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Rise of the Billionaire, Page 30

Ruth Cardello

Page 30


  “You can still call me to troubleshoot for you, though,” Jeremy offered sincerely. His place was in California with Jeisa, but he would miss these men. It may have taken him a while to earn their respect, but he valued it even more because it had not been given freely.

  Jake made a generous offer of his own. “If it doesn’t turn out the way you planned, you can come back. ”

  Jeremy’s lips thinned with determination. “Failure is not an option. ”

  Dominic beamed with pride as if Jeremy had hit his first home run. “That’s the spirit. Don’t take no for an answer. ”

  Ever the voice of reason, Jake shook his head and countered, “Unless she says no, and then that’s your answer. Consider the possibility that she is ignoring your phone calls because she really doesn’t want to talk to you. ”

  “Jake, were you born a killjoy or did boarding school do that to you?” Dominic asked sarcastically.

  “I’m sorry if I would rather not have to recommend a good lawyer to him because he took your advice too literally. ”

  Fully enjoying the tennis-like banter, Jeremy sat back in his chair and smiled.

  Dominic clarified his suggestion with a heavy layer of irony in his voice. “Jeremy, don’t attack the poor girl. Clear enough?”

  “But kidnapping is acceptable?” Jeremy couldn’t help but refer to the controversial way Dominic had wooed his wife.

  Although his lids lowered in response, a small smile tugged at Dominic’s lips. He shook his head with humor.

  “I’ll stick to my original plan,” Jeremy reassured Jake.

  “How are you getting out there?” Jake asked, returning to a less volatile topic.

  “Marie said she’d find something for me. I sent back the jet I leased and it’s really too far for the helicopter. ” He’d miss Marie, too. In a short time, she’d made him wonder how he’d gotten along without her. It was no wonder that the two men before him were so loyal to her. She was the glue that held them together.

  Dominic interrupted his thoughts with an uncharacteristic offer. “I have an extra private plane I don’t use often. You can borrow it if you’d like. It’s very nice. I only buy the best. ”

  I know. Heat filled Jeremy’s face as he remembered how intimately acquainted he and Jeisa already were with that plane. “I’m okay with whatever Marie found for me. ” Time for a subject change. “Word on the street is that Sliver went underground after his identity was exposed. His real name is Stanley Parker. No wonder he went by Sliver online. It’s hard to fear a Stanley. ‘Run, Stanley is coming!’ See, no one would care. ” While Jake and Dominic chuckled at his joke, Jeremy moved on to a more serious subject. “Don’t trust him to stay gone, though. Sliver is more dangerous now than he was before. He has nothing to lose and all the time in the world to plan his revenge. And he will try to pay us back for outing him. I feel awful about involving you with him at all. ”

  Instantly, Dominic’s humor dissipated. For a moment he was the man his enemies feared, ruthless and coiled to strike. “You didn’t. Stephan did that. ”

  Jake continued in a rational tone meant to calm his friend. “We have people tracking Sliver. We’ll know instantly if he attempts anything again. ”

  “I hope so. ” Jeremy wished he were as certain.

  “So, you enrolled at WIT?” Jake asked in another attempt to redirect the conversation away from the unpleasant.

  Jeremy smiled. “Yes. You’d be surprised how quickly they can process paperwork when you give their school a substantial donation. ”

  “I’m sure. ”

  Dominic stretched his arms out and referenced the building around him. “You can walk away from all of this? Your potential annual income, even if you kept to just the safer domestic projects, would have brought in more than many CEOs make. ”

  For Jeisa, I can. My transformation is still in progress, but this time I just might have it right. “I’ll still juggle some freelance work to keep my hand in it, but the whole Tenin thing taught me something—I have a lot to learn before I play on the global level again. For now, I am going to study ethics and international relations. ” He leaned forward in his seat and said, “Dom, you were right. I was on the wrong path. ”

  “I believe I said that first,” Jake stated, claiming his due credit.

  “But you’re not his hero. ” Dominic patted his pride-puffed chest. “I’m the one he looks up to. ”

  A thought struck Jeremy and he shared it spontaneously. “I know who you two remind me of—Alessandro and Victor. ”

  Jake frowned. “He just called us old. ”

  Waving his hands, Jeremy laughed and rushed to clarify, “No, I mean it. Victor makes all the speeches, but Alessandro always has his back. You’re like Batman and Robin, but less ambiguously oriented. ”

  Dominic stood up abruptly. “I won’t ask what that means because I don’t want to have to hurt you. ”

  Jake also stood and, in a dry tone, joked, “I should explain it to you, Dom, if only because he made me Robin in that analogy. ”

  Marie walked into the room just as the joke began to sour. “There you all are. Jeremy, I sent your itinerary to your phone. Did you check it?”

  Jeremy stood and gratefully looked down at his phone. “Cool, a Citation X. Those jets can go seven hundred miles an hour. Where did you find it?”

