Taken by a trillionaire.., p.25
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       Taken by a Trillionaire 1-3, p.25

         Part #1 of Taken by a Trillionaire series by Ruth Cardello
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  “Open the door, Adara,” he said, with more authority in his tone than she’d ever heard him use before. It was spooky. “Now!”

  That final word of his, and all the power behind it, almost made her door vibrate.

  Unlocking the deadbolt, she swung the door open, but not in defeat. Her eyes were spitting fire at the man who’d dared speak to her that way.

  “Who in the hell do you think you are?”

  “I’m the man who is going to marry you,” he said, his lips turning up in a smile she wasn’t sure she wanted to interpret.

  “Interesting overreaction. You clearly don’t deal very well with women who have the guts to break up with you.”

  “You were the one who overreacted,” he told her with a cheeky grin. “How could you break up with me if we were never in what you Americans call a relationship?”

  “Ugh. This is pointless, Mr. Dante.” She made her best effort to slam the door shut.

  He didn’t have to try hard at all to stop her. He stepped inside her house for the first time ever, and his six-foot-three frame and wide shoulders were making the wretched little place seem even smaller than it was.

  “I’m not leaving without you, Adara.” As he spoke, he pursued her. She went backward as quickly as she could, but there wasn’t much room to move.

  “How did you know where I live?” She’d never given him her address. Purposely.

  “I know everything about you.”

  “That’s creepy, Chris.” Was he a stalker? She was on the verge of freaking out.

  “I always know about any woman I spend time with. It’s a necessity in my life.”

  They were now in her living room, and he had her cornered.

  “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Chris, but I don’t like what’s happening.”

  His hands came up on either side of her, caging her against the wall. “You will learn to like it.”

  “Who in the hell are you?”

  This certainly wasn’t the same man she’d met three months before. He didn’t resemble the laid-back playboy she’d lost her virginity and possibly her heart to.

  “I’m Prince Christopher of Rubare Collina,” he said imperiously. “And I’ve decided that you will be my bride.”

  Adara’s head began spinning as she tried to wrap her mind around what he was saying. But she had to push the fuzziness away. This was far from warm fuzziness.

  “I don’t know why you’re lying to me like this, but it doesn’t matter, because there’s certainly no way I’m marrying you. A prince? Give me a break. I won’t even be your girlfriend, let alone your wife.”

  “You don’t have a choice,” he told her.

  “Are you kidding me? I do have a choice. I’d already guessed that you were from another country — the accent was a big giveaway,” she said with no little sarcasm. “And it’s probably a country where women are subservient to men. I guarantee you that I’m not. Take your hands off me and let me go.”

  She glared daggers at him, but the guy simply smiled back at her. She wasn’t saying another word. She’d said what she needed to say, and now he needed to get a clue.

  “Do you know what the custom is in my land?” he asked, leaning in closer.

  Damn it if her heart didn’t pick up just a little bit at his nearness. That was her body’s traitorous reaction. She would learn to quell that.

  “I’m not interested in knowing what your customs are,” she finally replied.

  “I’ll tell you anyway,” he said with a smile before taking a step back, allowing her to breathe, until his next words took her breath right back away.

  “The prince is to find his bride before his thirtieth birthday — and the bride is allowed no choice in the matter.”

  “What do you mean by that, Chris?” The look in his eyes was beginning to scare her.

  “It’s our custom . . . let’s say . . . to use any means possible, fair or unfair, to take our bride back to our homeland.”

  She gazed at him for several long moments.

  “Spit it out, Chris.”

  “I’ve decided to marry you, so you will be coming with me,” he said, taking a step back toward her.

  There was just no reasoning with a crazy person like this one, Adara decided. She somehow evaded his grasp and made a beeline for her front door. And she actually managed to get outside. Then his hands encircled her waist.

  “I know we’re meant to be together,” he said, flipping her around and giving her a victorious smile.

