

  Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

  The clock was quickly winding down on Prince Christopher, and as much as he’d enjoyed his telling his father, his older brother, and his country to go to hell, the idea didn’t have quite the same appeal that it had offered him on his twenty-ninth birthday, six months before.

  He did love his country, and he felt honored to be a prince of the realm. And, well, he’d met a woman he could actually see himself being . . . tied down to.

  He’d never truly considered marriage before, but his people so wanted to see it happen, the romantic fools, and whether he admitted it to his brothers or not, he did care what his people thought of him. So why not bite the proverbial bullet?

  Yes, he played around a lot, and, yes, he broke every rule he possibly could, but, no, he didn’t flaunt his bad behavior in his own land. It was why he traveled so much. He had diplomatic immunity in most countries, so if he got drunk in the streets of Paris and caused a ruckus, it wasn’t on his own soil and the police there couldn’t do a damn thing about it.

  Of course with news and social media, his people got a good picture of the trouble he was causing. He’d been able to get away with that in his early twenties — everyone everywhere bought in to the “boys will be boys” mentality. But now that he was approaching his thirties, the citizens of Rubare Collina weren’t so forgiving. Maybe it was time to settle down and act like the prince he was, not the playboy he wanted people to believe him to be.

  Maybe he was growing up, or maybe he was just tired of disappointing his father. Whatever it was, he was actually considering marriage. Unbelievable.

  “Found you!”

  Adara Burnadette jumped, then whirled around and glared at Chris.

  “You completely messed me up, Chris. Now I have to start all over,” she said, but there was no heat in her words.

  Chris was momentarily breathless. She was glowering at him with those bright blue eyes. They sparkled whenever she was in his presence, and she always made him feel like just Chris — not a prince, not a “trillionaire,” not a son or brother, but a man. Yes, he wanted his royal title, but he didn’t want to get laid just because of it. Not now, anyway, though this woman could have him anytime. The old adage must be true, that only a good woman could bring out the best in a man — this woman brought it out in spades.

  “What are you concentrating so deeply on, Adara?”

  He peeked over her shoulder, but she turned around and pushed him back. “Don’t touch the telescope!”

  He chortled. “I wasn’t going to,” he said. “But I certainly plan to touch you.”

  He folded his arms around her before sliding them along her backside, and then he hoisted her up so she was left with no choice but to wrap her long legs around his waist or else end up dangling in front of him like a rag doll.

  Her long brown hair drifted over his shoulder and tickled his cheek while her high, firm breasts pressed against his chest. He was hard within seconds.

  “I have a perfect view of Saturn. It’s a beautiful night. I want to finish making the map for my portfolio,” she told him, but he’d now distracted her and she leaned forward, gently running her tongue along the hard edge of his jaw.

  “I think you need a break from all this work,” he told her as he moved away from her telescope and the table where she’d been completing her project.

  “Maybe you’re right, Mr. Dante.”

  Chris winced as she used the name he’d given to her, his middle name. He hadn’t wanted her to know he was a prince, hadn’t wanted her to know anything about him. When he’d found her three months earlier, he’d still been angry with his brothers and his father, and with their demands. He’d thought she’d make a good distraction. Instead, she’d become essential to his happiness.

  If he had her in his life, how could he want or need any other woman or women? It surprised the hell out of him, but Adara made him feel complete somehow. Maybe there was a point to monogamy, even in a monarchy.

  Laying her down in the soft grass, he yanked her shirt off without hesitation, leaving her flat stomach and slim neck exposed to his tongue and fingers, and giving him a great view of her breasts, barely concealed by the sexy red bra she was wearing.

  He ran his tongue down that lovely neck, gently nipping certain spots he knew would make her quiver, and he reached the mounds of her breasts. He stopped to suck her peaked nipples through the lace of her flimsy bra.

  When he had her panting, he lifted his head and shocked himself with his next words. “What would you say if we went traveling for a while? You’re finished with school, and we both have some time on our hands. It’s a perfect time to take off.”

  She moaned. “Where to?” But instead of waiting for his answer, she clutched at his head and brought it back down to her breasts. She had her priorities.

  “Does it matter? I want to take you all around the world.”

  Screw the bra. He reached underneath her and unclasped it, then flung the stupid thing away. Cupping one of those glorious breasts in his warm palm, he laved the other until she was crying out for more. And more. And more.

  “Quit talking. More touching,” she demanded, arching her back and pressing her breast more fully into his mouth.

  “We can do both,” he told her before his tongue circled her nipples, each in its turn.

  “I’m not listening, Chris.”

  He stopped and looked up at her face, making sure he had her attention. “I want to take you to visit my homeland,” he said, and he could see she was trying to focus on him, but also growing frustrated.

  “I can’t just take off, Chris,” she said, her words little more than a whisper. “Please keep doing what you were doing.” She struggled to pull his head back to her breasts.

