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

         Part #1 of Taken by a Trillionaire series by Ruth Cardello
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  “I will. She’ll have no other choice, and you know that. Once I take her, there is no going back.”

  “Remember, you can’t tell her that. The choice to stay must be hers.”

  “Do not explain my country’s laws to me. I know what must be done.”

  “And you’re willing to live with the consequences if she refuses you after you have brought her here?”

  “There is no woman who could ever mean more to me than Rubare Collina. My loyalty lies first with my family and my country, then the woman I choose.” He thought about it for a moment. “I have decided to stay in this country with her before returning home. Procure a private home somewhere in the north. I would like some time alone with her before I introduce her to the family.”

  “As you wish. I will send you the details as soon as I have found the perfect place for you.”

  “I should have her with me by tomorrow. Have it ready by then.”

  “If you are sure she will show up — ”

  Xander hung up. Simon was having too much fun at his expense. It wasn’t that amusing. His family had gone about finding their new queens in this very manner for hundreds of years. The modern world might not be able to understand the importance of their traditions, but Xander did.

  Family and duty above all else.

  Xander looked out the window of his vehicle and put everything else out of his head. Success came to those who demanded it. Those who saw the challenge as an opportunity to prove themselves.

  Reanna Fielding had said no to him and meant it.

  Xander couldn’t wait to see her again.

  Chapter Three

  Reanna was back at her house with her paperwork spread across the kitchen table. Normally not too much distracted her. She had learned early how to close the rest of the world out. So, it surprised her, that instead of diving into the latest lab report findings, she was shuffling the files around the table into geometric designs.

  And thinking about Xander.

  She didn’t believe for a second he had actually shown up at her house as he’d said he would, but, as she played with the files before her, she let herself imagine he had. What had he thought as he stood on her doorstep waiting for her to answer? Had he been disappointed? Did he drive directly to a flower shop to spend his entire paycheck on dozens of roses in an attempt to impress her?

  But roses were not her favorite. She preferred daisies. She remembered seeing a photo of a golden Minoan hairpin with a daisy ornament on the end and falling in love with the hardy flower. They were easy to overlook in a florist shop full of bigger and bolder blooms, but historically, daisies were an undeniable icon. Innocence. Hope. Ideals that never went out of fashion.

  Of course, there had been neither roses nor daisies upon her return home. And none were coming. Still, a little daydreaming never hurt anyone.

  I would pretend to be unimpressed by the huge bouquet. He would call, of course, and wait for me to thank him. I’d explain how it would take more than bundled vegetation to win over a woman like me.

  Reanna rested her chin on her hand and imagined his response. In that deep, sexy voice of his, he’d say, “Then tell me how to win your heart, and I’ll do it. I would do anything for you, Reanna.”

  She was pondering what quest she would choose when her doorbell rang. It was probably Kendra. She always rang once or twice then let herself in with the key Reanna had given her for emergencies. Her doorbell rang again.

  Reanna opened the door, took one look at who was standing outside, and slammed the door in his face. Still holding the doorknob, she sagged back against the door, trying to catch her breath.

  “Open the door, Reanna.”

  Reanna couldn’t believe he was there. She looked down at her yoga pants and oversized T-shirt. “I can’t.”

  “Then we have a problem. Because I am not leaving without seeing you.”

  “I just slammed the door in your face,” Reanna said, as if saying it would make it less real. It didn’t.

  She wanted to sink into the floor and disappear when she heard him chuckle. “I’m aware of that.”

  She leaned onto her side and spoke through the closed door. “I didn’t mean to. I would never do that.”

  “I would argue that you would.”

  “You surprised me, that’s all. I was imagining what I would do if you were here, and then you were here, and I panicked.” She smacked her hand on her forehead. “I can’t believe I just said that. Could you go away and pretend we never had this conversation?”

  “No.”

  A long silence dragged painfully on. “That’s all you’re going to say? No.”

  “Yes.”

  After another long silence, Reanna said, “People are probably wondering why you’re still standing at a door that’s not opening.”

  “I don’t care what people think. No one has ever gotten what they wanted by walking away.”

  Reanna swallowed hard. “Some people have. Bartering is a way of negotiating a price all over the world. Often it takes being willing to walk away.”

  “Reanna?”

  “Yes?”

  “Open the damn door.”

  There was something she needed to know before she did. “Did you come here at noon?”

  “I did.”

  Oh, my God, he did. He came here.

  “I told you I needed to work.”

  “That’s why I am not irritated with you.”

  I can’t believe he actually came. Reanna looked through the peephole on the door. All she could see was the white of his shirt and the edge of the dark jacket he wore. She couldn’t see if he had anything in his hands, and she couldn’t remember if he had. For someone who normally paid close attention to detail, she hated how her brain scattered around him. She fought against a rising hope. “Did you bring flowers?”

  He waited a moment before answering. “I did not.”

  She sagged against the door. Of course he didn’t. Sadly, she said, “You should have. I would’ve opened the door for daisies.”