  Dominic grumbled under his breath. It was often wiser not to ask him to repeat himself. His expression made his choice of expletives easy enough to guess.

  Jeremy decided to focus on the positive and said, “Thanks, Dom. I didn’t realize which plane you were offering me. I’d love to try that one out. ”

  “My generosity amazes even me sometimes,” Dominic said and looked pointedly at Marie, who didn’t seem bothered by his comment.

  “A man only runs off after the woman of his dreams once in his life—he should do it in style. ” She smiled her approval at Jeremy.

  Not ready to accept what he was beginning to see might be the tip of a much greater iceberg of generosity, Dominic grumbled, “Do you lend anything else out of mine, Marie?”

  Her cheeks grew a bit rosy as she retorted smartly, “Only when I want to. ”

  Jake’s laugh boomed through the office and down the hall.

  Looking every bit the innocent, gentle woman she pretended to be, Marie sweetly added, “Why have so many toys if you’re not going to share them?”

  Ruffling her composure was almost as much fun as needling Dominic. With what he hoped was just as innocent of an expression, Jeremy suggested, “You should use one of them to fly over to see Jeisa’s father. ”

  Pink spread down Marie’s neck at the thought. For a moment, she looked at a loss for what to say, which only made the situation that much more amusing. Finally, she smoothed her already perfectly groomed hair and said, “Why would I do that?”

  I really shouldn’t tease her, but maybe even she needs a little shake-up now and then. As far as Jeremy had heard, Marie hadn’t dated since her husband had passed away years ago. She deserved as much happiness in her own life as she helped others fine in theirs. And really, she could do worse than Romario. Like Dominic, his growl was worse than his bite. “He asks about you sometimes. ”

  “Does he?” Marie asked, trying—but not succeeding—to sound disinterested.

  Aha! She does like him. “Yes, I talk to him daily and he’s mentioned you at least five times. ”

  Oblivious to the undercurrent of the conversation, Dominic focused on what he found amusing. “You talk to Romario daily? He must love that. ”

  Marie chastised Dominic in the motherly way she often did. “Don’t be cruel, Dominic. You know Jeremy really wants Jeisa’s father to like him. ”

  Dominic shrugged like the petulant son he became when she corrected him. “Cruel? Two minutes ago he questioned my orientation. ”

  “No one likes a tattletale,” Marie said with a tsk, tsk, then winked, and all three men b
roke into laughter. She walked over to Jeremy and fixed his tie, clearing her throat as she did. “We’re going to miss you. ”

  He hugged her, knowing that even though she wasn’t a demonstrative person, she glowed in the face of affection from those she cared about. “California is not that far away. We’ll fly back to see you guys as often as we can. ”

  Flushed but smiling, Marie stepped back and nodded her approval. “I can’t believe how much you’ve changed since we first met. ”

  Jeremy blushed beneath her attention.

  Marie brushed a speck of lint off Jeremy’s shoulder. “Just remember that a woman in love doesn’t care which plane you show up in or how much you spent on your suit. ” Marie rested her hand over Jeremy’s heart and said, “Jeisa loves the good man that we all know you are. All you have to do to win her back is be that man. ”

  “Don’t worry, I have a plan,” he assured her.

  Marie dropped her hand and stepped back but held his eyes. “I hope this plan involves telling her that you love her and that you’re sorry. ” She looked at the other two men in the room and advised, “If anything goes wrong, call me before them. ”

  Dominic covered his heart as he feigned injury. “That hurts, Marie. ”

  Jeremy took her hand in his for a moment and voiced something he’d meant to say a long time ago. “I will always be grateful to you, Marie. You were kind to me when everyone else saw me as a joke. ”

  Her eyes misted with emotion and she gave his hand a supportive squeeze. “You were never a joke, Jeremy. You were a hero in a bad suit. ”

  Jake shuddered. “A very bad suit. ” His well-timed humor lightened the mood.

  All three men smiled at the memory of what felt like another lifetime. Jeremy returned to his desk and took out a paper. He handed it to Jake. “I wrote this résumé for a friend of mine. I won’t have a business capable of employing him for a while, but I was hoping you could find him a good paying position within Corisi Enterprises. ”

  Jake read over the résumé quickly, flipped it over, and then looked at Jeremy with some confusion. “This is quite a résumé. All it says is that he has been a doorman for the past ten years. ”

  Jeremy nodded. “Yes, as far as I know that’s all he’s done. ”

  “And you want him to work as a security man here?” Jake asked.

  “No, I’d like to see him in an office position with a good salary. ” What is good fortune if you don’t share it with the people who supported you along the way?

  “Doing what exactly?” Jake’s tone did little to conceal his thoughts on the matter.

  Don’t worry, Tim. No one believed in me, either. “I don’t know, but I’m sure he can learn fast. He’s a smart man. ”

  Jake shook his head and patiently explained, “Business doesn’t work that way, Jeremy. He has to have some kind of skill for me to recommend him to one of our departments—”