Taken by a trillionaire.., p.26
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       Taken by a Trillionaire 1-3, p.26

         Part #1 of Taken by a Trillionaire series by Ruth Cardello
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  He pushed a button. When a flight attendant immediately entered the room, he gave her a brisk order in Italian, and she left again.

  The attendant hadn’t even glanced at Adara. And the captive was clearly about to break a window and take her chances on skydiving without a parachute.

  “There’s no way off this jet, Adara, so you might as well relax. We will discuss our situation further when we get to our destination.”

  “And where is that, Chris?” she snapped. She lurched to the farthest seat away from him. Play nice? To hell with that.

  “It’s a private island that I happen to own. I want to take you there before bringing you to Rubare Collina, my country.”

  When the attendant brought them each a drink — Adara’s was a fruit juice, since she refused to drink the coffee — Chris was pleased to see her down the entire thing in seconds.

  She was sliding over in her seat within a quarter of an hour. He’d given her something to help her sleep, but nothing that would harm her. When they landed on his island, he would have plenty of time to show her that they were a perfect match.

  She might be holding back, but her feelings for him were crystal-clear. He could see them without any effort. If she wasn’t exactly in love with him now, she would be soon. No problem.

  At least that old law wasn’t still in effect, the one that would have threatened her life. Chris would never allow this woman to be harmed by anyone.

  Unfortunately, her biggest threat right now wasn’t some outside force, wasn’t the Arcano — it was him.

  No! He was a prince of Rubare Collina, and to be with him was an honor. She would surely come to see that.

  As he watched her sleep, her body stirring a little every once in a while, he started having doubts. Maybe he should have thought this over a little bit more. Would a woman like Adara accept that he’d followed his country’s traditions when he abducted her?

  Yeah, right. Would she ever forgive him for his desperate measures?

  Chapter Five

  Adara was fighting to emerge from the heavy fog that had enveloped her. But she couldn’t seem to pry her eyelids open.

  What had happened? She was trying to put the pieces together and then images began streaking through her mind. An argument with Chris? Why? She couldn’t quite remember.

  Her eyes now flashed wide open. Yes, she suddenly recollected that quarrel — on his damn jet. That’s where she was! But something was wrong. She looked in front of her, and the scene was different. Though she was still on a plane, it wasn’t the same one she’d been on before.

  As she turned slowly to the left, she found Chris . . . flying the freaking plane! His shirt was unbuttoned, the sun was reflecting off his aviators, and a headset was covering his ears. He seemed to be in his element. That wasn’t inspiring anything good in her. Turning again, she gazed out the window at her right and saw nothing but bright blue skies and what seemed to be endless seas below.

  “What in the world is going on?” Her voice came out hoarse, distressingly so.

  Chris reached over and placed a microphone against her lips, and then he spoke, his voice coming through clearly through the headset she hadn’t realized she was wearing until just now.

  “We’re not too far away. Sit back and enjoy the ride,” Chris said.

  “What do you mean, we’re not too far away? And what are you doing flying this plane?”

  “It’s okay. I’ve been a pilot since I was fourteen. This is only a six-seater jet, but I’m qualified to fly much bigger ones,” he said with the arrogance only a pilot seemed to possess.

  “You didn’t answer my question about where we are and where we’re going.” She wasn’t going to even acknowledge the pilot situation.

  “I told you earlier that we’re going to my island. We’re only about thirty minutes out now. You’ll enjoy it. It’s very peaceful there, and I’ve already had my staff stock my residence with all the necessary provisions.”

  “Your staff?”

  Other people would be there! Hope began brewing within her. She could explain to them that she’d been abducted, that she was there against her will with an insane man. Their boss had flipped out and thought he was a prince.

  “Yes. I enjoy the privacy of the island, but I’m used to certain luxuries,” he said with a chuckle. “Food and drink among them.”

  “I quite agree. I’m exactly the same way,” she said. When dealing with crazy people, pretending to go along with them was what you had to do if you had no other options.

  “You’ll understand soon, Adara. You’ll understand us. Think back over our time together, and how wonderful it’s all been. I know you have feelings for me — even if you don’t want to confess to them.”

  “Of course I have feelings for you, Christopher. I just need some time alone to contemplate what those feelings are.” She’d say anything now to escape from this nightmare.

  If she had developed feelings for this man, she was a fool, just like her mother had told her. Of course he wasn’t the man he’d pretended to be. These bastards never were. Then again, it wasn’t as if she’d asked him any questions, so she had to share some of the blame for her predicament.

  She knew nothing about where he worked or what he did in his time away from her. Heck, she didn’t even know if he had a family. She hadn’t wanted to know those things, hadn’t wanted to grow attached to the man in any way, because she’d known that the second she did, she’d be vulnerable. And to be vulnerable was something she couldn’t afford to be.

  It would lead to a situation like . . . okay, like the one she was in right now. Great. She’d played this so brilliantly, she said to herself with the most impressive eye roll of her life.

  Protecting her heart hadn’t helped her at all. Maybe she should have tried to get to know the man she was sleeping with, though without the sleeping part. Maybe she wouldn’t be a kidnap victim, carted off against her will to some private island. If he was even telling her the truth about that . . .