  She heard him say something in a foreign language, but she didn’t understand what. He continued to stand at the door as if his mere presence would open it. “Was your trip to Hartford productive?”

  “Yes.” She paused. “I don’t remember telling you where I was going.”

  Instead of answering her question, he asked one of his own. “Have you completed your work?”

  “No,” she answered. He didn’t say anything for several minutes, and Reanna grew anxious. “What are you doing here, Xander?”

  “I’m here to see you, Reanna.”

  “Why?” she asked, because the question was spinning through her head.

  “Why does any man want to visit with a beautiful woman, Reanna?”

  “Stop,” she implored. I don’t want to start hoping again.

  “Open the door, Reanna.”

  Reanna covered her lips with a shaky hand. “I don’t know what game you’re playing, but it’s gone far enough. Thanks for coming by. Sorry I wasn’t here earlier. It’s been really nice talking to you.”

  “Don’t you want your daisies?”

  Holding her breath, Reanna peered through the peephole again. He was holding the largest bouquet of daisies she’d ever seen. “I don’t believe in magic,” she said impulsively.

  He shrugged. “Do you believe in the flower shop across the street?”

  Reality for once was not a disappointment. There was a florist shop across the street. She didn’t know how he’d gotten the flowers that quickly, but it didn’t matter. “If I open the door, how can I be sure you’re not dangerous? I don’t know you.”

  “You could ask my driver if I have recently hidden anyone in the trunk of my Bentley.”

  Reanna slowly opened the door. Standing at the bottom of the stairs to her brownstone, several feet behind Xander, there was indeed an older man in a uniform standing next to a Bentley. He looked a little flushed as if he had recently completed a sprint. “You s
ent him across the street for the flowers?”

  Xander inclined his head.

  Reanna waved to the white-haired man. “Thank you.”

  Still holding a ridiculously large bouquet, and every bit as gorgeous as Reanna had remembered him, Xander frowned down at her. “You should be thanking me.”

  Feeling like she’d stepped into some wondrous, upside-down world, Reanna found the courage to joke. “Thank you? He bought them for me. All you’re doing is holding them. Like a big vase in a suit.”

  One of his eyebrows rose, and Reanna got the feeling her comment amused him. “Are you going to invite me in, Reanna, or will we spend the night talking on your steps?”

  Reanna swallowed hard again. The wise thing to do would be to thank him and send him away. Kendra would love seeing the flowers in her home, and the whole thing would make for a great story to tell her over breakfast. She reached out a hand and touched the petals of one of the flowers, just to convince herself that Xander and the daisies were real. Then she said sadly, “I have a project I need to finish.”

  “Then I will help you. You shouldn’t be alone on your birthday.”

  Reanna straightened in surprise, but didn’t acknowledge the reference to her birthday. Instead she fought to contain the happiness that flooded through her that he’d remembered. She didn’t know him and being with a stranger shouldn’t feel so right. “Are you familiar with genome mapping?”

  “No, but I’m quite literate. I’m sure there is a part of what you’re doing that doesn’t require comprehension of every aspect of your field.”

  Reality and her earlier fantasy were beginning to mix, and it scared Reanna. She wanted so badly to believe Xander had come to see her because he’d spent the whole day thinking about her, but nothing like this had ever happened to her before. Believing in the impossible would only send her crashing down when the truth was finally revealed. “Why are you really here?” she demanded. “No vague answers. No jokes. Tell me.”

  He dropped the flowers to the floor and took her face between both of his hands. “I want you, Reanna. I spent the day remembering how your lips tasted, and I want to taste them again.”

  Reanna swayed and raised her eyes to his. “Really?”

  He ran a thumb over her parted lips. “You’re a beautiful woman. You showed that to the world when you posed for the calendar.”

  “That wasn’t me,” she whispered, then continued in a rush. “I mean, of course it was me. That was my body. My head. I just mean . . . normally I look more like — ”

  The rest of her words were lost as his mouth came down to claim hers. This was not the gentle caress their first kiss had been. His lips plundered hers. His tongue sought hers with a confident thrust that left her breathless. She had been kissed before, but never with such expertise, such passion. His touch held an invitation to give herself fully to him, to be taken in a way she’d only read about in books. She didn’t have the strength to deny him.

  Years of loneliness, along with a need for the feelings within her to never end, outweighed any vow she’d made. If this was another dream, it was one she didn’t want to wake from.

  He broke off the kiss and rested his forehead on hers. “I hope I didn’t scare you, Reanna.”

  Scared isn’t what I’m feeling right now.

  Holy crap.

  Holy moly crap.

  “Let’s go inside, Reanna. Show me your work.”

  Reanna stared up at him. Work. That is not what I want to show you. She stepped back from him and shook her head. “Inside? I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

  “I agree. Watching you work without being able to touch you, to kiss you again, is going to be torture. But I understand you need time. It’s important that you trust me. So, show me this work you do.”

  “You could simply ask me out on a date.”

  “I tried that. You said no.”

  “This is how you respond to no?”

  A smile curled one side of his mouth. “Yes.”

  “Just because I let you in my house doesn’t mean I’ve agreed to let you do more than watch me work.”