  “Of course you can,” he said, reaching down and undoing her jeans. “And I want you to know me a lot better.”

  “We agreed this would be casual,” she said right before moaning again as he swiped his tongue over her nipple for a second time. “No strings or whatever.”

  “This doesn’t feel very casual anymore,” he replied. And he moved his hand beneath her waistband and touched her womanhood. Wet. Very wet.

  “Oh, please, keep going,” she begged him, and lifted her hips so he could free her from the rest of her clothes.

  “As soon as you tell me you’ll go anywhere and everywhere with me,” he said. To sweeten the suggestion, he slipped a finger inside her and pumped it slowly in and out.

  She had a difficult time saying what she said next. “You aren’t being fair, Chris. I’d agree to almost anything right now just so you’d finish what you started.”

  “Then tell me the words I want to hear,” he said against her ear before flicking his tongue along her earlobe.

  “I can’t think. Please. I need you now.” Now was a word that had been consuming her for some time. Adara took hold of his head again and fought to bring his lips to hers.

  “I want your promise that you’ll go with me,” he said, removing his finger from her core. So cruel. He rose up above her so she could look at his shadowed face.

  “Why are you doing this, Chris? Look, I don’t want to talk about it.”

  Some of her passion was obviously ebbing. Irritation could be a romance-killer.

  Frustration rose inside him, too. “We’ve been together for three months, Adara. I think we’re pretty committed now.”

  She pushed against him, and he rolled over. Before he could even think about stopping her, she sat up, did up her jeans, then st
ood and collected her bra and shirt. All that lovely display from before was again hidden from his sight.

  Maybe he should have waited, should have dealt with his still-raging hard-on, before he’d begun this conversation. But he hadn’t expected her to react that way. Women were such strange creatures.

  “I think we need to quit seeing each other, Chris. We obviously aren’t on the same wavelength any longer,” she told him, refusing to look at him.

  In a second flat, Chris was up on his feet. He stormed over to her and gripped her arms.

  “What in the hell are you talking about?”

  “I warned you from the first moment we met that I didn’t want anything beyond the casual fling that you’d offered me.”

  Dammit! She was using his own words against him. One thing Chris never did was lie to the women he bedded. He told them from the outset that it wasn’t going to last. Adara had seemed delighted about that and had accepted his proposition. They all did, of course, though they pretended otherwise. But this whole thing was so different in every respect.

  Casual? The first time they’d had sex, he’d discovered that she was a virgin. That had left him in shock — had she somehow tricked him? When he asked her why she’d chosen him for the honor, she’d told him it was because he’d been honest and because it was past time she found out what sex was all about.

  Okay, he thought, he could deal with that. And deal with it he did. Over and over.

  Since he’d met her, they’d had these “casual” encounters almost nightly. Neither of them could get enough of the other one. And so he’d just assumed they’d gone from casual to committed. No, there wasn’t a time he could pinpoint, but the change had happened — at least in his mind.

  “We aren’t casual anymore, Adara,” he said, grasping her chin and forcing her to look at him. “You’re mine.”

  “I don’t want to see you anymore, Chris. Please respect my wishes and leave. My no means NO.”

  She wasn’t looking away now. He couldn’t tell whether she was bluffing, but he prayed that she was.

  After a moment of silence, while she held herself stiffly in his arms, Chris let her go. He turned and began walking away. But before he got too far away, he turned back and called out Adara’s name.

  “This is far from over, Adara. Don’t think for one second that it is.”

  She gasped at him, opened her mouth, then closed it again, and sent him a withering stare. What did everyone say about discretion and valor? He decided he’d better leave before he said anything more.

  Hell if he knew what he was going to do next. But there was one thing he did know for sure. Adara was the one. And he would prove that to her in one way or another. …

  Chapter Two

  Adara refused to turn around and watch Chris leave. Her heart was shattering into thousands of pieces, but there was no possible way she could allow him to see that. She refused to crumble.

  Don’t be weak! If you show weakness, then you are nothing, and will never be anything but pathetic. You will go nowhere in life.

  Those were the words of her dying mother, a woman who had passed away with a scrub brush in her hands. Okay, not literally, but she might as well have.

  Adara packed up her charts and her telescope and put them carefully into her car before climbing inside and making the journey back to her childhood home — a very small two-bedroom house that was severely outdated.

  It was her only inheritance. But she wouldn’t complain. It was so much more than many people got.

  Until she was twenty, she and her mother had lived there together, and then Adara had been there all on her own, working part time to pay the bills while she finished her undergraduate degree and her master’s program in astronomy. Thank goodness she’d won full scholarships for her schooling, or she never could have finished.

  Her mother, Irene, had struggled all her life. And though she’d been the best mom she could be, she had also struck fear into Adara’s head, fear about men and about relationships. Adara’s father had walked out the moment he’d discovered that her mother was pregnant — he wanted nothing to do with any babies. Too much like work.