  “You can’t do this. Please don’t do this,” she begged him.

  He stopped what he was doing and let her go immediately. “I’m not trying to frighten you,” he told her.

  “Well, you are. How in the hell can you say that to me? You’re telling me that I have no choice other than to be with you, and then you say you aren’t trying to scare me,” she panted. She hated the weakness she was feeling.

  “You’re right,” he said, immediately moving back, if only a little.

  “Thank you.” She finally took another breath, and then took a strategic step backward.

  “Will you come with me, please? Just let me show you something,” he said, sounding like his old self.

  “And if I say no?”

  “Then I’ll leave,” he told her.

  “Then the answer is no.”

  Chris hung his head for several moments before he looked back up at her. “You need more time. I understand.”

  With that, he turned and walked away. Adara moved back to her doorway and looked out, watching him climb into whatever expensive car he was using and drive away.

  Closing and double-locking her door, she decided that the first thing she needed to do was some extensive research. There was no way he was an actual prince, was there?

  No. It just wasn’t possible. He was just a garden-variety rich and sexy psychopath.

  But she was filled with nagging doubts. If only she’d had Internet service here at home, she’d be surfing it right at that very moment. It looked like it would have to wait until later, though. She had a feeling the circles beneath her eyes weren’t going away any time soon, because she wasn’t going to get a good night’s rest tonight.

  Chapter Three

  Flying wasn’t so bad. “You can do this!”

  Maybe if she said it loud enough, she’d be fine. Yep, that was it. She’d just keep repeating it in her head over and over again. And repeating it to the world.

  Sitting in the terminal at the Syracuse Hancock International Airport, Adara was wondering at her impulsive decision to get out of town.

  It had been a week since her quarrel with Chris, and she missed him, missed him more than she would ever admit to him or herself. “It wasn’t a relationship. We were just friends with benefits. Just benefits, really. We weren’t even friends.”

  “Excuse me?”

  She turned to see a man looking at her with a strange expression on his face. Great. Now people were going to think she was crazy.

  “I’m just talking to myself. Carry on,” she told him as she lifted her Long Island iced tea and took a big swallow. “The drinking helps; don’t judge,” she snapped when the man continued to stare at her.

  He finally retreated, and she finished her third glass. Good, strong stuff. “I have a question,” she said a bit too loudly to the bartender.

  “How can I help you?” The man really was quite nice. And she must appear like an utter loon right now.

  “Is there any actual tea in a Long Island iced tea?”

  The man looked at her for a moment before he broke out in a smile. Wow. Nice smile. Nothing like Chris’s smile, but still a nice smile.

  “No, ma’am,” he said.

  “Then why is it called that?”

  “I don’t really know.”

  “Aren’t bartenders supposed to know it all, be like a whiz with drinks, a therapist, and all that jazz?”

  He laughed. “I think you’ve had enough of those ‘teas
for now,” he told her.

  “But you just said there’s no actual tea in the drink,” she pointed out.

  He set a cup of coffee before her.

  “I’m not drunk,” she said, before wobbling on her bar stool.

  “You might just want to have a cup of coffee before your flight,” he said, pushing the cup closer to her. “It’s on the house.”

  “I would hope so. Who in the world sets the prices for these drinks? I could eat for a week on the cost of three drinks.”

  “I’m not sure ma’am.” The bartender walked away.

  Well, she didn’t really want to talk to him anymore anyway. And she didn’t want the dang coffee. She was flying to . . . Where in the world was she flying again? She pulled out her tickets and the letters blurred together for a moment. Maybe she had drunk just a little bit too much after all.

  Oh, yes. Las Vegas. She was flying to Sin City, taking her life into her own hands, and getting away from the state of New York before she found herself running back to Chris. She wasn’t a huge fan of flying anyway. The space was too crowded and she much preferred looking up at the sky, not gliding along in it. And she really, really wanted to call Chris.