  Just as Adara was ready to try another method to get Chris to stop this wacked-out flight, she turned toward him to see that he was no longer smiling.

  “What’s wrong?”

  “Do you smell something, Adara?” he asked. His tone of voice, normally easygoing, was now tense.

  “No,” she replied, and then white smoke began filling up the cabin. Terror seized her instantly. “What is going on?”

  He was silent for a moment and she didn’t think he was going to speak, but when he did, she wished that she’d just continued in a state of ignorant bliss.

  “We have an electrical fire somewhere inside the plane. I have to turn the master switch off and try to isolate this issue.”

  “What does that mean?”

  “Stay calm, my love. I know it’s difficult in such situations, but these planes are made for emergency landings. I just need to find somewhere to set her down.”

  “All I see is a lot of blue,” she said. “Or green. Water, water everywhere.”

  “Look over to your left. There’s an island. Not my island, but it’s something to aim for, and that’s what I’m doing. I need to call a mayday in.” He unplugged her mic, and she wasn’t able to talk with him anymore, or to listen to anything he said.

  Suddenly the engine noises faded away, and the only sound Adara could hear was her own panicked breathing. The plane turned in the direction he’d pointed to, but what she saw ahead didn’t look like much of an island at all. How were they going to land on that tiny patch of earth? She stayed silent. She could hardly speak anyway, and she hoped that if she didn’t distract him, he’d have a much easier time dealing with the crisis at hand.

  And yet she made the mistake of looking behind her. Through another window, a trail of smoke appeared, and though she was no pilot, she knew enough to realize what it meant — they were now running on fumes. Not good. Not good at all.

  They circled down lower and lower in the sky, and the water was coming up on them far
too fast. Adara swallowed heavily and clutched at the sides of her seat.

  “Are we going to make it?” she yelled out.

  He pulled his headset off and looked at her, grim acceptance of the inevitable in his eyes. “No. You need to brace yourself for impact.”

  “How can you be so calm about this, Chris?”

  “You’re in the hands of the best pilot in Rubare Collina.”

  “You have a hell of a lot more faith in yourself than I do right now.”

  “I will not fail. I refuse to. It’s not in my nature.”

  Turning away from him yet again, she stared out the window to her right and could now see the whitecaps of the ocean, which was quickly approaching.

  Before she had any chance of preparing herself, the plane hit the water. Adara’s head slammed into the side window, and then she felt nothing.

  Chapter Six

  Chris was battling to maintain a calm he didn’t feel. At all. If it were only his life on the line, this would be a thrill. He was more than confident in his skills as a pilot. But with Adara next to him, a strange new fear filled him.

  He couldn’t allow anything bad to happen to her.

  No such luck. The initial impact of the plane skipping across the water sent her head into the side window, instantly knocking her out.

  “Adara!” He shouted out her name, but he couldn’t reach for her, couldn’t do anything but sit helplessly by as the plane barreled forward.

  As they wobbled, the wing nearly hit a wave, which would have torn the aircraft apart, giving them no chance of survival. But they somehow avoided that terrible fate.

  Finally, the plane came to a stop, and Chris was able to breathe almost easily again. He’d had to shut down everything because of that damnable electrical fire. And that wasn’t the last of their problems — not by a long shot.

  Water immediately began filling the cockpit. Chris knew he had only seconds to get Adara out. He unbuckled her and did his best to wake her up, but he got no response. He pressed the handle on the door, sliding it open. More water rushed inside. Great.

  Holding Adara securely with one arm, he dived into the water and began swimming away from the rapidly sinking jet. It was replaceable. She wasn’t.

  Thankfully, they’d “landed” — “oceaned” was more like it — close to the island, so he made it to shore without further mishap, and, as he laid her on the sand, he turned to see the tail of his jet sinking below the surface of the smooth blue water.

  After catching his breath, Chris picked up Adara and carried her farther inland, to the line of trees, putting her in the shade while he waited for the rescue team to find them.

  It wouldn’t take long.

  And it didn’t. Within an hour he heard the distinct sound of a helicopter. His brothers were most likely in a panic right about now. A smile formed on his lips.

  As much as his family sometimes drove him absolutely bonkers, to use yet another slang term that he’d picked up during his time in America, he loved them all and valued them. And that was really the world he wanted to bring Adara into. Yes, he wanted to remain a prince of the realm, and he was willing to marry a little sooner than he’d intended, to keep his royal status, but it wasn’t the only thing in life now that gave him joy.

  The helicopter landed, and Xander was the first one off.

  The loud whirring kept Chris from calling out to his brother, so he waited for Xander to look in his direction. Bryan leaped out right by Xander’s side, and when his two brothers spotted Christopher at the same time, they came running.

  “We were so worried, Christopher,” Xander said. “Especially since we couldn’t see the plane when we circled down.”

  Chris replied in level tones. “I knew you’d find me.”

  They all looked toward Adara, who still hadn’t woken up. “Who is this? Does she need medical help?”