  “I’d be disappointed if it did.”

  “Okay,” Reanna said and stepped back to let Xander in.

  He leaned down and picked up one of the daisies and handed it to her. “If it’s the right flower, you only need one.” Then he called to his driver and closed the door behind him.

  “What did you say to him?” Reanna demanded even as she accepted the daisy from him.

  “I told him I wouldn’t need him this evening.”

  That sent shivers of excitement and apprehension down Reanna’s back. “If you think — ”

  Xander shrugged off his jacket, laid it across the back of her couch, then removed his tie. “Reanna, if you ask me to leave, I will take a cab back to my hotel. However, Albert likes to have an early dinner. Would you rather he remained outside for hours?”

  Reanna studied his face. “No. I guess not, but you do have to leave as soon as my paperwork is done tonight. Maybe even before that. And definitely if you try to kiss me again.”

  He gave her his half smile again that had her heart thudding in her chest. “Understood.” He rolled up his sleeves of his white shirt. “Now show me what you do, Reanna. And I’ll help you where I can.”

  Reanna started walking toward the kitchen, stopped, looked over her shoulder at him, and started walking again. She didn’t know what to think of him or any part of this situation. But he’d come to see her. And he’d brought flowers. She wasn’t ready to throw him out yet.

  She cringed at the sight of her files arranged in what was quite obviously the shape of flowers. She quickly stacked them into one pile and said, “I was a little distracted earlier.”

  Thankfully, he didn’t say anything. He picked up one of the folders and began to flip through it.

  A sudden, awful thought came to Reanna. Was this about accessing her research? “Do you work in bioengineering? Is that what this is about? None of these findings have any real value. They wouldn’t let me take that part of the project home with me.”

  He placed the folder down on the table, leaned back against the counter, and folded his arms across his muscular chest. Those beautiful blue eyes held hers, and for a wild moment, Reanna began to believe in possibilities again. Hope swelled within her again. Maybe when certain stars aligned someone like Xander could like someone like her. Every law of nature had an exception. In a deep voice, he said, “There is only one reason I came to Boston. And one reason I am still here. And that is you.”

  Me? That can’t be true. Not the way I want it to be. “Are you looking to hire me?” she asked weakly. There was a chance he was an overzealous headhunter for another company. She’d never met one who took his work quite so seriously, but maybe some did.

  He shook his head, and humor lit those beautiful eyes. “So beautiful. So unsure of yourself. I can change all that, Reanna.”

  Panic and excitement rushed through her. Reanna reorganized the files in front of her. “When you talk like that, it’s a little too much. You’re freaking me out.”

  “What would you need me to do to put you at ease?”

  Reanna looked away and then met his eyes boldly. “If you started reading off numbers to me from the file closest to you, I probably would feel less like throwing up.” When he didn’t say anything at first, she continued, “When nothing else makes sense to me, numbers and facts do. Science doesn’t lie. Numbers have never let me down.”

  He picked up the folder and opened it. Reanna turned on her laptop with a shaky hand and logged in. She started inputting data as he recited it. The familiarity of the task calmed her.

  Every once in a while, she would pause and look across at him, simply appreciating the strong line of his jaw and the deep timbre of his voice. She had stopped to do just that when he suddenly looked up and caught her looking at him. An odd expression entered his eyes, and he winked at her.

  Reanna blushed cl
ear down to her toes, but she smiled as she looked at her laptop again.

  If he is a serial killer, there are worse ways to die.

  Xander watched Reanna bury her nose in her laptop again, and he felt something for her he couldn’t quite label. He was certainly attracted to her. He enjoyed the challenge of winning her over. But there was something more. Something that made him uncomfortable in a way he hadn’t expected.

  He suddenly wanted her to like him. Not because he was a prince. Not because once he took her into Rubare Collina her life would depend on her loyalty to him. He wanted her to always look across the room at him the way she just had.

  He frowned and reminded himself what he wanted didn’t matter when it came to what he needed to do. His path had been chosen for him a long time ago. As it had been for his father before him, and his father before him.

  Now that he had chosen Reanna, he needed to win her trust and then her heart. She needed to be willing to announce her loyalty to him and to his country before the royal council. And she needed to do it before his thirtieth birthday.

  If she didn’t, she would be sentenced to death. It was a brutal law, born in a desperate time, but it had been honored by every generation of his family. In the three hundred years since it had been decreed, only two women had met that awful fate. No one spoke of either. Xander only knew because Simon had wanted him to understand the seriousness of his task and the severity of the punishment if he failed.

  Foolishly, Xander had imagined winning a woman’s heart would be easy. It might have been had he chosen one of the nine he’d met before Reanna. Some had already known who he was, and although no one outside of the royal family knew the darker side of the marriage law, they had imagined themselves queens and would have been willing to do whatever he’d asked.

  Reanna would not be as easy to convince. As he watched her pause from typing to peer at him shyly before returning to her task, he considered walking away from her.

  What if she didn’t fall in love with him in time? Could he stand by while she was put to death? The very idea sickened him.