  Yes, he was slightly crazy, and, yes, he’d said the commitment word, but, man, was he a hell of a lover. And to top that off, the guy could talk . . . Oh, his voice could melt her. Okay, maybe she should drink the coffee.

  “Excuse me, miss. Are you Adara Burnadette?”

  This man was wearing a suit and tie, clearly someone official.

  “Yes, that’s me,” she said, smiling at him as she wobbled a bit on the stupid bar stool.

  “I’m glad I found you, Ms. Burnadette. There’s been a change in your flight,” he said, and he held out a new ticket.

  Her eyes narrowed. “A change? Why?” she asked.

  “Such things often happen when you fly,” he said with a trustworthy smile. “I’m sure you know that. Brave new world. Your flight will now leave from South Concourse A, gate 15. Would you like me to walk you there?”

  “Um . . . do you usually do that?” she asked, scooting off the stool and finding herself staggering just a bit.

  “Yes, we provide excellent customer service here.”

  After placing the money she owed on the bar, plus a respectable tip, of course, she picked up her purse and her carry-on — the only baggage she had — and followed the man for what seemed like forever. But maybe that was just because she was seeing double.

  When they finally approached the gate, she didn’t see many people around, but she also didn’t think much about it.

  “You’re all cleared to go on, Ms. Burnadette,” the woman at the gate said after the man in the nice suit handed her the ticket.

  “Wow. Nice. Thanks.”

  Adara walked down the jet bridge and inside the plane, then looked around in confusion. She’d only flown once before, but the plane she’d been on had a lot more seats than this one did.

  The man who had told her of the change was right behind her. “Is there something wrong?” he asked.

  “This doesn’t look like what I was expecting,” she said as she moved farther inside. “And where are the other passengers?”

  Maybe she really should have had that cup of coffee.

  “Go ahead and take a seat. Everything will be fine, Ms. Burnadette.”

  Adara’s head was starting to spin, so she plopped down in the plushest airplane seat she’d ever been on before.

  “Maybe I should have some caffeine,” she muttered as she closed her eyes.

  “Coming right up,” the man said.

  Adara fell asleep before he made it back with her coffee.

  Chapter Four

  Adara’s fear of flying was working well in his favor. Chris had been worried that he wouldn’t be able to pull this absurd stunt off. He stepped into the cabin of his private jet and smiled as he saw her sleeping soundly.

  “Thank you, Henry,” he said to the man who had lured her into the jet.

  “You’re welcome, Your Highness. Certain events conspired to make the operation rather easy. I trust that you will have a pleasant trip.”

  The man left the jet and Chris turned to his crew. “Close the doors and get this bloody thing into the air.”

  He needed to make sure that she had no chance of escape. Once he was off U.S. soil, he’d be in a much better position.

  He didn’t breathe evenly until the engines were fired up and the plane was taxiing away from the airport. Over the past week, he’d come to an important decision. He just couldn’t walk away from Adara. She might consider him something like a monster . . . for a short time . . . because of his . . . how to put it? Yes, not to put a fine point on it, he’d, um, kidnapped her, sort of. But these things happened, especially when his homeland was involved. And he knew she cared about him, even if she refused to admit it. He just had to prove that significant fact to her. Women could be a bit troublesome at times.

  They’d been in the air for a couple of hours when she finally began to stir. He had his flight attendant pour a cup of fresh coffee and set it next to her. Adara would certainly need it.

  “Where are we?”

  Adara uttered that groggy question and Chris concentrated solely on her as she began to open her eyes.

  “We’re just going for a little ride,” he said.

  “Wait! Chris? Is that you? Or am I dreaming?”

  She still wasn’t fully awake, and she definitely wasn’t putting the pieces together. Interesting. Had she been dreaming about him lately? He sure as hell had been dreaming of her.

  “Just get some rest. You had a little too much to drink at the airport bar,” he said in as soothing a voice as he could manage. “Or so I’ve been told.”