  Adara didn’t learn all of that until she was a teenager and begging to meet her father. Only then did her mother tell her the sad family history, and insist that no woman could ever count on a man, that eventually men would fail her, abandon her.

  And then Adara had met Chris. She’d been swept off her feet by his looks, his charm, and his smile. Oh, that smile. The man had a smile that sent warm fuzzies deep down inside her. But she’d promised herself never to become romantically involved. She’d never end up the way her mother had.

  So when he’d suggested a casual fling — though he didn’t put it so crudely — she’d been quite up for that. She was twenty-three, and that was long past time to have her first sexual experience. And, oh man, if she’d only realized how truly great sex was, she wouldn’t have waited that long. Men had their uses after all.

  But Chris had now changed the game, and Adara was left with no choice but to break things off with him. He never should have uttered the commitment word. She couldn’t commit to any man, not even to this prime specimen. Not even if deep down inside she knew she was falling in love with him.

  She really couldn’t bind herself to him now. If she lost who she was in him, that would be when she lost everything, just as her mother had.

  Once Adara parked in front of her house, she collected her things from the car and made her way inside. At least she didn’t have to deal with memories of him at her place. That was another lesson her mother had given her — never bring a man home. Because then it would be too easy for him to find you again, and use you again.

  She and Chris had spent all their time together at his ultramodern condo. She’d been burning with curiosity over who he was, what he did for a living, but she’d never asked any questions. Still, she’d given him far too much information about herself.

  He hadn’t pressured her to stay the night with him after she’d first succumbed. After they were done making love, she wouldn’t cuddle; she would simply climb from his bed, clean herself up, and leave.

  They exchanged no words of adoration, no small talk, no uncomfortable silences. In the beginning, at least. Then, after about a month, she found herself lingering once they had done the dirty deed, though not for too long — maybe just fifteen minutes, then thirty, and then once for two hours. But as she felt herself beginning to drift off, she would drag herself from his bed, and skitter away.

  Last month, he’d told her she didn’t need to go out into the cold night, that she really should sleep over. She hadn’t made a big deal about it. She’d just told him that she had homework to complete, and then she’d headed for the hills as usual. He’d tried only twice more to get her to stay, the last time a few days ago.

  It had taken all the willpower she had within her to refuse him that last time. She’d desperately wanted to lie there in his arms, wanted him to run his fingers down her back, tell her that everything was going to be okay in life. But because she’d wanted that so badly, she’d picked herself up, as always, and left once more.

  Why hadn’t she ended things with Chris right then? Adara had been making excuses to herself for a while. She’d been telling herself she wasn’t really attached to the man. But tonight, he’d pushed it to a point where she couldn’t lie anymore.

  She would miss him so freaking much.

  The first tear of regret fell as she locked her door and wandered off to her bedroom and flopped down on the pitiful bed. The next tear fell out of anger at herself and her weakness. Adara hadn’t cried since the day her mother had died more than three years ago.

  You will never be as strong as you need to be if you let petty emotions rule you, her mother had said. And her mother’s daughter had sucked in the tears, then stood stiffly beside the grave as the coffin was lowered into the ground.

  For her to cry now for something as simple as ending a r
elationship that hadn’t really been a relationship was stupid and wrong. She would pull herself together, and she would do it right now.

  She rose determinedly from her bed, moved into the cramped bathroom — the only one in the house — and scrubbed her face with cold water and a washcloth. As she looked in the mirror, she couldn’t help but notice the dark circles that were forming beneath her eyes. Damnable lack of sleep, and silly emotions. Her normally straight brown hair was mussed and definitely not ready for prime time, and her cheeks looked more hollow than usual. She’d been overextended, obviously, and she needed to take more time to eat.

  And she would.

  She had her master’s degree now, something she’d worked hard to get. Now it was time to live the life she was meant to live. No ties, no emotions, just science and work.

  A knock on her door startled her into dropping the ragged washcloth that she’d been running on her neck. Who in the world would be knocking at almost ten at night?

  She wasn’t living in the greatest neighborhood in town, but neither was she in the worst.

  It wasn’t as if Ithaca, New York, was a bad place to live. It was pretty great, actually, though you got a lot of exercise with all those steep hills.

  “Who’s there?”

  No answer. Just silence.

  What should she do? Pretend to have a husband who would come to her rescue? That was the standard dodge, but the attacker might well know that she lived alone. People could learn almost everything on the Internet.

  “If you honestly think I’m going to open the door this late at night, you’re crazy,” she said. “Go away before I pull out my gun.” The intruder probably didn’t know that she didn’t own a gun.

  “Open the door, Adara. We need to talk.”

  More silence, for about thirty seconds. He wasn’t speaking for now, but she felt him on the other side of the door. He clearly wasn’t leaving.

  “I don’t have anything else to say to you, Chris. We’re done.”