  “This is my fiancée, Adara, and she hit her head when the plane crashed into the water. I’ve done what I could to check for other injuries and haven’t found anything, but I want her seen to right away.”

  “We’re closest to your private island. Let’s move her there and have the royal physician brought in. He will advise us whether she needs to be taken to the hospital.”

  “I agree. Thank you,” Chris said. He lifted Adara and began to move toward the helicopter.

  “We’d better get out of here before the media pick up on this,” Bryan said. “Let me help you with Adara. I can take her to the helicopter for you.”

  “No!”

  When both Xander and Bryan smiled, Chris realized he’d been shouting. “Sorry,” he said more calmly. “I have her.”

  Ignoring his brothers’ assessing looks, he made his way to the helicopter with Adara in his arms, and only then handed her over — temporarily — as he climbed aboard.

  After buckling up, he insisted that she be put in his lap. She shifted — that was a good sign — and snuggled against his chest. Did she somehow realize that she was back with him and happy about it, despite their rift? That’s the way he was choosing to look at it.

  They would work through the problems they were facing in no time at all. They’d been together for a mere three months now, but it was long enough for him to know they were meant to share their lives together. Hell, his brother Xander had known the same sort of thing in no time at all, and when Bryan had decided on the one woman for him, he hadn’t waited. Maybe it was in the family DNA.

  Maybe once they knew, they knew, and there was no turning back.

  “We’ve arrived,” Bryan told him, breaking into Chris’s reveries. “The doctor is already here.”

  “Thank you, brother.”

  “We’re going to wait here with you,” Xander told him, “until you know all is well.”

  “I appreciate it.”

  They moved together into what Chris called his cabin. It was on his own island, a place he was able to retreat to, but close enough to his homeland that he could return quickly if he was needed.

  The “cabin” he’d built was five thousand square feet — modest, in his humble opinion. His staffers didn’t live there in the house, but were more like ghosts, coming and going silently, there when he needed them while giving him the privacy he desperately wanted the rest of the time. They lived nearby, in their cottages.

  “Please wait here, Your Majesty and Your Highnesses,” the doctor said.

  Chris paced the hallway, and his brothers moved along with him as they waited for the doctor to re-emerge. No one said a word. Xander and Bryan knew that it was better to offer silent support.

  When the door to Adara’s room opened, all three brothers stopped walking, and they waited for their trusted family physician to speak. It seemed like an insufferable amount of time before he did.

  “I’m sorry to keep you all waiting,” Dr. Marcello said.

  “Never mind that,” Chris replied. “Just tell me that she’s okay.”

  “She will be fine in no time at all,” the doctor told him with what he probably thought was a reassuring smile.

  “Explain further,” Chris said.

  “She’s awake . . .”

  Chris tried to push past the man, but the doctor stopped him. “Move out of my way,” the prince said in anger and frustration. “I want to speak to her.”

  “Wait one moment, Your Highness,” the doctor said firmly. Chris stopped impatiently, but he allowed the man to continue speaking. “She seems to be suffering from a form of amnesia. I expect it to be a temporary condition, but she currently has no idea who she is.”

  Chris stopped in his tracks. “She remembers nothing?” he gasped.

  “No, Your Highness. Nothing.”

  “I guess your soon-to-be bride doesn’t realize she’s about to become a bride,” Bryan said.

  Chris stopped again. “No, she can’t realize that, can she?” he said, the wheels beginning to spin in his brain.

  “What’s going on, brother?” Xander asked.

 
Nothing,” Chris answered. “It would be for the best, though, if you and Bryan left us now. I’ll need time to remind her of who I am, and I’d rather not overwhelm her with too many people, too many . . . strangers.”

  “Are you sure? Maybe it would be an even better idea for all of us to go back to Rubare Collina.”

  “No. I assure you, brother, that this is for the best. If anything at all comes up, I promise that I’ll call you immediately.”

  “I will trust you,” Xander told him, placing his hand on his youngest brother’s shoulder.

  “I disagree with Xander about leaving you here,” Bryan said, “but I do love you and I’ll honor your wishes. We are only a phone call away.” He patted Chris’s other shoulder.

  When his brothers and the doctor walked away and out of the house, Chris took a deep breath before stepping up to Adara’s door. He could do this — could convince her they were madly in love. It was halfway true, after all.

  He did have feelings for her, and he knew she had feelings for him. Her amnesia had a surprising upside. It gave him the opportunity to prove to her that they were made for each other.

  Piece of cake, no?

  If only real life were that easy.

  Chapter Seven

  Hello, Adara.”

  Adara looked at the stunning man walking toward her and felt a small stirring in her gut, but she didn’t recognize him, not even in the slightest. How was that possible?

  She finally returned a tentative “Hello.”

  “I understand you’re frightened right now. The accident has left you with a memory disorder, the doctor said, but he has assured me that it won’t last long,” the man told her as he sat down in the chair next to her bed.

  “I’m sorry. I guess we’re supposed to know each other, but I have no idea who you are.”

  “Don’t be distressed, darling. I’m more than happy to spend as much time as you need so you can get to know me all over again.” He stood up and sat carefully down on the side of the bed and reached for her hand.