  “What in heaven’s name are you doing here? I’m on my way to Las Vegas.” Her eyes snapped open and she focused on him. “You’re not supposed to be here.” She looked around. “And where in the hell are the other passengers? This is a commercial flight.”

  Yep, she was certainly awake now.

  “We’re in my private jet, Adara.”

  Her eyes grew wide. “How? I don’t understand,” she snapped, and she ripped off her seat belt and stood straight up.

  He stood as well, afraid she was going to fall over. She was still wobbly.

  “You . . . you . . . you . . .” She lurched toward him and stabbed him in the chest with her fingernails.

  He took hold of her and sat with her struggling in his arms.

  “Calm down, Adara. It was the only thing I could think of when I found out you were leaving for Las Vegas. I told you this before. I have chosen you to be my wife. You want me, of course. You know you do. I know you do.”

  She froze right there in his embrace, deathly still, for several moments, and he didn’t know what else to do or say. Dammit. He’d rather hear her yelling at him again, because then he’d at least know what she was thinking. He shouldn’t care about that, but for some ridiculous reason he did.

  “Will you please let me go?” she said far too calmly.

  “What will happen if I do?”

  “I’ll sit in my own seat, away from you, and think for a moment,” she told him between clenched teeth.

  “You realize we’re in the air right now, right?”

  “Yes. It’s rather obvious.” She’d tried to speak in a restrained manner, but her inner fury came through loud and clear.

  “Fine, Adara. I’m going to release you now. But don’t try anything . . . as the Americans would say . . . stupid.”

  “Something stupid like, let’s say, kidnapping?”

  She struggled against him, and when he let her go and she jumped to her feet and backed away, she was a lot more steady now, and she was glaring at him the entire time. She’d sobered up quickly.

  “You’ll find coffee next to your seat,” he told her.

  The look she shot him in return was eloquent in its outrage.

  She paced back and forth throug
h the large cabin area in front of him, and nearly fell down when they hit a small pocket of turbulence.

  Christopher stood up and came toward her.

  “Don’t touch me, you worthless son of a–”

  He interrupted her before she could complete that sentence, moving a step closer. “I just want to make sure you don’t get hurt.”

  “Seriously? Are you kidding me? You’re worried about me getting hurt?” she gasped. “Maybe that was something you should have thought about before you took me against my will into your plane . . .”

  “Actually, it’s a jet,” he had to point out.

  “Don’t you dare try to correct me!”

  “Sorry,” he said with a smile. “Damn, you are beautiful. Especially when you’re mad.”

  “Really, Chris? That remark was so old school.”

  She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened those lovely eyes again, she appeared more in control of her emotions, and the look she gave him had him more curious than anything else.

  He waited.

  Interesting, he thought, as he watched her. One moment she was spitting fire, and then the next she was smiling, looking at him in an entirely different way. He waited to see what would come next.

  “Look, I’m sure you’ve had a bad day,” she said, in full-appeasement mode. “We’ve all had them. I’m sure you’re very sorry about all of this, about taking me on a plane — sorry, I mean on a jet. I’m not mad at you. Not at all. We all make mistakes. I say that we should both just forget all about this. Why don’t you tell the nice pilots to turn this thing around? We’ll land, go somewhere nice for dinner, and talk this all over in a . . . rational manner.”

  It took a moment for the prince to realize what she was doing. His mouth dropped. “You think I’m crazy?” He gulped in his amazement. “You’re actually talking to me as if I deserve to be in an insane asylum? I can honestly say that’s never happened to me before.”

  “No, of course I don’t think you’re crazy,” she said with a sugary-sweet smile. “I think you’re wonderful. Let’s just land and we’ll talk about relationships and that sort of thing.”

  Chris considered what he wanted to say to that, but he couldn’t come up with anything. “Sit down, Adara,” he finally told her. “It’s going to be a long . . . ride. Maybe a little bumpy.”